PETRAS ESSAYS IN ENGLISH

July 7, 2002

Paradoxes of injustice: war and crises

James Petras
Rebelión

The collapse of major energy and telecommunication multinationals, Enron, World Com, Adelphi and others has prejudiced numerous pensioners and small investors. But it also has led to major losses for many corrupt politicians, narcotrafficers and wealthy individuals in Latin America who illegally transferred and invested billions of dollars in the US stock market. The Latin American rich who fervently trusted the advise of US investment bankers were certain that the US stock market, and particularly the biggest and best connected multi-nationals were worthy of their confidence. These same wealth investors were profoundly distrustful of their local economies and people. The US mega-swindlers simply took their funds and left them with worthless paper – World Com went form $93 a share to 6 cents. A case of the big fish eating the small. An example of perverse justice perhaps but one that only provides emotional satisfaction to the ultimate victims in Latin America.

The deep and far reaching scope of corruption, cover-ups and fraud in the highest spheres of business in the US has deep cultural and political roots and profound economic consequences. In the US the idea that "what is good for business is good for the country" is accepted dogma: the most prestigious and influential figures in the world of culture, politics, the academic world and in the mass media are figures from the business world. Their dominant position is unquestioned, even if sectors of the public may criticize their excesses.

Politicians of both major parties seek their financial support in the electoral campaigns and after the elections prominent investment bankers, financiers and corporate lawyers dominate the cabinet and central bank. Upon leaving office many top officials enter the world of big business.

The failure of government regulators and others to detect fraud at the top was in part because of the belief that big businessmen can do no wrong. And if they do commit crimes, it is best for investigators to look the other way for fear of calling into question the basic trust of the people in the big business system. Only when big business corruption led to a large scale decline of investor confidence did the federal government intervene in an attempt to refurbish the system. The fear on Wall Street is that capitalist swindlers might lead to the withdrawal of investment and the collapse of capitalism. Another casr of perverse morality: injustice leading to justice, of a limited and costly variety.

The third instance of the paradox of injustice in the United States, has to do with providing refuge for notorious torturers. The Center of Justice and Accountability, a lawyers' organization in the US defending victims of torture states that there are over 1000 known foreign torturers and ex-dictators in the US, over 300 in Florida alone. Washington selectively provides a sanctuary for ex-client state terrorists, from all over the world. They include the military official who organized the murder of Archbishop Romero, the Chilean secret police official who assassinated the constitutional General Prats and his wife, the notorious Haitian torturer Emmanuel Constant etc etc.

There terrorists live freely in the US because they worked closely with US intelligence agencies, until they were threatened with prosecution. Washington cannot and will not allow them to be extradited because it would undermine its on- going relationship with torturers and repressive regimes today.

Washington's providing sanctuary for known torturers – terrorists, however severely weakens the current world-wide campaign against "terrorism". What moral authority does the US have to pursue terrorissts abroad when it shelters them at home? The paradox of injustice ( protecting terrorist clients ) leads to justice ( the unmasking of Washington's anti-terrorist campaign as a subterfuge for global domination).

There is an even greater paradox however. The growing moral, political and economic crises of the US is not leading toward any moral revival, political reform movement or serious change in the economic structure of corporate America. Instead the Bush Regime is methodically planning another war, a military invasion of Iraq. A war against Iraq is perceived as a way to distract attention from the profound corporate corruption swindles and the close links between the CEOs and the Bush Administration. War can serve to induce the public to focus their attention on the "morality of a just war" not on the immorality in high places. War can be used to provoke instability in the Middle East and Europe and frighten investors into buying dollars and investing in the US stock market.

The war against Iraq and other so-called "terrorist" countries can be used to silence criticism of Washington's double standards on terrorism. War in other words is seen in Washington as a necessary means of favorably resolving the debilitating effects of the perverse domestic paradoxes.

With a war agenda, the Bush Administration can count on the mass media to replace the focus on the immorality of the corporate elite with horrific propaganda stories about Sadaam Hussein; the decline of the economy with news stories about military victories of the US Armed Forces. With a war the media will cease to comment on corporate moral decay and will eulogize the virtues of "humanitarian intervention".

The thinking in Washington is that the only way to avoid the choice between political reform as a lesser evil to political discredit is by a greater evil: conquering Iraq. War allows Washington to continue to embrace corrupt corporate leaders, past and present client terrorists in the name of anti-terrorism. The conquest of Iraq with the second largest oil reserves in the Middle East is seen in the Pentagon as a means to bring back foreign investors and strengthen the dollar.

The whole history of the Bush Administration is based on fabrication, from 9/11 to today. We now know that Al Queda was not a world wide organization – at most it had 200 members. Despite daily or weekly Government declarations of new terrorist threats – none have materialized. The two arrested "terrorists" are illiterate ex- convicts who can barely tie their shoes. The $150 billion dollars spent on anti- terrorism had led to the near bankruptcy of the airline industry, the massive decline in related tourist trade, the killing of hundreds of innocent Afghans celebrating weddings. State spending on the military and police has led to a decline in public investment which could stimulate growth and revive confidence in the US market. This leads to the last and greatest paradox: The Bush Administration's use of war to resolve the domestic crises might just exacerbate all the internal contradictions: the corporate crooks will continue with impunity, and new and bigger swindles and frauds will occur. This could result in more investors fleeing from the US market causing the dollar to fall. War might temporarily bolster Bush's falling popularity once again but Rumsfeld and Cheney's military exaltation will not prevent a profound plunge in the economy and general insecurity resulting from massive unemployment.