George Bush, the American state and the new far right

Speaker: Prof Dan O’Meara (Professor of International Relations, Department of Political Science and Research Director, Centre for Foreign Policy and Security Studies, University of Quebec)

Respondent: Dr Pallo Jordan (Chairperson: Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs)

Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust forum meeting

Institute for Democracy in South Africa, Cape Town, 25 March 2003







It is has been all too easy to laugh at George W. Bush — though God knows his lamentable general knowledge and problems with the English language have given us enough to chuckle over. However I am positive that no-one in Iraq, nor any one else, is laughing at George Bush right now.

Tonight, I want to go beyond the personality of "little George" to attempt an understanding of the politics of his administration. I shall argue that the policies of the current US administration – an administration which consists of much more than just one president of questionable intelligence – represent a culminating point in a series of profound economic, social, political, ideological and cultural changes that have occurred in America since the late 1960s.

In doing so, I will make five main points:

1. The war is not just about oil or business interests

I do not agree with the common assertion that this war is either “all about oil”, or, as the Mail & Guardian argues in it's current editorial [Mail & Guardian 21 March to 27 March, 2003], that the explanation lies in the fact that "Bush is a whore who, more than any of his 52 (sic) predecessors, has prostituted himself to his country's industrial interests". (Though the Mail & Guardian coverpage headline - "The War of the Whores" - well captures the outrage that most of humanity feels at this criminal war, I must also protest it’s a gratuitous insult to sex workers).

While American oil interests and American companies will clearly benefit enormously from this war in the medium term, three factors convince me that this criminal war of aggression does not grow out of either the sectional interests of American oil, or broader American business interests:

       The UN sanctions against Iraq since 1991 already give the US effective control over the levels of Iraqi oil production, and hence, over the oil price;

       Mainstream US business interests have not been clamouring for a war against Iraq, and, in the prolonged run-up to this war, many prominent US businessmen expressed strong disquiet, and even opposition to such action;

       Most significantly, the idea of a war against Iraq provoked almost unanimous opposition from the old-style "realists" - the US global security strategists who drove Cold War policy, and none of whom can be accused of liberalism, or shrinking from the use of force. Henry Kissinger has argued against the war on the op-ed pages of the New York Times. US National Security Advisor under George Bush senior, General Brent Scowcroft has repeated expressed his disquiet, characterising US behaviour in the run up to the war as "obnoxious". Zbignew Brezinski has opposed the war, as has the hardline "realist" John Mearsheimer. George Herbert Bush, the 41st US President, father of the 43rd, and wager of the previous Gulf War, has been notably tepid in his obligatory expression of support for his son. Bush pere has also expressed concern about the tensions the project for war has created with America's European allies. Several Central Intelligence Agency analysts have gone public with complains that CIA activities are now being driven by the political agenda of the White House rather than by the "normal" imperatives of intelligence gathering and analysis.

So, I would argue that rather than being driven either by oil, or by the demands of American business, American aggression against Iraq should be understood as an integral element in the intensely ideological, and profoundly reactionary, domestic and international agenda of the current administration - an agenda which is radically different from that of all previous Republican administrations.

2. The cultural war for America

The main point I want to make tonight is that this radical rightwing agenda of the Bush administration grows out a profound cultural war which has driven all aspects of American society since the end of the 1960s.

This war for the control of the legitimate definition of all things "American" stems directly out of the collapse since the late 1960s of the centrist, modernist and secular consensus, or "hegemonic project", first forged during the 1930s the New Deal, and reinforced and expanded by the US experience of WWII and the Cold War.

Dominating American society, politics and policies from 1933 to the late 1960s was the broadly accepted belief that "the American way of life" rested on the possibility of the following six conditions existing at one and the same time - each was a condition of existence of the other:

       a Keynesian model of steady economic growth in which all levels of government were seen to play an essential role;

       active state intervention to ensure full employment;

       ever-increasing mass consumption, and the "right" of all Americans to a constantly improving standard of living;

       the necessity, and inevitability, of evolutionary social progress and social justice to eliminate the extreme rough edges of society, and open "the American dream" to all Americans;

       a democratic constitutional process and strong civic culture, with political participation as the via media to ensure the just society;

       American global power as the guarantor of the capitalist system and representative democracy.

