Empire Burlesque
Release the Kagan: Neocon Nabob Hired by Team Obama
Share
Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 18 August 2010 13:21

Buried many fathoms deep in an LA Times story about the latest American scolding of its unruly satrap in Bactria, we find this little nugget:

Some senior officials are saying privately that they fear their reliance on the Karzai administration could be the weakest link of their strategy to stabilize the country. Government corruption is seen as one of the most important factors driving ordinary Afghans to support the Taliban. ...

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the newly appointed head of the international forces in the country, has hired two experts known for their strong emphasis on fighting corruption, Frederick Kagan and Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster.


That's right; Frederick Kagan, the neocon architect of the Iraq "surge," the epitome of the armchair warriors who have sent thousands of human beings (including their fellow Americans) to needless death and plunged millions more into needless suffering, has been hired by the Peace Laureate Administration to serve as guide and counsel to the Laureate's newly appointed military supremo.

It goes without saying that Kagan -- yet another spawn of the Project for a New American Century, that gaggle of bloodthirsty Beltwayers who openly longed, in September 2000, for a "new Pearl Harbor" to scare the American public into supporting the group's hyper-militarist agenda -- is not an expert on "fighting corruption" or on Afghanistan, just as he knew nothing about Iraq. He is an "expert" on one topic only: churning out bullshit to justify war. And that is exactly why he has been hired by Obama and Petraeus.

As I noted here back in January 2007:

Now Bush has drawn on AEI "scholar" Frederick Kagan to fashion his genuinely demented plan for a major escalation of the Iraq War: the famous "surge" that has dominated the shoptalk of the Beltway in the past month – the same month in which American soldiers were dying in near-record numbers while Bush cleared brush on his fake ranch. (The spread was purchased as a campaign prop in 1999 but is invariably referred to by media sycophants as his "beloved" homestead, as if he'd spent years of his life communing with the soil there, rather than the odd month now and then on vacation). While he dithered – consulting with his "brain trust" on the best way to ignore the suggestions of the Iraq Study Group and the clearly expressed will of the American people to bring the American occupation of Iraq to an end – more than 100 U.S. soldiers were shot to death or blown to pieces. An almost equivalent number of Iraqi civilians were murdered every day during December by the death squads of the factions brought to power by Bush and their sectarian opponents in the nationalist insurgency that arose in response to his invasion.

What the Kagan plan called for – and what Bush accepted in a slightly diluted form ... – is a re-invasion of Baghdad, with thousands of additional U.S. troops thrown into savage urban warfare in "critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods." (The latter of which are now practically non-existent, thanks to the virulent "ethnic cleansing" in the city by Bush-backed Shia militias and their Sunni counterparts). In the unintentionally revealing language that permeates so much of the war-porn generated by the well-fed, stay-at-home armchair generals of PNAC, AEI and the White House, Kagan – a young, portly academic with no expertise whatsoever in the Middle East – writes in the Washington Post that "the only 'surge' option that makes any sense is both long and large."

The mass-murdering blandishments that Kagan poured in Bush's ear demanded that already-overstrained American ground forces "accept longer tours for several years" (italics mine), as he stated in his AEI report, "Choosing Victory." The citizen-soldiers in National Guard units will also have to "accept increased deployments during this period," it seems. Meanwhile, Kagan will no doubt continue to discuss the finer points of "counterinsurgency" and "clearing neighborhoods" with congenial colleagues at Washington's finest restaurants – while also insisting, as he does in "Choosing Victory," that "the president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this age."

In this plan – and the version of it Bush adopted for his "New Way Forward" – we see the hideous obscenity of the whole criminal enterprise laid bare. The bloodlust of physical cowards like Bush and Cheney and Kagan – their overpowering need to see other people kill and die – is now reaching genuinely irrational proportions. The war in Iraq was launched solely to serve the political ambitions, personal fortunes and radical ideologies of a small group of American elitists (and the delusions of grandeur of its little handmaiden in the UK). It had no larger strategic benefit or moral purpose, despite all the ever-shifting rhetoric to the contrary. It has not enhanced American security. It has not given the Iraqis a better life. It has not spread freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East. It was not designed to do these things. But neither has it accomplished its true aim, as clearly defined by PNAC and others, of establishing a solid American military presence in Iraq as a launching pad for further expansion of the "single sustainable model of national success" and the juicy contracts that would follow.


