Islamic State

Political correctness demands diversity in everything but thought

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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the future doesn't like us

Published originally in williamblum.org August 12, 2016


For 50 years I’ve been painstakingly cataloguing the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of US foreign policy, building up in the process a very loyal audience.

To my great surprise, when I recently wrote about the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of the Islamic State, I received more criticism from my readers than I’ve gotten for anything I’ve ever written. Dozens of them asked to be removed from my mailing list, as many as I’d normally get in a full year. Others were convinced that it couldn’t actually be me who was the author of such words, that I must have been hacked. Some wondered whether my recent illness had affected my mind. Literally! And almost all of the Internet magazines which regularly print me did not do so with this article.

Now why should this be?

My crime was being politically incorrect. The Islamic State, you see, is composed of Muslims, and the United States and its Western allies have bombed many Muslim countries in the recent past killing thousands of Muslims and causing widespread horror. Therefore, whatever ISIS and its allies do is “revenge”, simple revenge, and should not be condemned by anyone calling himself a progressive; least of all should violence be carried out against these poor aggrieved jihadists.

Moreover, inasmuch as ISIS is the offspring of religion, this adds to my political incorrectness: I’m attacking religion, God forgive me.

Totally irrelevant to my critics is the fact that the religious teachings of ISIS embrace murderous jihad and the heavenly rewards for suicide bombings and martyrdom. This, they insist, is not the real Islam, a religion of peace and scholarly pursuits. Well, one can argue, Naziism was not the real Germany of Goethe and Schiller, of Bach and Brahms. Fortunately, that didn’t keep the world from destroying the Third Reich.

We should also consider this: From the 1950s to the 1980s the United States carried out atrocities against Latin America, including numerous bombings, without the natives ever resorting to the repulsive uncivilized kind of retaliation as employed by ISIS. Latin American leftists took their revenge out on concrete representatives of the American empire: diplomatic, military and corporate targets, not markets, theatres, nightclubs, hospitals, restaurants or churches. The ISIS victims have included many Muslims, perhaps even some friends of the terrorists, for all they knew or cared.

It doesn’t matter to my critics that in my writing I have regularly given clear recognition to the crimes against humanity carried out by the West against the Islamic world. I am still not allowed to criticize the armed forces of Islam, for all of the above stated reasons plus the claim that the United States “created” ISIS.

Regarding this last argument: It’s certainly true that US foreign policy played an indispensable role in the rise of ISIS. Without Washington’s overthrow of secular governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and – now in process – Syria, there would today be no ISIS. It’s also true that many American weapons, intentionally and unintentionally, have wound up in the hands of terrorist groups. But the word “created” implies intention, that the United States wanted to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.

So, you wonder, how do we rid the world of the Islamic State? I’m afraid it may already be too late. The barn door is wide open and all the horses have escaped. It’s not easy for an old anti-imperialist like myself, but I support Western military and economic power to crush the unspeakable evil of ISIS. The West has actually made good progress with seriously hampering ISIS oil sales and financial transactions. As a result, it appears that ISIS may well be running out of money, with defections of unpaid soldiers increasing.

The West should also forget about regime change in Syria and join forces with Russia against the terrorists.

And my readers, and many like them, have to learn to stop turning the other cheek when someone yelling “Allahu Akbar” drives a machete into their skull.


Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

This Week In Doom February 22, 2015

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Off the keyboard of Surly1
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Image by Ian Ference Barcroft Media

Image by Ian Ference Barcroft Media

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on February 22, 2015

“The viruses that cause smallpox, influenza, hepatitis, measles, encephalitis, and viral pneumonia; the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, diphtheria, cholera, typhus, scarlet fever, and bacterial meningitis—by a quirk of evolutionary history, all were unknown in the Western Hemisphere.”

“In 1491 the Inka ruled the greatest empire on earth. Bigger than Ming Dynasty China, bigger than Ivan the Great’s expanding Russia, bigger than Songhay in the Sahel or powerful Great Zimbabwe in West Africa, bigger than the cresting Ottoman Empire… bigger by far than any European state, the Inka dominion extended over a staggering thirty-two degrees of latitude—as if a single power held sway from St. Petersburg to Cairo.”
― Charles C. Mann
 

 

Charles Mann’s landmark, “1491:New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus”  advances the thesis that the Americas were fairly teeming with native peoples prior to their “discovery” by Columbus and other early explorers. This thesis is supported in part by testimony from early explorers. Traveling up the Mississippi in 1540, De Soto reported teeming cities filled with Native Americans. The Spanish also reported large urban populations upon their first contact with Aztecs and Incas. When LaSalle traveled up the Mississippi 140 years later, he and his party encountered open and desolate spaces, virtually depopulated of native peoples.

Mann advances the theory that disease killed as many as 19 of 20 natives in the Americas, most of whom never laid eyes on a white man. (He lays the blame in large measure on the swine that the Spanish brought along with them as part of their mobile commissary.) The Inca Empire collapsed in part because by the time Pizarro arrived, smallpox and other epidemics had already swept through cities, cutting a wide swath though the natives’ lack of immunity to European diseases.

Mann references the work of historian Henry Dobyns:”The Inca were not defeated by steel and horses, but by disease and factionalism.”  Internecine warfare among native tribes also played a factor in the collapse of native societies, as the Spaniards were able to play one faction off against another.  “Divide and rule” was a lesson well learned from their Roman forebears.

In his Pulitzer prize-winning book  “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies,” Jared Diamond suggests that the early domestication of wild plants and animals among disparate Stone Age peoples in the Fertile Crescent, China, Central America and the Andes conferred a head start on the peoples of those regions, which translated directly to the development of “surplus” and its management.

In a sentence, Diamond’s thesis is thus: “farm-based societies conquered populations of other areas and maintained dominance, despite sometimes being vastly out-numbered – superior weapons provided immediate military superiority (guns); Eurasian diseases weakened and reduced local populations, who had no immunity, making it easier to maintain control over them (germs); and durable means of transport enabled imperialism (steel).”

Societies must move beyond the hunter gatherer stage to develop surplus food, and thus provide the capacity to develop division of labor, which in turn led to writing, technology, societal organization, religion and other forms of social coercion. Societies thus equipped were able to move and expand to the homelands of other, less advanced people and compete with an advantage.

And when these societies expanded, they brought their livestock and other disease vectors with them. Unlike malaria,  smallpox is geographically unlimited, and Europeans took it with them wherever they went. Over centuries, they also developed the means by which to cure many of these diseases. Only now are we seeing that cycle, like so many, begin to unwind.

Such thoughts bubble up unbidden as we peruse the headlines emerging  from the swamps mainstream media like  swamp gas,  and we find a recrudescence of disease.  This goes beyond the outbreak of measles as reported last week,  a disease eradicated in the US in 2000, but now back by popular demand of the anti-vaxxer crowd. The return of measles is the self-inflicted wound of a society rooted in the full-bore embrace of ignorance and superstition.  No, this week it’s the superbug,  a gift likely purchased by the over prescription and overuse of antibiotics, and which leaves us as helpless as peasants in the face of the Black Death. So with no further preamble, it’s time to offer up a hearty call of, “Bring out your Dead!”  and let the week’s summary began. Cue the ritual chanting and the rabbit’s feet.

 


Los Angeles hospital warns 179 patients possibly exposed to ‘superbug’

One form of CRE bacteria. CRE bacteria is blamed for 600 deaths each year, and can withstand treatment from virtually every type of antibiotic. (AP Photo/CDC)

 

This report in from LA.  Since MRSA wasn’t  unmanageable enough,  this new drug-resistant superbug  both baffles observers and threatens to have healthcare practitioners shaking their last medicine stick as treatment.

A large Los Angeles teaching hospital has told scores of patients they may have been exposed to a drug-resistant bacterial “superbug” during endoscopy procedures that infected seven patients and contributed to two deaths.

More than 170 patients who may have been infected by the carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, are being offered home testing kits that would be analyzed by the University of California at Los Angeles hospital system, UCLA officials said.

It is difficult to believe that in this day and age, we still have not found an appropriate way to sterilize even harder to clean parts on endoscopes, but there you are. No one who ever consults with the surgeon as to the best course of action will be surprised when he recommends surgery.  Or more tests. So when the Public Health functionaries speak, keep that in mind:

“It’s important to emphasize: This particular outbreak of CRE is not a threat to the health of the public in Los Angeles County,” said Benjamin Schwartz, deputy chief of the acute communicable disease control program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

That’s right, citizens, nothing to see here, and move along. There’s a good fellow. Huffpo added this perspective:

For a person to be infected, CRE germs must enter the body, typically through contact with an infected person’s wounds or feces. However, as is suspected in the UCLA exposure, the bacteria can also be passed via medical devices that enter the body. The same type of medical device has been implicated in other CRE exposures, according to UCLA. The hospital says it is now “utilizing a decontamination process that goes above and beyond manufacturer and national standards.”

Deeply reassuring.  For now, it would appear that if your plans do not include swallowing an endoscope at the appropriately named Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, you are at low risk for infection.

Currently, the best measures to take are preventive. Hospitals and patients alike should practice careful hand-washing and disinfecting of hospital rooms and medical equipment, and staff may consider keeping patients with CRE infections from sharing rooms with others. The CDC also urges patients and medical professionals to avoid unnecessary prescriptions and use of antibiotics.

Good luck “avoiding unnecessary prescriptions and use of antibiotics” if you are a pediatrician facing the parent of a child with a runny nose. Meanwhile, the prevalence of “superbugs” is on the rise, and it’s not all from our failure to wash hands.

Threat of Deadly Pathogens on the Rise Thanks to Climate Change

A new study released this week and published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B warns that a warming planet and rapidly changing climate are increasing the appearance of infectious diseases like Ebola.

According to Daniel Brooks, one of the researchers on the study, “It’s not that there’s going to be one ‘Andromeda Strain’ that will wipe everybody out on the planet. There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts.”

And, to make matters even worse, there’s also the concern of unknown infectious diseases popping up across the globe thanks to climate change.

Last year, scientists were able to successfully “revive” a virus that had been trapped in the Siberian tundra for tens of thousands of years According to the scientists, the virus, now known as Pithovirus sibericum, was lying dormant in the Siberian tundra for around 30,000 years.

But, after thawing the virus out of the ice, the scientists discovered that it hadn’t lost its touch after its 30,000 year nap.

In fact, soon after the virus was thawed, it infected countless single-cell organisms.

Now, just imagine if the thawing of Pithovirus sibericum hadn’t happened in a controlled laboratory, but instead happened in the wilderness of Siberia. 

If I were a betting man, as the planet warms I would wager on more rather than fewer And as the ice melts, and those new-to-us pathogens get released, we could see new epidemics for which we are utterly unprepared.  But I’m confident that everything will be just fine here,  citizen, as long as you wash your hands and shake your rabbit’s foot.


Hot Spots

 The Islamic state seems intent upon declaring itself the middle east distributor for ninth century savagery,  with the recent spate of beheadings of Egyptian Copts. Retaliatory attacks have been answered with suicide attacks. See: IS claimes suicide attacks that kill 42

And now the Islamic State’s Libyan franchise has threatened an assault upon Rome itself.  We can’t wait to see the Islamic State navy in action.

 

With Ukraine’s army in tatters, and the US/UK considering yet another in a futile round of sanctions on Russia, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister says they are “preparing for full scale war with Russia. ”  This comes in the wake of the military catastrophe that befell the NATO-backed army in eastern Ukraine, at Debaltsevo.

Last week, Washington suffered its greatest military defeat in more than a decade when Ukraine’s US-backed army was soundly routed in the major railway hub of Debaltsevo. Roughly, 8,000 Ukrainian regulars along with untold numbers of tanks and armored units were surrounded in w Andhat-came-to-be-known-as “the cauldron.”  The army of the Donetsk Peoples Republic led by DPR commander  Alexander Zakharchenko, encircled the invading army and gradually tightened the cordon, eventually killing or capturing most of the troops within the pocket. The Ukrainian Armed Forces suffered major casualties ranging between  3,000 to 3,500 while a vast amount of lethal military hardware was left behind.

According to Zakharchenko, “The amount of equipment Ukrainian units have lost here is beyond description.”

As Mike Whitney reports, this military catastrophe  is the responsibility of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, who may not survive the next putsch.

The Ukrainian President is responsible for the massacre at Debaltsevo.  He was fully aware that his army faced encirclement but ordered them to remain in order to satisfy powerful right-wing elements in his government. The disaster is even more terrible due to the fact that it was entirely avoidable and achieved no strategic purpose at all. Extreme hubris frequently impacts outcomes on the battlefield. This was the case at Debaltsevo.

The debacle ensures that the bumbling president’s days are numbered.

The “far-right nationalists” who occupy the Security Services that Poroshenko tried to appease will insist on his ouster. Comes another Maidan, and a second Ukrainian coup in less than a year, testament to the failings of neocon US foreign policy. This from The Vineyard of the Saker:

“Looks like the Nazi death squads are on the march again, this time they are looking at Kiev.  Thirteen death-squad (aka “volunteer battalion”) leaders have now declared that they are forming their own military command under the command of the notorious Semen Semenchenko. Officially, they are not in any way opposed to the current regime, so said Semenchenko, but in reality their rank and file members are pretty clear about what they want to do: organize a third Maidan and toss out Poroshenko.

What makes these 21st century version of the SA so dangerous for Poroshenko it that he, unlike Hitler, does not have a 21st century version of the SS to eliminate them all overnight.  In fact, according to many reports the entire southern part of the rump-Ukraine is now “Kolomoiski-land” fully under the control of the oligarch who finances these death-squads.  Add to this the fact that most of the Rada is composed of the very same battalion commanders and assorted Nazi freaks, and you will why Poroshenko is now very much in danger……

The sad reality is that there is simply nobody in the Ukraine capable of disarming these so-called “volunteer battalions”.  There are now thousands of uniformed Nazi freaks roaming around with guns who can now impose their law of the jungle on everybody.  It sure looks like the future of Banderastan will be something like a mix of Somalia and Mad Max – a failed state, a comprehensively destroyed economy, a collapsed social order and the law of armed gangs of thugs.” 

And now we’re told that Ukraine is”Preparing For Full-Scale War” With Russia, Demands The West Supply Lethal Weapons.  Because of the losses at Debaltsevo, Kiev need more arms. If only the West will “stiffen their spines” a bit,  we are told, the Banderites will be able to defeat the Russians. Let’s review the bidding: in one year an entire country has been destroyed, thousands murdered and millions left with nothing. The Ukraine is as failed a state as Somalia, having met all conditions of Orlov’s “five stages of collapse.” Kiev is in the hands of madmen advised by madmen, and the only alternative is worse. The obvious solution? More arms…


Quick Takes

12 likely causes of the Apocalypse, as seen by scientists 

Risk of American ‘megadroughts’ for decades, NASA warns

 GMOs Invade Fruit Industry: Apples, Pears, Cherries and Peaches to All Become Unlabeled GMO

Pat Robertson to ‘abhorrent’ moms: ‘Covens’ use your Facebook ultrasounds to curse ‘unborn babies’

The Montana Legislature is now controlled by some far-right loons. You won’t believe what they’re trying to pass

Latest crimes against humanity from the Zionist Apartheid State

Dept. of When You’re in a Hole, Stop Digging: How can Rudy Giuliani make his latest mess much worse? On second thought, why bother?


So there’s your week in disease, warfare, cupidity and superstition.  Death peeks around every corner: whether from unknown bugs and viruses popping up from global warming, chaotic tinderboxes in world at war, Pat Robertson’s bad comb over  or Tea Party stupidity, who can tell?  if I were you, I’d stock up on rabbits’ feet.

*** 

banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

Forecast 2015 — Life in the Breakdown Lane

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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"Order Out of Chaos" by Anthony Freda

“Order Out of Chaos” by Anthony Freda

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation January 4, 2015
All images by Anthony Freda

“Don’t look back — something might be gaining on you,” Satchel Paige famously warned. For connoisseurs of civilizational collapse, 2014 was merely annoying, a continued pile-up of over-investments in complexity with mounting diminishing returns, metastasizing fragility, and no satisfying resolution. So we enter 2015 with greater tensions than ever before and therefore the likelihood that the inevitable breakdown will release more destructive energy and be that much harder to recover from.

I don’t know how anyone can trust the statistical bullshit emanating from our government reporting agencies, or the legacy news organizations that report them. Yet the meme has remained firmly fixed in the popular imagination: the US economy has recovered! GDP grows 5 percent in Q3! Manufacturing renaissance! Energy independence! Cleanest shirt in the laundry basket! Best-looking house in a bad neighborhood…!

¡No hay problema!

This is simply the power of wishful thinking on display. No one — with the exception of a few “doomer” cranks — wants to believe that industrial civilization is in trouble deep. The staggering credulity this represents would be a fascinating case study in itself if there were not so many other things that demand our attention right now. Let’s just write this phenomenon off as the diminishing returns of career log-rolling in politics, finance, media, and academia. All the professional “thought-leaders” pitch in to support the “hologram” of eternal progress that issues their paychecks and bonuses. This culture of pervasive racketeering that we’ve engineered has made us obtuse. The particular brand of stupidity on display also points to another signal vanity of our time: the conviction that if you measure things enough, you can control them.

I’m of the view that the measurers only pretend to measure and can only pretend to control things, especially in the most fragile of the systems that we depend on for running all the other systems of techno-industrial economic life: finance. The pretense has endured a lot longer than many of us had expected. The legerdemain employed by banking officials and their handmaidens was greatly augmented by the sheer wish that fragility (i.e. risk) had been successfully and permanently banished from the universe. That “magic” at least sustained a universal faith in currencies until the middle of last year when so many monies went south — except the dollar, levitating on blowback of the deflationary wind flattening everything else.

All this unreality in money and markets should be expected in the conditions just preceding systemic collapse of an entire trans-national industrial civilization, just as one should expect societies to construct their most grandiose monuments to themselves shortly before collapse. The Mayans R us. One year, they were cavorting bloodthirstily atop their garish painted pyramids and a generation later the jungle was stealing back over the temple steps and the population was a tenth of its former size. The same thing is going to happen to us, except there will be a hell of a lot more worthless, toxic debris left on the landscape.

