Thursday, February 13, 2014

Geo-Politics in The Graveyard of Empires

The synopsis of this report is that President Karzai of Afghanistan has issued the release of 65 accused inmates from a prison formerly under the command of the US military. This has irritated Washington, and the usual justifications come forth. The imprisoned were radicalized militia who had attacked and killed American soldiers, Afghan soldiers, women, and children. To release them would only bring about more death and destruction.

I first heard this story from Fox News, and as I expected, it was a completely one sided account with no issuances from Kabul or anything. It was just sheer madness and irrationality. Karzai seemed to be just releasing murderers to destabilize his own government and country. Actually I should destabilize more. Afghanistan is country founded on fictitious boundaries and dependent on the cooperation of dozens of smaller tribes. This may sound rather weak, but do not be fooled. There is a reason this harsh terrain has been called the "Graveyard of Empires", both England and Russia sending thousands to their death in trying to rule this crucial Central Asian geography.

However, the implicit understanding in the televised news was one very familiar to the Imperial framework we live. Karzai is the half-civilized vassal who still acts on barbaric instinct. There is no report as to why he would see fit to release these prisoners. The Al Jazeera report at least addresses these, but does not go into depth. Of course this is a news report and not commentary, so I wouldn't expect as much.

However the report highlights one important aspect: Karzai's belief that this prison was not preventing militants but creating them. That is the iron-fisted American presence was jailing those with suspect ties. This would only push them over the fence to think the attempt to create a unified Afghanistan was a sham, Karzai a puppet, and that their only recourse was to take to the gun. The prison and the American legions' actions only created enemies to the very creation that America had sought to wrought: a democratic and constitutional Central Asian republic.

I believe America in many ways is similar to ancient Athens and its Delian League Empire. It was never a formal conquest, but a fear of reprisal, economic boycott, and military intervention, that kept the smaller Greek states in line. Very similar to the US' domination of a psuedo-Delian League like NATO. However the greatest parallel, in my eyes, is that odd and seemingly contradictory efforts at Imperial victory that surge in American policy. There's no unified directive to make consistent decisions. America's hegemonic oligarchy is comprised of international corporate interests, hyper-patriotic neo-colonialists, and New American Century unilateralists. Thus the Religious Right Neo-Cons of the Bush era act in very similar patterns to the Clintonian progressive imperialism of Obama.

Yet they are different, and these surging currents end up creating buffoonery and foolish maneuvers. It ends up backfiring due to misconceived strategies, competitiveness, arrogant ignorance, and emotional power-politicing. In someways Afghanistan is the American version of Athens' adventure in Sicily. It costs an extraordinary amount of blood and treasure, and it never ends because of the fear of wasted sacrifice and wounded pride. Yet America is no exception, its Imperial expedition will die in the wastelands of Asia.

I don't know enough to say whether Karzai was a puppet who is waking up, or is an idealist who can find a common unity in a single Afghanistan. However what he does want is for Afghanistan to function as an independent state. This is not helped, despite American news sources, with the addition and continuous presence of soldiers. It will only make the backlash worse.

Yet this has everything to do with what is called the Great Game. Central Asia is rich in resources. Afghanistan has always been viewed as the Gateway, if one can control this area it can tap into the rest. This battle was originally fought between Britain and Russia, but has the presence of new players, most notably an independent India, China, and the US. The Legions will by no means leave Afghanistan because it will admit that America is an Empire just like the rest, one that dies in The Graveyard.

I don't have high hopes for any semblance of serenity being brought to Afghanistan. If history is any guide, Karzai won't be able to keep his patchwork together, tribal unity, as it always has, will take the day. Even though he is stepping on the toes of Washington in trying to salvage his nation and, I'd dare say, maintain justice through law, it doesn't look like it'll work. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Of Snowden and Spiders

The above is a link to a recent interview Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle-blower, did with a German reporter. It's worth watching in it's entirety and it's only 30 min. Snowden is still under protection in Russia, and it doesn't seem like that will change in the near future.

