Volatility

July 26, 2018

The Dicamba Crisis Part 5: Waging War to Seize Territory

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Parts One, Two, Three, Four.
 
1. There’s never been a clear line of demarcation between chemical weapons in war, civilian use of such weapons, and agricultural use of poisons. In World War I poison gas weapons were developed while the Haber-Bosch process was used to manufacture explosives. Following the war these technologies were seamlessly refurbished to manufacture pesticides and synthetic fertilizer. The militaristic rhetoric didn’t change at all: Pesticides were advertised as enabling the farmer and society to wage war on pests, which were demonized as evil.
 
In World War II the same factories went back to producing munitions and herbicides for military use. After the war the factories were retooled for a massive new agricultural poison onslaught which eventually developed into the “green revolution”. War use never ceased. From Vietnam to this day in Colombia and elsewhere Agent Orange and other poisons are used for military and paramilitary purposes, for war and police action. Chemical weapons always have been used for tyrannical political goals.
 
This conjunction of poisonism and militarism occurs in the context of the religious separation of “man” from “nature” and the false doctrine that these are adversaries. Man vs. nature in turn is an extension of man vs. man. Ecological domination always has been conjoined with social domination, and the former never occurs except as part of a strategy toward the latter. The war on nature always is the war on humanity. In the end, ecophobia, biophobia, are expressions of misanthropy. Civilization can be defined as a system which enables a cadre of elites to force surplus production and steal it in order to build structures and organizations which maximize their own wealth and power. This system always has been totally destructive toward humanity and the Earth. Agriculture always has been designed for enclosure, dispossession, physically destroying the land through denuding and poisoning the soil, desertification. Modern poison-based agriculture is one of the most extreme manifestations of this total destructive assault on people and ecology.
 
Agribusiness consolidates maximum control over farming and the food supply and launches a general assault on the ecology, all toward the goal of maximizing human and ecological monoculture. This is the scorched-earth terrain which provides the best habitat for pest, weed, and disease infestation, and therefore the maximum ideological and political habitat for the power claims of agribusiness, the scientism cult, and all who hate humanity and nature and who seek total domination. Poisonism therefore generates the maximal habitat for the propaganda campaign of lies, fear-mongering, and fraudulent promises that the solution is right around the corner if farmers and society only stay the poison course. This is proven every day in a hundred new articles and press statements from corporations, governments, Wall Street, academia, and the mainstream media, all speaking as one proclaiming that the only solution to the escalating crisis is to escalate the emissions and the poison.
 
2. One way to write the history of the 20th century is to trace the history of the Rockefeller Foundation and similar organizations, culminating today in the Gates Foundation, as the bodies which coordinate de jure war and sublimated agricultural war, with the close cooperation of corporations and the military.
 
As we said there never was a clear distinction between massive use of chemical weapons in Vietnam and elsewhere and massive use of chemical weapons in the green revolution. In both cases Western globalization has treated the global South as a free-fire zone, wherever a vacuum exists.
 
The corporate-technocratic elites have brought this war and its ideology back to the home countries. The pesticide/fertilizer onslaught has engulfed the West itself. Based on this historical record we know the corporate state considers America itself a free-fire zone for every kind of weaponized assault, from militarized police to militarized agriculture, wherever the state considers necessary.
 
What’s the objective difference between the Agent Orange defoliation campaign in Vietnam and today’s defoliation campaign in America based on dicamba and 2,4-D (itself one half of the Agent Orange blend)? We recognize the dicamba campaign as at least intermediate between a “regular” agricultural poison campaign and a de jure war defoliation campaign.
 
Corporate agriculture’s mass expulsion of farm communities from their land, part of the US “food weapon” strategy, is sublimated war. There is no logical difference between driving people off their land and into slums where they are utterly dependent, and physically killing them. Anyone willing to do or tolerate the former is willing to do and tolerate the latter.
 
The Rockefeller Foundation played a major role in coordinating the green revolution, pesticide/fertilizer deployment, and the development of GMOs ancillary to the poison regime. The Gates Foundation subsequently has taken the lead in aggrandizing the GMO/pesticide poison project. Gates provides organizational leadership and fraudulent “philanthropic” propaganda cover for what’s nothing but brutal corporate colonialism. This colonialism is also a testing ground for other totalitarian assaults.
 
In spite of its “humanitarian” lies (always embellished with Randroid spin that all good things can come only from total corporate control), the Gates Foundation really stands for total corporate control of agriculture and food on a monoculture commodity export basis. For decades this has been proven to do nothing but increase hunger, famine, and disease. The Gates Foundation is an extreme activist on behalf of globalization export agriculture and seeks systematically to eradicate African food production, and therefore to maximize food insecurity, hunger, and famine. Africa and elsewhere in the global South also serve Gates and Monsanto as testing grounds for ecological domination technology designed to be deployed in the Western countries as well. All of humanity which lacks monetary wealth, not just the people of the South, are slated for liquidation.
 
Today the Gates Foundation is the primary propaganda coordinator on behalf of these ideological and anti-political assaults. It’s the main coordinator among the various branches of the corporate state – the US and UK governments, the Big Ag corporations, the G7, the universities, the corporate media, and various system NGOs.
 
Economically, politically, ecologically, the corporate-technocratic state works to impose maximum monopoly monoculture control with minimum real-world apparatus or indeed contact with physical reality at all. The sector comprising corporate agriculture and food, along with its lead enablers from the state like USAID and the USDA, all coordinated by the quasi-governmental Gates and Rockefeller Foundations, thinks exclusively in terms of Mammon’s fictive numbers. The measure of agriculture is never food for human beings but sanctified fake numbers like GDP, trade balances, sovereign debt, commodity and stock prices, corporate profits, money as such. These pure fictions are rendered real only by the corporate state’s violence and the tolerance of the people. Thus the corporate/government/NGO structure is able globally to impose and enforce the agricultural model which conforms to these measures and eradicates, as much as possible, all actual food production for human beings. This physical control and destruction without responsibility is the grail of all corporations.
 
In these ways the goal is to render it as literally true as possible that food is produced by money, that food comes from the supermarket.
 
3. The military-agricultural complex I describe here is best epitomized in the Gates/DARPA joint project to develop gene drive technology. This is the most extreme example yet of a dual use military/agricultural weapon. In general, genetic engineering is becoming increasingly militarized.
 
This is the context for the propaganda campaign for gene drives being deployed against so-called “invasive” plants and animals such as rats. “Rats” should be taken as a symbolic place-holder for more far-reaching land-cleansing plans. Consider the Nazi propaganda films which equated Jews with rats, then compare the coupled campaigns of gene drive deployment vs. rats and other “invasives”, and GMO deployment as part of corporate agriculture’s onslaught seeking to drive all of humanity off the land. When we compare these we start to get a picture of where all this is heading.
 
DARPA often has partnered with Monsanto, from the deployment of Agent Orange to research into robotic bees. Continuing this partnership, Monsanto has been a key player in the anti-“invasive” propaganda. The theme of glyphosate being ecologically necessary to combat “invasive” weeds laid the propaganda groundwork for the gene drive strategy. With the collapse of glyphosate, dicamba and 2,4-D are being deployed as the “new”/old weaponry allegedly necessary to wage this allegedly necessary war.
 
Gates teams with Monsanto, Gates teams with the military, Monsanto teams with the military, we have consensus on intent and goal.
 
