Since the start of the most recent Israeli killing spree in Lebanon and Gaza, the world has stood helplessly by and watched the IDF casually butchers innocents and systematically destroys vital civilian infrastructure. Any conscientious observer of the continuing Israeli carnage should have no problem agreeing that “The destruction and killings by Israeli terrorists would not be possible without the support and collusion of the United States of America and Europe.” These precise words were part of a statement issued by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia.
But Mahathir’s statement did not stop at condemning the slaughter of Palestinians and Lebanese. Unlike other people of good will, the ex-Prime Minister offered a prescription to put an end to this nonsense. He went on to point out that “the oil-producing countries can stop these atrocities by stopping all transactions in US dollars or British pounds. If the world is sincere in helping the Lebanese and Palestinians, they should reject the use of the dollar in international trade. When the demand for the dollar falls, America will be weakened and it will lack the ability to act as a bully in the global stage."
In calling for a boycott of the dollar, Mahathir has put his finger on the very essence of the American imperial project in the region. What the United States is fighting for in Iraq is not the oil per se. And they definitely have no interest in promoting democracy in the region. Witness the assault on the two most democratic entities in the Arab Middle East –” the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon.
The Anglo-American invaders of Iraq have always had a single strategic goal –” to maintain the privilege of imposing the dollar as the preeminent means of exchange in international markets. To operate what amounts to a currency exporting racket –” the powers that be in Washington need oil to be priced in dollars and sold only in dollars. Of course, the ‘oil for dollars’ policy would not be possible without the collaboration of the dictatorial Arab custodians of the oil plantations.
Mahathir’s call for a popular international insurrection against the dollar can and will change the course of history. It is a beautiful and elegant solution that will immediately attract serious attention from Washington and London. It will expose to Americans and Arabs alike that their leaders are taking them for fools.
Boycotting the dollar is a movement that can immediately be launched at the grass roots level without the consent of the authoritarian governments in the region. It is a much more sensible alternative than a cutoff of oil supplies –” which would be considered a belligerent act and is more likely to hurt poor countries before it ever has an economic impact on the United States. A suspension of oil deliveries requires the approval of the very Arab states that are full partners in the scheme to impose the dollar as virtually the only means of international exchange. In contrast, a boycott of any currency is a matter of personal judgment on its relative value as a means of exchange.
While tampering with oil supplies would constitute a breach of international trade agreements, refusing to accept a certain currency is a legitimate act even by State entities. Every nation’s central bank has the sovereign right to hold foreign exchange in whatever currency they choose.
A grass roots boycott of American products is doomed to failure –” because goods produced in the United States are simply not present in most markets. In fact, they are hard to find on American shelves –” because Americans don’t do that kind of work anymore. Manufacturing has become ‘off shored’ to such an extent that barely one out of every ten American workers is involved in actually producing tangible goods.
These days, America excels in printing currency and figuring out ways to stuff it down the throat of the rest of the world. Currency exporting is such a profitable venture that the folks in Washington are more than willing to incinerate other countries to maintain their lucrative franchise.
A dollar boycott will also expose the lame Arab leaders who constantly claim to be impotent. This is a convenient myth. Never in the modern history of the region have the governments of these supposedly sovereign Arab states been endowed with the leverage they now possess. If Saudi Arabia simply refused to accept dollars for their oil –” Washington would turn on a dime –” which would suddenly be worth a nickel. It would be a long time coming before another American Secretary of State cheerfully smiled at the sight of mutilated young Palestinian and Lebanese children. Even an intellectual midget the size of George Bush would quickly come to grasp a few basic realities. The Israeli lobby would get a permanent black eye for pushing the region to the brink and bringing on an earth shaking downward spiral of America’s chief export –” the dollar.
Since the Saudis are a party to the dollar conspiracy, a grass roots boycott of the dollar will have the additional benefit of bringing the “oil for dollar” issue to the Arab public square. It will make people think through the real causes of American belligerence in the region. And it will force an answer to one vital question. If the Arab leaders are vested with such incredible power to influence American foreign policy –” why do they sit idle while innocent Palestinian and Lebanese children are being publicly executed by an Israeli army supplied by the United States and fortified by unconditional American diplomatic support.
Once the ‘dollar’ issue is part of the public debate –” the role of the American peace movement will be to educate our fellow citizens to make them understand the real motives behind American military intervention in the region. The average American is bewildered by the Iraq war and deliberately manipulated by the Likudnik activists who pass themselves off as journalists in the mass media brothels. This explains why Mahathir’s unprecedented call for passive resistance to American hegemony and Israeli brutality was completely ignored by virtually every media outlet in both the United States and the Middle East.
In paving the path to peaceful and effective resistance, Mahathir is emulating the great Mahatma Gandhi. The dollar boycott will be remembered as the 21st century equivalent of Mahatma Gandhi’s long march to the sea to protest the absurdity of the British salt tax. By the time he reached the Arabian Sea, every Indian realized that they had a god given right to make their own salt by evaporating seawater. Likewise, every Arab needs to know that they have the same natural right to shun the use of American and British currency.
Without firing a single bullet, Gandhi’s nonviolent action eventually exposed the vicious exploitative nature of the British imperial project in the Indian sub-continent. Mahathir’s long march to the sea will depend on getting the word out that the dollar boycott is on and it ain’t going to stop until the United States government ends the occupation of Iraq and restrains the war criminals in Tel Aviv.
Mahatma simply urged his countrymen to make their own salt. Mahathir is asking much less of us. “I appeal to the world to take this simple action. Reject the dollar and the pound.” It is and elegant, peaceful, legal proposition and can be very financially rewarding to those who bail out of the dollar first.
The greatest current challenge to Mahathir’s call for passive resistance is the Stalinist news blackout in the West and the Middle East. We need to breach that barrier through the power of the Internet and through protests burning effigies of the dollar and the pound. Our first task is to get the subject on the table and generate an international discussion of Mahathir’s Long March to the Sea. We would have the done no less for Mahatma.