Why would Putin want to assist Snowden? Really, it's more like 'Why not?' After the disaster of the Yeltsin years, Putin has, through his reign, restored prestige and honor to Russia. Instead of a president wandering around DC drunk, naked, and with prostitutes, he is standing up for Russia's place as a geo-strategic power broker. Historically, Russia has stood as the guardian of Eastern Europe and as the mother of the slavs. Of course, not everyone feels this way, and in the end it's just a power play. This sort of Imperial cover is at the heart of the Ukrainian revolt against their president, but I digress.

Anyway, Putin would love to score a point over the US, and while no benevolent giant of human rights, Russia loves to press the American government's face into its own hypocrisy. Snowden mentioned that anonymous voices from the Pentagon would like to see him with a bullet in his head. This shouldn't be shocking, any threat to the Imperial Military-Corporation complex, even a gadfly like Snowden, needs to be smudged out. I'm sure all the ex-KGB technocrats and businessmen are laughing. They do the same thing with dissenters, and upstarts, but Russia hardly tries to disguise this. Journalists or human-rights lawyers wind up dead, and the mysteriousness of their demise, given the circumstances, just gets swept under the rug.

With the US pressure on Russia for its laws on homosexuality, intensified by the spotlight of hosting the Olympics, it seems unlikely they'll let Snowden be thrown to the wolves. Perhaps in the future, in some brokerage, but he might be irrelevant at that point. So for now it seems he's safe.

Anyway, the material he released was interesting, but not shocking. He speaks of a supranational intelligence collecting/sharing net amongst anglophone countries. He also talks about how the US has integral, "in-bed", relations with foreign intelligence communities. Of course it's not an equal partnership. The US is hardly reliant upon Germany, but bears down as the sole super-power left. None of this is shocking since the slice-up of the world after World War 2. While the US lambasted the Soviets for the creation of satellite, communist countries, the US did the same. West Germany was as much a tool for Washington, as East was for Moscow. However, I'm not equivocating over the quality of life. I'd have rather lived in West Berlin than East, but it doesn't reduce the status of being a satellite.

The most fascinating thing is how Snowden elaborated that the NSA and other intelligence organizations try and hide around the shadow of 'use' rather than 'gathering'. They'll deny that they actively use and pursue Americans with the TIA (Total Information Awareness) net, however they're still collecting it. That's the danger, says Snowden, and it's hard not to see the implications.

Of course if you're given over to the myth that the government really works for the public, or has any serious interest in its good, rather than manipulating and draining it, then you might not have a problem with intelligence agencies collating all the data on its citizens. Of course, this is neglecting the justice of spying on other peoples, allies or not, across the world, but I'll scope in on this particular.

Now I'm of the opinion that the State, as a modern Enlightenment invention, is self-deifying and always magnetically drawn towards absolution. Thus cultures, languages, micro-societies, are all brought under one-head. There are no Americans plural, but a singular reality. This was woven into the fabric of the government, e pluribus unum. This was the mission and the mythic destiny of the Federal Union over and above the individual states. Thus when either North or South, with its proud and particular regional varities, tried to break away, there was the threat of war and suppression. This is despite the fact that there was a strong, and vocal opposition to such Statist hegemony. That is, it is technically a right for a state to secede.

However it threatens the absolutizing of the whole, and thus the South was brutally suppressed in the Civil War. I'm not all sympathetic to the Southern gentlemen culture, its sickening visage of christendom, or the brutalization of its chattel slave machinery. But it stepped outside the bounds of the Union. They weren't alone. 40 years prior, the North considered breaking away and forming its own federation when the Madison administration declared war on Great Britain in the War of 1812. Such would harm the trade that New England had, and many abhorred the Southern sympathy for France.

Anyway, my point in all of that is to give a historical vignette of how the Statist ideal is woven into the DNA of the American Union. Of course, it will continue as the technology becomes more encompassing and advanced. It's no surprise that the intelligence seeks to engage in the same sort of behavior. Of course, the dynamic has changed. Instead of an aristocratic public government, there has been the increase of power of the military and corporate powers. That's another history, but all seem, in our era, to become intertwined. Are their rivalries? Of course. Are their inter-branch rivalries? Yup, the different branches of the intelligence communities try and top each other. But in the end they're working to the same goal.

This is not some hair-brained conspiracy of world-domination, but a sober-eyed realistic account of how power works. There's always that old cliche: power corrupts...

