September 27, 2007

The Depravity of Empire

Because an empire must, by definition, rely on coercion and murder, any given day in the rule of empire is immoral and detestable for those who genuinely value liberty and peace. But certain days are worse than others. In terms of what it bodes for our future -- and for the future of the world -- yesterday was a particularly awful day in the United States Senate, now controlled and led by the imperial Democrats. If there are any people who still believed that the Democrats would represent a fundamental shift in U.S. foreign policy, they have no reason to believe it any longer. Even before yesterday's events, maintenance of such a belief required criminal ignorance and/or a willingness to peddle lies and propaganda on a huge scale. I say that for all the reasons discussed in my series, "Dominion Over the World" -- and I note that I have not even concluded that series, and that those essays do not cover anything close to all the reasons for my indictment. The logical and necessary implications of the Senate's actions mean we will see at least several more decades of war, large-scale death, chaos and destruction. It would appear that, with regard to its broad outlines, the 21st century will be the 20th century all over again: endless war, tens of millions of deaths, brutality that spreads across entire continents, and darkness that descends upon the world.

I will comment further on the Senate's actions in a moment, but I first want to consider a broader issue. One of the more viciously dishonest aspects of empire and colonialism is this: after interfering with and attempting to impose their will on numerous countries for decade after decade, colonial powers will occasionally withdraw, at least to some extent. The withdrawal is never complete, for the interference continues via economic and trade policy -- by the use, for example, of punitive sanctions which do nothing to dislodge disfavored regimes but cause untold hardship for the general populace, and which almost inevitably lead to further war, as we saw with Iraq and are now seeing again with Iran, and by various other methods. The endless years of occupation had prevented the victimized countries from developing in their own manner and on their own schedule -- but after they withdraw, and if the exploited nations do not immediately reshape themselves into what the colonial powers consider to be a "civilized" country, those powers condemn the same nations they had earlier destroyed.

Thus, we have the repellent Hillary Clinton saying it's the Iraqis' fault that they didn't avail themselves of the wonderful opportunity we provided to them. The same line is peddled by many other Democrats, and by Republicans as well. To describe this perspective as monstrously and brutally immoral and inhumane does not begin to capture its hideousness. The West has pursued this general pattern in Southeast Asia, in most of Africa and, of course, in the Middle East. As the earlier post discussed, an especially primitive and unforgivable racism is a necessary part of the dynamic involved, and this racism is an inextricable part of the American national myth.

I realize that most Americans' conception of history extends, at best, to the Vietnam war or, if we are contemplating once again the Eternal Virtue and Axiomatic Nobility of America the Great, World War II -- which, as Allesandra Stanley notes about Ken Burns' latest exercise in myth-building, was apparently all about us. (Since I don't have television, I'm not watching the Burns series, so I have no opinion about it myself. But narcissism of this kind is endemic to mainstream American culture; for a very different view of World War II and what we failed to learn from it, see "Let Us All Become Cowards.") Nonetheless, I will ask you to travel farther back in time, to the aftermath of World War I. Since the Senate has now endorsed restructuring the Middle East by means of brutal violence still another time -- which violence is, of course, to be directed by the United States -- we should try to appreciate how long the Western powers have been engaged in this deadly exercise. The following is from David Fromkin's book, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East (also excerpted in my essay, "Narcissism and Paternalism as Foreign Policy"):
As you will see when you read the book, Middle Eastern personalities, circumstances, and political cultures do not figure a great deal in the narrative that follows, except when I suggest the outlines and dimensions of what European politicians were ignoring when they made their decisions. This is a book about the decision-making process, and in the 1914-22 period, Europeans and Americans were the only ones seated around the table when the decisions were made.

It was an era in which Middle Eastern countries and frontiers were fabricated in Europe. Iraq and what we now call Jordan, for example, were British inventions, lines drawn on an empty map by British politicians after the First World War; while the boundaries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq were established by a British civil servant in 1922, and the frontiers between Moslems and Christians were drawn by France in Syria-Lebanon and by Russia on the borders of Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan.

The European powers at that time believed they could change Moslem Asia in the very fundamentals of its political existence, and in their attempt to do so introduced an artificial state system into the Middle East that has made it into a region of countries that have not become nations even today. The basis of political life in the Middle East -- religion -- was called into question by the Russians, who proposed communism, and by the British, who proposed nationalism or dynastic loyalty, in its place. Khomeini's Iran in the Shi'ite world and the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere iin the Sunni world keep that issue alive. The French government, which in the Middle East did allow religion to be the basis of politics -- even of its own -- championed one sect against the others; and that, too, is an issue kept alive, notably in the communal strife that has ravaged Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s.

