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imperialladderkicking  I’m almost done with Sorrows of Empire so I will stop deluging the blog with quotes, but I cannot forgo Johnson’s explanation of the mutating monster that Neo-liberalism is.  I’d like to reproduce the entire chapter because it is that good, but instead we’ll look at how insidious neo-liberalism is when it comes to being critiqued by the intelligentsia residing in centres of Western power.

   “It is critically important to understand that the doctrine of globalism is a kind of intellectual sedative that lulls and distracts its Third World victims while rich countries cripple them, ensuring that they will never be able to challenge the imperial powers.  It is also designed to persuade the new imperialists that “underdeveloped” countries bring poverty on themselves thanks to “crony capitalism”, corruption, and a failure to take advantage of the splendid opportunities being offered.  The claim that free markets lead to prosperity for anyone other than the transnational corporations that lobbied for them and have the clout and resources to manipulate them is simply not borne out by the historical record.  As even the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, a former director of research at the World Bank, has come to acknowledge, “It is now a commonplace that the international trade agreements about which the United States spoke so proudly only a few years ago were grossly unfair to countries in the Third World… The problem [with globalists is] … their fundamentalist market ideology, a faith in free, unfettered markets that is supported by neither modern theory not historical experience.

[…]

   There is no known case in which globalization has led to prosperity in any Third World country, and none of the world’s twenty-four reasonably developed capitalist nations, regardless of their ideological explanations, got where they are by following any of the prescriptions contained in globalization doctrine.  What globalization has produced, in the words of de Rivero, is not NICs (newly industrialized countries) but about 130 NNEs (nonviable national economies) or, even worse, UCEs (ungovernable chaotic entities).  There is occasional evidence that this result is precisely what the authors of globalization intended.

   In 1841, the prominent German political economist Friedrich List (who had immigrated to America) wrote in his masterpiece, The National System of Political Economy, “It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of combing up after him.”  Much of modern Anglo-American economics and all of the theory of globalization are attempts to disguise this kicking away of the ladder. 

 

-Chalmers Johnson, Sorrows of Empire. p.262.

So really, colonialism by any other name…  I’m so glad we’ve progressed so far.

We have truly breached new moral ground, made the world a safer place (for oligarchic capitalism), and ensured the continued well being of right class of people.

 

For more on ‘ladder kicking’ see Cambridge’s Ha-Joon Chang and his post on this very topic.

 

 

Great mysteries of empire are always shrouded in mystery.  One idea that I have lifted from terrible military fiction is the concept of the 6P’s.

They are:

Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

Can you guess which imperialistic nation didn’t do their homework?

“Sky said the United States led the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to oust a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and to help establish a democratic beachhead in the Middle East. But after the invasion, it was the military that was left with the job of trying to keep the country together.

“They had been told to go in and take care of Saddam and that was it. They were completely unaware of the situation there. They had to make the best of the situation they found themselves in.”

According to Sky, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush believed that democracy would take hold on its own; they had no roadmap for how to make that happen.”

Yah.  You would think after a grand statue toppling the rest of the piece of the ‘nation-building’ exercise would just fall into place.  What could go wrong?

“These plans drawn up in Washington were all wishful thinking,” she said.

At one point, Sky recounts in the book, Donald Rumsfeld showed up for a military briefing in northern Iraq, and didn’t know where neighbouring Iran was on the map.”

Yep, the US had the smartest guys in the room in on this one.  Predictably, they royally screwed the country up, destroying vital civilian infrastructure, murdering a bunch of civilians and of course setting the state for the next terrorist flavour of the month, ISIL.   You’d think there would be some questions of accountability being asked as to who laid the foundation of this megalith of stupidity.

“No one has ever been held accountable for the decisions, for the false intelligence that led them to invade Iraq,” she says. “They should be. The people at the top should be held accountable for what went wrong.”

Sky was blunt in her assessment to General Odierno, telling him that America’s blundering in Iraq was the, “worst strategic failure since the foundation of the United States.”

iraqcartoon   I’m guessing that if you arbitrarily declare victory at some point during the shit-show it somehow allows the drivers of the clown-car to be exculpated for all their sins.  Of course having the biggest war machine on earth allows you to do pretty much as you please – Nuremberg and Geneva Conventions be damned.

But let’s not focus too much on the big picture yet, more cock-ups are yet to happen:

“But the biggest missed opportunity happened following the first national elections in 2010, when the sitting Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, failed to gain a majority.

