Volatility

March 8, 2019

For the Civilized War is A Domestic Ritual

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Where the first civilization eradicated the first forests, generating the first man-made desert, war still rages to this day.

 
 
Civilized people love war. They cherish war since they know deep down their civilization depends completely upon predatory war: War on traditional peoples, war on weaker civilized societies, incessant economic civil war within each society, most of all war on the Earth itself. Modern global-Western civilization was born in war, built through war, is sustained to this day through war, and must commit suicide through war. This sums up the only meat of the religion of all civilized hominids.
 
Take for example one of their most cherished rituals, elections. Elections have no objective reality to them: There’s never a real choice, nor do the elected personnel feel any responsibility to give the voters what the voters claim to want. On the contrary, they deny in principle that they have any responsibility to the people at all. They openly proclaim that their only responsibility is to the binge and destruction imperatives of the economic civilization, and that any national election is nothing but a ritual where one votes Yes to the extreme-energy binge and the destruction. That’s all democracy has turned out to be, all it ever was. This is historical fact. And in truth this is what the voters really want, nothing more or less.
 
An election is nothing but a religious ritual. One can vote Yes, vote one’s yes-confidence in the priesthood and in the church of the extreme-energy ecocidal civilization. All else is the meaningless fake politics of a population which is nothing but squatters and vandals infesting the surface of the Earth, which give the Earth nothing in return for all they take, which wantonly despoil far more than they actually take, which are no part of the Earth at all.
 
Therefore the voters always vote unanimously for permanent war. They’ve long voted unanimously for permanent imperial war in the Mideast, for the Zionist genocidal war, for permanent war in Afghanistan, in Iraq. They all voted for the military destruction of Libya and have wanted the same for Syria. They’ve voted unanimously for twenty years of economic war on Venezuela, and next chance they get they’ll vote for military invasion, as in the past they voted for every kind of assault on every part of Latin America. They all want nuclear war with North Korea. They all want World War III with Russia and China. They all want permanent war unto total ecocide, total genocide, total suicide. All this is proven by their political actions and their day-to-day actions.
 
War always is mass murder, and war always is ecocide: The direct destruction of the explosives and poisons and vehicles and carbon emissions; the residual poisons left behind, from Agent Orange residue to every kind of chemical waste to radioactive ammunition waste; most destructive of all is war’s pretext for accelerated technological deployment and escalated over-production, again synonymous with ecocide. This is the most profound aspect of how the economic civilization loves war for the sake of profitable destruction, loves war for the sake of ratcheting up the production/consumption binge, loves war because it destroys in order to free up space to ratchet up production again. That’s a big part of why civilized people in general love permanent war: In tandem with commodity production the permanent global imperial war is a permanent world destruction machine, a permanent exercise in Dominion which is the core theology shared by monotheism and modern scientism-technocracy. The civilized voters vote for nothing but murder and suicide, with nameless decadence and misery throughout the way.
 
Thus all political Americans lust for war. That’s proven by the fact that they vote for it every time. Every election is a Yes or No plebiscite on permanent war, and the only way to vote No is to boycott the fake election completely.
 
Are there anti-war Americans? Yes, but we’re among those who gave up on fake voting. Part of reason I’ve never voted is that I truly am anti-war and therefore cannot participate in an election which is nothing but a Yes vote for war.
 
(But don’t mistake me, thinking I yearn for “better elections”. No, these are what modern elections are, what they’ve always been, just as these are what voters are, what they’ve always been.)
 
The same goes for Yes-voting for the binge economy, for ecocide, for technocracy, for the police state and prison complex, for the cultural and economic genocide of indigenous/traditional peoples and community farmers, their physical destruction soon to follow. These are the only true matters left, the only things that matter. The rest is mere squatter politics, trivia curated by the media. And even there there’s only one party to vote for and the vote always is unanimous: Yes to the same economic tyranny which drives all the real elements of the gathering apocalypse.
 
For the civilized, war is a domestic ritual, just as elections and voting are a ritual. And in fact they’re the same ritual, inextricable. The only vote being offered is Yes to war. Yes to total war unto the end.
 