This social consensus began to collapse in the mid-to-late 1960s. While I do not have the time to go into the reasons, the following were critical:

       The civil rights movement both highlighted the hypocrisy of American democracy and political culture, and dissolved the regional political alliances underlying the Democratic Party.

       The - still largely unexplained - assassinations in the 1960s of President Kennedy, the two most important black political leaders (Malcolm X and Martin Luther King) and the man who would surely have won the 1968 Presidential election (Robert Kennedy);

       The profound divisions over the war on Vietnam and ultimate defeat of the American military intervention, the consequent revelations of administration lies to Congress, of a range of illegal programmes to assassinate foreign politicians and destabilise foreign governments, all eroded faith in the civic culture;

       Watergate almost destroyed America's belief in its own democracy, and engendered a profound cynicism about politicians and the political process;

       The first oil crisis, and the vast economic changes throughout the 1970s and 1980s, not only eroded the belief in progress, but ultimately led to a widespread conviction that the US was, like Great Britain at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, in historic - and inevitable - decline, challenged by the rising power of Japan and other Asian powers;

       The reorganisation of US industry — the decline of the old industrial heartland of the north-eastern and north-central US and subsequent shift of, increasingly fragmented, industrial production to the ‘sun belt’ (California through the lower southern states, and up the south east to Virginia) — both fatally sapped the power of US labour and shifted the locus of political power back to the old confederacy plus California. The result was a new Republican dominance of US politics;

       Industrial decline, accompanied by the explosion of dotcom economies and the massive shift to speculative investment, freed the most unchecked forms of greed and individualism from the few constraints which the New Deal consensus had imposed upon them. Over the past twenty years a massive shift in wealth, from the poorest to the richest elements of US society, has occurred. This undermined whatever weak notions existed that the poor were part of the American community, and should be taken care of by that community.

By the mid-1970s, American society was driven with profound self-doubt. All forms of public discussion - from movies, through music, to politics, to the curriculum at all levels of education - began to pose questions which the majority of Americans had been taken for granted throughout the preceding thirty years: what did it mean "to be an American; what were, and who best represented, "authentic" American values.

The result has been a thirty-year long Cultural War. At issue are such fundamental questions as what does it mean to "be an American", what are the fundamental values underpinning US society, and who best represents them.

The dimensions, positions and consequences of this cultural war are immensely complex. Very simplistically, however, perhaps its most significant outcome has been the emergence as a key social and cultural force of a new, fundamentalist, creationist neo-Christian, and evangelical protestant, far right.

Such groups have always existed in American society, but - until the 1980s - they had never been a significant political force. Today, however, this evangelical far right largely sets the agenda of American politics. While it is very far from representative of American society - indeed, it expresses outright hatred of millions of Americans, beginning with gays and "liberals" - its frontal assault on the secular values of the American republic have driven most other orientations, and particularly the Democratic Party, onto the defensive.

A profound and complex struggle is now being waged at every level of American society. Hugely contested and violent politics have been the result. Because there is no consensus, no majority position, no silent majority, America is in cultural crisis; it is a society at war with itself.

This cultural war turns around the struggle over the forging of a new American consensus - what Gramscians would term the elaboration of a new hegemonic project - in an era of globalisation. At issue are, amongst others, the following fundamental questions:

       how should Americans be governed? What should be the relationship between the American state and the American people?

       what is the appropriate - if any - role of government in the economy? Does society have any right to constrain the greed of individuals? Or does society have any responsibility for the welfare of its members, particularly the – tens of millions - of the economically and socially marginalised?

       is America a secular or a religious community? Is religion a matter of individual conscience, or of government policy - and, if the latter, how literally should government and the courts apply the prescriptions of the (protestant) bible, and according to whose interpretation?;

       what should be the role of the United States in post-Cold War global relations, and how should American hegemony be exercised?

