50 Theses on the ‘War on Terrorism’
Now that Obama has begun the draw-down of direct combat troops in Iraq (of course leaving troops and military bases), now that around a million Iraqi civilians (on top of the million or so killed by the Gulf War 1990/91 and western sanctions up to 2003) and over four thousand US troops have died since the 2003 invasion, it seems an article I wrote in 2002 long before the invasion may still bear re-visiting. Here it is. I’d hardly change anything.
50 Theses on the ‘War against Terrorism’ and the Current World Crisis (2002)
To see the false as the false is in itself enough, for that very perception frees the mind from the false.
– J. Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living – 2nd Series (1959), p. 239
1. The current world crisis presents, like all crises, great dangers and great opportunities.
2. Which of the two are ultimately realized is not inevitable but a matter of the degree of generalized critical awareness, resistance, solidarity and action. (These theses are intended as a modest contribution to the development of such resistance).
3. The dangers are related to the current dynamics of the US Empire that dominates the increasingly globalized world system economically, militarily and culturally.
4. The opportunities are related to the ongoing development of critical awareness of, practical disaffiliation from and resistance to these imperial and global dynamics on the part of a certain ‘critical mass’ of people on the planet.
5. The current dynamics of the US empire and corporate globalisation have since September 11 2001 taken on a more radically right-wing (often euphemistically ornithologised as ‘hawkish’), potentially very dangerous, but also very much clearer, form.
6. The Bush administration’s so-called ‘war on terrorism’ after September 11 is enabling the US elite to extend its imperial hegemony both internationally and domestically. This is its primary function. The ‘war on terrorism’ is a pretext.
7. In this sense, the ‘war on terrorism’ is now, under historically very different conditions, fulfilling similar systemic (political and economic) functions for this elite to that performed by the Cold War in the bipolar world of 1945-1991. Both forms of war strengthen their power.
8. Domestically, it is allowing the continuation of both the radical neo-liberal economic agenda and of ‘military Keynesianism’ (deficit spending for the military and weapons industry rather than for consumers).
9. Wealth can continue to be redistributed upwards to the elite (tax cuts to the rich, corporate bailouts, subsidies to industries etc) and towards the ongoing economic mainstay of the empire, the resurgent military-industrial complex (11% increase of Pentagon budget).
10. After September 11 the stocks of US arms manufacturers General Dynamics, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon rose steeply. Arms manufacturers need wars like umbrella-makers need rain.
11. As a delectable aside: through ex-President Bush Senior’s ties to United Defense and the Carlyle group – the eleventh largest US defence contractor –, President George W. Bush’s own family will be making huge sums from his administration’s ‘enduring war’ policies. As Carlyle rep Bush Senior was of course also entertained during the 90s by the construction company-owning bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia.
12. The other domestic functions of the ‘war on terrorism’ are a manifold further strengthening of executive state power and a corresponding further weakening of US civil society, democracy and dissent.
13. The perennial manipulative technique of the powerful – stimulate fear, a paranoid siege mentality and state patriotism (a form of protection racket going back to tribal chiefs and feudal warlords) – has been massively and successfully employed since 9/11 in various ways.
14. Some of these ways include: repeated attack alerts, demonisation and hyperbole, ‘us-and-them’ tribalism, patriotic mass rituals etc. Police and secret service powers have been increased and centralized in the guise of so-called ‘Homeland Security’ (‘Heimat’ and ‘Sicherheit’ were two key words of Nazism, by the way). Hard won civil liberties have been curtailed, the rule of law softened up, general surveillance expanded and racial profiling introduced. The cultivated emergency atmosphere (Nazis also continually spoke of ‘Notstand’) of paranoia, manipulated anger and grief and flag-waving jingoism has weakened criticism and dissent. Attention has been adroitly deflected from Bush’s own electoral illegitimacy, the wholesale failure of the intelligence services in regard to 9/11 and the home-grown anthrax scares, earlier US outright support for both Islamic fundamentalists and Saddam Hussein and widespread US corporate corruption and collapses. As always, demonizing an external enemy helps focus attention outwards, away from any potentially dangerous internal issues and dissent. Works like a charm every time.
15. Internationally, 9/11 has given the US elite the welcome opportunity to greatly extend its military geo-strategic reach into areas of Central Asia that were former Soviet territory and that are of significance both in regard to its imperial rivals China (the next nascent empire) and Russia and to greater influence over and ultimate control of the oil and gas fields both of the Caspian Basin and of the Middle East. The neutralizing and/or control of the three largest oil producers – Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia – and OPEC is also an important aspect of these developments.
