Volatility

January 8, 2020

US War Against Iran in the Dominion of Production

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As I write there’s little but confusion on whether Iran launched a bona fide strike on a US base in Irak or whether this was a pantomime meant to let both sides save face and remain within the realm of fakeness. Contrary to Trump’s lies about US early warning systems, the US was tipped off ahead of time and was able to move its personnel and any important equipment. The question seems to be whether Iran informed only the Iraki prime minister who then treacherously tipped off the Americans, or whether Iran itself tipped off the Americans through the Swiss.
 
Especially if the latter, this only delays the inevitable reckoning with reality. That would be typical behavior of the berserker leadership, in spite of the reality of the psychological impacts on the masses of the Mideast and the West. Ultimately the biological force of the masses will force reality upon the nations, however much their berserker leadership classes dig ever deeper into their delusions.
 
(This fakeness has much in common with the climate-industrial movement and corporate environmentalism in general. These are committed to a fake pantomime of caring and action while always reassuring the economic civilization that it can continue the binge, that there is no reality beyond this binge being necessary, sustainable and desirable.)
 
This Potemkin exercise, if that’s what it was, looks unimpressive. It’s not remotely “proportional” to US crimes. The Iranian people and Shiites everywhere will take this as an insult unless the leadership assures them this is only the beginning.
 
In the meantime we’d be left where we started in the world of fakeness. This house of mirrors is the US home terrain, the fake world of dollars and Dominion mirages, Mammon and media. The system depends upon these mirrors for its entire position. The domineering dollar is only the beginning of it. Anyone who thinks they’re going to win by out-faking the arch-faker is likely to be disappointed.
 
 
The prospect that in the minds of the respective leaders this is Phony War doesn’t change the reality of the psychological whip-sawing the American masses must be undergoing, from day to day being summoned by the media to constant Two Minute Hates, then an actual beginning to war, then “All is well!” and a toning down of the alarmism, then more fatuous boasting from Trump, and then what next?
 
Regardless of what the berserkers at the helm think they’re doing, however fake or not the action and/or the spin on the action may be, the psychological effect on the masses is real. One thing the drivers definitely are doing is scorching all earth where any kind of sane mass psychology could try to build itself.
 
So whether or not the real war toward WWIII has just de jure commenced (and it may take some hours or days before that becomes clear), this is a milestone along the ongoing vector of mass insanity in the US and its poodles. The Australian conflagration is a similar milestone for that country. But for the full baptism in the flame of Earth chaos each region will need and get its own specific tribulation.
 
Meanwhile another effect which shall be real enough if it holds is the report that several global tanker operators have suspended traversing the Straits of Hormuz out of war fears. There’s reports of leaps in oil prices. Anything can cause a sudden shortage of the fossil blood of the civilization.
 
 
The media were for many hours at a loss for a strong or even coherent line because they’re so used to the US system “creating its own [fake-news] reality” that when something at least seemingly real and adverse actually happens they have no idea what to think or say. (In the same way, the Australian fireland is real for the Australians just as the increasing direfires are real for the regions, but remain abstract or entertainment or propaganda for most in the West.)
 
The Soleimani hit is real for the Iranians and Irakis but for the US has been another fake-propaganda opportunity. Only now has something happened that may become real for America, though for the moment it too is suspended in circusland.
 
They’ve all been waiting for the government to give them their cue, ironically waiting with bated breath for Trump to speak, the same Trump they’ve been demonizing and disparaging for three years. But it’s likely the berserker leadership are equally confused.
 
When Trump finally showed his wig he did nothing but repeat the same moronic bluster. At the moment things remain in suspense.
 
 
We temporarily have a lull, but this is only a brief postponement. We shall use the respite to place this in context of the oncology of the economic civilization, its core rampage. Productionism is supply-driven economic production for the sake of production, growth for the sake of growth. This essence of cancer is the core process of the economic civilization. The global economic action of this ant colony is biologically analogous to metastatic cancer at the cellular level. Individual drivers and cadres among the orcs should be seen metaphorically as virulent cancer cells.
 
Earth’s tumor needs to wage permanent war on both fronts: It must wrest the raw materials from the Earth at the expense of ecocide including the socioeconomic, cultural and often physical destruction of the peoples cursed to live above or amid these “resources”; it must dump the waste and consumer products on the Earth including on the masses who are subject to indoctrination, propaganda and coercion (economic, cultural, physical) in order to induce them to tolerate the destruction and waste of the production process and to “want” or “need” to receive these products.
 
At any time only a few kamikazes are at the control of the death machine, while the rank and file masses sprawling the surface of the globe, including most governments, are the more or less conscripted followers whose opinions on the matter mean nothing since they’re given no choice but to follow. These are the secondary berserkers.
 
Iran maneuvers and perhaps takes action on behalf of the secondary berserkers, those conscripted into energy colonialism as raw material production zones, as ecological and religious sacrifice zones of destruction, as dumping grounds for toxic waste and other consumer products. The war being waged by the US and its lackeys is to suppress the escalated protest of the world against the primary berserkers, those driving the whole death machine, led by the US corporate state.
 
Both groups are kamikazes, both are addicts on the supply side – they’ve submitted their economies to it; even most of the geographical US is a resource colony – and on the demand/consumption side – this also is economic as well as cultural-psychological dependency. But the secondaries including the 99% among Western peoples have rising resentment, rising cognitive dissonance, rising tension between their fake-want-need and their real needs and wants, and how they resent being forced into addiction to fake needs, their rising sense of how this is forced upon them.
 
 
 
 
 
 

January 4, 2020

The Red, Blue and Yellow

Filed under: Dance of Death, Disaster Capitalism, Mainstream Media — Tags: , , , , — Russ @ 5:47 am

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17 The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and (white stained) yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. 18 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. 19 The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.
 
20 The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood — idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
 
 
The US political and media classes quickly close ranks to beat the drum for war, greater war, ever more war unto World War III. Nothing short of this will slake their thirst for blood, their lust for destruction, their will to total ecocide, genocide, omnicide. This is the consummation of modern civilization. All the threads of dominion now weave into one universal noose.
 
 
 
 
 

January 3, 2020

World War III Watch – US Escalates Provocations Against Irak and Iran

Filed under: Dance of Death, Global War On Terror — Tags: , , , , , — Russ @ 1:17 pm

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2020 looks like the year. The neocons at the helm of the US imperial state must think now is the time to do whatever’s necessary to get the hot war going with Iran, hell or high water. That’s why they’re effectively declaring war simultaneously on Iran and Irak.
 
They are psychopaths, they are willing to perpetrate any kind of terrorist attack, they have a weak befuddled president who tends to agree with them, the balance of power in the Mideast can only get worse for the US and the Zionists, their political and therefore legally-existential position in Irak has been deteriorating and now is untenable, the Saudi regime could collapse or be overthrown any time, the financial markets and dollar as well can’t keep running in mid-air forever nor continue much longer to command global hegemony, the American people are in a narcotic stupor, neither China nor Russia seems ready to do anything significant about it (short of Russia’s red-line warning about nukes), Europe is still compliant or at least not resistant.
 
The US regime is as dead set on war as Hitler was by 1939, and they have the same sense that time is running out and the situation is not going to get better with age. That’s why the US government has greatly escalated its provocations against Iran in recent days.
 
A few hours ago the US government assassinated Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani, commander of its Quds Force which has been a major participant in the war of Syria and Iraq against the US proxy forces al Qaida and ISIS (Islamic State in Syria). This terrorist attack significantly escalates the ongoing US “maximum pressure” campaign of aggression against Iran, a campaign designed to provoke Iran into retaliation which the US could seize upon as its fake pretext to launch a full-scale war. The campaign consists of economic warfare, political aggression and military provocations.
 
The attack also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, deputy commander of Iraki security forces directly under the prime minister, and several others.
 
This great crime against Iraki sovereignty immediately follows a series of egregious insults.
 
The latest crisis began several days ago. A US oil extraction/military base was hit with some lobbed rockets, some US soldiers were wounded and a mercenary was killed. No one knows who launched the rockets, but the US seized this pretext to inflict an air-launched missile attack on Iraki military positions in the southwest of the country, near the Syrian border. These Iraki forces had been waging a longstanding successful campaign to suppress ISIS in the region.
 
