Saturday, 24 December 2011

End of war fought for US power

So, the Yanks are going home. Apart from the thousands of their servicemen and women whose life-blood they are leaving in the sands of Iraq. And the tens of thousands too maimed or otherwise damaged to make it back to home and hearth. And minus the trillions of dollars in treasure they have expended on destroying an Arab country (which may have lost a million souls and seen three millions off into exile), fanning the flames of fanaticism, and unleashing a wave of sectarianism throughout the Muslim world.

Nice work, but hardly "Mission Accomplished" as the melancholy valediction delivered by President Obama at Fort Bragg this week made clear to the discerning. The more he talked about what he once called the "dumb war" the more obvious it was that his was the task of holding the dipped banner of defeat. And the crew of thick-necked servicemen straight out of central casting roaring their approval at his description of their success could not quite drown out the sound of the Last Post. This is the death knell of American empire. Like Ozymandius history, which hasn’t ended after all, will invite us to gaze upon its ruined works and tremble. But instead we will rejoice, rejoice. For the Project for the New American Century it will be never glad confident morning again.

The war which was waged, yes for oil and yes also for Israel, was waged above all to terrify the world (especially China) with American power. It turned into the largest boomerang in history. For what has been demonstrated instead are the limits of near bankrupt American power. Far from being cowed, America’s adversaries and its enemies have been emboldened. With shock and awe the empire soon dominated the skies over Iraq to be sure. But they never controlled a single street in the country from the day they invaded until this day of retreat. One street alone, Haifa Street in Baghdad became the graveyard of scores, maybe hundreds of Americans. Fortresses like Fallujah entered history alongside Stalingrad as symbols of the unvanquishable power of popular resistance to foreign invasion. Crimes like Abu Ghraib prison where Iraqis were stripped naked and humiliated forced to perform indecent acts upon each other and videotaped doing so for the entertainment of their torturers in the barracks afterwards entered the lexicon of the barbarism of those who invade others, flying the colours of their "civilising" mission.

As Chairman Mao once said; "sometimes the enemy struggles mightily to lift a huge stone; only to drop it on its own foot". In an America where a third of the population according to the Census Bureau are living in poverty or terrifyingly near it and where imperial hubris met its nemesis on Haifa Street, China now knows it has nothing to fear from this paper tiger.

Almost nobody in Britain or America any longer believes a word their politicians say. This profound change is not wholly the result of the Iraq War, but the war and the militarised mendacity which paved the way to it was, when it moved into top gear. In America this malaise has fuelled both the Tea Party phenomenon and the Occupy movement alike. And from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf the plates are moving still...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Working class are paying for the war budget

Over the last year public sector workers, pensioners and students as well as other sections of the working class have been identified as those who must bear the brunt of the austerity measures. It is us who will pay for the chaos created by the insane and uncontrollable banking system.

EMAs removed, student fees increased, wage freezes, cuts in the welfare supports and the change in the indexation of pensions and benefits from RPI to CPI have, together with the huge increases in unemployment, ensured that all know that the government priorities are to protect their class and squeeze the rest.

The increasing impoverishment of the old, the poor, the sick and the young has developed with a stark rapidity. No democratic mandate. No debate about options. Just a list of all that they can do to suck any margins from those who have so little.

Yet meanwhile the war budgets are sacrosanct. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2001/2 announced the open budget for the war - the government would spend whatever was required for the military budget, again with no debate. While pensioners are finding that winter fuel payments are slashed, the expenditure on drones, weapons, Humvees and the forces continues.

Whilst the state retirement pension is still substantially below the poverty line, with £102 per week and over 2.5M living in poverty today (only Cyprus, Latvia and Estonia in Europe paying lower pensions) the war budgets can swell if NATO decides to institute a no fly zone in Libya. No questions asked.

While the top earners in the country – the top 0.1% - take over 6.5% of GNP and the average pay of the 350 FTSE directors increased their earnings by 73% at a time when share prices fell by 5% and the directors of the large companies take pensions averaging £175000 pa there is no drive to tax the wealthy as part of the anti austerity drive. As the rich get richer and the poor poorer, in Britain and the US, war budgets are untouched. Britain has been spending around £7 billion pa on Afghanistan and Libya and £2 billion annually on the “upkeep” of Trident.

Each year the US Congress pours $120 billion + into the Afghanistan operation. This constitutes over $100 million per day for military purposes and other NATO countries put in $7 million a day for non military aid. Britain spends over £6 billion each year on the military operations.

Since October 10th 2001 the US, UK and others has been conducting a constant war against the Taliban and others. But they also claim that development and reconstruction are also integral to their anti-insurgency operations. Today there are still over 200 000 “coalition forces” together with 250000 contractors, many more commonly known as mercenaries, but the claim is that the troops will leave in 2014. (If the US wants to maintain their presence and if the Turkmenistan – Afghanistan - Pakistan – Indian pipeline is to start in 2012 and be completed by 2014 this leaving date may be postponed).

Given the injection of inconceivable sums of money what is the result after 10 years?
War and occupation! This means large numbers of deaths, injuries and traumas amongst the Afghan population. Civilians slaughtered, “insurgents” killed; and a constant bloody toll of occupation troops which is now hardly mentioned in the western media. A society torn apart; corruption, violence, torture, instability, suicide bombings in the “safe” areas of Kabul, drone attacks on areas under insurgent control and through the Pakistan / Afghanistan border areas, and widespread opposition to the puppet Karzai government.

The Red Cross reports that Afghanistan is a more dangerous country than it has been over the last 30 years, as described by Afghan activist Malalai Joya:

"Ten years ago the US and NATO invaded my country under the fake banners of women’s rights, human rights and democracy. But after a decade Afghanistan still remains the most uncivil, most corrupt, and most war torn country in the world. The consequences of this so called war on terror have only been more bloodshed, crimes, barbarism, human rights and women’s rights violations which has doubled the miseries and sorrows of our people". Monthly Review Oct 7th 2011