I’ve never been able to think in any terms of the intrinsically murderous politics of the intrinsically murderous system. I’ve only ever been able to think in terms of building a movement completely outside the system, completely without any of the system’s personnel, completely against the system. And since it’s clear that no such movement is going to exist, today I think only in terms of spiritual kernels and arks to endure the gathering Kinesis and tribulation, to bring through the flames whatever is worth salvaging for a post-civilized, Gaian humanity. Gaia knows there’s little enough of that.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

June 14, 2018

Yemen Genocide and US Desires for World War

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What “Feed the World” really means for Western system types, including of course all pro-GMO/pesticide activists.

 
 
The US proxy war in Yemen, launched by Obama and continued by Trump, is entering the forced famine stage. US clients, the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will attempt to starve the Yemeni people into submission. The UN has warned that as many as 18 million people may die.
 
The US government, both halves of the Corporate One-Party (Republicans and Democrats) and their partisans, and the mainstream media led by the New York Times which speaks to and for the US political class as a whole, are all willing, gleeful perpetrators of this unfathomable crime. If this forced famine escalates, it will be the worst war crime in history. And the entire US political class will swim in this infinite blood. Which in turn is an added new surge amid the torrents of blood they already cause to flow.
 
 
US liberals are reveling in this imminent genocide. They can take it as consolation after their profuse laments about the (temporarily) diminishing prospect for WWIII breaking out in Korea. No one ever has been so eager for nuclear war as today’s Dembots. Their actions since they blew the 2016 election have proven this. Evidently they’re in such existential despair they’d rather see everyone on Earth dead.
 
(I hope they do give Trump the Nobel Prize. It would be no more perverse than arch war criminal Obama getting it, and watching the apoplexy of the Dembot scum will be very amusing.)
 
 
Meanwhile there might still be a few people out there who are sincerely confused about any of this, who might naively believe that North Korea or Iran or Russia or “terrorists” or (fill in the blank) represent some kind of threat to the American people. For them I’ll say, the solution is simple: Get Out. Go Home. Get your imperial presence out of Korea and Asia, out of the Mideast, out of Afghanistan, out of eastern Europe, out of Africa, out.
 
The US is the pure aggressor everywhere on Earth and has zero legitimate basis for a presence anywhere outside North America. Only imperial globalization ideology claims otherwise.
 
Get Out. Go Home. Dismantle the empire as fast as possible, even chaotically. Get out.
 
That’ll require also ridding ourselves domestically of neocons like anyone who sees North Korea as a “threat” simply because the North’s policy is based on self-defense. Same for Russia, Iran, Islamists, etc.
 
Most of all it means the Democrat Party and its partisans must cease to exist, as soon as possible. This is true for every crisis afflicting America and humanity, but Democrat/liberal war-mongering is one of the main reasons humanity and the Earth cannot co-exist with them.
 
At this moment this is proving true most of all for the starving people of Yemen, victims of US imperialism’s drive for world domination, their agony fully endorsed by the same who are condemning a Korean declaration which offers to lessen the odds of WWIII. Because US system types, and liberal Democrats most of all, want nuclear war. Their actions prove it.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

January 5, 2018

What’s Your Interest?

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It’s a lie when you aggressively extend yourself as an empire and then define your imperial interests as national interests. On the contrary, history’s unbroken evidence record proves that imperialism is harmful to the real interests of the home country, if we consider these to be the health, prosperity, security, and freedom of the people.
 
Every time the US political classes chatter about, for example, the Middle East, we hear lots about alleged American interests around the globe. Actually, America has no interest in the Middle East, if by “interest” we mean the well-being of the American people. Nor does America have significant interests around the globe. America’s interest, on the contrary, is to roll back the empire and roll back its insane dependency upon globalization.
 
On the contrary, the original Monroe Doctrine defined the limits, by any rational measure, of American interests. (Of course the Doctrine was imperialistic toward Latin America. This was immoral and by now is rationally obsolete as well. For purposes of this piece we’ll stick with a purely rational, morally dispassionate view of interests.)
 
 
Globalization brought benefits only to US corporate and government elites. All it did was maximize the power of the 1%. Therefore globalization has been a great harm to the American interest as defined by the interest of the American people, since the US elites are the worst enemies of the American people.
 