“Iraqis had become convinced that politics, not violence, was the way forward.” she says. “All the various groups came out to vote, and the bloc that won ran on a platform of ‘no to sectarianism.’

“Sky believes this presented an opportunity to oust Nouri al-Maliki, a man who was consolidating his own power base, in favour of a true – or at least fledgling – democracy.

“But it was a close result. Maliki refused to accept the results,” she said. 

The U.S. decided that backing al-Maliki, even with his faults, was the best chance for stability. This wasn’t something the military supported.

“The ambassador at the time, Chris Hill, had no experience of Iraq and didn’t really want to be there.”

Sky writes that Hill spent most of his time trying to make the embassy in Baghdad “normal.” He even brought in rolls of sod to make a lawn where he could practise lacrosse.

“General Odierno was adamant that the U.S. should protect the political process, allow the winning group 30 days to form the government. Hill didn’t have the same feel for Iraq and he said ‘Maliki is our man, the strong man the country needs.’ In the end Biden went with the ambassador’s recommendation.”

Sky believes it was a huge mistake.

“Maliki’s politics were poisonous,” she said.”

Well he looked like Saddam Hussein 2.0 ( the one we liked and actively supported, economically and militarily)and that was a good thing!  Oh wait…

“Sky was disheartened as she watched the Iraqi people lose confidence in the country’s leaders, especially groups such as Sunni Muslims, who felt there was no place for them and no chance to be part of the government.

“If you were Sunni, you made the unfortunate decision that supporting ISIS was a better option than supporting the central government in Baghdad,” she says.

Current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been trying to reform the government. This week he cut the cabinet in an attempt to oust some of the old guard, and dropped quotas for government positions that were based on ethnicity.

Sky is cautiously hopeful that the new government may help turn things around, but says it will not be easy.”

Well and that brings us up to today – Can we get a ‘Mission Accomplished’ ?!  Anyone?  Anyone?? 

 

Is this thing even on?

[Source: cbc.ca]

 

 

A brief note.  I think that this essay should be required reading for all those who consider joining the armed forces and participating in the cycle of terrorism and destruction that currently dominates our foreign policy and geo-political goals here in the West.   Many thanks to Tom’s Dispatch for hosting the essay.

“Why The War on Terror Shouldn’t Be Your Battle.”

[…]

Let’s start that unpacking process with racism: That was the first and one of the last times I heard the word “enemy” in battalion. The usual word in my unit was “Hajji.”  Now, Hajji is a word of honor among Muslims, referring to someone who has successfully completed a pilgrimage to the Holy Site of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In the U.S. military, however, it was a slur that implied something so much bigger.

The soldiers in my unit just assumed that the mission of the small band of people who took down the Twin Towers and put a hole in the Pentagon could be applied to any religious person among the more than 1.6 billion Muslims on this planet.  The platoon sergeant would soon help usher me into group-blame mode with that “enemy.”  I was to be taught instrumental aggression. The pain caused by 9/11 was to be tied to the everyday group dynamics of our unit. This is how they would get me to fight effectively. I was about to be cut off from my previous life and psychological manipulation of a radical sort would be involved.  This is something you should prepare yourself for.

When you start hearing the same type of language from your chain-of-command in its attempt to dehumanize the people you are off to fight, remember that 93% of all Muslims condemned the attacks on 9/11.  And those who sympathized claimed they feared a U.S. occupation and cited political not religious reasons for their support.

But, to be blunt, as George W. Bush said early on (and then never repeated), the war on terror was indeed imagined in the highest of places as a “crusade.” When I was in the Rangers, that was a given.  The formula was simple enough: al-Qaeda and the Taliban represented all of Islam, which was our enemy. Now, in that group-blame game, ISIS, with its mini-terror state in Iraq and Syria, has taken over the role. Be clear again that nearly all Muslims reject its tactics. Even Sunnis in the region where ISIS is operating are increasingly rejecting the group. And it is those Sunnis who may indeed take down ISIS when the time is right.

“If you want to be true to yourself, don’t be swept up in the racism of the moment. Your job should be to end war, not perpetuate it. Never forget that.

The second stop in that unpacking process should be poverty: After a few months, I was finally shipped off to Afghanistan.  We landed in the middle of the night.  As the doors on our C-5 opened, the smell of dust, clay, and old fruit rolled into the belly of that transport plane. I was expecting the bullets to start whizzing by me as I left it, but we were at Bagram Air Base, a largely secure place in 2002.

