In Andrew Cockburn’s new book, Rumsfeld, the gap between rampant power and its faraway victims is closed. Donald Rumsfeld, US secretary of defence until last year and a designer of the Iraq bloodbath, is revealed as personally directing from his office in the Pentagon the torture of fellow human beings, exploiting “individual phobias, such as fear of dogs, to induce stress” and use of “a wet towel and dripping water to induce the misperception of suffocation”. Cockburn’s documented evidence shows that other Bush mafiosi, such as Paul Wolfowitz, now president of the World Bank, “had already agreed that Rumsfeld should approve all but
the most severe options, such as the wet towel, without restriction”.
In Washington, I asked Ray McGovern, formerly a senior CIA officer, what he made of Norman Mailer’s remark that America had entered a pre-fascist state. “I hope he’s right,” he replied, “because there are others saying we are already in a fascist mode. When you see who is controlling the means of production here, when you see who is controlling the newspapers and periodicals, and the TV stations, from which most Americans take their news, and when you see how the so-called war on terror is being conducted, you begin to understand where we are headed ... It’s quite something that the nuclear threat today should be seen first and foremost as coming from the United States of America and Great Britain.”
McGovern was the author of the president’s daily CIA intelligence brief. I interviewed him more than three years ago, and his prescient words are as striking today as Cockburn’s revelation of Rumsfeld’s secret life is illuminating. His description of fascism within a nominally free society recalls George Orwell’s warning that totalitarianism does not require a totalitarian state.
The lies that have caused this extremely dangerous time are understood and rejected by the majority of humanity. This was illustrated vividly on 15-16 February 2003 when some 30 million people took to the streets of cities around the world, including the greatest demonstration in British history. It was illustrated again the other day in Latin America, which George W Bush on tour sought to reclaim for America’s lost “backyard”. “The distinguished visitor,” noted one commentator in Caracas, “was received with fear and loathing.”
There are many connections in Latin America to the suffering in the Middle East. The crushing of popular, reformist governments by the US and the setting up of torture regimes, from Guatemala to Chile, have echoes from Iran to Afghanistan. The current attacks on the Chávez government in Venezuela by the media, which Ray McGovern describes as being “domesticated by their wish to serve”, are essential in disclaiming the right of the poor to find another way.
Elected last December with a record landslide of votes cast by three-quarters of the eligible population – his 11th major election victory – Hugo Chávez expresses the kind of genuine exuberant democracy long ago abandoned in Britain, where the political class offers instead the arthritic pirouetting of Tony Blair, a criminal, and treasurer Gordon Brown, the paymaster of imperial adventures fought by 18-year-old soldiers who, on their return home, are so ill treated that there is no one to change their colostomy bag.
Chávez, having all but got rid of the deadly IMF from Latin America, dares to use the wealth from Venezuela’s oil to unite the Latin peoples and to expel a foreign economic system that calls itself liberal and is the source of historic suffering. He is supported by governments and by millions across South America from whom he derives his mandate.
You would not know this on either side of the Atlantic unless you studied carefully. The propaganda that converts a lively, open democracy to an “authoritarian” dictatorship is written on the rusted crosses of Salvador Allende’s comrades, of whom the same was said. It is disseminated by the embittered effete whose liberal hero was Blair, until he made an embarrassing mess, and who now claim the respectability of “the left” in order to disguise their mentoring by the likes of Wolfowitz, their promotion of Dick Cheney’s ludicrous “world Islamic empire” and, above all, their passion for wars whose spilt blood is never theirs.
“Rumsfeld: his rise, fall and catastrophic legacy” by Andrew Cockburn is published in the United States by Scribner ($25)