Scott Anderson’s “How the Arab World Came Apart:” It’s Not Islam; It’s the Economy, Genius!

fractured-lands-lead-image

Last Sunday, the New York Times (NYT) devoted its entire Sunday Magazine to a five-part article by Scott Anderson. It was called “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart.” The epic piece traced the lives of six Arabs from Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iraqi Kurdistan as each struggled to live through and make sense of the disintegration of the Arab World since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. In so doing, Anderson attempted to put compelling faces on a longer historical narrative that begs for clarification, order and humanization.

The author succeeds admirably in the human interest portion of his project. More importantly, he supplies invaluable detail about a 100 year-long history of political decisions and processes responsible for the crumbling of the Arab world.

But perhaps his most stunning insight is that “Arabia” has been fractured not principally by internecine religious radicalism, but by a long-standing anti-socialist policy on the part of the United States and its allies. Ever since the conclusion of World War II, that policy has blocked economic reform not only in the Arab world and the Middle East, but also in Latin America, Africa, and South Asia – in other words in the former colonies. In the Middle East, the resulting conflict has only recently taken on heavy religious overtones.

Specifically, in that troubled region, the result of U.S. policy has been warfare and economic sanctions imposed on socialist movements involving both Arab and non-Arab countries – on peoples most of whom happen to be Muslims. As a result, those Muslims have experienced extreme poverty, joblessness, and loss of hope. Consequently, many have gravitated towards a brutal gang of reactive terrorists (ISIS) offering employment, a sense of identity, pride, short-lived hope – and the power that comes from a uniform and a gun. The grunts in this gang know very little about Islam.

In an August 12th interview with Scott Anderson on “Democracy Now,” Juan Gonzalez led the Times correspondent to make that very point. He asked Anderson what he had learned from his 18 months of research that included interviews with 20 ISIS fighters all of whom are now imprisoned in Iraq or in Kurdistan. Anderson responded:

“There was an amazing pattern. . . (T)hey were all young men, kind of with very bleak futures, either unemployed or underemployed, from working-class families, and not religious at all. . . (T)hey were not from religious families. They did not know the Qur’an very well. In a couple of cases, I knew the Qur’an better than they did. . . And I think it was this kind of decision that young men make, that better to live large for a couple of years, and, you know, the power and the so-called glamour. . . that comes of carrying a gun . . . they had more akin to why somebody might join like an inner-city gang or why in Mexico they might join a narco gang. It’s this kind of despair at seeing any sort of future. But it’s not political, it’s not religious. It’s just this impulse to—you know, to have some sort of—I mean, it’s awful to say, in terms of ISIS, but adventure.”

Juan Gonzales then observes, “But that’s a quite different perspective from what we get here . . .  that these are religious zealots who are willing to die for Islam.”

“Yes,” Anderson agrees.

With that astounding exchange in mind, it’s informative to reread the NYT article and the long-term history it reviews to detect the pattern underlying what Anderson uncovers as an economic rebellion with a recent and thick religious overlay that obscures what’s really behind ISIS and the fracturing of the Arab world. For as Anderson implies, the rebellion there is not about religion, but about economy. It is about the conflict between capitalism and socialism that has been raging at least since the 1848 publication of The Communist Manifesto. Far from ending with the fall of the USSR in 1990, the conflict has only intensified, when the West took the Soviet demise as a signal that it could subsequently increase pressure and even overthrow socialist governments everywhere – from Cuba and Venezuela to Yugoslavia and Iraq –  without fear of reprisal.

 To understand, we need to examine the underlying historical pattern responsible not only for the fracturing of the Arab world, but for relations between the developed world (principally the United States) and impoverished nations generally.