Jump ahead two weeks and a three-hour helicopter ride and we were at our forward operating base. The morning after we arrived I noticed an Afghan woman pounding at the hard yellow dirt with a shovel, trying to dig up a gaunt little shrub just outside the stone walls of the base. Through the eye-slit of her burqa I could just catch a hint of her aged face. My unit took off from that base, marching along a road, hoping (I suspect) to stir up a little trouble. We were presenting ourselves as bait, but there were no bites.

When we returned a few hours later, that woman was still digging and gathering firewood, undoubtedly to cook her family’s dinner that night. We had our grenade launchers, our M242 machine guns that fired 200 rounds a minute, our night-vision goggles, and plenty of food — all vacuum-sealed and all of it tasting the same.  We were so much better equipped to deal with the mountains of Afghanistan than that woman — or so it seemed to us then.  But it was, of course, her country, not ours, and its poverty, like that of so many places you may find yourself in, will, I assure you, be unlike anything you have ever seen. You will be part of the most technologically advanced military on Earth and you will be greeted by the poorest of the poor. Your weaponry in such an impoverished society will feel obscene on many levels. Personally, I felt like a bully much of my time in Afghanistan.

Now, it’s the moment to unpack “the enemy”: Most of my time in Afghanistan was quiet and calm.  Yes, rockets occasionally landed in our bases, but most of the Taliban had surrendered by the time I entered the country. I didn’t know it then, but as Anand Gopal has reported in his groundbreaking book, No Good Men Among the Living, our war on terror warriors weren’t satisfied with reports of the unconditional surrender of the Taliban.  So units like mine were sent out looking for “the enemy.”  Our job was to draw the Taliban — or anyone really — back into the fight.

Believe me, it was ugly. We were often enough targeting innocent people based on bad intelligence and in some cases even seizing Afghans who had actually pledged allegiance to the U.S. mission. For many former Taliban members, it became an obvious choice: fight or starve, take up arms again or be randomly seized and possibly killed anyway.  Eventually the Taliban did regroup and today they are resurgent.  I know now that if our country’s leadership had truly had peace on its mind, it could have all been over in Afghanistan in early 2002.

If you are shipped off to Iraq for our latest war there, remember that the Sunni population you will be targeting is reacting to a U.S.-backed Shia regime in Baghdad that’s done them dirty for years. ISIS exists to a significant degree because the largely secular members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party were labeled the enemy as they tried to surrender after the U.S. invasion of 2003. Many of them had the urge to be reincorporated into a functioning society, but no such luck; and then, of course, the key official the Bush administration sent to Baghdad simply disbanded Saddam Hussein’s army and tossed its 400,000 troops out onto the streets at a time of mass unemployment.

It was a remarkable formula for creating resistance in another country where surrender wasn’t good enough. The Americans of that moment wanted to control Iraq (and its oil reserves).  To this end, in 2006, they backed the Shia autocrat Nouri al-Maliki for prime minister in a situation where Shia militias were increasingly intent on ethnically cleansing the Sunni population of the Iraqi capital.

Given the reign of terror that followed, it’s hardly surprising to find former Baathist army officers in key positions in ISIS and the Sunnis choosing that grim outfit as the lesser of the two evils in its world.  Again, the enemy you are being shipped off to fight is, at least in part, a product of your chain-of-command’s meddling in a sovereign country. And remember that, whatever its grim acts, this enemy presents no existential threat to American security, at least so says Vice President Joe Biden. Let that sink in for a while and then ask yourself whether you really can take your marching orders seriously.

Next, in that unpacking process, consider noncombatants: When unidentified Afghans would shoot at our tents with old Russian rocket launchers, we would guesstimate where the rockets had come from and then call in air strikes. You’re talking 500-pound bombs. And so civilians would die. Believe me, that’s really what’s at the heart of our ongoing war.  Any American like you heading into a war zone in any of these years was likely to witness what we call “collateral damage.” That’s dead civilians.

The number of non-combatants killed since 9/11 across the Greater Middle East in our ongoing war has been breathtaking and horrifying. Be prepared, when you fight, to take out more civilians than actual gun-toting or bomb-wielding “militants.” At the least, an estimated 174,000 civilians died violent deaths as a result of U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan between 2001 and April 2014. In Iraq, over 70% of those who died are estimated to have been civilians. So get ready to contend with needless deaths and think about all those who have lost friends and family members in these wars, and themselves are now scarred for life. A lot of people who once would never have thought about fighting any type of war or attacking Americans now entertain the idea. In other words, you will be perpetuating war, handing it off to the future.”

