Volatility

October 7, 2016

The Reason: War

Filed under: Afghanistan, Disaster Capitalism, Global War On Terror — Russ @ 6:53 am

>

If everyone who claimed to oppose war would refuse to vote for any warmonger, America would never wage aggressive war.
.
The reason the US government incessantly, every day, wages wars of aggression and commits war crimes is not because of those who openly exalt war. It’s because almost all who claim to oppose war are frauds who really support it. Their vote proves it.
.
.
.
*When I write of “the reason” in these brief posts, I do so in the spirit of the priests and the flock of the electoral cult which exalts voting as the Alpha and Omega. Therefore I speak of causes insofar as voters cause things. Of course in reality there are more reasons than this.
.
.
One of his campaign slogans, from day one. So it is today.

One of his campaign slogans, from day one. So it is with today’s election, and with all of Babylon’s elections.

.
.

June 9, 2012

Waiting In Line

Filed under: Afghanistan, Disaster Capitalism, Global War On Terror — Russ @ 5:14 am

>

Under “civilized” conditions people are constantly herded into lines. This is unnatural and unhuman.
 
Apologists for power hierarchies like corporations and governments claim that waiting in line is the civilized improvement on a mob beating each other with clubs.
 
But in reality natural human beings know how to organize themselves without lines. Meanwhile it’s domesticated/feral people who allegedly need to be herded with queues and clubs. The club is actually maximized under “civilized” conditions, but it’s the police club. That was the real argument of Hobbes with his Leviathan state, that it’s civilized man who’s a nasty, brutish beast unless kept firmly in line at all times*. He fraudulently called that the “state of nature”, but his argument had nothing to do with natural humanity. The Steven Pinkers whose project is to normalize mass state violence as “peace” and “security” perpetrate the same fraud. (That’s also why Obama was given the nobble pries. The Committee, and liberals in general, want to normalize permanent imperial war and the neoliberal police state, under some rubric of “humanitarianism”, as the new baseline for “peace”.)
 
*This too is a Big Lie. On the contrary, one of the great testaments to human nature is how, even after centuries of relentless system propaganda, economic assault, and brutalization, most people still naturally cooperate, including under disaster conditions. It’s elites and their hierarchies who, under stress, either panic or, more commonly, behave as opportunistic predators.

>

May 2, 2011

Bin Laden Dead? It Has Nothing to Do With the War

Filed under: Afghanistan, Disaster Capitalism, Global War On Terror — Russ @ 3:08 am

>

So I wake up to hear that Osama bin Laden is allegedly dead. I remember back in 2001, once the government launched the war in Afghanistan, the consensus among my co-workers was that they’d kill or capture bin Laden within two weeks. That’s actually not far short of when they had him bagged at Tora Bora and let him escape through suspicious negligence of the back door into Pakistan. Of course, in 2001 most people thought Bush really wanted to capture or kill him. The idea that bin Laden was more useful to corporate imperialism alive and at large than dead or a prisoner was too cynical for most people at that point. We’ve since learned differently, and most people are jaded about it all.
 
Still, this has caused a ripple of excitement. At Naked Capitalism they’re even asking if this makes Obama a shoe-in for 2012. Nobody’s cared about bin Laden for a long time, and I’ll eat my hat if anyone cares about this in 2012. This criminal probably will win in 2012 if he’s up against anyone from the current slate of Republicans, but only by default on account of how repulsive they all are.
 
I suppose it’s not surprising that stimulus-response Americans in general, always desperate for a novelty to give them a temporary rush, are momentarily excited over such a non-event. (Bin Laden hasn’t had any operational significance in many years; he’s long been of only symbolic significance. Indeed, while his death means nothing from America’s point of view, his symbolic martyrdom may be more influential to the declining jihadist movement than he was alive as a has-been.)
 
Still, I hope people can turn this momentary enthusiasm to good effect by insisting, “This means the objective of the war is complete and we can end the war now.” That’s really nonsense, of course. The purpose of the war has nothing to do with actual terrorists, who are merely a pretext. Obama hopes he can score political points with a momentary proclamation of victory but still continue the wars unabated. Maybe for once this kind of scam won’t work.
 
(A cynic on this issue might go with the following line: For general audiences, pretend to go along with the notion that bin Laden was the one and only true leader of Islamic terrorism, that this is conclusive, and say, “So this is it. We’ve won. Now we can end the wars and bring the troops home.” Accuse anyone who disputes this of being a liar who always claimed killing bin Laden was the primary goal.)
 
What’s the real point of the war? I’ve written about it extensively before; see my categories “Afghanistan” and “Global War on Terror”. But I’ll sum up my more recent refinement of my view.
 
Going back to 1990 and through the early 2000s, I used to think Middle Eastern aggression was primarily about oil. It used to be, but I think by now it’s more about corporatism and domination.
 
An empire which was truly, rationally focused on the global flow of oil would have gone about things very differently. If you want the oil to flow smoothly, you want geopolitical stability. You want calm in the Mideast. But the US has done all it can to disrupt the region and create chaos. Similarly, if you want to maintain consensus on the dollar as reserve currency and the currency paid for oil, you’d want to maintain the same calm, not do all you can to break up that consensus and drive others to seek alternatives.
 
I think in Washington the goal of ensuring the oil supply is considered too boring and isn’t the most short-term profitable priority. As we’ve seen everywhere, no one in the kleptocracy seems capable any longer of setting a priority based on longer-term self-interest, or even of conceiving such things. No one seems capable of thinking or doing in any way other than to maximize short run profiteering.
 
That’s why the imperial wars are so impulsive, scattershot, strategically incoherent, and more in the nature of drunken plunder raids than calculated empire-building. Iraq provided the most stark example, as the neoliberal Einsatzgruppen surged in immediately following the troops, and with the indiscriminate destructiveness of a tsunami rushed to impose a policy of total deregulation, privatization, and throwing the borders completely open to the full fury of globalization. Not one bit of this was even the slightest bit coordinated according to any guiding principle whatsoever. It was total corporatist chaos as its own principle. Every racket which could get to Iraq now cashed in its chips. It could be compared to a bank run, in that for short term profit corporatism was depleting any basis for its long run ability to maintain a revenue stream from these new colonies. But nobody cares about that anymore.
 
In Afghanistan that same dynamic has sought to prevail, although there it’s more difficult as there isn’t the same domestic economy to exploit, so the pirates have to content themselves mostly with government contract plunder.
 
So we can see how improbable it is that anyone among the elites considers the death of bin Laden to have any significance at all. Indeed, the way Obama’s exulting in this looks like self-indulgence for the sake of merely a short-run political profit. Over the long run, wasn’t bin Laden still more useful at large than dead? At any rate, there was no downside to his still being alive, but like I mentioned above, there’s a possible political downside for them now that he’s dead.
 
But like I said, I doubt it will matter either way. The corporate imperial “war on terror” has nothing to do with actually fighting terrorists.

November 19, 2010

The War On Terror Is Over: Synopsis

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: , — Russ @ 2:58 am

 

I don’t write much about the wars anymore, simply because I can’t write about everything and had to whittle down my topics. But I wanted to sum up the rational case against the war in one short post, perhaps as the basis for a set of talking points if anyone wanted to use it that way.
 
