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When Blood is Their Argument: An Empire on Fire
First published in Empire Burlesque yesterday, 8 December 2009
The result of Obama's year-long policy of escalation in Pakistan is clear: more violence, more terrorism, more instability. Yet even after this clear evidence of failure (according to the purported reasons for the escalation), what is the "new" policy after the "strategic review"? The same, only more so. We can thus look forward to a lot more of this...
News from Baghdad on Tuesday morning, from the New York Times:
After you have taken a moment to mull this unspeakable rending of human lives -- not just the individuals who were killed but also the lifelong, lacerating grief of their survivors -- a rending which is a direct result of an American invasion and occupation that not only loosed a savage sectarian war in the shattered, conquered land but also actively abetted it at every turn, go back and read the last paragraph of that excerpt again.
The worst attack in -- not years, not decades -- but mere weeks. In other words, it's hardly been a month since the last time, of many times, over and over, like clockwork, that dozens of people were ripped to shreds in the American-caused, American-abetted, American-supported civil wars in Iraq.
Think on that, then think on this: the situation in Iraq is now being held up as a model, a goal, for Barack Obama's massive expansion of the war and occupation in Afghanistan. Obama himself has called the "surge" in Iraq "an extraordinary achievement," and has at every turn promoted and propagated the myth that George W. Bush's escalation of a hideous war of aggression was a resounding success. This myth is based on one thing only: the fact that the peak of the ghastly death rate produced by the American occupation dropped to a somewhat less horrific level. But as countless experts and analysts have pointed out, this drop had very little to do with the addition of some 28,000 American troops. (And parenthetically, what a small thing the Iraqi "surge" seems now, with Obama having already launched two "surges" in Afghanistan, which will, in the end, add up to more than 50,000 troops -- with the concomitant number of mercenaries who now augment, when they do not surpass, the official military contingents in America's imperial campaigns.)
Patrick Cockburn is the latest to put Iraq's "model" surge in its proper perspective, in a piece this week in The Independent:
Cockburn goes on to note that Obama's strategy in Afghanistan, just like Bush's in Iraq, is guaranteed (by design?) to enflame ethnic conflict:
And of course, the addition of thousands more foreign forces carrying out intensified military operations in Afghanistan will mean thousands more civilian deaths -- one of the primary elements fuelling violent resistance to the Western occupation.
In other words, as always in our bipartisan Terror War, the actual policies pursued by our leaders will, of necessity, produce the opposite result of their stated aims: quelling terrorism, dampening extremism, bringing stability, and, in the words of Obama's escalation speech at West Point, building "a better future for our children and grandchildren" by ensuring that "other peoples' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity."
Let's state it again: you cannot achieve such goals, even in the slightest degree, with the foreign policies and military actions of the Bush and Obama administrations. You cannot invade countries, kills thousands upon thousands of innocent people, destroy societies, unleash and foment civil war, impose corrupt, violent, repressive regimes on shattered, suffering people and expect that this will somehow build "a better future" for your children and grandchildren -- much less for the children and grandchildren that you are murdering, brutalizing and traumatizing.
As we said here the other day, only an idiot could actually believe such things. And while our leaders may be moral nullities, they are not idiots. Therefore it is clear beyond all doubt and argument that the stated purposes for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are deliberate, knowing, well-considered lies. Thus all the earnest debates and commentaries on the relative efficacy of various policies aimed at achieving these completely specious goals are pointless. In the end, such diversionary "debates" only serve the causes of war, domination, profiteering and elite power that are, in the end, the only true goals of these campaigns.
Do you want more proof of the inherent subversion of the Terror War's stated goals by the actual policies adopted by our leaders? Then look at Pakistan this week -- or almost any week these days -- where dozens of people were killed in the intensified civil war that has been "ratcheted up" at Washington's insistence.
For the last year, the Obama administration has waged a relentless campaign of hectoring, pressure, humiliation and blackmail to force the Pakistani government to wage open war on Pashtun tribes and sectarian groups opposed to Pakistani collaboration with America's growing military presence in the region.
(And please note: Washington does not object at all in principle to the retrograde religious extremism of the targeted sectarian groups in Pakistan -- or in Afghanistan, for that matter. For one thing, many of these same groups received copious support from America during the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan. And of course, Obama, like all of his predecessors, joyfully embraces -- even, yes, bows to -- perhaps the most retrograde, extremist religious regime on earth, Saudi Arabia. Never believe -- not for a moment -- that it is the content of faction's belief that determines Washington's attitude toward it. This determination is made solely on the basis of how that group advances -- or impedes -- American policy interests at any given time and place. One need only look at the vicious religious extremists embraced and empowered by the United States in both Afghanistan and Iraq in the past few years to see that.)
And so, bowing to this pressure, throughout the year the Pakistani military has dutifully "ratcheted up" its attacks on its own people. And what has been the inevitable result? More violence, more terrorist attacks, more instability, more extremism.
Nothing illustrates this better than two stories that were paired together on the New York Times website on Tuesday (although only one made the front page of the print edition): Pakistan Told to Ratchet Up Fight Against the Taliban and Twin Attacks in Eastern Pakistan Kill at Least 66. Cause and effect don't come much clearer than that.
The first story is a remarkable tale of imperial extortion that nakedly reveals the true nature of American policy in the region: play ball, by our rules -- or get it in the neck. The administration of the new Nobel Peace Prize laureate is now openly telling the Pakistanis that if they do not kill more of their own people, then by God, the Americans are going to do it for them:
But because this is the New York Times, one of the great keepers of the American exceptionalism flame, we must have this ludicrous, laughable line inserted right after these direct threats:
The Pakistanis got the message, however:
In other words (we're having to use a lot of "other words" in this piece, but that's unavoidable when translating the higher bullshit of government and media), this was the message of the world's greatest beacon of freedom and goodness: "Listen up, Paki -- attack who we say or we're going to invade your fucking country. You savvy me lingo, Sambo?"
Yes, it is that crude; and yes, it is precisely that kind of condescending, dehumanizing racism that lies behind this approach. And try to picture the smug look of smirking satisfaction that accompanied this quote from the story:
And how's this for patting the blackjack in your palm, looking around the room and saying, with a sinister smile: "Nice little shop you got here, pal. Too bad if something, like, happened to it."
But of course what we are talking about here is Pakistan escalating the already extensive -- and heavy-handed, civilian-killing -- "counter-terrorism" operations it has launched at Washington's insistence in the past two years. These attacks have been met with a wave of reprisals from the targeted groups -- as well as by attacks of uncertain provenance. (In the world of "counterinsurgency," where death squads and double agents abound, one can never be sure where the ultimate origin of any attack comes from -- or even if the attackers themselves know who is pulling the strings. For more on this, see here, here and here, among many examples.)
The result of Obama's year-long policy of escalation in Pakistan is clear: more violence, more terrorism, more instability. Yet even after this clear evidence of failure (according to the purported reasons for the escalation), what is the "new" policy after the "strategic review"? The same, only more so. We can thus look forward to a lot more of this:
This was part of a series of attacks that have killed hundreds of people in the past few weeks. As the Guardian noted earlier this month:
And so the cycle goes on and on -- now with a Peace Laureate at its head. Looking at this ever-growing darkness, I keep coming back to something I wrote the day after 9/11:
Chris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This column is republished here with the permission of the author.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on December 9, 2009.
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