3. September 11 and the war for the mind of the American voter

The Bush administration is the product of this Cultural War. Starting with the President himself, most of its key players are evangelical, creationist Christians, who publicly promote a literal interpretation of the scriptures. The former alcoholic who currently presides over this administration was weaned off his addictions by the message of Billy Graham. Just two days ago the Sunday Independent editorial [23 March, 2003] described George Bush as a "Xanac alcoholic" - one who is reported to have chastised a senior aide ‘we missed you at Bible study this morning’. With the exception of Colin Powell, all of the leading figures in the administration are drawn from the most far-right extreme of the Republican Party.

George Bush came to office - eventually - through what vast numbers of Americans consider to be pure electoral fraud in the state of Florida. Michael Moore opens his book Stupid white men… and other sorry excuses for the state of the nation! with a detailed account of how the Florida Electoral Commissioner appointed by governor Jeb Bush (the president’s brother) set about to eliminate potential Democratic Party voters from the state voters’ role. Bush's refusal to countenance a ballot recount in Florida ran counter to the most basic electoral procedures - ones followed even in apartheid South Africa.

Bush ran for the Presidency as a "caring conservative", promising to govern from the centre. Once inaugurated, however, his administration made a beeline for the far right of the American political spectrum. His is arguably the most reactionary government to have presided over a major power since the end of WWII. So radical and rapid was his shredding of his electoral platform that many moderate Republican were opened appalled. One Republican US senator, James Jeffords of Vermont, went to the extreme of crossing to the Democrats.

By the seventh month of the Bush presidency, the administration was in deep political trouble. It had lost its Senate majority and unilaterally torn up almost every recent treaty signed by the United States. In the context of a domestic recession almost as severe as the one which doomed Bush pere, the hold of the current administration on political power was at best tenuous, and few observers believed Bush could ever be re-elected.

In this context, September 11 fell, quite literally, like manna from heaven into the lap of George Bush. The horrendous crimes of September 11 have changed everything in American and global politics.

It is impossible to exaggerate the galloping paranoia which Sept. 11 elicited across most spectrums of American life. An absurd, but very real, sense seems to have been inculcated in the mind of the vast majority of Americans that their country, their homes, their families, and each individual personally, was in the cross-sights of Osama Bin-Laden - and that a melange of Godzilla, irrational foreign races, bearded Muslim fundamentalists, environmental destruction, anthrax, and nefarious "terrorists" were all conspiring to “get your momma”.

Such paranoia — the obsession with the external threat represented by the “other” — is, of course, profoundly rooted in mainstream American culture (think Hollywood horror movies, westerns, the Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood oeuvre, etc). It goes back to the founding myths of "American exceptionalism" and Manifest Destiny ("the nasty things that happen in Europe don't happen to us because we are better, purer, cleverer"), and is reinforced by the terrifying ignorance about the rest of the world (and about American imperialism) which transfigures US society at large. "Why do they all hate us so much?" is a refrain heard not just on the lunatic fringe of the Republican party, but, increasingly in liberal and even left-wing circles.

The response is a mix of the crudest unilateralism and the most macho affirmation of American power. Not for nothing did George Bush invoke the ghost of John Wayne immediately after Sept. 11, declaring Osama Bin Laden to be “Wanted: Dead or Alive!”

Many Americans see themselves as the victims of what they characterise as global hatred of their country. Post September 11 they will accept whatever the politicians tell them is necessary to bring them security in an insecure world, and no longer shrink from the blatant (as opposed to covert) wielding of the imperialist big stick. The administration has been only too happy to oblige, and to incite such paranoia.