That pattern (identified specifically by J.W. Smith and implicitly by John Perkins) runs as follows:

  • Any Western colony that attempts to “break for freedom” (from capitalism and colonial control)
  • By instituting a “socialist” economy prioritizing the needs of its own people, especially its majority poor
  • Will have its leaders accused of being undemocratic dictators – communist, totalitarian, or terrorist.
  • Those countries will find themselves undermined (with Western support) by local dissidents – usually drawn from those privileged under the old colonial order or from those marginalized by the new socialist order.
  • This will cause the governments in question to institute severe national security measures that Western enemies will vilify as dictatorial, thus justifying further measures to overthrow the “repressive” regime.
  • If such methods do not result in the desired regime change, the country in question will ultimately be subjected to direct invasion or other military action on the parts of its former colonial masters.
  • Interventionist military action will be met with resistance and retaliation on the part of imperialism’s victims. (This explains the origins of ISIS.)

To reiterate, this pattern lays the blame for Middle East conflict at the feet of colonialism.  It suggests that since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, capitalism’s real enemy in Arab countries and throughout the Middle East has been anti-imperialist socialism not primarily Islam. More precisely, the conflicts in Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan have been spawned not by religion, but by resistance to colonialism and by economic policies resistant to free market capitalism.

To grasp that point, let’s think first of all about imperialism or colonialism. Then connect resistance to such foreign adventurism with socialism and the birth of ISIS.

In essence, colonialism is a system of robbery. It has foreign armies invading, conquering militarily weak, resource-rich countries, and then controlling them either through occupying armies or through local militaries armed by the invaders and headed by indigenous collaborators working hand in glove with the colonists. The chief goal of such invasion is resource extraction – wealth transfers for purposes of enriching the colonizers.

Western colonization of Arabia began in earnest after World War I. Up until then (and from the end of the 13th century), what Westerners called the “Middle East” was the center of the Ottoman (i.e. the Turkish) Empire controlled by Muslim sultans.

The Ottoman Empire was the Islamic State of its day and at its height comprised central Hungary, the Balkan Peninsula, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine, Egypt, the Caucasus and western Iran. As the Anderson essay shows, the Sultans did not impose their religion or Sharia Law on those they colonized. Instead, they allowed Christians, Jews and others to practice their faiths with no interference. As long as they paid their taxes, tribes and clans throughout the region were allowed a great deal of freedom and self-determination.

After the Ottoman Empire broke down in 1920, the British, French, Italians, and the United States stepped in to fill the void. To control their newly annexed territories (and their oil), they instituted a divide and conquer strategy. This entailed creating small client states that never existed before. These new “nations” included entities such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Yemen. Each was run by local collaborators (royal monarchs and their families) who could be counted on to transfer Arabia’s patrimony at confiscatory prices.

Such divisions were immediately resisted by tribes and clans throughout the region. Their loyalty was (and remains) to local chiefs, not to prime ministers or presidents. Together tribal leaders and their people wanted foreigners out. Many wished to unite all Arabs in a “Pan Arab” movement to restore the unity of the Arab world that had existed under the Islamic State and Caliphate for more than 600 years. The operative sentiment was “Arabia for Arabs.”

Pan Arabism took two main forms, one secular and socialist, the other (much later) religious and Muslim.

It helps to keep Smith’s historical pattern in mind: (1) break for socialist freedom, (2) vilification of socialism’s leaders, (3) empowerment of their natural enemies (secular or religious), (4) repressive measures by the threatened government, (5) (as a last resort) U.S. military action, and (6) insurgent response.

To verify the pattern, let’s begin with Egypt as Anderson does. Then let’s join him in considering the cases of Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Add in the non-Arab examples of Iran and Afghanistan to complete the regional picture. All the while, note the elements of the six-point historical pattern. To repeat, they illustrate that capitalism’s enemy has not changed since 9/11. It remains socialism, not Islam.

The most prominent secular and socialist anti-colonial movement began emerging in 1952, when Gamal Abdel Nasser led a revolution that overthrew the Egyptian monarchy that had cooperated closely with the West. Nasser was an outspoken socialist. His first act as Prime Minister was to institute a wide-ranging land reform program benefitting peasant farmers.

In addition, Nasser was critical of the West in general. He was also anti-imperial and hostile to Israel, which he and his constituents saw as another Western colonial beachhead in the Arab world. Nasser and his supporters saw Jews returning to their “homeland” as opportunistic European invaders whose ancestors hadn’t thought about living in Palestine for well over a millennium.

