March 30, 2003, 1300 (FTW), AMSTERDAM-- In this,
perhaps the most multi-cultural city in all of Europe,
where English is universally spoken as a second language,
something has shifted and it is very noticeable. When
I enter any sidewalk café and, through the mélange of
accents from British, to French,
to German, to Middle Eastern, to Chinese, to Indonesian,
ask for a coffee and a croissant, my American accent
produces a subtle but tangible reaction in the crowd. A
cone of silence develops in my immediate vicinity, as
people on the street listen for my attitude and watch my
bearing to see if I am a "Bush American". Do
I support a war that is universally hated here and that
has woven a thread of quiet fear through the sidewalks,
bicycle paths and canals?
This is the city that sheltered Anne Frank during the
Nazi occupation of 1940-44. This is the city where the
first and only really significant, non-violent civil
strikes against Nazi rule took place throughout occupied
Europe. This is the city where one finds more Rembrandts
and Van Goghs than anywhere else on earth. This is also
the city that is home to the world's most famous red
light district and cafés that sell hashish legally. This
is the city that is known for its universal tolerance
of everything except that which harms.
One of my subscribers, a German who has come to the
conference at which I am speaking, seeks me out. We talk
of what is happening in the world and I realize that
slowly, but inexorably, Americans are becoming identified
here as "The New Germans", "The New Occupiers."
News coverage here at the Hotel Grand Krasnapolsky,
perhaps Amsterdam's best-known hotel, is vastly different
Not only is there CNN, there is the BBC, and stations
from France, Italy, Germany,
Asia and the Arab world. The war looks vastly different
through these eyes. It looks bad enough on CNN.
I am speaking at a conference sponsored by Nexus
an eclectic Australian publication with large followings
continental Europe, Britain and
the U.S. I listen
intently to one of the speakers, a famed Dutch journalist
named Willem Oltmans, as he discusses the war. Now in
his 70s, Oltmans fought in the Dutch resistance and blew
up Nazi troop and supply trains. He is a national hero.
He is unequivocal in his message. "Bush
is an idiot and he has been suckered by Russia, Germany, France and China."
I was already on this page.
Oltmans does not hesitate to compare the current American
government to the Third Reich. Its tactics and propaganda
are all too familiar to him.
I was already on this page.
What Oltmans doesn't seem to grasp is the whole issue
of Peak Oil and what it means for human civilization.
Just days ago, the BBC took a chilling look at the issues
of declining discoveries, increasing demand, decreasing
supply, over-stretched production capacity, and economies
and civilizations on the brink of collapse. I hope Oltmans
stays for my presentation.
But where Oltmans and I agree completely is this:
What if Russia, which is still smarting from the looting
of its economy by the U.S. in the 1990s, and France,
which has lost most of its global economic clout over
fifty years and still remembers the Nazi conquest of
the last century, and Germany, which has been a virtual
U.S. vassal since Hitler's defeat, and China, which has
one of the world's strongest economies, had set up the
U.S. to fail miserably in the Middle East?
What if they had lured the U.S. into
a false sense of security about its military might? What
if, over a period of eighteen months, they had diplomatically
boxed the U.S. into a position where Bush’s military
bluster, lack of sophistication and neocon conceit had
made him arrogantly commit to the 21st century equivalent
of Napoleon's and Hitler's failed marches on Moscow?
I have previously observed that Vladimir Putin of Russia,
where oil costs between $14 and $22 per barrel to produce,
knew what would be in store for his nation if the U.S. achieved
its now elusive quick victory. France, Germany and China also
knew: Russian oil would be totally noncompetitive for
maybe 5-10 years. In that time, Russia would
cease to be any kind of a threat to anyone. If the U.S. controls Iraq and Saudi
Arabia, it will dictate economically
to the entire planet.
Now that the war has begun, Russia need
only blink and intelligence information and supplies
reach Iraq. China need
only subtly touch its chin and Silkworm missiles and
mines are funneled to Iraqi defenders. France and Germany need
only look the other way and intelligence and strategy
reach the Iraqi military. All of the non-aligned nations,
reacting to an American unilateralism so reminiscent
of Nazi Germany,
can encourage a hundred things that demonstrate the abject
vulnerability of the Empire:
A rebel insurrection that shuts down
Nigerian oil production; a coup in the Central African
Republic that might threaten
the region; or an attack on CIA and military personnel
After only 11 days of war, one frequently sees the resurrected
images of Vietnam on all of the non-American news channels
and in the non-American newspapers: Vietnam, the quagmire;
Vietnam, the debacle; Vietnam, the human catastrophe;
Vietnam, the American defeat. Vietnam. Vietnam. Vietnam.
International TV broadcasters laughingly show pictures
of the drug-running, weapons-smuggling Oliver North
posing as a correspondent in the new Reichsministerium
of Propaganda called FOX News. Everyone in
Europe knows who and what Oliver North is. So very
few in America do.
For the United States,
the blunt truth is that the war will not be won until
Iraqi oil production has reached 3 million barrels a
day; the American economy will not regain strength until
Iraqi oil production is at 5-8 million barrels a day.
Putin can easily sustain Europe with his diminishing
reserves while Americans (and Iraqis) now literally must
bleed for every new barrel the U.S. economy
But the United States will
not win this war. The Arab world is approaching full
revolt. The neocons have become Dr. Strangeloves clinging
to their bombs while more educated and sophisticated
minds know that the war, as far as the U.S. is
concerned, is already lost. Lost also, most likely, are
the U.S. economy,
the dollar, and U.S. imperial
As the foundation is being laid in the United States
for the discrediting and sacrificing of the Bush neocons,
and as the biggest global realignment in more than a
hundred and fifty years begins, I am forced to ask, "What
if this is part of a larger plan?"
All I know is that all my life I had wanted to come
to continental Europe in an atmosphere in which America
was seen as a liberator and remembered for that and for
all the things I grew up believing in. Instead, I have
arrived in a continental Europe where I cannot help but
feel that the people around me have their antennae out,
just as they did 60 years ago when the Wehrmacht rumbled
through these beautiful streets proclaiming itself to
be the friend of the Dutch and offering them a better
way of life.
What the United States gained
in terms of European good will after World War II has
been lost forever. And as the Euro continues to remain
stronger than the dollar, there is little incentive anywhere
for people here to remember.