4. The primary agronomic feature of poison-based agriculture is the arms race between the ever escalating, ever more toxic brew of pesticides, and the resistance evolution keeps producing in the weeds, insects, fungi, and other so-called “pests”. This arms race, which in civilian language is also called the pesticide treadmill, is the context in which Monsanto and its Gates/military allies are resurrecting two obsolete herbicides, dicamba and the Agent Orange constituent 2,4-D, for a renewed assault. Monsanto, the USDA, and the media originally promised that these poisons, even more toxic and destructive than glyphosate, would be rendered permanently obsolete by the Roundup Ready GMO system. These herbicides are indeed obsolete from any sane ecological and agronomic point of view, but of the corporate-technocratic system is not sane, nor is it honest. The corporations and the US government always were lying about dicamba and 2,4-D, and in recent years they’ve been bringing them back on a massive scale, with GMOs engineered to accompany them: Monsanto’s dicamba tolerant Xtend soybeans and cotton, and Dow’s 2,4-D tolerant maize, soybeans, and cotton. The result has been the ongoing dicamba disaster. As the Enlist system is more widely propagated a 2,4-D disaster will join the dicamba disaster.
 
The dicamba GMO crisis builds on the failure of Roundup and of the pesticide model as such. It simultaneously denies evolution and drives a specially destructive mode of evolution. Herbicide tolerant GMOs systematically select for weed resistance. Dicamba-resistant weeds already are on the rise. The greater the atmospheric suffusion of volatile dicamba vapor, the faster it’ll drive weed resistance along with every other ecological and health harm. Monoculture as such, by its very simplicity, drives the development of resistance, accelerates the arms race.
 
The deliberate goal is to render all agriculture which is not engineered to resist dicamba and/or 2,4-D impossible. Both herbicides are extremely volatile and inevitably will attack and kill all other plants – row crops not engineered to resist; fruits and vegetables (commercial growing and personal gardens); trees; ornamentals; as much as possible all wild plants. This extreme volatility renders the GMO/herbicide tandem an effective weapon for area denial, seizure and domination of territory. Monsanto is succeeding in driving out all non-Xtend soybean production in the main production zones. Monsanto and Dow intend the same result for maize and cotton. 2,4-D intrinsically contains dioxins as part of the manufacturing process. (Called “by-products” or “impurities”, really premeditated and therefore deliberate.) The end goal: Vast landscapes where literally nothing grows but these three crops in their Xtend and Enlist versions. The GM seed is the vehicle to force full-season deployment of this volatile chemical warfare.
 
Volatility is dicamba’s most insidious and destructive mode of drift. Under common conditions of warmth and humidity liquid dicamba resting on plants and soil is prone to volatilize, turn into a gas, lift off the surfaces and float on the air often many miles from the site of spraying before weather conditions change and cause it to resettle on whatever plants are in the vicinity. The more dicamba is sprayed in a region the more all-pervasive the suffusion becomes. This is called atmospheric loading.
 
Dicamba’s volatility effect is well known. Monsanto and BASF promised that their new dicamba formulations, XtendiMax and Engenia, had solved the problem and would not be volatile. In 2017 when university researchers were able to purchase XtendiMax and Engenia at the store and test it for volatility (Monsanto forbade them pre-market access to XtendiMax, thus proving it was lying about the product) they found that these brand name formulations are nearly as volatile as the earlier cheap formulas. The fact is that all dicamba is volatile. Indeed there’s evidence that dicamba’s volatility is essential to it having any proximate herbicidal effect on weeds in the first place. It’s impossible to use dicamba under warm humid conditions, i.e. the way it’s intended to be used under the Xtend system, and not have it promiscuously volatilize, move off site, and kill any broad leaf crops and plants it resettles upon.
 
This proves that by design all dicamba is highly volatile and nothing can prevent it from moving off site and killing other crops and plants. Co-existence with the Xtend system is impossible. This has been a deliberate campaign. In 2018 all soy farmers have had no choice but to buy Xtend GM seeds or run the great risk of having their crop destroyed by chemical warfare. In the same way much vegetable farming and gardening as well as the existence of many other plants and trees is becoming impossible in the dicamba free-fire zones. This proves that Monsanto’s goal remains the same as it’s always been, the goal it enshrined in what it calls its “Expanded Trait Penetration” program. Monsanto’s goal always is to force farmers to buy as many stacked GM traits as possible. Xtend is the most extreme version yet of this program. Monsanto’s goal is to extort all soybean farmers, under threat of the drift destruction of their crop, into buying the Xtend seeds and the XtendiMax herbicide.
 
In turn, the dicamba offensive is the most potent assault yet seeking to bring all land and ecology under technocratic dominion. It’s an expression of the fanatical monoculture mentality which wants to wipe out all natural plant growth and reduce all cultivation, all plant growth as such, to corporate-controlled industrial monoculture. The ultimate monoculture goal is nothing less than to wipe out all biodiversity except for the pests themselves and replace it with a technocratic blank slate. The cultists and operatives first deny evolution in principle, then seek to wipe it out in practice. The goal is to use violence, technological and where necessary physical, to force their nightmare vision of technocratic “progress” onto natural succession.
 
5. This is a campaign to seize land: Economically (maximum acreage) and through physical assault. The poisoners must drive out non-Xtend/Enlist crops; drive out all food production, thus all fruit and vegetable production, because this kind of farming is closer to being actual food production for human beings; seize the land for consolidation, monoculture, and power. In this way agribusiness works to attain domination over farming. The fewer and bigger the farms, the easier they are to control.
 
They’re also looking ahead to when money will be worthless and land paramount. To forestall competition they’re not only locking up legal control of land through land-grabbing, but through poisons and soil-mining they’re destroying the land for any use but their industrial monoculture. This is a contingent salting of the earth.
 
So-called “off-target” destruction is really the destruction of a different kind of target, indeed a more important target than the weeds themselves, which are privileged plants because they provide the pretext for the whole paramilitary campaign against the real targets. By strict intent we know this is all deliberate and premeditated. (Pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella and botulins also are privileged organisms under this system: Dicamba, 2,4-D and glyphosate are antibiotics which selectively kill beneficial bacteria while sparing pathogens and creating good terrain for their proliferation, as well as helping to drive the evolution of antibiotic resistance among these bacteria. Thus the GMO herbicide campaign takes its place alongside gross antibiotic abuse in factory farming and genetic engineering as part of corporate agriculture’s deliberate campaign to foster resistant pathogens, eradicate antibiotics as a medically effective treatment, and generate lethal pandemics. This too is part of clearing the land of its human inhabitants. To say again, this is war in the most literal sense even if most people can’t yet fathom it.)
 
The entire system of poison-based agriculture is designed to bottle up and destroy the entire ecology replacing it with a technologically controlled monoculture. In this way the biotech/agrochemical cartel joins the finance sector and other core corporate sectors working to bottle up all elements of nature and the real economy, replacing these with the purely fake economy of money, corporate personhood, finance, and patents. The corporate-technocratic accumulation of wealth and power directly corresponds with the technosphere’s physical poisoning and destruction of the Earth. Accumulation naturally indicates an ecological bottleneck. Accumulation equals waste. It is pollution. Those who manipulate such wastes are merely using poison as a weapon. The modern agrochemical onslaught is the latest, worst, most literal use of poison to destroy the Earth in order to hoard power.
 