Nasser was succeeded by Anwar Sadat in 1970. As Anderson shows, Sadat alienated Pan-Arabs by moving closer to a client-patron relationship with the United States. He cooperated with the Carter administration in negotiating a separate Peace Treaty with Israel in 1979, without prior consultation with the other Arab states. For such betrayal, Sadat was assassinated. He was succeeded by Hosni Mubarak, an even more compliant client of the United States who remained in power till he was driven from office by the Arab Spring movement in 2011.

Nasser’s vision was shared by Hafez al-Assad, who came to power in Syria in 1970. Like Nasser, Assad had participated in a revolution against a Western-compliant monarchy. That revolution brought his Pan-Arab Ba’athist Party to power in 1963. The Ba’ath Party derived its name from the Arabic word for “renaissance” or “resurrection.” It envisioned the eventual restoration of a single Arab state. It espoused Arab nationalism and Pan-Arabism – again, Arabia for the Arabs. Besides being anti-imperial and anti-West, Ba’athism was also socialist. Since 2011, the United States and Syria’s former colonial master, France, have taken both indirect and direct action for regime change in Syria.

In 1969 Ba’athism spread to Iraq, where revolutionary forces led by Saddam Hussein toppled the monarchy established and supported by the West. Of course, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990, Desert Storm (1991) and the invasion of Iraq (2003) involved elaborate military measures by the United States to remove Saddam from office.

The same year Saddam Hussein came to power (1969), the Pan Arab socialist movement spread to Libya under Muammar Gaddafi who also led a revolution against a monarchy supported by the Western colonial powers. Gaddafi gradually moved away from the Ba’athist Pan Arab ideal and embraced Pan Africanism instead. His Third International Theory (published in his Green Book) championed socialism and anti-colonialism for the entire African continent. U.S. military action deposed Gaddafi in 2011.

Besides its links to the six-point pattern indicated above, what socialism in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Libya had in common was the fact that it worked. It lifted masses of people from poverty and modernized the relevant countries in a relatively short time. For example, before the 1991 invasion, Iraq boasted the highest standard of living in the Arab world. Similar statements can be made about Nasser’s Egypt, Assad’s Syria, and Gaddafi’s Libya.

Regional resistance to control by Western capitalists also emerged prominently in non-Arab Iran and in Afghanistan – two other artificial countries which came into being at the end of the 19th century. It was in these countries that (with major U.S. implication) opposition to Western imperialism eventually took on the decidedly religious turn that most mistakenly identify today as the root cause of conflict in the Middle East.

However, to begin with (as was the case in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Libya), post-World War II Iran experienced a highly secular grassroots rebellion against foreign control of their region following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. The rebellion caused the democratic election of Mohammad Mossaddegh to displace the U.S. client, Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran.

Upon his succession to office, the enormously popular Mossaddegh instituted social and economic reforms of the type championed by socialists all over the world: social security, land reform, abolition of forced labor, rent control, agricultural regulation, compensation for workers injured on the job, public housing, and public works – all with the intent (as he said) to “combat disease, poverty, and backwardness.”

Above all, Mossaddegh nationalized Iran’s oil industry. This outraged Great Britain (who controlled Iran’s oil) the United States. So the CIA instituted a coup that removed Mossaddegh from office and replaced him, restoring to office Reza Pahlavi who returned from exile to administer an extremely repressive Western-friendly regime for the next quarter century.

In 1979, the Shah was overthrown in a rebellion. However, this time the uprising was not inspired by socialism, but by an anti-Western, anti-imperial movement organized “in the name of God.” It is here that Islam begins to take over as the face of the perennial regional resistance to Western imperialism that had roiled above and below the surface since 1920.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan. There too a secular socialist movement against the West morphed into a rebellion in the name of God.