I won’t go again into the true corporatist nature of the war. I’ve written extensively about that in the past, for example here, here, and here. Let me just again cite two choice pieces of evidence: War Secretary Robert Gates assuring an audience of weapons racketeers that the administration’s main priority is escalating Pentagon budgets solely for the sake of spending escalation itself, i.e. for the sake of corporate welfare; and Nick Turse’s account of how Pentagon contracting extends to a whole menagerie of “civilian” consumer goods and services companies. This gives an overview of how the military-industrial complex extends much further than most people think. The corporate-militarist state has already become far more integrated than it ever was under classical fascism prior to WWII.
 
So here’s the basic facts:
 
1. Terrorism is not a real threat to America. If you don’t believe a pinko like me, how about the neocon consultant corporation Stratfor? Stratfor, unlike some blowhard in the jingo NYT or WaPo, actually gets paid for the actionable quality of its opinions. That’s how it makes its living. And as it’s an imperial consultant, for Stratfor to support war would be talking its book.
 
Yet according to this and many other pieces, terrorism “does not represent a strategic, existential threat”.
 
In fact, Stratfor’s basic position on the Global War on Terror goes as follows:
 
A. Terrorism is not a strategic, existential threat.
 
B. Al-Qaeda’s capabilities have been greatly degraded.
 
C. Whatever diminished action international terrorism can undertake, it can undertake it outside Afghanistan Yemen, or any other particular place.
 
D. Most Afghans reject the Karzai government. (So according to Petraeus’ and McChrystal’s own counterinsurgency doctrine, which declares the necessity for a legitimate indigenous client government, the Afghanistan war cannot be won.)
 
E. The Taliban cannot be defeated.
 

Nietzsche wrote that, “The most fundamental form of human stupidity is forgetting what we were trying to do in the first place.” The stated U.S. goal in Afghanistan was the destruction of al Qaeda. While al Qaeda as it existed in 2001 has certainly been disrupted and degraded, al Qaeda’s evolution and migration means that disrupting and degrading it — to say nothing of destroying it — can no longer be achieved by waging a war in Afghanistan. The guerrilla does not rely on a single piece of real estate (in this case Afghanistan) but rather on his ability to move seamlessly across terrain to evade decisive combat in any specific location. Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism is not centered on Afghanistan and does not need Afghanistan, so no matter how successful that war might be, it would make little difference in the larger fight against transnational jihadism.

 
So we have Stratfor making the whole case right there. We should end the wars and get out.
 
And it’s not just them. Even arch-neocons like Zakaria admit that terrorism is no threat remotely commensurate with what we’ve lost and spent in pretending to fight it.
 
2. Any actual war on terror element of the “war on terror” has already been won. Administration experts themselves say so:
 
CIA chief Leon Panetta: “We’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less” al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
 
Terror “czar” Michael Leiter: Maybe “more than 300” jihadists in Pakistan.
 
National Security Adviser James Jones: “Fewer than 100” AQ in Afghanistan.
 
ABC news quotes an intelligence official who sums it up: the DoD, CIA, and other intelligence agencies agree that there are at most around 100 jihadists in Afghanistan and several hundred in Pakistan.
 
So actual jihad has been smashed, like Stratfor says. The US government and military agree. The actual war on terror is over. It was won a long time ago.
 
3. The one and only thing now driving insurgencies and what little jihadist sentiment is left is the imperial war itself. This Pew study demonstrates that jihad is unpopular in Pakistan, but that American aggression is even less popular. The same public opinion is common throughout the Muslim world. Most people are sick of jihad and don’t want caliphates. The only thing they’d prefer it to is Western domination. And the one thing which causes them to look favorably upon insurgency and jihad is Western aggression.
 
In July the NBER released a study which found that the Afghan occupation itself is the driver of insurgency.
 
“Local exposure to violence from Isaf [NATO’s “International Security Assistance Force”, i.e. the invaders] appears to be the primary driver of this effect.”
 
Meanwhile as Petraeus took over from McC, he was mulling whether to relax McC’s relatively restrictive rules of engagement. Those were the same rules under which McC himself admitted they were doing little but slaughtering civilians:
 

We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force . . . . [T]o my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it.”

 
From the report: “When Isaf units kill civilians, this increases the willing number of combatants.”
 
That’s the main thing driving the insurgency, and it’s the only thing still breathing life into jihad. And Petraeus wants to escalate it. What did they say this war was about again?
 
4. The people are increasingly realizing this and are turning against the war.
 
So anyone who starts to doubt the war should be told that he’s not alone. On the contrary, he’s joining the majority, although you’d never know it from the normal MSM coverage.
 
 
So the war on terror is over and has been won. Terrorism is no strategic threat. The power elites admit as much. Whatever the real reason is for the “war on terror”, it’s not to defend against terrorism.
 
Maybe the best way to educate against the war is to start, not by directly calling it a corporate imperial boondoggle and war crime, but by proving that whatever it is, it’s not a war against terror.
 
In the same way that people are coming to reject the banks as they realize how the banks produce nothing but are only parasites, maybe more people will reject the wars as they realize how the wars have zero to do with terrorism or any other kind of defense, but are only a project of corporate aggression. (And maybe focusing on the “corporate war” angle can help do an end run around residual “patriotic” delusions about the wars.)

July 26, 2010

Afghan Sunshine (Wikileaks and Transparency vs. Corporate Tyranny)

 

Today Wikileaks, in collaboration with the NYT, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel, released 92,000 pages of documents on the Afghan war. So far it looks like strong reinforcement of everything we already knew.
 
From The Guardian:
 

The war logs also detail:

• How a secret “black” unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for “kill or capture” without trial.

• How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.

• How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.

• How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

 
And the NYT:
 

The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001……

The archive is a vivid reminder that the Afghan conflict until recently was a second-class war, with money, troops and attention lavished on Iraq while soldiers and Marines lamented that the Afghans they were training were not being paid.

The reports — usually spare summaries but sometimes detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the war that have been largely hidden from the public eye:

• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.

• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.

• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.

 
This enhances the clarity of the general picture: administrative and strategic incompetence, corruption, an attitude of utter callousness toward civilian life, the increasing effectiveness of the Taliban’s defensive measures, above all how this is a corporate war being waged with hijacked public resources for criminal ends.
 
We in the blogosphere knew all this, but will Assange’s turning the jingo NYT into a journalistic accomplice help get the message out to a broader audience? 
 
By making the release of the documents a collaborative effort with major MSM outlets, Wikileaks founder and impresario Julian Assange seems to have made a smart tactical move. This co-opts the generally hostile MSM and tries to force focus on the story itself rather than the fraudulent meta-story of whether or not this information should have been released in the first place. (Though we’ll no doubt see plenty of that as well.)
 
[We should be on the lookout for another bogus media provocation. Who knows whether or not it was an accident that right-wing and liberal corporatists came together last week for a splendid little race flap just when the Washington Post’s extraordinary series on the Pentagon corporate welfare state should have been the dominant story.]
 