Of course, even that is a more long-term projection than the exercise at hand calls for, viz., the forecast for measly little 2015. So without further throat-clearing, permit me to break it down for you:

Finance and Banking

As 2014 closed out, that kit-bag of frauds, swindles, Ponzis, grifts, bait-and-switches, and three-card-monte scams is looking at least as wobbly as it did in 2007 when Wall Street was busy manufacturing booby-trapped MBSs and CDOs. Except we know the true aggregate risk at stake has only grown larger and more hazardous due to all the strenuous efforts by authorities since the panic of 2008 to evade any natural process for clearing mal-investment and debt gone bad. A lot of that stank was simply shoveled into the Federal Reserve’s basement, where it sits to this day, composting steamily. As to be expected (and averred to in my previous books and blogs) financial repression, market intervention, and statistical distortion will produce ever more financial perversity. That is the hazard in decoupling truth from reality. Imposed dishonesty will always express itself in unexpected ways. Who expected the price of oil to fall by nearly half in a few months? (More on that below.)

These days, perversity expresses itself in a morbidly obese dollar gorging on junk while bulimic currencies elsewhere projectile-vomit their value away as the economies attached to them die of malnutrition. Perhaps this comes as a surprise to central bankers standing at their control panels like recording engineers at the soundboard, tweaking all the dials and slides expecting to achieve a perfect repressive inflation rate of 2-plus percent so they can melt away the onerous debt of sovereign balance sheets and Too Big To Fail banks — incidentally squeezing the citizenry of purchasing power in small annual increments that add up, after a while, to worthless money. They did manage to extend the inflation of stock market indexes another year, which the public is supposed to interpret as “prosperity.” Half a trillion dollars in stock buybacks of S & P companies were executed in 2014, much of it done with money, i.e. “leverage,” borrowed at zero interest. Stock buybacks boost share prices, of course, but they don’t represent any real increased value in a given company. They’re just snakes eating their own tails.

The belief that the world’s “reserve” currency is an implacable force, and that central bankers are omnipotent has made this trade appear to be an irresistible trend — Don’t fight the Fed! Since it’s a matrix of fraud based on thin air money detached from real productive activity, it is certain to blow up. And since 2015 is seven years past the last blowup, it can happen any time. All it requires is some small slippage somewhere, that one equivalent extra grain of sand or snowflake to bring the accumulate mass of false value down in a financial earthquake or avalanche. That obese dollar has been gorging on the equivalent of cheez kurls and Little Debbie Snack cakes, so it only grows more diseased as it gains weight. Sentient observers cannot fail to notice the advancing sickness.

Meanwhile, the US is stupidly waging currency war against other nations that can only blow back by incurring the animosity of every trading partner we have on the only planet available to live on. In 2015, I expect Russia to enlist China’s aid in undermining the dollar’s reserve status. Both countries have weaponry in the form of cash reserves and gold in their vaults. They also have the computer hacking expertise to start seriously messing with US markets — as much Fed technicians and TBTF bank algos do — bringing on mysterious flash crashes, derivatives “accidents,” and other abnormal events that will leave even the Goldman Sachs MIT graduates scratching their heads. Such hacking may accomplish what years of arrant market interventions by US technicians failed to produce: a deadly loss of faith on all the institutions that govern money and markets. Then the US will be the cleanest shirt in a laundry basket that is on fire.

The dollar these days represents two kinds of capital. The first is the stuff that the US has built and invested in since, say, the end of World War Two: a wasteland of aging and decrepitating suburban sprawl, that is, the infrastructure of a living arrangement with no future, the greatest entropic sink in human history. It extends to whole cities and their subsystems, e.g. the hell-hole of Las Vegas with Hoover dam and the dwindling reservoir of Lake Mead. Before mid-century, Las Vegas will be as desolate as Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Try to imagine the money that went into building all that stupid shit in the desert. In another decade, across America, the housing subdivisions and commercial highway strips filled with tilt-up box stores, muffler shops and burger dispensaries will retain less value than the pyramids of Palenque had for the Mayans after their society rolled over and died. The so-called real economy is a New Age serfdom of burger fryers and janitors, indentured to that entropic sink. Below them is a widening slough of methedrine, child abuse, and tattoo art on its way to becoming Soylent Green. To put it bluntly, the dollar is entropy’s algo bitch.

The second kind of capital the dollar represents is the imaginary value based on sheer lying, making shit up, and borrowing from a future that has no chance of being paid back. This is the capital ginned up on “American exceptionalism” and “energy independence,” fairy tale memes functioning as collateral for the aforementioned malinvestments that add up to “The American way of life.” This capital has no substance, since it is just made up of intellectual and emotional dishonesty. This is the kind of constructed narrative that addicts and other functional cripples resort to to justify their behavior, and the fragility of it will sooner or later lead to the well-known condition of “hitting bottom.” That is the event horizon where the remnants of America enter what I call the World Made By Hand. It will be the greatest socio-economic shift since the fall of Rome, only much swifter.

Oil

AnthonyFredaTinManTTIt really deserves a sub-category of its own because it is the primary resource of our techno-industrial society and its troubles lie behind much of the present disturbances of our times. Despite the triumphal agitprop of the past few years, peak oil is for real. It just manifests more strangely than most people thought, namely, the simpleminded idea that it would only show up as ever-rising prices. No, I made point in The Long Emergency (2005) — and other commentators did too — that peak oil would manifest as volatility. And so since the actual moment of peak conventional crude around 2005, we’ve seen pretty wild oscillations in the price of oil. This is due to the harsh reality that the price people and enterprises can afford to pay for increasingly harder-to-get oil is less than the price that makes it possible to get it. This sets up a yo-yo-ing instability in economic performance that exacerbates even normal wave patterns in the business cycle (which are, in turn, aggravated by banks and governments’ interventions such as ZIRP to suppress those cycles). Below $70-a-barrel the producers go broke; above $70-a-barrel the customers go broke. So the price wobbles up and down as financial Ponzis like shale oil are introduced onto the scene in the hope that debt finagling and mineral rights leasing scams can substitute for physics and geological reality. One trouble with this is that each violent oscillation generates more economic and financial destruction. Activities like motoring, aviation, manufacturing, and retail are badly affected and the entire financial system is made more fragile by worsening increments. Most importantly, the cost structure of the oil industry itself gets battered to a degree that fewer companies can survive to produce the remaining oil.

The big story for 2014 was the crash of oil prices. It is yet being celebrated in other blogger’s 2015 forecasts as a boon to America. Wait until they find out that almost all of the “good jobs” added in recent years were associated with the shale drilling industry that is now being put out of business by low oil prices. Wait until they find out how the failure of junk bond financing thunders through the bond markets and the savage wilderness of derivatives — and ultimately into their ruined pension funds. Wait until they discover that it was but a symptom of the compressive deflationary depression now gripping the entire techno-industrialized world.

Here are my financial forecast particulars for 2015:

  • Early in 2015 the ECB proposes a lame QE program and is laughed out of the room. European markets tank.
  • Greek elections in January produce a government that stands up to the EU and ECB and causes a fatal slippage of faith in the ability of that project to continue.
  • Second half of 2015, the rest of the world gangs up and counter-attacks the US dollar.
  • Bond markets in Europe implode in first half and the contagion spreads to the US as fear and distrust rises about viability of US safe haven status.
  • Derivatives associated with currencies, interest rates, and junk bonds trigger a bloodbath in credit default swaps (CDS) and the appearance of countless black holes through which debt and “wealth” disappear forever.
  • US stock markets continue to bid upward in the first half of 2015, crater in Q3 as faith in paper and pixels erodes. DJA and S & P fall 30 to 40 percent in the initial crash, then further into 2016.
  • Gold and silver slide in the first half, then take off as debt and equity markets craters, faith in abstract instruments evaporates, faith in central bank omnipotence dissolves, and citizens all over the world desperately seek safety from currency war.
  • Goldman Sachs, Citicorp, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, DeutscheBank, SocGen, all succumb to insolvency. American government and Federal Reserve officials don’t dare attempt to rescue them again.
  • By the end of 2015, central banks everywhere stand in general discredit. In the US, the Federal Reserve’s mandate is publically debated and revised back to its original mission as lender of last resort. It is forbidden to engage in further interventions and a new less-secretive mechanism is drawn up for regulating basic interest rates.
  • Oil prices creep back into the $65 – $70 range by May 2015. It is not enough to halt the destruction in the shale, tar sand, and deepwater sectors. As contraction in the failing global economy accelerates, oil sinks back to the $40 range in October…
  • …unless mischief in the Middle East (in particular, the Islamic State messing with Saudi Arabia) leads to gross and perhaps fatally permanent disruption in world oil markets — and then all bets are off for both the continuity of advanced economies and for peace between nations.

Geopolitics

freedon firghter fredaThe signal event of 2015 will be the disintegration of Tom Friedman’s global economy, the trade and banking relations we have known for about a quarter century, especially the frictionless flow of goods and capital between East and West. The tactical blunders of the USA and its Euro-partners drive the so-called emerging markets, led by China’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization, into a skein of work-arounds to undermine and avoid the US dollar trade. They don’t exactly replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency but the workarounds lead to a period of worldwide currency turmoil that can only be resolved by monies being at least partially backed by gold. Both China and Russia will continue to work to convert their dollar reserves into Gold whenever possible. Meanwhile, America and Great Britain’s campaign to discredit and devalue gold will only permit their rivals to acquire more at a cheaper price.

The rest of the world is sick of America’s interventionist shenanigans and its moronic exported culture of burgers, Grand Theft Auto, and twerking Jezebels. They are aided by America’s own obdurate foolishness and poor strategic choices, for instance the blowback from the Ukraine misadventure of 2014. Who in the White House, Pentagon, or State Department thought it was a great idea to undermine the fragile stability of Ukraine? Is there any question that Ukraine was ever not in Russia’s sphere of influence? Or that Russia would allow it to be dragooned into NATO and used as a forward base for American firepower? Dmitry Orlov’s explanation for all this is the most cogent on the web:

What the Anglo-imperialists were paying for in corrupting Ukraine’s politics was a ring-side seat at a fight between Ukraine and Russia. And what they got instead is a two-legged stool at a bar-room brawl between Eastern and Western Ukraine.

Read the whole darn thing; it’s not long.

We succeeded in turning a marginally-bankrupt, marginally-independent nation into a complete basketcase that is going Dark Age as I write — no money, no work, no fuel, no heat, no food, no prospects. Having completely botched the operation, and misplayed the game against Russia’s Putin — and Russia’s legitimate interest in a stable next-door neighbor — the US will now abandon Ukraine. It will be forgotten as surely as the US-sponsored Ukrainian air force’s role in the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 — the incriminating details of which were buried by the Dutch investigating officials. Eventually, the Russians will have to care for the dying Ukraine. They will not be enthusiastic about it. They will do little and do it slowly.

Likewise our economic sanctions campaign against Russia (including the attack on the ruble) is now blowing back on the Eurozone’s export economy. Russia has survived much worse than Western sanctions in recent history. Russia will survive by turning east to Asia. This is already happening and is well publicized. What it means for Europe sooner than later is the loss of their access to imported oil and gas from Russia. Meanwhile, the North Sea fields and the Dutch Groningen gas field are dying. Good luck staying warm, Europe.

The blowback of Europe’s foolish partnership with the US campaign to punish Russia can only discredit the ruling parties and boost new right-wing parties such as France’s National Front and Britain’s UK Independence Party, both deeply nationalistic, anti Euro Union, and anti endless immigration.

The Islamic State was another legacy of blowback from American foreign adventurism. It was spawned out of the remnants of Al Qaeda in poor, broken Iraq and its conquests in 2014 ranged clear across northern Syria to several major cities in Iraq (Faluja, Tikrit, Mosul) right up to the suburbs of Baghdad. They made a lot of money off of captured oil wells and ransoming western hostages, and they shocked Western decency with their YouTube decapitations of hostages that the US and UK refused to ransom. The US’s response now is to bomb their installations and bivouacs. That can only drive them, literally, underground. IS will thrive on Western punishment. It has vast potential to recruit the population of idle, under-employed young men all across North Africa and the Middle East, and beyond to Europe and the band of Islamic society that stretches below Russia across mid-Asia. The catch is, if and when they come to actually rule most of these territories, they will be running economies reduced to Dark Age levels.

As I write, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has just entered the hospital. At 91, he is closer to the end of his story than the middle. Meanwhile, the tanking of crude oil prices has critically impaired an Arabian economy that depends on oil sales for more than 80 percent of its operating revenue. Much of that revenue goes to a national welfare system that pays just about everybody to not work. There will be a lot less money to go around now and a lot of grievance over it. The population of the Arabian Peninsula is so far beyond critical overshoot that the situation can only get ugly, especially since a large part of that excessive population consists of testosterone-jacked young men under 30 with nothing to occupy their hours but chitchat over tea and religious mummery. Consider also that when King Abdullah goes, there is liable to be a deeply destabilizing fight for the throne among the hordes of princes and competing clans — despite whomever Abdullah has named as his successor. You may be sure the Islamic State will be standing by to add fuel to those fires. That, in and of itself, could bring on a fast end of the oil age. Bear in mind, too, that the eastern side of Saudi Arabia, where most of the oil infrastructure is, contains a majority Shi’ite population. In a conflict between Sunni IS and Iran-backed Arabian Shia, a lot of stuff could just get blown up. At the least, itr could badly interrupt 30 percent of the world’s oil supply.

China is obviously struggling to prevent a financial freefall brought on by 20-plus years of extravagant debt creation and a lot mal-investment in the service of a very late entry into the techno-industrial frolic. It can’t be denied that they made a good show of it in a very short time, but they got in at the blow-off stage. Now conditions are changing unfavorably. The global economy that made China the world’s workshop is unwinding in a vortex of currency war, trade friction, territorial dispute, ethnic ill-will, and the disturbances that attend the great background problem of peak cheap oil.

The Chinese will work sedulously to try for a soft landing in the great economic contraction that looms. Chinese banking being non-transparent, overly subject to blundering central control, and deeply corrupt, may not bode well for that project. However, China has many cushions to fall back on short-term in the form of foreign money reserves and stockpiles of raw materials. But sooner or later they have to reckon with their dependence on continued oil imports. That is clearly the basis of China’s current flirtation with Russia — but with Russia arguably past its own oil production peak, that’s not a long-term strategy. China has cranked up the world’s mightiest production line of photovoltaic hardware, but solar won’t replace oil the way things currently run, and whatever they rig up may not last more than one generation if there’s no supporting platform of an oil economy for the manufacture of solar replacement parts.

Japan’s suicidal experiment with hyper-turbo ZIRP and QE is not accomplishing much except exacerbating global currency carry trades and driving down the nation’s standard of living. It may succeed in destroying the Yen and what remains of its economy in 2015. Fukushima remains unresolved and Japan’s energy future looks plain dismal. They have no energy resources of their own whatsoever. Any serious mischief in the Middle East oil fields will finish them off. The nation has been on the fast track to become the first post-industrial neo-medieval society. They could be fortunate to land back there and set up their shop while there are still residual riches in the world to work with. They might also go cuckoo and start a war with China for control over the oil fields of the South China sea. It is hard to see any other outcome from such a conflict other than China kicking Japan’s ass.

Geopolitical forecast particulars for 2015

  • Russia toughs out sanctions imposed by the USA; European partners drop their sanctions as self-evidently counter-productive. Russia threatens to post-pone debt repayments to Western banks. The ruble stabilizes.
  • Russia endures Islamic terrorist attacks and responds very harshly, embarrassing the wimpy West.
  • Baghdad Falls to Islamic State forces. Years of American endeavor are lost just like that. The IS attempts to use Iraqi oil reserves to fund its operations. It has a hard time keeping the infrastructure in repair. The USA refrains from bombing Iraqi oil installations, a decision viewed as weakness by IS.
  • The Islamic State makes inroads across North Africa. Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco are all susceptible.
  • Formerly marginal political parties win big across Europe, forcing nations to rethink wide-open immigration policies. Neo-liberalism sinks into deep Weimar-style discredit. Open ethnic warfare breaks out in France, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden.
  • European economies continue to sink for the simple reason that the growth era of techno-industrialism is over, along with affordable oil, and no amount of debt production will bring it back. All the machinations of the EU and the ECB are dedicated to overcoming this implacable reality, and thus will only lead to deeper and more intractable problems.
  • Beginning with the late January elections, which Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza party wins, Greece plays hardball with the EU for debt restructuring that amounts really to forgiveness of utterly unpayable €322 billion ($398 billion). If the EU calls Greece’s bluff and kicks them out, a European banking meltdown is almost certain. If Greece stays, then other hopelessly indebted nations of the EU declare they want the same deal. Pretty much a rock and hard place. Impossible to call except to say the situation promises mucho turmoil in 2015. ¡Hay problema!
  • Ebola contagion persists and rips across sub-Saharan Africa. Other nations are forced to pass severe travel restrictions to-and-from Africa.
  • Nigeria descends into bloody political turmoil as its oil industry falls apart in response to low prices. UN intervention accomplishes nothing. In wartime conditions, Ebola gains a foothold in Lagos, one of the world’s most overpopulated slum cities.
  • Pakistan and Afghanistan both continue to melt down into ungovernability. India is forced to take over administration of Pakistan and remove nukes. America continues to pretend that its mission in Afghanistan has some purpose, but it only remains a black hole of military expenditure and becomes a rancorous issue in the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election.

The USA Homefront 2015

shootout dream fredaFor one who has been a close observer of the US socio-political-economic scene since the Kennedy era, the nation has gotten itself into a pretty sorry state. The pervasive racketeering that poisons American life from the money-in-politics farce, to the shameless, chiseling medical-pharma cabal, to the SNAP-card and disability rights empire of grift, to the college loan swindle, to the disgusting security state apparatus, to the corporate tyranny of local life and economies, to the delusional techno-narcissism of the media, to the despotic and puerile gender preoccupations of academia — all of it adds up to a society that cares as little for the present as it does for the future. And that’s aside from the pathetic digital device addiction of the generation coming up, and the sheer sordid behavior of the tattooed, drug-saturated, pornified masses of adults now forever foreclosed from a purposeful existence or a decent standard of living.

Even physically America is a sorry-ass spectacle: between our decrepitating cities, abandoned Main Streets, gruesome strip-mall highways, repellent and monotonous suburbs, dreary industrial ruins, profaned countryside, and desecrated coastline, there is little left to actually love about This land is Your Land. We’ve made so many collective bad choices about how we live that one can’t help feeling we are simply a wicked people who deserve to be punished.