The recent surge in direct US military aggression in Irak is in part a response to the suppression of its ISIS proxies in Syria and western Irak. Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have taken a leading role in the successful war against ISIS and have some ties with Iran. Those are the real reasons the US to targeted them, not as reprisal for the rocket attack. But the PMU is part of the official Irak military structure. The US directly attacked its own supposed ally and host.
 
Just like with 9/11 where the US government immediately pushed its pre-existing agenda to invade Afghanistan and Irak, so the US doesn’t care who really launches attacks on US and US-client positions in Irak and Syria but automatically casts blame on Hezbollah and Iran, in accord with the pre-existing neocon wet dream of provoking a full-scale war with Iran.
 
Iraki mourners responded with an angry protest at the US military compound/embassy in Baghdad. Trump sanctimoniously declared the Irak government has the responsibility to defend the embassy while simultaneously sending hundreds more troops to the Baghdad fortress and mustering several thousand more to follow.
 
Soleimani embarked from Iran on a planned series of state visits to Baghdad and Turkey. He was planning to attend a service for the 31 Iraki soldiers killed in the previous US attack. In cold blood the US, using attack helicopters and/or drones, ambushed and destroyed Soleimani’s two-car group leaving the airport. Soleimani, an Iraki militia commander and several others were killed. As with the previous escalations, the US gave a fake reason for the outrage, in this case that the attack was in revenge for the protest at its embassy. But clearly it was premeditated for many months, and the fake-legalistic justifications for it were put in motion when the US declared Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, of which Soleimani was a commander, a “terrorist organization”. In reality the US and Zionist armed forces are by many orders of magnitude the worst terrorist organizations in the Mideast, with their head-chopper proxies ISIS and al-Qaida and others in second place.
 
As if this terrorist attack wasn’t enough, at the same time US marines launched a raid which seized an Iraki parliamentary leader and a militia leader. Trump and his neocons seem determined to express the most total contempt for Iraki sovereignty possible at the same moment they work hard to provoke full scale war with Iran. They seem deliberately to want to generate as much hatred against them in both Irak and Iran as possible. They already must be figuring there’s no way to use Irak as a staging ground other than to escalate to full-scale brutal occupation there.
 
Irak’s prime minister Adil Abdul Mahdi denounced the murder, called it a violation of the agreement under which the US is granted occupancy in Irak, and called for an emergency session of parliament to formulate a response. It will be near-impossible politically for the government to desist from demanding that US forces leave the country. Meanwhile the US embassy ordered all American civilians to leave the country immediately.
 
Iran already has promised an appropriate response. If they feel unready for a direct test of military strength, their best course will be to seize the political advantage and work most directly with Irak to politically expel the US from that country while engaging in counter-economic warfare like placing various obstacles against passage of the Straits of Hormuz, and supporting allied strikes from Yemen’s Houthis against the Saudi regime and similar peripheral strikes.
 
This in itself will be very difficult. Now that the US looks determined to use the most brutal force in Irak, it’s unlikely they’ll comply with any Iraki government demand that they leave. They’re not going anywhere without a fight. They’ll attempt South Vietnam-style regime change, and if that doesn’t work try to wreck the country and turn it into another Somalia. The main proximate goal in Irak is to use that country as a staging ground for the desired war with Iran.
 
 
Once the war is hot the government might use it as a pretext to resume the military buildup in Afghanistan, ostensibly for the Iran war but primarily toward the original purpose of the war, to take its extensive mineral resources, especially lithium.
 
Looking at today’s perspective from an eagle’s eye which also takes in the Bolivia coup and whatever the US plans to do to stop the Russia-to-Germany Nordstream pipeline, it all takes shape as a plan to drive up the cost of oil and gas for the benefit of all the unprofitable Extreme-Energy-Economy factions – fracking, “unconventional oil” like shale oil and the tar sands, nukes, and the green-industrial fake-“renewables” crew as well (lithium etc.).
 
Of course that’s insane – no consumerist regime could sustain such costs, and demand destruction will be rampant as the depression grips. But then no sane person thinks the neocon war-mongers or the extreme-energy “growth”-mongers (mostly the same people) are sane.
 
The US regime is dead set on war – to prop up the empire, to stave off collapse on every level, to drive up energy prices to render the entire extreme-energy “toolkit” profitable, to indulge their fantasies that world domination still is possible, and out of sheer lust for destruction. They sense that time is running out and the situation is not going to get better with age.
 
That includes the election. If they can launch the hot war beforehand that pretty much forces any candidate, and whatever geek wins the election, to support the war and pledge to continue waging it. Not that any of the likely contenders would need any special persuasion to be war-mongers. All of them already are. So far as I’ve seen this morning the Democrats hypocritically are denouncing the terrorist assassination, but as you’d expect they object not on moral or anti-imperial grounds but because Trump didn’t consult congress, or similar hypocritical partisan irrelevancy. I don’t recall Obama consulting with congress every time he indulged his favorite bloodlust, murder-by-drone.
 
So while Iran may continue to proceed cautiously and not let itself be provoked into too overt an act, that likely won’t matter – the US empire is running berserk and will get its war no matter what it has to do. In the early hours of September 1 1939 while the German attack was already commencing the SS staged a fake Polish attack on a German radio station near the border. They dumped some freshly killed corpses from a concentration camp, fired their weapons so the sound would be broadcast, shouted some Polish slogans over the air, and that was it – the most pathetic “false flag” ever, which convinced literally no one. Didn’t matter – Hitler had his sufficient pretext to his own satisfaction, and he had his war.
 
If the neocons have to resort to something so ridiculous to get their mainstream media-amplified cause for war, they won’t stop short of sinking so low. The only question is how radical the escalation will go.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

November 28, 2010

The Seed War (part 2)

 

In part 1 of this piece I described the neoliberal corporate-government plots against seeds and the accumulated agricultural practices of ten thousand years. The Food Tyranny bill which may be voted upon as early as tomorrow is potentially part of this assault. It will expand the power of both the corporatized FDA and the WTO globalization cadre.
 
We should take this not only as an assault on food freedom but as an example of how the WTO is intended to serve as the blueprint for corporatized government everywhere. The unconscionable contracts of adhesion it forces upon the politically weak populations of the Global South with the connivance of indigenous kleptocratic “governments” were a trial run for the imposition of corporate domination in the West itself. We’ve already seen how in every case where it was a power struggle between multinational corporations and the peoples of the world outside the West, the globalization cadre acted as a weapon against the people.
 
Western governments of course were aggressive promoters of this process, and the middle classes of the West shamefully approved it. That’s because they were foolish enough to believe these governments were “their” governments, and not like the corrupt governments of the victim countries who acted as local agents for the rackets, against their own people. Now the peoples of the West are reaping for themselves what they thought they sowed for others. It turns out the US government is exactly as corrupt on behalf of rootless, alien globalization against the American people as those of Romania and the Ivory Coast were on behalf of Smithfield against their own peoples.
 
The Food Tyranny bill explicitly subordinates all US food policy to the WTO and extends the domestic range of the rootless ruling principles of the Codex Alimentarius. It legally defines all food within America as being technically imported, as coming under Maritime Law, and any production or distribution of food contrary to the law’s provisions is technically “smuggling” according to this law. What we see here is nothing less than a major step in this domestic government’s explicit abdication on behalf of the anti-democratic, anti-sovereign alien globalization bureaucracy.
 
I don’t mean the abdication of power, of course. Just as the “libertarians” want, the government intends to continue acting as bailout bagman and thug enforcer on behalf of the corporations. But it wants to abdicate all authority to the globalization cadre itself, since this is explicitly a totalitarian branch of corporatism completely detached from the nominal national sovereignty. The corporations want to effect an actual secession of power and authority from sovereignty. The globalization ideologue Dani Rodrik described this as the “trilemma”: It’s not possible to maximize corporate power through globalization authority other than as a zero sum game assaulting national sovereignty and democracy. He was simply honest enough to say aloud what every globalizer always knew and intended, that globalization is the vicious class war of all rootless elites combined against all the peoples of the world. It’s the vicious war of extermination on sovereignty and democracy in themselves.
 
This food bill is just one example, but wherever the rackets can achieve a global market, the same process is already advanced or intended to advance. The whole world is to become one big Free Trade Zone concentration camp. (That’s of course economically impossible, since how could the impoverished inmates also serve as the consumer base? But this contradiction never stopped capitalism before. It’ll simply drive itself to its own eventual destruction this way, but it will also do all it can to destroy us all in the process.) It’s all about power and domination.   
 
