STRANGE LIBERATORS: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit by Gregory Elich (with Michael Parenti’s Introduction and Mickey Z’s Afterword)
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I first met Greg Elich more than two years when we were both speakers at the One Dance People’s Summit. We’ve since become friends and I was proud to write the afterword for his recently released book, Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit (Llumina Press, 2006).
As I stated in that afterword, Greg Elich has dedicated himself to skillfully unearthing and disseminating the information that typically goes unsaid. He provides us with the well-researched fundamentals we cannot and should not expect to get from our newspapers or televisions. Put another way, Elich is teaching us to identify the “gates” that restrict our freedom of thought . . . the gates locking us into a limited form of perception.
I recently interviewed Greg via e-mail. Here’s how it went:
Mickey Z.: The phrase “Strange Liberators” certainly resonates with the current U.S. occupation of Iraq. Why did you choose this title?
Greg Elich: The phrase is taken from a speech given by the Rev. Martin Luther King in 1968 on the subject of the Vietnam War. Not much has changed since that time in at least one respect: U.S. leaders still use high-sounding phrases to cloak wars, interventions, and aggressive policies that serve corporate interests. One of the book’s primary goals is to demonstrate the reality of those policies for those on the receiving end, hence the title.
MZ: Such concern for those on the “receiving end” will often get you labeled “anti-American” or “pro-terrorist.” It’s fine to express sadness when American soldiers are killed but sympathy for those living under the bombs has somehow become forbidden. Who are some of targets of U.S. foreign policy that you talk about in your book?
GE: Empathy is notably lacking in mass media coverage of foreign affairs. My aim was to fill that gap for readers. The targets of U.S. foreign policy are too numerous to adequately cover in a single volume. Instead, I focus in detail on selected case studies that illustrate patterns that apply on a wider scale. What it means to be subjected to U.S. military power is shown in my chapters on the invasion of Iraq and the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. The devastating impact of Western sanctions is covered in the chapters on Zimbabwe, and those on North Korea provide an example of hostile U.S. economic and diplomatic maneuvers. Finally, U.S. policy on climate change is in effect a foreign policy issue in that all of humanity, nature, and the very globe itself will suffer for the decisions being made today.
MZ: The countries you mention are very unpopular in America. Even within some segments of the left, for example, many will join in on the demonization of Yugoslavia and Slobodan Milosevic. How do you respond when such folks declare it was good thing that NATO removed him from power?
GE: It is well known on the left how the Bush Administration lied about Iraq in order to provide a pretext for invasion, claiming that it harbored weapons of mass destruction and had links to Al Qaeda. Unfortunately, skepticism about U.S. motives in the Middle East has not always been extended to other areas of the globe. The Bush Administration is not uniquely militaristic. The invasion of Iraq was not an anomaly. U.S. leaders have a long history of demonizing nations they intend to attack or undermine. Deliberate lies and distortions are utilized to whip up emotional reactions calculated to build support for aggressive measures. Whenever a new campaign of demonization is opened, such as is happening now with Iran, the first question the left should ask itself is if the claims are true. I believe that a close examination of the facts invariably shows that they are not. I intentionally chose unpopular examples in my book because I wanted to demonstrate how the invasion of Iraq is in fact part of a broader and consistent pattern. On the subject of Yugoslavia, it is difficult to counter years of propaganda in a sentence or two. The subject is far too complex, so I would encourage readers who are curious to explore the issue in more depth to read my book, as well as books on the subject by Michael Parenti, Peter Brock, and Diana Johnstone.
MZ: I agree. It’s extremely difficult to grasp the scope of these issues without a lot more context, e.g. the well-documented information in your book. I’d like to come back to something you said earlier about climate change being a foreign policy issue. You conclude Strange Liberators with a powerful chapter called “Disposable Planet” in which you talk of earth becoming an “increasingly forbidding environment for future generations.” Do you feel this could be a unifying/galvanizing catalyst for public awareness and grassroots action?
GE: I am sure of it. Unfortunately, it will come too late, as the time for action is now. Americans in general don’t feel this issue has touched their lives in a meaningful way. But at some point, the impact will be impossible to ignore as feedback effects accelerate the process of climate change with alarming results. Once that happens, people are bound to question the Clinton and Bush Administrations’ resolve to seek economic advantage for U.S. corporations at the expense of the environment. Faced with a bleak future, few people will regard a despoiled planet as a price worth paying for already wealthy corporations to reap even more profits. With that realization, popular anger may be something to behold.
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Mickey Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at www.mickeyz.net.