Whole classes already are, of course. What used to be a working class with aspirations has devolved to the forlorn savagery averred to above. Our thought-leaders are devoid of thought. Our hopes and dreams are absurd sci-fi fantasies prompting us toward robot-assisted suicide. Our political stratagems of recent years accomplish nothing except making more trouble for ourselves while inciting the enmity of people elsewhere.

Barack Obama’s signal failure — aside from letting the banks get away with murder and omitting to counter the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision — has been his total evasion of measures that would prepare the nation for the vast changes in social and economic imperative that will attend the transition out of the techno-industrial era when he is out of office. These include supporting local small scale agriculture (rather than giant corporate agri-biz); promoting and supporting the reconstruction of local economic networks (Main Street business); eliminating multitudinous federal regulations that prevent individuals and small enterprises from operating; closing the hundreds of superfluous US military bases around the world; giving federal support to rebuild the US passenger rail system; promoting walkable communities — especially the re-activation of existing small towns and cities — instead of mindless obeisance to the suburban “home-building” industry (and its step-child in the commercial highway strip development racket) — and truly reforming medical care without the connivance of the insurance racketeers.

Obama and his party can be faulted for fostering the myth that every young person needs a college degree — leading a whole generation into debt penury for no good purpose, while depriving society of a long list of vocational roles and livelihoods based on providing genuine service or value. We will be a nation of unemployed gender studies graduates instead of plumbers, electricians, organic farmers, arborists, carpenters, machinists, nurses and paramedics, small business owners, et cetera.

This enormous bundles of myths and misplaced expectations for yesterday’s tomorrow prevents the collective national imagination from summoning a revised American Dream based on repairing the massive destruction of recent decades.

The political mood has not been murkier in my longish lifetime. Both major parties edge toward extinction as the Whigs did in the mid-1850s. The citizenry not sunk in drugs and depravity — that is, people who still read the news in some form and would like to care about their country — deserve a new faction or party that can at least express their discontent with the current situation. They will surely not get this in the generally supposed coming contest between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. I hope they will be so insulted by this dynastic grab that more than one new party will form and make a big stank about it. The Tea Party was a good start in that spirit, but it tripped on its internal contradictions and its association with Dixieland-style religious fundamentalist idiocy and cracker war-mongering.

All that redounds on the current state of the Republican Party, a gang of venal ignoramuses pimping for lost causes. Despite having won the 2014 midterms, and capturing both houses of congress and governorships, they seem increasingly out-of-touch with the realities of economic contraction, peak oil, and climate irregularities. The old magic of stirring up the animals on social issues of abortion, bedroom activities, and allegiance to Jesus fail to move the old base, which is becoming economically quite desperate. That base also becomes conscious of how they have been hornswoggled into voting against their own interests for years in the sense that author Thomas Frank so aptly described in What’s the Matter With Kansas.

Race relations turned very sour in 2014 with more highly publicized killings of young black men in ambiguous circumstances. The chief martyr of the year, Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo., was a poor candidate for sainthood, and did not help advance the credibility of claims that police brutality rather than the misbehavior of young men is behind a lot of strife abroad in the land. One gets the feeling that black race hustlers are in the driver’s seat recklessly pushing African Americans toward open warfare with everybody else. My view of the situation is not popular with Progressives, viz: that black separatism and its offshoots in “diversity” politics and multi-culturalism tragically promote an antagonistic, alienated, oppositional black politics at the expense of a common culture for blacks and whites with common values and common standards of behavior. It has gotten so bad that reasonable people can sadly conclude that the long civil rights project has ended in failure. We are treading on dangerous ground here, with foolishly outmoded ideas about what to expect from each other, and of course all this begs the questions: What now? What next?

Domestic Forecast Particulars for 2015 

  • Markets tanking in Q3 destroy the illusion of “recovery.” It becomes obvious that the story was a lie and the public mood grows much more surly.
  • 2014 proves to be the year of peak shale oil. After the shakeout of 2015 due to low oil prices, production never returns to previous levels. The fairy tales of “energy independence” and “Saudi America” fall apart, deeply demoralizing a gulled public and adding yet another layer of discredit to the people in charge of things.
  • Different kinds of political revolt break out around the country among varied groups, left, right, and center. Some of it revolves around life-and-death struggles for the souls of the floundering major parties. Some of it is organized violence against the government and especially against the US security state apparatus, including overly militarized local police forces.
  • Low-grade racial warfare erupts across the US. Flash mobs, knock-out games, lootings, and hammer attack type outrages generate counter-attacks. By summertime the conflict heats up. Firefights become routine and casualties mount. President Obama proves to be tragically ineffectual in restoring peace.
  • Anti-immigration sentiment in Europe spreads to the US as falling oil prices produce political disorder in Mexico prompting tens of thousands to try to flee north.
  • Bank of America is the first of the Too Big To Fails to enter the event horizon of failure. Obama can’t get congress to go along with a bailout. By Thanksgiving, there is turmoil among the banks as they scramble to cover losses. A public furor over using taxpayer money to cover derivatives losses leads to an unprecedented concerted action by states to attempt “nullification” campaigns.
  • Citibank applies for a bail-in of account holders. Dithering, frightened federal authorities are too slow to respond, permitting a run on deposits.
  • Hillary is loudly booed and hectored at campaign stops as “a tool of Wall Street.” Her coffers overflow with TBTF bank contributions. She bows out of the presidential contest as the public mood toward her sours. But not before she generates a lot of resentful opposition and alienates many Democratic Party voters who are also furious over the eight-years of Obama’s “hope” and “change” hand-jive. Elizabeth Warren is dragooned to replace her — dubbed the “Un-Hillary” — rescuing the party from a near-death experience. She openly feuds with party bosses, who plot against her, and undermine her campaign.
  • Senator Rand Paul agitates to abolish the Federal Reserve. His senate colleagues are shamed into considering legislative reform of the Fed’s mandate. Debate on the issue is the only thing the Republican dominated congress and senate accomplish in 2015. Paul decides to challenge Jeb Bush for the 2016 nomination. This blows the Republican party apart.
  • At Christmas 2015, the DJA sits at 13,500, the S & P is at 1200. Gold is at 1750, silver at 42.

Good luck everybody. Gird your loins and fasten your seat belts.

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Year in Doom 2014

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964 Off the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 4, 2014

Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.


I have always thought that in revolutions… madmen, not those so called by courtesy, but genuine madmen, have played a very considerable political part. One thing is certain, that a condition of semi-madness is not unbecoming at such times, and often even leads to success.
― Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 1859)


In each year’s end, and in a condition of semi-madness, it is the habit of the commercial press to generate various lists of “the year’s top stories.”  The top ten this, the top 14 that… Lindsay Lohan’s Top Ten excuses for failing rehab, the Top Five reasons Charles Koch likes slavery as a business model for the 21st century, the Top 77 views of Kim Kardashian’s ass… These lists are legion.  And if you’ve read this far, you’ve stepped right in one. For this is my personal whack at the year-end pinata.

With this modest compendium, we will not attempt to tell you what is important;  the mainstream media can lie to you about that. What follows here is my highly idiosyncratic take on those news events which have contributed to a sense of impending collapse speeding us along on the road to doom. A word about methodology: not worth considering. I asked for some feedback, then picked what seemed right. That’s it.  Basic assumptions are that to the extent that an issue is reported in the MSM,  whatever we’ve heard is state propaganda, thus wrong.  The rest is my idiosyncratic take; blame no one else, aside from those indicted by hyperlinked citations.

Madness is in the air,  whether from the madmen of ISIS or Foggy Bottom, Ferguson or New York City. Readers of “doomer” blogs do so with a shared sense that “something ain’t right.”  A pervading sense of unease,once marginal and seen only among survivalists and conspiracy theorists, has gone mainstream. Witness dystopian threads that run through literature and mass media, from World War Z to Doomsday Preppers. Now even the Weather Channel has a series called, “Fat Guys In The Woods.” (It’s just what you think.) It illustrates vividly how far most of us are from knowing how to survive in the wild, let alone transition to a “sustainable” lifestyle. As writer Tom Lewis recently told me, “If my ability to live depended on my skills in sustainable living, I’d be dead.” Like most of us.

 

Kim 2

This was the year that Paper Mag and Kim Kardashian determined they would “break the Internet.” with a photo spread of naked and near-naked Kim flesh. Not quite. Many men dropped in to see what all the furor was about. (I just read the article.) The reigning queen of social media and Instagram selfies continued being curvily famous, and social media continued to wag the media dog.   Zero Hedge published a year-end article about the most important US events according to Twitter:

When it comes to social networks, Instagram is where the world’s best food photographers reside, Facebook is where “cool parents” and ad-clicking robots can be found, while Twitter is where the up to the minute super-informed, sophisticated intelligentsia hides. At least according to Twitter. So what did said sophisticated audience find to be the most important and talked about American events of the year?  The top 10 US stories of 2014 were:

  1. Ferguson
  2. Midterms
  3. Ebola
  4. Israel
  5. Iraq
  6. Russia/Ukraine
  7. Sterling/Clippers
  8. Guns
  9. Obamacare
  10. Marijuana

As you see, this Twitterlist falls off quickly in terms of doom potential. Let’s pass on the mounting list of war crimes committed by the Zionist Apartheid State against Palestinians, and I have a decidedly minority view when it comes to l’affaire Sterling, about which I could otherwise give less than no f*ck. (Sterling was recorded in secret, and under circumstances in which he might have had an expectation of privacy, had we not willingly surrendered that quaint 18th century expectation along with the right to search our DNA, bodily fluids and credit reports to Corpstate™. This concern was brushed aside in the haste to publicly pillory and shame an egregious racist.) As for the others, don’t care, don’t care, and it’s about damned time.


Ferguson/Police Militarization/”Wartime Policing”

Ferguson has become a metaphor for the militarized state, for open season on black males, with apparent no bag limit for the Boys in Blue.   Ferguson is not just about Michael Brown, but also, Kajeimi Powell, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice and countless others who have been executed with impunity and no fear of consequence by agents of the militarized state. And now we have the specter of the New York Police Department declaring that they will engage in “wartime policing.” So many words have been expended about this phenomenon, that we will leave analysis in more capable hands.  It seems to me that the reaction of the police, and a large segment of law and order-worshiping ordinary citizens, is really about the conflict between the egalitarian impulse and the authoritarian impulse. Every time someone says, “if you would just do what the police tell you to, you would have no problem,” lingering notions of individual autonomy and justice die another death.

What the cops pictured above who turned their back upon the mayor are doing is the moral equivalent of throwing a tantrum. They have traduced legitimate protest and have staged a “work slowdown” to justify the delusional narrative that no cop, anywhere, should ever be at fault for anything. Localities all across the country, including my own, are staging their own “blue lives matter” rallies in support of “victims” that do not exist, except in their own minds. Meanwhile, this.

Charles Pierce conflates police authoritarianism and recent release of the CIA torture report with  proper perspective:

If the NYPD runs a slow-motion coup against the freely elected mayor of New York, then it is running a slow-motion coup against all the people of New York. There is no exemption from this fundamental truth about the way this country and its system is supposed to work. The military — and its civilian analogues in Langley and in the precinct houses — always is subordinate to the civil power which, no matter how much it may chafe them, means that they always are subordinate to politicians. If we render our torturers superior to the political institutions of the government, and if we render the police superior to the civil power of elected officials, then we essentially have empowered independent standing armies to conduct our wars and enforce our laws, and self-government descends into bloody farce.

But, alas, in the past few weeks, we have shown ourselves to be relatively at peace with that very thing — as long as the torture is done in the prisons overseas and the judicial killing is done in the streets of the ghetto, and as long as our fear of some omnipotent Other is what drives our politics. In turn, and in its mind, the country has now turned peaceful mass protest into some sort of violent revolution, and it has converted the murderous rage of a criminal lunatic into the ultimate expression of the cries for justice that have been heard in the last month in Ferguson, and Cleveland, and on Staten Island…The last thing to go to the waterboard is the tattered remnant of what we thought ourselves to be.

Both appear to be a manifestation of the undercurrent of authoritarianism in American culture — a deference to authority figures supposed to “protect” us, otherwise at odds with the libertarian impulse currently in ascendant. Likely we never were “the people we thought ourselves to be.”  The police slowdown in NYC has given threadbare hack Rudy Giuliani yet another chance to emerge as chief defender of murderer cops, and thus give voice to the authoritarian impulse in American politics. In any event, “wartime policing” underlines an escalating separation along race and class lines.  And reminds of financier Jay Gould’s famous dictum, “You can always hire half of the working class to kill the other half.”


 

Climate Change

It was a year of the Super Typhoons, polar vortexes, continued warming and devastating drought.  2014 recorded the warmest year on record globally, leaving some to wonder whether 2015 may be the year nations finally act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

2015 is the year of the Paris meeting to develop the next international agreement. It promises to be a big year for more talk at a variety of levels. Rising heat has led to changes in weather patterns that are of such overriding importance that Pope Francis plans to urge Earth’s Catholics to take action on global warming via a rare papal encyclical,  “urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds.”

This is a very big deal:

One is that encyclicals are published on issues of high priority to the Pope, and what’s high priority to him is high priority to the church. There are more than a billion Catholics on the planet, so this could have a profound effect.

Another reason is that, also according to the Guardian article, he is doing this to directly affect the outcome of a very important meeting late in 2015: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet, and their express intent is to create a legally binding global agreement about actions to take on climate change.

GOP outraged.  It didn’t take long for the Koch brothers to stand up one of their stooges to warn off the Pope.

Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance, a Religious Right group that specializes in promoting pollution,and which has declared the US environmental movement to be “un-biblical” and a false religion, has been well-paid by the Kochs and other polluters to say things like this[to believe in climate change] “really is an insult to God … and it will eventually lead to tyranny.”

The pope should back off,” he said. “The Catholic church is correct on the ethical principles but has been misled on the science. It follows that the policies the Vatican is promoting are incorrect. Our position reflects the views of millions of evangelical Christians in the US.”

2015 was filled with evidences of a changing climate not to the betterment of humankind. It was a year of unparalleled drought, heat, and ice, perhaps a harbinger of a tipping point on climate. From Greenland to Antarctica and glaciers in between, this warmest year on record melted ice to an extent never seen before.

A second potential climate development has to do with the Arctic, where temperatures continue to rise at twice the rate of the rest of the world.

Experts track sea ice, which floats on the ocean, as well as the Greenland ice sheet, which if it completely melted into the ocean would raise sea levels by 20 feet.

As for Greenland, a study earlier this month found that melt predictions are likely too conservative. Advances in ice sheet modeling will soon provide a much better sense of how much sea level rise to expect from melting Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.

“Will we see three-plus feet by the end of this century or less?” [climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck] asks, referring to some model predictions. “Will stabilizing the Earth’s climate at two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial (times) commit us to 20-plus feet of future sea level rise or less?”

And then there was the California drought.  You may have heard of it.  Recent year end rains were a mere drop in a very dry bucket. The drought threatens not only water tables in California, but top soil for one of the nation’s key agricultural areas.  Tree rings reveal the most devastating drought in California in over 1200 years.  It is easy to dismiss such proclamations as the hand wringing work of nervous nellies with a liberal bias. Pictures do better; especially when they come from NASA.

According to NASA, the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River basins have been hit the hardest by the water loss, in part because of the increasing volume of groundwater being pumped out for farming. For the last three years, these regions have been losing a total of 4 trillion gallons of water per year.

California drought

The sun is reflected off the water remaining in an irrigation canal that is drying up near Yuba City, Calif.

The data was compiled from two satellites that have been orbiting the Earth since 2002 as part of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, a collaboration between NASA and German space agency DLR. The satellites measure small fluctuations in Earth’s gravitational field that are most often caused by variations in water supply. 

In a podcast interview with Science Magazine, UC Irvine hydrologist James Famiglietti used the analogy of a bathroom scale to explain how GRACE uses highly sensitive gravity measurements to track changes in the amount of water stored underground in soil and rocks.

“Each [satellite] is about the size of a squashed minivan, and they orbit at about 400 kilometers. And what happens is that the change in mass on the surface, say, because of a big flood or a big load of snow on the mountains, actually pulls those spring-loaded weights towards Earth’s surface,” Famiglietti said.

The added danger in groundwater depletion is that unlike surface water, it is not easily replenishable.

 

With James Imhofe as incoming chair of the science committee in the House, it’s odds-on that NASA will get its climate science funding radically slashed for  producing evidence like this.

“We’re seeing it happening all over the world. It’s happening in most of the major aquifers in the arid and semi-arid parts of the world where we rely on those aquifers. But we’re able to see now the impact we’re having on this over exploitation,” Famiglietti told Science Magazine.

Peak Water: The Water Problem. The problem of drought is certainly not confined to California– in northeastern Brazil drought has wrought havoc, severe drought conditions are also plaguing Australia and Ethiopia, threatening to cause food shortages in some of the poorest nations on earth and higher prices across the world.  Consider the implications:

There are two types of aquifers: those that are replenishable through rainfall (the majority), and those that consist of water laid down eons ago, and thus do not recharge. The latter, known as fossil aquifers, include two strategically important ones, the deep aquifer under the North China Plain and the Ogallala aquifer under the US Great Plains.

Tapping underground water resources helped expand world food production, but as the demand for grain continued climbing, so too did the amount of water pumped… overpumping creates a water-based food bubble, one that will burst when the aquifer is depleted and the rate of pumping is necessarily reduced to the rate of recharge.

Today some 18 countries, containing half the world’s people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers – China, India and the US.

Peak water? Peak grain? Saudi Arabia is curtailing irrigation based grain production,  and Syria and Yemen are depleting their aquifers as well. Elsewhere in the Middle East, both Syria and Iraq are also suffering from a reduced flow in the Tigris and Euphrates as Turkey claims more water for its own.  What could possibly go wrong?

The Arab Middle East is seeing the collision between population growth and water supply at the regional level. For the first time in history, grain production is dropping in a geographic region with nothing in sight to arrest the decline.

Hungry and thirsty people will inevitably go somewhere. Should current drought trends continue, 2015 could see  the world’s first climate refugees, with significant numbers leaving California’s Central Valley, and possibly parts of Arizona, Texas and Nevada, as well as Sao Paulo, Brazil and parts of China and India.  In China, the Gobi desert increases nearly 1400 square miles per year.  And drought is simply one vector for creation of climate refugees. Low-lying areas such as the Maldives, and Venice are clearly threatened by sea level rise, as are Norfolk, VA and New Orleans, closer to home.  Water, food, grazing lands, habitat –  all resources for which we compete. Climate change will only exacerbate this competition, with conflict almost inevitable.