And so we had Kagan's "surge," the sole aim of which was to perpetuate and entrench the American presence by an adroit manipulation of the then-prevailing media "narrative." What was seen as an appalling "failure" soon became a rousing "success" (or even "an extraordinary achievement," as the Peace Laureate himself put it) in the American media. Why? Because after the Americans helped its Shiite protégés finish their ethnic cleansing of Baghdad, and bribed other insurgents to change sides (for awhile), the horrific monthly death counts of murdered civilians dropped from the world-historical levels of 2006-2007 to the "merely" abominable levels that afflict Iraq today.

And so here, at last, is the true "mission accomplished": the establishment of a permanent American military presence in Iraq -- which was one of the stated aims of PNAC's 2000 blueprint for an expanded militarist empire. Although America's "combat role" in Iraq was declared over this month, 50,000 troops (and an equal number of Washington-paid privateers) remain in the conquered land, carrying out the same missions as before. Meanwhile, the State Department is now amassing its own armed force of up to 50,000, which will be a massive, permanent military presence, even if the Pentagon ever decides to move its troops elsewhere. (Which is highly unlikely, with the American-installed local leaders currently saying that US troops will be needed "at least" until 2020.)

No doubt Kagan's paymasters, Obama and Petraeus, are hoping they can pull off the same trick in Afghanistan, which at the moment is in roughly the same "narrative" frame as Iraq was in 2007: a five-alarm, full-scale FUBAR. And who knows? They may do it. If they can get the death counts down a bit -- and keep St. David the Unquestionable out there awing the ever-credulous media and political establishments -- p
erhaps they can entrench the American military presence, in all those “supersize me" bases they are now building, for years and years to come.

And once again, we are left to wonder: How many times, and in how many ways, must we be shown the true nature of the Obama Administration -- its absolute, steely determination to perpetuate and expand a militarist empire, no matter what it costs in human life abroad and internal rot at home -- before we can see and acknowledge the reality before us? So much sound and fury is expended on the hair-splitting differences (or the appearance of differences) between our political factions, but the fact remains is that they are all one party: the party of imperial power. As Andrew Bacevich noted recently:

For the last 50 years, the U.S. national security establishment has remained essentially unchanged. It is a worldwide military presence configured not to defend the nation but to project power around the globe. That standing force fosters a penchant for interventionism, whether overt or covert. ... The [bipartisan] consensus no longer makes sense, yet it persists—not because it produces effective policies but because of deeply ingrained habits, and because it serves a variety of purposes...

It produces profit for companies. It provides status prerogatives for the military. It justifies the budgets of the Defense Department and the intelligence community. It provides a sustainable source of funding for congressional campaigns. And it provides people with opportunities to participate in what they think are great historical events.


No one is allowed anywhere near the halls of power or the levers of influence if they do not subscribe to this consensus. Anyone who questions it is automatically relegated to the margins. Barack Obama would not have been nominated by his faction or elected president if he was not a zealous adherent of the imperial agenda, and all that it entails: endless war, erosion of liberty, endemic corruption, and economic injustice.

And that is why Obama is happy to employ figures from the Bush Regime, like David Petraeus (and his death-squad wingman, Stanley McChrystal), like Robert Gates, like the odious toady Frederick Kagan -- because he and they are part of the same system, the same agenda. This is the underlying reality of American politics today.

 
In Dreams Begin Responsibilities
Share
Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 16 August 2010 12:03

(UPDATED BELOW)

Flights of Imagination
As I noted here the other day (in a piece that went over like ye olde lead balloon), many things are still possible in this world; there are many ways in which we could be reshaping some of the present abominable realities that beset us. Tom Englehardt presents a few possibilities for profound change in our militarist empire -- although, sadly, these must be offered more as thought experiments, due to the extreme unlikelihood of their adoption as policy by our blood-soaked, morally lobotomized elites. Still, any genuine change begins, at some point, as an act of imagination, so Englehardt's five alternative scenarios are well worth contemplating, as is his conclusion:

Right now, as a nation, we find it remarkably difficult to imagine ourselves as anything but what we now believe ourselves to be – and Washington counts on that. We find it almost impossible to imagine ourselves as just another nation (even perhaps, a more modest and better one), making our way on this disturbed planet of ours as best we can. We can’t imagine ourselves “safe” without being dominant, or being dominant without killing others in distant lands in significant numbers to ensure that safety; nor can we imagine ourselves dominant without that full panoply of secret armies, global garrisons, overlapping spy agencies, fear manias, and all the money that goes with them, despite the abundant evidence that this can’t be safety, either for us or for the planet.

We no longer know what a policy of cautious peace might look like, not having put a cent into envisioning such a project. War and an aggressive global national security state (and the language that goes with it) are all Washington knows and all it cares to know. It is completely invested in the world it now so shakily oversees, and cares for no other .... Maybe one of these days, what-if fever will spread in this country....


