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Books Lessons to be learned from Washington's lethal war against the world

Vijay Prashad's investigation of US's murderous global interventions against socialism and national liberation is a must-read, says CARLOS MARTINEZ

Washington Bullets
by Vijay Prashad
(LeftWord/Monthly Review Press, £14.99)

THE LATEST book from Indian Marxist Vijay Prashad is a passionate critique of the “US-led liberal international order,” in which Washington has fired — and still fires — its bullets at the peoples of the Global South and the socialist world.

In Guatemala, Congo, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Haiti, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Yemen, Sudan, Grenada, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Angola and so many other countries, Washington’s bullets have been deployed in the pursuance of regime change, the protection of US hegemony and opposition to the emergence of truly sovereign post-colonial nations, all in flagrant violation of international law.

Most of these bullets hit their targets, which is why we continue to live in a world dominated by imperialism. As Evo Morales observes in the preface: “If the salvation of humanity is far away, it is because Washington insists on using its bullets against the world's people.”

Prashad offers a distinctive perspective of the cold war, which is typically understood to have been an ideological struggle between capitalism and socialism and hence oriented along an East-West axis with the Soviet Union and its allies on one side and the US and its allies on the other.

But in reality the cold war was waged not only against socialism but against any attempt at achieving independence from the US-led system. Non-alignment did not protect the countries of the Global South such as Indonesia, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina, Congo and Iran from the murderous assault of those that sought to preserve the imperial status quo.

The elaborate hybrid warfare post-1945, exclusively directed against the Soviet Union and its allies, ended with the dismantling of the USSR in 1991. The peoples of the world ought to be reaping George W Bush’s much-vaunted “peace dividend.” But this was pure illusion.

In fact, the decline and fall of the Soviet Union facilitated the rise of an untrammelled and invigorated US-led militarism, which has thought nothing of destroying Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

Literal bullets have been accompanied by metaphorical bullets in the form of sanctions, destabilisation, structural adjustment, blackmail, privatisation and suffocating debt.

The very existence of the Soviet Union placed restrictions on the activities of the US. Prashad points out that, for example, the first 56 vetoes at the UN Security Council were invoked by the Soviet Union. “It was the USSR that used its veto to defend the process of national liberation, from the struggles of the Palestinians to the struggles in South Rhodesia, from the South African freedom struggle to the liberation war in Vietnam,” he asserts.

With the USSR and the Eastern European people's democracies out of the way, “the shield at the UN disappeared and the interventions from the West came like a tsunami.”

The hegemonic project continued, and continues. Those nations that tried to defend their sovereignty and to determine their own future were labeled as “rogue states.” George W Bush said that the US didn't need a “permission slip” to defend its interests, while Dick Cheney talked openly about the need to prevent “the emergence of any potential future global competitor.”.

The US now has around 800 military bases around the world, and continues to develop its strategy of hybrid warfare, described by Prashad as “a combination of unconventional and conventional means, using a range of state and non-state actors that run across the spectrum of social and political life.”

Some hoped in 2016 that Donald Trump’s putative isolationism would put the brakes on this hybrid warfare. And yet the Trump administration has vastly ramped up the pressure against Iran, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe, in addition to its crazed devotion to a new cold war against China. Sanctions against Venezuela alone are estimated to have caused tens of thousands of deaths.

So much for Trump’s isolation. And yet many are hoping that, with Joe Biden in the White House, the US can return to its “leadership” role, with its “liberal international order” restored. Reading Washington Bullets, it becomes crystal clear that this order has been decidedly “illiberal” for the millions of people that have died and suffered under its blows. Prashad brings these people back to life and gives them a history that has long been denied them.

The book ends on a pessimistic note. “No new system to counter the US stranglehold on the world's economic and political foundation is available as yet.” True, but a multipolar world is becoming visible and progressive forces should be working to help bring it into existence.

Washington Bullets tells harrowing stories that needed to be told and, as such, it is mandatory reading. Complementary texts include William Blum’s classic Killing Hope, Samir Amin’s Beyond US Hegemony: Assessing the Prospects for a Multipolar World and The Jakarta Method, the recent book by Vincent Bevins.

 

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