“US forces would never intentionally strike a hospital.”
— US Commander of NATO Forces in Afghanistan Gen. John Campbell
After weeks of lies, the Obama administration and the Pentagon, unable to find any way to explain their murderous hour-long AC-130 gunship assault on and destruction of a Doctors Without Borders-run hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, have turned to a new lie: they bombed the wrong building.
Gen. John Campbell, commander of NATO forces (sic) in Afghanistan, citing the results of a just-released Pentagon study of the Oct. 3 incident which killed 30 medical personnel and patients and left the only hospital in the region a smoking ruin, now says that the American mass-slaughter flying machine bombed “the wrong target,” hitting the hospital instead of a “nearby building,” supposedly a government structure from which Taliban were said to be firing.
Campbell said the hospital attack, which would be a grave war crime if intentional, was simply “the direct result of avoidable human error, compounded by process and equipment failure,” he said, adding, “US forces would never intentionally strike a hospital.”
Grim guffaws could be heard around the world, if not, perhaps, among the assembled hack reporters, who in dutifully transcribing the general’s remarks for their articles failed to first check their history. Had they even made a cursory search, they’d have discovered that hitting hospitals is something the US military does routinely and with alacrity.
Indeed the Kunduz attack isn’t even the first time a Doctors Without Borders hospital has been struck by US bombs. Back on July 20, 1993, when US forces were busy blowing up Somalia, they bombed Digfer Hospital, the largest hospital in the capital city of Mogadishu, seriously damaging the facility where a number of DWB physicians were working, and killing three patients. At the time, a U.N. official explained that the hospital had been targeted because gunmen loyal to warlord coup-leader Gen. Mohammad Farah Aidid were hiding there. (If that were the reason, that attack would have been a war crime.)
But it’s not just Doctors Without Borders-run hospitals that the US attacks.
During the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 1970s, the US was widely known to be routinely targeting hospitals. The worst example of this criminal behavior was during the notorious 1972 Christmas Bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong, the two largest cities in northern Vietnam, ordered by then President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor and fellow war criminal Henry Kissinger when peace talks with the North Vietnamese broke down. In complete disregard for civilian lives, both cities were relentlessly attacked for days, both by small planes and, carpet-bombing B-52s. A total of 20,000 tons of bombs was dropped on the two cities, leveling them. Included in the targeting of those 20,000 bombs was Vietnam’s largest healthcare facility, Hanoi’s 1,150-bed Bach Mai Hospital, hit by B-52s and essentially destroyed. Other hospitals were also leveled in the round-the-clock onslaught.
But that was just the biggest hospital strike of that war.
During Senate committee testimony about the US conduct of the war back in 1973, according to a contemporary report in Newsweek magazine, Vietnam veterans testified over and over that no restrictions were placed on them regarding the bombing and shelling of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong hospitals. In fact one witness, Alan Stevenson, a San Francisco stockbroker who had been an Army intelligence specialist in 1969, said that following orders, he had “routinely listed hospitals among targets to be struck by American fighter planes.” He testified, “The bigger the hospital, the better it was,” since larger hospitals were generally guarded by brigade-sized forces.
Despite clear Geneva Convention rules outlawing the targeting of hospitals — even those treating enemy combatants — the US military’s fondness for hospitals as targets continued after Vietnam. In 1999, NATO (US) warplanes bombed a hospital in Belgrade, Serbia, killing four people, in what, as always, was characterized by the Pentagon as a “technical error” in which laser-guided “smart bombs” had allegedly turned out to be so stupid that they overshot their targets by over a quarter of a mile.
Four years later, during the early “shock-and-awe” part of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, US aircraft bombed a maternity hospital run by the International Red Crescent, killing several people and injuring 27, including medical personnel. That time the Pentagon didn’t even claim it was a mistake, simply saying, “Coalition (sic) forces target only legitimate military targets and go to great lengths to minimize civilian casualties and damage to civilian facilities.”
Now perhaps some readers might want to cut the Pentagon and the White House some slack like our corporate media scribes and say, well, maybe these horrors were all mistakes. But first consider how much respect the US Army had for the sanctity of hospitals under the Geneva Conventions for the conduct of war when they stormed Ramadi General Hospital, the largest hospital in western Iraq, on July 5, 2006. As justification, they claimed it was being used to treat injured insurgents (a protected action under Geneva rules). The US troops harassed the medical staff, frightened and interrogated sick and injured patients, dragged injured fighters out of their beds and detained them, destroyed medical equipment and medicines, and occupied the hospital for some time, before finally leaving. Similar criminal hospital invasions by US forces occurred during the 2006 revenge assault by US Marines that leveled the city of Fallujah.
Finally, before anyone accepts the latest lie concerning the Pentagon’s “investigation,” claiming that the attack on the Kunduz hospital was just a matter of mixing up buildings and coordinates, know that no other building in Kunduz had that hospital’s unique cross-shaped roof layout, or the clear markings and banners delineating it to passing aircraft as a hospital. Furthermore, claiming that it was a targeting error, and claiming that the US “would never intentionally strike a hospital,” were only Gen. Campbell’s fourth and fifth lies. The general in fact has an impressive history of lying about this issue.
Back on Oct. 4, a day after the Kunduz hospital attack, the general said: “U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Kunduz city at 2:15am (local), Oct 3, against insurgents who were directly firing upon U.S. service members advising and assisting Afghan Security Forces in the city of Kunduz. The strike was conducted in the vicinity of a Doctors Without Borders medical facility.” The only true fact in that statement of his was the time of the airstrike.
On Oct. 5, a day later, when that first lie wasn’t working, he changed his story, saying, “We have now learned that on October 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces. An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck. This is different from the initial reports, which indicated that U.S. forces were threatened and that the airstrike was called on their behalf.” Again the general was lying. US aircraft do not respond to direct call-ins for bombing strikes by Afghan government forces.
So a day later on Oct. 6, the general changed his story again at a Senate Armed Services Committee, saying: “On Saturday morning our forces provided close air support to Afghan forces at their request. To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fire was a U.S. decision, made within the U.S. chain of command. A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility … I assure you that the investigation will be thorough, objective and transparent.” That last line was probably his biggest whopper.
Mainstream reporters haven’t pressed this serial liar about his ever-changing alibis, but someone should.
Doctors Without Borders is denouncing the Pentagon report and the general’s explanation, saying that it raises far more questions than it answers and doesn’t square with the facts of what happened. The organization continues to demand an independent international investigation under UN auspices into the Kunduz bombing — something that the US is refusing to permit.
But even without such an honest investigation, it should be obvious that the proper answer Gen. Campbell, if he had a shred of integrity, should be giving to the question of what happened in Kunduz under his authority is: “We’re the exceptional nation. We bomb hospitals. Got a problem with that?”
The United States says the deadly airstrike that recently destroyed an Afghan hospital in the northern city of Kunduz was the result of a “human error, compounded by process and equipment failures.”
General John Francis Campbell, the US commander in Afghanistan, made the remarks at a press conference in the capital Kabul on Wednesday, further admitting that the US forces took 17 minutes to act after being warned by Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, which was running the hospital in the country.
Campbell described the October 3 air raid on the hospital, packed with patients and medical staff, a “tragic and avoidable accident, caused by human error.”
“At 2.20am an SOF [special operations forces] officer at Bagram [airbase] received a call from MSF advising that their facility was under attack. It took the headquarters and the US special operations commander until 2.37am to realize the fatal mistake. At that time the AC-130 had already ceased firing. The strike lasted for approximately 29 minutes. This is an example of human process error.”
The general was announcing the results of an internal investigation into the incident, which left at least 30 dead.
US forces “did not know the compound was an MSF medical centre,” said Campbell. “They executed from air and did not take appropriate measures to verify the facility was a military target,” he said, adding that “fatigue” and “high operational tempo contributed to this tragedy.”
More questions after US explanation
MSF General Director Christopher Stokes responded to Campbell’s remarks that were accompanied by a 3,000-page US military report.
“The US version of events presented today leaves MSF with more questions than answers. It is shocking that an attack can be carried out when US forces have neither eyes on a target nor access to a no-strike list, and have malfunctioning communications systems,” Stokes said, adding, “It appears that 30 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of people are denied life-saving care in Kunduz simply because the MSF hospital was the closest large building to an open field and ‘roughly matched’ a description of an intended target.”
The MSF official accused the US forces of violation of the rules of war, further reiterating calls for an independent probe into the incident.
“The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of US forces and violations of the rules of war. The destruction of a protected facility without verifying the target – in this case a functioning hospital full of medical staff and patients – cannot only be dismissed as individual human error or breaches of the US rules of engagement,” Stokes said.“MSF reiterates its call for an independent and impartial investigation into the attack on our hospital in Kunduz. Investigations of this incident cannot be left solely to parties to the conflict in Afghanistan.”
In response to the tragic Paris events of November 13, Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan warned that “ISIL is planning additional attacks… It is clear to me that ISIL has an external agenda, that they are determined to carry out these types of attacks.” (Quoted in Daily Telegraph, November 16, 2015)
Five days later following the CIA Chief’s premonition, the Bamako Radisson Hotel Blu in Mali’s capital was the object of a terrorist attack, resulting in 21 people dead. Following the attack and the taking of hostages by the terrorists, French and Malian special forces raided the hotel. US. Africa Command (AFRICOM) also confirmed that US special forces were involved.
The Bamako terror operation was allegedly coordinated by Mokhtar Belmokhtar (aka Khaled Abu al-Abbas), leader of an affiliate of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Islamist al-Mulathameen (Masked) Brigade, or “Those who Sign with Blood.”
