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  • Thursday, December 22, 2005


    War on Terror: The Big Picture

    Let us not lose sight of what this “War on Terror" is really about:

    Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the
    surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society….

    From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all
    thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great
    extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used
    deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy, and disease could
    be eliminated within a few generations. And in fact, without being used for any
    such purpose, but by a sort of automatic process -- by producing wealth which it
    was sometimes impossible not to distribute -- the machine did raise the living
    standards of the average human being very greatly over a period of about fifty
    years at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth

    But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the
    destruction -- indeed, in some sense was the destruction -- of a hierarchical
    society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat,
    lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motor-car
    or even an aeroplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of
    inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth
    would confer no distinction. It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in
    which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be
    evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged
    caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if
    leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings
    who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to
    think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or
    later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep
    it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of
    poverty and ignorance. To return to the agricultural past, as some thinkers
    about the beginning of the twentieth century dreamed of doing, was not a
    practicable solution. It conflicted with the tendency towards mechanization
    which had become quasi-instinctive throughout almost the whole world, and
    moreover, any country which remained industrially backward was helpless in a
    military sense and was bound to be dominated, directly or indirectly, by its
    more advanced rivals. Nor was it a satisfactory solution to keep the masses in
    poverty by restricting the output of goods. This happened to a great extent
    during the final phase of capitalism, roughly between 1920 and 1940. The economy
    of many countries was allowed to stagnate, land went out of cultivation, capital
    equipment was not added to, great blocks of the population were prevented from
    working and kept half alive by State charity. But this, too, entailed military
    weakness, and since the privations it inflicted were obviously unnecessary, it
    made opposition inevitable. The problem was how to keep the wheels of industry
    turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced,
    but they must not be distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this
    was by continuous warfare. The essential act of war is destruction, not
    necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of
    shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths
    of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too
    comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of
    war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of
    expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A
    Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build
    several hundred cargo-ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having
    brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labours
    another Floating Fortress is built. In principle the war effort is always so
    planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs
    of the population. In practice the needs of the population are always
    underestimated, with the result that there is a chronic shortage of half the
    necessities of life; but this is looked on as an advantage. It is deliberate
    policy to keep even the favoured groups somewhere near the brink of hardship,
    because a general state of scarcity increases the importance of small privileges
    and thus magnifies the distinction between one group and another….

    War, it will be seen, accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in
    a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be quite simple to waste
    the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging
    holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods
    and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not
    the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned here is not
    the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept
    steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself. Even the humblest Party
    member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within
    narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and
    ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and
    orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the
    mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is
    actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not
    matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a
    state of war should exist.

    - George Orwell, 1984, Part 2, Chapter 9.

    Fast forward to the spring of 1997 when a “non-profit, educational organization” called The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), was formed by so-called neo-conservatives including William Kristol, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby (former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney) and Paul Wolfowitz (former Deputy Secretary of Defense to President George W. Bush and now President of the World Bank). In September 2000, PNAC issued a report entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century.” This report outlined what were to become key elements of President George W. Bush’s defense and foreign policies, similar to the manner in which Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” telegraphed his plans for what became Nazi Germany.

    Here are some important and telling excerpts from the PNAC report, with certain passages underlined for added emphasis:

    The United States is the world’s only superpower, combining preeminent military
    power, global technological leadership, and the world’s largest economy.
    Moreover, America stands at the head of a system of alliances which includes the
    world’s other leading democratic powers. At present the United States faces no
    global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this
    advantageous position as far into the future as possible….

    Preserving the desirable strategic situation in which the United States now finds itself requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and in the

    America’s strategic goal used to be containment of the Soviet Union; today the task is to preserve an international security environment conducive to American interests and ideals. The military’s job during the Cold War was to deter Soviet expansionism. Today its task is to secure and expand the “zones of democratic peace;” to deter the rise of a new great-power competitor;
    defend key regions of Europe, East Asia and the Middle East; and to preserve
    American preeminence through the coming transformation of war made possible by
    new technologies

    If an American peace is to be maintained, and expanded, it must have a secure foundation on unquestioned U.S. military preeminence….

    America’s global leadership, and its role as the guarantor of the current great-power peace, relies upon the safety of the American homeland; the preservation of a favorable balance of power in Europe, the Middle East and surrounding energy-producing region, and East Asia; and the general stability of the international system of nation-states relative to terrorists, organized crime, and other “non-state” actors….

    The presence of American forces in critical regions around the world is the visible
    expression of the extent of America’s status as a superpower and as the
    guarantor of liberty, peace and stability….it will be difficult, if not
    impossible, to sustain the role of global guarantor without a substantial
    overseas presence
    ….Whether established in permanent bases or on rotational
    deployments, the operations of U.S. and allied forces abroad provide the first
    line of defense of what may be described as the “American security

    In the Persian Gulf region, the presence of American forces, along with British and French units, has become a semi-permanent fact of life. Though the immediate mission of those forces is to enforce the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, they represent the long-term commitment of the United States and its major allies to a region of vital importance. [What is so vitally important about this region? Could it perhaps be the oil?] Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American
    force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein
    [because of the oil?].

    To preserve American military preeminence in the coming decades, the Department of Defense must move more aggressively to experiment with new technologies and operational concepts, and seek to exploit the emerging revolution in military affairs. Information technologies, in particular, are becoming more prevalent and significant
    components of modern military systems
    …. [Hmm…perhaps like new and more
    efficient methods of electronic surveillance to monitor possible communications
    with terrorists?]

    Further, the process of transformation [i.e., the coming transformation of war made possible by new technologies], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some
    catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor

    Fast forward to September 11, 2001: What an awful, awful tragedy! But what a fortuitous circumstance for the Bush Administration and the neo-conservatives. One year after issuance of the PNAC Report, here is the very catastophic and catalyzing event they needed to remove from the public mind any further discussions as to the legitimacy of President Bush's "election," as well as to not only accelerate the policy outcomes they desired, but also to ensure their policies would be adopted immediately with virtually no political opposition!

    Fast forward to the present: We now have a "War on Terror" that has been fought since September 11, 2001, with no end in sight, against a slippery, sort of ephemeral enemy in the form of loosely-knit terror organizations such as Al Qaeda. Who is Osama Bin Laden? How could this one guy manage to elude the combined military might of the United States and its major allies for so long? Do the "powers-that-be" really want him caught? Isn't it better for them to have this sort of reverse Big Brother in the form of an enemy that is always on the loose somewhere? Will Osama Bin Laden ever die? And we now have a president who has openly admitted to ordering spying on American citizens in violation of Federal law, and he and his propaganda machine have millions of Americans congratulating him for placing "national security" before civil liberties and millions of others too afraid to object for fear of being branded as unpatriotic or "enemies of the State." Wonderful!

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