In Afghanistan, the secular People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan took control of the country in 1973 under Nur Muhammad Taraki. It offered equal rights for women, universal education, and land reform. To oppose such reforms and the intervention of the Soviet Union to uphold them, the CIA identified and supported internal opposition, the Mujahedeen – Islamic jihadists who from their founding had adopted as their goal the expulsion of foreigner rulers (viz. the British) from the Middle East. The CIA now empowered them to expel the Soviet invaders and establish an Islamic State to replace socialism.

But Mujahedeen goals were not reached with the expulsion of the Soviets. The jihadists wanted all foreigners out of the region. That meant the expulsion of U.S. troops from Islamic holy centers in Medina and Mecca. The troops had taken up residence there following the 1991 defeat of Saddam Hussein in Operation Desert Storm. That defeat was followed by 12 years of economic sanctions that ended up taking the lives of half a million Iraqi children. Osama bin Laden would later identify those murders, along with the previous 80 years of European control of Arabia, and the stationing of troops in Mecca and Medina as the specific motives for the infamous attacks of 9/11. His rationale was hardly reported in the U.S. mainstream media (MSM).

Since 9/11those media and Western politicians have shifted blame for the dissolution of the Arab world away from neo-colonial capitalist depredations and the interventionist pattern Scott Anderson implicitly reviews. Instead of blaming a failed capitalist system and its related foreign policy, they locate the cause of Middle Eastern chaos in Islam and in Hitler-like tactics of egregiously evil dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Bashar Assad. The problems thus become personalized, cultural and religious. Thankfully for those responsible, they also become largely insoluble thus necessitating permanent war. Thus the grateful include Israel, Saudi Arabia and other “American” client states. They include as well the oil and arms industries, and the corporate-controlled MSM all of whom profit from a chaotic Middle East and from misidentifying the true culprit in the region.

If all of this is true, what then must be done about Anderson’s “Fractured Arab World?”  If the cause of the fissures there is not religion nor Hitler Redivivus, but capitalism itself, its 150-year war against socialism and its six-point pattern of colonial intervention, what policies might replace the failed, counter-productive measures of war, incessant bombing, and drone attacks? If the foot soldiers in the war are not religious zealots, but unemployed and underemployed young people without prospect or hope, what will give them hope and meaning beyond a black uniform, ski mask and gun?

Here’s where we might start:

  • Abandon imperial pretensions and allow nations everywhere to experiment with alternatives to a capitalist system that clearly does not serve them.
  • Stop all vilification of Islam and Muslims.
  • Completely transform the U.S. economy from its fossil fuel dependency, thus removing the major reason for “American” interest in the Middle East.
  • Nationalize the U.S. arms industry, thus severing the connection between war and profit.
  • Cut off all aid to Israel until it complies with repeated U.N. mandates to withdraw from the Palestinian territories it has illegally occupied. This would take seriously bin Laden’s claim that solving the Palestinian problem would also solve the problem of terrorism.
  • As a good-will measure and for the sake of justice, indict, try, and punish George Bush, Tony Blair, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and others responsible for the Iraq War that gave rise to ISIS.
  • Divert the billions now invested in failed wars against terrorism into reconstruction of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and other countries devastated by Western wars.
  • Similarly use those billions to provide constructive employment not only for ISIS fighters, but for U.S. soldiers who find themselves armed and in uniform for reasons similar to the young militants referenced in Scott Anderson’s essay.
  • With good will demonstrated in these ways, summon a Peace and Reconciliation Conference to include all stake holders in Middle East conflicts including ISIS..
  • Comply with the decisions of the conference.

That such common sense measures probably seem impossible and completely off the table for most of our diplomats (and readers of this essay!) represents a sad comment on our limits of perception. It exhibits a lack of genuine will on the parts of our “leaders” to solve the problem of global terrorism. It also demonstrates the need for a revolution of our own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Instead of a Sunday Homily) War Mongering at the New York Times: There’s always a “Why”

Urinating soldiers

Today The New York Times published an inflammatory editorial called “The Fundamental Horror of ISIS.” The evident but unstated purpose of the piece was to strengthen support for the latest waste of our tax-payer dollars on the most recent phase of the so-called “war on terror.” Like its predecessors, that phase has nothing to do with protecting our “homeland.” Rather as Dennis Kucinich has observed, it’s yet another phase of the (by-now) 25 year long war against the impoverished masses who have the misfortune of finding their homes floating on top of a vast sea of oil controlled by foreign outsiders.

