Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The new imperialist carve-up of the Middle East

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The events of the past week will go down in history as a milestone in the development of 21st century imperialism. In the space of a few days, the United States, Britain, and Germany escalated their military involvement in Syria, following France’s intensification of its own bombing campaign in Syria last month.
The pretext for these operations are the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, followed now by the horrific mass shooting in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday. The reasons presented to the public, however, have little to do with the strategic discussions taking place in top ranks of the military and the intelligence agencies.
As tragic as the killings of 130 people in Paris and 14 in San Bernardino are, they cannot explain the sudden and convulsive military escalation by major imperialist powers in the Middle East. One should recall that in 1915, after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania with the loss of 1,198 lives, the United States refrained from entering into World War I. At that point, the American ruling class was still divided over the advisability of intervening in the Great War.
The basic force behind war in Syria is the same as that which has motivated the imperialist carve-up of the Middle East as a whole: the interests of international finance capital. The major imperialist powers know that if they are to have a say in the division of the booty, they must have also done their share of the killing.
This war drive in the Middle East is deeply unpopular, which explains the frenzied rush to utilize the recent attacks, along with an atmosphere of fear whipped up by the media, to push through actions as rapidly as possible. Consider the events of the past week:
On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced that it would deploy a new contingent of Special Operations Forces, nominally directed at the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or ISIL). At a press conference on the same day, Obama repeated that any settlement of the war in Syria had to include the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, a key ally of Russia.
On Wednesday, the British Parliament voted to support military action in Syria after Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn cleared the way for war by agreeing to a “free vote” by his party’s MPs. British warplanes moved immediately to bomb targets in Syria on Wednesday night, as Prime Minister David Cameron denounced anyone opposing the war as a “terrorist sympathizer.”
On Friday, the German Bundestag rushed through a vote to join the Syrian war with almost no discussion. The parliamentary sanctioning of war followed the decision by the government earlier in the week to send 1,200 troops, six Tornado jets and a warship to the region.
Then, over the weekend, the US media and political establishment moved to exploit the killings in San Bernardino, California to press for expanded war. The Republican presidential candidates issued belligerent statements insisting that the US faces “the next world war” (New Jersey Governor Chris Christie), that “the nation needs a wartime president” (Texas Senator Ted Cruz), and that “they have declared war on us, and we need to declare war on them” (former Florida Governor Jeb Bush).
In a speech Sunday night, Obama defended his own policy in Syria against his Republican critics, repeating his opposition to a massive deployment of ground forces in Iraq and Syria in favor of accelerated airstrikes, the funding of groups within Syria, and the use of troops from neighboring countries. Praising the moves of France , Germany and the UK, Obama declared, “Since attacks in Paris [on November 13], our closest allies… have ramped up their contributions to our military campaign which will help us accelerate our effort to destroy ISIL.”
As they press for war, neither Obama nor any section of the political establishment is capable of saying anything about the actual roots of ISIS, which explode the pretext of the “war on terror” that has been the foundation of US foreign policy for 15 years.
In his speech on Sunday, Obama referred obliquely to the growth of ISIS “amidst the chaos of war in Iraq and then in Syria,” as if this was unrelated to the policy of the US itself. In fact, the US and its allies first illegally occupied and devastated Iraq, then built up Islamic fundamentalist groups in Syria from which ISIS emerged as the spearhead of the war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The ISIS fighters who led the Paris attacks were able to travel freely in and out of Syria, because thousands of similar youth were traveling from Europe to Syria with the support of the authorities to join the war against Assad.
As for the San Bernardino attack, officials have cited the travel of the two shooters to Saudi Arabia and their contact with individuals in the Al Nusra Front to justify calling the shooting a terrorist attack. Saudi Arabia, the center of financing and support for Islamic fundamentalist groups throughout the Middle East, is a key US ally in the region, and the Al Nusra Front, affiliated with Al Qaeda, is the de facto ally of the US in Syria.
Rather than a response to the recent attacks, the actions of the imperialist powers are the realization of long-standing plans and ambitions. In Britain, this week’s vote reverses the 2013 vote in the House of Commons rejecting participation in a planned US-led war with the Assad regime. The German ruling class has been clamoring to play a much more active military role, to assert itself as Europe’s dominant power.
In the United States, prior to the San Bernadino attacks, there were insistent calls within the political establishment and media for the deployment of ground troops and the imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria.
Led by United States, the imperialist powers have been engaged in unending war, centered in the Middle East and Central Asia, for a quarter of a century. More than a million people have been killed, and millions more turned into refugees. After wars in Afghanistan and Iraq under the Bush administration, Obama has overseen the war in Libya and CIA-backed campaigns for regime change in Ukraine and Syria. The disastrous consequences of each operation have set the stage for an expansion and intensification of war.
What is taking place is a redivision and recolonization of the world. All the old powers are piling in to claim their share. While currently centered in the oil-rich Middle East, the conflict in Syria is developing into a proxy war with Russia. On the other side of the Eurasian landmass, the US is launching increasingly provocative actions against China in the South China Sea.
The geopolitical situation today is more explosive than at any time since the eve of World War II. Beset by an intractable economic and social crisis for which they have no progressive solution, the ruling class increasingly sees war and plunder as the only possible response.