Belmokhtar’s group was created in 2012 in the wake of the war on Libya. His organization has also allegedly been involved in the drug trade, smuggling as well kidnapping operations of foreigners in North Africa. While his whereabouts are said to be known, French intelligence has dubbed Belmokhtar “the uncatchable”.
In June he was reported dead as a result in a U.S. air strike in Libya. His death was subsequently denied.
Based on shaky evidence, The New York Times report below (November 20) concludes that Belmokhtar’s group (together with AQIM) is unequivocally behind the Bamako attacks:
A member of Al Qaeda in Africa confirmed Saturday that the attack Friday on a hotel in Bamako, Mali, had been carried out by a jihadist group loyal to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian operative for Al Qaeda. The Qaeda member, who spoke via an online chat, said that an audio message and a similar written statement in which the group claimed responsibility for the attack were authentic. The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist groups, also confirmed the authenticity of the statement.
The Qaeda member, who refused to be named for his protection, said that Mr. Belmokhtar’s men had collaborated with the Saharan Emirate of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, … In the audio recording, the group, known as Al Mourabitoun, says it carried out the operation in conjunction with Al Qaeda’s branch in the Islamic Maghreb.
The recording was released to the Al Jazeera network and simultaneously to Al Akhbar, … The recording states: “We, in the group of the Mourabitoun [Arabic Rebel Group], in cooperation with our brothers in Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, the great desert area, claim responsibility for the hostage-taking operation in the Radisson hotel in Bamako.” (emphasis added)
The SITE Intelligence Group is presented as an “independent” Washington think tank with a mandate of analyzing data pertaining to Al Qaeda affiliated terror organizations. SITE is also on contract with a number of US government agencies and has close links to US intelligence.
SITE has provided no substantive evidence which supports the authenticity of the online audio chat recording, which is considered as a reliable source. The story could have been planted.
Following the audio release, the Western media in chorus immediately pointed to an act of revenge directed against the French Republic in response to France’s 2013 military intervention in Mali, which had been ordered by President Francois Hollande.
“France saved Mali from al-Qaeda but it never broke terror threat”. “France saved northern Mali from al-Qaeda’s brutal rule … But the country is still beholden to outsiders and, as events at the Radisson hotel have demonstrated, acutely vulnerable to the worst of terrorism” (The Independent, November 20, 2015)
Screenshot The Independent, November 20, 2015
In turn, the French Minister of Defense acknowledged –prior to the conduct of a police investigation– that the authors of the attack were “most likely” led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s group in association with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
What Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain failed to mention was that both Belmokhtar and AQIM have longstanding links to the CIA, which in turn has a working relationship with France’s General Directorate for External Security, Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE).
Casually ignored by the Western media, the leaders of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) including Belmokhtar were trained and recruited by the CIA in Afghanistan. Acknowledged by the Washington based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR):
Most of AQIM’s major leaders are believed to have trained in Afghanistan during the 1979-1989 war against the Soviets as part of a group of North African volunteers known as “Afghan Arabs” that returned to the region and radicalized Islamist movements in the years that followed. The group is divided into “katibas” or brigades, which are clustered into different and often independent cells.
The group’s top leader, or emir, since 2004 has been Abdelmalek Droukdel, also known as Abou Mossab Abdelwadoud, a trained engineer and explosives expert who has fought in Afghanistan and has roots with the GIA in Algeria. (Council on Foreign Relations, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, cfr.org, undated)
Saudi born terror mastermind Osama bin Laden was recruited in 1979 ironically under the auspices of the CIA. The training, recruitment and indoctrination of Mujahideen launched in 1979 was considered to be “the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA” in response the Soviet Union’s military support of the pro-Communist secular Afghan government of Babrak Kamal.
Al Qaeda in Arabic means “the Base”. What it referred to was the CIA’s “Database” of Mujahideen recruits who were referred to by President Ronald Reagan as “freedom fighters”:
Shortly before his untimely death, former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that “Al Qaeda” is not really a terrorist group but a database of international mujaheddin and arms smugglers used by the CIA and Saudis to funnel guerrillas, arms, and money into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. (See Pierre-Henri Bunel, Al Qaeda: The Database, Global Research, November 20, 2005, emphasis added)
Mokhtar Belmokhtar: Post Cold War CIA intelligence asset?
The Council on Foreign Relations erroneously describes “Mokhtar Belmokhtar as the one-eyed veteran of the anti-Soviet Afghan insurgency.” (CFR, op cit, emphasis added). Belmokhtar (born in 1972) did not fight in the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1989). He was recruited in 1991 at the age of 19 in the immediate wake of the Cold War.
CIA recruitment continued in the wake of the Cold War. It was in large part directed against the Russian Federation and the former Soviet Republics as well as the Middle East.
The purpose of this later CIA recruitment was to establish a network of “intelligence assets” to be used in the CIA’s post-cold war insurgencies. Leaders of the Chechen Islamist insurgencies were also trained in CIA camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the notorious leader of the Chechen insurrection Ibn al-Khattab (a citizen of Saudi Arabia).
Following his training and recruitment and a two year stint in Afghanistan (1991-1993), Mokhtar Belmokhtar was sent back to Algeria in 1993 at age 21 where he joined the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) (emblem left). The latter was initially part of the so-called Armed Islamic Group (Groupe islamique armé (GIA)) in Algeria which sought to overthrow the secular Algerian Government with a view to installing a theocratic Islamic State.
Supported covertly by the CIA, Belmokhtar fought in Southern Algeria in the civil war opposing Islamist forces and the secular government. He was also instrumental in the integration and merging of “jihadist” forces.
In January 2007, the Armed islamic Group (GIA) which had been prominent in the 1990s, officially changed its name to the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
In turn, as of 2007, the newly formed AQIM established a close relationship with the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which was directly supported by NATO during the 2011 war on Libya, “providing weapons, training, special forces and even aircraft to support them in the overthrow of Libya’s government.” (Tony Cartalucci, The Geopolitical Reordering of Africa: US Covert Support to Al Qaeda in Northern Mali, France “Comes to the Rescue”, Global Research, January 2013).
British SAS Special Forces had also been brought into Libya prior to the onset of the insurrection, acting as military advisers to the LIFG.
In fact, what has unfolded since the war on Libya is the merging of LIFG and AQIM forces. In turn, many of the LIFG operatives have been dispatched to Syria to fight within the ranks of Al Nusrah and the ISIS.
Robert Stephen Ford, US Ambassador to Algeria (2006-2008)
It is worth noting that the 2007 restructuring of jihadist forces in Algeria and the Maghreb coincided with the appointment of Robert Stephen Ford as US ambassador to Algeria in August 2006. Ford had been reassigned by the State Department from Baghdad to Algiers. From 2004 to 2006, he worked closely with Ambassador John Negroponte at the US embassy in Baghdad in supporting the creation of both Shia and Sunni death squads in Iraq.
This project consisted in recruiting and training terrorists modelled on the so-called “Salvador Option” which had been applied by the CIA in Central America. Negroponte as we recall played a central role in supporting the Contras terrorists in Nicaragua as ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, “The Salvador Option For Syria”: US-NATO Sponsored Death Squads Integrate “Opposition Forces”, Global Research, May 28, 2012)
The 2006 appointment of Robert Stephen Ford to head the US Embassy in Algeria was timely. It coincided with the consolidation of jihadist groups within Algeria and the Maghreb. It preceded the 2011 US-NATO sponsored insurrections in Libya and Syria.
In 2010, Ford was approved by the US Congress as US Ambassador to Syria. He presented his credentials to president Bashar al Assad in January 2011, barely two months prior to the onslaught of the terrorist insurrection in the border city of Daraa in mid-March 2011. Ford played a central role in assisting the channelling of US and allied support to Syrian “opposition” groups including Al Nusrah and the ISIS.
Belmokhtar’s history and involvement in Afghanistan confirms that from the very outset he was an instrument of US intelligence. While, he operates with a certain degree of independence and autonomy in relation to his intelligence sponsors, he and his organization are bona fide CIA “intelligence assets”, which can be used by the CIA as part of a covert agenda.
There are various definitions of an “intelligence asset”. From the standpoint of US intelligence, “assets” linked up to terrorist organizations must not be aware that they are supported and monitored by Western intelligence.
With regard to Al Qaeda, from the outset in 1979, the CIA chose to operate through various front organizations as well as indirectly through its Saudi, Qatari and Pakistani intelligence partners. CIA’s Milton Beardman who played a central role in the Soviet Afghan war confirms that members of Al Qaeda including Osama bin Laden were not aware of the role they were playing on behalf of Washington. In the words of bin Laden (quoted by Beardman): “neither I, nor my brothers saw evidence of American help”(Michel Chossudovsky, Who is Osama bin Laden, Global Research, September 12, 2001):
Motivated by nationalism and religious fervor, the Islamic warriors were unaware that they were fighting the Soviet Army on behalf of Uncle Sam. While there were contacts at the upper levels of the intelligence hierarchy, Islamic rebel leaders in theatre had no contacts with Washington or the CIA. (Ibid)
Amply documented, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)and its affiliated groups including the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was serving the interests of the Western military alliance. Confirmed by the Washington Post, June 29, 2011 (See below), France was supplying weapons to the LIFG at the height of NATO’s bombing raids.
AQIM in turn was receiving weapons from the LIFG, which was supported by NATO. Moreover, LIFG mercenaries had integrated AQIM brigades.