Assange won’t reveal his sources, so we don’t know if this was another example of Bradley Manning’s heroism. He hasn’t been charged in relation to any of these leaks. But regardless we should compare Manning’s position, that of someone who actually tried to do his duty as a soldier and a citizen and looks to be severely abused for it, to that of the great capital criminals of our own or any other time, the likes of Blankfein, Dimon, Hayward, the weapons purveyors, Obama and Bush, and all the corporate and government gangsters, how they have only prospered and seem to go from strength to strength as they destroy America for no ideal higher than their verminous greed.
 
(Obama’s reaction to the release is typical. He blames everything on Bush while condemning the exercise in transparency itself. It’s exactly the same combination of unaccountability, remorselessness, and hatred for democracy you’d expect. Have you ever seen cockroaches scatter when a light is turned on? A commitment to transparency, of course, was one of Obama’s key campaign promises. But from day one in power he has reviled any light shone upon him and his fellow criminals.)
 
The almost complete destruction of democracy is just one of their ultimate crimes. (They’re not completely there yet; while Citizens United was more the formal consummation of a crime than a significant change, the defeat of net neutrality and public broadband access would signal the eradication of Internet democracy itself, the last real democratic space available to those who can access it.)
 
This is why transparency is such a critical issue. It’s not just a point of process, the way a liberal would typically say; by now we must exalt and demand it as a sacred ideal in itself.
 
As I wrote before, the “secrets” of a country which faces no existential threat have no practical reason to exist. And in a country whose economy has matured and then become decrepit to the point of rentier oligopoly, there are similarly no valid economic secrets. By now all the produce of the mature sectors is simply the work of the society itself, and therefore all the information which exists is similarly the public’s property. Not the corporations’, and not the government’s.
 
So there are no practical or moral reasons for elite secrets to exist. Given what we know of how malevolent a role secrecy has almost always played throughout history, how no matter what its pretext it usually also was enlisted to serve the criminal ends of power elites, it follows that if elite secrecy has no practical or moral standing, then it becomes ipso facto impractical and immoral. It’s a moral affront to the rights of the people, and a clear and present danger to the health of our democracy. By now it’s a core duty of citizenship to demand total sunshine for all elite information. Or, to put it a different way, “elite” information has no right to exist. Just like every other elite monopoly, this one must be broken up and restituted to the people.
 
(As I said in that previous post, this doesn’t apply to our individual, personal, bottom-up information. That truly is our individual property. Of course there too the elites, whether it be Facebook or the government, try to steal what’s ours and use it for their own power and profit goals. So a corollary is that the elites have zero right to our informational property, since all their purposes are, as I described, illegitimate. By definition elite activities have no practical or moral standing.)
 
So we must hail the all-too-rare true journalism of transparency as exemplified by Julian Assange and Wikileaks. They’re doing great work. As for the incipient martyrdom of Bradley Manning, I don’t know what can be done there. Bloggers like Greenwald try to interest the populace in the plight of our heroic citizen whistleblowers who are under such assault by the same administration which refuses to “look backward” to the Bush administration’s veritably Nazi crimes because Obama’s committing all the same crimes himself. But so far the people don’t seem all that interested. Nor do they seem all that concerned about the crimes themselves.
 
Things look grim. But one thing which can only help is sunshine. The more the better. We the people should have zero tolerance for pretensions to secrecy on the part of any elite, and regard any such claim as if the elitist had uttered the worst racial slur. That’s how unacceptable elite claims of secrecy should be among civilized people.
 
So that just brings us back full circle to what’s always our starting question: Can we save civilization itself? Is there even anything left to save?

June 16, 2010

The Afghanistan Decay

 

Contrary to initial suspicions, General David Petraeus did not in fact pass out in a moment of clarity when his delusions fell away and he beheld the insanity and wickedness of the Global War on Terror in its full truth. It was just dehydration. Apparently he doesn’t know how to drink enough water in the desert. That sounds about right for the jokers running this war.
 
In a criminal system, every new piece of evidence that you’re on the wrong path is taken as a pretext to accelerate down that path. So it’s likely to be in Afghanistan, even as contrary evidence – on the strategy, on the tactics, on Karzai – continues to pile up. Obama still claims to be sticking to his 2011 partial withdrawal timetable although they’ll “review” in December. Never mind that the touted “withdrawal” from Iraq is already proving to be bogus.
 
So everyone’s probably seen the big “news”, that the US claims to have discovered vast mineral reserves all over Afghanistan. It’s not in fact news, since the original discoveries were by the Soviets in the 1980s, and Afghan engineers told the Americans about them in 2004. The Americans apparently ignored this information until 2007, when they carried out aerial surveys to augment the data. Now they’re claiming to have located upwards of $11 trillion worth of gold, copper, cobalt, iron, and lithium. The lithium deposit supposedly rivals that of Bolivia, the world’s largest. Electric car believers, rejoice! If the lithium really is there, I’m sure it’ll be used for low-cost mass EV production and not weaponry or luxuries for the rich.
 
The proximate cause for this old news being announced now is that the much-hyped Kandahar offensive has been postponed and downgraded to an “operation” or dawdle or whatever they’re now calling it. Even the MSM is prognosticating failure, as it ruminates on the fact that the model operation in Marja has already failed.
 
It looks like they’re trying to artificially stimulate a new pretext for a lost war. (The GWOT itself was in part a textbook foreign distraction from a domestic problem in the first place, in Bush’s case that he wanted to turn the people’s eyes away from his pre-Bailout looting of the country. Sounds quaint today. And yet now the diversionary GWOT needs its own meta-diversion.)
 
Lots of people had the initial reaction that “now we’ll never leave”. The intention of never leaving was already the case, so this doesn’t really change anything there. But I suppose it may harden the resolve on both sides, in which case it favors the insurgents.
 
This is because, in spite of idiotic Western hubris, wars of attrition in the Global South always favor the insurgency wherever it fights with resolve. Anywhere this is the case, “You can kill ten of ours for every one of yours we kill, and you’ll still give up and we’ll still win”, as Ho Chi Minh said. Any reason to fight will always be more deeply and ferociously felt in the man fighting for his homeland than in the mercenary/tourist who couldn’t even tell you why he’s there, no matter how professional he is. So it follows that any new reason, in this case fighting to hang onto the mineral wealth of one’s homeland vs. fighting to steal resources from a foreign country, will add to the insurgents’ preponderance of resolve, and thus increase the pro-insurgency attrition spread.
 
Of course we have no idea whether these mineral reserves exist in such quantity at all, and if they do exist, whether they can ever be extracted under conditions of war and Peak Oil.
 
And if they do exist and are extracted, who’s likely to be doing the extracting? That would be China, who already deftly picked up many of the Iraqi oil contracts the US had fought so hard to “liberate” for its own oil rackets. Instead the Chinese rackets are looking to rake in the profit after the US expended the blood and money. The same thing is already happening in Afghanistan, where the biggest Karzai mining concession was awarded not to his erstwhile US masters but to the Chinese.
 
Given the abysmal relations between the US and Karzai, another heckuva job on Obama’s part, there’s no good reason to think US mining interests will have any inside track on any future concessions.
 