16. The US ruling elite is very well aware of the looming end of the era of cheap and plentiful oil and the beginning of ‘capacity limitations’. A 2001 energy report commissioned for the Bush administration five months before 9/11 projected exploding energy prices, recession, heightened vulnerability to disruption of fuel supply and social unrest, unless ‘answers’ were found. (With only 4.6% of the world population the US consumes 25.3% of global energy and now relies on imports for 52% of its net oil requirements).
17. Part of these ‘answers’ included military intervention where necessary, the speeding up of supplies from the Caspian Basin, and the need to expand Iraqi production as soon as possible to meet projected oil shortages and keep the oil price low. The report repeatedly defined oil as a ‘security imperative’ for the US.
18. Both the war on Afghanistan and the threatened war on Iraq – as supposed elements of the unlimited so-called ‘war on terrorism’ – can be plausibly seen within the context of such a perceived ‘security imperative’, i.e. as good old imperialist resource wars in an age of ecological contraction. 9/11 has provided the ideal pretext.
19. The US elite is thus positioning itself to monopolize control of shrinking oil resources, both securing its own short-term supplies and greatly enhancing its imperial hegemonic power.
20. After all, as another vulgar-Marxist aside, Bush, Cheney, Rice and other key staffers are all ex-oil men and women. The installed US puppet in Kabul, Karzai, was a consultant for the US oil company Unocal in the US. The new Afghani Bush special envoy to Kabul, Khalilzad, was also on its payroll when it was negotiating a pipeline through Afghanistan with the recalcitrant Taliban regime, a project that can now, theoretically, go ahead.
21. The price of oil is expected to fall if the US wages a successful war against Iraq. A US attack that ousted Saddam would also probably mean a bonanza for US oil companies long banished from Iraq, especially if a US puppet government were installed as in Afghanistan. US and foreign (French, Russian) oil companies have already started manoeuvring for a stake in the post-war spoils: the largest oil reserves in the world outside Saudi Arabia. A US puppet in Baghdad could speed up Iraqi oil production, giving a Saudi-like capacity to control the market and wrecking OPEC’S power to control prices.
22. Another report by a right-wing think tank to key present Bush staffers Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz in September 2000 (just before Bush illegitimately took power) spells out the intention to militarily intervene in the Gulf region and sheds some light on the current war planning: ‘While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.’ No mention of Saddam’s trampling of human rights or alleged weapons of mass destruction here, one may note with interest.
23. This report is also most candid about the imperial necessity for global domination, supporting a ‘blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests’. The latter ‘shaping’ is another way of very succinctly summarizing the real motives behind the so-called ‘war on terrorism’.
24. Bush himself is equally candid. His National Security Strategy one year after 9/11 closely echoes the above report. Cold War ‘defence’ and ‘containment’ are abandoned in favour of an openly aggressive, neo-militarist foreign policy of pre-emptive attacks on imperial enemies unfettered by international law, treaty or moral concern: ‘The US will not hesitate to strike pre-emptively against its enemies, even if it faces international opposition, and will never again allow its military supremacy to be threatened.’ Refreshingly candid and arrogant, no need for any social democratic (a la Blair, Fischer, Clinton) hogwash about ‘humanitarian intervention’, democracy and social progress in this administration.
25. The Bush doctrine of pre-emptive attack contradicts the key Article 51 of the UN Charter allowing pre-emptive self-defence only if an armed attack is actually immanent. Like the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ itself, it thus consciously undermines international law and the UN and opens the door to potential international chaos as authoritarian states may claim the right to attack any country they simply declare a ‘threat’, possibly even with nuclear weapons. We are back to the pre-UN (possibly even pre-1648 Treaty of Westphalia) imperial law of the jungle, last used by Hitler in Poland and the Japanese in Pearl Harbor. An imperial invasion of Iraq is also likely to further encourage other countries (e.g. North Korea, Iran) to develop weapons of mass destruction as the only perceived protection against blatant US hegemony and aggressive interventionism.
26. Both Afghan Islamic fundamentalism and Saddam – the current demonised enemies (they shift like the wind) – were important US allies in the Reagan/Bush era who were both financially and militarily supported against the Soviet Union and Iran. After Saddam’s gassing of over 3000 Kurdish civilians in 1988, attempts by some American congressmen to denounce Iraq and apply sanctions were bitterly opposed by the Reagan administration. President Bush Snr (and Britain) authorized loan guarantees and sales of technologies with clear applications for chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction to Saddam right up to his Kuwait invasion in 1990. Right after the Gulf War Bush Sr. then effectively authorized Saddam to crush a Shiite rebellion in the interest of preserving geo-strategic ‘stability’.