So, I would argue, that Sept. 11 provided a profoundly reactionary Administration with what must have seemed to the evangelical Christians at its helm to be a literally God-given opportunity to refashion the American consensus in their image. The Bush administration has seized on Sept. 11 to push through a radical reorganisation of the security apparatus of the American state. This war of aggression against Iraq is just part of that attempt. Like the so-called "war on Terrorism", "Operation Iraqi Freedom" plays on and manipulates the most basic American need to demonise "the other" in order to create the possibility of domestic consensus in a dramatically fragmented society.

4. Unilateralism and the war for the American voter

My fourth point relates to the foreign policy agenda of the Bush administration.

In the months before September 11, the Bush administration set out to pursue an aggressive and radical agenda to transform international politics. It tore up of the Kyoto Accord, the Anti-Ballistic Missiles treaty, and a host of other international agreements; it tried to bully all of America's trading partner states to oppose the jurisdiction over the US of the International Criminal Court; it the openly confronted - and some would argue, provoked - China.

There has been much discussion of the infamous project signed by such key administration luminaries as Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and others (“The project for a new American century”). This embodies the messianic belief in both the ability and “obligation” of the US to wield the full range of its overwhelming power to remake the world (and particularly the Middle East) in its own image. This belief is rooted in the very cultural war to which I referred.

However, I am convinced that this war has at least as much to do with domestic US politics as with the radical international agenda of the Bush administration. Indeed, I understand this radical foreign political agenda as a direct intervention in domestic politics. "All politics is local" is more than just a truism in America. It is the basic fact of politics in the Cultural War. Mobilising support for "our boys in the forces", achieving a military victory over "the axis of evil", translates into votes. And votes are necessary to re-elect George Bush next year, another electoral fraud will simply not be credible.

This is a war for the mind of the American voter, much more than it is a war for oil, let alone "democracy", or the so-called disarmament of Iraq. Iraq is simply the excuse, the horrendous crimes of Saddam Hussein provide the convenient - and necessary - demon. The Iraqi people are the cannon fodder (the necessary “collateral damage”) for George Bush's re-election campaign. The war makes for great theatre, the message is that of the power and determination of the American President, resolute in his will to protect his people. The fact that Iraq represented zero threat to the US is completely besides the point.

5. The domestic agenda

The domestic agenda of the American evangelical right is far-ranging and terrifying. This does not mean, of course, that it will ever all be implemented, nor that it is unopposed by millions upon million of Americans. But it does mean that convenient external adventures like - the immensely "photogenic" - war in Iraq, vastly increase the administration's ability to push its domestic agenda.

This agenda combines, interalia:

       huge tax cuts to encourage not only the rich, but the "cowboy capitalism" embodied in Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, etc. (Enron was among the largest donors to the Bush presidential campaign). Bush inherited a budget surplus from Clinton, he has announced both a $300 million budget surplus and more than $600 million in tax cuts, mostly for the very wealthy;

       vast increases in military spending. Even before the invasion of Iraq, Bush had increased the military budget - already bigger than that of the next twenty-five military powers combined - by more than 50%. The biggest military and intelligence outfit on earth did not stop the attacks on September 11; having a bigger and more expensive security force will not succeed in protecting the US in the future from the growing rage and frustration provoked by such nakedly imperialist warmongering;

       pillage of the environment in the creation of private wealth. Former oil man and now Vice-President Cheney have proclaimed that there is no environmental crisis, just a crisis in energy production. The Bush administration intends to open the huge Alaska wilderness reserve to oil producers;

       undoing social security and public education. The social policy advisers around Bush advocate returning to the situation in the 19th century when only religious organisations catered to the needs of the dispossessed and marginalised. Moreover, the Bush’s administration is intents on replacing public - and tax-funded - schooling with a voucher system which will allow parents to use the money in whatever way they want to. This means the children of poor people may not receive an education because their parents may use such money to buy food or pay their rent;

       the prison-industrial complex. As governor of Texas, Bush signed 150 death warrants. He is reported to have mocked a woman on death row who pleaded for her sentence to be commuted before signing her death warrant anyway. The ‘war on drugs’ has created a situation where there are over 2 million prisoners, mainly young black men serving time for minor drug crimes. The "war on drugs", which is opposed by many senior police officials, is designed to fill up the prisons many of which are now privatised and run for corporate profit;