And this goes with the legal and physical condemnation of the land. The corporate agricultural campaign ultimately is a campaign of land seizure whose goal is to force all human beings off the land and enclose it within a system of a few big corporate-controlled robot-managed plantations. Herbicide tolerant GMOs are a milestone in the corporate enclosure program, designed directly to eliminate all hand-weeding jobs while enabling farmers to manage much greater acreage, thus accelerating farm consolidation and the forced exodus of humans from the land. By rendering impossible all competing forms of soybean farming and many other kinds of farming, the Xtend-dicamba system is designed to escalate this totalitarian process. The systematic refusal of government and private insurers to cover drift damage, a massive consumer fraud, is another example proving that this is economic warfare against all but the biggest farmers. As is the concurrent campaign, even among the same state governments and weed scientists who deplore the dicamba crisis, to force 2,4-D tolerant crops upon agriculture. The clear goal is an agriculture where no crop (or any other plant) not resistant to both dicamba and 2,4-D will be able to exist at all.
 
The industrial monoculture and land enclosure system also is meant to render food production as tenuous as possible by forcing all people into a condition of complete dependency upon money and the corporate system while deliberately rendering food production as vulnerable as possible to drought, erosion, pest ravages, soil degradation, intrinsic crop failure, and ultimately the guaranteed shortages of necessary fossil fuels. The corporate food system already systematically generates hunger. It also is preparing famine.
 
The dicamba GMO system seeks to eradicate actual food production at fruit orchards and vegetable farms and gardens, all of which the corporate-technocratic system views as the real “weeds”. It wants to render anything but dicamba-based commodity soybean production impossible. This is a case study in the real goal of poison agriculture. The will to continue this onslaught on the part of the corporations, the US and state governments, academia and the media proves their Strict Intent to reach an outcome of total destruction.
 
The pesticide model of agriculture is conjoined with the GMO ideology of technologically overriding and obliterating natural evolution. Pesticides are dedicated to the scorched earth monoculture model of agriculture and the ideology which regards the natural world as something to be wiped out. Poisonism is a radical rejection of biodiversity in principle and practice and comprises the will to wipe out all life except that specially selected to be part of the technocratic socio-ecological engineering.
 
The dicamba crisis is the latest and most extreme example yet of how co-existence with GMOs is impossible. It’s obviously impossible for organic farming. It’s impossible for non-GM conventional farming. With Xtend Monsanto has upped the ante, stepping up the assault on organic and non-GM farming and even rendering all previous GM soy varieties untenable. This is the first effective example of what the cartel projects as an indefinitely re-writable blank slate it can force to be continually wiped clean and rewritten, a process of destruction and re-destruction redolent of waging war to destroy in order to generate space profitable to rebuild. This is the essence of disaster capitalism. Monsanto dreams of an agriculture totally subjugated by the most profitable GM varieties, until these too are rendered obsolete and wiped out by even higher-stacked, more expensive, more extreme varieties. The technocratic civilization wants an entire planet brillo-scrubbed this way.
 
This is a modern replay of the legendary Roman salting of the Carthaginian earth. This too is a scorched-earth act of war. The system’s vision is to turn Earth into a desert and call it civilization. This requires the total deployment of the monoculture and Humanfrei imperatives. Regimentation and order, death and destruction, are the desiderata. Anathema is lack of control, wildness, diversity, beauty, freedom, “anarchy”, “chaos”.
 
(The psychotic hatred of trees and drive to murder them, from the institutionalized logging sector to the average suburban parasite, is part of this overall religious psychosis. Dicamba takes its place here as a systematic mass murderer of trees.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

June 16, 2010

The Afghanistan Decay

 

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

April 10, 2010

The Company You Keep

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 27, 2009

Two Incredible Governments

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror, Mainstream Media — Tags: — Russ @ 10:16 am
The history of America’s dismal, self-destructive trudge through Vietnam includes many missed opportunities where the circumstances were ripe for a politically plausible withdrawal.
 
The most obvious was Johnson’s overwhelming victory in the ’64 election running as the peace candidate vs. Barry Goldwater’s warmongering.
 
There were also the many proofs of Diem’s incorrigible corruption, and that of his string of successors, offering ample justification to throw our hands up and say, “We can do nothing without a legitimate national government, but clearly there’s no prospect of that here. Therefore we have to end our involvement.”
 
Similarly, when the history of America’s even more futile and self-destructive Afghan war is written, it will take note of milestones that were missed.
 
Not that this is important to me personally, or to anyone who opposes imperial corporate wars on both principle and pragmatism. Where it comes to the big things, we have principles and a clear view of the possible, and therefore don’t need to seek pretexts.
 
But there seem to be a lot of people, and not all of them obvious right-wingers or corporatists, for whom “credibility” and “peace with honor” and all that self-hypnotizing moonshine are paramount. At least that’s what they claim when they oppose a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan and a general disengagement from and winding down of the Global War On Terror and the imperial footprint (hundreds of bases and “consulates”) in general.
 
So for them I propose that the means are at hand to withdraw with honor. The politics allow it. Indeed, the only thing which can preserve American credibility and honor (“preserve”? maybe more like try to start to restore) is to recognize the futility of the venture and cut our losses.
 
I’m referring of course to the new Diem, the equally irredeemable Hamid Karzai.
 
By now everyone’s familiar with Karzai’s brazen attempt to steal the election. When the embarrassment finally forced the administration and the UN to demand a run-off, they had to beg Karzai to even agree to this. Of course, there’s little chance that the same fraud won’t be replicated, albeit perhaps it won’t be as blatant and grotesque. But Karzai’s flunkey who heads the election commission has already declared, “with a grin”, that “Karzai will win”.
 
Does this sound like a recipe for credibility going forward?
 
Here’s Obama sounding quite credible and honorable:
 

So Karzai had to agree to at least go through the motions of participating in a real election.

And when he did, Obama hailed a man who stands accused of orchestrating a massive effort to thwart democracy as someone whose “constructive actions established an important precedent for Afghanistan’s new democracy.”

Obama’s precise statement went like this: “While this election could have remained unresolved to the detriment of the country, President Karzai’s constructive actions established an important precedent for Afghanistan’s new democracy. The Afghan constitution and laws are strengthened by President Karzai’s decision, which is in the best interests of the Afghan people.”

The “yuck factor” was high.

But it got higher when Obama praised Karzai for helping to foster “such a vibrant campaign.”

It is, of course, true that Obama is not the first American president to have to pretend that a local bad guy who got caught red handed was some kind of statesman.

Still, having to speak well of Karzai is a lot — arguably too much — to ask.

And if Obama has any sense of the region — or of the trouble his Afghanistan initiative is in — he had to be hoping that Karzai and his henchmen would refrain from obvious lawbreaking in the second round.

 
Meanwhile in another typical quote Gary Hart declared that you get one mulligan where it comes to stealing an election, but now Karzai better straighten up and fly right:
 

The international community must make it clear to the incumbent Karzai government that it will be held accountable for the integrity of the runoff voting process. This can be enforced by post-election audits of the sort that disclosed the blatant fraud in the unstable eastern and southern provinces. If the Karzai government tries manipulation again, it will sacrifice the confidence of the international community and suffer the consequences.

 
Supplicating before a crook, genuflecting with a thug…smells like credible spirit to me.
But don’t take my word for it. Mr. “Suck on this” himself, uber-neocon Tom Friedman, recently agreed:

But I keep asking myself: How do we succeed with such a tainted government as our partner?
I know that Jefferson was not on the ballot. But there is a huge difference between “good enough” and dysfunctional and corrupt. Whatever we may think, there are way too many Afghans who think our partner, Karzai and his team, are downright awful.