The year 1922 seems to me to have been the point of no return in setting the various clans of the Middle East on their collision courses....
From the lofty perch of their imperial rule, and from a height which allowed them to avert their eyes and their consciences from the bloodshed, murder and suffering unleashed by their uncaring, brutal calculations, it did not occur to the European and American powers that other nations and other peoples were not theirs to dispose of. Such a radical thought has yet to penetrate the barbarian skulls of Western politicians.

I've frequently noted one inevitable result of interventionism before: the first intervention causes dislocations and allegedly unforeseeable consequences, which are then used to justify the second intervention, which in turn causes further dislocations and allegedly unforeseeable consequences, which are then used to justify the third, and so on. In a compelling article from almost a year ago, "Anatomy of a Civil War: Iraq's descent into chaos," Nir Rosen provided critical details and background about the catastrophe that continues to unfold today:
Although the Bush administration has criticized the Iraqi government for not disarming the militias—and this is certainly the most important problem facing Iraq, apart from the occupation—this is an untenable first step. The militias exist because there is no security in Iraq. And when the Bush administration criticizes the Iraqi government for being weak, they forget that they deliberately made it weak and dependent on their dictates. The American failure to provide security has led to the militias. The American sectarian approach has created the civil war. We saw Iraqis as Sunnis, Shias, Kurds. We designed a governing council based on a sectarian quota system and ignored Iraqis (not exiled politicians but real Iraqis) who warned us against it. We decided that the Sunnis were the bad guys and the Shias were the good guys. These problems were not timeless. In many ways they are new, and we are responsible for them. The tens of thousands of cleansed Iraqis, the relatives of those killed by the death squads, the sectarian supporters and militias firmly ensconced in the government and its ministries, the Shia refusal to relinquish their long-awaited control over Iraq, the Kurdish commitment to secession, the Sunni harboring of Salafi jihadists—all militate against anything but full-scale civil war.

When it comes, through the slow progression we have seen so far or through a cataclysmic incident like Sarajevo, or the 1975 Ayn ar-Rummanah bus attack, or another attack like the one on the Samarra shrine, or perhaps the assassination of an important Shia cleric or leader, Sunnis will be cleansed from Baghdad. And the Shias will go to war against Sunnis. The Kurds, having waited for this opportunity, will secede and tell the world they tried the federalist route in good faith but those crazy Arabs down south keep killing each other. Who would want to belong to a country like that?

The Arab world had always been dominated by Sunnis, who make up 85 percent of the world's Muslims. The new Shia Iraq is overturning the Ottoman and colonialist legacies that entrenched Sunnis. Along with Hizbullah's victory against Israel this summer, this will threaten the status quo throughout the Arab world. In Syria, already seen as dominated by the Shia-like Alawi minority that is hated by the Sunni majority, the Iranians recently built a mosque commemorating a battle that Imam Ali lost. The unpopular Sunni regimes of Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, seeing their power wane, can no longer be anti-American or anti-Israeli, having sold out on those issues by supporting the Americans and practically supporting Israel against Hizbullah in July. Instead, they are playing the sectarian card to regain the respect they lost from their population and galvanize them against a new threat, the Shias. Most recently, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak accused Shias of being fifth-columnists, loyal to Iran. ...

If Iraq's Sunnis are targeted on a larger scale the concept of the Iraqi nation-state will cease to be relevant. Salafi jihadis will pour in to fight the hated Shias. Shias will attempt to push Sunnis out of Iraq, for until they can control the key highways in the Anbar leading to Syria and Jordan, their economy will be threatened. Sunnis throughout the region will not tolerate the Shias killing Sunnis or a Shia Iraq. Iraq's Sunni tribes extend into Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. Their tribal kinsmen will come to their aid, sending reinforcements of men and materiel across the porous borders. Sunni retaliation against Shias or Alawis in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and even Afghanistan could provoke sectarian clashes throughout the Muslim world. Kurdish independence could provoke Turkish intervention. At minimum it will push the Turks closer to the Iranians and Syrians, who will have the same concerns of Kurdish irredentism. At some point Iran will intervene, and if it threatens the waters of the Persian Gulf the entire world's economy will be threatened. Iraq's civil war will become a regional war.

Rather than remaking the Middle East, the Iraq war has destabilized it. Sunnis throughout the region who already have so many reasons to hate the United States—Abu Ghraib, the Haditha massacre, the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl, Guantánamo—would now have one more, for the Americans would have handed Iraq over to the Shias. We are seeing the death throes, not the birth pangs, of a new Middle East.