       "family values". One of Bush's first acts after inauguration was to ban any Federal assistance to family planning programmes, and ban all American aid to such programmes in other countries. He has announced $15 billion in US funding for AIDS programmes - while emasculating the most effective programmes for the prevention of AIDS (the use of condoms - the Bible is supposedly against). The fanatical religious far right from which Bush draws his support is violently anti- abortion (a number of doctors performing legal abortions have been assassinated in the US), viciously anti-gay, and not-so-covertly anti-black;

       racial profiling. Since September 11 racial profiling has been imposed on persons of colour going through US border controls. Canadians do not need a passport to enter the US – they only need proof of identity and proof of birth date. White Canadians are waved through, but any Canadian who comes from a range of Middle Eastern countries is taken into a separate line at the border and many are refused entrance. Well-known Canadian author Michael Ondaatje [who was born in Sri Lanka but has lived in Canada since 1962] has declined to enter the US because of such racial humiliation. Those legitimate holders of "green cards" who come from a wide range of countries are likewise required to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service;

       "Fortress America". Immediately after September 11, Bush rushed "the Patriot Act" through Congress over the opposition of one lone Democrat. This has given rise to the vast new bureaucratic apparatus of "Homeland Security", and extensive surveillance of all aspects of American society. Criticism in the mainstream media has been largely stifled by the attack dogs of this new, and further reaching McCarthyism. The main television networks have all vigorously promoted the “war on terror” and “operation Iraqi freedom”. The consequent erosion of democratic rights and freedoms would be immensely familiar to South Africans who remember PW Botha's National Security Management System of the 1980s.

The people making the running in this new Homeland Security apparatus are the most reactionary politicians ever to have occupied the apparatus of the Federal Government. Most of them are outright religious fanatics - the new American ayatollahs - President Bush himself, Vice-President Cheney, Defence Secretary Rumsfeld, Attorney-General Ashcroft, and the Secretary Homeland Security, Tom Ridge. Men convicted for lying to Congress have been rehabilitated and now occupy key roles in this Homeland security apparatus - John Pointdexter and Elliot Abrahams


These are in bleak times. Those of use who wish to understand, so better to oppose, the internationalist agenda of the Bush administration, need to understand this Cultural War in the US. Regardless of whether or not Bush is re-elected, the cultural war will continue, and will remain the central determinant in the policies America adopts towards the rest of the world.

The US is not immune to the stresses and strains of globalisation. The dissolution of old forms of politics has affected the America just as much as the rest of the world. Opponents of this new radical American agenda need to think through the very complex problems the transformation of the state, and the uses of the state under globalisation. The left globally is confronted with the huge challenge of what Gramsci termed building a new historical bloc. Opposition to the latest form of American hegemonic imperialism is an important part of this process.

The US is not immune to the stresses and strains of globalisation. The dissolution of old forms of politics has affected the America just as much as the rest of the world.



At the risk of sounding like an interrogator during the time of Stalin, my problem with Prof O’Meara’s presentation is that it is undialectical. It is very tempting to go along with what he is saying. The new right which emerges from the political and social currency he has spoken about and which was fuelled by what was said in the Reagan period and during the second Clinton administration period by Newt Gingrich and others has been there since the 1960s. It is true that the Christian fundamentalist right wing is on the rise. The US is the most highly developed educated and sophisticated country, but the Christian fundamentalist right is so strong that no television will screen ads advocating the use of condoms. But Newt Gingrich’s new conservatism is being rolled back by a lot of countervailing forces.