Rise of ISIS//ISIL/The Islamic State/Daesh/The Caliphate

freda8isis
We are expected to believe that the rise of ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic State, fully armed and spoiling for a fight, came as a complete surprise to our vaunted foreign policy establishment, those same worthies who can play back years of your phone conversations, predict your actions and movements through data collection and analysis, and even analyze the contents of your diet and health through sifting through your shit,  were taken unawares by this armed juggernaut?

No kidding.

 

Opposite this block of text is a  letter to the editor which articulates a critique of “our” foreign policy, and which makes the case for its illogic far more succinctly than anything I can add.

In a recent article, Dmitry Orlov argues that Anglo-imperialists are finally being forced out of Eurasia, as part of the Big Picture of understanding geopolitics. By Anglo-imperialist he means that combination of Britain and the FSA that has set the tone for global policy for two and a half centuries. America essentially inherited Empire from the bankrupt British, and is now in decline… with no new up-and-coming Anglo-imperialists to take over the family business.

Orlov makes a compelling case, buttressed by historical events, for the scorched-earth policies  of oppressors amounting to a policy of, “if we can’t have it, no one can,” otherwise known as “poison every well.” He makes the point that [Britain and America’s] common playbook has remained the same for many decades– a phony neoliberal crony capitalism for well-wired insiders coupled with domination by the big-ass military, coupled with a strong dose of  economic exploitation for everyone else involved, otherwise known as “cockroaches” to the elites. Orlov discerns a pattern to the Anglo-imperialist “playbook ” that has always called for a specific exit plan to be executed whenever plans to dominate and exploit a given country eventually fail.

 

On their way out, they do what they can to compromise and weaken the entity they leave behind, by inflicting a permanently oozing and festering political wound. “Poison all the wells” is the last thing on their pre-departure checklist.

• When the British got tossed out of their American Colonies, they did all they could, using a combination of import preferences and British “soft power,” to bolster the plantation economy of the American South, helping set it up as a sort of anti-United States, and the eventual result was the American Civil War.

• When the British got tossed out of Ireland, they set up Belfast as a sort of anti-Ireland, with much blood shed as a result.

• When the British got tossed out of the Middle East, they set up the State of Israel, then the US made it into its own protectorate, and it has been poisoning regional politics ever since. 

• When the British got tossed out of India, they set up Pakistan, as a sort of anti-India, precipitating a nasty hot war, followed by a frozen conflict over Kashmir.

• When the US lost China to the Communists, they evacuated the Nationalists to Taiwan, and set it up as a sort of anti-China, and even gave it China’s seat at the United Nations.

The goal is always the same: if they can’t have the run of the place, they make sure that nobody else can either, by setting up a conflict scenario that nobody there can ever hope to resolve.

The Sykes-Picot agreement that redrew the map of the Middle East is quite dead, leading directly to the rise of these al-Qa’ida-affiliated Sunni fighters to whom the artificial borders of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan are the meaningless artifacts of a world long passed by. At the end of WWI, the British and French wanted Mosul for its oil. With the rise of the Caliphate, Mosul’s oil is Sunni oil, and the Saudis are happy.

Much speculation abounds that the Monsters of Mosul and Beheaders of Baghdad are funded by unspecified “rich patrons.” Mmm-hmm. . And some of them will have offices at Langley, others in Riyadh…  Meanwhile, ISIS will continue to serve its propaganda purposes and as a convenient vehicle for the purposes of the neocons who infest the American foreign-policy/war establishment to accomplish their aims within Syria. Plenty of madmen to go around.


 

Ukraine/Missing plane/NATO train

The same strategy of leaving a poisoned and permanently weakened state behind is being deployed as effectively in Ukraine as it is in the Levant. Again, Orlov:

The goal is always the same: if they can’t have the run of the place, they make sure that nobody else can either, by setting up a conflict scenario that nobody there can ever hope to resolve. And so if you see Anglo-imperialists going out of their way and spending lots of money to poison the political well somewhere in the world, you can be sure that they are on their way out.

Fast-forward to 2014, and what we saw was the Anglo-imperialist attempt to set up Ukraine as a sort of anti-Russia. They took a Slavic, mostly Russian-speaking country and spent billions corrupting its politics to make the Ukrainians hate the Russians… The result was what we saw this year: a bloody coup, and a civil war marked by numerous atrocities. Ukraine is in the midst of economic collapse with power plants out of coal and lights going off everywhere, while at the same time the Ukrainians are being drafted into the army and indoctrinated to want to go fight against “the Muscovites.”

To counter, Russia made a nice play of self-determination in  Crimea: if self-determination worked for Kosovo, why can’t it work for Crimea? International norms, yes? Oh, the Anglo-imperialist establishment  doesn’t approve? At which point Putin responded that the West should go suck a bag of dicks. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan for the Masters of the Universe.

By the end of 2015 the FSA plans to station nearly 150 tanks and armored vehicles in countries on Russia’s borders, according to Reuters. The evil Russians have moved their country closer to these weapons, so to protect them, we need to double down with more ABM systems, troops, weapons and bases, the better to justify profits for war profiteers and protect the interests of the Corporate State. Our madmen light matches in a loaded armory?

The failure of the neocons to start WWIII started through proxies in the Levant and  Ukraine, coupled with the little noted recent “cromnibus” appropriations to fund oil and gas infrastructure in the Ukraine, ties all the loose and desperate “ends” that indicate Orlov’s analysis is correct. Even Henry F*king Kissinger blames the West. And a nervous world watches the Sino-Russian led response of the BRICS nations against the dollar.

Smedley Butler observed the true uses of the military a century ago and today the FSA uses bloated and constantly growing military forces to leverage control of a vast commercial empire.  And if we can’t buy it, we break it.

If the U.S. shut down the more than a thousand military bases on foreign soil and the various command&control centers, it would not be able to threaten non-compliant nations with regime change. If the Federal Government made a massive shift from military spending to infrastructure and other domestic spending concerns, the U.S. would no longer be able to offload its debts onto its trading partners. Thus the problem goes deeper than the “nuclear mafia” of  weapons contractors, lobbyists and other former government officials siphoning off more and more federal tax dollars.

Regime changes in Libya, Iraq, attempted in Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Ukraine and now – Russia, are thus due to the simple fact that these are non-compliant nations, and do not take orders from the IMF with the expected alacrity.

Have an aircraft, any aircraft…

In order to ramp up public opinion against Putin and in favor of whatever mischief NATO intended to gin up, a couple of Malaysian aircraft went missing, MH-370 famously leading CNN’s Don Lemon to speculate on intervention “beyond our understanding” occurring, that “something” being perhaps supernatural?

“Especially today, on a day when we deal with the supernatural,” Lemon said. “We go to church, the supernatural power of God…people are saying to me, why aren’t you talking about the possibility — and I’m just putting it out there — that something odd happened to this plane, something beyond our understanding?”

Uhh– because it’s supposed to be the f*king news? I’m sure they are readying a pedestal for the bust of Don Lemon to be erected in the Newseum some time soon.

And then there was MH-17, shot down over eastern Ukraine by Vlad himself/by Russian air defense batteries/by a rebel held Buk surface-to-air missile system/by a Ukrainian air-to air missile/by a Ukrainian fighter’s 50 caliber machine gun. The US wasted no time in accusing Putin; and then dummied up. The MSM worked overtime to vilify Putin. The multinational investigation (Ukraine, Australia, Belgium, and Netherlands, of whom all four are U.S. allies, and, one of which is a suspect)  has worked for months and has not yet released, or even leaked, a report. Meanwhile, a pilot’s first person account says that MH-17 “was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” and that a Ukrainian fighter returned from its air mission without its loaded complement of air to air missiles. From the interview with the informant:

– Airplanes flew regularly. All day since the morning. In the afternoon, about an hour before the downing of the “Boeing”, three attack fighters were raised into the air. I don’t remember the exact time. One of the airplanes was equipped with such missiles. It was a Su-25.

– Have you personally seen it?

– Yes.

– Where was your vantage point?

– On site. Cannot tell you exactly.

– Did you have an opportunity to see specifically what the pylons of the aircraft where fitted with? Could you confuse “air-to-air” and “air-to-ground” missiles?

– No, I couldn’t confuse it. They vary in size, plumage, coloration. With a guidance head. Very easy to recognize. Anyway, after a short time, only one airplane returned, two were shot down. Somewhere in the East of Ukraine, I was told. The airplane that came back, was the one with those suspended missiles.

– It returned without the missiles?

– Without the missiles. That pilot was very scared.

And it would appear that TPTB have again overestimated their ability: the narrative that “Putin did it” has blown up, so they’ve buried the report, and thus the story, thinking that people will forget over time. In the country which Gore Vidal once famously described as “the United States of Amnesia”, they are probably correct; worldwide, not so much.

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes tribunal has exercised “universal jurisdiction” to try in absentia Western leaders for crimes against humanity: in November 2011,  George W. Bush and Tony Blair, for crimes against peace because of the unlawful invasion of Iraq. In May 2012, after hearing testimony from torture victims  at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the tribunal unanimously convicted Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, former Deputy Assistant AGs John Yoo and Jay Bybee of conspiracy to commit war crimes, specifically torture. The tribunal referred their findings to the chief prosecutor at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. In November 2013, the tribunal convicted the Zionist Apartheid State as guilty of genocide in Palestine. Any connection between the missing Malaysian planes and the above described events is the province of conspiracy theorists, and thus wholly coincidental.


Since this overheated screed is now reaching epic proportions, and has taken on a length such that even my wife won’t read it,  here’s a list of other  top stories of 2014 with significant “doom” potential  which will here go further unremarked:

The rise of protest parties (left and right) in Europe. 

Oil Price Collapse/Currency Wars and devaluation.

Peak Grid/ Detroit/  Rotting Infrastructure. Tom Lewis gets credit for elucidating this. Grid failures in Detroit brought this into sharp relief, if flagging attention, for a brief moment this year. Every physical system in America, from the grid to highways and bridges  to public sanitation systems to dams, ports and airports has seriously exceeded design life with no provision for replacement. At a time when corporate taxation is at its lowest point in a century, we seem unable to summon the will to rebuild our flagging infrastructure. After all, this would benefit working people and give a boost into the economy, so why exactly would we do that?  The response of the flat-earthers who drive the latter-day American political agenda is to privatize everything, “privatization” referring to theft of public resources. It is impossible to predict when any one of our critical systems will fail, yet fail they must. And the “solution” the yahoo caucus will offer is more privatization. Write it down in ink.

Junk Bond Market Yield Explosion.

Federal Deficit reaches $18 Trillion.

Ebola

Ebola promised to be the prefect existential threat to mankind: a game of “Plague” writ large. You’ll recall that the growth of infection rates was exponential in the early days of summer; many were simply waiting for the disease to board a plane in Liberia and then present itself in every airport in the known world.  FOX “News” discovered the “President Ebola” meme  and pounded it relentlessly into the fear centers of elderly white Americans right up through the midterm elections, whereupon, Ebola was miraculously cured, never to be discussed again.

Continued rising Economic inequality. 


 

garbage-canThat’s the view from Mount Nerd. Madmen and psychopaths are in charge of every single sphere of human effort. As the new electees of the Klown Kar Kaukus assume the reigns of power in 2015, rest assured that Tocqueville’s “genuine madmen, will played a very considerable political part.”

 

And if, like me, you like to look at the magician’s off hand, the better to know where the misdirection is coming from, here is a bonus: Project Censored’s Top 25 censored stories for 2014. And another: the worst cable news reports of 2014. No, don’t thank me. Pour a double skepticism, have one for me and toast 2015!

 
***

Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be briefly active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is grateful each day with her, and that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

The Caliph fit to join OPEC

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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THE ROVING EYE

caliphate-isis

Originally published in Asia Times on November 1, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

Islamic State leader Caliph Ibrahim – aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – never ceases to amaze us – and most of all his powerful petrodollar-stuffed backers. The Caliph is for all practical purposes now an oil major worth of membership of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). His takfiri/mercenary goons – in theory – have for some time been extracting, refining, shipping and/or smuggling and clinching juicy deals involving vast quantities of oil, reaping profits of roughly US$2 million a day.

The Caliph’s oil prices are to die (be beheaded?) for; after all, he’s implementing the same low-price strategy concocted by the people he wants to dethrone in Mecca, the House of Saud. The caliphate’s GDP across “Syraq” has only one way to go: up.

And oh, the irony Top customers for The Caliph’s cheap oil happen to be “Sultan” Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Earthly paradise, aka Turkey – a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally – and that King “Playstation” Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein’s domain impersonating a country, aka Jordan.

Meanwhile, the awesome, immensely sophisticated military apparatus/intel agency acronym fest deployed by “free” US/NATO somehow is simply unable to register/intercept this racket.

Not surprising, when they somehow had not previously registered/intercepted The Caliph’s goons taking over large swaths of “Syraq” this summer with their cross-desert version of rolling thunder – that gleaming white Toyota promo ad.

As for the Empire of Chaos “solution” to intercept The Caliph’s oil profits, the only decision so far has been to bomb oil pipelines that belong to the Syrian Arab Republic, that is, ultimately, the Syrian people.

Never underestimate the capacity of US President Barack Obama’s “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine to soar towards unreachable stupidity heights.

Yo sheikh, talk to the hand
Then there’s that fateful Secretary of State John Kerry/House of Saud capo hand-kissing fest that took place in Riyadh last month.

In this masterful piece, William Engdahl goes no-holds-barred on the supposed Saudi-US cheap oil/bomb Bashar al-Assad/undermine Russia deal. Yet there may not have been a direct deal; more like Washington and Riyadh working in tandem towards common objectives: regime change in Syria in the long term, and undermining both Iran and Russia in the short term.

As for that crucial Pipelineistan gambit central to the Syrian riddle – a gas pipeline running from Qatar to regime-changed Syria, instead of Iran-Iraq-Syria – that’s not exactly a Saudi, but a rival Qatari priority.

What Kerry did give was the Master’s Voice seal of approval to the Saudi strategy of low oil prices, thinking short-term about US oil consumers at the pump, and medium-term on putting pressure on the revenues of both Iran and Russia. Yet he obviously played down the blow to the US shale gas industry.

The Saudis, for their part, have other key considerations, not least how to recover their market share across Asia – where their biggest customers are located. They are losing market share because of discounted crude sold by both Iran and Iraq. Thus, both must be “punished”, on top of the House of Saud’s pathological aversion to all things Shi’ite.

As for the big picture in Syria, Obama’s capo for dealing with The Caliph, General John Allen, laid down the law to Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awasat. He said, “[T]here is not going to be a military solution here [in Syria]”. And he also said, “The intent is not to create a field force to liberate Damascus.”

Short translation: those old goons of the previously “winning against Assad” Free Syrian Army (FSA) are now six feet under. And the new FSA goons to be trained in – of all places – Saudi Arabia are not exactly being regarded as holy saviors. For all practical purposes, the medium-term scenario spells out more US bombing (of infrastructure belonging to the Syrian nation); no regime change in Damascus; and The Caliph steadily consolidating his wins.

And finally, the Hollywood factor
Imagine if shabby “historical” al-Qaeda had these ultra-slick PR skills. Bearded has-beens with old Kalashnikovs in Afghan caves is so passe. The Caliph not only smuggles tens of thousands of barrels of oil a day undetected, but he also deploys a British hostage turned foreign correspondent (and who may have converted to the Salafi version of Islam) reporting from a hollowed out Kobani about to be totally captured by a bunch of takfiris and mercenaries (they certainly are not mujahideen).

One’s gotta marvel at the production values. The Caliph’s special report opens with drone footage of Kobani. Is it an American drone? Was it captured in Iraq? Is it an Israeli drone? Turkish? Brit? The “mujahideen” certainly are not on Lockheed Martin’s speed dial – yet.

Meanwhile, on the ground, only now has Ankara allowed roughly 200 peshmergas from Iraqi Kurdistan – whose slippery leaders do business with Turkey – to cross the border to, in theory, help Kobani. No soldiers, weapons or supplies are allowed for the Kurdish PKK/PYD forces which have been actually defending Kobani all along. Sultan Erdogan’s endless procrastination will be judged by any independent investigation as the key element in allowing the possible fall of Kobani.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu once again has laid down the “conditions” for his country to help with the – so far spectacularly innocuous – US campaign against The Caliph; the possible liberators of Kobani must only be Iraqi peshmergas, and remaining FSA goons, not “terrorists” (as in PKK/PYD).

In the end, Kobani – precisely on the border between southeast Anatolia and northern Syria – is highly strategic. The situation on the ground is dire. There may be a little over 1,000 residents left, barricaded in their houses. Protecting them, a little over 2,000 Syrian Kurd fighters, including the female Ishtar brigade. Only 200 peshmergas coming from Iraqi Kurdistan are not going to make a huge difference against a few thousand heavily weaponized caliph goons deploying as many as 20 tanks. It does not look good, even though, unlike in the Caliph-approved Brit hostage report, the fake “mujahideen” are not in total control.

The Caliph, anyway, is bound to remain on a roll. Absolutely none of the above would be remotely possible without US/Western overt/covert complicity, proving once and for all that The Caliph is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving in the eternal GWOT (Global War On Terra). How come the Dick Cheney regime never thought about that?

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

A Caliph in a wilderness of mirrors

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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THE ROVING EYE

us-flag-bombs

Originally published in Asia Times on October 15, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

I’m aiming at you, lover
Cause killing you is killing myself

Orson Welles (director), The Lady from Shanghai,1947

 

He’s invincible. He beheads. He smuggles. He conquers. He’s the ultimate jack-of-all-trades. No Tomahawk or Hellfire can touch him. He always gets what he wants; in Kobani; in Anbar province; with the House of Saud (which he wants to replace) trying to make Putin (who he wants to behead) suffer because of low oil prices.

If this was a remake of Orson Welles’s noir classic The Lady from Shanghai, in the mirror sequence the lawyer (American?) and the femme fatale (Shi’ite?) would also get killed; but The Caliph of Islamic State would survive as a larger than life Welles, free to roam, plunder and “give my love to the sunrise” – as in a Brave Caliphate World shining in “Syraq” over the ashes of the Sykes-Picot agreement.