To help the White House justify its consequent greed-based aggression, the NYT editorial trotted out the well-worn thesis that ISIS represents unmitigated, irrational evil entirely foreign to the sensitive minds of its gentle readers. So it rehearsed “the beheadings, crucifixions, tortures, rapes and slaughter of captives, children, women, Christians, Shiites.”

This, of course, represents a highly familiar litany relative to our state’s designated enemies. The “presstitutes” made similar allegations against “the Russians” during the Cold War as well as the Chinese Communists. It was also the case with the Sandinistas, the PLO, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Similarly, Manual Noriega, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Muammar Kaddafi, and (until recently) Bashar al-Assad all represented unmitigated evil. Now it’s the turn of ISIS and (as of last Tuesday) Khorasan.

In all of these cases the designated enemies in question have represented pure evil without any legitimate grievance other than sadism that strangely and inexplicably has (according to the Times in the case of ISIS) “attracted hundreds of willing followers — yes, also from Europe and America.”

Times editors put it succinctly in today’s rant: “Comparisons are meaningless at this level of evil, as are attempts to explain the horror by delving into the psychology or rationale of the perpetrators. . . as Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist, wrote in a recent piece about ISIS, there is no “why” in the heart of darkness.”

To repeat, this level of evil is entirely foreign to the civilized westerners.

Really?

Try explaining that to the victims of the 25 year war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They remember:

• The million and a half civilian deaths in Iraq caused by the U.S.’s naked “war of aggression” against that country – the “supreme international crime” in the eyes of the United Nations.
• YouTube films of U.S. military personnel urinating on the bodies of dead Iraqi patriots defending their “homeland” from barbarous Marines, Special Forces, and Navy Seals.
• Abu Ghraib and its broadly smiling heroes (from next door) sexually assaulting their victims and proudly posing with thumbs up over bodies of those they’ve just tortured to death.
• President Bush and Dick Cheney not only ordering the war crimes of water-boarding and other acts of torture, but joking about it.
• Fallujah and the use of illegal white phosphorous.
• Haditha and the heartlessness of U.S. soldiers systematically slaughtering entire families there.
• The frequent reports of wedding parties and funerals routinely devastated by drones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Bahrain, Yemen, Pakistan, and who knows where else?
• Chelsea Manning’s release of the film “Collateral Murder,” where U.S. “pilots” joke about “wasting” international journalists and the civilians who came to their aid.
• U.S. insistence on using cluster bombs whose known effect is to blow arms and heads off children attracted to explosives disguised as toys.
• Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s justification of the effects of U.S. sanctions on Iraq, which she admitted killed 500,000 Iraqi children. “Yes, Leslie,” Ms. Albright said to interviewer Leslie Stahl, “we think it was worth it.”
• U.S. supply of arms enabling Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” which wantonly slaughtered more than 2500 Palestinians in direct attacks on civilians and the infrastructure of Gaza.
• U.S. stated intent to adopt similar policy of “relaxed rules” around tolerance of civilian deaths in its latest attacks on Iraq and now Syria.

All of that would easily inspire Al-Jazeera editors to write:

“Comparisons are meaningless at this level of evil, as are attempts to explain the horror by delving into the psychology or rationale of the perpetrators. . . as one of our reporters wrote in a recent piece about the United States, there is no “why” in the heart of darkness.”

But of course, there’s always a “why.”

The difference is that the “why” in the U.S. heart of darkness is greed for oil and the protection of an oil economy that will predictably destroy our planet.

Meanwhile the unexamined “why” of ISIS and the thousands attracted to its cause is intimately connected with response in kind to the Original Aggression of colonialism’s systematic rape of the Middle East. ISIS is responding in kind to U.S. crimes. It’s all blowback.