But the Democrats remain stoic. Representative Ike Skelton even saw fit to channel Donald Rumsfeld: “Karzai’s a challenge. But you work with what you have.”
 
Yes, you launch imperial wars with the stooges you have, not the ones you want.
 
And how well is this war of aggression going? About as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Petraeus wrote the counterinsurgency (COIN) manual, and it’s Stanley McChrystal’s bible. A basic axiom: You need twenty soldiers per one thousand of the populace. In Afghanistan that means half a million troops. This is a prerequisite, as the commanders decreed.
 
“I see. So can you do effective counterinsurgency with one hundred thousand?”
 
Petraeus and McC: “Sure!”
 
That’s why Marja’s going the way it is, and that’s why Kandahar’s a pipe dream.
 
I was contrasting Patton, who had the will to fight and was good at it, with Petraeus and McChrystal, who seem to be both lacking in will and incompetent. Patton would be the first to say drone warfare* is cowardly and ineffective. The fact that they’re emphasizing it is evidence of the decayed moral fiber of the army, and reliance upon such gadgetry only furthers the rot. If you want to fight the war, if you have the will to fight the war, you’d say forget the drones, which are counterproductive (as the CIA itself admits), and instead commit to massive force on the ground. If you’re not willing to do that then you’re not serious, you really lack the will to fight, in which case you simply shouldn’t do it period, instead of being half-assed about it.
 
I’m not saying such ground warfare would work either, but that’s the point. These COIN wars fought for purely piratic, corporate ends, are not winnable. And they’re really not supposed to be. The point of such a war is to hijack the public armed forces as the vehicle of corporate looting, from the weapons contractors to the mercenary and support rackets to the extractive rackets. The war is fought with taxpayer money and public blood while the rackets rake in pure profit. That’s what corporatism’s all about. That’s why the war is meant to be permanent for as long as it can be sustained. It’s a second Bailout alongside the finance Bailout.
 
(There’s a clear parallel between the expensive, bloody pointlessness of the Global War on Terror and the expensive, economically destructive pointlessness of HFT, bond vigilantism, the carry trade, and all the other games of the Bailout casino. In both cases taxpayer money, in principle infinite, is used as play money by favored rackets. But they get to keep the winnings as real money. The people are stuck with all the real losses.)
 
So there’s the state of the Afghan bailout. I suppose the services can be compared to the riot police in Greece. It’s unfortunate to have to see things that way, but that’s where the kleptocracy is leading us and will to continue to lead for as long as people follow and obey gangsters.
 
 
[* In a chilling but predictable detail, the plans are already being laid to bring the drones home. Soon they won’t need to send a SWAT team to kick down the wrong door and shoot down an innocent homeowner because they wrongly think he’s growing weed. They’ll just target him with a drone instead. That’s the clear logic here.]

April 10, 2010

The Company You Keep

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: — Russ @ 2:15 am

 

Obama and his chickenhawks have been having quite the little problem lately with their stooge Karzai. Even as the Helmand offensive moves on toward Kandahar, Karzai in a series of speeches has been attacking his imperial masters, threatening uncooperation and even going over to the Taliban.
 
Apparently what set him off is his irritation over the typical US establishment hypocrisy of wanting the forms of good-civics democracy no matter how corrupt the reality. (There’s that process mentality again.) Although the US government wants Karzai to be as corrupt as he has to be, and if necessary to steal elections (in the aftermath of the stolen election Obama contented himself with one of his impotent lectures like he tries to give the banksters; just as with Wall Street, so here too this proves that he approves of the crime but hopes for tidier processes), it also wants to pretend it’s doing something to prevent such fraud in the future. So Karzai’s expected to jump through the hoops of submitting to the oversight of a UN-certified “watchdog”. Karzai, being just a common hood who considers kleptocracy his entitlement, the job he’s being paid for, is chafing at even this fig leaf. So he tried to pass a panel-packing law so his own creatures would staff the panel. Yet his own crony legislature rejected this, I assume because “somebody” paid them more.
 
In his rage Karzai has been lashing out at the US cabal. “I am not a puppet!”, he shouted. He blamed all the fraud on the UN and US. He claimed there won’t be any Kandahar offensive if he doesn’t support it. He accused the US of interfering in areas beyond its competence or authority and broadly hinted that US interests and his own may not always coincide. He invited Ahmadinejad to visit and speak. He said the US military operation was practically an invasion which may lead to “a national resistance”, and threatened the obvious – unless his government is seen to have legitimacy, the Taliban movement becomes synonymous with a Pashtun national movement. The Taliban will in fact be a legitimate resistance movement.
 
Leave me alone, he demanded, or “I swear I am going to join the Taliban.”
 
That’s nice friends you got there, Obama and Bush.
 
He’s right, of course, about the legitimacy issue, while every antiwar analyst has pointed out this fundamental contradiction in the US government premise. The military’s own counterinsurgency doctrine intones that there must be an indigenous government perceived as legitimate by the people. The Karzai government, of course, is not legitimate and is not seen as legitimate. The Pashtuns rightly see Karzai as a kleptocratic American stooge presiding over a Tajik-dominated alien regime, who stole the election. By our own premise we have to admit this war can’t work and get out. But of course the government stays the course anyway. (I’ve written some stuff about this war’s “credibility” before, for example here, here, and here.)
 
One of my favorite passages of war commentary is this gem from McChrystal, who does seem to have the virtue of sometimes speaking the absurd truth rather than making up some slick lie.
 

So many things could scuttle McChrystal’s plans: a Taliban more intractable than imagined, the fractured nature of Afghan society and, no matter what President Obama does, a lack of soldiers and time. But there is something even worse, over which neither McChrystal nor his civilian comrades in the American government exercise much control: the government of Hamid Karzai, already among the most corrupt in the world, appears to have secured its large victory in nationwide elections in August by orchestrating the stealing of votes. A United Nations-backed group is trying to sort through the fraud allegations, and American diplomats are trying to broker some sort of power-sharing agreement with Karzai and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah.

But increasingly, McChrystal, as well as President Obama and the American people, are being forced to confront the possibility that they will be stuck fighting and dying and paying for a government that is widely viewed as illegitimate.

When I asked McChrystal about this, it was the one issue that he seemed not to have thought through. What if the Afghan people see their own government as illegitimate? How would you fight for something like that?

“Then we are going to have to avoid looking like we are part of the illegitimacy,” the general said. “That is the key thing.”

 
Here’s a stat which puts into perspective the “legitimacy” of this wholesome democratic government:
 

* Believe it or not, for instance, U.S. commanders in our war zones have more than one billion congressionally mandated dollars a year at their disposal to spend on making “friends with local citizens and help[ing] struggling economies.” It’s all socked away in the Commander’s Emergency Response Program. Think of it as a local community-bribery account which, best of all, seems not to require the slightest accountability to Congress for where or how the money is spent.

 
The real comedy has come from the administration’s reaction to Karzai’s misbehavior and the tantrums of its flacks. Hillary called to complain. Meanwhile Obama “disinvited” him from a scheduled White House visit.
 