He’s winning big in Iraq’s Anbar province. The Caliph’s goons are now closing in on – of all places – Abu Ghraib; Dubya, Dick and Rummy’s former Torture Central. They are at a mere 12 kilometers away from Baghdad International. A shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile (or MANPAD) away from downing a passenger jet. Certainly not an Emirates flight – after all these are trusted sponsors.

Hit, in Anbar province, is now Caliph territory. The police forces and the province’s operational command have lost almost complete control of Ramadi. The Caliph now controls the crucial axis formed by Hit, Ramadi, Fallujah; Highway 1 between Baghdad and the Jordanian border; and Highway 12 between Baghdad and the Syrian border.

The Caliph’s goons are no less than taking over the whole, notorious Baghdad belt, the previous “triangle of death” in those hardcore days of American occupation circa 2004. Message to Donald Rumsfeld: remember your “remnants”? They’re back. And they’re in charge.

Both Ramadi and Fallujah have been reduced to an accumulation of bombed-out schools, hospitals, homes, mosques and bridges. Residential streets are virtually deserted. According to the United Nations, there are a least 360,803 internally displaced persons in Anbar, as well as 115,000 others in areas under The Caliph’s control. At least 63% of the 1.6 million people living in the province are classified as “in need” – with hair-raising minimal access to water, food and health care, and receiving little to absolutely zero humanitarian support from that fiction, the “international community.” US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power is not screaming her lungs out for R2P (“responsibility to protect”).

How could the Pentagon’s spectacular Full Spectrum Dominance possibly not see any of this happening? Of course they see it. But they don’t give a damn. The Pentagon occasionally uses AH-64 Apache helicopters to attack some of The Caliph’s goons in Ramadi and Hit. But Apaches can be easily hit with MANPADS. They are stationed at Baghdad International and their only mission is to protect the airport. Who cares about local, civilian “collateral damage”?

Married to the Mob
In Kobani, the former third-biggest town in Syrian Kurdistan, in the far northeast, The Caliph also wins big. Another biblical exodus has reached 300,000 refugees – and counting, with over 180,000 headed to Turkey.

The Caliph counts on indirect help from The Sultan (or alternate Caliph), aka Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Tehran is – rightfully – furious, as it sees the “West” – and Turkey – betraying the Kurds all over again. It’s no secret Sultan Erdogan is doing nothing because he wants to screw the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD); let them die instead of repelling The Caliph and then be strong enough to threaten Turkish domination of those huge, essentially Kurdish patches of Anatolia. Thus the only thing Sultan Erdogan does support is aimless bombing by the Pentagon cum coalition of the clueless-cowards.

Anybody who believes the US Central Command’s spin that House of Saud and United Arab Emirates fighter jets conduct “bombing raids” on the outskirts of Kobani gets a one-way ticket to Oz. Imagine these clowns being able to deploy precision-guided bombs or trained laser spotters. To start with, the Pentagon has zero local intel – as in zero operatives able to paint lasers on targets. Thus the “coalition” can barely hit the odd tank (out of 25 around Kobani) or Humvee out of 2,000 crammed in a valley for almost two weeks now.

But the “coalition” certainly is able – miraculously! – to hit Syrian state infrastructure, as in energy installations. In June, the official Pentagon excuse was, “We don’t have any drone assets in Iraq.” Now there’s no excuse for drones which can read a “Smoking Kills!” warning in a packet of Marlboros not hitting The Caliph’s assets in Kobani – or in Anbar province for that matter. So it’s down to a mix of incompetence and neglect. It was so much easier to hit Pashtun wedding parties in the Waziristans. Especially because no one was paying attention.

Erdogan’s own goons, meanwhile, have instituted a curfew on all major towns and cities in southeast Anatolia, and are even gunning down peaceful Kurdish protesters. Fifteen million Kurds in Anatolia cannot be wrong; Erdogan wants Kobani to fall. Ankara remains for all practical purposes the top logistical hub for The Caliph’s goons. The Sultan is using The Caliph as a proxy army to smash the Kurds.

Terminal evidence has been offered by the leader of the Kurdish PYD, Salih Muslim, meeting Turkish military intel and asking for help. Conditions: abandon any hope of self-determination for Syrian Kurds; give up all your self-governing towns and regions; and watch as we install a Turkish “buffer”/no-fly zone inside Syrian territory.

Don’t expect the Obama “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff/We Have No Strategy” administration to sentence, “Erdogan must go”. Besides, the pathetic club of National Security Advisor Susan Rice and her deputy Ben Rhodes has no clue about what’s goin’ on.

To the Green Zone!
Tehran, for its part, has clearly identified Erdogan’s nasty game. The Sultan knows monster B1-B bombers flying over Kobani are absolutely useless – while The Caliph’s goons deploy massive car bombs and keep advancing. “Boots on the ground” will be needed. Enter NATO asset Turkey. But with one condition: regime change in Damascus, or at least a prelude, via that “buffer”/no-fly zone over Syria.

The Big Picture remains the same. Sultan Erdogan and the House of Saud want regime change in Damascus (Erdogan dreams of a Sunni puppet as a vassal of Ankara; the Saudis want their own Wahhabi schemer). Israel merrily agrees. And if that comes with a bonus – attacking the new Iraqi government, still supported by Iran, in the American-made Green Zone – even better. The lowdown: “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” translates as the Gulf Cooperation Council, Turkey and Israel using Washington to advance their quite explicit agenda.

Sultan Erdogan, as a Mob boss, does seem to heave learned a thing or two from watching Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. He’s extracting the maximum pound of flesh from the bewildered “Don’t do Stupid Stuff” team. The Sultan is boldly aiming at Turkish boots on the ground gloriously invading Syria in NATO “humanitarian intervention” mode. And all this sold as NATO offering “protection” to a member-nation. NATO’s new secretary-general, former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, has just been to Ankara. Saudi Arabia has already “voted” out loud for the “buffer”/no-fly zone. Same for General Francois Hollande, that pitiful excuse for President of France.

Once again, it’s Tehran to the rescue. The Foreign Ministry has duly announced Iran is ready to liberate Kobani from The Caliph’s goons (and they can do it) if Bashar Al-Assad says the word. Now that’s how you work the chessboard; NATO is left with zero excuses to mount an invasion of Syria, whatever Mob Boss Erdogan comes up with.

Operation Hands Off My Toyota
The Caliph also wins big in the “bleeding the Pentagon” department. A single US “strike” against his goons – involving F-15s, F-16s or F-22s – costs up to US$500,000. The Pentagon has just revealed it has spent no less than $1.1 billion against The Caliph since June.

What for? Virtually all the assets being destroyed by American bombing are made in the USA, deployed to the Iraqi army and then duly captured during The Caliph’s offensive. So here we have the Empire of Chaos spending a fortune from the US Treasury to smash tanks, Humvees and other gear already paid for by American taxpayers. No wonder taxpayers are fuming. Thus Operation Hands off My Toyota.

Additionally, the Pentagon does not have a clue on how to build its Obama-designed proxy “rebel” force to fight The Caliph (with no US soldiers or marines; only fanatic Wahhabis and assorted mercenaries).

To start with, they have no clue who the hell qualifies as a “moderate rebel”. The rabble must be “vetted” – and then sent to, of all places, Saudi Arabia for training. There the guy in charge will be – who else – a Special Ops honcho, Major General Michael Nagata. Even under the most optimistic scenario, the Pentagon won’t have its proxy “moderate rebel” army on the ground in Syria before the summer of 2015.

Hefty bottles of Chateau Margaux can be bet that all this prime US weaponized know how will ultimately end up captured by The Caliph’s goons. Same applies to reliable “rebel” intel on the ground.

But the real Dadaist masterpiece is that first these “rebels” will be politely asked by the Pentagon to forget about getting rid of Assad to fight The Caliph. At least for a while. Re-enter Stoltenberg, the new NATO head: “Next year, at the ministerial meeting, we will take decisions regarding the so-called spearhead but, even before it is established, NATO has a strong army after all. We can deploy it wherever we want to.” OK, tough guy; why not “Syraq”?

If this all sounds like a plot straight out of hit series Blacklist, that’s because it is. Why not get Red (James Spader) to fight The Caliph? And then again, what if Red is The Caliph? He pretends to fight himself – and he wins, handsomely. Back to Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai: “Killing you is killing myself”. Yet nobody could possibly want The Caliph dead when he’s such a smashing, undisputed box-office success.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Pure War in Tehran

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

Obomber

Originally published in Asia Times on October 8, 2014

 

I’ve just spent a frantic week in Tehran. Before departure, I had made a conscious decision; only one book in the backpack. Maximum concentration. I ended up choosing Pure War, the 2008 reprint by Semiotext(e) in LA of the 1983 Paul Virilio classic I had picked up at the revamped Foyles in London a few days back.

For a roving correspondent, going to Iran is always extra-special. Getting a press visa approved usually takes ages. This was my sixth trip – and I had no visa. Just a number, tied to a visa at the airport. Until the last minute, I thought I’d be deported from Imam Khomeini International – back to Abu Dhabi, which is now pretending to bomb The Caliph. Then, a small miracle; a VIP room, a visa in 10 minutes and the next I know I’m zooming into an eerily deserted Tehran at sunrise on a Friday, past the psychedelic space station decked in green that is Imam Khomeini’s shrine.

Why Virilio? Because he was the first to conceptualize that with the explosion of asymmetrical warfare, Total War had become local – on a global scale. I expanded on the theme in my 2007 book Globalistan and in my writings. Washington and Tel Aviv had been threatening to bomb Iran for years. Virilio was the first to assert that “peace” merely extends war by other means.

May 1968 as a theatre of the mind – a theatre of the imagination. When society could be an artwork, a performance, with the crowds in the street as the chorus. The last creative reaction against consumerism. “Power to the imagination”.

A beautiful sunny morning in front of the Foreign Ministry compound. An exhibition/installation about the “imposed” – as it’s widely known – Iran-Iraq war. A reconstructed minefield; a map of nations weaponizing Saddam; pictures of young fighters/martyrs who wouldn’t have been older than 14. A theatre of painful remembrance. In late 1978, Tehran also had its crowds in the streets as chorus – against the shah. Khomeini was a reaction against consumerism; but was he “power to the imagination”? And then, all was engulfed in a theatre of cruelty – the tragedy of the “imposed” war.

War in the journalistic sense is national delinquency elevated to the scale of an extremely important conflict – It’s the equivalent of the “tumults”, as ancient societies called them. We can no longer even speak of wars, they are interstate delinquencies. It’s State terrorism.

In Tehran, my immensely gracious hosts were the organizers of New Horizon: the International Conference of Independent Thinkers. After plenty of twists and turns, the Foreign Ministry ended up also being involved. The conference issued a important resolution condemning ISIS/ISIL/The Caliph; Zionism; Islamophobia; sectarianism; and Washington’s blind support for anything Israel unleashes over Palestine: Israel’s national delinquency, or State terrorism. The conference also called for cooperation and understanding between the West and Islam: that implies a struggle against interstate delinquencies.

The best defense is to attack; and to attack you must have some ideas; right now there aren’t any ideas. Imagination today is in the image, and the image is in power. There’s no imagination for anything but the image.

I have to leave a fabulous open-air traditional Persian dinner to go to Press TV studios for a debate with notorious neo-con Daniel Pipes about ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. We surprisingly agree more than I would normally expect. Well, not hard considering the Obama administration’s non-strategy “strategy”; an image (bombs and Tomahawks) fighting an image (The Caliph’s carefully edited beheading show).

Meanwhile, President Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the United Nations kept making waves; “Extremists threaten our neighbors, resort to violence and shed blood.” It’s “the people in the region who can deliver” in the fight against The Caliph. Rouhani was not exactly referring to the made in USA jets allegedly deployed by the Gulf Cooperation Council coalition of the clueless/cowards; the House of Saud, UAE, Bahrain and associate member Jordan.

In all my conversations, a consensus emerges; the power vacuum of post-2013 Shock and Awe and occupation led to the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq and eventually ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. But even as Tehran and Washington may have flirted about a joint move against The Caliph, Washington then denied it wanted help and Tehran rejected it outright.

Still, what Rouhani said in New York kept echoing day after day everywhere in Tehran; weaponizing the “new” Free Syrian Army in Saudi Arabia, of all places, amounts “to train another group of terrorists and send them to Syria to fight”. And Washington’s “strategy” is further enabling hardcore Sunni dictators who’ve made their careers demonizing Shi’ites.

And then that other “unofficial” Caliph, neo-Ottoman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stepped in; there would be no use of Turkish “territory” or “military bases” by the “coalition” if “the objective does not also include ousting the Bashar al-Assad regime”. Who needs Caliph Erdogan to fight Caliph Ibrahim? Major General Qassem Suleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force, can do it; his picture, side by side with Kurdish peshmergas, made a splash all over Iran when published by IRINN.

The cinema shows us what our consciousness is. Our consciousness is an effect of montage – It’s a collage. There is only collage, cutting and splicing. This explains fairly well what Jean-Francois Lyotard calls the disappearance of the great narratives. Classless society, social justice – no one believes in them anymore. We’re in the age of micro-narratives, the art of the fragment.

The joy of Laleh park – a Persian park crisscrossed by stray Persian cats as well as accomplished volleyball and badminton players and pram-pushing families. That’s where Arash Darya-Bandari, medievalist extraordinaire with many years spent in the Bay Area, gives me a crash course on the finer points of one of the great surviving narratives; Shi’ism and Khomeini’s concept of velayat-e-faqih. In Pure Non-War terms, this was always supposed to be about social justice. And that’s why it’s unintelligible to turbo-capitalism.

The park as Agora; a garden of intellectual delights. Nearly all my top conversations took place walking across or around Laleh park. And then one night, I went for a solitary walk, just to find a revolutionary movie/performance on a makeshift stage, complete with a trench and mortars. An audience of a few solitary men and some scattered families. The cinema keeping the consciousness of the Iran-Iraq war alive.

The end of deterrence corresponds to the beginning of the information war, a conflict where the superiority of information is more important than the capability to inflict damage.

The New Horizon conference could not but be about information war. The overall theme was the fight against the Zionist lobby. Everyone knows what the lobby means and how it operates, especially in the US. And yet, in my short interventions, at the Foreign Ministry and at the conference, I preferred to focus on its global financial/economic reach. Follow the money. That’s the only way to pierce the lobby’s seemingly invincible armory.

Another face of information war. Everywhere I went, I had the pleasure to see how Gareth Porter’s book – Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iranian Nuclear Scare – was received as a blessing. The book was translated into Farsi by the Fars News Agency, in only two months, with meticulous care, and launched in a simple ceremony.

It’s bound to become a best seller – as it conclusively proves, for instance, how the Iranian “plot” to equip missiles with nuclear warheads was entirely fabricated by the terrorist outfit Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and then handed over to the International Atomic Energy Agency by the Mossad. Contrast the respect shown to Gareth in Tehran to the wall of silence of its US reception – just another reflection of the 35-year-old “wilderness of mirrors” opposing Washington to Tehran.

Predictably, the usual illiterate morons in the US dubbed the conference as an “anti-Semite hate fest”. Gareth was described as “an anti-Israel journalist” and myself as “a Brazilian anti-Israel journalist”. Obviously the moronic inferno is not familiar with the concept of “foreign policy”.

Space is no longer in geography – it’s in electronics. Unity is in the terminals. It’s in the instantaneous time of command posts, multinational headquarters, control towers, etc. Politics is less in physical space than in the time systems administered by various technologies. ? There is a movement from geo- to chronopolitics: the distribution of territory becomes the distribution of time. The distribution of territory is outmoded, minimal.

Time to go to the bazaar – the ultimate urban distribution of territory. At the main entrance, a gaggle brandishing calculators and pieces of paper is involved in an incredible racket. With Roberto Quaglia – author of a wicked debunking of the 9/11 saga – we joke this looks like a slaves market. Not really. This is nothing less than a futures market on the course of the rial. With the national currency fluctuating so much because of the sanctions – it lost three quarters of its value in the past few years – the chance to make a bundle is irresistible.

We meet the beautiful Zahra – she sells handmade towels but is essentially a killer fashion photographer. And then the ritual I’ve loved since forever; haggling for the perfect tribal rug. In this case, a Zaghol from the 1930s, never to be reproduced because the local nomads are becoming sedentary and there are no new weavers. A case of distribution of territory becoming the distribution of (lost) time.

The Pharaohs, the Romans, the Greeks were surveyors. That was geopolitics. We’re no longer there, we’re in chronopolitics. Organization, prohibitions, interruptions, orders, powers, structurings, subjections are now in the realm of temporality. And that’s also where resistance should be.

Which lead us, once again, to sanctions. Much had been made of what Rouhani told Austrian President Hans Fisher at the UN – about Iran being ready to deliver gas to the European Union. That’s not happening tomorrow; the last figure I had, in Tehran, years ago, is that the country would need at least US$200 billion in investments to upgrade its energy infrastructure. Rouhani was forced to clarify it. And Tehran won’t sell itself to the EU on the cheap.

The end of sanctions is all about chronopolitics.

We have entered an age of large-scale terrorism. Just as we speak of petty delinquency and major delinquency, I think the same should be said of petty and major terrorism. … The military-industrial and scientific complexes continue to function on their own momentum. It’s a crazy engine that won’t stop.

Tehran thinks about the crazy engine all the time. I’m sort of “kidnapped” from a meeting and end up in a small think tank with a fabulous map on the wall detailing the US command centers. All the students are eager to know what the Empire is really up to with Iran.

A visit to the “nest of spies” – the former US embassy – is also inevitable. An apotheosis of 1970s technology – immaculately preserved like nowhere else in the world; radio equipment, proto-computers, telephones, telexes, rolodexes, a “forgery room” for fake passports. No wonder Washington could never recover from the loss of this sterling listening post of the whole Middle East. Will this building ever be a “normal” US embassy again? Someone should ask the hick Hamlet who almost turned into a mad bomber.

This is why the airport today has become the new city. People are no longer citizens, they’re passengers in transit. No longer a nomad society, in the sense of the great nomadic drifts, but one concentrated on the vector of transportation. The new capital is … a city at the intersection of practicabilities of time, in other words, of speed.