According to alleged Terror Mastermind Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who also coordinated the 2013 In Amenas Mali kidnapping operation:
“We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world. As for our benefiting from the (Libyan) weapons, this is a natural thing in these kinds of circumstances.” http://www.hanford.gov/c.cfm/oci/ci_terrorist.cfm?dossier=174
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is indelibly tied into a Western intelligence agenda. While it is described as ”one of the region’s wealthiest, best-armed militant groups”, financed covertly by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. France’s Canard enchaîné revealed (June 2012) that Qatar (a staunch ally of the United States) has been funding various terrorist entities in Mali:
The original report cites a French military intelligence report as indicating that Qatar has provided financial support to all three of the main armed groups in northern Mali: Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ansar Ed-Dine, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA).
The amount of funding given to each of the groups is not mentioned but it mentions that repeated reports from the French DGSE to the Defense Ministry have mentioned Qatar’s support for ‘terrorism’ in northern Mali. (quoted by Jeune Afrique June 2012)
Qatar is a proxy state, a de facto Persian Gulf territory largely controlled by Washington. It hosts a number of Western military and intelligence facilities.
The Emir of Qatar does not finance terrorism without the consent of the CIA.
And with regard to Mali, the CIA coordinates its activities in liaison with its French intelligence partners and counterparts, including la Direction du renseignement militaire (DRM) and the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE).
The implications are obvious and should be carefully understood by Western public opinion. Inasmuch as Belmokhtar and AQIM are “intelligence assets”, both US and French intelligence are (indirectly) behind the Bamako attacks.
Both US and French intelligence are complicit in the State sponsorship of terrorism.
Leader of UK opposition Labour Party Jermey Corbyn has once against warned against British military action in Syria, saying that negotiated settlement is the best way to resolve the crisis in the Arab country.
“The experience of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya has convinced many of our own people that the elite’s enthusiasm for endless military interventions has only multiplied the threats to us – while leaving death and destabilisation in their wake… It is the conflict in Syria and the consequences of the Iraq war which have created the conditions for Isis to thrive and spread its murderous rule,” Corbyn said in a speech to Labour activists in Bristol.
He also slammed Britain’s involvement in “a succession of disastrous wars that have brought devastation to large parts of the wider Middle East,” saying such intervention has made the UK less secure from attack.
Corbyn also pointed to the recent terror attacks in Paris and said there should be a “negotiated settlement” rather than military action to tackle the crisis in the country.
His comments have already sparked a backlash from Labour Party MPs.
Jeremy Corbyn is seen as a long-standing opponent to the Western wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Meanwhile, a London-based political commentator says any possible UK intervention in Syria will increase the number of refugees and deepen the crisis in the Arab country.
Chris Bambery says such an intervention will simply strengthen the ISIL.
“Any further Western intervention will only add to the chaos which Western intervention has [already] caused and the beneficiary of that chaos is ISIS. ISIS wants the Western intervention,” Chris Bambery told Press TV.
Over the past 15 years the US has been engaged in a series of wars, which has led many writers to refer to the ‘rise of militarism’ – the growth of an empire, built primarily by and for the projection of military power – and only secondarily to advance economic imperialism.
The rise of a military-based empire, however, does not preclude the emergence of competing, conflicting, and convergent power configurations within the imperial state. These factions of the Washington elite define the objectives and targets of imperialist warfare, often on their own terms.
Having stated the obvious general fact of the power of militarism within the imperialist state, it is necessary to recognize that the key policy-makers, who direct the wars and military policy, will vary according to the country targeted, type of warfare engaged in and their conception of the war. In other words, while US policy is imperialist and highly militaristic, the key policymakers, their approach and the outcomes of their policies will differ. There is no fixed strategy devised by a cohesive Washington policy elite guided by a unified strategic vision of the US Empire.
In order to understand the current, seemingly endless wars, we have to examine the shifting coalitions of elites, who make decisions in Washington but not always primarily for Washington. Some factions of the policy elite have clear conceptions of the American empire, but others improvise and rely on superior ‘political’ or ‘lobbying’ power to successfully push their agenda in the face of repeated failures and suffer no consequences or costs.
We will start by listing US imperialist wars during the last decade and a half. We will then identify the main policy-making faction which has been the driving force in each war. We will discuss their successes and failures as imperial policy makers and conclude with an evaluation of “the state of the empire” and its future.
Imperial Wars: From 2001-2015
The current war cycle started in late 2001 with the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. This was followed by the invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003, the US arms support for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006, the proxy invasion of Somalia in 2006/7; the massive re-escalation of war in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007-2009; the bombing, invasion ‘regime change’ in Libya in 2011; the ongoing proxy-mercenary war against Syria (since 2012), and the ongoing 2015 Saudi-US invasion and destruction of Yemen. In Europe, the US was behind the 2014 proxy putsch and violent ‘regime change’ in Ukraine which has led to an ongoing war against ethnic Russian speakers in south-east Ukraine, especially the populous industrial heartland of the Donbas region.
Over the past 15 years, there have been overt and covert military interventions, accompanied by an intense, provocative military build-up along Russia’s borders in the Baltic States, Eastern Europe (especially Poland), the Balkans (Bulgaria and Romania) and the mammoth US base in Kosovo; in Central Europe with nuclear missiles in Germany and, of course, the annexation of Ukraine and Georgia as US-NATO clients.
Parallel to the military provocations encircling Russia, Washington has launched a major military, political, economic and diplomatic offensive aimed at isolating China and affirming US supremacy in the Pacific.
In South America, US military intervention found expression via Washington-orchestrated business-military coup attempts in Venezuela in 2002 and Bolivia in 2008, and a successful ‘regime change’ in Honduras in 2009, overthrowing its elected president and installing a US puppet.
In summary, the US has been engaged in two, three or more wars since 2001, defining an almost exclusively militarist empire, run by an imperial state directed by civilian and military officials seeking unchallenged global dominance through violence.
Washington: Military Workshop of the World
War and violent regime change are the exclusive means through which the US now advances its foreign policy. However, the various Washington war-makers among the power elite do not form a unified bloc with common priorities. Washington provides the weapons, soldiers and financing for whichever power configuration or faction among the elite is in a position, by design or default, to seize the initiative and push their own war agenda.
The invasion of Afghanistan was significant in so far as it was seen by all sectors of the militarist elite, as the first in a series of wars. Afghanistan was to set the stage for the launching of higher priority wars elsewhere.
Afghanistan was followed by the infamous ‘Axis of Evil’ speech, dictated by Tel Aviv, penned by presidential speech-writer, David Frum and mouthed by the brainless President Bush, II. The ‘Global War on Terror’ was the thinly veiled slogan for serial wars around the world. Washington measured the loyalty of its vassals among the nations of Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America by their support for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. The Afghan invasion provided the template for future wars. It led to an unprecedented increase in the military budget and ushered in Caesar-like dictatorial presidential powers to order and execute wars, silencing domestic critics and sending scores of thousands of US and NATO troops to the Hindu Kush.
In itself, Afghanistan was never any threat and certainly no economic prize for plunder and profit. The Taliban had not attacked the US. Osama Bin Laden could have been turned over to a judicial tribunal – as the governing Taliban had insisted.
The US military (with its Coalition of the Willing or COW) successfully invaded and occupied Afghanistan and set up a vassal regime in Kabul. It built scores of military bases and attempted to form an obedient colonial army. In the meantime, the Washington militarist elite had moved on to bigger and, for the Israel-centric Zionist elite, higher priority wars, namely Iraq.
The decision to invade Afghanistan was not opposed by any of Washington’s militarist elite factions. They all shared the idea of using a successful military blitz or ‘cake-walk’ against the abysmally impoverished Afghanistan as a way to rabble rouse the American masses into accepting a long period of intense and costly global warfare throughout the world.
Washington’s militarist elites fabricated the link between the attacks on 9/11/2001 and Afghanistan’s governing Taliban and the presence of the Saudi warlord Osama Bin Laden. Despite the ‘fact’ that most of the ‘hijackers’ were from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and none were Afghans, invading and destroying Afghanistan was to be the initial test to gauge the highly manipulated and frightened American public’s willingness to shoulder the burden of a huge new cycle of imperial wars. This has been the only aspect of the invasion of Afghanistan that could be viewed as a policy success – it made the costs of endless wars ‘acceptable’ to a relentlessly propagandized public.
Flush with their military victories in the Hindu Kush, the Washington militarists turned to Iraq and fabricated a series of increasingly preposterous pretexts for war: Linking the 9/11 ‘jihadi’ hijackers with the secular regime of Saddam Hussein, whose intolerance for violent Islamists (especially the Saudi variety) was well documented, and concocting a whole fabric of lies about Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which provided the propaganda basis for invading an already disarmed, blockaded and starved Iraq in March 2003.
Leading the Washington militarists in designing the war to destroy Iraq were the Zionists, including Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Richard Perle, and a few Israel-centric Gentile militarists, such as Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. The Zionists had a powerful entourage in key positions in the State Department, Treasury and the Pentagon.
There were ‘outsiders’ – non-Zionists and militarists within these institutions, especially the Pentagon, who voiced reservations – but they were brushed aside, not consulted and ‘encouraged’ to retire.
None of the ‘old hands’ in the State Department or Pentagon bought into the hysteria about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, but to voice reservations was to risk one’s career. The manufacture and dissemination of the pretext for invading Iraq was orchestrated by a small team of operatives linking Tel Aviv and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s Office of Special Plans, a tight group of Zionists and some Israelis headed by Abram Shulsky (Sept. 2002-June 2003).
The US war on Iraq was an important part of Israel’s agenda to ‘re-make the Middle East’ to establish its unchallenged regional hegemony and execute a ‘final solution’ for its own vexing ‘Arab (native Palestinian) problem’: It was made operational by the powerful Zionist faction within the Executive (White House), which had assumed almost dictatorial powers after the attack on 9/11/2001. Zionists planned the war, designed the ‘occupation policy’ and ‘succeeded wildly’ with the eventual dismemberment of a once modern secular nationalist Arab state.