Apocalyptic Capitalism

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The charade of the 21st United Nations climate summitwill end, as past climate summits have ended, with lofty rhetoric and ineffectual cosmetic reforms. Since the first summit more than 20 years ago, carbon dioxide emissions have soared. Placing faith in our political and economic elites, who have mastered the arts of duplicity and propaganda on behalf of corporate power, is the triumph of hope over experience. There are only a few ways left to deal honestly with climate change: sustained civil disobedience that disrupts the machinery of exploitation; preparing for the inevitable dislocations and catastrophes that will come from irreversible rising temperatures; and cutting our personal carbon footprints, which means drastically reducing our consumption, particularly of animal products.

“Our civilization,” Dr. Richard Oppenlanderwrites in “Food Choice and Sustainability, “displays a curious instinct when confronted with a problem related to overconsumption—we simply find a way to produce more of what it is we are consuming, instead of limiting or stopping that consumption.”

The global elites have no intention of interfering with the profits, or ending government subsidies, for the fossil fuel industry and the extraction industries. They will not curtail extraction or impose hefty carbon taxes to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They will not limit the overconsumption that is the engine of global capitalism. They act as if the greatest contributor of greenhouse gases—the animal agriculture industry—does not exist. They siphon off trillions of dollars and employ scientific and technical expertise—expertise that should be directed toward preparing for environmental catastrophe and investing in renewable energy—to wage endless wars in the Middle East. What they airily hold out as a distant solution to the crisis—wind turbines and solar panels—is, as the scientist James Lovelocksays, the equivalent of 18th-century doctors attempting to cure serious diseases with leeches and mercury. And as the elites mouth platitudes about saving the climate they are shoving still another trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), down our throats. The TPP permits corporations to ignore nonbinding climate accords made at conferences such as the one in Paris, and it allows them, in secret trade tribunals, to defy environmental regulations imposed by individual states.

New technology—fracking, fuel-efficient vehicles or genetically modified food—is not about curbing overconsumption or conserving resources. It is about ensuring that consumption continues at unsustainable levels. Technological innovation, employed to build systems of greater and greater complexity, has fragmented society into cadres of specialists. The expertise of each of these specialists is limited to a small section of the elaborate technological, scientific and bureaucratic machinery that drives corporate capitalism forward—much as in the specialized bureaucratic machinery that defined the genocide carried out by the Nazis. These technocrats are part of the massive, unthinking hive that makes any system work, even a system of death. They lack the intellectual and moral capacity to question the doomsday machine spawned by global capitalism.  And they are in control.

Civilizations careening toward collapse create ever more complex structures, and more intricate specialization, to exploit diminishing resources. But eventually the resources are destroyed or exhausted. The systems and technologies designed to exploit these resources become useless. Economists call such a phenomenon the “Jevons paradox.”The result is systems collapse.

In the wake of collapses, as evidenced throughout history, societies fragment politically, culturally and socially. They become failed states, bleak and desolate outposts where law and order break down, and there is a mad and often violent scramble for the basic necessities of life. Barbarism reigns.

“Only the strong survive; the weak are victimized, robbed, and killed,” the anthropologist Joseph Tainter writes in “The Collapse of Complex Societies.” “There is fighting for food and fuel. Whatever central authority remains lacks the resources to reimpose order. Bands of pitiful, maimed survivors scavenge among the ruins of grandeur. Grass grows in the streets. There is no higher goal than survival.”