When the Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia, in addition to pre-emptively assaulting the cities on behalf of the farmers (supposedly to turn the tables and do unto others before they do unto you), they also embarked upon their own version of Stalinist collectivization, their own war upon the farmers. This involved forbidding the growing of indigenous rice cultivars, the knowledge of which was the basis of the Cambodian food supply and in a broader sense the human culture of the country. Instead the regime mandated the growing of imported Chinese varieties which were ill-suited to the conditions of Cambodia, and completely alien to the knowledge and culture of the peasantry. The predictable result was an 85% decline in production. But this was a price the Khmer Rouge was willing to pay, since over the short run the point wasn’t to maintain production. It was to impose power. Since a key power tactic is to completely uproot the people, detach them from every frame of reference, every anchor they have, and force them to look to the regime itself as the one and only stable point amid the chaos, it follows that destroying all existing knowledge of food production and forcing the people to start from scratch is a potent way to enforce domination over them.
 
This same Khmer Rouge strategy has been imposed by capitalism (and industrial communism) right form the start. The goal has always been to drive people off the land and into slums. This maximizes the number of people who are completely detached from any food production whatsoever. Meanwhile those who still do farm are to be subjected to the forces of capitalist production. That means the constant revolutionization of the procedures, technology, and basic concepts of production. Synthetic fertilizers, the crop lien, dependence upon cash crops, mechanization, collectivization, dependence upon federal subsidies, the chemicals of the Green Revolution, total monoculture, dependence upon global markets, the fencerow-to-fencerow Stalinization of American farming, the rise of Monsanto, and now GMOs – all of these are milestones in the history of the farmer’s complete passivity in the face of power imposed upon him from on high. What the Khmer Rouge did was firmly in the mainstream of this whole process (their only innovation was to reverse the ideological line: they weren’t extracting for the cities, but drove people back out of the cities).
 
In all of this, domination of food, and in particular the eradication of all food culture, is the totalitarian goal. Stewards of heirloom seed varieties have long consciously seen themselves as stewards of human culture and history itself. They saw how they were literal culture warriors in a very real war of extermination on culture itself. In 1994 Michael Pollan wrote an article which first tried to bring this to the mainstream.
 

The alternative seed catalogues paint the “F-1″ hybrid, in particular, as an environmental menace and make a point of refusing to handle the dread seed. In the last few decades F-1 hybrids, which are simply the first generation produced by the crossing of two plant varieties, have become the stock in trade of the commercial seed industry, and they are gradually crowding traditional “open pollinated” varieties (ones pollinated by bees, birds or wind instead of plant geneticists) out of the marketplace. According to the Seed Savers Exchange, an organization established in 1975 to encourage backyard gardeners to preserve certain open-pollinated varieties, almost half of all the nonhybrid vegetable varieties on the market just 10 years ago have been dropped from mail-order catalogues. This often results in extinction, since many domesticated species will not survive unless they are planted over and over again by humans……

These are not the only ways in which modern hybrids remake nature in the image of capitalism. Given heavy doses of fertilizer, F-1 hybrids grow swiftly and produce high yields. They also produce genetically uniform plants. What could better suit factory farming than a robust field of identical tomato or corn plants genetically coded to ripen all at once, thereby facilitating mechanical harvesting?

But the same uniformity that smoothes capitalism’s way into the farm and garden also violates one of nature’s cardinal principles: genetic diversity. A field of genetically identical plants is much more vulnerable to disease, as American corn farmers discovered in 1970 when a blight decimated the nation’s crop, which had grown dependent on a few genetically similar hybrids. After such blights, breeders have historically turned to traditional varieties of corn, found in places like Mexico, to refresh the gene pool and provide new resistance. But what happens when Mexican farmers have been sold on fancy new hybrids and their traditional varieties have become extinct?……

To order Illini Xtra-Sweet would be a vote not just for a particular kind of corn but for a kind of agriculture—indeed, for a kind of culture. You could probably deduce a great deal about contemporary America from the genes of Illini Xtra-Sweet; for example, that this is the product of a capitalist economy whose farms rely on petrochemicals (which most hybrids require to thrive) and are typically located a long truck ride away from their consumers, who prize sweetness over nutrition and tend to boil rather than roast their corn……

Hudson’s catalog is such a vast, teeming democracy of seeds that it makes room for common weeds such as mullein and burdock, four varieties of leaf tobacco (including one grown by Zapotec Indians), even seeds for giant sequoia trees. As one of his cranky, enlightening catalogue essays makes clear, Hudson believes in preserving human as well as genetic diversity—hence the Zapotec tobacco and the Mandan Bride corn, both of whose genes encode specific cultural practices he’s bent on saving. And who knows, one of the old Indian varieties he carries might turn out to contain a trait we will desperately need someday, perhaps the gene that will help us adapt corn to a warmer, drier climate.

 
Unfortunately, Pollan’s warning has not been widely heeded.
 
More recently, we had a stark case study in what happens when corporate globalization is given total power, violent and bureaucratic, to impose exactly what it wants. When the US attacked Iraq, part of its extermination campaign was against all Iraqi culture. As Naomi Klein described in Shock Doctrine and several articles, the goal was to wipe everything clean and impose a blank slate upon which corporate domination could be directly and fully encoded. One example was the assault on seeds and indigenous farming. The seed bank at Abu Ghraib, a priceless repository of thousands of years of Mesopotamian cultivation, knowledge likely to be of critical importance in the age of climate change as more arid conditions expand, was attacked and destroyed by a mob.
 
Iraq’s agriculture was disrupted in general, as always happens in a war. When the farmers tried to rebuild, they were confronted with a typical globalist Catch-22. The same invaders who had destroyed their agricultural heritage now offered them aid in the form of proprietary seeds. At the same moment Paul Bremer, the US equivalent of Hans Frank in the General Government administrative zone of Poland, decreed that all proprietary globalization “law” applied in the case of Iraqi agriculture. This was a direct violation of international law, but we see what kind of law of the jungle really prevails with globalization.
 
Bremer’s Order 81 applied all the strictures of patent domination to the farmers who were at that moment being offered the choice of accepting the proprietary seeds or facing total ruin. (All other aid was conditional on taking the patent deal. It was a textbook example of an unconscionable contract of adhesion, in other words no contract at all according to human law.) This domination includes the truly obscene notion that when through natural inertia, negligence, or deliberate release, the patented seed spreads to the fields of a farmer against his will, he’s declared objectively in violation of the patent and subject to draconian legal penalties. This obscenity has already been enshrined in Canada. So Monsanto’s agent here tried to accomplish directly, by main force, what they’re trying to accomplish more gradually and insidiously everywhere else, including at home in America.
 
How is it possible that if your neighbor is negligent and lets his pollen spread to your field, or if Monsanto deliberately disperses it there, or if the wind simply blows, that you become a status criminal, an IP violator? Why, on the contrary, isn’t Monsanto guilty of a tort against you, by strict liability? The answer is that it would be under any accountable, human rule of law. But the law has abdicated. This is the anti-sovereign corporate law, which is an exact inversion of human law, just as the corporations are existentially anti-human, their very existence an affront to human dignity. They’re literally satanic according to Judeo-Christian theology.
 
What is to be done? Since this post was about seeds, let’s consider what is to be done about seeds. One thing’s clear – we cannot rely on seed vaults like the one in Norway. Even if these weren’t vulnerable to corporate domination, the basic idea is wrongly conceived – one big fort rather than a decentralized dispersal.
 
What do most individual plants do? They don’t hoard their seeds at one spot in the soil. They disperse them as widely as possible by all sorts of vehicles.
 
So the real Seed Banks we need will have to prize resiliency and redundancy over reinforcing one site as a hard target. They must be outside of official control mechanisms. Our seed banks have to be our own stewardship and propagation of our own heirloom seeds. Here’s one innovative idea for a legal framework for the seed commons. It would apply existing cooperative licensing to enshrine a system where anyone can innovate and sell his innovation, but not control the subsequent innovations of the buyer, and so on virally.
 
So it’s a fair dispensation in itself: If you’re truly innovative, you can benefit from your invention, but you can’t clamp a stranglehold on further innovation stemming from your work. Contrast that with IP concept and law: Maybe there was once innovation, but now a few monopoly rackets hoard the patents. They want no further innovation at all, only the strictly controlled “innovation” of their own tyrannical processes.
 