Snowden hopes that the public will rise up and demand accountability, but I don't know how realistic that will be. While a stereotype, it has some truth: many Americans are fat, stupid, and lazy. The most popular news sources (Fox, MSNBC) are reflective of the public's quest for truth. The Romans called it bread & circuses, instead it's McDonalds & Justin Bieber. It seems as longs as the many are glutted, it doesn't matter where such prosperity comes from. Just like in our mother Rome: generals and businessmen sacked the East for its riches, and Rome became wealthy and happy.

At least they were honest with their intent: the strong do what they must, the weak suffer what they must. Maybe one day the American people will decide they're tired of the Empire, and they don't want to build Babylon, but I'm not hopeful. But it doesn't mean I won't stop speaking the truth, regardless if others listen. I hope more Snowdens continue to pop up and call attention to what their governments are engaged in.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Capture of a Murderous Priest

In a nutshell, an authority in the Roman Catholic church has been captured after being convicted in absentia over a year ago. His crimes? For organizing and assisting the death-squads in Colombia that assisted in murdering leftist resistance to the US-backed government.

I'm not terribly familiar with the history of the FARC, but as much as I know it's very convoluted and confusing. On the one hand you have an established authority that works as a "friend" of the United States, maintaining trade rights and keeping the US present in a growingly hostile South America. On the other, you have violent marxists who gain much sympathy from the countryside who suffers under the policies America speaks through the mouthpieces in Bogota.

This whole history goes back to the Monroe Policy where the United States cast a protective sphere over the Americas as its sole sphere of influence. Well, not quite. The British were included in such an arrangement, though grudgingly. The British Navy was an unstoppable juggernaut, and the tool for Britain's neo-imperialism. This doctrine for empire was not built by boots and flags. It didn't require active conquests, but rather coercive influence. The British Navy was committed to free-trade and free-ports.

It's really clever actually. While the old empires of Europe relied on the territories officially conquered and possessed, Britain attempted to undermine this by economics. Promote liberty and liberalism, where the colonial behemoths were chopped up into little independent states. Of course on a field of equal opportunity the biggest dog wins. Britain didn't have to threaten bombardment or invasion, instead she used economic exploitation. She could edge out all competition and make subtle demands upon these fledgling nations.

It's much more complicated than that, but I hope you can see what sort of control this is. The newly minted United States, created during this policy's formulation, was abhorred at this. None of the founders were terribly sympathetic to Adam Smith's style of capitalism. It wasn't till the rise of the modern Democratic party and Van Buren's coalition that this was embraced. Jackson may have been its face, but the thoroughly dutch Martin was its architect.

What does this have to do with the present story? Well, the United States quickly adopted the same policy of the Brits over the years. By the end of the 19th century, the majority of South America was in the pocket of American corporations. There was resistance and uprising, but this was the Gilded Age. The government was hand-in-hand with the monopolies, even after Teddy's trust-busting exercise. The love of money is alluring!

The turn-of-the-century was filled with over a dozen micro wars over US interests in the Americas. If you want the truth full blast, read Smedley Butler's "War's a Racket". He was a general responsible for implementing some of these adventures. His eyes were opened and he was appalled. The US military was essentially a group of mercs engaged in gangsterism, protection rackets, and thuggery. Not many people know about these wars, and in history books it usually goes from the Spanish-American War right into World War 1.

It really sheds light on some of the insanity happening today. However, it also makes sense of what this article is talking about. The US continued to engage in such a practice through proxies and subsidiaries. What better than a Catholic Priest who can have a quite convincing alibi for being there. Better than the shadowy and sketchy "contractors" that come out of the CIA and other Federal organizations. After the Iran-Contra scandal, I'm sure any policy in the South would tend to be more covert and less connected. But then again, arrogance, power, and a sense of destiny are an intoxicating mix.

I'm glad this scoundrel is caught, but this is one man, an organizer even, and in one country. This sort of activity under the guise of many "Christian" (what would Christ Jesus have to do with such lawlessness?) organizations. Many pastors and priests, or faithful church-goers, work in such a capacity. Are they blind to their doings? Maybe some, others probably think themselves being good patriots. It's sick nonetheless.