The last day had to contain an epiphany. I waited for it all day long – amid myriad interviews and a fabulous Indian lunch in North Tehran with Gareth and Dr Marandi of the Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran; the ideal Platonic banquet of conviviality and intellect. Then, at night, a mad dash across town to the Rey shrine; working-class neighborhood, foundation stone of Tehran, one of the top pilgrimage sites in Iran alongside Qom and Mashhad.

Aesthetic illumination meets sensorial overload meets spiritual pull – with an extra kick because you’re arguably the only Westerner in sight. Tens of thousands of pilgrims honor the death of Imam Ali’s son-in-law. What’s that thing about the death of grand narratives? Not in deep Iran.

And then it’s all over, as in a Coleridge dream; did I dream this fleeting Persian interlude, or did Tehran dreamed a little dream of me? I’m back to my default mode – the essential passenger in transit; a nomad carpet, a backpack and a boarding pass. Next stop; a faceless city in an intersection of speed.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

The Week in Doom, September 27

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964Off the keyboard of Surly1

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Burned-Books-3x2 

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on September 28, 2014

Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

“The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance… In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.”                                                                  ― George Orwell  

 

Seven for Seven

Eternal war got a boost this week. There was a time when the more credulous among us cast a vote for Barack Obama largely because, no matter what he might be, he wasn’t George W. Bush or his infamous handler. Any thoughts that the two were intrinsically different in terms of foreign-policy, was put to rest this week as the US and its “allies” rained airstrikes on targets in Iraq and Syria.  The man who campaigned on a platform of “hope and change” appeared at the UN this week to utter of ISIS:

“The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.” 

Having been thwarted last year in Syria by Vladimir Putin, Obama ramped up the rhetoric in order to stampede the recalcitrants to get with the program:

“There can be no reasoning, no negotiation, with this brand of evil,” Obama told the General Assembly. In a striking shift for a president who has been reluctant to take military action in the past, Obama declared that force is the only language the militants understand. He warned those who have joined their cause to “leave the battlefield while they can.”

Previously it seemed that Obama wanted to wind down the foreign wars, in response to the war weariness and general bankruptcy of the American public. But the existential threat presented by what is being marketed as the Islamic State has already sucked Obama back into Levantine conflicts and the middle of Syria’s intractable civil war. A few months ago, Obama had a timetable for extraction of US forces from the endless GWOT-wars he was bequeathed.  Perhaps he underestimated the reach and the connections of the neocon embeds salted away in the bowels of his foreign-policy apparatus. They were not to be denied. Let’s recall what the agenda was in 2007:

 

…a tantalizing passage in Wesley Clark’s new memoir suggests that another war is part of a long-planned Department of Defense strategy that anticipated “regime change” by force in no fewer than seven Mideast states. Critics of the war have often voiced suspicions of such imperial schemes, but this is the first time that a high-ranking former military officer has claimed to know that such plans existed.

In “A Time to Lead: For Duty, Honor and Country,”  the former four-star general recalls two visits to the Pentagon following the terrorist attacks of September 2001. On the first visit, less than two weeks after Sept. 11, he writes, a “senior general” told him, “We’re going to attack Iraq. The decision has basically been made.”

Six weeks later, Clark returned to Washington to see the same general and inquired whether the plan to strike Iraq was still under consideration. The general’s response was stunning:

“‘Oh, it’s worse than that,’ he said, holding up a memo on his desk. ‘Here’s the paper from the Office of the Secretary of Defense [then Donald Rumsfeld] outlining the strategy. We’re going to take out seven countries in five years.’ And he named them, starting with Iraq and Syria and ending with Iran.”

While Clark doesn’t name the other four countries, he has mentioned in televised interviews that the hit list included Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.

Check, check, check, and check. The agenda for the Project for a New American Century (PNAC)  still alive and well.  And while we’re shaking off the intoxication of the constant propaganda, never forget that ALL of this “Islamic State™” mayhem is the direct consequence of neocon policy: blowback from the arming and training jihadists by the US and its allies in an effort to overthrow Assad. If you’re scoring at home, you might recall that it was Assad’s government battling the jihadists as they demonstrated ninth-century Islamic justice for today’s audiences by cutting off the heads of Syrians for being Christian, Kurdish, Shia, or insufficiently Muslim.  Corpmedia has only recently have taken note of the beheadings since Westerners have been beheaded, (the crucifixions were a deft touch, yes?) while studiously ignoring the blowback.

And those entities who have catapulted the armed ISIS PR juggernaut into the headlines will employ their pliant middlemen to keep them there. From statements like those of hired errand boy David Cameron, one might infer the elites are becoming a bit restive about this Internet thingy, since the proles are discovering that their mistrust and disdain for manufactured narratives is shared by thousands of others. At the UN this week, Cameron affirmed the elites’ belief that “non-violent extremism” is just as dangerous as terrorism and must be eradicated using all means at the government’s disposal. 


To defeat ISIL – and organisations like it – we must defeat this ideology in all its forms.

As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by preachers who claim not to encourage violence, but whose world view can be used as a justification for it. We know this world view.

The peddling of lies: that 9/11 was a Jewish plot or that the 7/7 London attacks were staged. The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy. The concept of an inevitable clash of civilisations.

We must be clear: to defeat the ideology of extremism we need to deal with all forms of extremism – not just violent extremism.

 

Cameron makes much of how Britain will “do its part,” by providing not only a military role but by getting its house in order at home:

For our part, in the United Kingdom, we are introducing new powers.

To strengthen our ability to seize passports and stop suspects travelling.

To allow us to strip British identity from dual nationals and temporarily prevent some British nationals getting back into our country.

To ensure that airlines comply with our no fly lists and security screening requirements.

And to enable our police and our security services to apply for stronger locational constraints on those in the UK who pose a risk.

 

Love those “locational restraints” dreamed up by these children of the Enlightenment. Nothing says “freedom” and “liberty” like locational restraint and other forms of militarized governmental goonery. (See Ferguson, Occupy, et al.).

 

The BillO Brigade

Meanwhile, in the department of people willing to fight the next war down to your last son or daughter, Fox news walking tantrum Bill O’Reilly called for President Obama to raise an anti-terror mercenary army to defeat Islamic State militants, the “boots on the ground” needed to address the deficiencies in Obama’s air assault. No doubt O’Reilly relied upon his own many years of military service (none) and deep experience as a war planner (uh, no.)  The use of mercenary forces has been outlawed by the U.N. General Assembly,  but that is the kind of quibble usually raised by the wrong kinds of people. Also no matter that O’Reilly’s expert guest, U.S. Naval War College Professor Tom Nichols, Ph.D., a national security expert, refuted BillO’s plan. Nichols explained that “it is a morally corrosive idea to try to outsource our national security,” a notion that will itself  come as a “terrible,” “immoral” idea to Blackwater scion Erik Prince.

“Well, Bill, I understand your frustration. I really do. But this is a terrible idea, a terrible idea not just as a practical matter but a moral matter. It’s a morally corrosive idea to try to outsource our national security. This is something Americans are going to have to deal for themselves. We’re not going to solve this problem by creating an army of Marvel Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy…There’s nothing theoretical about it. It’s the worst of both worlds. You’re asking these forces to operate as though they’re U.S. military forces and you’re treating them as though they’re mercenaries merely because you don’t want to have to use American military forces. And I think that that undermines the whole notion of our own security. “

To the barracades, citizens…

Tomorrow Belongs to Me: the Colorado Curriculum Edition

Another front in the war to “keep society intact” was opened in Colorado this week. In response to a conservative school board led proposal that history education should “promote patriotism and respect for authority,” hundreds of  insufficiently respectful students walked out of  suburban Denver classrooms on Tuesday in protest. The youth protest involved six high schools in and follows a sick-out from teachers that shut down a couple of high schools in the politically and economically diverse area. The AP reported that

The school board proposal that triggered the walkouts in Jefferson County calls for instructional materials that present positive aspects of the nation and its heritage. It would establish a committee to regularly review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and don’t “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

And we’ve already seen how unpatriotic and deserving of wholesale assault our attempts to exercise First Amendment rights.  Interestingly, none of the proposal advanced by Julie Williams, a member of the board’s conservative majority, calls for the reinstitution of civics education, such that students might know how their government works and what their rights actually are under the Constitution. As history has taught, educated people are insufficiently pliable.

“It’s chilling,” said school board member Lesley Dahlkemper, who typically clashes with the conservative majority. “Does it mean Jeffco will no longer study the civil rights movement, the Boston Tea Party or women’s suffrage?”

It probably means that the Boston Tea Party will be taught as the free enterprise system’s response to the over regulation and taxation of the nanny state. After all, something in the AP curriculum will have to be jettisoned in order to make way for Austrian economics. Fortunately for the Republic, Charlie Pierce is patrolling the perimeter and provides a useful last word:

Luckily, the kids in Colorado’s AP History classes are smarter about history than Ms. Williams and her colleagues, who were, I hasten to add, freely elected. And that’s why you should vote, every time and in every election, no matter how apparently minor the office or how apparently insignificant the issue. You never know who’s breaking in.

Vote.

climate-march-fb

Acting Like it Never Happened

On the fourth Friday of every month, my friend Al, known around the Diner as Jaded Prole, hosts a meeting at the home he shares with a local artist.  It is a meeting of various progressives, former Occupiers, actors, academics, misfits and left-wing veterans of a certain age.  We meet for snacks and drinks, and especially good conversation.  This past Friday, conversation at this salon revolved around the climate change march held in New York City the previous weekend. Several of our number were there and shared firsthand accounts and photos from the event. Corpmedia studiously ignored the many, many thousands of people involved in the March. 

Sunday news shows on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox failed to cover the People’s Climate March, a massive protest against climate change being held September 21 in New York City in conjunction with events in more than 150 countries worldwide.

Meet the Press, Face the Nation, State of the Union, and Fox News Sunday ignored the event, which is being touted by participants as “the largest mobilization against climate change in the history of the planet.” The Nation editor and publisher Katrina vandenHeuvel briefly mentioned the march on ABC’s This Week while arguing that national security concerns surrounding climate change are not receiving adequate attention.

 

Our first-hand accounts related how slowly the march moved. The reason it moved slowly was the crush of participants–there were so damned many people there. Reportedly even Fox News pegged the number at 310,000, and reasonable estimates put the number at 400,000 souls. The march moved slowly, but did move. NPR gave the march and the UN climate meeting some coverage, which was more than most.

Skeptics ask the point of the march. Others said there was no agenda. The march was not merely intended for consumption of the UN conferees, or media.  It demonstrated that it is still possible to rouse a significant crowd in a mass rally for an important enough issue. Marchers got to see one other, to be validated in what is often a solitary burden of conscience, and to know that others share their concerns in the face of the ceaseless propaganda of the extractive industries.

Inevitably the talk turned to climate change and its deeply unsettling consequences.  We discussed the work of Jason Box, the black ice in Greenland, the changing albedo of the Arctic, the melting glaciers, the corporate assault on fresh water, of Guy McPherson’s prediction that in 30 years we’ll all be dead, and we ought be living our lives doing hospice work. Someone observed that earth will be fine, it’s us human beings that will be screwed.  At least one of our number stayed for the #floodWallStreet event the following day which featured the usual hospitality of the NYPD as well as the arrest of a polar bear.

What I took away from this discussion, aside from gratitude to my colleagues for making a presence when I could not, was gratitude that it is still possible to mass people in the streets for an important public issue.  We discussed the formula by which policymakers weigh public response: an email worth five voters, a phone call worth 10 voters, a letter worth 50 voters, somebody bothering to show up at a civic meeting and weigh-in worth 100.  By that measure, at least 40 million fellow Americans hold with those who showed up for the climate March last Sunday.  You’d think that even the dimmest bulb in Jerusalem-on-the-Potomac would pay attention. But Louie Gohmert was unavailable for comment.

 

***

Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be briefly active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is grateful each day for the life he has with her, and that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

 

Obama’s ‘stupid stuff’ turned upside down

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

the-grand-chess-board

Originally published in Asia Times on September 18, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

 

PARIS – I’ve been rovin’ around Europe for a while and the star of the show is definitely The Caliph. Former Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has totally outstripped Vladimir Putin as Doctor Evil of the hour. Where’s a good ol’ Cold War 2.0 when you need it? Well, upstaged by the Pentagon’s “long war” – our familiar GWOT (Global War on Terror).

First Obama promised there would be no ground troops to fight The Caliph – as in a re-invasion of Iraq. Then General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that if the current gambit of Obama’s self-defined “Don’t So Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine does not work – and it won’t – he’ll go for ground troops, embedded or otherwise.

Right on cue, The Caliph went Hollywood, releasing the trailer of The Caliphate’s upcoming mega-production, Flames of War. Directed by Michael Bay (Fall, 2014). Will that go straight to Netflix?

You just can’t beat the Marvel Comics school of geopolitics.

Confide in me, baby 

Meanwhile, in Paris, President General Francois Hollande is itching to deploy his Rafales and get into a new war – considering that’s about the only thing that could lift the mood of a wretched president, whose administration has barely survived a “confidence” vote; compare that “confidence” with the nasty epithets with which his team is showered by largely unemployed, taxed to death or swamped by red tape Parisians.

Obama has already sent 475 extra military “advisers” to Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan. There are at least 1,600 US military already on the ground in Iraq. That’s how Vietnam started. The CIA, supported by unmatched ground intel, swears there are exactly 31.785 jihadis fighting for The Caliph. Well, roughly. Two-thirds of these are supposed to be in Syria. So the new war, in fact, is all across “Syraq”. Or what The Caliph calls IS, Islamic State, his own private emirate.

The no less meticulous Dempsey, for his part, is sure it will take up to five months to train and weaponize a new bunch of “moderate” rebels to fight the Caliph. Wait a minute; foolish global public opinion was supposed to believe the previous “moderate” rebels – supported by Qatar – would one day fulfill the “Assad must go” Obama mandate. Well, they didn’t.

“Our” bastards at the petrodollar racket known as GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) have duly promised to help Obama’s new war, alongside Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Turkey will only get involved in the “humanitarian” front – while allowing smuggled oil sold by The Caliph’s goons into its territory.

The members of the wretched Arab League have solemnly promised to be “determined” in cutting off the flux of weapons and cash to The Caliph show. Yet they would never have the balls of the Kurdish peshmerga, who have just killed the Mosul chief of IS. This kind of ground intel, plus following the money, as in the oil smuggling routes, would finish off the Caliphate in no time. But that’s not what endless GWOT is all about.

Caliph, give us a hand
With such an array of Hollywood thrills on show, who cares about Ukraine? Well, it may have been snuffed out of the news cycle after the latest nasty package of US/EU sanctions, but it’s back in the spotlight this Thursday, as Ukrainian oligarch turned president Petro Poroshenko visits The Caliph’s nemesis in Washington.

So expect a frantic rerun of Evil Empire rhetoric – plus ample indignation caused by the Russian “invasion” of Ukraine. That will last barely a day. “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” changes its tune like surfing on iTunes. And the tune now is the “Syraq” offensive; yet another Obama “kinetic” operation, Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell remixed.

That leaves plenty of space for US Think Tankland to carp that Russia “aggression” will profit from the new tune to “advance” in Central and Eastern Europe, and the China “threat” will profit to “dominate” the Western Pacific. So what’s more crucial for the Empire of Chaos; Russia, China or “Syraq”? They don’t have a clue. They are just trying not to do “stupid stuff”.

For all that volcanic Beltway paranoia, the Big Picture in the long run spells out Moscow expanding its Pipelineistan nodes throughout Eastern Europe all the way to Western Europe, thus enlarging, commercially, its “soft” zone of influence. No “invasion” required.

On Ukraine, the Big Picture spells out the European Union mired in a horrendous crisis, under a third recession in five years, obviously without the cash, not to mention the will, to pay Ukraine’s humongous bills. Sooner – with negotiations starting this Saturday in Berlin – or later the EU will have to find an accommodation with Moscow to guarantee its precious gas supplies.

That leaves warmongering NATO – as in the EU under the Pentagon’s thumb. All rhetoric about that puny “rapid reaction force” aside, the fact is that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization won’t have the balls to confront Russia, via troops deployed in Ukraine. And there will be no Obama “Stupid Stuff” aerial bombing of federalists in Donbass – as if Russophones in Ukraine defending their land and their language against a form of slow motion ethnic cleansing could be compared to The Caliph’s multinational goons in “Syraq”. US public opinion very well knows – well, maybe not – that people in Donbass are not threatening to cross into El Paso tomorrow.

So much hard work to pivot from GWOT to the Big Boys in Eurasia. So little time – and competence. The Caliph’s goons have announced on the record they would go for beheading Putin. If only the Pentagon would subcontract the job.

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Chill Winds

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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autumn-storm
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  August 25, 2014

The new year officially starts in January, but for me, and perhaps many of you, the internal calendar re-sets at the end of the summer, where the programming of the school year lingers on. As the torpor of August sweeps away, one senses that heavier action lies ahead. Footsteps quicken in the crisping air, the days get shorter, and a new urgency propels events.

Consider, for instance, all the damage and destruction that ISIS (or ISIL or IS) has been able to pull off in summer heat that averages 110 degrees in the daytime in that part of the world. Many Americans would have trouble hoisting a jumbo shrimp out of a cocktail cup in that kind of weather, let alone scrambling around a desert with 30 pounds of firearms and extra ammo. The US has once again lulled itself into a false sense of security that it can control a battle theater with air power alone. So, here at summer’s end, we’re congratulating ourselves for “saving” the Mosul dam with drones and air strikes, but you can be sure that the next move is up to ISIS, and it will be calculated to horrify.

The Mosul dam is rated “the most dangerous dam in the world” by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Its instability is legendary — it was built by Saddam Hussein on water-soluble gypsum and requires extraordinary routine “re-grouting” operations to hold it together. What happens if ISIS controls the few roads that allow cement trucks to get there? I guess we’ll find out in a month or so.

West of there, in North Africa, Libya is in the process of completely cracking up. Islamist militias hold the old capital, Tripoli, where they destroyed the main airport and blew up a major oil storage facility. A rump national government fled to Tobruk near the border with Egypt. In between, south of Benghazi, lie Libya’s oil fields, a nice potential prize for Islamic maniacs, if they can manage to keep them operating, which is saying a lot. The Libyan fields are managed by the European oil companies Total (France), Eni (Italy), and Repsol (Spain). Their technicians have been fleeing the scene lately. Under Gaddafi. Libya contributed 1.6 million barrels a day to world oil production. Lately, it was running around 600,000 b/d. Where will it go from here?