(This P2P concept highlights the essential fraudulence of all IP law applied to plants. The commons licence is correctly based on the fact that you have the right only to your own particular contribution to the collective effort, and only in proportion to it. Anyone who contributes anything to a plant variety is merely adding an increment to thousands of years of work, all of which is in the public domain, not to mention millions of years of nature’s work. So on its face the very concept of a seed patent is absurd, and would clearly be inadmissible under any legitimate rule of law. The very fact that we have to seek legal alternatives like this seed commons license is proof of the corruption and corporatization of the general law.)
 
We have to grow heirloom plants, save and trade heirloom seeds. We have to engage in guerrilla gardening. If we have extra seed we should simply spread it wherever it might grow. Who knows what kind of attics our heritage plants may need as shelter. These are political acts. They’re acts, not just on behalf of food sovereignty and food freedom, but on behalf of freedom itself. 

October 24, 2010

Transparency, Wikileaks, and Odious Secrecy

 

Today the people are the beneficiaries of the latest Wikileaks document delivery, nearly 400,000 pieces of information touching on every aspect of the horrors of the Iraq war of aggression. I’ve previously written about Wikileaks here and here.
 
We ought to be the beneficiaries, if we choose to use this opportunity to learn about the crimes of this system. Unfortunately the previous deliveries didn’t have much immediate effect on the shocking complacency of what may be a terminal slave populace. But it’s too early to know how the beer will taste until it’s fully brewed. These things sometimes fester underground, like the flame that can slowly smoulder its way invisible through miles of subterranean pine needles before it bursts into the air as wildfire.
 
We have no idea what the tipping points will be, and what gradual, organic forces and tensions will have undermined the balance to the point of sudden imbalance.
 
However that may be, sunlight is a pure value. It warms, it invigorates the air, conjures the photosynthetic basis of complex life. It illuminates, it directs, it teaches, it inspires.
 
And while as individual human beings we also need and are entitled to our shade and shadow and our night as well, no one has the right to block out the sun. The information our society creates belongs to us all. It is our property as citizens. It’s our social sunlight, which illumines our collective truths. Top down secrecy is odious. It’s a theft of public property. It’s a characteristic crime of tyranny, committed for the obvious reason of concealing from us the rest of their crimes against us. It’s also done for its own sake, out of the inertia of power and the haughty sense of entitlement of elitism itself. It’s the smothering fog coughed up to obscure our sun. It’s shoving us into the grave dug for us, and the shoveling of sterile dirt upon our heads. Secrecy is death.
 
There’s certainly no “practical” reason for it. America has no existential enemies, except the criminals themselves. And even its lesser terrorist enemies are not a threat worth all we’ve pusillanimously surrendered to them. They’re mostly a threat to the elite empire, not to the citizenry. And it’s the empire’s war which creates the terrorists anyway. The Arab world long ago got sick of jihad. Only US aggression still fans those flames. So the pretext for the secrets is the same crime which generates the opposition whose alleged threat is supposed to justify the secrets. This is the same crime whose details the secrecy seeks to cover up. We’ll find that this applies in every example, not just the war.
 
So secrecy has no practical purpose or moral validity. Secrecy can only be part of legitimate sovereignty to the point it is absolutely necessary on account of some existential threat. Where, as in our case, this threat is nonexistent, the justification is nonexistent. So to the rest of our indictment we can add that a secretive government is an illegitimate government. In our case secrecy is not part of sovereignty, but is only instrumental toward tyranny.
 
Julian Assange of Wikileaks is an eloquent articulator and relentless activist of this ideal.
 

WikiLeaks receives about thirty submissions a day, and typically posts the ones it deems credible in their raw, unedited state, with commentary alongside. Assange told me, “I want to set up a new standard: ‘scientific journalism.’ If you publish a paper on DNA, you are required, by all the good biological journals, to submit the data that has informed your research—the idea being that people will replicate it, check it, verify it. So this is something that needs to be done for journalism as well. There is an immediate power imbalance, in that readers are unable to verify what they are being told, and that leads to abuse.” Because Assange publishes his source material, he believes that WikiLeaks is free to offer its analysis, no matter how speculative…..

Assange does not believe that the military acts in good faith with the media. He said to me, “What right does this institution have to know the story before the public?”…….

In some respects, Assange appeared to be most annoyed by the journalistic process itself—“a craven sucking up to official sources to imbue the eventual story with some kind of official basis,” as he once put it. WikiLeaks has long maintained a complicated relationship with conventional journalism. When, in 2008, the site was sued after publishing confidential documents from a Swiss bank, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and ten other news organizations filed amicus briefs in support. (The bank later withdrew its suit.) But, in the Bunker one evening, Gonggrijp told me, “We are not the press.” He considers WikiLeaks an advocacy group for sources; within the framework of the Web site, he said, “the source is no longer dependent on finding a journalist who may or may not do something good with his document.”

Assange, despite his claims to scientific journalism, emphasized to me that his mission is to expose injustice, not to provide an even-handed record of events. In an invitation to potential collaborators in 2006, he wrote, “Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia and Central Eurasia, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the West who wish to reveal illegal or immoral behavior in their own governments and corporations.” He has argued that a “social movement” to expose secrets could “bring down many administrations that rely on concealing reality—including the US administration.”

 
And here:
 

This information has reform potential. And the information which is concealed or suppressed is concealed or suppressed because the people who know it best understand that it has the ability to reform. So they engage in work to prevent that reform . . . .

There are reasons I do it that have to do with wanting to reform civilization, and selectively targeting information will do that — understanding that quality information is what every decision is based on, and all the decisions taken together is what “civilization” is, so if you want to improve civilization, you have to remove some of the basic constraints, which is the quality of information that civilization has at its disposal to make decisions. Of course, there’s a personal psychology to it, that I enjoy crushing bastards, I like a good challenge, so do a lot of the other people involved in WikiLeaks. We like the challenge.

 
He writes in his manifesto, “Conspiracy as Governance”,
 

He had come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution. As a student of Kafka, Koestler, and Solzhenitsyn, he believed that truth, creativity, love, and compassion are corrupted by institutional hierarchies, and by “patronage networks”—one of his favorite expressions—that contort the human spirit. He sketched out a manifesto of sorts, titled “Conspiracy as Governance,” which sought to apply graph theory to politics. Assange wrote that illegitimate governance was by definition conspiratorial—the product of functionaries in “collaborative secrecy, working to the detriment of a population.” He argued that, when a regime’s lines of internal communication are disrupted, the information flow among conspirators must dwindle, and that, as the flow approaches zero, the conspiracy dissolves. Leaks were an instrument of information warfare.

 
The organization is a model of rhizomatic resilience and redundancy:
 

Assange is an international trafficker, of sorts. He and his colleagues collect documents and imagery that governments and other institutions regard as confidential and publish them on a Web site called WikiLeaks.org. Since it went online, three and a half years ago, the site has published an extensive catalogue of secret material, ranging from the Standard Operating Procedures at Camp Delta, in Guantánamo Bay, and the “Climategate” e-mails from the University of East Anglia, in England, to the contents of Sarah Palin’s private Yahoo account. The catalogue is especially remarkable because WikiLeaks is not quite an organization; it is better described as a media insurgency. It has no paid staff, no copiers, no desks, no office. Assange does not even have a home. He travels from country to country, staying with supporters, or friends of friends—as he once put it to me, “I’m living in airports these days.” He is the operation’s prime mover, and it is fair to say that WikiLeaks exists wherever he does. At the same time, hundreds of volunteers from around the world help maintain the Web site’s complicated infrastructure; many participate in small ways, and between three and five people dedicate themselves to it full time. Key members are known only by initials—M, for instance—even deep within WikiLeaks, where communications are conducted by encrypted online chat services. The secretiveness stems from the belief that a populist intelligence operation with virtually no resources, designed to publicize information that powerful institutions do not want public, will have serious adversaries……

Assange also wanted to insure that, once the video was posted online, it would be impossible to remove. He told me that WikiLeaks maintains its content on more than twenty servers around the world and on hundreds of domain names. (Expenses are paid by donations, and a few independent well-wishers also run “mirror sites” in support.) Assange calls the site “an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis,” and a government or company that wanted to remove content from WikiLeaks would have to practically dismantle the Internet itself……..