That is why it is not enough for us to simply dispatch more troops. If we are going to make a renewed commitment in Afghanistan, we have to visibly display to the Afghan people that we expect a different kind of governance from Karzai, or whoever rules, and refuse to proceed without it. It doesn’t have to be Switzerland, but it does have to be good enough — that is, a government Afghans are willing to live under. Without that, more troops will only delay a defeat.

I am not sure Washington fully understands just how much the Taliban-led insurgency is increasingly an insurrection against the behavior of the Karzai government — not against the religion or civilization of its international partners. And too many Afghan people now blame us for installing and maintaining this government…..

We have to be very careful that we are not seen as the enforcers for this system….

This is crazy… I would not add a single soldier there before this guy, if he does win the presidency, takes visible steps to clean up his government in ways that would be respected by the Afghan people.

If Karzai says no, then there is only one answer: “You’re on your own, pal. Have a nice life with the Taliban. We can’t and will not put more American blood and treasure behind a government that behaves like a Mafia family. If you don’t think we will leave — watch this.” (Cue the helicopters.)

So, please, spare me the lectures about how important Afghanistan and Pakistan are today. I get the stakes. But we can’t want a more decent Afghanistan than the country’s own president. If we do, we have no real local partner who will be able to hold the allegiance of the people, and we will not succeed — whether with more troops, more drones or more money.

(Meanwhile McChrystal says, “If every soldier is authorized to make one mistake then we lose the war.”)
 
It’s obvious that this government can never be legitimate and credible even by normal standards. But even if it didn’t win by out-and-out fraud, it has a deeper ethnic problem.
 
The key to Afghan legitimacy is the Pashtuns, who represent 42% of the population. Most of the Taliban come from their ranks, which means that any attempt to entice Taliban factions or rank and file fighters to join a governing coalition will have to come from a government seen as legitimate by the Pashtuns.
 
But while Karzai is the “Pashtun face” of this regime, its real power base derives from the former Northern Alliance, who were predominantly from the 27% Tajik minority. On account of this the Tajiks comprise over 70% of the officer cadres of the army, police, and intelligence service. They are set on maintaining that monopoly.
 
For as long as that condition holds, with Tajik cadres monopolizing the instruments of violence while Pashtuns face such career barriers in the few areas where real jobs might seem to exist, the Pashtuns will see this as an alien, oppressive government.
 
And on top of that you can add how this government is clearly a stooge of the foreign occupier, meant only to faciliate that foreigner’s imperial goals.
 
Imperial puppet, ethnically oppressive, and winning only through election fraud, there’s no way this government can achieve legitimacy with the Afghan people.
 
And without a legitimate national government in place, any American attempt at counterinsurgency is doomed to fail.
 
One guy who knows this very well is General Stanley McChrystal. He’s intimately familiar with the Army’s Counterinsurgency Manual, which says
 

Success in counterinsurgency operations requires establishing a legitimate government supported by the people and able to address the fundamental causes that insurgents use to gain support. Achieving these goals requires the host nation to defeat insurgents or render them irrelevant, uphold the rule of law, and provide a basic level of essential services and security for the populace. Key to all these tasks is developing an effective host-nation security force.

 
Or perhaps he knows this and yet doesn’t know. By his own official premise, the effort is hopeless and we must withdraw.
 
But like with almost every other officer, careerism supersedes known truths. If accepting his own COIN premise would require McC to recommend withdrawal, he’ll instead throw over his premise and call for escalation anyway, perhaps giving some nonsensical disclaimer.
 
What if the people view the government as hopelessly illegitimate, McC?
 

Then we are going to have to avoid looking like we are part of the illegitimacy.

 
Of course, McC already violated his own doctrine on troop levels. According to his manual successful COIN requires 20-25 troops per 1000 populace. By this measure COIN in Afghanistan would require over half a million troops, not somewhat over 100000 as he’s currently claiming will get the job done.
 
Is he just trying to get his foot in the door to ratchet up the demands later, Westmoreland-style? Either way, we cannot trust anything he says, since everything he says contradicts what he wrote before.
 
(So much for the Washington Post’s sycophancy regarding what “General McChrystal believes” he needs. We know this is a fallacious appeal to authority, since McC is clearly not an authority here. Rather, it’s clear he’ll say anything to get what he wants, and that there’s no conceivable context where he wouldn’t want a large escalation, because he’s motivated by careerism and nothing else.)
 
So for anyone who’s worried about this kind of American credibility, here you see how it’s impossible for the American adventure in Afghanistan to ever be credible or successful according to the state of the art counterinsurgency doctrine authored by McChrystal himself.
 
This government cannot be retrieved for legitimacy, and an imperial government which would wage aggressive, exploratory war in “partnership” with such an illegitimate government would be laying bare the illegitimacy of its own policy, and therefore of itself.
 
Is it possible to retrieve the legitimacy of American policy, of this government? It’s clear that America has trashed its credibility with the deranged foreign policy it’s been pursuing. There’s no question of escalation or muddling through* in Afghanistan being the path to maintain the credibility which has already been lost on account of that very path.
 
Rather, it’s a matter of restoring this lost credibility, and the only way to do this is to break the pattern, snap out of the derangement, end the policy, get out of Afghanistan.
 
The political argument is sitting right there: The generals themselves including McC said this can only work given certain preconditions. Those conditions don’t hold. There’s no viable national government. Karzai betrayed us. Therefore our own military doctrine decrees that we should end the war. Our boys shouldn’t be dying for a gang of thieves. We’re getting out.
 
What could be more credible to a public who already wants to get out than that?
 
[*Not long ago the MSM was still framing the “debate” (which of course never included even momentary discussion of getting out completely) as a choice between the McC escalation, counterinsurgency, and nation-building plan, or the Biden notion of shifting to video-game counterterrorism with an emphasis on drones over Pakistan.
 
Regardless of the merits of these (they’re both stupid but at least internally coherent), one thing apparently not on the table was simply splitting the difference, muddling through, sending some troops but less than McC wanted, only sort of modifying their deployment, and in general trying to split the difference between McC and Biden. This would guarantee failure from every point of view.
 
Back then nobody seemed to take this possibility seriously, but I knew my Obama.
 
Sure enough, out of all his dithering we’re hearing that he’s leaning toward no major strategic changes, but simply sending another 10000-20000 troops to continue with business as usual.
 
Muddling through. (Or maybe they’ll guarantee the “credibility” of this next election, the way the previous 20000-troop escalation was supposed to guarantee the last one.)]

September 28, 2009

Which Way in Afghanistan?

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: , , , — Russ @ 4:27 am
In 2001 America had the opportunity and the justification to launch a big raid to capture and destroy Al Queda and, as punishment, knock the Taliban out of power. If the Bush administration had been acting in good faith to avenge 9/11 and apprehend or kill the AQ leadership, this would probably have been accomplished.
 
But Bush was really using 9/11 as a pretext of power, and the real target was Iraq. As always with the Bush crew, where they didn’t really care about what they were doing, they totally botched it. So it was in Afghanistan. (I’ve wondered whether the idea actually was that Osama bin Laden was more useful alive and at large, as a political bogeyman, than dead, and that they let him get away at Tora Bora. It’s possible, but we hardly need such explanations. Bush incompetence and half-assedness always lay at the root of everything he did.)
 
For the next seven years the Bush war was ad hoc, without strategy, without consistent funding or staffing, without sufficient forces. When the Taliban regrouped and reasserted their control of much of the country, Bush and his Pentagon simply lied about it.
 
