Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 11:41 am 
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Terrorism and empire: major US products

An article in the Independent of London cites an "authoritative US study of terrorist attacks after the invasion in 2003" that shows the Iraq war is directly responsible for "an upsurge of fundamentalist violence worldwide." The Bush administration is doing exactly the opposite of what it says it is doing. The "war on terror" as waged by the US in Iraq has not reduced the number of terrorists and made us safer, as Bush keeps saying. It has caused them to multiply, both in Iraq and elsewhere, and put us all in more danger -- everywhere.

This by now widely known fact takes on yet deeper significance with Seymour Hersh's latest piece in The New Yorker. Two notable comments at the moment on American foreign policy are just out from Chalmers Johnson and Hersh. Johnson's Nemeis completes his Blowback Trilogy about the rise and expected fall of the American empire. He thinks the US must withdraw its hundreds of bases from occupying the world or sink under its hubris like ancient Rome. For him the prospect of a lighter, more humane regime coming from the democrats in Washington makes little difference overall. This is reinforced by a new film about Ralph Nader, An Unreasonable Man. Nader justified his controversial third-party presidential campaigns against Bush by the principle that when it comes to the two ruling US parties, there's no real difference. When you look at Johnson's story of American empire, that proves true. (In domestic terms, it's another story.)

A tangled web of deceit

Once again after months of traveling as far as Beirut, where he interviewed Hezbullah's Hassan Nasrallah, arguably the shrewdest and most important new leader to emerge in the Arab world in decades, and talking to his usual plethora of unidentified government informants active and retired, Hersh makes the surprising announcement that Cheney and company are supplying pallet-loads of dollars -- of which there are millions, perhaps billions, floating around in Iraq -- and other secret funds to Sunni radicals closely linked to Al Qaeda. In the article, "The Redirection: Is the Administration's new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terror?" Hersh reports a recent reconvening of Iran-contra alumni to assess the pros and cons of such ventures. The Sunni radical support program follows a similarly convoluted and illegal system. Obviously in Hersh's view, and he has recently said so, US leaders don't learn from history. This "strategic shift" or "redirection" the New Yorker article refers to is a more tangled web than Iran-contra, devious and absurd though that scheme was. The aim of strengthening radical Sunnis to hold the Shiites in check seems dangerous and likely to backfire. All of this is clandestine, unknown to Congress, and directed out of the Vice President's office, not the Pentagon or CIA. Does it make any sense? Not a lot. Do you have trouble keeping straight the difference between Sunnis and Shiites? You can bet they do too.

All according to plan

Following a pattern set well before George W. Bush came into office, the direction of US foreign policy has lately been shifting increasingly from Iraq to Iran. Whether the threat to Israel or to US troops or any other reason is cited, this focus was always part of a grand scheme for expanding, or merely flaunting, the American empire with the euphemistic title "Rebuilding America's Defenses" that, as is well known, was issued by the Project for a New American Century in September 2000.

The plan was always to do these things, but did not specify exactly how to do them and certainly not how to justify doing them. Hence Washington is using essentially the same exploded strategy of ersatz pretexts for war in the case of Iran as it used four years ago for Iraq. How can it hope to get away with this? Surely there is an almost universal awareness by now that Iraq was a completely put-up job? Well, in a sense they can't get away with it, because here we are, talking about it. They can't fool everybody. But they can still do it. The power is still in their dangerous hands. And unfortunately the electorate and the Congress still have not developed a system for rapidly demolishing administration lies. Nor has the press. Bush accusations against Iran are reported as prime news. We have no mechanism for rejecting indigestible material; it still has to go down before it can come back up. And Bush has asked to have the ability to initiate the bombing of Iran with only a one-day lead time. It could happen faster and with less warning than Shock and Awe hit Baghdad.

Who benefits: destruction for profit

There is a logic behind going for Iran. Sure, the US is indirectly behind the rule of the mullahs. That is the common American pattern: set them up, knock them down. But Iran is the biggest danger to US interests in the Middle East (other than the US itself, that is). However, this is part of a destructive system of solving problems by violence (direct, or indirectly incited) rather than by negotiation. (Recently, the administration has taken a step in the other direction by reversing itself and negotiating with North Korea, with positive results.) Resolving the Palestine-Israel situation by peaceful means, by bringing pressure to bear on all parties involved, would obviously ease all the other unrest in the region. But that is not what the Bush administration or its neo-con ideologues want. Empire, or at least the hell-bent kind the neo-cons favor, is best pursued by war, not peacemaking,. Destruction in the administration's system of thinking isn't really a minus. It's still possible as Naomi Klein argued in her September 2004 Harper's article, "Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia," that the mess in Iraq was intentional; that the forces at the top wanted raw capitalism to triumph, not democracy, and so all the chaos was acceptable from the start. Apart from political extremists -- the in-country terrorists, the friends of Al Queda, or the nationalistic insurgents -- the Halliburtons and Blackwaters and myriad other contractors (though not their in-country operatives, who return maimed, like the soldiers) remain the sole elements truly benefiting from US Middle East policy, and it is obvious that they do not rebuild. Destruction for profit could in fact be the best way to describe how the planet has primarily been managed in the capitalist age.

The sorcerer's apprentice

Thus while they are primarily profiteers, the current US leaders have shown themselves to be in one sense indeed "Masters of Terror." The Bush administration is exceptionally good at inspiring terrorism. But it's not good at controlling or quelling it. The only way to quell terror is the almost impossible strategy of ignoring it; that is what makes terrorism so effective. But a reasonable substitute is to wage peace -- to negotiate with enemies and create alliances. This is not the Bush II way. Hence Cheney et al. aren't true Masters of Terror. They're like the sorcerer's apprentice: they unleash forces they can't control.

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