As it now functions, the Web site is primarily hosted on a Swedish Internet service provider called PRQ.se, which was created to withstand both legal pressure and cyber attacks, and which fiercely preserves the anonymity of its clients. Submissions are routed first through PRQ, then to a WikiLeaks server in Belgium, and then on to “another country that has some beneficial laws,” Assange told me, where they are removed at “end-point machines” and stored elsewhere. These machines are maintained by exceptionally secretive engineers, the high priesthood of WikiLeaks. One of them, who would speak only by encrypted chat, told me that Assange and the other public members of WikiLeaks “do not have access to certain parts of the system as a measure to protect them and us.” The entire pipeline, along with the submissions moving through it, is encrypted, and the traffic is kept anonymous by means of a modified version of the Tor network, which sends Internet traffic through “virtual tunnels” that are extremely private. Moreover, at any given time WikiLeaks computers are feeding hundreds of thousands of fake submissions through these tunnels, obscuring the real documents. Assange told me that there are still vulnerabilities, but “this is vastly more secure than any banking network.”

 
This is a new model for the kind of sunlight activism we need. Imagine a whole media system dedicated to such recovery of the people’s stolen information. (I’m of course referring to collective public information, regarding politics, the economy, business, foreign policy. Just as with property in general, the personally used item or information belongs to the individual; the collective infrastructure belongs to those who build it.) We can know our need for so many suns as we survey the wasteland of odious secrecy. I’ll just select some of the examples from some of the fronts.
 
The Banks:
 
So many secrets of the Bailout. The Fed’s still stonewalling the fight for sunlight which has outlived its originator, Bloomberg reporter Mark Pittman. Will we ever know how much taxpayer money was embezzled by the Fed’s “facilities” and arcane Treasury programs? How much was handed to the banks practically for free to let them gamble against our economy, prosperity, and society?
 
No sooner was the sham finance bill passed than it came to light (heh) that the bill contained a provision allowing the SEC to keep practically all of its activities veiled from the FOIA. Although Congress went through the charade of “fixing” this “oversight”, even the fix still adjures the SEC to protect the secrets of hedge funds.
 
So there’s a good example of what the sham finance “reform” bill was really about. Since they were worried that SEC activities which were subject to FOIA requests could become a conduit for throwing sunlight on the shadow banking system, they used the bill as a mechanism for indirectly gutting the FOIA where it comes to the finance sector. We should look for such anti-FOIA gambits in every other kind of bill.
 
Mortgages:
 
Among its many vectors of criminality, the MERS system is meant to cause all mortgage information to disappear down a black hole. But the land belongs to the people, and the banks have no right to secrets over it. Why should we ever agree that some secret system vouches for the ownership of land? It’s not bad enough we have private property in land on the part of unproductive bankster “owners”, but this system of ownership is also being kept secret from we the people, from whom this potentially productive land was stolen in the first place?
 
The truth is that the banks themselves have long since lost track of this ownership, and abrogated the chain of title beyond redemption. Part of the point of MERS was to carry that out, and now part of its point is to conceal it.
 
Even a neoliberal propertarian like Hernando de Soto deplores this assault on transparency, considering it subversive of property rights. Among the criteria he lists for stability of the property regime are that all assets and transactions be listed on publicly accessible registries, that all finance deals must stay closely tied to the real value of the underlying asset (so it follows that this value must be transparent), and that government must forbid opacity and obfuscation in the language of market transactions.
 
(I mention de Soto to demonstrate that a leading neoliberal concurs in the assessment that the MERS system, including its secretiveness, has called landed property itself into quesion.)
 
The Health “Insurance” Rackets:
 
They’re notorious for total darkness where it comes to pricing. (Doctors and hospitals are guilty of that too.) The customer has practically no basis for cost comparison or any kind of understanding of why he’s being quoted the rate he’s experiencing. The racket bailout bill alleges it will change that, but we’re already seeing how well the bill’s provisions are being enforced.
 
Internet Access and Participation:
 
The telecoms and cable companies have so far mostly refrained from transmission discrimination because they fear political fallout and a consumer backlash. But the formal enshrinement of net neutrality has become all the more critical as the technology now exists to let the telecoms discriminate in a secretive manner.
 
(The FCC’s proposed net neutrality principles, even if enshrined, may actually be pretty weak against such secret discrimination. But one fight at a time. Let’s get a basic net neutrality enshrinement, and then we’ll improve it.)
 
Food:
 
The FDA, a corporate tool, has done all it can to keep secrets from the American people about the safety and costs of their own food. It seeks to ban GMO-free labeling. Although it hasn’t (yet) banned bovine growth hormone labeling, it allows and is encouraging states to do so. Recently a federal court overturned an Ohio state ban where the Agriculture Department sought to intervene on behalf of the state.
 
The Obama administration also continues the Bush tradition of refusing to update public environmental databases even where required by law. In this case the USDA has refused to update its pesticide use database since 2007.
 
The Gulf Oil Eruption:
 
Perhaps the most chilling secrecy event, imposed not by stealth and bureaucracy but by brute force, was Obama’s literal handing over of (anti-)sovereign jurisdiction over much of the US part of the Gulf of Mexico to BP. Federal employees openly said they could only do or allow what BP authorized, and federal agents became de facto privatized deputiesWe still know almost nothing about what’s really happening in the Gulf, and while we’ll eventually know the full effects if only by experience, the system criminals will do all they can to keep our information from us as long as they can, to our economic and health detriment.
 
(With all of these, we should recall the sick joke out of Chicago, how markets were going to be “free” and “efficient” and “rational” since all “participants” would have all the necessary information. But as I described in my deconstruction of the ideological and “constitutional” rationale for the Stamp mandate, we were really never considered participants in this utopian market, but passive subjects, clay to be worked, a resource to be mined, victims. That’s the full Orwellian truth of neoclassical economics. So there also lies their explanation for how Secrecy = Transparency. Their theory was only ever meant to apply to the elites themselves.)
 
It’s easy to see how many powerful interests are ranged against the people’s sunlight. So it’s also no surprise that Assange and Wikileaks have been demonized by the government, the MSM, and conservative and liberal hacks alike. (Including quite a few of the “real progressives” who oppose Obama, but who nevertheless as liberals remain elitists and still viscerally abhor the ideal that the elites are entitled to no secrets at all.)
 
The fact that such an array of criminals has assembled against Wikileaks is a metric of its effectiveness, and even more, of its perceived threat, and a badge of honor. We can expect every kind of tactic to be deployed against Assange and the rest of the team, but the aspirations of the organization and the task may just withstand the onslaught. It’ll help if more people and organizations follow on this path.
 
We who reject the existence of the “elites” also reject their nonexistent right to keep secrets. Every leak against the will of the elites is a restitution of stolen property. Wikileaks is in fact an agent of law and order, and its people are part of the human citizenry.

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.]

March 12, 2010

Bush Rehab (Social Fascists, 1 of 2)

 

It’s long been known among those familiar with him that Obama is a neoliberal corporatist. That’s why, under Robert Rubin’s tutelage, he became the recipient of the bulk of Wall Street donations. Still, even the corporatists must be pleasantly surprised at the gleeful alacrity with which Obama has broken all his change promises and instead devoted his presidency to looting the country on their behalf even more brazenly than Bush did.
 
Meanwhile the Republicans, who had to expect the worst for themselves (since Obama could easily have served his masters while still hammering the Reps), must be amazed at how well Obama and the Democrats have fixed things up for them as well. If Obama’s actions prove that his first priority is to serve Wall Street and the big rackets, his second has been to rehabilitate George Bush and the Republicans.
 
It was only a little while ago that Bush policy and Bush disasters were almost universally repudiated as one long bad dream. Everyone agreed that Iraq was a debacle, that the MSM had behaved shamefully in shilling for it, serving as stenographer for administration lies, that Democrats had been wrong to support it. Since the financial crash everyone uttered a big sigh of relief that Social Security privatization had failed. Everyone said, Where would we be today if Bush and Wall Street’s plot had succeeded? Fighting back to defeat it was the Democrats’ one great moment in an otherwise dismal decade of cowardice and betrayal. Even Republicans didn’t want to associate themselves with the Bush years exemplified by the monumental failure and betrayal of Katrina. 
 
Katrina broke Bush’s spell over the people. Katrina opened up the space for the Dems to crawl back into power, as Bush’s real approval rating permanently plummeted below 30%. For the rest of history, any revived good feelings for Bush and his Republicans will only be the result of nostalgia as things get even worse. The truth about how the people really saw him will never change.
 
But Democrats are also eternally Democrats, and the same cowardice and betrayal which characterize them in opposition even more profoundly mark them in power. Look at how Obama and the Dem establishment have embarked upon the full-scale rehabilitation of all the defining Bush policies and actions.
 