The Bush administration persists in its assertions of progress and clings to the idea that something called victory is possible. What victory? By every measure, life is worse for the Iraqis (leaving aside the Kurds, who don't want to be Iraqis anyway). They are dying by the dozens or the hundreds every day—nobody even knows how many, since the Anbar province and much of the south, and even much of Baghdad, are black holes, with no information coming out. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died violently since the war began, probably eclipsing the number of Saddam's victims. The ministry of health was recently ordered again not to disclose the number of casualties. The United Nations' torture expert has stated that torture in Iraq is now worse than it was under Saddam. Over 1.5 million Iraqis have fled their country, to Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, and in late 2006 one European official in Syria estimated that up to 3,000 Iraqis a day were fleeing into that country.

SCIRI's calls for a Shia superstate have grown more strident, and Sunnis have made their own demands. Already in March 2006 Harith al Dhari reminded the rest of Iraqis that Sunnis had means of their own available: just as there was oil in the south, there was water in the center and the north, and it could be held off until "the barrel of water in the south was worth a barrel of oil," or it could flood the south and drown it. More recently, maps have been circulating on Sunni Iraqi Web sites showing an enlarged Anbar province including Baghdad, Mosul, and the so-called Sunni Triangle in a large Sunni superstate. Iraqi comedians joke about different neighborhoods of Baghdad becoming their own republics. Iraq is dying, falling apart.

America did this to Iraq. We divided Iraqis. We set them at war with each other. The least we can do is stop killing them and leave Iraq.
Of course, we will not leave Iraq, nor will we leave the Middle East. The horrific chaos and violence our actions have set in motion will now serve as the excuse for us to maintain a significant presence in the Middle East for decades to come -- which was the goal all along.

And yesterday, our barbarian mapmakers in the U.S. Senate, led by that notable barbarian, Joe Biden, lent their approval to redrawing the lines again:
[T]he Senate approved a resolution by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, calling for greater diplomatic efforts and, in particular, a focus on partitioning Iraq into federal regions, in hopes of reaching a political solution and more swiftly ending the war.


Mr. Biden's resolution called on the United States "to actively support a political settlement in Iraq based on the final provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions consistent with the wishes of the Iraqi people and their elected leaders."

And it said that the U.S. should call on the international community to help and on Iraq's neighbors not to "intervene in or destabilize" Iraq.
The limitless arrogance of these vile politicians is breathtaking. In the context of the U.S. invasion and occupation, the meaningless nod to "the wishes of the Iraqi people and their elected leaders" is worse than insulting. And to demand that Iraq's neighbors not "intervene in or destabilize" Iraq -- after all that we have done and continue to do, and after the genocide that we have caused -- is sickening to an extent that makes accurate description all but impossible.

You should read Nir Rosen's new article, "No Going Back," on the details of the monumental scale of the human tragedy that has resulted from our actions. Here is one critical excerpt:
The American occupation has been more disastrous than the Mongols' sack of Baghdad in the 13th century. Iraq's human capital has fled, its intellectuals and professionals, the educated, the moneyed classes, the political elite. They will not return. And the government is nonexistent at best. After finally succumbing to Iraqi pressure, the Americans submitted to elections but deliberately emasculated the central government and the office of the prime minister. Now Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki is the scapegoat for American failure in Iraq, and there are calls to remove him or overthrow him. But talk of a coup to replace Maliki fails to understand that he is irrelevant. Gone are the days when Baghdad was the only major city in Iraq, and whoever controlled Baghdad controlled the country. The continued focus on the theater in the Green Zone ignores the reality that events there have never determined what happens outside of it. Iraq is a collection of city states such as Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, Ramadi, Erbil, and others, each controlled by various warlords with their own militias. And the villages are entirely unprotected. Maliki will be the last prime minister of Iraq. When he is run out there will be no new elections, since they can't be run safely and fairly anymore, and the pretense of an Iraqi state will be over.