If you read the debates between key policy makers in the Bush administration, you see consensus that US is the best and most powerful country in the world, but there are tensions. I am not an advocate of the views of Colin Powell, but there are marked differences between him and Cheney. Much as the present Bush administration is able to drive a hard right agenda, there are still pockets of multilateralism in the state department. The fact that Powell kept insisting on going back to the UN for a resolution authorising war with Iraq reflects this. Condaleeza Rice, too, has views that are different to those of Wolfowitz and others like him. There is no monolithic Bush administration and no monolithic America. There are powerful constituencies that back what Bush is doing, but there are also forces that could potentially marshal support against what he is doing.

I studied at the same university Cheney attended at the time when the escalation in the Vietnam war occurred. It was the middle of a severe winter in January 1965. We were able to mobilise people to march around and around in the state capital of Madison, Wisconsin, but we felt like an isolated, weak minority. However, within three years, the situation was different. By 1968 thousands of Americans were on the street and the anti-war movement was carrying out its mission. I am not as pessimistic about the US as Dan is. Although the countervailing forces may be weak, they are there. Even the student body at the University of Minnesota boycotted classes in protests against the war. In Texas hundreds of people demonstrated in front of an oil company. These may seem to be straws in the wind, but a Sky Television poll the day after the US prisoners of war appear on Iraqi television showed a decline in support for the war in America. If the war is not as quick as Bush wants it to be, there will be a further decline in support for him as the body bags come back.

We must be concerned with the US strategic foreign policy doctrine, it holds dangers for all of us. What will the world be like on the day they raise the US and British flag over Baghdad? Will it be safer or more dangerous? Given the unilateral nature of this action against Iraq, there are few countries in the world that can feel safe from the aggressive attentions of their neighbours. The UN charters have been torn up, assigned to irrelevance by this attack, and we now live in a much more dangerous world. However, I have hope that, in time, in a year or two, the right wing will be rolled back by the American people themselves.



Dan O’Meara: I am deliberately being undialectical; I did not want to do a state of America assessment. We are in a period of immense reaction. Americans are not voting in presidential elections, not because they are not interested in politics, but because they think the candidates are all crooks. There is a tendency to say US politics is corrupt and does not make a difference who is elected, but the outcome of American presidential elections makes a huge difference to the world. Ronald Reagan gave PW Botha’s government a licence to do whatever it wanted to do.

       Why is Blair supporting Bush so strongly?

Dan O’Meara: I don’t know why Blair is doing what he is doing. The British tabloids call him the Prime Monster.

       Can you give some more insight into how the southern Baptist movement expresses itself, what organisational forms and institutions it has?

       I don’t think Dan has made the burden of his case regarding the religious origins of the American right wing. I agree with what he says about paranoia in the US, but the mere fact that he asked an aide why he did not attend a Bible study session does not necessarily mean that anything more than winning politically is important to Bush. I would like to hear more facts to support the assertion that he is part of the religious right. Religion is a social thing, it is what people do, and it is not a pernicious thing. We are afraid because they are afraid.

Dan O’Meara: The southern Baptist movement is not one church, it is not an organised movement, and it is comprised of many independent little churches. Although it is not organised, it is pernicious. It has put its hands on key institutions like television stations, and people like Jimmy Swaggart are now treated as serious political commentators. The assassinations of John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and the advent of Watergate and the first oil crisis led Americans to look for a meaning in life beyond progress and the industrial revolution. Many turned to this kind of fundamentalist religion – 60% of people believe the second coming will happen in their lifetimes.

       A single congresswoman opposed the Patriot Bill, but I have not heard Hilary Rodham Clinton making one comment about it. There are very few voices against what is happening. What is the thread that keeps people quiet?

       Hilary Clinton and Feinstein are pro-war but anti-Bush.

Dan O’Meara: Al Gore went against the war, to his credit. Ted Kennedy of the Democratic Party also picked it up, and Jimmy Carter did, but he is an old man. The debate on the war did not take place in the Democratic Party. Nobody wants to be seen as being weak on national security, the Democrats are running scared. The minute the Republicans say ‘you guys are wimping out’, most Democrats run scared.