In order to smash the Iraqi state – the US occupation policy was to eliminate (through mass firings, jailing and assassination) all high level, experienced Iraqi civil, military and scientific personnel – down to high school principals. They dismantled any vital infrastructure (which had not been already destroyed by the decades of US sanctions and bombing under President Clinton) and reduced an agriculturally advanced Iraq to a barren wasteland which would take centuries to recover and could never challenge Israel’s colonization of Palestine, let alone its military supremacy in the Middle East. Naturally, the large Palestinian Diaspora refugee population in Iraq was targeted for ‘special treatment’.
But Zionist policymakers had a much larger agenda than erasing Iraq as a viable country: They had a longer list of targets: Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Libya, whose destruction was to be carried out with US and NATO blood and treasure (and not a single Israeli soldier).
Despite the fact that Iraq did not even possess a functioning air force or navy in March 2003 and Afghanistan in late 2001 was rather primitive, the invasions of both countries turned out to be very costly to the US. The US completely failed to benefit from its ‘victory and occupation’, despite Paul Wolfowitz’ boasts that the pillage of Iraq’s oil fields would pay for the entire project in a ‘few months’. This was because the real Zionist plan was to destroy these nations – beyond any possibility for a quick or cheap imperialist economic gain. Scorching the earth and salting the fields is not a very profitable policy for empire builders.
Israel has been the biggest winner with no cost for the ‘Jewish State’. The American Zionist policy elite literally handed them the services of the largest and richest armed forces in history: the US. Israel-Firsters played a decisive role among Washington policy-makers and Tel Aviv celebrated in the streets! They came, they dominated policy and they accomplished their mission: Iraq (and millions of its people)was destroyed.
The US gained an unreliable, broken colony, with a devastated economy and systematically destroyed infrastructure and without the functioning civil service needed for a modern state. To pay for the mess, the American people faced a spiraling budget deficit, tens of thousands of American war casualties and massive cuts in their own social programs. Crowning the Washington war-makers’ victory was the disarticulation of American civil and constitutional rights and liberties and the construction of a enormous domestic police state.
After the Iraq disaster, the same influential Zionist faction in Washington lost no time in demanding a new war against Israel’s bigger enemy – namely Iran. In the ensuing years, they failed to push the US to attack Tehran but they succeeded in imposing crippling sanctions on Iran. The Zionist faction secured massive US military support for Israel’s abortive invasion of Lebanon and its devastating series of blitzkriegs against the impoverished and trapped people of Gaza.
The Zionist faction successfully shaped US military interventions to meet Israel’s regional ambitions against three Arab countries: Yemen, Syria, and Libya. The Zionists were not able to manipulate the US into attacking Iran because the traditional militarist faction in Washington balked: With instability in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US was not well positioned to face a major conflagration throughout the Middle East, South Asia and beyond – which a ground and air war with Iran would involve. However, the Zionist factions did secure brutal economic sanctions and the appointment of key Israel-Centric officials within the US Treasury. Secretary Stuart Levey, at the start of the Obama regime, and David Cohen afterwards, were positioned to enforce the sanctions.
Even before the ascendancy of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Tel Aviv’s military objectives after Iraq, including Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and Yemen had to be spaced over time, because the non-Zionist factions among Washington’s elite had been unable to integrate occupied Afghanistan and Iraq into the empire.
Resistance, armed conflict and military advances in both Afghanistan and Iraq never ceased and are continuing into their 2nd decade. As soon as the US would withdraw from a region, declaring it ‘pacified’, the armed resistance would move back in and the local sepoys would defect to the rebels or take off for London or Washington with millions in pillaged loot.
‘Unfinished wars’, mounting casualties and spiraling costs, with no end in sight, undermined the agreement between the militarist and the Zionist factions in the Executive branch. However, the massively powerful Zionist presence in the US Congress provided a platform to bray for new and even bigger wars.
Israel’s vicious invasion of Lebanon in 2006 was defeated despite receiving massive US arms supplies, a US funded ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system and intelligence assistance. Tel Aviv could not defeat the highly disciplined and motivated Hezbollah fighters in South Lebanon despite resorting to carpet bombing of civilian neighborhoods with millions of banned cluster munitions and picking off ambulances and churches sheltering refugees. Israelis have been much more triumphal murdering lightly armed Palestinian resistance fighters and stone-throwing children.
Libya: A Multi-faction War for the Militarists (without Big Oil)
The war against Libya was a result of multiple factions among the Washington militarist elite, including the Zionists, coming together with French, English and German militarists to smash the most modern, secular, independent state in Africa under President Muammar Gaddafi.
The aerial campaign against the Gaddafi regime had virtually no organized support within Libya with which to reconstruct a viable neo-colonial state ripe for pillage. This was another ‘planned dismemberment’ of a complex, modern republic which had been independent of the US Empire.
The war succeeded wildly in shredding Libya’s economy, state, and society. It unleashed scores of armed terrorist groups, (who appropriated the modern weapons of Gaddafi’s army and police) and uprooted two million black contract workers and Libyan citizens of South Saharan origin forcing them to flee the rampaging racist militias to the refugee camps of Europe. Untold thousands died in rickety boats in the Mediterranean Sea.
The entire war was carried out to the publicly giddy delight of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her ‘humanitarian interventionist’ lieutenants (Susan Rice and Samantha Power), who were utterly ignorant as to who and what the Libyan “opposition” represented. Eventually, even Hillary’s own Ambassador to Libya would be slaughtered by … the same victorious US-backed ‘rebels’ (sic) in the newly liberated Bengazi!
The Zionist faction destroyed Gaddafi (whose capture, grotesque torture and murder was filmed and widely disseminated), eliminating another real adversary of Israel and supporter of Palestinian rights. The US militarist faction, which led the war, got nothing positive – not even a secure naval, air, or training base – only a dead Ambassador, millions of desperate refugees flooding Europe, and thousands of trained and armed jihadists for the next target: Syria.
For a while Libya became the main supply-line for Islamist mercenaries and arms to invade Syria and fight the secular nationalist government in Damascus.
Once again the least influential faction in Washington turned out to be the oil and gas industry, which lost lucrative contracts it had already signed with the Gaddafi regime. Thousands of highly trained foreign oil workers were withdrawn. After Iraq, it should have been obvious that these wars were not ‘for oil’!
Ukraine: Coups, Wars, and Russia’s ‘Underbelly’
With the US-orchestrated coup and intervention in Ukraine, the militarist factions once again seized the initiative, establishing a puppet regime in Kiev and targeting Russia’s strategic ‘soft underbelly’. The plan had been to take over Russia’s strategic military bases in Crimea and cut Russia from the vital military-industrial complexes in the Donbas region with its vast iron and coal reserves.
The mechanics of the power grab were relatively well planned, the political clients were put in power, but the US militarists had made no contingencies for propping up the Ukrainian economy, cut loose from its main trading partner and oil and gas supplier, Russia.
The coup led to a ‘proxy war’ in the ethnic-Russian majority regions in the south east (the Donbas) with four ‘unanticipated consequences’. 1) a country divided east and west along ethno-linguistic lines, (2) a bankrupt economy made even worse by the imposition of an IMF austerity program, (3) a corrupt crony capitalist elite, which was ‘pro-West by bank account’, (4) and, after two years, mass disaffection among voters toward the US puppet regime.
The militarists in Washington and Brussels succeeded in engineering the coup in Ukraine but lacked the domestic allies, plans and preparations to run the country and successfully annex it to the EU and NATO as a viable country.
Apparently the militarist factions in the State Department and Pentagon are much more proficient in stage managing coups and invasions than in establishing a stable regime as part of a New World Order. They succeed in the former and fail repeatedly in the latter.
The Pivot to Asia and the Pirouette to Syria
During most of the previous decade, traditional global strategists in Washington increasingly objected to the Zionist faction’s domination and direction of US war policies focused on the Middle East for the benefit of Israel, instead of meeting the growing challenge of the new world economic superpower in Asia, China.
US economic supremacy in Asia had been deeply eroded as China’s economy grew at double digits. Beijing was displacing the US as the major trade partner in the Latin American and African markets. Meanwhile, the top 500 US MNCs were heavily invested in China. Three years into President Obama’s first term the ‘China militarist faction’ announced a shift from the Middle East and the Israel-centric agenda to a ‘pivot to Asia’, the source of 40% of the world’s industrial output.
But it was not profits and markets that motivated Washington’s Asia faction among the militarist elites – it was military power. Even trade agreements, like the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), were viewed as tools to encircle and weaken China militarily and undermine its regional influence.
Led by the hysterical Pentagon boss Ashton Carter, Washington prepared a series of major military confrontations with Beijing off the coast of China.
The US signed expanded military base agreements with the Philippines, Japan, and Australia; it participated in military exercises with Vietnam, South Korea, and Malaysia; it dispatched battleships and aircraft carriers into Chinese territorial waters.
The US confrontational trade policy was formulated by the Zionist trio: Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, Trade Negotiator Michael Froman (who works for both the Asia militarist and Zionist factions), and Treasury Secretary Jake Lew. The result was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), involving 12 Pacific countries while deliberating excluding China. Washington’s Asian militarist faction planned to militarize the entire Pacific Basin, in order to dominate the maritime trade routes and, at a moment’s notice, choke off all of China’s overseas markets and suppliers – shades of the series of US provocations against Japan leading up to the US entering WW2.