The elites, trained in business schools and managerial programs not to solve real problems but to maintain at any cost the systems of global capitalism, profit personally from the assault. They amass inconceivable sums of wealth while their victims, the underclasses around the globe, are thrust into increasing distress from global warming, poverty and societal breakdown. The apparatus of government, seized by this corporate cabal, is hostile to genuine change. It passes laws, as it did for Denton, Texas, after residents voted to outlaw frackingin their city, to overturn the ability of local communities to control their own resources. It persecutes dissidents, along with environmental and animal rights activists, who try to halt the insanity. The elites don’t work for us. They don’t work for the planet. They orchestrate the gaiacide. And they are well paid for it.

The Anthropocene Age—the age of humans, which has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species and the pollution of the soil, air and oceans—is upon us. The pace of destruction is accelerating. Climate scientists say that sea levels, for example, are rising three times faster than predicted and that the Arctic ice is vanishing at rates that were unforeseen. “If carbon dioxide concentrations reach 550 ppm,” writes Clive Hamilton in “Requiem for a Species,” “after which emissions fell to zero, the global temperature would continue to rise for at least another century.” We have already passed 400 parts per million, a figure not seen on earth for 3 million to 5 million years. We are on track to reach at least 550 ppm by 2100.

The breakdown of the planet, many predict, will be nonlinear, meaning that various systems that sustain life—as Tainter chronicles in his study of collapsed civilizations—will disintegrate simultaneously. The infrastructures that distribute food, supply our energy, ensure our security, produce and transport our baffling array of products, and maintain law and order will crumble at once. It won’t be much fun: Soaring temperatures. Submerged island states and coastal cities. Mass migrations. Species extinction. Monster storms. Droughts. Famines. Declining crop yields. And a security and surveillance apparatus, along with militarized police, that will employ harsher and harsher methods to cope with the chaos. 

We have to let go of our relentless positivism, our absurd mania for hope, and face the bleakness of reality before us. To resist means to acknowledge that we are living in a world already heavily damaged by global warming. It means refusing to participate in the destruction of the planet. It means noncooperation with authority. It means defying in every way possible consumer capitalism, militarism and imperialism. It means adjusting our lifestyle, including what we eat, to thwart the forces bent upon our annihilation.

The animal agriculture industry has, in a staggering act of near total censorship, managed to stifle public discussion about the industry’s complicity in global warming. It is barely mentioned in climate summits. Yet livestock and their byproducts, as Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn point out in their book, “The Sustainability Secret,” and their documentary, “Cowspiracy,”account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Methane and nitrous oxide are rarely mentioned in climate talks, although those two greenhouse gases are, as the authors point out, respectively, 86 times and 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. Cattle, worldwide, they write, produce 150 billion gallons of methane daily. And 65 percent of the nitrous oxide produced by human-related activities is caused by the animal agriculture industry. Water used in fracking, they write, ranges from 70 billion to 140 billion gallons annually. Animal agriculture water consumption, the book notes, ranges from 34 trillion to 76 trillion gallons annually. Raising animals for human consumption takes up to 45 percent of the planet’s land. Ninety-one percent of the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest and up to 80 percent of global rain forest loss are caused by clearing land for the grazing of livestock and growing feed crops for meat and dairy animals. As more and more rain forest disappears, the planet loses one of its primary means to safely sequester carbon dioxide. The animal agriculture industry is, as Andersen and Kuhn write, also a principal cause of species extinction and the creation of more than 95,000 square miles of nitrogen-flooded dead zones in the oceans.

A person who eats a vegan diet, they point out, a diet free of meat, dairy and eggs, saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life every day.

The animal agriculture industry has pushed through “Ag-Gag” lawsin many states that criminalize protests, critiques of the industry, and whistleblowing attempts to bring the public’s attention to the staggering destruction wrought on the environment by the business of raising 70 billion land animals every year worldwide to be exploited and consumed by humans. And they have done so, I presume, because defying the animal agriculture industry is as easy as deciding not to put animal products—which have tremendous, scientifically proven health risks—into your mouth.

We have little time left. Those who are despoiling the earth do so for personal gain, believing they can use their privilege to escape the fate that will befall the human species. We may not be able to stop the assault. But we can refuse to abet it. The idols of power and greed, as the biblical prophets warned us, threaten to doom the human race.

Timothy Pachirat recounts in his book, “Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight,” an Aug. 5, 2004, story in the Omaha World-Herald. An “old-timer” who lived five miles from the Omaha slaughterhouses recalled the wind carrying the stench of the almost six and a half million cattle, sheep and hogs killed each year in south Omaha. The sickly odor permeated buildings throughout the area.

“It was the smell of money,” the old-timer said. “It was the smell of money.”

War Is On The Horizon: Is It Too Late To Stop It?