As a result, Afghanistan is today a quagmire, and the question of the day is whether to extract the mired leg or plunge in with the other. It’s now that the long-feared Vietnam parallels begin to get triggered.
 
Obama is frequently being compared to Lyndon Johnson. The situation looks the same. A proclaimed domestic reformer comes into office saddled immediately with an existing war. Johnson thought his Great Society agenda depended upon a quid pro quo with Congressional hawks, that he give them their war in exchange for their votes. He also thought he was politically vulnerable if he wasn’t a warrior president. (This was rendered nonsensical when he ran in 1964 as the peace candidate; that he still had political fears after that was idiotic.)
 
So it seems nominally with Obama. He says he really wants to reform health care and the financial system, but also has to deal with this inherited war. But that’s really an illusion, since Obama definitely never needed any Republican votes to achieve anything, was never going to get them anyway, and seems to really like the Global War on Terror in principle. So if he ever really believed any of this LBJ parallel stuff, that’s just his personal demon. It’s not reality-based.
 
(I should also mention that LBJ sincerely wanted, ferociously fought for, often against odds, sometimes losing, his Great Society program. Meanwhile all the evidence is that Obama never really wanted finance reform or health care reform. So far he has certainly been unwilling to lift a finger to get either. So as rightfully tarnished as LBJ’s legacy is thanks to his Vietnam derangement, it would still be unjust to regard he and Obama as the same.)
 
If Obama really is having second thoughts about an Afghan escalation, he should remember that he’s had no problem breaking all his other campaign promises. So he shouldn’t worry about this promise, to escalate in Afghanistan. This is the one promise he should break.
 
Obama has compared American war policy to a large ship at sea. It takes time to make a ponderous turn toward a new course. That’s true; government policy has considerable inertia. But:
 
1. The point is nevertheless to turn as quickly as possible.
 
2. With an intrepid mindset, you can do it much faster. For example, although they don’t like to talk about it this way, one of the reasons they can’t withdraw troops more quickly from places like Iraq is because they’re protecting not American interests but the private interests of war profiteers. Another piece of dead weight is existing privateer contracts in these war zones.
 
Well, I think a good way of trimming down this tanker to a sleeker vessel would be to jettison these invalid concerns and illegitimate “interests”. If it’s true that there’s no right to strike against the public interest, it’s equally true that no one in government has a right to sign contracts against the public interest.
 
It’s all academic for the moment; tanker or speedboat, so far Obama is full steam ahead.
 
So where are we chronologically, compared to Vietnam? In one sense Obama is Nixon, taking on an existing war and making it his own. As Nixon and his new commander Creighton Abrahms came in with the “new” strategy of withdrawing troops, Vietnamization, and extending the war beyond Vietnam’s borders into Cambodia and Laos, so Obama has indicated that he cherishes a new emphasis on Pakistan, while his guy McChrystal wants to refocus the military effort in Afghanistan from search-and-destroy to pacification and Vietnamization. Richard Holbrooke, a pacification cadre in Vietnam himself, is gung ho about this program.
 
At the same time, the parallel is also to 1965 and LBJ. Here the newly elected president inherits an ongoing but still relatively small scale war and chooses to greatly escalate the troop levels and the scope of action. Thus Obama has already deployed 21000 more troops toward a total of 68000 by December (plus 75000 contractors, plus the fact that they’ve been rotating out support troops, whose positions are taken by contractors, while they rotate in more “trigger-pullers”; in this way they are escalating the combat troop level without additionally escalating the aggregate troop level), and McC is expected any day now to request anywhere from 10-45000 more, with the expectation being that Obama would end up authorizing the middle case of twenty-something thousand, what they’ve been calling the Goldilocks figure.
 
Or, that was the expectation, until Obama reportedly began to hesitate. In spite of denials, the brass has apparently been putting on the pressure. Last week they leaked McC’s classified report predicting failure without a large troop escalation. JCS Chairman Mike Mullen has been beating the drums for more troops to retrieve a “deteriorating” situation. Mullen, Centcom commander Petraeus, and McC had a powwow in Germany a few days ago. The bloodmongers in the media and Congress (republican and democrat) have been shrieking. It’s hard for me to believe Obama’s going to stand up to this kind of confrontation, even if he did end up changing his mind about the policy. We might end up with Obama himself becoming the McNamara here, in his mind no longer believing, but too weak to say No.
 
We can take this moment to point out another parallel. Just as Westmoreland could never give a coherent explanation of why the Vietnam war should be fought, but took it for granted and kept demanding ever more troops, so these admirals and generals today also offer no cogent rationale for the GWOT or for any of its theaters, beyond parroting neocon boilerplate. We’re of course not talking about something like WWII, where the point of the war was obvious to almost everyone, and it had to be fought to the bitter end regardless because it was total war. One would think that mercenary wars of choice, being fought for no obvious reason, and certainly no existential reason, call for explanations. But instead calling for escalation is simply what officer cadres in a professional military fighting mercenary wars do. It’s ingrained; it’s careerist; it’s inertial.
 
So when we turn to those neocons and their MSM megaphone, what reasons do we hear? Pretty much the same reheated Vietnam leftovers. Just as aggressive global Communism had to be fought everywhere or it would triumph everywhere, so now Islamofascism is the hydra who will keep sprouting heads if you don’t chop off the existing ones. It’s the Domino theory redux. Just as victory in Vietnam would set off a chain reaction sending communism on a triumphal progress through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and so on until we’d have to “fight them in San Francisco”, as LBJ put it in a report to Kennedy while still VP, so if a fundamentalist regime can triumph in Afghanistan, down will go Pakistan, Yemen, and from there the rest of the Mideast and Central Asia, until we ended up fighting them in San Fran and other American cities.
 
Since this already looks dubious, since we already, through American-brokered elections, brought fundamentalist or quasi-fundamentalist regimes to power in Gaza and Iraq, not to mention the pre-existing Iranian regime, it looks like if dominoes are going to fall they’re going to fall anyway. And so far American arms have shocked and awed only in their fecklessness and inability to achieve what American leaders say they want to achieve.
 
So the jingoists have already trotted out the most malicious Vietnam tropes, “credibility” and even “honor”. These are of course moonshine, as Sherman would have called them. Needless to say America’s Vietnam disaster brought to the government only discredit and dishonor, abroad and for many at home.
 
What “credit” could Obama possibly seek today in Afghanistan? Credibility with terrorists? The concept makes no sense. If they are physically able to attack, they will attack. They’re not gauging America’s “moral fiber” the way it might have been done in Cold War brinksmanship. They care nothing for their perception of American resolve.
 
More important, it’s just as true today as it was during Vietnam that the best way to salvage credibility is to recognize when you’ve taken on a misguided project, horrendously expensive in money and blood, which you can never finish in any satisfactory way (where you cannot attain “peace with honor” in the stupid phraseology of 1969, “honor” being some nebulous substitute term for “victory”, but as a concept just as vague, empty, and bombastic), and make the decision that it’s not worth continuing. To keep going at that point is madness.
 
Meanwhile, just as the North Vietnamese were not stooges of the Soviet Union or China, so the Taliban is not controlled by Al Queda (and AQ itself is no longer the tight global network it once was; today terrorism is decentralized and generally far less professional, with “Al Queda” more a name than anything else, its professional cadre having been decimated – the war on terror has succeeded, to the extent it was meant to be just a reality-based war on terror).
 
