Pipe Dreams: War Profiteers Plow Under the Poor

A.C. Grayling nails the stupendous – and literally murderous – folly of the Bush Regime's decision to launch a war of economic destruction against the Afghan people: Opium of the People (Guardian). The Regime is pressing its satrap in Kabul to step up the eradication, at gunpoint, of the nation's only cash crop – opium – with American-made herbicides. Thus both the land and the agrarian-based economy that most Afghans depend upon will be blighted, and multitudes will be plunged into further despair: ripe fruit for the Taliban and other extremists.

Since the American invasion, Afghan's world-leading poppy production has shot even higher through the roof. (It had been virtually eradicated under the Taliban -- with the help, now forgotten, of the Bush Administration.) Local warlords and druglords – many of them connected to the Kabul government and long backed by the Bush Regime (Man, is there any side in any conflict they haven't supported at one point or another, or as in Iraq, at the same time?) – have flooded the world with cheap heroin, swelling the coffers of criminal organizations everywhere. Yet without the poppy, Afghan farmers will go under; there is no safety net to tide them over during an attempt to build new markets with different crops.

Now, if you wanted to curtail opium production, cripple the criminal organizations feasting on profits from outlawed drugs, support Afghan farmers and help them move successfully to other crops --  and incidentally build mountains of goodwill for America – what would you do? Grayling offers the blindingly obvious solution: you would buy the opium crop from the Afghan farmers yourself, giving them a great price, then use part of the opium to support medical care around the world and destroy the rest. You would also provide funds, expertise, equipment, etc. to help develop profitable markets for other crops and goods from Afghanistan's rural economy. Finally, if you were truly wise, you would destroy or at least decimate the global crime cartels by decriminalizing narcotics, regulating and taxing their use, as with tobacco and alcohol. The result would be a remarkable boon for all humanity. The lion might not lie down with the lamb, but there would be an immeasurable reduction in crime, and in the violence and corruption spawned by the trade in criminalized substances.

But of course the Bush Administration will do none of these things. Why should it? It doesn't have the slightest interest in crippling drug barons, helping Afghan farmers or building good will for America. (Remember how in the early days of grand adventure in Babylon, Bush's sycophants liked to quote the old Roman tag, Oderint dum metuant: "Let them hate us as long as they fear us.") That's because the "Drug War" -- now in its fourth decade, at least -- is just like the Terror War: "that is to say, a never-ending fount of profitable corruption for the ruthless, the murderous and the well-connected," as we noted in this piece way back in November 2001. No one in the American power structure wants the Drug War to end, because the corruption, the vast appropriations, the tyrannical police owers, the laundered money -- and the ever-murky connections between covert ops and criminal/terrorist gangs -- that are the hallmarks of the Drug War are now embedded too deeply into the system; in many ways, it is the system. Some of our most august and respectable financial institutions would collapse if the ill-gotten gains of the Drug War were no longer filling their coffers. The profits of crime and corruption produced by the Drug War are now inextricably mixed with the global economy, and part of the financial backing of countless legitimate business enterprises.

The Terror War is proving to be an even bigger bonanza, of course: military aggression (and the attendant privatized "servicing"), whole new levels of repression and augmented state power, increased surveillance, mercenary and other "security" work, even more interpenetration of covert agencies and terrorist gangs, ever-spiking oil prices and ever-juicier weapons deals -- not to mention the vast spectacle of endless war and ceaseless tension abroad, which distracts people from your rapacious domestic agenda -- what's not to like? Why, it's almost as if the "War on Terror" was designed to benefit militarist political factions and their war-profiteering corporate cronies. 

And while the multiplicity of atrocity emanating from this compost heap of an administration can be bewildering, the root of the problem is really quite simple, and, perhaps, ineradicable. As I wrote here awhile back:

But all the earnest disquisitions about Bush's "ideology" entirely miss the point -- and increase the fog that the Regime deliberately spreads over its true interests. For the heart of this slouching beast is neither left-wing nor right-wing; it's strictly Bush-wing. Anyone even slightly acquainted with the history of the Bush dynasty knows what makes these preppy puppies run -- and it has nothing to do with conservative principles or moral values or national security or world freedom. It's not ideology, but investments -- the gobbling up of unearned, risk-free lucre on the grandest scale imaginable.

Naturally, the pursuit of this kind of piratical wealth leads to certain kinds of policies that can at times be mistaken for a political philosophy. For example, the Bush Regime's devotion to Big Oil, the military, tax cuts, corporate deregulation and unbridled executive power could be seen as the expression of a coherent, if repellent, worldview: Social Darwinism -- survival of the fittest, might makes right, winner takes all. Likewise, the Regime's embrace of religious and cultural fundamentalism resembles an ideological stance of unbending zeal and moral certitude, encompassing the whole of reality.

Taken together, these traits present a formidable picture of a thoroughgoing ideological juggernaut, well-plated with philosophical, academic, legal and theological armor. But underneath all this bristling array there is nothing but a tiny white maggot of greed, wriggling and gorging on scraps of rotting meat. No deep beliefs or high ideals inform the Bushist ethos, which can be boiled down to one sentence: Grab your pile and screw anybody who gets in the way. War, energy and corporate finance just happen to be where the money is at. And raw, secretive political power -- unfettered by courts, laws, legislators or public scrutiny -- is the most effective way to safeguard and augment these investments.

That is not to say that the Bushist credo lacks all nuance. There is in fact a very important refinement to their wormy greed: Loot should always be obtained without the slightest risk to your own financial position. The "free market" must be shunned at all costs -- and manipulated by string-pulling, deceit and intimidation when competition is unavoidable. Thus the Bush model is to cozy up to governments -- preferably strongman regimes free to ladle out public money to their favorites with no questions asked...

The decidedly un-butch Bushes are not really bloodthirsty. They don't sit in dark corners and cackle over the idea of children being chewed to pieces by American bombs. Nor do their nostrils flare with righteous rage at the thought of homosexuality or abortion or nipples on national television. It's just that war profiteering, corporate rapine and cynical pandering to the public's worst instincts are the easiest way to get the unearned riches they crave -- and the perks and power they feel are their birthright as an ancient branch of the American aristocracy.

Perhaps if they could obtain these same privileges as easily by other, less horrific means, they would. As it is, they take the world as they find it, and go about their business without fretting over the consequences -- the dead, the ruined, the spreading hate, the poisoned planet. Why should they care? As the maggot cannot see beyond the meat, so too these men of greed-stunted understanding can see nothing of worth outside their own bottomless appetites.

But let's be frank. Although the above analysis is, I believe, true as far as it goes, it is certainly not confined to the Bush family. They have merely been pitched up by "a complex work of fate" to stand as witless, vulgar exemplars of the Establishment ethos as a whole. What was long obscured by the circumspection and noble rhetoric of gentlemanly good breeding among the elite, these third-rate putzes have now made manifest, revealing the engines that drive the Establishment: greed, brute force, raw power, entrenched privilege and, above all, unaccountablity.

So what do they care, really, these maggoty masters of ours, if Afghan farmers sink into starvation -- or take up arms against the foreigners who have blighted their lives? More conflict just means more war profits, more contracts, more weapons, more useful fear to justify more repression at home.