The ‘Asia-militarist faction’ successfully demanded a bigger military budget to accommodate its vastly more aggressive posture toward China.
Predictably, China has insisted on defending its maritime routes and has increased its naval and air base building and sea and air patrols. Also, predictably, China has countered the US-dominated TPP by setting-up a one hundred billion dollar Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), while contributing to the multi-billion dollar BRICS Bank. Meanwhile, China even signed a separate $30 billion dollar trade agreement with Washington’s strategic ‘partner’, Britain. In fact, Britain followed the rest of the EU and joined the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank – despite objections from Washington’s “Asia faction”.
While the US depends heavily on its military pacts with South Korea and Japan, the latter nations have been meeting with China – their most significant trading partner – to work on expanding and deepening economic ties.
Up until 2014, the “business-with-China faction” of the Washington elite played a key role in the making of US-Asia policy. However, they have been eclipsed by the Asia militarist-faction, which is taking US policy in a totally different direction: Pushing China out as Asia’s economic superpower and escalating military confrontation with Beijing now heads Washington’s agenda.
Ashton Carter, the US Defense Secretary, has China, the second most important economy in the world in the Pentagon’s ‘cross-hairs’. When the TPP failed to curtail China’s expansion, the militarist faction shifted Washington toward a high risk military course, which could destabilize the region and risk a nuclear confrontation.
The Pirouette: China and Syria
Meanwhile in the Levant, Washington’s Zionist faction has been busy running a proxy war in Syria. The pivot to Asia has had to compete with the pirouette to Syria and Yemen.
The US joined Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Gulf Emirates, and the EU in sponsoring a replay of the Libyan ‘regime change’ — sponsoring proxy terrorists from around the globe into invading and devastating Syria. Damascus has been attacked from all sides for the ‘crime’ of being secular and multi-ethnic; for being pro-Palestinian; for being allied with Iran and Lebanon; for having an independent foreign policy; and for maintaining a limited representative (but not necessarily democratic) government. For these crimes, the West, Israel and the Saudis would have Syria fractured into an ethnically cleansed ‘tribal state’ – something they had accomplished in Iraq and Libya.
The US militarist faction (personified by Secretary of Defense Carter and Senators McCain and Graham) have funded, trained and equipped the terrorists, whom they call ‘moderates’ and had clearly expected their progeny to follow Washington’s directions. The emergence of ISIS showed just how close these ‘moderates’ stuck to Washington’s script.
Initially, the traditional militarist wing of Washington’s elite resisted the Zionist faction’s demand for direct US military intervention (American ‘boots on the ground’). That is changing with recent (very convenient) events in Paris.
Warfare: From Piecemeal Interventions to Nuclear Confrontation
The Washington militarists have again committed more US soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan; American fighter planes and Special Forces are in Syria and Yemen. Meanwhile, US naval armadas aggressively patrol the coasts of China and Iran. The militarist-Zionist ‘compromise’ over Syria was comprised of an initial contingent of 50 US Special Forces to join in ‘limited’ combat roles with (“loyal” sic) Islamist mercenaries – the so-called moderates. There are commitments for greater and heavier weaponry to come, including ground to air missiles capable of shooting down Russian and Syrian military jets.
Elite Factional Politics: An Overview
How does the record of these competing factions, formulating US imperial war policies in the Middle East over the past 15 years stack up? Clearly there has been no coherent imperial economic strategy.
The policy toward Afghanistan is remarkable for its failure to end the longest war in US history – over 14 years of occupation! The recent attempts by US-led client NATO forces to withdraw have been immediately followed by military advances by the nationalist-Islamist resistance militia – the Taliban, which controls much of the countryside. The possibility of a collapse of the current puppet in Kabul has forced the militarists in Washington to retain US bases – surrounded by completely hostile rural populations.
The Afghan war’s initial appearance of success triggered new wars – inter alia Iraq. But taking the long view, the Afghan war, has been a miserable failure in terms of the stated strategic goal of establishing a stable client government. The Afghan economy collapsed: opium production (which had been significantly suppressed by the Taliban’s poppy eradication campaign in 2000-2001) is the now predominant crop – with cheap heroin flooding Europe and beyond. Under the weight of massive and all pervasive corruption by ‘loyal’ client officials – the Afghan treasury is empty. The puppet rulers are totally disconnected from the most important regional, ethnic, religious and family clans and associations.
Washington could not ‘find’ any viable economic classes in Afghanistan with which to anchor a development strategy. They did not come to terms with the deep ethno-religious consciousness rooted in rural communities and fought the most popular political force among the majority Pashtu, the Taliban, which had no role in the attack on ‘9/11’.
They artificially slapped together a massive army of surly illiterates under Western imperial command and watched it fall apart at the seams, defect to the Taliban or turn their own guns on the foreign occupation troops. These “mistakes”, which accounted for the failure of the militarist faction in the Afghanistan war were due, in no small part, to the pressure and influence of the Zionist faction who wanted to quickly move on to their highest priority, a US war against Israel’s first priority enemy – Iraq – without consolidating the US control in Afghanistan. For the Zionists, Afghanistan (envisioned as a ‘cake-walk’ or quick victory) was just a tool to set the stage for a much larger sequence of US wars against Israel’s regional Arab and Persian adversaries.
Before the militarists could establish any viable order and an enduring governmental structure in Afghanistan, attention shifted to a Zionist-centered war against Iraq.
The build-up for the US war against Iraq has to be understood as a project wholly engineered by and for the state of Israel, mostly through its agents within the US government and Washington policy elite. The goal was to establish Israel as the unchallenged political-military power in the region using American troops and money and preparing the ground for Tel Aviv’s “final solution” for the Palestinian ‘problem’; total expulsion…
The US military and occupation campaign included the wholesale and systematic destruction of Iraq: Its law and order, culture, economy and society – so there would be no possibility of recovery. Such a vicious campaign did not resonate with any productive sector of the US economy (or for that matter with any Israeli economic interest).
Washington’s Zionist faction set about in a parody of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge to identify and destroy any competent, experienced Iraqi professional, civil servant, scientist, intellectual, or military official capable of re-organizing and re-building the county and war-battered society. They were assassinated, arrested, tortured, or driven into exile. The occupation deliberately encouraged religious parties and traditional tribes to engage in inter-communal massacres and ethnic cleansing. In other words, the Zionist faction did not pursue the traditionally understood policy of empire building which would incorporate the second tier functionaries of a conquered state to form a competent client regime and use Iraq’s great oil and gas wealth to build its economy. Instead they chose to impose a scorched earth policy; setting loose organized sectarian armies, imposing the rule of grotesquely corrupt ex-pats and placing the most venal, sectarian clients in positions of power. The effect has been to transform the most advanced, secular Arab country into an ‘Afghanistan’ and in less than 15 years destroying centuries of culture and community.
The goal of the ‘Zionist strategy’ was to destroy Iraq as Israel’s regional rival. The cost of over a million Iraqi dead and many millions of refugees did not prick any conscience in Washington or Tel Aviv.
After all, Washington’s traditional ‘militarist faction’ picked up the bill (costing hundreds of billions) which they passed on to the American taxpayers (well over one trillion dollars) and used the deaths and suffering of tens of thousands of American troops to provide a pretext for spreading more chaos. The result of their mayhem includes the specter of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which they may consider to be a success – since hysteria over ISIS pushes the West ‘closer to Israel’.
The sheer scale of death and destruction inflicted on the Iraqi population by the Zionist faction led to thousands of highly competent Ba’athist officers, who had survived ‘Shock and Awe’ and the sectarian massacres, to join armed Islamist Sunnis and eventually form the ISIS. This group of experienced Iraqi military officers formed the strategic technical core of ISIS which launched a devastating offensive in Iraq in 2014 – taking major cities in the north and completely routing the US-trained puppet armies of the ‘government’ in Baghdad. From there they moved into Syria and beyond. It is fundamental to understanding the roots of ISIS: The Zionist faction among US militarist policymakers imposed a deliberate ‘scorched earth’ occupation policy, which united highly trained nationalist Ba’athist military officers with young Sunni fighters ,both locals and increasingly foreign jihadist mercenaries. These deracinated members of the traditional Iraqi nationalist military elite had lost their families to the sectarian massacres; they were persecuted, tortured, driven underground, and highly motivated. They literally had nothing left to lose!
This core of ISIS leadership stands in stark contrast to the colonial, corrupt, and demoralized army slapped together by the US military with more cash than morale. ISIS quickly swept through half of Iraq and came within 40 miles of Baghdad.
The US militarist faction faced military defeat after eight years of war. They mobilized, financed, and armed their client Kurdish mercenaries in northern Iraq and recruited the Shia Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to appeal to the Shia militia.
ISIS exploited the Western-backed Islamist uprising in Syria and extended their sweep well across the border. Syria had accepted a million Iraqi refugees from the US invasion, including many of Iraq’s surviving experienced nationalist administrative elite. The US militarists are in a dilemma – another full-scale war would not be politically feasible, and its military outcome uncertain… Moreover the US was aligned with dubious allies – especially the Saudis – who had their own regional ambitions. Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Kurds were each eager to expand their power territorially and politically.
In the midst of this, the traditional Washington militarists are left with no overall viable imperialist strategy. Instead they improvise with faux ‘rebels’, who claim to be moderates and democrats, while taking US guns and dollars and ultimately joining the most powerful Islamist groups – like ISIS.
Throwing a wrench into the machinery of Israeli-Saudi hegemonic ambitions, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have sided with the secular Syrian government. Russia finally moved to bomb ISIS strongholds – after identifying a significant ISIS contingent of militant Chechens whose ultimate aims are to bring war and terror back to Russia.
