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(DV) Goldsmith: The Green Zone







The Green Zone
by Patricia Goldsmith
September 9, 2005

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The chickenhawks have put the war back in class warfare.  Under globalization, Baghdad and New Orleans really are interchangeable. It’s not just the American worker, but the American citizen, who is being brought down to the same level as a citizen of the Third World. Apparently, human rights are only for those with the money to buy them -- and the price is going up, up, up, right along with oil.

In the future, I believe September 11, 2001 will become identified with peak oil. While oil production did not actually peak on that particular day, it’s close enough for government work. Our entire civilization, with its quaint middle classes and obsolete Geneva Conventions and Bill of Rights, is based on the false assumption of unlimited access to cheap oil.

“Peak oil” means that we have used half of all the available, non-renewable oil deposits in the world. It means that production will drop from this point on. But it’s much more than that.  It means we’ve already used all the oil that is easily extracted and pure. From here on out, the going gets rough.

This is occurring in conjunction with global warming, the direct result of our use of these vanishing hydrocarbons. Everything points to the need for conservation and research into new forms of energy. We’ve known this for thirty years. But because of our religious devotion to the capitalist system, and capitalists’ use of wealth and power to stave off this “economic” shift, we are knee-deep in consequences with precious few choices left. International thugs are grabbing the last of the world’s assets. Water’s next.

Right now all of us are standing in line outside the Super Dome, in need of basic necessities like food and water. Expendable. We’re all Casey Sheehan, our lives thrown away for corporate profits. Our comfortable middle class existence is already gone: bought and sold. All that’s left is an illusion maintained by our attachment to TV, the great illusion machine.

That’s right, all this stupidity and destruction, all of it foreseeable, including peak oil and global warming, is brought to us courtesy of the American Dream, and its nightmare inverse, the Culture War.

That’s why Bush had to trot out the finally, thoroughly disgraced Bill Clinton. What Ken Starr and Paula Jones combined could not do, W has done, making work-hard-and-play-by-the-rules, good-government god William Jefferson Clinton an apologist for the treasonous abomination of banking on human disaster.

Tony Blair and George Bush can commit crimes against humanity, because the definition of who is human and who is not is being rewritten by their masters. Rest assured, the men running our corporate global government, unlike 64 percent of the poor deluded fools out there, do believe in evolution and in survival of the fittest.

That’s why it is encouraging that the left has at last found stunningly effective leadership, in the person of Cindy Sheehan. She has been able to perform a miracle and address the people outside the confines of the state media.

It’s also hopeful that the movement is essentially non-partisan, or Democratic only by default, since the Democrats’ function seems to be to insure that we never have a real choice. At the forefront of the peace movement are military mothers and wives who no longer give a shit about anything but making the cold-blooded assassins running our government pay for what they have done.

Above all, this movement is class-based.

Lila Lipscomb is having trouble living with the fact that she encouraged her kids, her son and her daughter, to go into the military to get an education and see the world. People who joined the Guard and the Reserve to make a little extra money to make ends meet and serve their local communities are dying in Iraq. People who are being struck from the Medicaid rolls are dying, too. If Social Security is privatized in the next Congress, I guarantee you, people will die because of it.   The old, the young, the poor, the infirm: just like the New Orleans Super Dome, only less visible.

Because this nucleus of peace activists is rooted in the military, there is an awareness of international issues, including globalization, that is uncharacteristic of Americans in general. For example, Cindy Sheehan constantly references the Downing Street Minutes. Tony Blair’s anticipated entry into the ex-president’s club, the Carlyle Group, completes the story.

“One thing I have noticed,” says former Goldwater Republican and current member of Veterans For Peace, Dick Underhill, “If you are in a group that is predominately pro-peace, ask how many have lived or worked outside the US. . . . My experience is that 70 percent will identify themselves as having lived abroad.” 

When you live abroad, Underhill explains, you begin to understand that many of the myths blasted by our media are blatant lies. A movie about Senior Bush’s invasion of Panama was a turning point for Underhill. Like most Americans, he believed that Daddy Bush’s pre-emptive strike was a mostly bloodless action in which an evil drug lord was painlessly extracted from a grateful foreign land and delivered to justice.  Not quite.

Like Iraq, Panama possesses a strategic asset the US requires: in this case, control of the Canal.  In Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (pg. 65), John Perkins describes “the Zone”:

Beneath a magenta sky, he drove us into the Canal Zone. As prepared as I thought I was, it was not enough. I could hardly believe the opulence of the place -- huge white buildings, manicured lawns, plush homes, golf courses, stores, and theaters.

. . .

Everything in here is U.S. property. All the businesses -- the supermarkets, barbershops, beauty salons, restaurants, all of them -- are exempt from Panamanian laws and taxes.  There are seven 18-hole golf courses, U.S. post offices scattered conveniently around, U.S. courts of law and schools.  It is truly a country within a country.

“What an affront!”

Fidel peered at me as though making a quick assessment. “Yes”, he agreed, “that’s a good word for it. Over there,” he pointed back toward the city, “income per capita is less than one thousand dollars a year, and unemployment rates are 30 percent. . . .

Canal Zone, Green Zone, it’s all the same. An Iraqi blogger named Riverbend heard about the Green Zone from a friend who works for an Iraqi sub-contractor (Americans have all the contracts):

The Green Zone . . . is a city in itself. He came back awed, and more than a little bit upset. He talked of designs and plans being made for everything from the future U.S. Embassy and the housing complex that will surround it to restaurants, shops, fitness centers, gasoline stations, constant electricity and water -- a virtual country inside of a country with its own rules, regulations, and government. . . .

The Green Zone is . . . a slap in the face. It tells us that while we are citizens in our own country, our comings and goings are restricted because portions of the country no longer belong to its people. They belong to the people living in the Green Republic.

Rummy has another name for these oases of American privilege “inserted” or “projected” into areas where we have “interests” around the world, according to Middle East expert Robert Fisk, but the essential disconnect from reality is the same:

Lily pads are what Donald Rumsfeld calls them, these zones where the Americans live. But they are not lily pads; they are armed fortresses.

It reminds me of the Crusader castles. They are quite lovely on the outside, but when you’re inside, it’s cold and damp and you can’t see out; you just have to peer through narrow slits. That’s all the Crusaders saw of the land they were occupying. And that’s now happening to Americans in Iraq.

What we’re fighting for in Iraq and all around the globe is the Green Zone, a rarefied bubble of corporate privilege and private wealth so great that its possessors can create a separate, unaccountable reality for themselves.

Unfortunately, even with support for the war in Iraq taking a nosedive, many Americans -- probably the majority -- still feel that they are living in an unassailable Green Zone of affluence, safe from the consequences of our actions in the wider world. The fact of the matter is, most of us live outside those walls, running risks and making sacrifices for those who truly are above -- or below -- the law. And those sacrifices and risks do not stop with the economy and war.  What we are doing to the environment is a danger to the entire planet.

The poor and middle class people of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast are going to be a long time learning exactly what it means to live outside the Green Zone.

The propaganda and the steady stream of hate that’s been flowing from the right for decades now is as addictive as MacDonald’s French fries or cigarettes. A lot of people are really hooked.  They buy into the illusion that we’re all passive spectators, just watching injustice. Helping people realize that not doing something is also a crime is dirty work. Luckily for all of us, the Cindy Sheehans among us are used to taking on the jobs that no one else wants.

Patricia Goldsmith is a member of Long Island Media Watch, a grassroots freemedia and democracy watchdog group.  She can be reached at:

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