And the gentle editors of the New York Times (speaking for their employers in the military-industrial complex) can’t stand what they see when they look into the mirror.

Respecting Hard Evidence: 9/11, Pearl Harbor, JFK, and Edward Snowden

New Pearl Harbor

Recently, I watched “September 11: The New Pearl Harbor.” That’s Massimo Mazzucco’s documentary that 9/11 scholar, David Ray Griffin, has called “the film we’ve been waiting for.” It’s available gratis on the web, and I recommend it highly.

The amount of evidence the film offers to discredit the official story of 9/11 is overwhelming. It comes from eyewitnesses, government officials, and experts on aviation and explosives. It comes from architects, engineers and others in the scientific community.

Similarly persuasive are the historical details and personal testimonies Mazzucco offers to discredit the official line about the Old Pearl Harbor of December 7th, 1941.They too come from eyewitnesses and a whole array of insiders. Together they debunk the notion that the attack on the U.S. naval base in Hawaii came as a surprise. Instead, the evidence shows that Franklin Roosevelt and others allowed Pearl Harbor to happen in order to justify U.S. entry into World War II.

In the face of such evidence, the refusals of our educational system, the mainstream media, and U.S. politicians to reopen investigations into both the new and the old Pearl Harbors are simply amazing.

It’s enough to make one recall similar refusals concerning the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November of 1963. Instead, the media, politicians, and educators allow to stand an explanation that literally has bullets changing direction in ways that defy the laws of physics. The official explanation holds even though expert riflemen have repeatedly found themselves unable to duplicate the alleged marksmanship of Lee Harvey Oswald using the alleged assassination weapon.

As I write such words, I can almost hear what’s going through some readers’ minds. “Oh, I get it. You’re another one of those ‘conspiracy theorists.’ I’m sorry, but I don’t find the ‘evidence’ you’re citing persuasive. As Americans, we and our leaders have higher standards.”

Really? Consider the following:

• In 2003, the U.S. government insisted on invading Iraq because of its possession of “weapons of mass destruction.” When inspectors couldn’t find those weapons, their failure was characterized by the Bush administration as evidence of Saddam Hussein’s evil genius. Hussein was so insidious, they claimed, that he was able to hide masses of chemical and other weapons from very aggressive inspectors. The administration used such non-evidence-as-evidence to justify an invasion and war that has taken more than a million lives of innocent Iraqis. What’s that you say about high standards of proof?

• Last September President Obama was on the point of bombing Syria for its use of chemical weapons against insurgents whose ranks include al-Qaeda, the arch enemy of “America.” The evidence justifying Obama’s attack remained secret. Beyond that, when asked for justification, only purely circumstantial proof was offered. The chemical weapons in question, we were told, required launchers available only to the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. This means that for Mr. Obama, secret evidence and circumstantial proof were sufficient to justify bombings that would kill hundreds, if not thousands or even hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrians. And yet all those hundreds of serious, science-based questions about 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination remain . . . well, unanswered.

• Just last week, Senator John McCain of Arizona accused Edward Snowden of sharing U.S. secrets with Russia. “If you believe he didn’t, McCain said, “then you believe that pigs fly.” McCain’s incontrovertible evidence? Hmm. Maybe he thought his smart remark was enough. But we can’t be sure. He didn’t say. Perhaps he was going on his own experience when he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Did he reveal U.S. secrets to the Vietnamese? How else could he act as both judge and jury, and make his flying pigs deduction with such certainty? Logic? Is his evidence stronger than that allegedly requiring a reinvestigation of 9/11?

That last question makes my point.

When it’s a question of attacking enemies, the flimsiest of reasons, the thinnest of connections, simple implications, logical deductions, illogical conclusions, and circumstantial evidence are enough to justify mass murder of the innocent.

Imagine if the proof against Saddam Hussein or al-Assad had risen to the level of that advanced by 9/11 scientists and other scholars. In that case, I’d wager there’s not a person in the world who wouldn’t recognize the guilt of Washington’s designated enemies. The proof would be so overwhelming.