The US-EU war against Libya unleashed all the retrograde mercenary forces from three continents (Africa, Asia and Europe) and Washington finds itself with no means to control them. Washington could not even protect its own consulate in their ‘liberated’ regional capital of Benghazi – the US ambassador and two intelligence aides were killed by Washington’s own ‘rebels’. The competing and cooperating factions of the Washington militarist elite placed Libya on a steaming platter: Serving up invasion, regicide and hundreds of thousands of refugees, which they did not bother to even ‘season’ with any plan or strategy – just unadulterated scorched earth against another opponent of Zionism. And a potentially lucrative strategic neo-colony in North Africa has been lost with no accountability for the Washington architects of such barbarism.
Latin America: The Last Outpost of the Multi-Nationals
As we have seen, the major theaters of imperial policy (the Middle East and Asia) have been dominated by militarists, not professional diplomats-linked to the multi-national corporations. Latin America stands as something of an exception. In Latin America, US policymakers have been guided by big business interests. Their main focus has been on pushing the neo-liberal agenda. Eventually this has meant promoting the US-centered ‘free trade’ agreements, joint military exercises, shared military bases, and political backing for the US global military agenda.
The ‘militarist faction’ in Washington worked with the traditional business faction in support of the unsuccessful military coups in Venezuela (2002 and 2014), the attempted coup in Bolivia 2008, and a successful regime change in Honduras (2010).
To harass the independent Argentine government which was developing closer diplomatic and trade ties with Iran, a sector of the US Zionist financial elite (the ‘vulture fund’ magnate Paul Singer) joined forces with the Zionist militarist faction to raise hysterical accusations against President Cristina Kirchner over the ‘mysterious’ suicide of a Israel-linked Argentine prosecutor. The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, had devoted his career to ‘cooking up a case’ against Iran with the aid of the Mossad and CIA for the unsolved, bombing the Buenos Aires Jewish community center in 1994. Various investigations had exonerated Iran and the Nisman Affair was an intense effort to keep Argentina from trading with Iran.
The Washington business faction operated in a mildly hostile Latin America for most of the past decade. However, it was able to recover influence, via a series of bilateral free trade agreements and took advantage of the end of the commodity cycle. The latter weakened the center-left regimes and moved them closer to Washington.
The ‘excesses’ committed by the US backed military dictatorships during the nineteen sixties through eighties, and the crisis of the neo-liberal nineties, set the stage for the rise of a relatively moderate business-diplomatic faction to come to the fore in Washington. It is also the case that the various militarist and Zionist factions in Washington were focused elsewhere (Europe, Middle East and Asia). In any case the US political elite operates in Latin America mostly via political and business proxies, for the time being.
From our brief survey, it is clear that wars play a key role in US foreign policy in most regions of the world. However, war policies in different regions respond to different factions in the governing elite.
The traditional militarist faction predominates creating confrontations in Ukraine, Asia and along the Russian border. Within that framework the US Army, Air Force, and Special Forces play a leading, and fairly conventional, role. In the Far East, the Navy and Air Force predominate.
In the Middle East and South Asia, the military (Army and Air Force) factions share power with the Zionist faction. Fundamentally the Zionists dictate policy on Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine and the militarists follow.
Both factions overlapped in creating the debacle in Libya.
The factions form shifting coalitions, supporting wars of interest to their respective power centers. The militarists and Zionists worked together in launching the Afghan war; but once launched, the Zionists abandoned Kabul and concentrated on preparing for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which was of far greater interest to Israel.
It should be noted that at no point did the oil and business elite play any significant role in war policy. The Zionist faction pushed hard to secure direct US ground intervention in Libya and Syria, but was not able to force the US to send large contingents of ground troops due to opposition from the Russians as well as a growing sector of the US electorate. Likewise, the Zionists played a leading role in successfully imposing sanctions against Iran and a major role in prosecuting banks around the world accused of violating the sanctions. However, they were not able to block the military faction from securing a diplomatic agreement with Iran over its uranium enrichment program – without going to war.
Clearly, the business faction plays a major role in promoting US trade agreements and tries to lift or avoid sanctions against important real and potential trade partners like China, Iran and Cuba.
The Zionist faction among Washington elite policymakers takes positions which consistently push for wars and aggressive policies against any regime targeted by Israel. The differences between the traditional militarist and Zionist factions are blurred by most writers who scrupulously avoid identifying Zionist decision-makers, but there is no question of who benefits and who loses.
The kind of war which the Zionists promote and implement – the utter destruction of enemy countries – undermines any plans by the traditional militarist faction and the military to consolidate power in an occupied country and incorporate it into a stable empire.
It is a serious error to lump these factions together: the business, Zionist, and various militarist factions of the Washington policy making elite are not one homogeneous group. They may overlap at times, but they also differ as to interests, liabilities, ideology, and loyalties. They also differ in their institutional allegiances.
The overarching militarist ideology which permeates US imperialist foreign policy obscures a deep and recurrent weakness – US policymakers master the mechanics of war but have no strategy for ruling after intervening. This has been glaringly evident in all recent wars: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, etc. Improvisation has repeatedly led to monumental failures: from financing phantom armies to bleeding billions to prop-up incompetent, kleptocratic puppet regimes. Despite the hundreds of billions of public money wasted in these serial disasters, no policymaker has been held to account.
Long wars and short memories are the norm for Washington’s militarist rulers who do not lose sleep over their blunders. The Zionists, for their part, do not even need a strategy for rule. They push the US into wars for Israel, and once having destroyed ‘the enemy country’ they leave a vacuum to be filled by chaos. The American public provides the gold and blood for these misadventures and reaps nothing but domestic deterioration and greater international strife.
The recent events in Paris were undoubtedly horrific, and our thoughts are with those affected by these atrocious acts. The victims and their families, innocent people who did not volunteer to fight in any war, these defenseless civilians were attacked in the most heinous way possible.
And while the world’s media turns its gaze to Paris, there is another act of terrorism happening every day that the corporate media chooses to ignore.
It seems the main export of the USA and UK is terrorism, but sugar coated and wrapped in the PR-friendly guise of ‘promoting democracy’ and ‘protecting our freedoms’, making the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians easier to swallow, or more frequently, completely ignore.
Perhaps ironically then, is the fact that these acts are of course illegal and a violation of international law, and the sad truth is that these rouge nations, the USA and UK themselves are the biggest threats to freedom and democracy. We are witnessing doublespeak in action.
To date, the USA has been responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million people since the end of World War II, in 37 nations. A report by James A. Lucas of Counter Currents explains:
This study reveals that U.S. military forces were directly responsible for about 10 to 15 million deaths during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the two Iraq Wars. The Korean War also includes Chinese deaths while the Vietnam War also includes fatalities in Cambodia and Laos.
The American public probably is not aware of these numbers and knows even less about the proxy wars for which the United States is also responsible. In the latter wars there were between nine and 14 million deaths in Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sudan.
These figures do not include the full figures of more recent violations, such as drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan.
Statistics obtained by the Bureau Investigates reveal that approximately 2,464 – 7,177 people have been murdered in these nations. It is also estimated that 90% of those killed in these attacks are innocent civilians.
Make no mistake, each one of these 500-plus drone strikes is nothing less than a tax-payer funded terrorist attack.
At the time of publication, there are also a high number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the illegal invasions, which has cost in excess of a staggering $1,500,000,000,000.
This means nothing to the corporations who profit from global terrorism.
While the little amount of corporate media coverage that is devoted to exposing profiteering remains largely focused on oil firms, there are trillions of dollars being made in the supply of arms.
Companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and BAE Systems as well as many others – often with government connections, are raking in billions of dollars from government contracts.
For example, Lockheed Martin received $36 billion in contracts in a single year.
So while my heart goes out to the victims and families of those affected by the despicable acts carried out in Paris, should we not also turn our outrage and contempt for these cowardly acts towards our own governments – who not only obliterate innocent lives on a daily basis, but actually allow profiteering from mass-murder, resulting in a never-ending cycle of destruction that we’re funding with our taxes.
The ending of terrorism begins with us.
MSF said its policy is not to accept government money for its operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.
“This policy allows us to work independently without taking sides and provide medical care to anyone who needs it. This will not change,” the nonprofit said in a statement.
Last week, MSF General Director Christopher Stokes said that the all of the information about the attack released so far makes it “hard to understand” how the Pentagon maintains the bombing was some sort of “mistake.”
MSF believes the attack was deliberate, and therefore a war crime. The group has repeatedly called for an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission.
But Washington maintains that investigations launched by the US and Afghan governments, as well as NATO, will be sufficient.
Since the attack, much of the debate has centered on whether Taliban patients in the hospital were armed, and if the group was using the building as a base of operations.
Doctors Without Borders released its own findings last week, denying that any combatant, whether the Taliban or the Afghan government’s, was armed inside the compound.
The Pentagon said shortly after the attack that they intended to pay for the repairs and to make “condolence payments” to the families of civilians killed. The Pentagon also promised to pay for additional repairs after smashing the hospital with an armored vehicle.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Suraia Suhar, an Afghan-born woman who now lives in Toronto, Canada. At the time, Suraia was organizing with Afghans for Peace (AFP), and I was serving on the board of directors for Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).
Back in 2012, NATO held their annual summit in Chicago, where thousands of antiwar protesters showed up to support AFP and IVAW, and to protest NATO’s ongoing and ever-expanding militarism. The rallies and actions culminated when members of IVAW discarded their medals, echoing the actions of Dewey Canyon III in 1971, when Vietnam Veterans Against the War threw their military mementos on the steps of the Capitol in Washington D.C.