But this effect was somewhat blunted when Obama personally traveled to Kabul as a supplicant, begging for better behavior. (And now Obama has even sent him a thank-you letter, “for receiving him on such short notice”!) This sure is a posture Obama easily assumes. He’s done it with Karzai before, following the stolen election when Obama begged him not to steal any further elections. While we can understand how meek and spineless he is with his masters Dimon and Blankfein, he’s just as prone to bow and scrape before heirarchical inferiors like Lieberman, Republicans, and Karzai.
 
The jingo flack NYT is trying to cover for his character weaknesses here. In the process it provides a window into its own lack of character. Several pieces try to peddle the line that Obama’s begging expedition was indeed “embarrassing” – but to Karzai. I don’t know – when the President of the United States goes halfway around the world to beg a flunkey to behave himself, it seems to me that’s flattering to the flunkey while shameful for the boss. Strong leaders send other flunkies to deal with flunkies. 
 
Indeed the NYT’s editorials have been downright hysterical:
 

American officials have repeatedly warned Mr. Karzai that unless he truly commits to eradicating corruption (including among his own family members), improving governance and institutionalizing the rule of law, there is no chance of defeating the Taliban. Mr. Karzai has repeatedly shrugged off those warnings.

 
And we have repeatedly warned that by definition such things can never happen in a corrupt war propping up a corrupt stooge.
 

Mr. Obama made the right decision to send another 30,000 troops to help drive the Taliban out of important strongholds. But there is no way to hold those cities and towns without an effective Afghan government (at both the federal and local level) to take over. And after eight years of fighting, more than 1,000 American lives lost and more than $200 billion from American taxpayers spent, Mr. Karzai’s failure to build a credible, honest and even minimally effective government remains the Taliban’s No. 1 recruiting tool.

 
No, as all sane people comprehend, your very presence is the #1 recruiting tool. (Along with your own newsreels proudly displaying your normal way of life.)
 

The rambling speech of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Thursday was alarming. His delusional criticism of the United Nations and governments whose troops are risking their lives by fighting the Taliban complicates the difficult effort to stabilize Afghanistan.

 
“Rambling…alarming…delusional…” At least he got you to open up about what you really are, since nothing seems more unhinged than the chickenhawk NYT’s tone on this. Referring to Karzai’s calling the invaders “invaders”, the NYT responds that this truth is “conceit”. While we’ve gleaned that from their editorial tone throughout (not just on the war, of course, and only starting in the editorial section), it’s funny to see it openly expressed.
 
But the most important takeaway is how, while they repeat the declaration the army made years ago and the admission McC made months ago, that “the effort depends on credible leadership in Kabul”, they still to this day refuse to advocate the one and only action which follows from this. Since it’s by now an established fact that Karzai is not credible and never will be credible, by their own premise they have to renounce their aggression and get out.
 
But incomprehensibly according to any rational measure, they not only refuse to abide by their own stipulation, but they keep stipulating it! It’s insanity.
 
(The Times says “Mr. Karzai is encouraging those who want the US out of Afghanistan”. No, he’s confirming that we were right, and you by your patent derangement are proving we were right. Just as you’re aligned in every other way, so you both prove right everyone who has pointed out the futility of everything you’re doing.)
 
The NYT does indeed become frustrated trying to analyze this:
 

Interviews with diplomats, Afghan analysts and ordinary Afghans suggest that the United States and other Western countries have three options: threaten to withdraw troops or actually withdraw them; use diplomacy, which so far has had little result; and find ways to expand citizen participation in the government, which now has hardly any elected positions at the provincial and district levels.

Threatening to withdraw, which Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, called the “nuclear deterrent” option, would put the United States and other Western countries in the position of potentially having to make good on the promise, risking their strategic interest in a stable Afghanistan. Few experts think the country would remain peaceful without a significant foreign force here. Moreover, withdrawal could open the way for the country to again become a terrorist haven.

Some Western critics of Mr. Karzai believe that the West has no choice but to threaten to leave.

“There is no point in having troops in a mission that cannot be accomplished,” said Peter W. Galbraith, former United Nations deputy special representative for Afghanistan, who was dismissed after a dispute with his superiors over how to handle widespread electoral fraud and what senior U.N. officials later said was his advocacy of Mr. Karzai’s removal. “The mission might be important, but if it can’t be achieved, there is no point in sending these troops into battle. Part of the problem is that counterinsurgency requires a credible local partner.”

Diplomacy has so far failed to achieve substantial changes, although some analysts, like Mr. Biddle, who opposes the so-called nuclear option, believe that the West should demand concessions before spending any more money on development projects like digging wells and building schools.

“We do millions of things in Afghanistan, and any of those things can become a source of leverage,” he said. “Far too much of what we do in Afghanistan we just do without asking for anything explicit in return.”

 
What’s your leverage? What can you do to demand that? You’re the junkie. You’re the fiend. Karzai may depend upon you for his regime’s literal existence, but your regime depends upon him perhaps even more profoundly, given how the very psyche of the power structure is so bound up in the Permanent War. (Also more nonsense about the regime’s “credibility”.)
 
We see how emotionally and psychologically committed the administration and the media are. In that sense their own fear is perhaps even deeper than that of the stooge who’s risking his life, which probably doesn’t mean as much to him. Physical existence isn’t held as dear in a place like Afghanistan, the latest such place where that’s true. That’s why spiritually bloated and enervated Westerners will never be able to win wars in such places.
 
But that passage does contain one hint about a way to extend and pretend with regard to regime “credibility”. Since according to their war premise they need a legitimate regime, and since any sane person knows that regime can’t be Karzai’s, it follows that they can try to prop up their bankrupt war rationale by dumping him and getting another stooge. Nobody buys the crap about “citizen participation in the government”. That’s probably code for, “if Karzai doesn’t fall into line, we can replace him”.
 
(Replace him with whom? I’m sure these idiots have no idea. They’ll need another Pashtun if they want to keep peddling the lie about “good jobs” awaiting all these Taliban fighters who are expected to lay down their weapons and resume civilian life. Not that’s anyone’s any more likely to believe it then than they believe it now.)
 
As is so often the case with Karzai, that question makes me think of Diem. The US cabal did replace Diem when his behavior, identical to Karzai’s, became too annoying, and they thought they had alternatives. It turned out they really didn’t have good alternatives, they went through a fast-changing slew of regimes before finally settling on Thieu, the final South Vietnam stooge. As we know, the whole farce was vain from the start. It was always doomed to fail, and it did fail. It would be a joke if not for the fact of 58,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese murdered, and god knows how many on both sides mutilated, physically and spiritually.
 
Evidently, chickenhawks like Obama and the NYT do think Vietnam was a funny joke, however, since they’re so eager to replay it. There are more parallels here between Diem and Thieu on the one hand and Karzai on the other, which the warmongers really should consider.
 
I really can’t imagine what today’s jingoes are whining about. They know Karzai – he’s the same guy they’ve always had working for them. Throughout America’s imperial history. It’s always that exact same guy – thuggish, corrupt, lying, demanding, and ungrateful. Diem was that guy, and Thieu was that guy. (Have you ever seen interviews with Thieu after he fled Vietnam with the fall of Saigon? He spent the rest of his life badmouthing America, calling Americans liars and cowards for not continuing to prop up his regime the way Nixon and Kissinger had promised him. That’s your guy, imperialists. That’s your Karzai, that’s your Chalabi.)
 
