Yves here. The opening section of this post covers ground that will be familiar to most Naked Capitalism readers. Have faith, this sets up a discussion of new issues, namely, the false premises driving the operation of the war party.
By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. Originally published at at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.
In a provocative piece called, “Blowback — the Washington War Party’s Folly Comes Home to Roost,” David Stockman asks, in effect — “Does America have the wars it seeks and deserves?”
Whatever your answer might be, or mine, I think Stockman’s answer is Yes, and he details that answer in an excellent looking-back and looking-forward essay about the U.S. and its Middle East “involvement.” I have excerpted several sections below, but the whole is worth a full top-to-bottom read.
Before we turn to Stockman’s points, though, I just want to highlight two semi-hidden ideas in his essay. One is about money. What Stockman calls the “War Party” in Washington is really the bipartisan Money Party, since the largest-by-far pile of cash looted from the federal budget (in other words, from taxpayers) goes to fund our military and its suppliers and enablers. Which means that most of it is stolen and diverted in some way. Which means that those who do the stealing have a lot of “skin in the game” — the game that keeps the money flowing in the first place.
Recall that what’s now called the Money Party was what Gore Vidal called the “Property Party”:
“There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.”
Which means the Washington War Party is a bipartisan gig. Thus our bipartisan wars, which for Stockman answers the first part of the imputed question above. Yes, America does have the wars it seeks.
But that’s just the first part — what about wars it “deserves”? Do Americans really want these wars? Does the D.C.-based “war party” have popular backing? You’ve probably guessed the answer just reading the news, but for the most recent, post-Paris evidence, consider this:
Exclusive: After Paris, Americans want U.S. to do more to attack Islamic State – poll
A majority of Americans want the United States to intensify its assault on the Islamic State following the Paris attacks, but most remain opposed to sending troops to Iraq or Syria, where the militant group is based, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
The poll makes clear that Americans don’t want to send in troops (yet), at least most don’t. But that just means we’re happy with more bombs, drones and missiles fired into streets and villages filled with potential “collateral damage” — also knows as victims, also known as “future U.S.-hating terrorists.”
If the American war-making machine, both the in-government part and the out-of-government part, wants these wars … and if the American people want our war machine to prosecute them … well, these do seem to be wars that America both seeks and, sadly, deserves — because frankly, it doesn’t fall to me to say my fellow Americans shouldn’t have what they seek.
To be clear — I believe my fellow Americans should not have what they seek when they seek their own suffering and pain. I have that great a sense of compassion. But I would not say that, any more than I would say to my drunken uncle, “Time to stop.” He’s not going to stop, so why spend time asking him? It won’t hurt less to watch, whether you ask or not.
But you and I, we can talk about the truth. And the truth is, all of our Middle East involvement is a deadly exercise, deadly to us — and it will end in tears, our own. Now Stockman to say why.
Blowback & the Washington War Party’s Folly
I called Stockman’s essay a look back as well as a look forward. The look back produces this (Stockman’s emphasis):
Exactly 26 years ago last week, peace was breaking out in a manner that the world had not experienced since June 1914. …
As it turned out, however, there was a virulent threat to peace still lurking on the Potomac. The great general and president, Dwight Eisenhower, had called it the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address, but that memorable phrase had been abbreviated by his speechwriters, who deleted the word “congressional” in a gesture of comity to the legislative branch.
So restore Ike’s deleted reference to the pork barrels and Sunday afternoon warriors of Capitol Hill and toss in the legions of beltway busybodies that constituted the civilian branches of the cold war armada (CIA, State, AID etc.) and the circle would have been complete. It constituted the most awesome machine of warfare and imperial hegemony since the Roman legions bestrode most of the civilized world.
In a word, the real threat to peace circa 1990 was that Pax Americana would not go away quietly in the night.
Yes, there was a day, in the lives of many of us in fact, when peace threatened to break out. But that didn’t last long:
Needless to say, the sudden end to 20th century history posed an existential threat to Imperial Washington. A trillion dollar complex of weapons suppliers, warfare state bureaucracies, intelligence and security contractors, arms exporters, foreign aid vendors, military bases, grand poobahs and porkers of the Congressional defense committ[e]es, think tanks, research grants and much more——were all suddenly without an enemy and raison d’etre.
As it has happened, Imperial Washington did find its necessary enemy in the rise of so-called “global terrorism”.
But the everlasting truth is that the relative handful of suicidal jihadi who have perpetrated murderous episodes of terror like 9/11 and this weekend’s carnage in Paris did not exist in November 1989; and they would not be marauding the West today save for the unrelenting arrogance, stupidity, duplicity and mendacity of Imperial Washington.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Stockman says plainly:
That the middle east and the Arab/Islamic world in particular is now a burned out zone of failed states and an incubator of barbaric religious and sectarian fanaticism is because Imperial Washington made it that way.
It did so under the banner of two stunningly false predicates. …
Those “false predicates” are as illuminating to consider as they are surprising.
Is the U.S. Military the Cure for High Oil Prices?
The first false predicate is one that goes back to Henry Kissinger, that the Fifth Fleet, guarding the Persian Gulf, is necessary to free the world from high oil prices.
One of these was the long-standing Washington error that America’s security and economic well-being depends upon keeping an armada in the Persian Gulf in order to protect the surrounding oilfields and the flow of tankers through the straits of Hormuz.
That doctrine has been wrong from the day it was officially enunciated by one of America’s great economic ignoramuses, Henry Kissinger, at the time of the original oil crisis in 1973. The 42 years since then have proven in spades that its doesn’t matter who controls the oilfields, and that the only effective cure for high oil prices is the free market, not the Fifth Fleet.
