Friday, September 6, 2013

The Hubris and Folly of Empire: How Many More Lies Will We Be Told?

"Violence can never bring peace! War is War!" - Pope Francis, admonishing the U.S. Empire not to strike at Syria as any kind of solution.

"Secretary of State John Kerry made it abundantly clear during a congressional hearing on Tuesday that he is ready to ask someone to be the first to die for a mistake, and did so with a barrage of gibberish so vast that it bent the light in the hearing room.  He insisted with table-pounding vehemence that the president is not asking America to go to war by asking America to flip missiles and bombs into Syria, because it totally won't seem like war to us. - William Rivers Pitt, today on

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together." - President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address, January, 1961.

Is the U.S. an Empire? Without a doubt! Author Gore Vidal pinpointed the emergence of the American Empire when he noted (Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta, 2002, p. 124)

"Since 1950 the United States has fought perhaps a hundred overt and covert wars. None was declared by the nominal representatives of the American people in Congress…they had meekly turned over to the executive their principal great power to wage war. That was the end of that Constitution”.

A sobering look at the consolidation of the American Empire (up to 2007) is provided in the book: The State of the American Empire, particularly the highlighted maps showing its expanse (pp. 70-71), as well as the total of U.S. military interventions from 1945-89 (pp. 76-77). Meanwhile, the comparable military spending per person (page 67) boggles the mind into insensibility. When one beholds these maps and the graphics, one rightfully wonders what current pundits' objections - that the U.S. is "not an Empire" - are all about.

An additional insight is provided with the global map of recipients of U.S. arms sales (pp. 72-73). Adjacent to the key, the author notes:

“The USA is the world’s largest arms exporter and the U.S. government manipulates this trade to influence world events”

Well, how exactly?  Let’s let the author answer this:

“Creating a dependency on weapons gives the USA direct control of a client country’s capacity to defend itself, or to wage aggression, and indirect control over its wider foreign policy”.

The author goes on:

"In the Middle East the U.S. maintains Israeli military domination through arms sales and other forms of aid, but also has Saudi Arabia and Egypt- potential adversaries of Israel- as its biggest customers, although it never arms them to a level of sophistication that will threaten Israel

Since 2007, of course, the U.S. Empire has expanded massively. The United States now maintains 702 military 'installations' in 63 foreign countries. It has 4,471 bases altogether, according to the Defense Department's annual budget statement. These figures don't include bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. We're talking about our military presence in nations like Germany, South Korea, and Japan. ALL of these represent redundant costs since the wars that incepted the bases are now more than a half century over! While the total cost of these bases is kept secret, the best analysis I've seen estimates their ten-year cost at approximately $1 trillion, but this is probably lowballed.

What we the citizens need to grasp, is that if we're inhabiting an Empire we are inhabiting a war - addicted nation that must have ever more wars, conflicts and aggression to maintain its existing "security". In addition, Empires lean toward fascism ultimately, and this means: a) a weakened congress (no separation of powers)  which abdicates its declaration of war powers, ceding them to a run amuck "unitary" executive, and b) an expanded national surveillance state - which thanks to Ed Snowden - we now also are aware of and ought to be awarding him a freedom medal as opposed to calling for his head.

We also need to be historically literate as to what happens to all Empires! Bottom line: they collapse. Usually this isn't from without, i..e. external enemies, barbarians or "terrorists",  but from expanded massive debt owing to what has been called "military overstretch". The massive debt destabilizes internal domestic security, for example, when roads, bridges, water mains don't get repaired, and citizens find themselves poorer and living in an increasingly inequitable society because so much spending is allocated to warfare and defense. The figures for U.S. bases given earlier should alert everyone to the fact we're already in the zone of military overstretch.

