Is the United States exporting democracy or asserting corporate imperialism?

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The world watched in fascination as Egyptians, Libyans, Syrians, Yemenis, Tunisians and Bahrainis took to the streets of their respective nations to denounce social injustice, poverty and tyrannical state institutions back in 2011. Yet the Arab Spring movement has failed to translate those calls for change into democratic realities.

By Catherine Shakdam

The world watched in fascination as Egyptians, Libyans, Syrians, Yemenis, Tunisians and Bahrainis took to the streets of their respective nations to denounce social injustice, poverty and tyrannical state institutions back in 2011. Yet the Arab Spring movement has failed to translate those calls for change into democratic realities.

“If anything, the region has moved from authoritarianism to institutionalized-military despotism in four short years, all under the guise of the so-called ‘Free World,’ the United States of America,” noted Ahmed Mohamed Nasser Ahmed, a Yemeni political analyst and former member of Yemen’s National Issues and Transitional Justice Working Group at the National Dialogue Conference said.

Indeed, where has the U.S. stood as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region rose to the barricades, demanding that the ruling class be held accountable to the people for their actions?

Although U.S. officials have been keen to proclaim and assert their devotion to democracy, foreign policies have betrayed such honorable intentions, ultimately revealing the reality of corporatism and capitalism rule unchallenged as the new tyrants of Western democracies. Western powers — led by the U.S. — campaigned for the ousting of Syrian President Bashar Assad on the basis that he had lost all popular legitimacy. As they rolled out sanctions and plans for military intervention in Syria, Bahrain’s King Hamad ibn Issa Al Khalifa’s brutal crackdown on protesters was brushed under the political rug.

“Although of course the burden of responsibility ultimately sits on the people, it is evident the U.S. and Western powers in general have worked against the Arab Spring, betraying the very democratic principles they claim to represent for the sake of corporate capitalism. Democracies don’t turn a profit the way dictatorships do! The flow of weapons alone stand a testimony to western democracies’ real oath of allegiance,” Ahmed noted

The United Kingdom, America’s staunchest ally, signed a military agreement with Bahrain in January. This agreement contains provisions for the establishment of a permanent British naval base on the island kingdom, courtesy of King Hamad. The “landmark” deal, as the British government dubbed it, also paved the way for a lucrative arm deals, whereby the Bahraini regime would acquire British-made military equipment.

“The agreement reaffirms the UK’s and Bahrain’s joint determination to maintain regional security and stability in the face of enduring and emerging regional challenges,” Michael Fallon, the British defense secretary, said before the House of Commons in December, as quoted by the Guardian.

Yet, if the U.S. and its Western allies care not for democracy, as Ahmed suggests, then what

goals are they pursuing?

Could it really be that the American people were duped by their government, forced into wars for the sake of corporate imperialism? In which case, would this clash of civilizations — East versus West, Islam versus Judeo-Christian — have more to do with geopolitics and a mad race for control over key strategic natural resources than the promotion of a fairer society, where freedom and liberties are the matrix upon which state institutions are built?

From the shores of Libya to the streets of Bahrain, political self-determination and freedom have been repressed, derailed and negated through intensive foreign meddling led by the U.S. and its regional allies. But why? And to what end?

What picture is there we’re missing to see if indeed “exporting democracy” was never the end-game but instead a convenient alibi?

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Historically, the U.S. has attempted to generate change in foreign countries by exporting liberal democratic institutions through military occupation and reconstruction. Despite these efforts, the record of U.S.-led reconstructions has been mixed, at best. For every West Germany or Japan, there has been a Cuba, Haiti, Somalia or Vietnam.

Ever since the U.S. arose as a new world superpower on the back of World War II, Washington’s main ambition has been to export democracy to the world, often on the thuds of military drums and almost always to catastrophic results, Christopher J. Coyne, a research fellow at the Mercatus Center, argues in his book, “After War: The political economy of exporting democracy.”

“Do efforts to export democracy help as much as they hurt? These are some of the most enduring questions of our time,” Coyne writes.

In an interview with Russia Today in July 2012, three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Martin Sieff characterized U.S. foreign policy as “self-righteous” and “often contradictory,” especially in regards to the Middle East. “The Americans have developed an ideological revolutionary passion for democracy,” Sieff noted, comparing Washington’s pursuit of democracy to Soviet Russia’s attempt to build a communist world empire.

William Blum, the author of “America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy,” believes that this slip into democratic fanaticism stems from the belief held by Americans that their government “has good intentions when it comes to foreign policy.” Blum noted in comments, “Unless this fallacy is unlearned, and until people understand fully the worldwide suffering American policy has caused, we will never be able to stop the monster.”

But if the U.S. isn’t seeking to export democracy, then what interest could there be in

perpetuating a state of eternal war? President Barack Obama sought to expand his presidency’s war powers last month by calling on Congress to give his office an official military mandate. This is strongly reminiscent of former President George W. Bush’s October 2002 request to strike Iraq on the grounds that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction on his soil. This time, however, the U.S. stands to engage the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other radical militias in the region. (These militias, some experts have argued, are the very ones that the U.S. and its regional allies helped propped up in the first place, in view of deposing Syrian President Assad.)