       I was surprised about your sanguine ending about the American economy, particularly after talking about the casualisation and diminishment of the working population. The devastation of middle America and more and more speculative investment raises the potential for economic implosion. Is the media the rose coloured spectacles through which we see the US economy?

Dan O’Meara: We could speculate on whether the war is a soft landing for the US economy, or whether a real implosion is coming. I don’t think world capitalism is at its end yet. The dotcom boom is over, but no speculative new wealth has arisen. In War in the time of peace David Halberstam has written about the way the US media has changed since the 1990s. During the war in Bosnia, the US media attitude towards wars changed – they stopped sending their star reporters to cover overseas conflicts. The time for a television story on such a war was reduced from 2 minutes to 40 seconds. The phenomenon of infotainment has taken root. This is pernicious because most Americans do not read serious newspapers (and there are only four or five of those left in the US now). In publications like USA Today, the world reduced to pictures. Powell is a restraining influence on Bush, but after Vietnam he clearly understood the authorities had to control the images coming out of wars in which America is involved. The US authorities had control of the media coverage of its invasions of Grenada and Panama. The middle class lifestyle of most Americans allows them no time to get the real news.

Pallo Jordan: In 1965 when Lyndon Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam, there was no politician who would dare to say anything against that war. What emboldened US politicians was the sign of resistance among people like Ted Kennedy. Hilary Rodham Clinton is not about to risk her seat in a pro-Israeli constituency at the moment, but as the movement in opposition to the war grows you will see US politicians discover their courage.

       Ramsay Clark and others are beginning to campaign for the impeachment of Bush. Given the US rubbishing of the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol, what role might the UN begin to play to put charges onto the international agenda to push for Bush and Blair to be indicted for war crimes?

       What is the future of the UN?

       You have been silent on the role of think tanks, which are playing into the situation and which are not? You can’t duck the importance of the demonstration of the American youth, how those of the age 15–20 years feel about this conflict.

       The Bush administration is acting to stimulate the US economy. There are US contracts out for the reconstruction of Iraq, is this not a search for economic stimulus?

Pallo Jordan: September 11 invaded the comfort zone of the average American citizen. The White House and the Pentagon have not been attacked since 1812. Mainland America was not attacked in World War I, World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War. The attack of September 11 seemed like the end of the world to many Americans. Many of them are profoundly ignorant about the rest of the world. Bush and others put out Goebels-like propaganda which draws no distinction between Arabs. A full 60% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein has something to do with September 11. Dick Bill referred to the UN as ‘the chatterbox on the Hudson’ – this reflects the attitude of the Bush administration. I fear that the UN might not recover from this war, but then again it might. Bush and Cheney have said they want to restructure the UN. The five permanent members of the Security Council were the victors of World War II. The most populous continent is under-represented on the council (there is only one Asian seat) and Latin America has no seat. If the Bush administration does not have its way on the UN, it will dismiss it as a chatterbox on the Hudson.

Dan O’Meara: The UN was created by the US. If it decides it no longer wants the UN, it will change it. Most of the UN’s money comes from the US, but that country has been in arrears for 30 years. The UN may continue, but it will be weak. Another question concerns the future of the EU. There is a fundamental rupture over the Turkey issue, and France and Germany are not likely to forget the way they were humiliated by Bush’s cabinet for their lack of support for the war. France has officially protested about what a UK minister said about Chirac. The EU is important in the post-Kosovo period. On the subject of the think tanks – the key movers and shakers are in some universities and some are independent, but they are dispersed. Cheney caucused throughout the time of the Clinton administration. The youth in the US is not monolithic. Many of them oppose not only the war in Iraq, but globalisation as well. We used to believe by taking state power we can change the world, but an alternative approach is taking root – many of the US youth refuse to vote. There are always people who do well out of a war even if they didn’t want it. There is no evidence that the impulse comes from US business. Some businesses will do well and take over French and Russia oil interests, but concerns about the US economy is not what motivates the war.