ISISwomenOur imperial conquests in the Middle East are, of course, busily blowing up in our face.  The new normal is a murderous state of higgledy-piggledy brought on by us wiping out the quasi-stable societies that had kept the peace (of sorts).  Because nothing says we love peace like bombing the shit of a country we now have religious extremists attempting to establish a new Caliphate in the ruins of our bastion of democratic freedom imperial conquest.

So anyhow, once you cripple the umbrella of supports (infrastructure and otherwise) that keep a civil secular society running it comes as no surprise that the radically religious and their magically-shitacular beliefs will step up and fill the gap left, cue ISIS.

Now, back here in secular society the moderate religious factions (read: kept in check by secular society) are distancing themselves from the ISIS’s murdery-behead-a-thon, clear evidence of what happens when you let the radical religious run society.

However, the moderates ensconced in secular society are unsatisfied with their usual level of bollocks and feel the need to up their game.

Apparently, suckering children into going to war zones is on Islam’s approved list of shitty things to do to people.

“Two Austrian teens got way more than they bargained for when they abandoned their homes and families to become “poster girls” for ISIS terrorists, and now they desperately want to come home.

Samra Kesinovic, 17, and friend Sabina Selimovic, 15, would love to press the undo button on the last six months, during which they traded their comfortable existence in Europe for a life of evil engineered by terrorists.

Hmm.  I wonder who could have persuaded these two children to renounce their families and go to a war zone.

“The teens apparently were lured to ISIS by propaganda preached at their local mosque.

Clerics told them that the only way to know true peace was to head to Syria and take part in the holy war, officials said.

The girls had started lecturing schoolmates about their lifestyle and were even suspected of being behind a vandalism attack at their school calling for jihad.”

Was there any surprise?  Pushing extremism in the ‘religion of peace’ (except when it’s not) was the modus-operendi – at least in Australia.  But let’s hear from the children in their own words:

“That’s a change of heart from the April note they left behind for their parents that read: “Don’t look for us. We will serve Allah, and we will die for him.”

Because a focus on the afterlife as opposed to the only one you’ll have here in reality, is always a great go-to strategy.

“Now Kesinovic and Selimovic have had enough and are eager to return to their families, according to CEN. The girls reportedly managed to get word to their families they want to come home.  But reports also said the teens don’t feel they can flee because too many people now associate them with ISIS savagery.“The main problem is about people coming back to Austria,” said Austrian Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck. “Once they leave, it is almost impossible.”

You knowthat feeling when you are well and truly being screwed in the deepest, blackest, pit of shit imaginable? Take that feeling and multiply it by 10, or heck even go logarithmic.  Imagine now being a pregnant child in a war zone surrounded by (and married to) people who want to die for their bearded imaginary friend in the sky.

Made of Awesome? You betcha!

All of this, made possible by religion.

 

[H/T to Bleatmop for bringing this article from the New York Post to my attention.]

 

 

 

 

geopolitics.nIn the crazy fun house world of imperial politics nationalist regimes are less preferable than radical religious ones.   Noam Chomsky and Andre Vltchek discuss the motivations of empire in the Middle East in this selection from the book: On Western Terrorism – From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare.

“Noam Chomsky:

“Anyhow, going back to the Middle East after World War II.  The British role in Iran was reduced and the US began to take over.  IN Iraq in 1958, there was a so-called independent government, but it was basically British-run, and it was overthrown in a military coup.  A couple of years later the US was able to engineer a coup that overthrew the Nasser-type nationalist government, and that’s where Saddam Hussein comes in.  The CIA handed the new Ba’athist government a long list of Communists, radicals, and teachers, and then they all got assassinated.  Then you come to the present; the US expects to run Iraq.  In Saudi Arabia, the British were the junior partner,  Finally the British pulled out, and left it to the United States.”

Andre Vltchek:

Of course Saudi Arabia is a tremendously destabilizing force in the world and its influence spreads from Bahrain to Indonesia.  In Bahrain there is the fear that the country may be annexed by Saudi Arabia,  The Saudi Army is and out of Bahrain.