Ukraine and Russia stand in an uneasy stalemate at summer’s end. Ukraine would like to regain control over the far eastern provinces around Donetsk and Luhansk where a lot of heavy industry from the Soviet days still operates. The trouble is: Ukraine is broke. It can’t pay its army. It can barely fuel its planes and tanks. The country faces related challenges getting in its renowned grain harvest this year with no money and little fuel. And it will soon feel the cold fingers of a harsh winter around its throat, with poor prospects for receiving the Russian gas and oil it has always depended on. Russia’s Putin seems to have wanted little more than Ukraine’s cooperation in its Eurasian Custom’s Union. But the USA and its NATO allies stuck their beaks in and tried to prevent that from happening, shoving Humpty-Dumpty Ukraine off a wall. Now that historically sore beset country has busted up and it is not likely to be put back together. Its best chance for continued survival would be to revert to a dependent relationship with Russia — grain for gas and oil — but we are still working to prevent that, in what may be looked back on as the dumbest geopolitical ploy of the new century.

Israel is increasingly cast as the bad guy in the Middle East. The threat of annihilation has made its leadership a little meshuggah over the years, but when all is said and done a cessation of rocket fire into that country would go a long way to starting some kind of diplomatic dialogue where there can be none for now. A large body of world opinion holds that firing rockets into Israel is a legitimate expression of political grievance. The problem is that it exactly resembles warfare. In fact, the most sedulous apologists for it have not really tried to define it otherwise. The net result is that acts of war are met with war. In the meantime, Israel continues to dismantle the Hamas command-and-control infrastructure. There is no other way to stop the rockets except to agree to cease to exist, and that, as they say in Hollywood, is not an option.

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

 

This Week In Doom August 19, 2014

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964Off the keyboard of Surly1

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on August 19, 2014

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Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

It was a week in which several horsemen of the apocalypse decamped, suitable booted and spurred, for a ride through the end stages of post-industrial “civilization.” Certainly War, Pestilence and Death each hoisted themselves atop their respective steeds and heralded their news in different quarters, all against a continuing backdrop of climate change and the accompanying chorus of denials from monied interests. And then there is Ferguson, the doom gift that keeps on giving, in the words of RE. Such was the week that it took two weeks to write this column. I began last week with a handful of stories and a surly attitude, and found that I couldn’t complete the column, such did events outstrip the narrative. Weirdnesses began to peek around corners, demanding revisions.  Given that a creative project is not so much completed  as abandoned, I’m abandoning this overwritten son of a bitch right here.

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“Bring it. You fucking animals, bring it…”

For those who studiously the posture of a head in the sand regarding our national security state and the militarization of local police, events in Ferguson, Missouri this week should have roused even you from your torpor. Or would have, were anybody actually able to learn from events. As anyone not living in a cave knows by now, apparently a police officer shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old.  Michael Brown was black, his assailant white. Anyone who lived through the 60s and 70s will be able to predict a community’s response to the sort of outrage, but this time the institutional response looks very different. And in Ferguson, the balaclava is pulled back to reveal the snarling face of the weaponized, militarized, national security state in full priapic fury.

By now, thousands of words (and podcasts) have been dumped upon the landfill that passes for public consciousness, by people writing from the safety of armchairs. It will take time to sift through the evidence.  The autopsy reveals Brown was shot six times, with two in the head. Cue the riots.  And, as if it were the 60s again, Nixon sends in the National Guard. Cue the riots.  Security footage is released that seems to demonstrate that Brown was a thug. Cue the riots.  Obama is going to send Eric Holder to Missouri, along with a gaggle of his Best Minds,  doubtless to bring the sword of justice to bear as it was against the scions of Wall Street and their financial improprieties. (What, you missed that?)

There is little difference in the appearance of the helmeted, militarized, camo – clad forces occupying Ferguson from troops in Afghanistan or Iraq. Intimidation being precisely the point. A report from the ground:

Their uniform would be mistaken for a soldier’s if it weren’t for their “Police” patches. They wear green tops, and pants fashioned after the U.S. Marine Corps MARPAT camouflage pattern. And they stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a Bearcat, similar in look to a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP.

When did this become OK? When did “protect and serve” turn into “us versus them”?

“Why do these cops need MARPAT camo pants again,” I asked on Twitter this morning. One of the most interesting responses came from a follower who says he served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division: “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone.”

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A war zone, indeed. The FAA banned flights of low-flying aircraft, the better to keep out news photography teams and their troublesome “evidence.”

The scene is tense, but the presence of what looks like a military force doesn’t seem to be helping.

“Bring it. You fucking animals, bring it,” one police officer was caught on video telling protesters. In Ferguson and beyond, it seems that some police officers have shed the blue uniform and have put on the uniform and gear of the military, bringing the attitude along with it.

If there’s one thing I learned in Afghanistan, it’s this: You can’t win a person’s heart and mind when you are pointing a rifle at his or her chest.

The words of Gen. William Westmoreland reverberates at about this time: “when you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

then and now

 One of the issues being addressed here is the provision of military hardware to local constabularies.  This bit of purposeless and unnecessary largesse is conducted by the Defense Logistics Agency, or DLA.  This group apparently transfers excess military hardware to localities. And local cops, fattened by the proceeds from asset forfeiture laws, simply don’t know how to say no, particularly when the guys in the next county got an MRAP or an LRAD of their own.  Who wants to look weak?  Good question to ask is, who is paying for all this boodle? You already know the answer.  The activities of DLA  are made possible by a bloated, out-of-control procurement system that buys far more equipment than even the Empire’s military can possibly use. Reform of the procurement process is one of those “third rail” topics that will end your promising congressional career if you bring it up. Much like criticism of the Zionist apartheid state in that regard; too hot to handle. And the lucky beneficiaries of this bundle of taxpayer funded largesse? The large weapons manufacturers, of course, the people with their thumbs on the scales of American foreign-policy, and, as Ferguson clearly shows, American domestic policy as well

  ***

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Ebola

In the face of the worst outbreak ever on the African continent, Ebola panic hit the US whens several sufferers were shipped to the US mainland for treatment. Usually hard-to-nonpluss New Yawkers became unglued as an incipient public health emergency was sent air freight live and direct to our shores. As Gwynn Guilford said in Quartz,

If your Twitter feed is anything like mine, news that Ebola might have turned up in Manhattan is freaking out a lot of Americans“Helpful” bits of commentary include as that it’s “deadly uncurable,” has a 90% fatality rate, and causes “a hemorrhagic fever that eventually leads to a complete bleed-out.” Today’s news merely amplifies the anxiety that’s been building since word got out that two Americans infected with Ebola have been moved to US hospitals for treatment.

And as if on cue, prominent US right-wingers, such as one D. Trump of said Manhattan,  fanned the flames of fear.

Thus, we have Donald Trump freaking out about having Ebola patients brought to the United States for treatment; Rush Limbaugh suggesting that bringing these patients to the US has something to do with the “Democrat agenda”; conservative doctor Ben Carson worrying that a container of Ebola-contaminated urine or vomit will “get disseminated out into the public”; and Republican Rep. Todd Rokita implying that immigrant children arriving from Central America might have Ebola.

While the Ebola outbreak is significant, some perspective is useful. Worldwide, Ebola has killed @2500 souls. Influenza has killed millions. Also Ebola is not that easy to catch—it isn’t an airborne infection, regardless of what some irresponsible pundits have said—and any country with half-decent health infrastructure can easily isolate patients and stop the disease from spreading. A primary reason it has traveled so easily in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea is that their health infrastructure is truly bad. Running out of rubber gloves and dumping corpses along river banks are simply not first world problems. Yet. And for more perspective, from Quartz:

Scott Z. Burns, who wrote the screenplay for Contagion, notes that Americans tend to freak out about “the monster we can see”—in this case, that would mean the gruesome images of Ebola victims bleeding from their faces—while ignoring more familiar but no less deadly risksHe has a point; thanks to the anti-vaccine movement, measles cases in the US have surged nearly fourfold since last year.

Or the above-mentioned influenza, which WILL kill you. Yet for all that, on Saturday we had the specter of a mob looting an Ebola center in West Point, Liberia, stealing contaminated equipment, bloodstained mattresses and sheets, according to the Associated Press. An estimated 37 patients fled during the raid, 20 of whom have returned with  17 patients still missing, per AP.  A sobering thought to keep in mind is that, from Monrovia, the disease can take a plane anywhere in the world. And apparently India is already preparing;  The Delhi airport has already set up a facility for people with suspected cases of Ebola. This one bears watching.
***

HOUNDS OF HELL

What makes ISIL the worst. “Simply put, ISIL is an unholy combination of al-Qaeda, the Khmer Rouge, and the Nazis,” writes Bobby Ghosh, and the minorities in its sights in Kurdistan are at risk of genuine, old-fashioned genocide. For those of us inured to the obeisance and compliance of the usual stenographers to power, one reads this with the usual caverats, grains of salt tossed to the four winds. Cue the Reichstag fire, the Maine, the rape of Belgium, the atrocities against Kuwaiti infants, the Gulf of Tonkin…

Yet the Islamic State demands a second look, if for no reason than their tweets.  And lest we chalk ISIL up to a social media marketing effort whose effectiveness is abetted and amplified by the national security state, there is this troubling matter of how much real estate they occupied almost overnight at the expense of the hapless Maliki regime. Apparently Iraqi soldiers threw down their weapons and stripped off their unis at the approach of the Sunni army. Haven’t we seen this movie before? President Droney McDrone authorized “humanitarian” bombing of ISIL sites and airdrops of food and water to an embattled Yazidi minority.

So much for nation-building. Could have rebuilt Detroit for what we spent in Iraq, but then Halliburton and KBR, etc. wouldn’t have fattened on no-bid contracts.

The fact that ISIS could arise seemingly out of nowhere speaks to the incompetence of our intelligence establishment, which seems to be spending most of its resources sifting through Americans’ personal communications for naked selfies from hot girls to trade.

But to return to Bobby Ghosh, who takes the threat seriously:

For sheer, brutal efficiency, ISIL is several steps above Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram or even the Taliban. The closest analog I can think of is the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian movement that killed more than two million people in the mid-1970s. There was a reminder of those horrors this week, when two top Khmer Rouge leaders were finally sentenced for their crimes. In their remorseless advance through eastern Syria and northern Iraq, ISIL’s fighters have demonstrated the same iron will and discipline that Khmer Rouge deployed against the Cambodian army and the Cambodian people. In territory Al-Baghdadi controls, he uses the same tactics of intimidation and public punishment that Pol Pot used to cow his fellow Cambodians.

In its appetite for genocide, ISIL seems to borrow from Adolf Hitler’s Nazis. It, too, has identified for extermination entire categories of people. Its fighters have systematically rounded up groups of “unbelievers”—and remember, that can mean anybody, including their fellow Sunnis—and slaughtered them in a manner Heinrich Himmler would have approved of. If the disturbing photographs (and be warned, they are very disturbing) in this Washington Post story were in grainy black-and-white, they could have come from a Nazi death camp. And online videos of these mass killings clearly show the zealous glee with which the executioners go about the work. 

That, then, is the nature of the monster on which the US is finally turning its guns. It will not die easily.

Those whom ISIL has already crucified or beheaded will probably not agree that this is an NSA-sponsored propaganda effort. It appears that in spite of the sheer fecklessness and state-sponsored waste of the surveillance state, there really are people who want us all dead. But who are they? This from a French site, who claims that the nominal “caliph,” al-Baghdadi, is a Mossad mole: (if you visit the site, turn on Google translate)

[The] real name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is ” Simon Elliott, “father and Jewish mother.

The so-called “Elliott” was recruited by Israel’s Mossad for one year during which he was trained in espionage and in the field to conduct a destructive strategy of Arab and Islamic societies.

This information was attributed to Edward Snowden and published by newspapers and other sites Web : the leader of the “Islamic State” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has cooperated with the United States Secret Service, British and Israelis to create an organization capable of attracting terrorist extremists around the world in one place.

***

Cockpit-MH017

MH 17- Down The Memory Hole

As we are putting the finishing touches on this article, the spectacle that was Malasian airlines flight MH 17 recedes from the news cycles. As the wreckage was still smoldering, official Washington and Eurozone apparatchiks were declaring, without fear of contradiction, that Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine had downed the plane with a surface to air missile. Making Vlad the Impaler and mother Russia ultimately responsible. Bad bad Russia.

But the evidence to date is not supported this theory. Indeed, where is the evidence? A mighty surveillance state with the ability to sift through every private communication such that the NSA contractors entrusted with enforcing “national security” are able to amass a collection of naked selfies to trade like baseball cards, is not able to produce undeniable photographic, radar, and satellite evidence of what really happened eastern Ukraine on that day? Are we supposed to believe that our intelligence apparatus is this incompetent? If not, can we get an accounting for several trillion dollars?

Flight MH– 17’s black boxes were supposed to be analyzed in London. Have you heard the report of what the impartial British government learned from its examination? Me neither. In the always dependable Washington’s Blog, Eric Zuesse made a compelling argument:

Only idiots would trust Britain to interpret these black boxes to determine what and who brought down that plane. But, fortunately, the physical evidence lying on the ground at the site in Ukraine was photographed very quickly by locals there and uploaded to the Internet sometimes before any fighters and any governments were able to tamper with anything; and there happened to be one modest-looking item found at the site that tells a remarkably complete and entirely credible and convincing account of how this plane came down.

Photographic evidence that remains show the fragments of the cockpit that impact wounds consistent with 30 mm machine gun fire entering the cockpit.

Zuesse again:

On July 30th, the retired Lufthansa pilot and published historian Peter Haisenko issued his “Shocking Analysis of the ‘Shooting Down’ of Malaysian MH17,” in which an extremely close-in photo of the most important piece of physical evidence regarding this event is shown — it’s the side-panel on the left-hand side of the cockpit directly where the downed plane’s pilot was seated — and this photo shocked me, too.

Here, first, is that side-panel shown inserted back onto its airliner, so that you can see precisely what and where this piece of the wreckage was on the plane. You will immediately notice the big gaping hole that had been shot through the side-panel where the pilot sits — in other words, targeting directly  at the plane’s pilot.

This is incredibly precise targeting, of a specific person, and not merely  of the far larger body of an airliner. A ground-based missile-shot fired from 33,000 feet below cannot achieve that gaping hole precisely where the pilot sits. A fighter jet plane that’s escorting the airliner into the conflict-zone can. 

Reports indicate that the cockpit and fuselage had been sawed in half and many pieces removed before international inspection teams arrived. In fact, last week the Dutch inspection team left in disgust, unable to see or inspect much of the crash site. And you have to go to  the World Socialist website to find this particular piece of information, which in this country might as well be a state secret:

A Thursday article in the New Straits Times, Malaysia’s flagship English-language newspaper, charged the US- and European-backed Ukrainian regime in Kiev with shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH 17 in east Ukraine last month. Given the tightly controlled character of the Malaysian media, it appears that the accusation that Kiev shot down MH17 has the imprimatur of the Malaysian state.

The US and European media have buried this remarkable report, which refutes the wave of allegations planted by the CIA in international media claiming that Russian president Vladimir Putin was responsible for the destruction of MH17, without presenting any evidence to back up this charge.

The New Straits Times article began, “Intelligence analysts in the United States have already concluded that Malaysia flight MH17 was shot down by an air-to-air missile, and that the Ukrainian government had had something to do with it. This corroborates an emerging theory postulated by local investigators that the Boeing 777-200 was crippled by an air-to-air missile and finished off with cannon fire from a jet that had been shadowing it as it plummeted to earth.”

 

 This conclusion is, of course, at sharp variance  with the intentions of our foreign-policy establishment and its war munitions paymasters  to foment war with Russia.  Journalist Pepe Escobar has written effectively about that here. Of course, our best people in London are still on the case prying open the secrets of that black box. Stay tuned.

***

Summer Soap Opera

August is typically the time for family vacations, the song of the cicadas, campfires and sweet summer corn.  Congress typically goes on its richly deserved vacation, thus keeping the wallets of average Americans safe for another five weeks. Typically a slow news time. But in the Commonwealth of Virginia, God save it, not this year.  We have the spectacle of the corruption trial of indicted and disgraced former Virginia Governor Transvaginal Ultrasound (Robert McDonnell) and his former cheerleader wife, Maureen. (And for those just joining this overheated screed, the epithet “transvaginal ultrasound” is applied to this former state servant in perpetuity, in tribute to the war on women, specifically on women’s reproductive health that he and his personal Iago, former Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli, waged on Virginia women several years ago.  In some circles, especially my own, this ruse was to redirect the energy of activists away from the real agenda, the privatization of state assets and to enablement of uranium mining in Virginia.)

In the aftermath of the 2012 presidential elections, a highly placed McCain aide was supposed to have described the Palins as a gaggle of “Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcuses from coast to coast”  on the campaign credit card. When considering the McDonnells, or should I say the Ultrasounds, think “Palins East.”  And as revealed by the federal prosecution’s case, there is is a breathtaking series of interlocking scams and grifts,  particularly in obtaining cash and “favors” from one Jonny Williams that would make La Palin herself blush with envy.  (If you would like to follow the actual reporting of this trial, it is done in exemplary fashion by Bill Sizemore and Joanna Kimberlin of our local paper, who have filed stories here, here, here, and here.)  Suffice it to say that Mr. Williams owned a dietary supplement company, and conferred favors upon the first couple in order to gain access and exposure for his products. Or so the prosecution alleges.  Gifts and favors included payment for a daughter’s wedding reception, use of a Ferrari, long stays in a Smith Mountain Lake vacation home, and numerous “loans” and gifts, including a Rolex watch that Maureen admired and requested for her husband. Maureen’s chief of staff, who quit on her, described her as a “nutbag,” thus making La Palin look a paragon of decorum.