It has become popular with former supporters of the war to blame the Iraqis for the Americans' failure. The Iraqis did not choose democracy or the Iraqis did not choose freedom, Americans like to say, or the Iraqis have to decide to stop killing each other or Iraqis have to "step up." But such complaints misplace the blame. Sunni and Shia Iraqis protested the American occupation as soon as it began, and demanded elections and sovereignty. The U.S. ignored their demands and instead imposed a dictator on them, Paul Bremer, hoping he would pave the way for an Iraqi strongman to rule in our stead. Other former supporters of the war, echoing the simplistic sentiments heard during the Balkan wars, now blame the alleged "ancient hatred" between Sunnis and Shias, who have been fighting each other for "thousands of years." But Iraq had no history of civil war or sectarian violence even approaching this scale until the Americans arrived. Iraq is not Rwanda, where Hutus and Tutsis slaughtered each other and America could pretend it had no role. We did this to Iraq. And it is time the U.S and the international community "step up" to the resulting humanitarian nightmare.
Because U.S. foreign policy is one bloody, murderous lie piled on top of countless bloody, murderous lies, we can hardly expect Biden or any other politician to be honest to any degree at all about what partition means in fact. For that, you should read Chris Floyd, here and here. This is the truth that no U.S. politician will ever utter:
"On the actual day of the relocation operation...." Try to imagine such a day, when millions of Iraqis are uprooted and forced to move to other areas, all under guard by "Iraqi and US-led coalition forces." Actually it's not that hard to imagine, for we have seen it before: in faded photographs and newsreel footage and films like "The Sorrow and the Pity," "Shoah," and "Schindler's List." Less familiar in the popular imagination but perhaps even more apposite are the "relocations" of ethnic populations carried out by Josef Stalin, when whole peoples, such as the Chechens, were uprooted and transported by force to other regions. Or we could of course look closer to home, at the "Trail of Tears," the deadly removal of the Cherokee from their homelands to concentration camps in Oklahoma.

These kinds of scenes are precisely what the clean-limbed O'Hanlon and his partner envisage for Iraq, followed by a life ensnared by checkpoints and passes and internal border controls. It may sound harsh, brutal and inhuman, but not to worry: "For the most part these burdens would be bearable."

....This is what we've come to -- or perhaps, harking back to the Trail of Tears, this is where we came in. Ignorant, arrogant, cowardly elites proposing -- and in Bush's case, inflicting -- vast human suffering on innocent people, driving them from their homes, terrorizing them, killing them. And all of this done for no other reason but to enhance the coddled elite's power, privilege and pleasures.
You can now add the Democratic-led U.S. Senate to the murderers' row that includes Bush, the Republicans, O'Hanlon and the other killers.

One genocide is not enough for the U.S. Senate, for yesterday they also advanced our government closer to the next one:
The Senate approved a resolution today urging the Bush administration to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, and lawmakers briefly set aside partisan differences to approve a measure calling for stepped-up diplomacy to forge a political solution in Iraq.

Since last month, the White House has been weighing whether to deem the entire Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group or to take a narrower step focused only on the Quds Force, an elite unit of the corps. Either approach would signal a more confrontational posture by declaring a segment of the Iranian military to be a terrorist organization.


The Senate resolution, which is not binding, calls on the administration to designate the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group and to impose economic sanctions. Even if the White House were to take such a step, policy experts said it was unclear that it would be anything more than a symbolic gesture without the cooperation of other nations.

The measure proposed by Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent of Connecticut who votes with Republicans on war issues, relied heavily on testimony earlier this month by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, the top American political official in Baghdad.

It quoted General Petraeus as saying it is "increasingly apparent to both coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps Quds Force, seeks to turn the Shiite militia extremists into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq."
You have to hand it to the Washington Democrats and those commentators and bloggers who continue to shill for them. The Democrats count on the American public and their lobotomized lapdogs not to remember significant events from one week to the next -- and the Democrats' enablers willingly render themselves deaf, dumb and blind. The Democrats first put on a phony show of aggressively questioning Petraeus and doubting his propagandistic claims, and very shortly thereafter they rely on Petraeus's lies to set the stage for World War III.

I almost admire the Democrats' defenders in a certain way. The Democrats stab them deep in the gut and, while the knife is disemboweling them, the Democrats continue to lie in their agony-ridden faces -- and the victims still tell these bastards they will continue to support them. This collection of subhumans give sado-masochists a bad name. The commitment to cruelty, self-abasement and self-humiliation is all but perfect. It's no wonder they can regard one genocide after another with equanimity. It appears none of these people has a conscience any longer to be troubled in the smallest degree.

I will not go over the significance of the Revolutionary Guard amendment. I went over that ground in detail in "The Worsening Nightmare." Let it be noted that, if and when World War III destroys much of the world and the comfortable, ignorance-ridden lives of many Americans, neither the Democrats nor their defenders should look to any remotely civilized person for forgiveness. It will not be forthcoming.

So, still another time, I note that murder, chaos, devastation and human suffering on an ungraspable scale are what the U.S. governing class wants. Is it what you want? For many Americans, the answer is: Yes. Yes, it is.

God damn all such people to hell.

FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF UNSOLICITED ADVICE: For any Democrats who read this, and who oppose the Democratic party's program of perpetual war, corporatism and authoritarianism, here's what you can do: Tell the Democrats they have to change or die. Be a quitter.

Let it not be said that I never offer constructive suggestions.