One thing I wonder, in case there really is anyone foolish enough to truly believe in the American government’s wars. Does it ever occur to these people that if time after time they undertake these operations and find that the best people always side against them, and that the only people they can find to work with them and serve as their “clients” are these same thugs and crooks, does it ever occur to them that maybe this is evidence that their cause is not “good”, that it is in fact evil?
 
It always makes me think of the old saying, you can be judged by the company you keep. America has always found itself in the same vile company, for over a hundred years, every time it engages in what we anti-imperialists call imperial wars. Every time the criminals have a new rationale, like today’s “war on terror”, and every time so many people are willing to believe the rationale, but doesn’t anyone ever notice the constant – look at the company you keep.
 
Does that ever make anyone stop and wonder? What would they think if they found that a new pastime had them associating with such thugs in their own life? Or if their kids were running with such a crowd?

March 22, 2010

Post Mortem

 

Well, I’ve written plenty on this vile reactionary health racket bailout. I don’t have much desire to say much more now. So just a few words.
 
Everyone agreed in principle that the system was broken, yet instead of chucking the whole thing they all agreed to further entrench the existing broken system. Instead of real reform they entrenched the existing abuses. They doubled down on organized crime.
 
Don’t let any of this scum get away with comparing this to how Social Security was imperfect to start with but was then built upon. Social Security was structurally headed in the right direction from the inception, and only needed scaling. This reactionary entrenchment of the private parasite heads in exactly the WRONG direction. It builds the parasitic tollbooths into fortresses. It further scales up the inefficiencies, insanities, rent extractions, and crimes.
 
Today I read this piece on the complete failure of Afghan police training for nine years now. How they’re still handing out “contracts” to the likes of Blackwater and DynCorp, the same who have stolen so many billions already. The piece quotes some would-be reformers offering suggestions on how the process could become more rational and cost-effective.
 
They don’t get it.
 
The whole point of the Afghan war, as with every other federal project, is to set up extraction points for well-connected gangs to steal taxpayer money. The government loots on the gangs’ behalf, serves as bagman, hands over the cash. The “contracts”, whatever they’re supposed to be for, are merely fraudulent pretexts. Nobody actually cares if they’re ever performed. Halliburton and Blackwater themselves are indistinguishable from Mafia capo regimes, or from the Bloods and the Crips.
 
(If anyone needed further proof that the Obama and Bush administrations are identically corrupt down to the very details, the piece says that the “Space and Missile Defense Command and Contracting Office” of all people will be placed in charge of adjudicating the Blackwater-DynCorp turf squabble. I don’t know how they became the bagman of choice, but such idiocy is common in kleptocracies. Indeed, that’s a classic symptom. Then again, “missile defense” was always a world class scam, so maybe scamming’s all that office has ever done.)
 
The piece quotes DynCorp saying that the US military isn’t good at training indigenous police. I’m sure that’s true. But here’s a memo from reality: If your military, because of the systemic way you set it up, isn’t good at a particular mission, that’s a strong indication that the mission itself is unsuitable and unnecessary; that it doesn’t involve your real interests. So the conclusion you should draw is to reject the mission.
 
But of course this system does the opposite – if the existing structure’s no good, just pile corporate contracts atop it. Build a corporatist Tower of Babel. Because for this system, a kleptocracy, the real mission is always privatization and looting. Always. In every single case. 
 
That’s the only reality-based explanation for the Global War on Terror. Any system which actually had the intentions and goals this system claims would act in a completely different way.
 
In the same way, the only way you can impute any rationality or sanity to supporters of this health racket bailout is to assume their main (and perhaps only) priority is to maximize profits for the rackets. Short of this motive, support for this bill can be ascribed only to ignorance (of what’s really in it, and of regulatory history), cult insanity, and the standard “progressive” cowardice.    
 
Another of the idiotic “progressive” hack delusions is the way they keep comparing what we have in America today – a gangster cesspool on the verge of overt fascism – with times and places which were/are not at all like that.
 
Like the comparison with European countries. How can one look at a system that evolved organically among people who still had some sense of a society, and think you can derive a template from that example, and then superimpose it on America’s gangland free-fire zone? News flash – American insurance rackets are nothing like European non-profit private insurance companies, however similar they may seem on paper to the delusionally myopic.
 
It’s like Krugman trying to compare Canadian bank regulation with what can be done in America. He’s also made the vicious, lying health racket comparison.
 
This, like everything else by now, is the battlefront of corporatism vs. anti-corporatism, tyranny vs. freedom.
 
Those who claim to support reform, but who sold out single-payer, and stand by their betrayal today, are traitors.
 
We know, once and for all, that this system is incorrigible and terminal. The Federal government will never again do anything good for the public interest, or indeed anything which is not a further assault upon the public interest. The American people from here on have to view this government as a foreign, quisling puppet regime. Something to be ignored and evaded as a rule, actively resisted where necessary, and distrusted and rejected always.
 
It follows that there will never be a significant good piece of federal legislation again. So it’s best if no significant piece of federal legislation ever passes again. I’d really hoped this bill would fail, but oh well..
 
At any rate, from here on gridlock is our best outcome. The optimal situation would be for Democrats to retain the White House and smaller majorities in both houses. Small enough that on account of their own squabbling they wouldn’t be able to pass anything if the Republicans maintain obstructionist discipline vs. a Democratic president. (By contrast, with a Rep president it’s far more likely that enough Dems would cave in to allow Rep legislation to pass. It happened all the time under Bush.)
 
It also follows that the filibuster and all other procedural obstructions are now good things.
 
If that sounds too grim, too pessimistic, just think again about health “reform”, or finance “reform”. Obama and the Democrats came into 2009 with big majorities and an overwhelming mandate to pass real reform legislation. Single payer was theirs for the taking. Castrating Wall Street was theirs for the doing. The banks and the Republicans were on the ropes and could do nothing. (The Reps to this day can still do nothing.)
 
So what they actually did in both cases – claim that nothing but meager anodyne tinkering could be done, and then not even do that, but aggressively empower the rackets further, turning both “reform” processes into disaster capitalist plundering expeditions – empirically proves what the Democrats will do under the circumstances which are strongest for them. And we already saw during the Bush years what the Republicans will do anytime they have the chance.
 
So it’s over – the federal government, both Washington parties, and we can throw in the mainstream media, are a total loss. They are now enemies of the people and will never again be anything but that.
 
It’s a hard, cold realization, but one we have to endure. There will never again be any constructive action in America but new, decentralized action from the ground up.
 
One thing’s for sure. Now that this monstrosity has passed, if they really go ahead and try to enforce this mandate (it kicks in several years from now; you can gauge their bad faith and their cowardice by how they don’t want it to kick in prior to the 2012 elections) people need to start preparing themselves to become health insurance outlaws, because even millions who would go along with it if they could afford it will not be able to afford it. There will exist, for official consumption, “subsidies”, which in reality will never be even remotely sufficient.
 
