Speaking on the nature of American capitalism, Michael Parenti--an internationally known author and lecturer--criticized the Bush administration and focused the majority of his talk Tuesday night on the war in Iraq.
"I believe the war is not crazy. I think it is very rational," Parenti said, attributing the war primarily to President George W. Bush's efforts to "maintain the system of expropriation and class control" fueled by capitalism and corporate greed.
His sarcastic remarks directed at Republicans and conservatives received spatterings of laughter over the course of his talk, entitled "Global Enterprise, War and Democracy." The lecture was sponsored by the International Association.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime was never an issue for the U.S. government, Parenti said, until American capitalists felt threatened by the country's development and feared for American investment opportunities in Iraq.
After Hussein's installation by the Central Intelligence Agency to undo the 1958 Iraqi revolution, Parenti said, Hussein became "the state department's poster boy."
When the Iraqi leader nationalized the oil industry and started job training programs and health care, American capitalists saw these initiatives as a threat to American capitalism--an institution, Parenti said, that thrives off "rich countries by making the people poor."
Parenti emphasized the similarities between the 1991 Gulf War and the current military campaign, saying both presidents began the conflicts to revive lagging economies and gain access to Iraq's oil fields.
"In 1991, [former Secretary of State] James Baker said the war would be good for the economy and would create new jobs," Parenti said. "I think that was the first time the [first] Bush administration showed any interest in job programs."
He also pointed out that Iraq controls $4 million worth of crude, none of which "belongs to the Texas oil cartel that Bush and [Vice-president Dick] Cheney belong to," and cited a demonstration poster that read: "How did our oil get under their sand?"
Parenti criticized Bush for using the Iraqi conflict in the same way he used Sept. 11--as a political maneuver to distract the public from domestic issues.
"There are a lot of people who think that George W. Bush is stupid," Parenti said. "I really don't think so. He's passed a huge tax cut for the richest 1 percent of Americans and doubled the military budget. He's sticking it to us while we're talking about how stupid he is. A liberal intellectual is never happier than when he thinks the person who is screwing him is stupid."
His criticism of the Bush administration continued as Parenti chastised the "undemocratic agenda" of the president and lauded protesters around the world for their "concern for injustice and murder."
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Such concern, he said, was brought about by the "arrogance and overweening power [of the U.S.] under [the Bush] administration."
"If you raise a question against the president, then you are disloyal and un-American," Parenti said. "But since when did being American mean killing thousands of people all around the world?"
For that comment, he received a resounding round of applause from the audience.