Obama’s refusal to obey the law and bring Bush war criminals to justice is one part of a broader program to reglorify Bush’s war, including Iraq. Obama did say he’d continue the war in Afghanistan, while promising to get out of Iraq. But he never hinted at the sprawling escalation he’s actually embarked upon in the Afghan theater. Meanwhile, he’s indicating that the vaunted Iraq withdrawal also isn’t going to happen.
 
The Democratic rehabilitation of the Iraq war and the most vile tactics used to fight it has in turn encouraged the MSM to flip yet again on the war. After their sojourn of some years of apologetics and even some alleged self-searching, outfits like the WaPo and NYT coming back full circle to their original jingoism. (These days chickenhawk Bill Keller at the NYT seems to want to outdo the Times’ old bloodlust, even soliciting op-eds complaining that Americans aren’t killing enough civilians.) Afghanistan, just like Iraq before it, is the glorious project for a unified front of the same old warmongering flacks representing themselves as decent, responsible people. And now even Iraq is being restored to its old respectable position.
 
Surely it could never be possible that the worst fuck-up of an American government imaginable, the multiple SNAFUs which converged in the Katrina disaster, could ever be rehabilitated? For the first time in broad daylight, for all the world to see, America was revealed in its true banana republic nature. No one would ever want to revise this as a great time. And when Naomi Klein depicted in Shock Doctrine how American governments and business leaders were overjoyed at the disaster capitalist opportunities the havoc had opened up, this was surely a slanderous exaggeration on her part? Sure, there’s always a few rotten crooks and vultures in any disaster, but decent people would never so much as think, let alone act upon, such a notion as exploiting the great suffering of a disaster-beleaguered people to do things like destroying their homes and schools permanently?
 
Well, yes they could. And while Bush’s own people lied about their intent and actions, it was left to Obama himself to openly say, “Katrina was a good thing”. We now have smoking gun confirmation that Klein was always right not only about the actions but the systematic intentions and precalculation. Yet it’s not even unreconstructed Bush Republicans who are cheering on the Bush system’s crimes here. Here, as with Iraq, it’s the Obama administration which has dedicated itself to rehabilitating Bush’s worst crimes and failures. Obama’s goal is nothing less than to revise history so that Bush’s worst disasters are reformulated as triumphs.
 
Obama’s actions prove that he cherishes his position as steward of Bush’s assault on civil liberties. And, as the keystone of his overarching dream of out-Bushing Bush, Obama even wants to carry to completion Bush’s failed project to privatize social security. Never mind that there’s no reason to even think of this; that for this zombie system a dozen crises loom, any one of which is more pressing than this; how the system will be brought down of its own weight long before Social Security could ever come into crisis of its own accord; how even acknowledging the notion gives aid and comfort to Republican memes in general; how nobody who’s not a criminal wants to even discuss “entitlement reform” right now.
 
None of that matters. Obama, with the support of the deficit terrorists* in the MSM, has unilaterally decreed that privatization must be on the table. The only conceivable reason to do it is to further empower Wall Street, and that as always is Obama’s main motivation. But he also wants to step up the assault on the social safety net, on general principle. That’s part of his homage to his true hero, Reagan. And here above all we see the reason for his rehabilitation of Bush. If Obama can first redeem Bush, revive all of Bush’s ideas and projects, reaffirm them all as good, and then outdo Bush at their achievement, he’ll have proven himself even more Reaganesque than Bush. He’ll be the real Bush, and therefore the real consummator of the Reagan revolution, and therefore the consummator of neoliberalism and the imperial presidency in themselves. Here we see the true evil and derangement of Obama’s deepest fantasy.
 
That’s why some commentators, including myself, have compared gutting Social Security and Medicare to Nixon’s going to China. Just as it’s been supposed that only a Republican could go to China, so now they’re trying to make it look like only a Democrat can undertake the necessary (in the mind of the establishment) painful job of destroying these popular programs.
 
Does this sound like a fanciful interpretation? It’s borne out by the evidence. It’s hard to explain Obama’s actions otherwise. And Obama’s only the epitome of the true nature of Democratic party hacks and liberal cadres. He exemplifies what they really are, as I’ll discuss in the sequel to this post.
 
[*Just to be clear, the reason deficits don’t matter is because the system is already unsustainable because of the lack of sufficient physical energy to keep it “growing”, and because, as we’re already seeing, the debt tower is just one big ponzi scheme. Even if there were no such thing as Peak Oil, the system’s own contradictions render it impossible to prop it up. They’re liquidating the rest of the existing “consumers”, and they’re not going to be able to create new ones out of Chinese peasants.
 
So for these reasons the reserve currency’s already a dead dollar walking. The entitlement system is already doomed. All these now are just political fictions. So if the issue of a “reform commission” comes up, that’s just the same exercise in political theater as the legislative kabuki over bogus health “reform” or finance “reform”. The only question is who gets a political boost out of the way a play is performed.
 
So if Obama makes up out of thin air this alleged necessity to resurrect a Republican meme which was dead and buried, this can only help the Republican political brand as such. Indeed, it’s so obvious that it’s hard to believe even he’s stupid enough not to realize that. That’s why it’s such a prime piece of evidence that Obama actually wants to rehab the Republicans.
 
If we ask how he could think that sacrificing himself for the sake of the Republicans would gain him credit as having consummated the Reagan legacy, why he doesn’t know that they’ll still revile him as a “socialist” and spit on his memory, I guess we can chalk that up to his fundamental kumbaya character flaw. Deep down he’s not only desperate for the right-wing cool kids to like him, but is actually deluded that his own personal greatness and righteousness (as he’s deluded into seeing them) will overcome all their resistance, contempt, and hatred.] 

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..  

January 8, 2010

The Insatiability

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: , , , — Russ @ 2:44 am

 

Apologists for the British Empire have often used the formula that it was acquired in “a fit of absent-mindedness”. That it just sort of happened opportunistically; power was there for the using and entered whatever vacuums it perceived, and then policy had to catch up to rationalize and sustain what impetuous aggression had wrested.
 
By now most critics of the Global War on Terror recognize the basic insanity of it, and even many of its supporters seem to shrug and justify it as a fact of life rather than anything having a rationale.
 
It’s clear that the power vacuums America perceives as being filled with terrorists are really vacuums it first imagined up for itself and then encouraged the terrorists to try to occupy. America and Israel generate terrorism through their own GWOT aggression.
 
Indeed America explicitly blasted open the Iraq vacuum in order to encourage terrorists to rush into it. The rationale was to “fight them there so we wouldn’t have to fight them here”. (Compare the German concept for the Battle of Verdun.) Obama has said the same thing for Afghanistan. Now everyone, terrorists and locals alike, expect that everyplace America goes must become a jihadist battlefield.
 
This, of course, is exactly what Osama bin Laden wanted. You’d think the US power structure would want the opposite, but in fact the corporate fascists and the jihadists have much in common seeking their nihilistic power goals. Above all both are committed to the spread of terror among all civilian populaces, domestic and foreign. What we have here is really a symbiotic terrorist superstructure, much like the so-called “two parties” in Washington.
 
Is the Permanent War in any American interest? It clearly serves no national interest and is against all interests. On the contrary, American economic, social, and political well-being all depend upon pulling back from the empire, greatly lowering our exposure and risk, getting rid of all dead weight and top-heavy elements, decentralizing, trending toward autarchy. But the insane drive of unsustainable power and consumption to keep feeding and intensifying itself will lead only to absolute destruction.
 
Look how phony and tediously repetitive are the rationales.
 
Vietnam: domino theory, commitment to the ally, “peace with honor”, most of all credibility.
 
Iraq: WMD, Saddam was behind 9/11, fighting terrorism in general, democracy, dominos, commitment to the ally, credibility.
 
Afghanistan: Get Al Qaeda, fight the Taliban, terrorism, dominos, Pakistan, Pakistan nukes, commitments (to “democracy”, to women), credibility.
 
In the end it’s clear that when all the other reasons fail or are proven bogus, the milquetoast warriors always need above all to feel credible in their own timid little minds, since they throw away all real credibility they ever had precisely on their crazed wars.
 
(Of course I don’t take seriously for a second “democracy” as ever having been a real reason for any imperial war. That was always just chucked in there to give jingoistic “liberals” an excuse to get on board.)
 