The anti-NATO protests were the last massive antiwar demonstrations to take place in the U.S. Since then, and even in the preceding years (2008-2012), the antiwar movement has been all but absent. However, even when the antiwar movement was active and visible (2002-2007), the war in Afghanistan was a taboo topic. In short, progressives and leftists in North America have never come to terms with the fact that the war in Afghanistan was, is and will always be catastrophic and immoral.
No less than a few weeks ago, as most people know, the U.S. military bombed a civilian hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 12 members of the health organization, Medecins Sans Frontieres, along with 10 Afghan civilians who were being treated for illnesses linked to NATO’s ongoing occupation. Without doubt, the horror continues for the Afghan people, with no end in sight, as Obama decided that he would keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan until he departs office in January, 2017.
Recently, I had the chance to briefly speak with Suraia, who currently works with anti-racist organizations in Toronto. When asked about the bombing in Kunduz, Suraia said that the world should support Medecins Sans Frontieres’ current campaign and hopefully use this brutal event to apply political pressure, both in the U.S. and abroad. What’s needed, according to Suhar, is an independent investigation. As IVAW showed with its Winter Soldier hearings, the U.S. military will not properly investigate their own. When the military does investigate and occasionally prosecute, low level enlisted servicemen and women are the ones who face the music, not higher ranking officials.
Regarding Obama’s recent announcement concerning U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, she said, “It’s just an extension of the ongoing occupation. Concerning the future, well, I think a lot of that will depend on who’s elected after Obama leaves office.” In other words, “Obviously Trump would have a different approach to foreign policy than Sanders. And given her reputation, I’m worried that a Clinton administration would lead to more war hawk policies abroad than Obama’s failed policies.”
But what about the Afghan women? Suraia isn’t buying it. “This is a tired and debunked orientalist argument. Given that we live in the Information Age, my hope is that those who believe and repeat these claims make the effort to read statistical reports on the quality of life for women in Afghanistan, and how much of the progress, albeit with flawed results, had little to nothing to do with military warfare.” Turns out, bombs aren’t conducive to gender equality or political rights – imagine that.
In fact, NATO’s bombs and raids have created more insecurity. “The entire occupation has been rife with corruption, escalations of violence, preventable casualties, and further disempowerment of the Afghan people. The high numbers of internally displaced people and rise in refugee populations is evident of the deteriorating security in Afghanistan.” Indeed, the situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan was considered the good (legal) war, and a justified response to 9/11. Almost immediately fear-mongering was fueled with a rise in Islamophobia, xenophobia, and the media had no trouble propagating anti-terrorism rhetoric in the form of jingoism.” Further, Suhar notes that, “When the Afghanistan war was escalated at the end of 2009, a Democrat (Obama) was in power, so the anti-war movement subsequently, and cowardly I might add, dissipated. It was disappointing to say the least.”
Biting criticism? No doubt. But true nonetheless. I can personally attest to the cowardly position many antiwar organizations took with regard to the war in Afghanistan. Even on the Left, people never understood how to deal with the “good war.” Part of the problem, at least from my perspective, is that we did a poor job of educating peace and justice activists about American Empire, its history and the legacy of so-called humanitarian interventions and counterinsurgency operations.
As far as the antiwar movement is concerned, I asked Suraia what advice she would have for those seeking to rebuild the movement, or better yet, build a new movement to oppose militarism and empire. “I can’t stress enough the importance of working alongside people from Afghanistan who are well informed, experienced, and already doing community organizing. This goes for all conflict regions that the anti-war movement is involved with.”
Moreover, according to Suhar, “I also think it’s important to know how to counter and find alternative solutions to military warfare, so better understanding long-term sustainable development, restorative justice and reparations would tremendously help the peace movement.” Additionally, “The anti-war movement should be aware of the problems that can arise from certain areas of identity politics. A prime example of this is celebrating diversity in the US military, when that military is still serving the interests of the US government and corporations.”
At the end of the conversation, I asked Suraia what life has been like for her, an Afghan woman living in Toronto, who’s outspoken and public:
I think more people are becoming aware that the current climate of Islamophobia and racism has been used to support police state policies, wars abroad, and laws against civil liberties, so there’s been a growing resistance to it. To be clear, being a publicly outspoken Afghan woman living in North America in the post-9/11 world hasn’t been without its challenges.
Running into misinformed and heavily biased views aside, one thing I’ve noticed has been consistent sexist criticisms directed towards myself and the Afghan women I’ve worked with, which has come from many sources – pro-warlord Afghans who support the NATO mission, neoconservative media figures and their followers, and racists in general. Keep in mind, I’m talking about Canadians here. They’ve targeted us with vitriolic harassment and online stalking for being vocal Muslim women from Afghanistan with a political opinion, which of course differs from theirs. This reveals their hypocrisy in claiming to support women’s rights and liberation through Western wars. It’s unavoidable, so I’ve come to expect that it happens. I realize the intent is to silence dissent, but it’s a cowardly tactic. A good defense is transparency and allied support.
Suraia’s advice and reflections are very similar to the guidance and reflections I’ve heard from other Afghans and Iraqis over the years. In short, these activists need solidarity and true allies – allies who are willing to put aside petty differences in the pursuit of ending U.S. Empire abroad and Islamophobia and militarism at home. After all, we’re talking about war, so let’s get serious my friends, because our brothers and sisters abroad require our solidarity and commitment.
Vincent Emanuele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Newly acquired documents show the Pentagon spent nearly $400 million, or $2 million per fighter, on its failed train-and-equip program, according to USA Today. The Pentagon claims the actual cost was $30,000 per trainee.
USA Today reported the train-and-equip program was abandoned after the department had already spent $384 million on it. “Of the 180 Syrians vetted, trained and equipped, 145 fighters [remained] in the program,” the report stated. Of those 145 fighters, 95 were in Syria.
When asked to comment on the findings, the Pentagon disputed that it had spent $2 million per fighter, saying the actual cost was far lower – $30,000 per trainee. They added that the “vast majority” of the funds had gone to buying weapons, equipment, and ammunition, of which some is still in storage.
“Our investment in the Syria train and equip program should not be viewed purely in fiscal terms,” Navy Commander Elissa Smith told the news outlet in an email. Smith said some of those trained fighters had been calling in air strikes, and that ammunition designated for trainees had been given to other forces fighting the Islamic State instead.
According to the documents outlining the program’s $501 billion budget, $204 million was supposed to be spent on ammunition, $77 million on weapons, $62 million on mobility, $47 million on services, $46 million on construction, $40 million on strategic lift/shipping, $13 million on equipment, $6 million on communications, and $6 million on facilities and maintenance.
The program was intended to graduate 3,000 trained and equipped New Syrian Forces fighters in 2015, and 5,000 annually afterwards, to combat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). However, President Barack Obama abandoned the program earlier this fall.
In documents and interviews, USA Today was able to confirm that two of the four training camps designed for the program never hosted even a single recruit.
In September, it was revealed that one group of trainees had surrendered one quarter of their US-supplied weapons, ammunition, and vehicles in exchange for safe passage through territory held by another rebel group, considered to be extremist.
While the training has stopped, the US will continue to give equipment and weapons to the leaders of ‘vetted’ groups of rebels who are already fighting IS “so that over time they continue to re-claim territory,” Smith told USA Today.
The rebel training program’s $500 million budget was in addition to the $42 million the Pentagon had already spent in 2014 to set it up.
The findings come as the Obama administration announced it was set to deploy up to 50 US special operations troops in northern Syria to assist in the fight against IS. It marked the first time the administration openly said it would send ground forces into Syria.
The Associated Press reported the White House has put no timetable on how long the American forces will stay in Syria, although Obama has previously said he expects the campaign against IS to last beyond his presidency.
Obama inherited two military conflicts and will hand off a third to his successor. He recently announced plans to maintain a troop presence in Afghanistan beyond 2015.
In July, the National Priorities Project, a non-profit, non-partisan federal budget research group, reported that America’s war in Afghanistan has cost taxpayers roughly $4 million an hour. Their research found more than $700 billion has been spent on the war since the George W. Bush administration authorized the invasion in 2001, including more than $35 billion in fiscal year 2015.
The initial budget for the Afghan war was over $20 billion for 2001/02. The budget dropped to $14 billion over the next two years as spending shifted to the war in Iraq. Expenditures on the Afghan war took a back seat to Iraq war spending before ballooning to more than $100 billion in 2010, when the cost of the Iraq war began to decline. Spending in Afghanistan continued to top $100 billion annually until 2013, when it began falling by increments of $10 billion, finally reaching its current budget of $35 billion.
Most Americans disapprove of US President Barack Obama’s approach in fighting the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group, a new poll has found.
More than 6 in 10 people in the US reject Obama’s handling of the threat posed by the ISIL in Syria and Iraq, an Associated Press-GfK poll released on Thursday finds.
Support for his approach has dropped since Washington formed a military coalition against ISIL in late 2014. Last year, Americans were approximately even, but disapproval has risen 8 percent since January.
This is while two-thirds of the people surveyed in the poll described the threat posed by Daesh as a “very or extremely important issue.”
The poll also found that only 40 percent of Americans still approve of the president’s management of foreign policy.
Obama announced last week that 50 US special operations troops will head to northern Syria, marking the first time the US is openly sending forces into that war-torn country.
‘Afghanistan, a historic failure’
Concerns about Obama’s strategy overseas become more apparent when it comes to Afghanistan, where he has dropped his plan to pull US forces by the end of 2016. The new plan means that when he leaves office, the US will have at least 5,500 troops in Afghanistan.
The poll found that 71 percent of Americans believe history will judge the Afghanistan war as more of a failure than a success.