Noam Chomsky:

The Saudis are pouring money all over the place to sponsor the most extreme forms of radical Islam – Wahabbism – in Madrasas, in Pakistan, pouring money into Egypt to support the Salafis, all extreme Islamic elements.  The United States is happy with that; it doesn’t try to prevent them.

The idea that the US is opposed to radical Islam is ludicrous.  The most extreme fundamentalist Islamic state in the world is Saudi Arabia, which is the US’s favourite.  Britain also has consistently supported radical Islam.  The reason was to oppose secular nationalism.  US relations with Israel reached their current close state in 1967 because Israel performed the huge service of smashing secular nationalism and defending radical Islam.

A British diplomatic historian, Mark Curtis, wrote a very good book a few years ago called Secret Affairs: British Collusion with Radical Islam (review here).  Curtis went through the British records on Islam.  It turns out the British had consistently supported radical Islamist elements, pretty much was the US has been doing.  They may not have liked it, but they prefer them to the secular nationalists.

Secular nationalists threatened them – they threatened to take over the resources and use them for domestic development and that’s the worst sin; so we support radical Islamists.”

-Excerpt from “On Western Terrorism from Hiroshima to Drone Warfare p.115 – 116

It would seem that Geo-political decisions are quietly being adjudicated by the imperial powers of the world.  It would also seem that they are quite separate from the political fodder being offered to their respective populations.

 

The chickens of western colonialism are coming home to roost.

Excerpt from “The Guns of August” – by Matthew Stevenson via Counterpunch

 

“Doubts about the sincerity of Americans in Iraq probably began when President Ronald Reagan dispatched his former national security advisor Robert C. “Bud” McFarlane to Tehran in 1986 with a cake and a Bible and proposed swapping arms for American hostages in Lebanon.

 

Until that moment, in the long war between Iran and Iraq, Saddam was our man, a bulwark against Shiite expansion in the Gulf, a non-fundamental (i.e., someone not adverse to girls or gin) Muslim willing to do the West’s bidding.

 

Bud’s cake and Bible alerted Saddam to the fickleness of Western support, and he repaid the favor in 1990 when he invaded Kuwait and let his troops drive all those looted Mercedes back to Baghdad.

 

The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait led to the first Gulf War and Saddam’s alleged death threat against President George H.W. Bush, cited in 2003 when his son, President George W. Bush, decided to overthrow Saddam’s regime.

 

Driving Saddam into a hole near Tikrit (where he was captured and later hanged) wasn’t the hard part of the blitzkrieg. The biggest challenge was deciding who should run Iraq once Saddam was swinging from the gallows.

 

Remembering the Mesopotamia, Churchill had faced the same conundrum in 1921, and at the Cairo Conference he went with an invented, cereal-box monarchy, an air campaign to subdue rebels, and a cadre of loyal Sunnis to keep the majority Shiite population on their knees.

 

In one form or another, that unholy coalition lasted until the 2003 American invasion, when the Bush administration decided to turn the country over to the Shiite majority.

 

Never mind that such a government would align Iraq more closely with Antichrists in Tehran.

 

*   *   *

 

By suppressing the Sunnis, the U.S. hoped to keep al-Qaida sympathizers in Iraq away from the oil fields. Under this partition, Shiites would get the government, the U.S. would get the oil, and Sunnis, especially those with Osama bin Laden posters on their kitchen walls, would get the shaft.

 

The problem with this division of Iraqi spoils is that it required the Bush administration to disband the Iraqi army and Saddam’s Baathist party infrastructure, two centers of power not solely identified with either Sunni or Shiite interests.

 

At the same time (mid-2000s) the U.S. army withdrew its forces into frontier stockades.  Iraq fell into anarchy until Gen. David Petraeus took time out from his amorous counter-insurgencies and paid Sunni warlords, especially in western Iraq, some $300 million to fight on the American side.

 

The rent-an-army surge worked until the Obama administration stopped payment on the Petraeus incentive compensation and left it to the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to explain to the opposition the fine print of the American victory, what in the Vietnam War President Nixon called “peace with honor.”

 

Speaking of peace with honour; the IS is bringing neither to the region as this Vice News clip illustrates.

 

I’m struck by the casual nature of the media when it comes to reporting on imperial wars.   Casualties are tallied, the right words are said, but then off we go to the next soundbite.  Time for reflection and contemplation is becoming (has become) a lost art.  Louder, Bigger, and Faster are what we’re all about now; and it is wrong, dead wrong.

 

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