So there, perhaps, is a small, still hazy bright spot, an opportunity in the crisis. Since economic relocalization and the spread of the informal economy are already freedom imperatives, and will be forced upon us by circumstances anyway, perhaps here’s a political pivot for making a virtue of necessity. We can speak the truth – that resisting this mandate will be not only something the system forces upon us, but a positively righteous fight against tyranny, a fight for freedom.

February 22, 2010

Let’s Get Austere, Baby!

 

William Astore recently gave a good example of the triumph of the bourgeois political mentality in America. He discusses how the American military’s response to its defeat in Vietnam was not to question the imperial premise, but to double down on it, deny defeat, and simply blame faulty organizational tactics. The problem, it turns out, was simply a lack of old-style Germanic professionalism. Astore first noticed this when, as an Air Force cadet and officer, he found that his childhood admiration for German arms in WWII not only had been widely shared by fellow officers, but the German model of professionalism was increasingly seen as something to be emulated by the officer corps itself.
 
The professional: He has no overt politics, which means his politics are implicitly those of the status quo. He is similarly absolved/stripped of any sort of concern for civics or law. These are the business of other types of professionals. The end goal is no longer a citizen who is also a professional, but simply a hyperprofessional.
Meanwhile the recruitment process can similarly dispense with the citizen aspect and be revamped as a standard marketing campaign seeking its target audience, which is a consumer like any other.
 
In saying that I didn’t even specify “professional officer”, “citizen-soldier” and the like, since it applies as well to most other professional cadres by now. These are all examples of the assimilation of real politics and citizenship by the perverted bourgeois version of politics and civics, which is really anti-politics, anti-citizenship.
 
This domestic process, which represents a long, erosive struggle, the attempt to destroy American politics, has been greatly intensified by the process of neoliberal imperialism “coming home.” For all the gaudy embellishments of ideology, all the hype and lies and cooing whispers from academia and the MSM, globalization was always the same brutal plunder raid that imperialism has eternally been. (I wrote about it here and here, among many other times.)
 
In the end it’s always the same – power for power’s sake, violence for violence’s sake. The whole thing can make some kind of pseudo-sense only within the framework of the “growth” ideology. Expansion for expansion’s sake is itself institutionalized insanity, and growth is “the logic of the cancer cell”, as Albert Bartlett called it. But the whole system has long been dedicated to propping up this exponential growth, via exponential debt, and to brainwashing the people into believing the growth ideology is not only rational, equitable, and sustainable, not only the “best” way of doing things according to all these measures, but is the only way.
 
Alternative ideas are shouted down where necessary, ridiculed, drowned in lies. But most of all they’re simply ignored. Every fact, every metric, every idea, every proposal is implicitly considered only from the point of view of how will this help of hinder “growth”? Growth as such is considered analogous to oxygen. Its needfulness is beyond dispute or even explicit mention.
 
So this enshrined growth ideology in turn is used to justify the what are alleged to be its mere tactics, domination, plunder, and violence, wherever it’s impossible to simply deny these outright. But in fact it’s not growth, which will allegedly trickle down to benefit the people as a whole, which requires power and violence. It’s the lust for domination itself which is sowing its oats here, which is exercising itself via the vehicle of globalization, and which is using “growth” as both a concentration mechanism and a political fig leaf. But “growth” as a real, sustainable process, and “trickle down” as any kind of reality whatsoever, are nothing but Big Lies. They’re meant to mollify and misdirect the people while economic and (anti-)political liquidation creeps along, and this people themselves are the eventual target of this creeping tyranny.
 
So that’s the real purpose behind the liquidation of politics, which has always lay at the core of the bourgeois ideology. The imperial process is simple enough. It destroys politics and imposes corruption and corporatism overseas. For example, after having destroyed the Saddam regime in Iraq, the imperialists intentionally let the country be looted and internecine insurgency to flourish. All this was meant to prevent any kind of stable polity cohering to fill the void left by Saddam’s departure. (That they didn’t anticipate how the insurgency would become virulent enough to prevent their turning Iraq into a corporate park of the “American” multinationals was the result of a deficiency in their competence, not in their malevolence.) Even at this late date, when according to Obama they’re “withdrawing”, they’re still manipulating elections. Via their stooge regime they’re trying to disqualify candidates insufficiently coordinated with the imperial master plan.
 
Similarly, they lie when they say they’re trying to build a new Afghanistan. The record is clear that America is trying to turn Afghanistan into a veritable contractor state, while the Karzai regime is a standard stooge kleptocracy.
 
These have been the overseas manifestations of “nation-building” as nation-destroying in the most profound sense, destruction of the politics and community at all levels. And so the same process has been brought home to America, by these same neoliberal ideologues on behalf of the same tyrannical predatory corporations, who bankroll the whole thing. All this dovetails with the longstanding bourgeois ideology of privatization, “property rights” which really means the right to property aggression, and “freedom” envisioned as purely negative. The goal of the ideology, and of its economic and anti-political strategy, is to destroy the nation, destroy the community, destroy positive, political freedom, and leave the lonely, atomized individual naked and unprotected in the face of the overwhelming violence of the corporation. 
 
We can see this in Tom Friedman’s Orwellian theme that Obama needs to engage in “nation-building at home”. He has, he has. In the exact same way as Reagan, Clinton, and Bush before him. All stable political bodies are in the way of total power and wealth concentration. That’s why both Republicans and Democrats, as flunkies of the corporations, want to dissolve all existing public institutions, privatize entitlement programs like Social Security (they really want to gut all entitlements, strip all social spending), privatize all services and amenities.
 
We can look back to the same totalitarian pattern from history. The Nazis as well corporatized all public services and professional cadres. Nothing non-ideological was allowed to exist at all, let alone anything left to serve the public interest detached form ideology. So in modern America the bourgeois privatization/negative libertine ideology seeks total Gleichschaltung, “coordination”, with its rapacious imperatives. All public services all politics, all civic mentality, the public interest as such, all are slated for complete and absolute destruction, targeted by the same hate-filled, fanatical totalitarian will which has previously infested history.
 
So we’ve been afflicted for decades now. I’m not sure yet on where to declare the turning point. Structurally it came over the late 60s to early 70s, with the Vietnam adventure in deficits and the American oil peak in 1970 leading to the closing of the gold window in 1971. American real wages peaked in 1973, right around the same time that predatory globalization, previously somewhat ad hoc, started becoming systematized. International and national manipulation were entwined from the start, as petrodollar recycling was used to facilitate the beginning of the American “middle class” debt binge. (I think this was the start of the by now notorious pattern of trade deficits with the foreign exporter lending the fat American consumer the dollars to buy the junk he’s peddling.)
 
But it seems like the overt political manifestation of this lagged a few years, finally coming in with Reagan. Since then all presidents and the prevailing ideology of all Congressional delegations has been broadly the same: aggressively bourgeois, neoliberal, corporatist. Even the alleged mavericks like Perot were mostly objecting that the government wasn’t being “run like a business” enough. Those who would object to corporatist ideology and government have been driven out completely.
 