Every tin pot dictatorship from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to Saddam Hussein, to the bloody-minded chieftains of Nigeria, to the purportedly medieval Mullahs and fanatical Republican Guards of Iran has produced oil—-and all they could because they desperately needed the revenue.
For crying out loud, even the barbaric thugs of ISIS milk every possible drop of petroleum from the tiny, wheezing oilfields scattered around their backwater domain. So there is no economic case whatsoever for Imperial Washington’s massive military presence in the middle east, and most especially for its long-time alliance with the despicable regime of Saudi Arabia [emphasis Stockman’s].
There’s much more about this, going back to our 1953 CIA coup against Iran’s democratically elected leader Mosaddegh, which “installed the monstrous Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the Peacock Throne and thereby inaugurated 25 years of plunder and Savak terror.” Stockman then ably traces the history through the First Gulf War to today.
If you read this section, note that the justification for the First Gulf War, and indeed for the existence of the “state” of Kuwait itself, makes no sense. A taste: “Kuwait wasn’t even a country; it was a bank account sitting on a swath of oilfields surrounding an ancient trading city that had been abandoned by Ibn Saud in the early 20th century.”
The bottom line about “high oil prices” is this — because every greedy SOB sitting on an oil field wants to monetized it, the market will float on a sea of oil and never be starved of it. For a climatologist, that’s a disaster, but for oil prices, not so bad. It’s why oil — not gasoline, but oil — is so cheap today. The Saudis won’t, or can’t, stop selling it, nor can anyone else (like ISIS).
Is Regime Change in America’s Best Interest?
The second predicate Stockman fingers as a perp in our constant addiction to Middle East adventurism is the (hubristic, in my view) belief that regime change is in our best interest:
Right then and there came the second erroneous predicate. To wit, that “regime change” among the assorted tyrannies of the middle east was in America’s national interest, and that the Gulf War proved it could be achieved through a sweeping interventionist menu of coalition diplomacy, security assistance, arms shipments, covert action and open military attack and occupation.
What the neocon doctrine of regime change actually did, of course, was to foster the Frankenstein that became ISIS. In fact, the only real terrorists in the world which threaten normal civilian life in the West are the rogue offspring of Imperial Washington’s post-1990 machinations in the middle east.
While that may seem obvious, Stockman includes a stunning particular, the fact that the remnants of the out-of-work Saddam-era Iraqi officer class, and countless others, were being actively radicalized by the U.S. itself:
[E]ven as Washington was crowing about the demise of Zarqawi, the remnants of the Baathist regime and the hundreds of thousands of demobilized Republican Guards were coalescing into al-Qaeda in Iraq, and their future leaders were being incubated in a monstrous nearby detention center called Camp Bucca that contained more than 26,000 prisoners.
Here’s part of a quote from a U.S. military officer who visited Camp Bucca (emphasis mine):
“You never see hatred like you saw on the faces of these detainees,” [former US Army officer, Mitchell] Gray remembers of his 2008 tour. “When I say they hated us, I mean they looked like they would have killed us in a heartbeat if given the chance. I turned to the warrant officer I was with and I said, ‘If they could, they would rip our heads off and drink our blood.'”
What Gray didn’t know — but might have expected — was that he was not merely looking at the United States’ former enemies, but its future ones as well. According to intelligence experts and Department of Defense records, the vast majority of the leadership of what is today known as ISIS, including its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, did time at Camp Bucca. …
Camp Bucca was an American terrorist factory. America has a number of terrorist factories around the world.
Note that this isn’t an indirect connection to current ISIS leadership, but a direct one. These men aren’t connected with current ISIS leadership. They are current ISIS leadership. Stockman discusses how L. Paul Bremmer, Bush’s “proconsul” in Iraq, threw them out of work when he disbanded the Iraqi army (almost on day one), guaranteeing an era of Shiite revenge-taking against Saddam’s former Sunni-led secular regime. These men were the victims of both U.S. punishment and Shiite vengeance. They were, and are, also well trained military leaders. Not the best combination, if you’re interested in a peaceful outcome.
Why Are We Fighting in Syria?
Which leads to the last piece of this puzzle. ISIS — for now, but not forever — occupies the terrorized towns of Sunni Iraq, kept there because we keep them supported and in power with our relentless hate-inducing attacks. But why are we in Syria? The answer has to do with, yes, our addiction to “regime change,” but also our “friends” in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It turns out that what we want isn’t what they want. Are they helping us, or are we helping them?
The newly proclaimed Islamic State also filled the power vacuum in Syria created by its so-called civil war. But in truth that was another exercise in Washington inspired and financed regime change undertaken in connivance with Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The latter were surely not interested in expelling the tyranny next door; they are the living embodiment of it. Instead, the rebellion was about removing Iran’s Alawite/Shiite ally from power in Damascus and laying gas pipelines to Europe across the upper Euphrates Valley.
I’m afraid this not end until the major players stop financing and prosecuting it — meaning us.
How Will This End?
It’s easy to see that this ends in either of two ways. It will end when we stop sending money and arms into the region — i.e., when we impoverish our wealth-drunk arms industry and starve the fighting — or it will not end.
Which means, it will lead to continuous tears, American ones. And when, again, you factor in the continuing spiral toward chaos guaranteed by continuing global warming, we may look back and say, “Paris was our generation’s Sarajevo.” It’s hard to stop a war when only a nation’s people don’t want it. It’s almost impossible to stop a war when the people unite with the wealthy to promote it.
Which brings me to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, war, and speeches each gave recently. But that’s for later.
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