Mass Media (U. Mass/Boston
February 5, 1980
The “Carter Doctrine”: Ready to Die for Exxon?
by Michael Letwin
Only five years after the US was kicked out of Vietnam, Carter, backed try Democrats and Republicans, “liberals” and “conservatives,” TV and the newspapers alike, is gearing the country up for another war.
In his “State of the Union” speech, Carter promised a military budget of $142.7 billion, an increase of at least 3.3 percent over inflation. He said that he is willing to send us to war to maintain U.S. control over the Persian Gulf. He announced that supposed “restraints” on the CIA will be removed.
And, most brazenly of all, he announced renewed draft registration for 18-26 year-olds for the first time since Vietnam, a step which will make the draft itself just one small step away.
Carter’s excuse for all this is based on three arguments: 1) that “international terrorists” have continued to hold American hostages in Iran; 2) that the Russian government is guilty of “aggression” against Afghanistan and threatens the Mideast elsewhere; and 3) that these two factors, together with revolution “in many nations of the developing world,” threaten the supply of oil to the US, and “world stability” in general.
Since, under similar pretexts, the American working class has slaughtered and been slaughtered in mammoth numbers in four major wars in this century alone, we need to carefully evaluate Carter’s claims.
First of all, the US government is completely responsible for the “Iranian Crisis.” Its embassy ran Iran for at least 26 years while its Shah kept the Iranian people in poverty, and imprisoned, tortured and killed tens of thousands of Iranians when they resisted.
As if that wasn’t enough, the government knowingly provoked the fearful Iranian students into taking hostages by admitting the Shah into this country.
Now, Carter admits that the US will continue to attempt to dominate not only Iran, but the Persian Gulf and Western Asia in general. No wonder the Iranians demand the Shah’s return and an investigation into the crimes of the US government in Iran. Why doesn’t Carter meet those demands and end the “crisis”?
Second, Carter ‘s cynical use of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan for a display of his dewy-eyed “moral outrage” is nauseating There is no evidence that the invasion, abhorrent as it is to anyone who really believes that a people has the right to determine its own future, is as Carter put it, “the greatest threat since W.W. II.
Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan is simply an extension of its heavy influence on all Afghan regimes since the 19th century, and particularly on the present one which dates to April 1978. The current invasion probably represents a consolidation of that long history of control rather than an immediate attempt to overrun the entire world.
But even assuming the worst about the short-range intentions of the Russian government, is it believable, for even a even a second, that the US government gives a damn for the Afghan people, or that American intervention would guarantee theirs, or anyone else’s freedom?
No. The US, too, has backed various Afghan regimes that were among some of the most backward and oppressive monarchies in the world, under which the Afghan population experienced mass starvation, poverty and repression. Carter weeps not for the Afghans, but [because] he wishes that the US were in control of Afghanistan, instead of the Russians.
Carters hypocritical condemnation of Russian “colonialism” is even more ridiculous when considered against the backdrop of the American corporate and military domination which extends through Latin America, parts of Asia, Africa and Western Europe. Like the Russian empire, the American empire is based on the fiction that the countries it controls are independent.
But history shows that when the profits of American corporations are threatened either by popular revolution (as in Iran), or by imperial rivals (Russia, for example), the American empire trees to defend itself, using, in Carters words, “any means necessary.”
These means include funnelling billions of dollars annually to various right-wing and racist dictatorships around the world in the form of government aid and private investments which create and maintain local armies and secret police. along with the experts to train them.
When that isn’t enough, the American government has subverted and overthrown democratically elected governments in (since 1950 alone) Iran (1953), the Congo (1961), and Chile (1973), to name a few.
When all else fails, the US has used open military aggression in Korea (1950-2), Lebanon (1958), Cuba (1961) and the Dominican Republic (1965). That various cliques have “invited” the US into their countries is no more significant than the fact that the Afghan regime “invited” the Russians. In addition, the US holds at least one major colony — Puerto Rico.
But all that pales in comparison with the awful terror and murder committed by the American government in Vietnam. After years of opposition to the Vietnamese national liberation movement, the US government invaded Vietnam in 1965, beginning a ten year war that left dead 57,000 American and nearly 2 million Vietnamese.
The American military machine mutilated the country with vast quantities of napalm, defoliants and bombs, all to maintain the hold of the US empire over the entire region of SE Asia.
The horror only ended when the Vietnamese showed they couldn’t be beaten, American troops began to rebel and the anti-war movement at home grew too powerful. Not surprisingly, the word “Vietnam” didn’t appear in Carter‘s speech.
So, in his tirade against “colonial aggression,” Carter failed to mention that there is not one, but two major empires in today’s world — one Russian and one American. One is no better than the other. Both ruthlessly exploit and jealously guard their power in defense of the profits of a small international capitalist class which alone benefits from their ongoing contest.
Both make moves against one country or another; the US in Vietnam, Russia in Afghanistan. It doesn’t matter who fired the first shot in this particular battle.
What is happening today, as throughout the history of the 20th century, is that the major empires are threatening to send each empire’s workers (or bombs) against the other in a test of the competitors’ strength. Maybe they’ll strike another deal.
But, especially in today’s growing economic crisis, it could also end in war. We’ll be sent in the name of “democracy.” Russian workers will be sent to fight for “socialism.” But American napalm won’t be about democracy any more than Russian tanks will end in socialism. The struggle is over spoils, not principles.
Finally, the flow of oil is a question of profit, not supply. The popular explanation is that the “Arabs are holding us hostage.” But every major study of the “energy crisis” shows that the “Seven Sisters” (the big American and European oil companies) have, since 1972, organized phony shortages of oil for the purpose of increasing prices and profits. OPEC is only one of the partners in this game. If you doubt it, check out the recently released oil company profits tor 1979.
Moreover, the very reliance of this country on oil is related to corporate profit. We drive ridiculously sized, inefficient, dangerous and expensive cars built by the auto companies to fall apart as soon as possible; they are pushed on us by thousands of hours of TV commercials.
Meanwhile, mass transit systems crumble (tried relying on the “T” lately?), safe alternative energy sources continue to be suppressed, and all we are offered as a “solution” are higher gas prices and nukes!
Carter’s speech should tell us that the danger we face comes from American capitalism, its militarism and its economic crisis. Consider the domestic measures outlined by Carter.
On the one hand is a miniscule, token program which masquerades as an attempt to put a dent in minority youth unemployment.
On the other are continued wage controls (we make less and less, as inflation runs wild at the highest rate since 1946), budget cuts (we get less social services while the military budget takes off), less government regulation (companies have even more freedom to kill and maim us at work and throughout the environment), and higher productivity (we work even harder — if we have a job at all — to increase corporate profits).
How convenient that Carter has our attention on the Russians!
When Carter speaks of defending “world stability,” he is talking about protecting an American corporate empire which includes us as its victims.
ls that worth dying tor?