Let’s examine “terror” more closely. All the talk about how “war on terror” was the wrong term because terror is just a tactic, and you really make war on an interest or ideology, was beside the point. War on terror is exactly right, because “Global War on Terror” is simply a contentless, insatiable murder machine. It’s really just a tactic itself. It’s the Permanent War, “pursuit of power after power” (Arendt), war for its own sake, to feed a corporate maw which can never be satiated.
 
So it’s terminologically sound to call it a war on “terror”, precisely because terror is merely a tactic of the weak trying to fight back vs. America’s pointless endless bullying aggression, while the war on terror is simply this aggression seizing upon the resistance to itself to further justify itself. As we know, the main driver of terrorism is the American presence in these countries, so the self-feeding aggression creates the very rationale used to sanctify it.
 
Also, the very fact that terror can be plotted anywhere renders the rationale ideal for justifying theoretical war anywhere and everywhere, since there’s few places to attack where you can’t claim there are or can be “terrorists” there.
 
The term “terrorist” does lots of domestic propaganda work, as to this day an appalling proportion of people are slavish and stupid enough to believe in this “war on terror”, and that terrorism (as opposed to “terror” itself, which the terrorists have been completely successful in imposing; of course these are mostly domestic US government and media terrorists) is some real existential threat. (It’s sociologically and propagandistically similar to the fraudulent 80s scares over street crime, “super-predators” and such. I bet a lot of the same academics of fear are doing this same propaganda work today.)
 
Domestic fear and hate, creeping totalitarianism – with these we’re getting to some of the “real” reasons for the Permanent War.
 
The partially real reasons for the GWOT were obvious from the marketing leading up to the Iraq assault. It was a war for oil, and it was a textbook example of launching a foreign adventure to distract from domestic issues, in this case the snowballing looting of the country. It’s very true, they did want the oil and they did want to distract.
 
And, as Naomi Klein described so wrenchingly in Shock Doctrine, they also wanted to achieve the corporatist “blank slate” to facilitate the complete subjugation and looting of the country way beyond just the oil. And they’ve tried for years to replicate this operation in Afghanistan.
 
But these, while pieces of the puzzle, still don’t satisfy fully, especially since the plundering of Iraq was largely a bust, with even the American-affiliated multinationals getting aced out of most of the oil. Nor does any of this look promising in Afghanistan.
 
When I’ve tried to explain Afghanistan in peak oil terms, that they want to control the routing of natural gas pipelines and whatnot, I felt silly trying to offer that as a main explanation. In Afghanistan fossil fuels and corporatist plunder are parts of the puzzle, but just small ones. Fossil fuel, not enough to be worth the effort even under our deranged circumstances, for looting not enough there there. There’s no objective correlative.
 
(Indeed, we should look at Greenspan’s admission that Iraq was a war for oil in a new light. By now TPTB would probably rather it could be seen as even a war for oil, now that so-called “American” companies got so little a draw from the well.)  
 
No, here we have to go back to historical irrationalism. Expansion for expansion’s sake, power for power’s sake, greed for greed’s sake, “growth” for growth’s sake. The Permanent War is for its own sake, each step only intended to provide the staging point for the next step, and all of it justified by some obviously bogus rationale.
 

Degree being vizarded,
The unworthiest shows as fairly in the mask.
The heavens themselves, the planets and this centre
Observe degree, priority and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office and custom, in all line of order;
And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
In noble eminence enthroned and sphered
Amidst the other; whose medicinable eye
Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil,
And posts, like the commandment of a king,
Sans cheque to good and bad: but when the planets
In evil mixture to disorder wander,
What plagues and what portents! what mutiny!
What raging of the sea! shaking of earth!
Commotion in the winds! frights, changes, horrors,
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
The unity and married calm of states
Quite from their fixure! O, when degree is shaked,
Which is the ladder to all high designs,
Then enterprise is sick! How could communities,
Degrees in schools and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenitive and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
But by degree, stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark, what discord follows! each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores
And make a sop of all this solid globe:
Strength should be lord of imbecility,
And the rude son should strike his father dead:
Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong,
Between whose endless jar justice resides,
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself.

 
Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida Act 1, scene 3.

October 11, 2009

Perspective on the GWOT

Filed under: Afghanistan, Corporatism, Disaster Capitalism, Global War On Terror, Globalization — Tags: — Russ @ 3:53 am
In last Sunday’s NYT James Traub had a think piece on permanent war and its limits. While not perfect, and not a public interest, anti-war piece by any means, it was better than much of the stuff you see in the MSM. Answering it paragraph for paragraph I found myself to be starting to compile a sort of catechism, or at least the precursor ingredients of one, which I thought I’d post.
 

Over the next few weeks, Barack Obama must make the most difficult decision of his presidency to date: whether or not to send up to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, as his commanding general there, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, has reportedly proposed.

 
40000 troops to Afghanistan = the equivalent of 40000 fighting for domestic corporatism. Let that be our heuristic.
 

This summer, Mr. Obama described the effort in Afghanistan as “a war of necessity.” In such a war, you do whatever you need to do to win. But now, as criticism mounts from those who argue that the war in Afghanistan cannot, in fact, be won with more troops and a better strategy, the president is having second thoughts.

 
They’re really fighting a domestic class war. The Afghan theater, just like the Iraqi, is primarily a distraction and a laundering facility through which taxpayer money can be funneled to connected corporations.
 

A war of necessity is presumably one that is “fundamental to the defense of our people,” as Mr. Obama has said about Afghanistan. But if such a war is unwinnable, then perhaps you must reconsider your sense of its necessity and choose a more modest policy instead.

 
It’s not a war of necessity, except from the point of view of propping up “growth”, securing oil, for the sake of the corporatist system. From that point of view it’s temporarily “winnable”, meaning that it can be sustained for awhile with wealth looted from the public, which is all that matters.
 
It’s a permanent war; each aspect of it, each operation, each theater, is temporary and opportunistic. The opportunities sought are primarily resource-oriented (oil), and beyond that to open up frontiers for disaster capitalism.
 
There is no “victory” envisioned or intended. Administration hawk Holbrooke said “we’ll know [victory] when we see it.” This is code to all in the know. There’s no time limit, no discrete end, no exit strategy. It’ll go on for as long as if physically and politically possible.
 

The conservative pundit George Will suggested as much in a recent column in which he argued for a reduced, rather than enhanced, American presence in Afghanistan. Mr. Will cited the testimony of George Kennan, the diplomat and scholar, to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Vietnam in 1966: “Our country should not be asked, and should not ask of itself, to shoulder the main burden of determining the political realities in any other country. … This is not only not our business, but I don’t think we can do it successfully.”

Mr. Kennan’s astringent counsel has become piercingly relevant today, as Americans discover, time and again, their inability to shape the world as they would wish. Indeed, George W. Bush’s tenure looks in retrospect like an inadvertent proof of the wisdom of restraint, for his ambitious policy to transform the Middle East through regime change and democracy promotion largely ended in failure. The irony is that Mr. Obama, who as a candidate reassured conservative critics that he had read and absorbed the wisdom of Reinhold Niebuhr, Mr. Kennan and other “realists,” is now himself accused of ignoring the limits of American power, like Mr. Bush or Lyndon Johnson, in his pursuit of victory in an unwinnable war.

 
Most people apparently can’t help themselves. They really can’t believe that America can’t do anything it damn well pleases. Even the now-majority who oppose the Afghan war still look at it in cost-benefit terms, not in terms of it can’t be done.
 
Corporatists, of course, have a different measure.
 

The idea that American foreign policy must be founded upon a prudent recognition of the country’s capacities and limits, rather than its hopes and wishes, gained currency after World War II, possibly the last unequivocally necessary war in American history. At the war’s end, of course, the global pre-eminence of the United States was beyond question. But Mr. Kennan, Mr. Niebuhr, Hans Morgenthau and others tried to imbue their sometimes-grandiose fellow-citizens with a rueful awareness of the intransigence of things.

 
Actually, even WWII was “necessary” only given globalist premises. That was true of most of the combatants. America’s participation was no more necessary than that of Germany or Japan.
 

“The problems of this world are deeper, more involved, and more stubborn than many of us realize,” Mr. Kennan said in a 1949 speech to the Academy of Political Science. “It is imperative, therefore, that we economize with our limited resources and that we apply them where we feel that we will do the most good.”