Roughly a third of Americans said they approve of Obama’s revamped plan in the country, while one-third opposed it.
A Médecins Sans Frontières investigation into the Afghan hospital bombing by US forces has found that there were no armed combatants or weapons within the compound, and no fighting in the direct vicinity of the hospital at the time of the airstrikes.
In its report released on Thursday, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF/Doctors Without Borders) addressed the “relentless and brutal aerial attack by US forces” which took place in Kunduz on October 3 and killed at least 30 people, including MSF staff.
“The MSF rules in the hospital were implemented and respected, including the ‘no weapon’ policy and MSF was in full control of the hospital at the time of the airstrikes,” the organization stated.
The document also said there were “no armed combatants within the hospital compound and there was no fighting from or in the direct vicinity” of the trauma center at the time of the strikes.
The hospital was “fully functioning” at the time of the airstrikes, with 105 patients admitted and surgeries taking place, according to the findings of the investigation.
In addition, MSF said the “agreement to respect the neutrality of our medical facility based on the applicable sections of International Humanitarian Law was fully in place and agreed with all parties to the conflict prior to the attack.”
Despite that neutrality, the hospital was still the target of a US airstrike, leading MSF to ask how such an attack was allowed to happen.
“The question remains as to whether our hospital lost its protected status in the eyes of the military forces engaged in this attack – and if so, why,” MSF said in its statement.
Presenting the report, MSF general director Christopher Stokes said: “From what we are seeing now, this action is illegal in the laws of war. There are still many unanswered questions, including who took the final decision, who gave the targeting instructions for the hospital.”
The MSF statement described the tragic situation at the hospital.
“Patients burned in their beds, medical staff were decapitated and lost limbs, and others were shot by the circling AC-130 gunship while fleeing the burning building. At least 30 MSF staff and patients were killed,” it states.
MSF says its demand is simple: “A functioning hospital caring for patients, such as the one in Kunduz, cannot simply lose its protection and be attacked; wounded combatants are patients and must be free from attack and treated without discrimination; medical staff should never be punished or attacked for providing treatment to wounded combatants.”
Following the aerial attack, the Pentagon initially attempted to shift responsibility onto Afghan security forces, claiming they had requested the airstrikes.
However, the commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Campbell, later admitted the attack was a “US decision made within the US chain of command.” He went on to say that Washington would “never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has many secrets, of which one of the most closely guarded is the final cost of its luxurious new headquarters complex in Brussels. As reported last year by Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, the price had climbed to a billion Euros “against a background of Nato pledges to reduce its command structure, agencies and national HQs by 30 per cent in response to savage defence cuts in most of its 28 member states.” According to NATO the final bill was supposed to be 750 million Euros for completion in 2015, but as had to be eventually admitted by NATO, “the project now has a clear way forward to completion in 2016” — with a 30 per cent increase in the price.
But that officially-stated price was not what it seemed, because, as revealed by Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, “member states had already been sceptical when the consortium won the contract for €460 million [emphasis added] in 2010 . . . [Nato Chief] Anders Fogh Rasmussen is aware of the problem but hasn’t seen fit yet to inform the public about it . . . At a meeting of NATO’s Deputies Committee on December 19 , Rasmussen’s staff asked that the issue be dealt with ‘confidentially’.”
That shabby deceitfulness couldn’t prevent Spiegel from disclosing that the cost had risen to 1.3 billion Euros, “almost three times the €460 million contract awarded in 2010 to replace NATO’s Cold War-era headquarters with a soaring glass-and-steel structure to house some 4,000 staff.” This vastly expensive palace has eight wings which converge “in a glass-covered central hall . . . to ‘symbolise the allies coming together, while glass walls are supposed to represent Nato’s transparency’.”
The designer of this glass castle rhapsodised that “the wing-like profiles of the buildings reinforces [sic] the ideas of consensus, fluidity and aspirations towards peace . . .” But peace doesn’t seem to be what NATO is intent on achieving, any more than it seems to welcome transparency in glass walls or anything else, because a leaked cable from Germany’s ambassador explained that a meeting of NATO representatives “pointed to the disastrous effect on the image of the alliance if construction were to stop and if NATO appeared to be incapable of punctually completing a construction project.”
How transparent. And how prophetic.
Although NATO’s deceit about its incompetence in building its new headquarters is veiled in secrecy, its ambition to expand in territory and military muscle-flexing is open for all to see, and has been for twenty years.
After the Warsaw Pact disbanded in March 1991, NATO, although deprived of any reason to continue in existence, managed to keep going, and in 1999 added Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to its 16 members. As the BBC noted, these countries became “the first former Soviet bloc states to join Nato, taking the alliance’s borders some 400 miles towards Russia.”
With good reason Moscow wondered what on earth the US-NATO military alliance might be planning.
The New York Times recorded that the 1999 expansion was “opening a new path for the military alliance” and expressed delight that the ceremony took place in the town of Independence, Missouri, where “the emotional Secretary of State Madeleine K Albright watched the three foreign ministers sign the documents of accession, signed them herself, then held them aloft like victory trophies.” Ms Albright was born Marie Korbelová in Prague and “made no secret today of her joy as her homeland and the two other nations joined the alliance.”
It was the emotional Madeleine Albright who appeared on the US television programme Sixty Minutes on May 12, 1996 and was asked to comment on Washington’s economic sanctions that were savaging Iraq. The interviewer, Lesley Stahl, said that as a result of the punishment “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. [90,000 people were killed at Hiroshima. Probably about 20,000 were children.] And, you know, is the price worth it?”
Albright replied that “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.” (The YouTube recording is nauseating.) Then she was given the US Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2012. You couldn’t make it up.
In spite of facing no threat whatever from any country in the world, NATO continued to expand around Russia’s borders, inviting Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia to join in 2002, which they did two years later.
As President Putin observed in an interview with Italy’s Corriere della Sera “we are not expanding anywhere; it is NATO infrastructure, including military infrastructure, that is moving towards our borders. Is this a manifestation of our aggression?”
Then NATO took wider and more aggressive action in August 2003 when it took “control of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan, its first major operation outside Europe.” Predictably, the war in Afghanistan plunged from crisis to calamity after US-NATO countries agreed in 2005 “to expand the alliance’s role,” including “deployment of thousands more troops in the south.” The result was disaster.
Last December NATO (but not the US) ceased offensive operations in Afghanistan, having sacrificed the lives of over 3,500 soldiers of whom some 2,300 were American. One might imagine that this humiliating defeat might have resulted in a pause for reflection about NATO’s role, purpose and effectiveness, but its new Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, is proving as energetically expansive as his predecessor, which is why he was chosen for the job. NATO’s appalling blitz of Libya in 2011, which reduced the country to its present catastrophic chaos, has failed to modify his intriguing belief that “from Afghanistan to Morocco, and many places in between, NATO is helping other countries to defend themselves.” He may have forgotten that Libya is one of the “places in between.”
On 23 October Stoltenberg expressed delight about Obama’s change of policy about keeping troops in Afghanistan, expressing “appreciation for President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will maintain its current troop levels in Afghanistan through 2016, and will retain a substantial presence beyond 2016. This important decision paves the way for a sustained presence by NATO Allies and partners in Afghanistan.”
If Stoltenberg had said that he welcomed Obama’s decision because it would result in a better life for the citizens of Afghanistan (which, alas, it will not), then his stance could be understood and applauded. But Stoltenberg welcomed the decision only because it would enable NATO to carry on its expensive expansion. That’s the way that military-associated bureaucrats think about the world. They’ve never risked their lives for any cause — any more than did the evil child-killer Albright — but they’re really happy to engage in exciting martial adventures in which the lives of thousands of soldiers can be placed at risk.
Jens Stoltenberg is the embodiment, the essence — the ultimate epitome — of the sleek, well-manicured, desk-bound, happy non-combat warrior. His peaceful and lucrative career in politics was marked by early anti-Americanism, during the Vietnam War, but over the years the chameleon changed from being an anti-American protester to eventually embracing his present anti-Russian complexion. When he was made head of NATO, President Putin considered him to be a “serious, responsible person” but warned with prescience that “we’ll see how our relations develop with him in his new position.” Both responsibility and relations collapsed.
A few days before his declaration of happiness about NATO’s “sustained presence” in Afghanistan Stoltenberg boasted that “we have doubled the size of the NATO Response Force, making it more ready and more capable, and established a high readiness Joint Task Force, able to move within a matter of days. We have increased our presence in the east, with more planes in the air, more ships at sea and more boots on the ground. We have established six new headquarters in our eastern Allies, with two more on the way.” He told NATO countries that “the time has come to invest more in defence.”
NATO’s threat to Russia is direct and aggressively confrontational. And it’s going to cost member nations a great deal of money. But Mr Stoltenberg is no stranger to expense. As NATO announced : “While Mr Stoltenberg was Prime Minister, Norway’s defence spending increased steadily with the result that Norway is today one of the Allies with the highest per capita defence expenditure.”
Now he has committed Europe’s financially struggling NATO nations, including almost-bankrupt Greece and Spain, to “continue to fund the Afghan national army and security forces” which cost about 12 billion dollars a year.
The huge cost of NATO’s recent and current military manoeuvres in nations circling Russia has not been revealed, presumably because it is as secret as the escalating price of the new NATO headquarters.
Unfortunately it is improbable that Mr Stoltenberg will try to encourage economic prudence or support any attempts to reduce tension with Russia. The Obama-Stoltenberg NATO military alliance has won the battle to expand its presence and its budget. The sword-brandishing will continue — and the cost of the glitzy glass palace will go through the roof.