My conclusions:

• “9/11: The New Pearl Harbor” is compulsory viewing for those with the courage to think for themselves.
• We shouldn’t buy any further wars unless their justification transcends the level represented in that film and ridiculed as merely “conspiratorial” by our government and pundits.
• That is, evidence should go beyond the detail offered in Mazzucco’s five hour documentary.
• Moreover, any reasoning legitimizing future wars should evoke comparisons with and questions about 9/11, the level evidence there, and the reasons for ignoring its questions about the official story.
• In effect, such demands would preclude said future wars. In fact, no war in recent memory has been based on anything like the evidence and reasoning marshaled in “9/11: The New Pearl Harbor.”
• Even more concretely, we should ask John McCain about the basis for his statement about Edward Snowden and then judge the weight of his evidence by comparing it with that offered in Mazzucco’s film.

Do you see what I mean? What do you think?

War Again!

assad

So we’re going to war again – this time in Syria.

And the reason? We’re outraged by the killing of innocent civilians through the use of the “weapons of mass destruction” that we so famously abhor. That is we abhor them when used by others. And these days everything qualifies for the category – even a pressure cooker filled with nails.

Meanwhile, the drone is never described as a weapon of mass destruction. Nor is the white phosphorus used to slaughter masses in Fallujah considered a chemical weapon. And what about the Agent Orange and Agent Blue “we” used in Vietnam and which is still claiming lives and causing horrendous birth deformities fifty years later? How about the depleted uranium that has caused not only deaths but an epidemic of child deformities wherever it has been used?

Have you seen those pictures? No, they’re too “graphic” for our sensibilities. But sensibilities be damned when it’s a question of our enemies atrocities instead of our own which absolutely dwarf the latter.

And where’s the outrage about our cooperation with Saddam Hussein in targeting Iranians, when Hussein was still our friend and ally? Just yesterday it came out that the CIA supplied him with targeting information for his famous use of chemical weapons . We were his collaborators in that crime! But that’s ancient history — way back in 1988.

And yet we rend our garments over this “unspeakable” crime that may have been committed by Bashar Assad – the latest personification of Hitler and evil itself just ahead of Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, Slobodan Milosevic, and Muammar Gaddafi.

No one asks “Can we afford this?” Where are the millions (billions?) necessary for this intervention coming from? What has Syria to do with us? How is it connected with U.S. problems of unemployment, income gaps between the super-rich and the ever-expanding ranks of the poor, failing schools, overcrowded prisons, voter suppression, crumbling infrastructure?

To address those problems we have no money. But for war, don’t ask. There’s always money for war.

And so our newscasters and pundits take John Kerry seriously when he wrings his hands over Syria’s use of chemical weapons. We have no option but to intervene militarily, Kerry assures us. And he’s the head of our “Diplomatic Corps!”

Where’s the diplomacy? Where’s the call for a cease fire, for U.N. peacekeeper intervention, for talks between the admittedly al-Qaeda-affiliated “rebels” and the Assad regime? What are we paying these guys for – these so-called diplomats?

And the mainstream media goes along with all of it. Putting on their most solemn faces and using their most serious voices the newscasters intone: “We have ‘undeniable circumstantial evidence’ that Bashar Assad is the one responsible for chemical weapons deployment. And there’s no time to wait for a fuller investigation.”

Sound familiar? When was the last time such certainty moved us to “shock and awe” an enemy, meanwhile killing untold innocent civilians in the process?

So our brave military stands ready to fire Cruise Missiles into population centers to retaliate for the killing of innocent civilians. The strikes will be as surgical as possible we’re reassured.

Have we learned nothing from recent history?

Mali for Dummies (Part One: General Background)

Are you confused by what’s happening in Mali? Welcome to the club. We’re probably all puzzled and feel like dummies overwhelmed by information pieces that provide a welter of names, dates, organizations and explanations that are complicated, contradictory and vague. As a result, we probably accept the “official story” behind France’s U.S. – supported intervention in Mali as promulgated by our own State Department, France, Algiers and others.