Here’s what the defense alleges: that the formerly loving first couple were in fact estranged, and that Maureen  sought most of these favors by herself without the knowledge of her ostensibly too-busy-to-pay-attention husband. The defense team has concocted a remarkable bit of legal theater for the consumption us in the cheap seats. The former family values candidate is revealed as a man only too willing to do anything, including throw his wife under the proverbial bus, to salvage and resuscitate his dead in the water political career. Maureen is supposed to take the fall for the busy, busy guv.  He enters the courtroom all smiles and waves; she enters, gray-headed and head bowed, the better to portray shame.   The Guv is seated facing the jury; she sits sideways, head bowed. The narrative the defense is portraying is that the couple was so estranged that they could not have colluded in the extraction of favors from Williams.  Recent testimony, from the current mayor of Virginia Beach and president of a local bank, reveals that in the refinancing of loans for properties in Sandbridge, the Ultrasounds neglected to disclose some of these loans. Apparently that’s a felony. Whoopsie…

As I said, you need to read the reporting yourself to keep track of the many ins and outs. Several questions remain: how did they manage to seat a jury for this trial in one day? Between them, the Ultrasounds have a team of 20 lawyers, the best of whom bill at over $750 per hour. Who’s paying for this? If the Ultrasounds are so financially strapped as they testify, it certainly can’t be them. The so-called legal defense fund only has $250K, and simple arithmetic reveals that will soon run dry.  And did Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound and his wife get the idea that vitamin supplements might be a good and remunerative idea from his mentor and patron, Pat Robertson? You may recall that in between fleecing elderly widows out of their last quarter and standing up charitable African healthcare efforts in order to provide cover for air shipment of African blood diamonds back to the states, Robertson had a hand in a vitamin business himself. A cursory search with the Google shows no connection between Star Scientific, Jonny Williams, and Pat Robertson’s vitamin company, called Kalo Vita. Yet one wonders…

It says here that when all is said and done, the Gov walks. The primary modifier for the phrase “Virginia ethics laws” is “lax.”  All the Gov crackerjack defense team needs to do is create reasonable doubt in the minds of the hastily seated jury, a low bar. Look for former Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound to head the Republican Party as its presidential candidate in 2024, accompanied by a sleek new spouse.  And Maureen? There are no laws prohibiting a spouse or relative from profiting from a husband’s (or father’s) public office in Virginia. Craven? Yes? Shameless? Undoubtedly. But BAU in Virginia.

The defense presents its case this week.

***

Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is delighted his daughter got back safely from St. Louis last week.

 

 

Global Nausea

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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islamic-state-twitter
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation August 11, 2014

Any American influence left in Iraq should focus on rebuilding the credibility of national institutions.

– Editorial, The New York Times

Gosh, isn’t that what we spent eight years, 4,500 lives, and $1.7 trillion doing? And how did that work out? The Iraq war is just like the US financial system. The people in charge can’t imagine writing off their losses. Which, from the policy standpoint, leaves the USA pounding sand down so many rat holes that there may be no ground left to stand on anywhere. We’ll be lucky if our national life doesn’t soon resemble The Revenge of the Mole People.

The arc of this story points to at least one likely conclusion: the dreadful day that ISIS (shorthand for whatever they call themselves) overruns the US Green Zone in Baghdad. Won’t that be a nauseating spectacle? Perhaps just in time for the 2014 US elections. And what do you suppose the policy meeting will be like in the White House war room the day after?

Will anyone argue that the USA just take a break from further operations in the entire Middle East / North Africa region? My recommendation would be to stand back, do nothing, and see what happens — since everything we’ve done so far just leaves things and lives shattered. Let’s even say that ISIS ends up consolidating power in Iraq, Syria, and some other places. The whole region will get a very colorful demonstration of what it is like to live under an 11th century style psychopathic despotism, and then the people left after the orgy of beheading and crucifixion can decide if they like it. The experience might be clarifying.

In any case, what we’re witnessing in the Middle East — apparently unbeknownst to the newspapers and the cable news orgs — is what happens in extreme population overshoot: chaos, murder, economic collapse. The human population in this desolate corner of the world has expanded on the artificial nutriment of oil profits, which have allowed governments to keep feeding their people, and maintaining an artificial middle class to work in meaningless bureaucratic offices where, at best, they do nothing and, at worst, hassle their fellow citizens for bribes and payoffs.

There is not a nation on earth that is preparing intelligently for the end of oil — and by that I mean 1) the end of cheap, affordable oil, and 2) the permanent destabilization of existing oil supply lines. Both of these conditions should be visible now in the evolving geopolitical dynamic, but nobody is paying attention, for instance, in the hubbub over Ukraine. That feckless, unfortunate, and tragic would-be nation, prompted by EU and US puppeteers, just replied to the latest trade sanction salvo from Russia by declaring it would block the delivery of Russian gas to Europe through pipelines on its territory. I hope everybody west of Dnepropetrovsk is getting ready to burn the furniture come November. But that just shows how completely irrational the situation has become… and I stray from my point.

Which is that in the worst case that ISIS succeeds in establishing a sprawling caliphate, they will never be able to govern it successfully, only preside over an awesome episode of bloodletting and social collapse. This is especially true in what is now called Saudi Arabia, with its sclerotic ruling elite clinging to power. If and when the ISIS maniacs come rolling in on a cavalcade of You-Tube beheading videos, what are the chances that the technicians running the oil infrastructure there will stick around on the job? And could ISIS run all that machinery themselves? I wouldn’t count on it. And I wouldn’t count on global oil supply lines continuing to function in the way the world requires them to. If you’re looking for the near-future spark of World War Three, start there.

By the way, the US is no less idiotic than Ukraine. We’ve sold ourselves the story that shale oil will insulate us from all the woes and conflicts breaking out elsewhere in the world over the dissolving oil economy paradigm. The shale oil story is false. By my reckoning we have about a year left of the drive-to-Walmart-economy before the public broadly gets what trouble we’re in. The amazing thing is that the public might get to that realization even before its political leadership does. That dynamic leads straight to the previously unthinkable (not for 150 years, anyway) breakup of the United States.

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

 

Fear and loathing at Hotel Babylon

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THE ROVING EYE

isis-interview

Originally published in Asia Times on June 26, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

So now a huge Hardcore Sunnistan stretches all the way from the suburbs of Aleppo to Tikrit and from Mosul to the Jordanian/Iraqi border – the same one that dissolved in 2003 when Shock and Awe turned into Mission (Un)Accomplished.

In an eerie echo of Dick Cheney’s army’s footprints reverberating in the sands of Anbar province, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and their coalition of the willing (jihadis, Islamists, Ba’athists and tribal sheikhs) now pose as the “liberators” of Iraqi Sunnis from the clutches of an “evil” Shi’ite majority government in Baghdad.

In addition, ISIS also controls the PR wars. Here, a jihadi details how any sort of possible Washington “kinetic” involvement will be interpreted as an unholy alliance between the Empire and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against the underdogs.

From a Sunni perspective, it’s down with Iraq’s Counter-terrorism law; down with de-Ba’athification (with the ascent of neo-Ba’athist Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia – JRTN, led by former Saddam honcho Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri); down with the Interior Ministry in Baghdad going after Sunni politicians; down with protests being crushed.

At the same time, it’s the return of the US-sponsored Sahwa (Sons of Iraq) – who fiercely fought al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2007, the mother of ISIS – and the return of assorted Shi’ite militias (Muqtada al-Sadr not only repelled the new wave of US “military advisers” – that’s how it started in Vietnam – but also warned that his own badass Men in Black will “shake the ground” fighting ISIS.) The mid-2000s are the new normal; it’s gonna be militia hell all over again.

Mesopotamia, we got a problem. Neo-Ba’athists want nothing but a secular Iraq run by Sunnis, Saddam-style (rather former neocon darling Ahmad Chalabi.) ISIS wants a Caliphate extending all across the Levant under Sharia law. Something’s got to give.

What will give will be the Iraqi nation itself – the balkanized, protracted (intended) consequence of the 2003 invasion and occupation, finally transmogrified into Jihad Central.

It’s payback time
The Obama administration’s “strategy” (remember “Don’t Do Stupid Shit”, the Ukraine strategy?) is to impose regime change on al-Maliki; after all, he had the bad taste of refusing to let US troops keep occupying Iraq past the 2012 deadline, and on top of it his government is close to Tehran.

Thus the answer to the now legendary question of how the US intel satellite maze failed to capture that long column of ISIS Men in Black in their gleaming white Toyota Land Cruisers crossing the Syrian-Iraq desert wasteland. Call it the Mother of All Intel Failures (remember Saddam’s talk of Mother of All Battles?)

Here we have trademark Empire of Chaos “revenge” against Baghdad, Tehran and – why not – Moscow (after all Russian president Vladimir Putin offered full support to al-Maliki to fight the jihadis.) Iraq duly merges with Ukraine. And as for payback redux, it’s – almost – all spelled out here.

As for the Beltway-peddled myth – once again – of “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists”, this week Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria pledged its allegiance to ISIS. This means that ISIS now virtually controls both sides of the border, at Albu Kamal in Syria and Al-Qaim in Iraq. As a bonus, ISIS and allied Sunni tribal sheikhs also surrounded the US-controlled Camp Anaconda in Iraq and are ready for a long-term mortar game. Will Beltway “analysts” ever learn?

That little fiction known as Jordan – run by King Playstation, aka Abdullah – will be ripe for the taking as soon as hardcore Salafis from Zarqa (Zarqawi’s hometown) totally align with ISIS. Add that piece of real estate to the embryo Levantine Caliphate and we’ll be talking major business – oil refineries possibly included.

“Don’t Do Stupid Shit”, applied to Syria and Iraq, means that the Obama administration has gone (almost) no holds barred in its “Assad must go” policy, by the way a Ba’ath government; what’s implied is that Washington is an ally of ISIS in Syria, while a (determined?) foe of ISIS in Iraq. Assad’s “sin” is that he’s an ally of both Tehran (like al-Maliki) and, most of all (from an American perspective), Hezbollah. And now comes the Obama administration’s latest “Stupid Shit” – in the form of weaponizing “appropriately vetted” rebels in Syria.

Lording over this suspension of disbelief scenario, the whole Beltway, White House included, sells the illusion it is thoughtfully deliberating whether the real dangerous Men in Black here are in fact from ISIS – and what to do about them.

As some sort of Washington-Tehran cooperation against ISIS becomes self-evident, that poses a major problem for the perennial Bomb Iran crowd in the Beltway, as well as for hardliners in Tehran; after all ISIS has erected a massive geostrategic barrier between Iran and Syria, threatening Tehran’s connection with Hezbollah.

Likudniks will go no holds barred to prevent any cooperation. But that will be a detail anyway. Baghdad may get all the help it needs from Iranian special forces and militias such as Muqtada’s. ISIS does not have the manpower or the expertise to lay siege to Baghdad; people in Sadr City alone would rip them to shreds. Not to mention attack Najaf and Karbala, the Shi’ite holy cities, which are already protected by heavily armed popular brigades.

Will NATO meet Jihadistan?
Kirkuk is now under virtual Kurd control. Its “devolution” to Baghdad will be immensely problematic – and that’s a major euphemism. Kirkuk produces around 670,000 barrels of oil a day. Up to 300,000 are exported via the pipeline to Ceyhan, in Turkey. Yet only 120,000 barrels a day have been online these past few weeks.

Iraq’s total production is 3.3 million barrels a day – the bulk concentrated in the south, around Basra. There’s no realistic evidence ISIS would ever be able to capture Basra.

So the problem remains some refineries in the north such as Baiji. Elite Iraqi counter-terrorism forces can deal with it. If ISIS by any chance would be able to hang on to some oil and gas – a major if – that’s certified joy for, most of all, market speculators. And soon there might be thousands of US special forces “securing” Iraqi oil fields and the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Assad’s Syrian Army can – and it’s already – contributing to fight ISIS. In the end, ISIS can realistically be repelled by the Syrian Army, elite Iranian special forces, Shi’ite brigades and yes – an imminent cameo by those second-hand fighter jets from Russia and Belarus.

ISIS won’t take over Baghdad. But like a freak mutant, in a Hardcore Sunnistan goes Hollywood fashion, it might go even more bonkers and try to take over Amman, Doha and even Riyadh.

The Empire of Chaos will keep betting on – what else – chaos. And it’s going swimmingly its way – from the real possibility of a final push towards a Great Kurdistan (in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and even Iran) to sectarian militia hell all across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Yemen. Not to mention all possible ramifications in Northern Africa, Central Asia and the North Caucasus.

What will Hillary Clinton, the Hillarator, do? In this case, one’s gotta wait for early 2017. She could always pull another “We came, we saw, he died” and triumphantly stage a second coming in the Levant as a droned Athena singing Light My Fire.

In the end, NATO won’t meet Jihadistan. No “responsibility to protect” (R2P) Arabs from killing Arabs. NATO will be – gleefully – “watching” in the sidelines. Because from Northern Africa and across the Middle East to the Caucasus and all the way to Western China, the name of the (burning) game is to keep Dr Zbig Brzezinski’s “Eurasian Balkans” ever simmering in a funeral pyre.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Arab Spring, Jihad Summer

From the keyboard of Pepe Escobar

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THE ROVING EYE

caliphate

Originally published in Asia Times on July 2, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

Welcome to IS. No typo; the final goal may be (indiscriminate) regime change, but for the moment name change will do. With PR flair, at the start of Ramadan, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, or ISIL – the Islamic State of the Levant – to some) solemnly declared, from now on, it will be known as Islamic State (IS). 

“To be or not to be” is so … metaphysically outdated. IS is – andhere it is – in full audio glory. And we’re talking about the full package – Caliph included: “the slave of Allah, Ibrahim Ibn ‘Awwad Ibn Ibrahim Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Badrial-Hashimi al-Husayni al-Qurashi by lineage, as-Samurra’i by birth and upbringing, al-Baghdadi by residence and scholarship”. Or, to put it more simply, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 

IS has virtually ordered “historic” al-Qaeda – yes, that 9/11-related (or not) plaything of one Osama bin Laden – as well as every other jihadi outfit on the planet, to pledge allegiance to the new imam, in theological theory the new lord over every Muslim. There’s no evidence Osama’s former sidekick, Ayman “the doctor” al-Zawahiri will obey, not to mention 1.5 billion Muslims across the world. Most probably al-Qaeda will say “we are the real deal” and a major theological catfight will be on.


After all, in Syria, ISIL as well as Jabhat al-Nusra were initially fighting under the banner of al-Qaeda, until the brand – in spectacular fashion – decided to dump al-Baghdadi. He and ISIL went too far – with all those videos of decapitations and crucifixions and serial profanation of Shi’ite, Sufi and Christian sanctuaries. 

Al-Baghdadi, born Ibrahim al-Badri in Samarra, is an average Sunni Iraqi cleric with a degree in pedagogy from the University of Baghdad. His alter ago was born after Shock and Awe in 2003, and soon metamorphosed into a de facto serial killer – blowing up Shi’ite kids at ice-cream shops or scores of women at Shi’ite weddings. 

ISIL’s track record in Syria includes banning every flag apart from its own; the destruction of any “polytheist” temple or sanctuary (except if it is Sunni); and strict imposition of Islamically correct women wear. Most of all, it is a track record of terror. This is not an army, rather a well-trained militia of professional mujahid, European passport holders included, with battlefield experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and, to a lesser degree, Chechnya. Heavy weaponizing is petrodollar-financed – the usual, wealthy “Gulf donors”, which does not exclude official connections. 

Sources of income diversified mightily when ISIL captured the oilfields surrounding Deir Ezzor in Syria; and after the recent offensive across Niniveh province in Iraq, they were able to lay their hands on vast arsenals of heavy artillery, lots of cash and gold bullion and, why not, US Humvees left behind. Their trademark, of course, are those columns of brand new white Toyota Land cruisers – free off road advertising Toyota HQ in Japan may not find particularly welcome. 

Loaded with oil and profiting from tax revenue, IS is now firmly on its way to provide (minimal) services and support a (mighty) Jihadi Army – much like the Taliban from 1996 to 2001. One may be sure IS will continue its massive “social engagement” strategy; talk about a chatty Caliphate which loves YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. No wonder they are a hit among Google generation recruits – as well as becoming fund-raising aces via gruesome videos. In thesis, indoctrination progresses hand in hand with “charity work”; residents of Aleppo, for instance, can dwell on how ISIL (gruesomely) looks and feels on the ground. 

Mission forever unaccomplished
It’s unclear how the new IS reality will play on the ground. The new Caliph has in fact declared a jihad on all that basket of corrupt and/or incompetent Middle East “leaders” – so some fierce “battle for survival” reaction from the Houses of Saud and Thani, for instance, is expected. It’s not far-fetched to picture al-Baghdadi dreaming of lording over Saudi oilfields – after decapitating all Shi’ite workers, of course. 

And that’s just a start; in one of their Tweeter accounts IS has published a map of all the domains they intend to conquer within the span of five years; Spain, Northern Africa, the Balkans, the whole Middle East and large swathes of Asia. Well, they are certainly more ambitious than NATO. 

Being such a courageous bunch, the House of Saud is now tempted to accept that imposing regime change on Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq is a bad idea. That puts them in direct conflict with the Obama administration, whose plan A, B and C is regime change. 

Turkey – the former seat of the Caliphate, by the way – remains mute. No wonder; Ankara – crucially – is the top logistical base of IS. Caliph Erdogan’s got to be musing about his own future, now that he’s facing competition. In theory, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan are all saying they’re ready to fight what would be a “larger-scale war” than that gift that keeps on giving, the original, Cheney junta-coined GWOT (global war on terror). 

And then there’s the future of the new $500 million Obama fund to “appropriately vetted” rebels in Syria, which in fact means the expansion of covert CIA “training facilities” in Jordan and Turkey heavily infiltrated/profited from by IS. Think of hordes of new IS recruits posing as “moderate rebels” getting ready for a piece of the action. 

It’s easier for Brazil to win the World Cup with a team of crybabies with no tactical nous than having US Secretary of State John Kerry and his State Department ciphers understand that the Syrian “opposition” is controlled by jihadis. But then again, they do know – and that perfectly fits into the Empire of Chaos’s not so hidden Global War on Terror (GWOT) agenda of an ever-expanding proxy war in both Syria and Iraq fueled by terror financing. 

So 13 years ago Washington crushed both al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then the Taliban were reborn. Then came Shock and Awe. Then came “Mission Accomplished”. Then al-Qaeda was introduced in Iraq. Then al-Qaeda was dead because Osama bin Laden was dead. Then came ISIL. And now there’s IS. And we start all over again, not in the Hindu Kush, but in the Levant. With a new Osama. 

What’s not to like? If anyone thinks this whole racket is part of a new live Monty Python sketch ahead of their reunion gig this month in London, that’s because it is.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

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