But there is an incontrovertible stooge here, the mayor of part of Kabul, I mean Afghan President Diem, I mean Karzai. Karzai is an illegitimate kleptocrat presiding over a regime where corruption and impotence vie for supremacy. His latest theft has been any semblance of legitimacy for the election in which Obama vested such hopes (and for whose protection and integrity he dispatched those extra 21000 troops). This client will almost certainly never be any more legitimate, self-supporting, or morally worthy of support than any of the plutocratic and kleptocratic South Vietnamese regimes. If you want to build a nation, and a nation means a government, then there’s no nation to build. You can only temporarily clear, you can’t hold for long, and you certainly can’t build.
 
(Some are already playing the “blame Diem” card. If we could only get a good guy in there…It’s not that the very concept of “South Vietnam” is flawed. No – we just have some bad personnel.)
 
There’s other echoes. The frequent, reiterated fact-finding tours and “assessments” (redolent of the Peter Principle), as if you think asking the same question of the same facts over and over will eventually return a better answer. The gradually growing resistance in Congress (today we have Jim McGovern in the House and Feingold in the Senate taking the lead in calling for a timeline for withdrawal). The increasingly frequent atrocities.
 
There are some real contrasts. The most obvious and important is that today there’s no draft, nor is it politically conceivable that there could be a draft. This places a cap on how far the troop escalation can go (Mullen has been complaining about how overstretched the army already is, and yet he still wants to escalate in Afghanistan).
 
On the other hand, we’re no longer on the gold standard. This placed a cap on how far LBJ could economically escalate, as following Tet in 1968 a delegation of Europeans lectured him on how he needed to rein in the cost of the war, or else they’d have to think about demanding gold for their dollar holdings. It was probably that more than anything which signalled “peak war” to LBJ. He psychologically gave up after that.
 
Obama in theory faces no such limits. His administration has already shown a willingness to borrow obscene amounts to throw down a rathole – the bailouts. So presumably cost and debt would be no object for something equally stupid and useless like this war (only worthwhile things that could actually help people, like health care reform or a carbon cap, are to be subject to cost controls).
 
And perhaps the gathering depression will throw enough people out of work, render the masses desperate enough, that they wouldn’t need a draft to build a mass army. If the reserve army of capitalism gets big enough, and permanent war is the only job opportunity left…
 
But it won’t be possible to print that much cash without triggering hyperinflation. Gold standard or not, there’s a limit to how much borrowing you can do. Eventually they’ll have crammed so much cash down the world’s throat that it’ll have to be vomited back out, and that’ll be the end of the dollar. It’s difficult to see how they could keep waging high-input, high-tech, high-maintenance imperial war after that.
 
And then there’s Peak Oil…..
 
Also, “victory” in Vietnam, although unachievable, could at least be defined: the continued existence of the South Vietnamese regime, under its own strength, for a long enough time after American withdrawal that America’s honor and credibility could remain plausible.
 
But what constitutes victory in the Afghan theater, let alone the Global War on Terror? They have no idea. “We’ll know it when we see it” is the glib response of administration war hawk Holbrooke. This reply, a combination of know-nothing arrogance and desperation, can be taken as exemplary of the administration’s entire mindset.
 
So now Obama gets to be the decider. Almost no one, including Obama, questions the GWOT or its Afghan theater in principle. In spite of the efforts of McGovern and Feingold, it’s highly unlikely Congress would resist any level of escalation in the foreseeable future. (Although if the health care Progressive Block could hold together, that might embolden them to make another stand. As for the Republicans, don’t be surprised if they cheerfully vote against war measures. As extraordinarily hypocritical as that would be even for them, we know they care nothing for anything but money and political advantage. I imagine they’d be confident they could “vote against the troops” and then go back home and successfully blame it on the Democrats. Their voters would fall for it.) The military, the rightist thugs, and the corporate media are pressing him.
 
This doesn’t look like a situation where Obama fails to take the path of least resistance. But we’ll see.

September 25, 2009

Afghanistan and the Corporate Abyss

Filed under: Afghanistan, Corporatism, Global War On Terror, Globalization — Tags: , , — Russ @ 1:08 pm
As we wait to learn what will be General McChrystal’s troop request (today or in the next few days), and as the neocons across the political spectrum from moderate right to hard right (that’s almost all of it) have been revving up the propaganda machine for war, war, WAR!, we’ve been hearing, wonder of wonders, that Obama may actually be having second thoughts here.
 
Obama’s warmongering on the campaign trail was one of his few cases of truth in advertising, as he embraced the Afghanistan-as-Good-War theme and vowed to play the tough guy there, even as he withdrew from Iraq.
 
Well, it turns out we’re perhaps not going to be withdrawing all that much from Iraq after all, and on every other front Obama has been delighting corporate feudalists everywhere, but at least where it comes to escalating in Afghanistan he’s been as good as his word. Early on he replaced the previous theater commander with McC and approved an escalation of 21000 troops. (This was supposed to ensure an orderly, credible election.) With these two actions he took full personal ownership of the war.
 
For good measure, in an August speech he endorsed all foregoing neocon ideology and “morality”, declaring Afghanistan, and by extension the Global War on Terror, a “war of necessity”.
 
But now Obama contemplates his handiwork. He sees what a heckuva job we did with the election, what a great friend we have in Karzai (and, perhaps, he looks at the stiffening political resistance he’s facing from all the people he betrayed at home, who he assumed he could strong-arm and kiss off). Now he faces the demand for tens of thousands more troops to continue with an already dubious adventure rendered even more doubtful by the “election”. He sees how his only friends in arms are the Republicans and the neocon establishment, while the people increasingly reject the war.
 
Is it possible that he might look into the abyss, see the abyss staring back into him, and decide he doesn’t want to become such a monster himself? (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil section 146) And could the transformation of a knee-jerk warmonger into a sober statesman presage a more aggressively human policy on the domestic front, where contrary to the international front, war, on the banks, on the insurance racket, on the agricultural racket, and on all the other rackets, is exactly what we do need?
 
Maybe it’s too much to hope for such a revolution. (I was indulging some spacious thoughts.)
 
But according to the reports Obama is for the moment second-guessing the expansion of the war, at least in terms of sending more troops. Thus he’s coming under thuggish pressure from the militarists, for example in the leaking of McC’s policy report.
 
But such a second-guessing brings up more fundamental questions. Economically America has become a permanent war society. This is true not only regarding direct Pentagon budgets, but extends further and further into what is nominally the civilian economy as well. This is even increasingly true psychologically.
 
The economy is based on exponential growth, and must collapse completely without such growth. This growth in turn depends on a permanently increasing oil supply, and the ever-repeated feudal accumulation of plunder, as economic fuel which can then be fed into global finance capitalism.
 
Neither of these are any longer attainable other than through permanent imperial war. To end the Global War on Terror (GWOT), or even significantly hinder its expansion, is tantamount to packing up the whole growth machine. To wince at expanding the Afghanistan theater would make it hard to keep the war momentum going. (There’s some speculation that Obama instead wants war with Iran, and that’s why he’s hesitating on Afghanistan, but speculation is all that is so far.)
 
The corporate war establishment understands this, as we can see in its ecumenical rhetoric, ideology, and personnel. Robert Gates in particular seems the epitome of the pure permanent warrior, as much at home as Defense Secretary in the Obama administration as he was for Bush. He has effortlessly carried over his rhetoric and policy of permanently looking “beyond the horizon” to “the next war”; “our wars”, whichever we fight at the moment, always simply the stepping stones to the next war, always and forever. America’s military must be organized, its foreign policy tailored, its economy geared, its populace primed, for an endless string of wars of choice to “seize the global commons”, including in “space and cyberspace”.
 