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One lesson from military history is that once mobilization for war begins, it takes on a momentum of its own and is uncontrollable.

This might be what is occurring unrecognized before our eyes.

In his September 28 speech at the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia can no longer tolerate the state of affairs in the world. Two days later at the invitation of the Syrian government Russia began war against ISIS.

Russia was quickly successful in destroying ISIS arms depots and helping the Syrian army to roll back ISIS gains. Russia also destroyed thousands of oil tankers, the contents of which were financing ISIS by transporting stolen Syrian oil to Turkey where it is sold to the family of the current gangster who rules Turkey.

Washington was caught off guard by Russia’s decisiveness. Fearful that the quick success of such decisive action by Russia would discourage Washington’s NATO vassals from continuing to support Washington’s war against Assad and Washington’s use of its puppet government in Kiev to pressure Russia, Washington arranged for Turkey to shoot down a Russian fighter-bomber despite the agreement between Russia and NATO that there would be no air-to-air encounters in Russia’s area of air operation in Syria.

Although denying all responsibility, Washington used Russia’s low key response to the attack, for which Turkey did not apologize, to reassure Europe that Russia is a paper tiger. The Western presstitutes trumpeted: “Russia A Paper Tiger.” http://www.wsj.com/articles/turkey-shoots-down-a-paper-tiger-1448406008 [1]

The Russian government’s low key response to the provocation was used by Washington to reassure Europe that there is no risk in continuing to pressure Russia in the Middle East, Ukraine, Georgia, Montenegro, and elsewhere. Washington’s attack on Assad’s military is being used to reinforce the belief that is being inculcated in European governments that Russia’s responsible behavior to avoid war is a sign of fear and weakness.

It is unclear to what extent the Russian and Chinese governments understand that their independent policies, reaffirmed by the Russian and Chinese presidents On September 28, are regarded by Washington as “existential threats” to US hegemony.

The basis of US foreign policy is the commitment to prevent the rise of powers capable of constraining Washington’s unilateral action. The ability of Russia and China to do this makes them both a target.

Washington is not opposed to terrorism. Washington has been purposely creating terrorism for many years. Terrorism is a weapon that Washington intends to use to destabilize Russia and China by exporting it to the Muslim populations in Russia and China.

Washington is using Syria, as it used Ukraine, to demonstrate Russia’s impotence to Europe— and to China, as an impotent Russia is less attractive to China as an ally.

For Russia, responsible response to provocation has become a liability, because it encourages more provocation.

In other words, Washington and the gullibility of its European vassals have put humanity in a very dangerous situation, as the only choices left to Russia and China are to accept American vassalage or to prepare for war.

Putin must be respected for putting more value on human life than do Washington and its European vassals and avoiding military responses to provocations. However, Russia must do something to make the NATO countries aware that there are serious costs of their accommodation of Washington’s aggression against Russia. For example, the Russian government could decide that it makes no sense to sell energy to European countries that are in a de facto state of war against Russia. With winter upon us, the Russian government could announce that Russia does not sell energy to NATO member countries. Russia would lose the money, but that is cheaper than losing one’s sovereignty or a war.

To end the conflict in Ukraine, or to escalate it to a level beyond Europe’s willingness to participate, Russia could accept the requests of the breakaway provinces to be reunited with Russia. For Kiev to continue the conflict, Ukraine would have to attack Russia herself.

The Russian government has relied on responsible, non-provocative responses. Russia has taken the diplomatic approach, relying on European governments coming to their senses, realizing that their national interests diverge from Washington’s, and ceasing to enable Washington’s hegemonic policy. Russia’s policy has failed. To repeat, Russia’s low key, responsible responses have been used by Washington to paint Russia as a paper tiger that no one needs to fear.

We are left with the paradox that Russia’s determination to avoid war is leading directly to war.

Whether or not the Russian media, Russian people, and the entirety of the Russian government understand this, it must be obvious to the Russian military. All that Russian military leaders need to do is to look at the composition of the forces sent by NATO to “combat ISIS.” As George Abert notes, the American, French, and British aircraft that have been deployed are jet fighters whose purpose is air-to-air combat, not ground attack. The jet fighters are not deployed to attack ISIS on the ground, but to threaten the Russian fighter-bombers that are attacking ISIS ground targets.

There is no doubt that Washington is driving the world toward Armageddon, and Europe is the enabler. Washington’s bought-and-paid-for-puppets in Germany, France, and UK are either stupid, unconcerned, or powerless to escape from Washington’s grip. Unless Russia can wake up Europe, war is inevitable.