By definition real politics is not Social Darwinist but assimilates the economically “unsuccessful” as well as those who have “succeeded” (i.e., who inherited, extracted rents, scammed, or stole, in most cases). Modern American “politics” is seeking to destroy all public political spaces, strip away all safety nets, and enshrine street fighting as the social standard. It’s seeking to detach public affairs from politics just as much as violence does. Indeed, there’s an intimate relationship between Social Darwinism and violence. The former implies the latter, and there’s no moral standard according to which you can exalt the first but deplore the second.
 
And as we’ve seen, in their various more bloodthirsty incarnations, as neocon, as “law and order” fanatic (as police rioter), as torture fantasist, these corporatists do in fact revere violence. Their pose, that their advocacy of extreme violence is in response to extreme contexts, is a lie. We have no extreme contexts other than the ones they have created. They seek the power, they need the violence, so they create the context for it, in order to further concentrate the power. And as soon as it’s necessary for them to deploy fascist-level violence right here in America, they will try to do so.
 
And today we have the apotheosis, Obama, the ultimate neoliberal, bourgeois corporatist, the product of nothing but hype and branding, the guy who worships Blankfein’s “savvy” because savvy is the only quality Obama himself possesses and the only quality he recognizes and respects; zero principle, zero values, zero true politics or community, total vapidity of avarice, total nihilism.
 
Here’s Adolph Reed’s devastating takedown of Obama as early as 1996; the whole picture was clear even then:
 

In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of
foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth
Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and
vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat
on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His
fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of
authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale
solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process
over program — the point where identity politics converges with
old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance. I
suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics,
as in Haiti and wherever else the International Monetary Fund has sway.
So far the black activist response hasn’t been up to the challenge. We
have to do better.

 
Imperialism has been raised to the ultimate domestic political principle. Unless we the people get our heads out the sand and fight for our country as against a foreign invader, the American ex-middle class will now join its poor to become a globalized, structurally adjusted, austerity-clobbered third world people.
 
It all comes home..  

February 14, 2010

Marja – Notions of Counterinsurgency

Filed under: Afghanistan, Freedom — Russ @ 4:03 pm

 

A few days ago American forces launched an offensive to capture the Taliban-held town of Marja. It’s part of the counterinsurgency strategy to secure “urban” areas and use them as foundations to dangle the prospect of stable civic life and good jobs to the many insurgents who are allegedly motivated by money and not jihad.
 
(Everything I read puts it in those Manichean terms – the fighters are either fundamentalist fanatics or have only socioeconomic motives. That many might not be fanatical Islamists, have economic motives, but also feel the normal motives of freedom-fighting and national liberation against the invader and his quislings, was too nuanced for Bush, and evidently for Obama as well.
 
Are American soldiers also either pure mercenaries or pure fanatics?)
 
An NYT analysis gives the basics:
 

On Saturday morning the long-awaited battle for the walled town began. But as one of Mr. Obama’s own advisers conceded in December, when recounting the arguments that took place in the Situation Room last fall, “it’s not about the battle, it’s about the postlude.”….
In the Bush years, the rallying cry when operations like Marja began was “clear, build and hold.” Mr. Obama has added a fourth step, “transfer.” At the end of the three-month-long review of Afghan strategy, Mr. Obama vowed he would begin no military operation unless a plan was in place to transfer authority promptly to the Afghans.

That plan exists in Marja, at least on paper. Both the Americans and the Afghan military did everything to advertise the coming military strike short of posting billboards with the date and size of the operation. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the American commander who persuaded Mr. Gates, and ultimately Mr. Obama, to try his form of counterinsurgency, insisted last week that the “transfer” element of the strategy had been prepared and would kick in as soon as the Taliban fled or were defeated.

 
So evidently adding the magic word “transfer” to the old trio which proved to be less than magical is supposed to do the trick.
 
If the Taliban stick to the guerrilla playbook, they’ll put up a token resistance and then get out of there. A basic rule in fighting the bloated enemy is never to fight a pitched battle at a time and place of his choosing. So I don’t doubt the Americans can “clear.”
 
But if I were the Taliban this wouldn’t frighten me much. Let them “clear”, let them delude themselves that they’re “building” as they “hold”. And then the “transfer” – I sure wouldn’t be afraid of the yahoos they’re going to transfer it to. Most of them probably secretly support me, and even if they don’t they’re not going to fight once I come back.
 
The whole build-transfer is a joke since everybody knows that you can’t “transfer” anything here, any more than they could with Vietnamization. Whatever stooges they install, the Americans will be the ones “holding” for as long as they stay, and once they leave the insurgents come back. So it’s still the same clear-hold-build-leave that it always was.
 
And while they hold, can they induce these insurgents to come back in, become clerks or whatever?
 

“We’ve got a government in a box, ready to roll in,” General McChrystal said.

The gamble here is that once Afghans see the semblance of a state taking hold in Marja, rank-and-file Taliban will begin to take more seriously the offers that Mr. Karzai and the West are dangling to buy them off. Enticed by the offer of some political role in Afghan society — and a regular paycheck — they will think twice about trying to recapture the town. “We think many of the foot soldiers are in it for the money, not the ideology,” one British official said recently. “We need to test the proposition that it’s cheaper to enrich them a little than to fight them every spring and summer.”

 
As someone who’s socioeconomically disaffected as well as something of an “extremist”, let me try to put myself in their shoes.
 
Let’s say I’m a Pashtun with no good job prospects, who hates the invader, seeks action, but is not a jihadist. So of course I’ve joined the Taliban (or fight alongside them; I’m not sure how formal “joining” is). I’m with the insurgency.
 
Now I look at this regime which is supposedly offering me a job if I give up fighting. I despise the American puppet regime, but I suppose if there really was a good job waiting I might come in. But I look at the Tajik-dominated army, the Tajik-dominated police, the Tajik-dominated civil service, how American contractors paying slave wages (and usually to foreign laborers anyway) dominate many other sectors, and I assume that any future economy will similarly be dominated by a combo of the Tajiks and American corporate interests…..well, I wouldn’t have to be a genius to figure out that there’s no future for me there other than as a little flunkeyboy.
 
If the insurgency loses, or if I personally cave in and come in, then I’m finished. From then on I’d live as a dog.
 
But if we could fight and win, and the Pashtuns again dominate all those sectors, all those career paths for which I as a fighter am skilled, then a great career would be in my grasp. All I need to do is keep fighting, grab for the main chance, for any chance at a good life.
 
If those were the choices, I know what I’d choose in a heartbeat.
 
So that’s the proposition upon which the American COIN strategy is premised. It depends upon many insurgents choosing the guaranteed wretchedness of a lifetime of low-level drudgery in an army, police, or government where they can never advance, vs. choosing the high-risk, high-reward path of resistance.
 
They’re counting on cravenness, cowardice, docility, security blanketism, myopia being the main qualities of these men, over courage, daring, vision.
 
In other words they’re counting on these fighters to be more like today’s Americans, and the way today’s Americans have “reacted” to their own being plundered and enslaved, than like the fighting Americans of the 1770s.
 
Ascribing your own mindset to that of the enemy is usually a mistake.
Older Posts »