A consummation devoutly to be wished, of course. But in a culture where imagination -- an open, creative, intuitive, receptive engagement with reality -- is scorned in favor of barren fantasy -- self-closed, flat, cartoonish renditions of the impossible -- that ever-dormant fever may be long in reawakening. Still, to quote that famous American, Edsel Floyd, we live in hope and die in despair.

Opting Out
Jonathan Schwarz points out a salient fact too little observed: i.e., when our leaders declare that "all options are on the table" regarding some recalcitrant state or difficult situation, they don't really mean it. In fact, the use of that bellicose phrase -- whose only real meaning is, "We will kill lots of people if we have to, with everything we've got, including nuclear weapons, if that's what it takes" -- automatically closes off a whole range of options. As Schwarz notes, after quoting the psychopathic repetition of the "options" trope by tough-talking Obama minions threatening war with Iran:

Any actual reporter would have pointed out the glaringly obvious fact about this rote repetition: all options are not on the table. For instance, Israel is not going to consider giving up its own nuclear weapons if it were part of a deal to make it certain Iran would not develop its own. Nor is the United States considering giving up its nukes. Nor do we have any interest in a region-wide peace settlement that would satisfy us regarding Iran if it required U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the United States hasn't even signaled any openness to apologizing to Iranians for our numerous crimes against them (overthrowing their government, teaching the Shah how best to torture them, helping Saddam use WMD against them, etc.). Apparently we would prefer to attack Iran or indeed for Iran to get nuclear weapons rather than exercise any of these possible options.


Pakistan: The Drowned and the Droned
Pakistan is in the midst of one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history. More than 20 million people have been displaced by floods whose extent beggars the imagination; at one point, an area the size of Great Britain has been underwater -- and more floods are coming. Millions face the threat of immediate starvation. In the wake of the water and the massive displacement, disease is growing, with "6 million children are at risk of life-threatening diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition and pneumonia," as the Guardian reports. "Stagnant flood plains in densely populated, poverty-stricken urban areas may become breeding grounds for cholera, mosquitos and malaria." UN chief Ban Ki-moon calls it the worst natural disaster he has ever seen.

Yet you could go days without hearing or reading about this epochal suffering -- although you might run across an occasional "think piece" on how the floods could affect Washington's Great Gaming in the region, which is, of course, the most important thing. And in the UK, you could read yards and yards of print about the UK-Pakistan cricket series without being disturbed with ugly scenes of children dying in their own watery filth -- or, indeed, with any of those annoying pleas for donations that always crop up in other disasters.

The looking-away from this disaster is extraordinary -- especially in a country that our elites have identified as "crucial" to America's "national security strategy." Perhaps they feel that, all in all, it's a good thing if the floods thin out the troublesome Pakistani population a little bit, and keep the survivors pre-occupied with basic survival. More likely, they just don't give a damn one way or another. As long as they keep the ever-profitable war machine churning in the region, it doesn't matter what happens to the actual people who live there.

We could see this exemplified clearly over the weekend, as the Obama Administration made a notable contribution to the relief effort: drone missiles. Yes, while the Pakistanis were literally trying to keep their society afloat in a world-historical cataclysm, the Peace Laureate was lobbing a few more missiles into remote Pakistani villages, killing alleged "rebels" in yet another in a series of illegal acts of aggression on the sovereign territory of an American ally.

Everyone knows that these attacks are only exacerbating the problems they are ostensibly designed to solve -- extremism, anti-Americanism, political instability in the region, etc. Yet still they go on, and on. One can only conclude from this that the ostensible reasons offered for the policy are not the real reasons motivating it.

Those real reasons -- in essence, the perpetuation of power, loot and dominance for our militarized, imperialized American elite -- are so overwhelmingly important to our leaders that they would keep killing Pakistanis, in Pakistan, even during an unprecedented national crisis. It seems there is nothing that will induce them to make even the slightest, momentary pause in this murderous campaign. Killing people is that important to them; they can no longer exist, or even imagine an existence, without it.

Meanwhile, here's one of those annoying pleas for donations to help the flood victims: Oxfam America and Oxfam UK

UPDATE: The NY Times finally finds some front page room for the Pakistan disaster, with only the briefest mention of its all-important impact on the strategies of the Potomac imperium.

God and Man and War Criminals at Yale
Yale University continues its modern tradition of hiring war criminals to instruct young minds in the ways of the world. First, it was Tony Blair, brought over to pontificate at Yale Divinity School -- and now Stanley McChrystal, chief honcho of death squads and "strenuous interrogation" in Iraq and later failed leader of the "Obama Surge" in Afghanistan, has been hired by the august institution to ''examine how dramatic changes in globalization have increased the complexity of modern leadership," the NY Times reports.