William Engdahl, an award-winning geopolitical analyst and strategic risk consultant, wrote on the matter in an op-ed for RT last June:

“Details leaking out suggest that ISIS and the major military ‘surge’ in Iraq – and less so in neighboring Syria – is being shaped and controlled out of Langley, Virginia, and other CIA and Pentagon outposts as the next stage in spreading chaos in the world’s second-largest oil state, Iraq, as well as weakening the recent Syrian stabilization efforts.”

If Engdahl is correct, U.S. foreign policies are dictated not by ideology or idealism, but by capitalism and profiteering. This suggests that events in the Middle East, and ultimately Washington’s positions vis a vis powers in the Middle East, would follow the logic of capitalism. Or, as Charles Upton believes, “neo-imperialism,” not the greater good.

Covert agendas and corporate imperialism

“Once we realize that we live in a world of disinformation, we can either turn off our various devices and retreat into our subjective dreams, or else expose ourselves to as wide a spectrum of disinformation as possible, not only one kind,” Upton, a peace activist, author and philosopher, emphasized. “Every story, in a world like ours, should be considered both as potential disinformation and as potential truth. If we take a given story as true, it shows us one thing—if as false, another.”

If disinformation does exist, what is it? And if U.S. officials have pursued ulterior agendas, what are they?

Dirk Adriaensens, a Belgium-based political analyst, coordinator of SOS Iraq, and a member of the executive committee of the Brussels Tribunal, is adamant that these answers lie in America’s economic hunger.

“The Americans, or rather, the American government, is working toward a state of eternal war. And of course all that has been written down by the Project for the New American Century in 1997, rebuilding America’s forces. I assume they desperately need war to recover from their economic crisis. The American economy is already a war economy and they need to produce arms and sell arms. Wars are profitable, the oil industry is profitable, and the Middle East offer incredible prospects to that regard,” Adriaensens explained.

“The United States is a rogue country, and I think that the United States is busy destroying the

whole world and if the world doesn’t wake up, this is going to continue and it will end up in the Third World War,” he added.

According to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, British and European arms exports to Bahrain significantly increased since 2011, when protesters first denounced King Hamad’s rule. So far this year UK arms sales to the Gulf kingdom totaled about $25 million.

Bahraini human rights defender Maryam al-Khawaja strongly condemned London’s policy of double-standards when she told NEO how hypocritical the U.K. has been in addressing Bahrain’s popular uprising.

“Britain officials are clearly more interested in squeezing a profit out if its allies in the Peninsula than supporting Bahrainis in their freedom quest,” she said. “Britain and other Western capitals have been reduced to a bottom line. This is the reality we have come up against.”

Sayed Alwadaei, head of advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said in comments to the press in January: “As an award for the British role in misleading the international community, Bahrain is building them a base. This also demonstrate why Britain has refused to list Bahrain as a country of concern.”

Campaign Against Arms Trade’s Andrew Smith was quoted by the Guardian in January as saying, “The UK government has put a lot of time, effort and political capital into arming and supporting the Bahraini regime. With the new naval base, and with the possibility of Typhoon sales on the horizon, this looks unlikely to change.”

In 2012, ProPublica, a U.S.-based independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest, revealed that the U.S. had sold weapons to Bahrain at the very height of the regime’s crackdown against its unarmed civilians. A 2012 report read: “While the U.S. has maintained it is selling Bahrain arms only for external defense, human rights advocates say the documents [DoD reports] raise questions about items that could be used against civilian protesters.

“The U.S. is also playing a training role: In April 2012, for example, the Army News Service reported that an American team specializing in training foreign militaries to use equipment purchased from the U.S. was in Bahrain to help with Blackhawk helicopters,” the report continued.

From October 2010 to the end of 2011, ProPublica established that the U.S. government had sold Bahrain $51 million worth of military equipment.

Selling unrest

Yet while the U.S. and its Western allies turned a profit in propping their Arab allies, despite the fact that their policies stood in firm opposition to America’s democratic principles, Washington allegedly made a fortune in funding unrest to advance its corporate interests

throughout the region.

In August 2011, Bill Van Auken, a U.S. politician and activist for the Socialist Equality Party, wrote on Libya, “Far from a ‘revolution’ or struggle for ‘liberation,’ what the world is witnessing is the rape of Libya by a syndicate of imperialist powers determined to lay hold of its oil wealth and turn its territory into a neo-colonial base of operations for further interventions throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Four years after former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented, “We came, we saw, he died,” in reference to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s death, Libya has become the North African headquarters of ISIS.

“Since then, Libya has collapsed into an ever-bloodier civil war between various Islamist factions and rival militias vying for state power. The country has also served as a training ground for CIA-backed Islamist forces preparing to fight the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad,” Joseph Kishore wrote in a report for the world socialist website,

“The imperialist powers funneled massive amounts of money and weaponry to Islamist militias and Al Qaeda operatives, providing them with air support through a mass bombing campaign that killed tens of thousands of Libyans,” he continued.

Ahmed, the Yemeni-based political analyst, noted that Washington’s policy in the Middle East needs to be understood from a capitalist perspective and not from a political standpoint.

“The U.S. has financed a series of war in the Middle East in view of seizing control over the world’s oil and gas resources,” he said. “This mad race for power is one for natural resources. From Libya, to Syria, Bahrain and Yemen it’s always been about oil and control.”

“Until we recognize that America is waging an imperial war on the MENA, there is no real conversation to be had. Washington is the oppressor. Actually it was Washington which killed the Arab Spring and, with it, democracy.”
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