27. Every US war has resulted in the addition of more US military bases in foreign countries. The US is currently present in over 130 countries. The war on Afghanistan resulted in many new US bases in the oil/gas-rich ex-Soviet states of Central Asia and the Caspian Basin. US bases now completely surround its main rival China. A new war against Iraq will result in new bases there from which pressure can be brought to bear both on Saudi Arabia and the other member of the designated ‘axis of evil’, Iran. Maximum control over the major world sources of oil is the obvious aim.
28. All this has been familiar US foreign policy since 1945. Since then the US executive has attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments and to crush more than 30 populist movements. In the process it has bombed about 25 countries, killing several million people and causing a life of suffering and despair for many millions more.
29. Western sanctions since 1991 against Iraq – which the Australian navy has helped to enforce – have already cost the lives of over a million Iraqis and over 500 000 children under five according to UNESCO. The Australian government is thus directly implicated in mass killings.
30. Clinton’s secretary of state Madeleine Albright openly considered these deaths a ‘price worth paying’ for applying pressure on Saddam. US and British bombing also massively targeted Iraqi infrastructure. Now the Anglo-Saxon, democratic ‘rogue states’ of Bush, Blair and Howard wish to bomb the remaining infrastructure and destitute Iraqi survivors of their sanctions in order to remove their old thug Saddam and directly install their own puppet.
31. Some 270 tonnes of depleted uranium have been spread over Iraq and the Balkans since the Gulf War, mostly by US forces using tank-piercing shells. The rate of congenital birth defects has skyrocketed in southern Iraq. Children playing in the contaminated soil are at grave risk of getting cancer and kidney damage.
32. Threatening or destroying civilians to achieve political/economic ends is the generally accepted definition of terrorism. On that basis, it is hard to see why successive US administrations and their obedient vassals in the UK and Australia should not be tried for war crimes in the World Court in The Hague or the new International Criminal Court (ICC). No doubt this is why the US executive is actively against the ICC and the rule of international law and has pressured the feckless EU into giving US citizens immunity from ICC prosecution.
33. The true price of oil is not only climate chaos and pollution. It is also imperial destruction and terror. Our cars also run on the blood of untold numbers of victims in the Middle East. Consumers in rich countries and corporations have long turned a blind eye to the civilian and ecological destruction at the source of many of their imported cheap resources and consumer goods. This is democratic affluence’s dirty little secret that is now out in the open, at least for those who can still manage to allow themselves to see the obvious.
34. The ‘war on terrorism’ against al-Qaida has failed, even within its own, official, terms of reference. No significant top ranking leader has been captured. The war on Afghanistan dispersed al-Qaida into Pakistan and overseas. As the FBI and CIA have recognised, it has thus become more internationalised and thus much harder to combat. Democracy has not been established in Afghanistan. Women are still oppressed and obliged to wear the burkha. 2002 has seen the country’s biggest opium poppy harvest, allowing Afghanistan to resume its place as the source of 75% of the world’s heroin. Outside Kabul insecurity and brutal feudal warlords hold total sway.
35. Similarly, an invasion of Iraq could in fact worsen the terrorist threat by actually dispersing any weapons stockpiles and scientists into the terrorist underground and increasing terrorists’ willingness to use them. It will also increase resentment towards the western aggressors, their hypocritical double standards and thus fuel more terrorism.
36. The open-ended so-called ‘war on terrorism’ will increase terrorism. It is like pouring oil on a fire. This increase will be met by our leaders (unless we stop them) with more war which will lead to more terrorism and so on, in a vicious, collusive and downward spiral of violence, escalating suffering of innocent people, international chaos, state militarisation, the weakening of liberal democracy and freedoms and more blood-profits for the expanding arms and ‘security’ industries.
37. In this process, liberal democracy will be undermined as public paranoia takes over, the law of the jungle increasingly reigns and security becomes everyone’s main concern. Many – as is probably intended – will cry out for the strong state and the reduction of civil liberties. As peace feeds on peace and democracy on more democracy, so terror feeds on terror, violence on violence, fear on fear. Such a response is exactly what terrorists like bin Laden, reactionary politicians and authoritarian right-wingers may hope for. Our leaders and the terrorists are locked in a collusive spiral in which more and more of us may become victims. The greatest threats to liberal democracy and security are now our own leaders. Some form of post-liberal ‘friendly fascism’ (Bertram Gross) is on the cards.