That story goes that “we” are fighting AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) which has suddenly materialized in Mali as part of a world-wide terrorist offensive that justifies the “Global War on Terrorism.” Well, if it’s a fight against al-Qaeda, we might reason, I guess I have to be for it.

I too felt drawn to just throwing up my hands and participating in the dummy syndrome of simply surrendering to government de-contextualized muddle and propaganda. But then I remembered what I’ve been reading in Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the United States. I recalled what I studied in Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States, and in Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. I drew on my recollections of Eduardo Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America.

All of those taught me that the real justifications for invading the former colonial world rarely coincide with the stated rationale. It’s virtually never about democracy or protecting national sovereignty (though it might be about “maintaining regional stability” in lands where the median income is less than $2.00 per day!) Instead developed-world intervention is invariably connected with continuing the process of transferring wealth and commodities from the resource-rich south to the “developed” north. It’s about keeping the rich south subservient and impoverished.

In fact, as pointed out by J.W. Smith of the Institute for Economic Democracy, there’s a pattern to all interventions like the one we’re witnessing in Mali. In its starkest form, the pattern runs like this:

1. Any country (or group within a country) attempting to break for economic freedom
2. By establishing government representing the interests of its own people rather than those of the former Mother Country
3. Will be accused of communism or terrorism
4. And will be overthrown by military intervention
5. Or by right wing (often terrorist) elements from within the local population
6. To keep that country within the ex-mother country’s sphere of influence
7. So that the former colonists might continue to use the country’s resources for the invaders own enrichment,
8. And that of the local elite.

To put a finer point on all of that, the sources I have mentioned have taught me that the West is not interested in democracy or in the freedom of its former colonies. That’s proven by examining a short list of dictators the West (particularly the United States) has supported. The list includes Bonzer (Bolivia), Mobutu (Zaire), the Duvaliers (Haiti), Rios Montt (Guatemala), the Somozas (Nicaragua), Resa Palavi (Iran), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Suharto (Indonesia), Pinochet (Chile), Fujimori (Peru), Diem (Vietnam), Marcos (Philippines), Noriega (Panama), Al Saud family (Saudi Arabia), Batista (Cuba).

All of these are robbers and thugs. In fact, colonialism is little more than a system of robbery intended to transfer raw materials and agricultural produce from the resource-rich colonies to the “Mother Countries.”

European and American colonists initially achieved control of the colonies by military power. The power was used indiscriminately, viciously and “necessarily” since the colonies were overwhelmingly inhabited by tribal peoples who typically did not share western values. You just couldn’t do business with most of them. After all, they usually believed that their land belonged to their God and cannot be treated simply as another commodity. So at least since 1492 the West has engaged in a world-wide genocidal process of eliminating and neutralizing tribal peoples. We’re witnessing the latest chapter of that process today in Mali.

Because of the business-averse tendencies of most tribal people, the colonial process also involved identification of individuals or groups within tribes who were willing to sell out their brothers and sisters. Alternatively it consisted in identifying and exploiting rivalries between tribes. In either case the point was to employ cooperative local elites (frequently, it turns out, Christian and lighter skinned) who were richly rewarded for controlling and using violence to oppress their own people or rival peoples on behalf of the colonists. In other words, the favored locals ended up being mercenary puppets of the colonists during the colonial era.

Following the end of formal colonialism (1950s and ‘60s), the departing colonists typically tried to keep their puppets in control by rigging “free” elections to elect “the willing” who would continue doing business with their former masters on favorable terms. Colonial powers also arbitrarily drew up gerrymandered borders delineating colonist-created “countries” that separated tribal peoples from fellow tribe members. This was done in order to segregate natural allies from one another and to set them against each other in competing states. The result was the creation of artificial “countries” like Mali and Niger whose boundaries have little meaning for the tribal families they separate, while the primary loyalties of those families remain to their tribes.

The processes and consequences of all this are being demonstrated in Mali today as the French, attempt to reassert control of rebels in their former resource-rich colony.

(On Wednesday we’ll review the particulars.)