The realists won that debate. Mr. Kennan argued that a policy of confrontation with Stalin’s Russia, advocated by the more fervent anti-Communists, would be neither effective nor necessary; the Soviets, rather, could be checked by “intelligent long-range policies” designed to counter — to contain — their ambitions. Of course he lost in Vietnam, where the nation-building dreams of a generation of cold war liberals came to grief. The neoconservatives who came to power with George W. Bush were just as dismissive of the cautionary sprit of realism as the liberals of an earlier generation had been, and thought of themselves as conservative heirs of the idealistic tradition of Woodrow Wilson.

 
More than that couldn’t be done short of permanent brinksmanship and probably nuclear war. Of course, the Cold War itself was also a permanent war scenario for corporatists. It wasn’t optimal compared to New World Order neoliberal globalization, but it was still pretty good.
 

Now, as Americans debate whether or not to double down in Afghanistan, it’s striking how opinion is divided not according to left and right, or hawk and dove, but rather by the difference between the Wilsonian “what we must do” and the Kennanite “what we can do.”

 
What must American freedom seekers, freedom lovers do? We must fight the war for freedom here on the homeland front. But that requires dismantling the Global War on Terror.
 
Our arguments:
 
1. They have no “must”; it’s a war of choice. The real war on terror has already been won.
 
2. They morally should not. It’s a war of rapacity.
 
3. They economically and physically cannot; in Afghanistan they politically cannot.
 

Stephen Holmes, a left-leaning law professor at New York University, recently wrote a critique of General McChrystal’s plan that almost exactly echoed Will/Kennan: “Turning an illegitimate government into a legitimate one is simply beyond the capacities of foreigners, however wealthy or militarily unmatched.”

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a hawkish Democrat, has reportedly urged the president to devote less of the country’s energies to Afghanistan in order to apply them where they will do the most good — Pakistan. On the other hand, advocates of the proposed new strategy, like Peter Bergen, an expert on Islamic terrorism, invoke America’s “obligation” to the Afghan people and the strategic catastrophe that would come of ceding the country to the Taliban. One side reasons from the means, the other from the ends.

 
Warmongers try to lie about America’s alleged obligations. America’s obligations are at home, where we’re entering a Depression. The obligation is to get out.
 
(MSM alert: Why is Bergen called “an expert on Islamic terrorism” while Holmes is “a left-leaning law professor”? Like he’s some kind of hippie. How about just “law professor” and “right-wing ideologue”? I bet he’s just as much an “expert”, whatever that even means in this context of broad politics, as Bergen is.)
 

In the real world, of course, the distinction between these two very different dispositions is a fluid one. After all, in a true war of necessity, like World War II, a state and a people summon the capacity to do what must be done, no matter how difficult. So the objective question at the heart of the current debate is whether the battle for Afghanistan represents such a war, or whether — like those for Vietnam or Iraq — the problem that it presents can be solved by less bloody and costly means.

 
Democracy has spoken twice:
 
1. A majority of the people don’t want it.
 
2. The rich themselves, on whose behalf the wars are fought, refuse to fight or sacrifice. That proves they don’t morally value it. That proves that their vile bloodlust is purely venal and parasitic.
 

Americans broadly agree that their government must at all costs prevent major attacks on American soil by Al Qaeda. But there the consensus ends, and their questions begin: Do we need to sustain the rickety Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai in order to achieve that objective? If so, will a combination of overwhelming military force and an accompanying civilian surge not only repel the Taliban but make Afghanistan self-sustaining over the long term?

 
Just as with Diem, propping up the Karzai gang is no way to accomplish anything. They have no legitimacy.
 
The Taliban won’t be repelled. Just as with the Vietcong, every advantage in a war of attrition lies with highly motivated nationalist guerrillas, none with high-maintenance high-expense mercenaries who don’t understand the country or the cause.
 

The leaked McChrystal plan argues both that we must and that we can, and that a more modest effort “will likely result in failure.” Critics like the military analyst Andrew Bacevich insist, by contrast, that we cannot and that we need not — that Americans can contain the threat of jihad through such measures as enhanced homeland defense. Others have argued for a middle course involving a smaller troop increase and less nation-building.

 
Yeah – careerist failure for the generals. To be sure, Obama installed McChrystal to change the plan and make a troop request. McC’s just doing what he was put there to do. He’s Obama’s guy. O was gung-ho and now he’s waffling. He was all for the war, but now that his domestic agenda’s going off the rails he’s getting flaky about the war too.
 
Bacevich has the right idea; and middle-of-the-road, muddling through, is just cowardly and stupid. It’s the worst of both worlds, in both the practical and moral senses.
 

George Kennan was right about the cold war. But the question now is whether “containment” is also the right metaphor for Afghanistan, and for the threat of Islamic extremism. Containment (Mr. Kennan also used the imagery of chess and the pruning and pinning of trees) is a metaphor of geographical contiguity. Soviet ambitions could be checked here, conceded there. America’s adversary was not, Mr. Kennan insisted, a global force called Communism; it was Russia, an expansionist but conservative power. By that logic, the United States could lose in Vietnam with no lasting harm to itself.

But Al Qaeda, and jihadism generally, is a global force that seeks control of territory chiefly as a means to carry out its global strategy. It has no borders at which to be checked; its success or failure is measured in ideological rather than territorial terms — like Communism without Russia. Mr. Kennan often suggested that America’s own example of democratic prosperity was one of its most powerful weapons during the cold war; and plainly that is so today as well. That is one weapon with which the threat of Islamic extremism must be challenged; but it is only one.

 
Yes, jihadism is exactly like globalization, except that globalization is infinitely more powerful and far more aggressive. In the global war of ideology, it’s not the miniscule Islamic movement which glorifies itself by the name of “jihad” which is the real threat to America, but the stateless, rootless cosmopolitans of globalism.
 
It’s the jihad of multinationals which oppresses us. It’s corporate fundamentalism which preys upon us. It’s the American Taliban, not the Afghan, which assaults our freedom.
 
The world knows this better than Americans themselves. Everyone knows America is no longer democratic or prosperous. Everyone knows American neoliberalism and neoconservatism bring not democracy but tyranny, not prosperity but slavery.
 

The question boils down to this: How grave a price would Americans pay if Afghanistan were lost to the Taliban? Would this be a disaster, or merely, as with Vietnam, a terrible misfortune for which the United States could compensate through a contemporary version of Mr. Kennan’s “intelligent long-range policies”? If the latter, then how can Americans justify the immense cost in money and manpower, and the inevitable loss of life, attendant upon General McChrystal’s plan? How can they gamble so much on the corrupt, enfeebled and barely legitimate government of President Karzai? Why insist on seeking to do that which in all probability can not be done?

 
The real question is, what if GWOT corporatism continues to win at home. The answer is, disaster.
 
So:
 
Is it a war of necessity or of choice?
 
It’s a war of corporate profit. Democracy rejects it, has chosen against it. The rich refuse to fight, so it’s not worth it even to them at that price.
 
From the American citizen’s point of view, it’s a war of choice. Indeed, it’s a private war. It is necessary from the corporatist point of view; without it their oil and their primitive accumulation frontiers run out all the more quickly.
 
That imposes a different war of necessity on us, the American people. We must fight and destroy the predators who have hijacked our country. That means we must defeat their war of choice, which is part of their hijacking.
 
What about terrorism? The administration itself admits that Al Qaeda has been largely defeated. We’ve won the reality-based part, the real war on terror. A much lower-cost, lower-footprint maintenance program can do the job from here.
 
Meanwhile the Muslim street has withdrawn its support from the jihadists. They’re tired of the whole thing.
 
The only thing that still inflames Muslims and renders the militants sympathetic in their eyes is American imperialism itself.
 
What is this war really about?
 
Peak Oil, in class terms, means:
 
1. Imperial war at taxpayer expense and blood,
 
2. To secure oil for the rich.
 
3. As Peak Oil sets in, grabbing that oil will require ever more public blood and money. Just as physical depletion means the energy return on investment of drilling gets worse and worse, so the geopolitical equation, the oil return on investment of wealth and blood, gets ever worse.
 
4. Meanwhile the rich become ever more totalitarian and violent in the face of the growing political resistance to the whole program.
 
That’s it in a nutshell: the foreign policy of a first world corporate government, a former superpower behaving as an emergent economy, under the circumstances of energy descent.
 
That’s what America’s up against. What’s our “we must” and “we can”? We must and can fight the real enemy, seeking a great triumph for American freedom, and a step in the right direction toward a new, renewed prosperity in the aftermath of the oil age.
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