Yes, modern leadership is a complex business, all right, but the wisdom McChrystal has to offer can probably be boiled down to this essential nugget: "Kill all the ragheads you want, all over the world -- but for god's sake don't make disparaging remarks about the president to a music magazine!" No doubt our future modern leaders will take that lesson to heart.

The Mirror Crack'd: Silber Delves Deeper on the Mosque Affair
Arthur Silber goes another level deeper in this followup to his analysis of the pervasive racism animating the "Ground Zero Mosque" affair. As always, you'll cheat yourself if you don't treat yourself to his arguments in full, but here is just one of the insights from the piece:

Those who repeatedly and furiously denounce the "Ground Zero mosque," as they speak in horrified tones of the coming conquest of America by Islam, tremble before one possibility far more than any enemy they have chosen to identify. Their capacity for more accurate perception and even minimal self-awareness is altogether obliterated by their greatest of all fears: that they might have to hold up a mirror to their own souls and see the diseased, twisted nature of what they have allowed to permanently reside there.

Such people cannot be reasoned with, and it is futile to try. But we should always remember what it is that actually drives them to such destructive rage, and that it has nothing at all to do with the source they are willing to identify. This pattern is, of course, as old as humankind. What we loathe in ourselves, we place in others. Then we destroy those others, believing we thus destroy what we loathe.

But the enemy still lives, inside us. Until that is understood, the battle will never end, nor will the destruction, the suffering and the death.

 
A Counsel Against Despair
Share
Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 15 August 2010 00:06

MANY THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

Not everything.
Not paradise or perfection.
But many things.
Better things.
Clearer, deeper ways of seeing.
Richer, deeper ways of being.
Many things are possible.

Despair is a disease spread by the powerful,
like smallpox laced in a blanket,
to keep us weak, distracted, and in thrall.

Time is against us, always against us,
the mortal tincture working its way.
But while breath and blood still flows
behind the caging bone,

MANY THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

*** *** *** *** *** *** ***

 
 
Profiles in Pusillanimity: Obama and the 'Ground Zero Mosque'
Share
Written by Chris Floyd   
Sunday, 15 August 2010 22:35

There was great rejoicing on the port side of the blogosphere this weekend after Barack Obama took the "brave step" of announcing "his support for the Ground Zero mosque." (There was also much rejoicing on the starboard side as well, as it "proved" the Right's contention that Obama is a double-secret Islamic Muslim Moslem Mohammedan out to convert every American into Islamic Muslim Moslems.) Even stern critics of many aspects of the Obama regime declared that here, at last, the pusillanimous progressive prez had taken a worthy stand, and should be praised.

[I confess that I have never understood this latter stance, especially when it comes from those who continually lay out the high crimes and atrocities of the current administration in devastating detail. Why should we make a point of praising leaders whom we know are engaged in criminal, immoral and unconstitutional actions? As I've noted here many times before, every government in the history of the world has done "good" things, in some areas, for some people, or even many people -- even the worst regimes of the last century. They built roads, established social programs, dug sewers, built hospitals, schools, parks, museums, brought electricity to rural regions, lifted millions out of poverty and illiteracy, and so on and so forth. Their leaders often made speeches about their abiding belief in freedom and peace and a decent life for all; Stalin's constitution, for example, promised a virtual paradise of democracy, tolerance, equality and ease. Indeed, you can find "good" deeds being done by all kinds of criminal groups: Al Capone's gang helped many of the poor and sick in their neighborhoods -- in fact, it was the Chicago mob that first forced milk producers to date-stamp their products, to protect consumers from buying old milk which had been sold as fresh. But no one feels compelled to be "fair" by noting their good deeds along with the many murders, atrocities and acts of terrors they committed. Why then should we praise a president who is directing -- and expanding -- the murderous operations of rampaging, liberty-gutting war machine?]

In any case, soon -- in less than 24 hours, in fact -- it was walkbacks all around, as the Pusillanimous One issued a statement that diluted his original declaration to the point of anodyne meaninglessness. No longer a bold stand against the truly sickening racism -- and deliberate deceit -- of the manufactured "controversy," Obama's "stance" was reduced to beltway boilerplate about our exalted American principles ... while specifically (and cravenly) denying that these principles could be or should be applied to this, or any, particular case.