38. The only sensible, non-terrorist response to terrorism would be a combination of action via internationally coordinated intelligence/police operations, non-participation in state terror and imperialism and an addressing of the social causes of terrorism/fundamentalism.
39. This would mean far-reaching changes in the economic and political conditions of poverty and unemployment, dispossession (e.g. of the Palestinians and Kurds), state oppression and corruption (e.g. in most Arab states), hopelessness and despair – particularly in the Middle East – that provide the social and psychological matrix for the development of reactionary fundamentalism and terrorism.
40. Such changes, however, would also mean radical changes in the western attitudes, energy, economic, aid and foreign policies that have contributed, often in major ways, to such conditions and repressive regimes since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. (We remember that in 1921 and 1923 the British imperial ruling class – including an explicitly racist Winston Churchill – first bombed Iraqi civilians and drew up the artificial borders between Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to facilitate the control of the region’s oil supplies and the dividing up of Iraqi oil between Royal Dutch-Shell, BP, a US and a French company ).
41. These changes can not be expected from our political and corporate leaders since they have a vested interest in the realpolitik of geopolitics, empire, ‘free trade’, oil control and cheap resources which largely maintain repressive conditions in resource-rich non-western countries.
42. These changes can thus only be brought about from below and internationally. We need new forms of international solidarity and cooperation to create the lasting conditions of international peace, social justice and ecological sustainability. This entails understanding that, in the candid words of well-known Washington apologist Thomas Friedman, ‘the hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonalds cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps’.
43. We need a globalisation from below, as is already slowly beginning to happen, e.g. in the hitherto misnamed anti-globalisation and World Social Forum movement. As transnational capital expands and intensifies its reach, it thus also brings forth the slow birth of its own transnational negation. As the US Empire, the current military guarantor of the global capitalist system, aggressively expands and intensifies its global reach, it also brings forth its own negation. It’s now more than ever: One World or None.
44. As the movement for globalisation from below expands and increases its awareness of its tasks, it will, learning from 20th century history, need to clearly define itself against a double opponent: both against the capitalist/imperialist system (which of course includes McStalinism like China) and all reactionary, anti-modern, totalitarian and fascist forms of so-called ‘anti-imperialism’ and terrorism (even, where not instigated by state agents provocateurs, sometimes from within its own ranks).
45. The movement’s universal appeal will be based on those modern secular western values of civil society which have, spiritually but not yet factually, spread throughout the world over the last two hundred years: democracy, human rights, international law, social justice, ecological sustainability, tolerance and pluralism – all of which are now under siege by our ruling classes and terrorists alike. Resisting the US Empire does certainly not mean embracing a Chinese, Russian, European or Islamic Empire but resisting all empires, current and nascent.
46. The current crisis provides another opportunity to come to a greater critical understanding of such global dynamics and move towards the practical resistance, dissent and solidarity that such an understanding entails. The global peace and alternative globalisation movement is the social expression of this developing understanding and praxis. Another World Is Possible.
47. The central challenges for the global middle classes to which most of us belong would seem to be the necessary dis-identification from national and imperial leaders who are now, among other things, outright security risks to ourselves as well as to innocent civilians overseas, massive resistance to the US Empire’s latest imperial wars and the obsequious collusion of ‘our’ leaders and media in these wars.
48. This challenge also includes a painful ongoing questioning of our own over-developed, unsustainable consumption levels (particularly of oil) and the development of practical forms of solidarity with the have-nots at home and abroad.
49. These issues would seem to be particularly challenging ones in Australia with its high level of car/oil dependence, cultural hyper-individualism, long-term Australian-American alliance (i.e. perceived incapacity to defend itself) and high traditional levels of fixation on national politics, the state and its leaders.
50. These collective challenges, personal reflections and critical questionings are the opportunity provided by the current world crisis occasioned by the current dynamic of the US Empire since September 2001. They are as much ultimately spiritual in nature as they are political and economic: Why are we here? How can a good life be created for all the beings on the planet? How can we act compassionately out of an awareness of our total interdependence on each other and the natural world? How can we learn to extend our sense of self to the hitherto ‘other’? How can we work to remain centred in a world that occasions so much suffering, grief and anger? How can we dismantle the structures of violence, exploitation and injustice without creating new structures of this kind? How can we accelerate the evolutionary move towards One Human Family on One Planet?
~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on September 2, 2010.
Posted in history, peak oil, social theory
Tags: capitalism, friendly fascism, humanitarian intervention, imperialism, Iraq war, militarisation, military Keynesianism, nationalism, neoliberalism, One World, peak oil, post-liberal democracy, resource wars, siege mentality, surveillance state, war on terror