More wars of influence are needed to sustain this overstretch, because the resources of those (designated "enemy") countries are the only way to try to pay off the  existing debt. But it never works, because like a coke addict, the war state must continually move on to its next 'hit'. As with all such preludes, the truth is the first casualty and that's what we've now found with this Syria attack prelude. 
Now, according to additional reports from ABC News last night the Pentagon "has expanded targets" to be hit in Syria and also intends to use B-1 and B-52 bombers to drops tens of thousands of tons equivalent of TNT on these assorted expanded targets. This, in addition, to U.S. warships equipped with over 100 cruise missiles, all to be fired at targets at a cost of $2m each. (This as we face an increase in the debt ceiling past $16.7 trillion in a matter of weeks)

The news of the expanded targets and increased bombing capacity discloses we've already been lied to. We had been informed at first it would only be a "limited strike" presumably with only cruise missiles, no heavy bombers. What next? What other lies? We've been told by Kerry "no boots on the ground" but as several pundits with clear heads noted (including Eugene Robinson on 'Morning Joe' this a.m.) no one can promise that.  In the laws and landscape of unintended consequences, make sure you factor in the immediate retaliation by Syria's allies - including Iran.

As Williams Rivers Pitt has already noted, Syria and Iran are strategic allies, pledged to each other's mutual defense. This means if the U.S. Empire launches an attack as currently described,  all the Iranian missile sites in the mountains above the Persian Gulf coast could launch their missiles in retaliation.  Rivers also noted that those Iranian missiles are not Iraqi Scuds, they are advanced enough to spoof Aegis radar systems, which means thousands of American service members currently manning our warships in the Gulf could very quickly be delivered into a watery grave.  Iran has also vowed to attack U.S.  Embassies in the region.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah as well as Iran are liable to launch massive terror, rocket and other attacks in Lebanon as well as Israel.  Israel is likely to strike back, and Russia has asserted (last night) it will respond to ANY U.S. aggression, though not elaborating.

Do we really want to go this route?  The 'powers that be'  claim the strikes will still be limited and the collateral damage will be restricted. They still also maintain this is a "punishment operation". Who are they kidding? Not the informed and historically literate citizen! As Chalmers Johnson has noted ('Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic', p. 27) the U.S. - despite pretentiously boasting what a sanctimonious nation it is, hence the only one qualified to dish out "punishments" to other nations,  has never been a signatory to Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions of Aug. 12, 1949.

This relates to the "Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1, June 8, 1977)" and explicitly states :

"It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of a civilian population such as: food stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive,"

Johnson notes the U.S.  flagrantly violated this Protocol in the first Gulf War - destroying facilities for water purification and sewage treatment plants resulting in "epidemics of cholera, gastroenteritis, and typhoid....leading to perhaps as many as 100,000 civilian deaths and a doubling of the infant mortality rate. "

Johnson cited Colonel John A.  Warden III's writings in his Airpower Journal.  He went on to observe that a team from the Harvard School of Public Health suggested in May 1991, that "at least 170,000 children would die in the coming year from the delayed effects of the bombing."

In the meantime, what of the tolls, e.g. in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the wake of the  9/11 attacks. Johnson cites an excerpt from a '60 Minutes' interview with Madeleine Albright, by correspondent Leslie Stahl (p. 25). She asked:

"We have heard that about a half million children have died as a result of the sanctions in Iraq. That's more than died in Hiroshima. Was the price worth it?"

Albright replied:

"I think this is a very hard choice. But we think the price is worth it."

WORTH IT??? A Half million kids dead and the price was worth it?  But see, this is the Neoliberal 'war for capital-resources' in action and how it really has no concern for casualties at all. That's all bullshit. The only thing it cares about is making the planet safe for global capital! This is the primo reason the war makers want to strike Syria now as well, and devil take the hindmost.

But this is how hardcore Empires act. And it is also why our beloved "reps" mostly lie through their teeth. Last night, for example, on the ABC News, both John McCain and Dianne Feinstein were shown reacting to their constituents' pleas, i.e.  to vote against any attacks on Iraq. What were their smug replies? The Neoliberal security state quisling Feinstein merely smiled and assured the interviewer yes, her folks were against it "but then they don't know what I know."  Sound familiar? That's also the smug, smarmy ass riposte  she delivered two months ago,  to defend continued NSA spying after the Snowden PRISM and XKeyscore expose.

As for Insane McCain, well he claimed "the numbers are getting better the more town halls I hold." Really, Johnno? That's not what it looked like in the clips we saw.

The American, people - left and right (but obviously for different reasons) are four square against this foolish planned strike which will only unleash the dogs of war, as well as umpteen terror attacks in a blowback we can only try to imagine. We are all of one mind in stopping this thing before it starts - and it may well be one of the few times you see Atheists join hands with fundies and a pope in common cause.

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