As you might imagine, Arthur Silber has been on this case like the proverbial duck on the folkloric June bug. I was going to write on this topic, but he has already said most everything that I was going to say -- and much more besides. So let me then direct you immediately to his take on the subject, which opens with the most salient point -- that our "bold, brave" president is, by any measure (including those most solemnly encoded in the laws of the United States of America), a wanton war criminal. He also adds many other insights along the way -- such as the entirely ignored fact that the "Ground Zero Mosque" is, strictly speaking, not a mosque at all, and not at Ground Zero, while also scoring the deep, widespread and, dare we say it, popular racism at the core of this whole issue (which he also deals with in this follow-up piece). Hie thee there immediately, and read.

*Broken link fixed. My apologies. 

 
Quick Takes and Wrong Turns
Share
Written by Chris Floyd   
Friday, 13 August 2010 16:04

Luminous Landmark
As we noted here recently, Arthur Silber is in the midst of a landmark series on the Wikilieaks revelations -- a series whose profound implications and insights extend far beyond the particulars of the current controversy (although he has many pertinent things to say about those as well). I'm sure I will be drawing on these essays in the days to come. Circumstances prevent me from doing them justice at the moment, so for now I just want to point you to them once again (several more have appeared since their first mention here), and urge you to read them, if you have not done so already.

A Brief History of Hell
It's a story we have oft told here -- how the Potomac Empire brought fresh hell to Somalia -- but in light of the current imperial seat-warmer's "continuity" with the insane and inhumane policies of his predecessor, Charles Pena provides a very useful overview of "Blowback, Somali Style."

Long Gone Wrong Turn
Neil Ascherson writes of an exhibit which I just attended at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford: The Lost World of Old Europe. As he notes:

The Oxford exhibition is small, but utterly spectacular. Its objects – the figurines, the painted ceramics – are irresistible. Its message adds a new page to the conventional history of ‘civilisation’. Some 7000 years ago, in south-eastern Europe around the lower Danube, groups of farmers with loosely similar ways of life settled in an area reaching from modern Bulgaria and Romania across into Ukraine. In the transitional period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, they flourished and multiplied. They evolved an elaborately beautiful material culture of painted pottery, goldwork and beads. They modelled and treasured clay figurines of women – and a few men. They mined copper and gold, and imported fashionable seashells from the distant Aegean. They seem to have lived in peace and equality. Before the first big cities arose in Mesopotamia, the peoples settled between the Carpathians and the Dnieper (heftily named the ‘Cucuteni-Tripolye culture’) lived in enormous ‘villages’ with up to 8000 inhabitants. These were the largest communities anywhere in the world. But such ‘megatowns’ show no trace of palaces or temples or other structures of central authority. If this ‘Old Europe’ had survived and spread westwards and northwards, the human story of the whole continent might have developed along a different track – perhaps a happier one.

But it did not survive. ‘Old Europe’ became a ‘Lost World’. Between 4000 and 3000 BC, invaders rode in from the eastern steppes, mobile warriors who used horses and who were pastoral herders rather than farmers. The mounds (‘tells’) inhabited for thousands of years were deserted and the ‘megatowns’ burned down. The copper mines were abandoned and the wonderful pottery and figurines forgotten. So much for theories of inevitable, linear progress....


The whole piece is well worth reading.

Unquiet Graves
Even as Tony Blair prepares for this whirlwind "War Criminal Memoir" Tour (anticipating his senior partner in perfidy, George Bush, by a few months), the unquiet graves he left behind him continue their turbulations. As the Guardian reports: Experts call for David Kelly inquest. The new UK government -- egregious wankers that they are -- seem less inclined to bury the bloody laundry of their predecessors (at least in some limited cases) than some Ovaloid Peace Laureates we know.

Glue Addicts
Charles Davis points us to a definition of "Beltway liberalism in 24 words." They are offered up, as you might suspect, by that reliable chewer of progressive conventional wisdom, Matthew Ygelsias, who tells us:

"From a Keynesian standpoint, I believe that with the economy depressed it’s better to spend the money in Afghanistan than not to spend it."


As Davis notes:

Sorry, but someone truly familiar with all the horrors of war, someone who could actually empathize with an Afghan mother or father losing their child to an American smart bomb -- or a child watching their parents die in a botched night raid by U.S. marines -- could never write that.


Ah, but in the cozy bipartisan cocoon of the imperium, war is always on the menu. It is, as Andrew Bacevich points out, the very glue that binds the American elite together, for all their loud but very minor factional quibbles.

And you can't feel your way into the suffering of others when your own organs of perception are smeared with glue ... and coagulate gore.

 
<< Start < Prev 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 Next > End >>

Page 85 of 123