This overt goal of military world domination dovetails with globalization. In both cases the “global commons”, all public resources, all public property, everywhere, is the corporate target. The GWOT is the military (neoconservative) manifestation of the parallel neoliberal economic onslaught. Just as the financial policy everywhere has been bailouts, “quantitative easing”, and where necessary fiscal stimulus, anything to artificially shock the global economic machine into continued life, so the physical crisis policy has been troop deployments and war. These together, bailouts and war, constitute the imperial momentum. Both have been institutionalized as permanent. The slacking of either threatens to bring on the collapse of Western “civilization”.
 
This is the prospect Obama faces. By the corporatist logic of his administration, and indeed by the capitalist logic of his whole upbringing (brainwashing), he must push on with the bailouts and the GWOT. As must any corporatist president.
 
But his domestic political outlook is getting more rotten by the day. More and more he must turn to the Republicans if he wants aid and comfort. (But he won’t find any there. I bet the Reps will happily vote against appropriations, authorizations, whatever, that is fail to “support the troops” by their own standard, and still be able to explain to the hillbillies how that’s really Obama’s fault.) During the campaign McCain was slammed for speaking of how he envisioned a hundred years’ war in Iraq. Turns out he was simply too honest for the campaign, that’s all. Now we have Obama officer Richard Holbrooke (a pacification cadre in Vietnam, perhaps still trying to redeem the crimes of his youth) chirping about victory, “we’ll know it when we see it”.
 
Even LBJ and Nixon knew what victory in Vietnam was supposed to look like (a lasting South Vietnam; America leaving with “honor” and “credibility” intact), however unattainable this vision was.
 
But here we have the Obama administration admitting it can’t even visualize “victory” in the GWOT. That’s because by definition permanent war can never realize victory, and a permanent war society, like ancient Sparta, can never know peace. These concepts are simply ruled out of existence, and ruled out of the language as well.
 
It’s a hideous, anti-American prospect. It’s a betrayal of everything America was founded to be, everything it was ever supposed to stand for.
 
Is Obama having second thoughts about being such a traitor? Does he really want to surrender America completely to the banks, and through them to the military-industrial and security-industrial complexes? So far his actions have come through loud and clear. He’s governed as this corporatist. If he intends to continue along this path, he has to go all the way with it. If he backpedals on Afghanistan, none of the rest of it makes any sense, and none of the rest of it will stand for even the short time that the doomed attempt at permanent war could help prop it up.
 
Or, he could take the radical step of relinquishing and reversing the corporate war on all its fronts. Such may be the last chance America has at rediscovering, cleansing, and redeeming itself.
 
Like I said, this is just a meditation on “what could be”, if Obama really is, for the first time, questioning one of the fundamental props of the nightmare. I’m not saying I think that’s what’s likely to happen, or that those reports themselves aren’t overblown.
 
And of course, as we speak, he still seeks a reactionary health anti-reform bill. And the bank front keeps caving in (the last few days: caving on “vanilla” requirements; caving on consumer protections vis non-bank entities; bizarre FDIC shenanigans like with the Franklin Bank). Things look extremely bad.
 
Which always just renders it all the more painful and repulsive, when we see how easily everything could be turned around….

April 11, 2009

Folly Marches On

Filed under: Global War On Terror, Peak Oil, Relocalization — Tags: , , — Russ @ 8:49 am

 

Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly is one of my favorite history books. Her thesis is that folly, defined as a systematic policy which works against one’s own interest, has played a significant role in history.
 
The iconic ur-instance from mythology is the Trojan Horse. Clearly, taking the Horse inside the walls of Troy was against the interests of the Trojans. This incident also exemplifies the three criteria Tuchman requires for something to qualify as historical folly:
 
1. The policy has to be the policy of a broad spectrum of decision-makers, not just the capricious dictate of an autocrat. In this case the near-hysterical will to bring in the Horse was almost unanimous.
 
2. At the same time, there has to have been a vocal, articulate dissent from the policy, identifying it as folly at that time (it can’t have been recognized as folly only in hindsight). Among the Trojans, both Laocoon and Cassandra warned that it was a trick, but were disregarded.
 
3. There has to have been a viable alternative. Here the alternative was obvious: don’t bring the Horse in! Or at least open it up first. Indeed at one point Cassandra grabs a hammer or something and runs toward it meaning to break it open, only to be restrained.
 
I think Tuchman’s treatment of this theme offers a perspective on our current predicament, and the policies our “leaders” have embarked upon.
 
First let’s look at how she treats the sequence of events nearest our own time, and most redolent of it: the Vietnam war. It’s clear that the escalation of the war in Vietnam was against America’s “interest”. The premises upon which the war was fought were both false and pernicious. The domino theory and the specter of a monolithic world communist conspiracy of aggression were both quickly disproven by events. The notion that “signaling” was an effective war-fighting tactic also quickly came to grief, while the notion that the calculus of attrition, counting body bags, favored America was always idiotic on its face even before events disproved it. 
 
So the alleged interests at stake were fictive, while the operational concept could not work. And what did America lose? Domestically, it lost any sense of national faith, in government, “country”, that America is a “good” place (what has passed for such faith since then has just been loutish pseudo-patriotism, the worst kind of flat earth flag-waving, and cynical manipulation of it by rich right wing elites). Internationally it lost face, it lost the perception that America was a prudent, reasonable player, it lost the sense of military awe, it lost the “credibility” which by the 70s was the only rump objective left for the war.
 
And the entire Vietnam involvement had been undertaken in the first place for the sake of colonialism and probably racism, and was therefore a direct betrayal of America’s alleged founding principles. 
 
Fulfilling Tuchman’s criteria, these events spanned a broad elite: two administrations (actually going back way beyond that, but I’ll just stick with Johnson’s escalation) and the congressional delegations of both parties; the foreign policy, press, and business elites; at first a significant majority of public opinion.
But the policy also quickly faced growing dissent. First the anti-war movement, then gradually congressmen, press luminaries, and eventually top insiders, and then Democratic primary challengers, turned against the war, all during the Johnson administration.
 
The alternative should have been clear from the start: Do not bolster French colonialism, do not blithely believe in the worst fantasies of Neanderthal Cold Warriors, do not seek to impose a foreign system by force on an unwilling people, and especially don’t continue to try to do all this when all the evidence contradicts both your premises and your practices.
 
Beyond these basics of folly, Tuchman identifies four areas of foolish action:
 
1. overreacting (the belief that “losing” Vietnam would directly lead to a red invasion of the California coast, in one of the more dire scenarios);
 
2. delusions of omnipotence (seeming to contradict paranoid overreaction, yet in practice easily coexisting with it, this was the notion that America could easily impose its will on a silly little non-white peasant country);
 
3. “wooden-headedness”, or going with ideology and prejudice over evidence-based reasoning (thus the interminable fetishizing of discredited concepts like the domino theory, signaling, attrition, Vietnamization, “credibility”; also Johnson’s delusion that domestic politics required him to be tough in Vietnam even after the 1964 election, which had been the entire political rationale going back to Kennedy at least as far as spring 1963 – even after Johnson had ended up running as the peace candidate, which completely invalidated the political rationale even prior to the election);
 
4. “working the levers” – mechanical activity rather than creative thought (thus once the Vietnam policy, as alleged domestic political necessity, as alleged foreign policy necessity, as well as the actual tactics used, was set in motion, its inertia became inviolable, and no amount of contrary evidence could cause any fundamental rethinking of the assumptions and dogmas).
 
