Quote of the day

Greece remains roiled by the imposition of an austerity regime on the country. This regime has been and will continue to be harsh medicine for most Greeks. Greece’s political elite have shown themselves to be impotent when confronting the crisis, as Patrick Cockburn illustrated in this report:

The general strike and the parliamentary vote on reforms demanded by international creditors came before a European Union leaders’ summit, when Greece should receive €8bn — without it, the country will run out of money by November. In parliament the Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told MPs that Greece had no choice but to accept fresh hardships. “We have to explain to all these indignant people who see their lives changing that what the country is experiencing is not the worst stage of the crisis,” he said.

“It is an anguished and necessary effort to avoid the ultimate, deepest and harshest level of the crisis. The difference between a difficult situation and a catastrophe is immense.”

But for many Greeks, the catastrophe has already happened and protests increasingly involve the well-educated middle class. The strike yesterday involved air-traffic controllers, tax officials, pharmacists and doctors — as well as taxi drivers, dock workers and garbage collectors. Schools were closed and hospitals were only open for emergency cases. Every street in Athens has a heap of rotting rubbish on it despite a court order to the public service union to end its strike.

What Mr. Venizelos seems unable to understand is the nature of the disturbance in the streets of Athens. The strikes and street fighting are not features marking the final phase of Greece’s political crisis. They are manifestations of an insurgency that spans the globe and promises to endure long into the future.

A case of humanitarian imperialism?

It’s just amazing that the Iraq invasion and occupation were about Oil. The Independent now reports that:

Plans to exploit Iraq’s oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world’s largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.

As Patrick Cockburn points out:

The supposed disinterest expressed by international oil companies in the outcome of the invasion of Iraq in the year before it was launched never quite made sense. Iraqis used to ask ironically if the rest of the world would have been quite so interested in the fate of their country if its main export had been cabbages.

Nevertheless, Cockburn believes:

It has never seemed likely that the US and Britain invaded Iraq primarily for its oil. Reasserting US self-confidence as a super-power after 9/11 was surely a greater motive. The UK went along with this in order to remain America’s chief ally. Both President Bush and Tony Blair thought the war would be easy.

But would they have gone to war if Iraq had been producing cabbages? Probably not.

Cockburn is right about the role of oil in the push for war. After all, the United States can invade and decimate nearly any country it wants to destroy. But Iraq and its oil had strategic value for the faltering superpower, and Iraq could serve to announce to the world that the United States could defend its interests when pushed. Fortunately, the Iraqis also had designs on their country! The Iraq invasion and occupation have thus produced a political nightmare for the United States and Great Britain. It can be said that the United States prevailed in Iraq. But it is clear that it weakened America as a whole and as a military power.

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