Stockholm Syndrome sufferers will claim that globalization brought one great benefit to the 99%: It enabled them to buy cheaply a tremendous amount of worthless expensive junk, since this binge could be done on the backs of the global South and by exporting the worst of environmental destruction.
 
As I said, for this piece we’ll leave aside the morality of living as a leech on the backs of slaves, and we’ll even leave aside what it means to purchase a momentary cheap luxury by destroying your grandchildren’s ecological world, dooming them to cancer and famine.
 
 
But was this binge in YOUR interest? Did all this junk make you happy, give you inner peace, cause you to feel more secure financially and physically? If you say Yes, odds are you’re lying. To give the most obvious example, everyone who argues about this, defending the alleged “American way of life”, always is clearly angry, unhappy, most of all very disturbed and scared, in spite of all their material junk. If that weren’t the case, why would they be out there, whether it be in politics or media or just as an internet commenter, expressing such rancor? Why wouldn’t they be off enjoying their utopia, which according to them they have in fact attained? Those who feel safe and at peace don’t go around quarreling.
 
I say it’s killing your soul. And I say the binge of addiction to worthless expensive junk also was never in the American people’s interest, just as it has never been in the interest of anyone else on Earth to imitate this derangement.
 
The fact is that the destruction of the American empire, the destruction of globalization, and the restoration of America’s original scope is in the interest of all the peoples of Earth, including the American people. Only a handful of criminal dinosaurs would be harmed. And this too would be greatly in the interest of humanity and the Earth.
 
 
 
 
 

August 15, 2017

Science = War

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The ultimate wet dream of the scientism cult. Of course by “peace” they really mean more war, always maximal war, forever.

 
 
(By that title I refer to the current STEM establishment, the body of practicing scientists and technicians. At any given time that’s the only meaningful measure of what “science” is. Other modes of scientific emphasis are possible, for example a body of scientists who truly would be devoted to peace and security. But today this doesn’t exist.)
 
Longtime corporate shills Scientific American now join the ranks of the WWIII-mongers.
 
Why, one might ask, would SciAm be running op-ed pieces by pro-corporate hacks dealing with purely political matters such as when it’s appropriate to use nuclear weapons*? The answer is, for the same reason they run op-eds about such purely political, non-scientific matters as GMO deployment: The procedure of technocrats always is to deny politics as such, and to claim that inherently political matters are really nothing but technical problems which call for purely technical solutions. This, of course, always implicitly supports the existing power structure, in our case the domination of corporations.
 
Thus we see how technocracy and the scientism cult are congenitally authoritarian, anti-political, and supportive of existing power arrangements. In particular, we see the near-complete dominance of the corporate science paradigm, wherein the scientific establishment sees science as such as nothing more or less than what the corporations say science is. Publications like Scientific American are the propaganda vehicles of this paradigm.
 
 
*There is, of course, no conflict between the US and North Korea other than the one driven by US imperialism. It’s overwhelmingly the US which “rattles its saber” all over the world, and other countries can only do their best to respond, or else knuckle under. The US is the overwhelming destroyer of global security, and not just a “potential threat to global security”. Other countries can only respond or submit to the destructive chaos. And of course the reason why the US is the great destroyer of all security including its own is because the totalitarian wealth-concentrating drive of the US government, multinational corporations, and the 1% constantly requires this campaign of total destruction. End this evil and destructive campaign, and everyone could enjoy security. Continue with it, the way SciAm and its scribblers wish, and no one can be secure.
 
As for the Korean peninsula, the one and only solution is the same as for the Middle East and Africa: West Get Out. Most of all, US Get Out. Anything else is a destruction-seeking lie.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

October 7, 2016

The Reason: War

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

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If everyone who claimed to oppose war would refuse to vote for any warmonger, America would never wage aggressive war.
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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.
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*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.
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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.

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June 9, 2012

Waiting In Line

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

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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.

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May 2, 2011

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

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

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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: , — Russell Bangs @ 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

Filed under: Afghanistan, Bailouts Only Reopened the Casino, Corporatism, Global War On Terror — Tags: , , — Russell Bangs @ 3:47 pm

 

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.]
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