So where today do we see parallel examples of historical folly? On the broadest level, that man believed he could forever expand this “growth” civilization of exponential debt and ever higher impacts, all the while depleting non-renewable resources and destroying the environment, has to be history’s greatest folly ever.
 
For now I’d like to analyze as historical folly two specific policy manifestations which have followed from the overarching insanity: the Bailout War and the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Let’s consider each from the point of view of folly.
 
The basic truth today is clear: civilization based on cheap, plentiful fossil fuels and exponential debt is finished. At most TPTB may be able to waste whatever wealth and what little time we have left to zombify it for awhile, prop it up and ambulate it, have it stagger around and wreak more destruction in its death throes. For anyone who is not either terminally psychologically committed to this ideology or seeking to profit from disaster, our interest is clear: we must to a large extent relocalize food production, energy, transportation, health care, education, government, and culture. Therefore we should dedicate most of our resources to activity and policy which heads in this direction, little to that which does not, and nothing to that which heads in the wrong direction. Yet the American administration has chosen with precision to try to throw away all resources and time chasing what’s a pipe dream at best.
 
Peak Oilers, relocalizers, and in varying ways many among the food, energy, environmental, and labor activist communities are the voices protesting this self-destructive insanity and identifying this alternative.
 
Yet the administration insists on squandering trillions of dollars waging an imperialist war and maintaining a far-flung imperialist presence America cannot afford, to try to somehow keep the oil magically flowing, while at the same time it throws away more trillions, by now tens of trillions, trying to prop up the zombie banks which are to somehow magically blow up more bubbles to keep the exponential debt magically flowing.
 
Even in the details the parallels are there. We have overreaction: “the banks are Too Big To Fail”. This is an ideological construct first of all: TBTF from an ideological point of view. And even from that point of view, it’s still an assumption, not a fact, and therefore perhaps not worth blowing over $10 trillion.
“Terrorism is an existential threat to America”. This, like the Vietnam attrition imbecility, is patent crap. The only way terrorists could be anything more than a nuisance would be if they got hold of some superbug. The threat of this is far greater coming out of a corporate lab, yet you don’t see the terror warriors all that worried about the likes of Monsanto, do you?
 
(There is one exception to this. Terrorism poses an existential threat to American liberty, as homegrown totalitarians and panicky moderates collaborate to strip away all civil liberties and barriers to tyranny. Of course the real threat to Americans has always come from within, not without. Here we see the real “threat”, and the real way terrorists have won: they’ve provided an assist to our domestic terrorists.)
 
We have delusions of omnipotence: American debt and growth are infinite. This is god-given. So obviously any economic disaster is purely accidental and temporary. Certainly we can, must, and will restore the banks. They’ll be bigger and better than ever. They’ll fire up the infinite growth machine again, and we’ll party harder than ever. Oh yeah, I almost forgot – we’ll never run low on oil. And if we do, god will provide.  “Technology will save us”.
Similarly we have the classical imperial overreach delusion: America’s infinite military might can maintain a far-flung empire, hundreds of bases, as many theater wars as we want, keep the sea lanes open to infinite trade, and we can accomplish our will, any will, anywhere we want, anytime we want. Oh yeah, we can sure afford it all. We’ll just print money. (The “dollar” is another delusion altogether, though of course entangled with these.)
Never mind that the evidence contradicts all of this. Never mind that America can’t even keep a handful of ragtag pirates from grabbing one of its ships. The “higher truth” is that America is omnipotent.
 
These delusions stem from American wooden-headedness. The bailouts and the terror war provide lots of such notions. American debt is infinite and sustainable. Same for “growth”. There’s no such thing as Peak Oil or resource limitations, or the climate crisis. Private concentrated mega-banks must forever be the core structures of our civilization. (In official circles, no post-TBTF can even be envisioned.)
9/11 was unprovoked. They hate our “freedom”. They’re jealous of our “prosperity”. All people want to replace their society with an American-style Sodom. In Iraq they’ll greet us with flowers. Torture is useful and moral, while habeas corpus is useless and immoral. And today we can have paradise forever if we just seal the Pakistan border.
Never mind that many have tried this and all failed. You keep forgetting, this is the omnipotent America.
 
Wooden-headedness also shows in Obama’s politics. Just as Johnson hypnotized himself into believing he needed a war platform to compete in 1964, and continued in this delusion even as he ran as the peace candidate vs. the (allegedly worse) warmonger Goldwater, and even after he won in a landslide, at which point he definitely should have felt politically free, so Obama has come into office laboring under a welter of dubious political propositions which seem completely self-imposed. That appeasement and phony “bipartisanship” are politically necessary; that the bank bailouts are politically necessary; that the GWOT is politically necessary; that the people won’t stand for nationalization of the banks. (Yet a new poll shows, if nothing else, that the people aren’t so hostile to the dread word “socialism”. I’ve long argued, on this blog and elsewhere, that even leaving aside the practical and moral superiority of nationalization as a policy, it can also play better politically than bailouts, which the people have intuitively understood right from the start as looting.)
 
Obama’s appeasement politics become all the more baffling when you consider how he ran as the Change candidate and came into office with a tremendous mandate to effect real change. (For purposes of this post I’m giving Obama the benefit of the doubt and assuming he’s sincerely trying to do the best thing for the people. But as I’ve indicated in other posts, the evidence for this is not looking so good. If he is a dedicated corporatist himself, then he is in fact acting in the interest of his masters, and the folly thesis would be invalid. My point is, by now we are certainly dealing with either betrayal or folly. At any rate, beyond the administration itself there is a large policy constituency for the bailouts, most of whom probably are thinking in deluded good faith. So America as a whole would still be plunged in folly.)
 
Finally, we have working the levers, thoughtless mechanical activity. The government’s monetary and fiscal policies have been ad hoc, following the same textbooks and adhering to the same old politics that got us into this mess. The stimulus was just cobbled together with little guiding thought, again all the same political logrolling, backscratching, and pork. If you rule out intentional plunder then neither the bailouts nor the bailout mission creep (life insurers seem to be on deck) make much sense. Nothing has any underlying principle except propping up the status quo, and this “principle” itself is simply flat earth dogma, mechanically believed in.
Things are similar with the GWOT. The imperialist program is unquestioned in principle. (Though they now say they want to rename it. Yippie, it’s “change”! – why don’t they hold a contest?) What the point of it is, no one knows. What is the objective in Afghanistan? They’ve belatedly said it’s to go after al Qaeda. And why is that so important by now? No one can say. It’s just religious dogma by now, and all that’s left is to work the levers and try to carry out the policy, no matter how much effort and wealth is thrown down the rathole.
By now the GWOT is simply taken for granted, and if it were physically and economically possible we perhaps would see a new Hundred Years’ War as McCain offered.
 
I imagine both the bailouts just like the GWOT will simply be enshrined as a permanent feature of the American existence, for as long as they can be sustained.
 
All this can accomplish is to further wage class war from above while destroying our last chance for a constructive devolution toward a more beautiful, rational, human world.
 
So we have the insane policies counter to national and indeed human interest. We have a clear, practicable alternative. We have dissent pointing the way toward that alternative.
 
Now, since there’s little to no hope of seeing any sanity or reason from the top down anytime soon, all we can do is try to organize from the bottom up, do what we can for our own families and communities, and try to create a larger public space for the truth and ideas and action stemming from it.