The last thing us younger generations need is the dilution of our mood. By all means speak for yourself and if you wish to defend the spectacle of democracy that is the representative model that Britain employs, be my guest. We, however, do not see representation in our system and never have. Hence, the lowest voting rate in the last General Election was in our demographic, where a meager 40 percent of those eligible cast their vote, 20 percent below the national average.
We are pissed off, for good reason. The high water mark has been reached. Unlike those writing their editorials who suckled on the teat of the state in the post-war years, my generation have our roots in the legacies of Thatcherism. Corporate Britain reigns supreme. Housing is unaffordable and university a debt to bear for the rest of our lives, reduced to luxury we question whether we can afford. The dreams of our youth are chipped away and dredge of a life serving the interest of others predominates. Our reward is smaller property for startlingly higher prices that prices out the vast majority.
Inequality in Britain is astounding compared to our neighbours. Cynical economics employed by successive chancellors from both Labour and the Conservatives have used house price inflation to fuel the economy. Those who owned houses pre-boom saw their social position improve exponentially. Those who did not have ownership face being moved out of the job-filled cities either by circumstance or force. In their short-sightedness, policy makers have left us with social conditions that the generation who like to laud above us never had to contend with. Their pontification falls on deaf ears.
We know what Labour did. We know the positives and the negatives. But the Victorian era understanding of the deserving and undeserving poor was given roots by New Labour. Not only that, the education reforms, privatisation and even the loathed ATOS checks on incapacity benefit were brain childs of Labour’s neo-liberal modernisers. Class politics have returned in a huge way and knowing this full well, we exist under a state that relentlessly constrains all of the social vessels that we could once employ to get our voices heard. Radicalism is gone. The left has been decimated.
The victory of the US and its allies in the Cold war, spearheaded by Thatcher and Reagan, tore into the social structures that were in place to stem radicality as soon as the threat of revolt was controlled. Full spectrum dominance eviscerated the possibility of a world without US dominance, even if it is now being brokered by a semblance of multi-polarity.
Throughout Europe a crass, simplified, highly propagandistic narrative has been the hallmark of our education. America and Britain are the global policemen of our world, helping the free world. What we have seen in the news flies in the face of what we read in our textbooks. We know that the global corporations are bound to US militarism. We see the propping up of client states. We see the hypocrisy and geo-political interests that channel warfare, so we are receptive to the call for dissent, revolt and the return of a revolutionary spectre haunting Europe.
Ask a Greek, Cypriot or Spaniard what power they have at this moment in history. The neo-liberal orthodoxy has brought the war home and a whole new type of engagement is necessary to confront the difficulties of our time. The advancements and defeats of recent history mean the historical analysis offered by Marx and Marxists is now highly limited. We need to develop new ontologies, committed to core principles; a modern form of Chartism with an established series of demands that fuels social action. Riots, upheaval and instability are coming. Who knows what next?
Faced with the problem of political participation of our time, voting is an irrelevancy. Clung on to by the privileged, the cloak to throw over the pan that sets alight. The riots were a contained explosion that indicated the radical disavowal sections of my generation had and continue have with current orthodoxy. The next time will not be quelled by the re-introduction of what should have been basic rights. We have targets in our crosshairs. Those in power must heed the warnings and start to shift, else they’ll be pushed to. And that is what democracy is about.
We have an information gap regarding the beginning of the Libyan uprising. For a few days, the east of the country was destabilised. The eastern peoples and tribes believed that a new dawn had emerged and Gaddafi years were over. To many (whether the majority or not still remains unknown) this led to elation. However, this (mass) eruption was momentary, for Gaddafi’s crackdown looked to be ending all potentialities of change. Gaddafi seemed to be on course for a complete reclamation of power. The only thing standing in his way was the “International Community”. The imperial intervention is the only reason the armed conflict perpetuates. It is for this reason that the leaders of the rebels continue to reject the terms of ceasefire – for they know their only hope of power is shot from NATO planes.
The topic of discussion “Imperial Adventure or Humanitarian Intervention?” was inherently misleading, a false dichotomy and allowed the cancerous moral ambiguity to take hold of the room. Three of the panellists disagreed on the actions our government should have taken. Oliver advocated intervention, Ahmed supported it as the forces he is intimately connected with required intervention to continue to hope for change and Richard thought diplomatic routes could have been tried before intervention, which is never right.
Sukant Chandan took the position that needed to be taken; our problem is with the UK government, solely, and we must meet discuss, plan and act on how to stop their imperial aggression from the inside. As Andy Higginbottom, Ethesham Haque, myself and Fiona Edwards echoed from the floor – we must focus our attention on our governments and “get serious about British imperialism”. In case anyone missed it, the forum was the Equality Movement. A place where we collectively come to understand how we are living in the belly of imperialism and educate ourselves about our government’s machinations before we even begin to politicise about others. As this seemed to elude the majority of the room, one can only conclude that the equality movement, as it stands, is a forum for anti-imperialism at a time when the people it speaks to and with are not anti-imperialist. The moral supremacy of those who prescribe to the ideals of the West makes a straw man of the anti-imperialist position, so allow me to restate it.
Gaddafi is opposed on many levels and for many reasons. Libyan society has its own internal dynamics that only Libyans can truly know and overcome – it is not for us (i.e. those in the belly of the beast) to speak of their struggle to justify our own governments action, implicitly or explicitly. As most can see only too clearly – the pointing of the finger towards the third world is a diversion away from the brutality of our world, at this very moment in Bahrain, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq… Moreover and most importantly, the fingerprints of our intelligence services are all over the murder scene that is Libya. Let us unite in opposition against the perpetuators of these crimes.
While one may feel that Sukant Chandan, like Ortega, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Louis Farrakhan, Mumia Abu Jamal and many others have bent the stick too far in supporting Gaddafi, their general attempt to re-humanise the de-humanised is necessary. Anti-imperialist integrity demands relentless focus on the perpetrators of the current global order and the denial of their right to decide who is and is not human. One should never make other country’s leaders accountable to our government and our constructed and decrepit ethics of “human rights”, by proxy. Cries for “dignity”, “democracy” and “equality” sufficed to find consensus within the room on Friday. However, it was fundamentally problematic as it was predicated not on rational argument – but emotion. Areas of disagreement were contested with screams from the floor. Two of the panelists (Ahmed and then Richard) demanded that Sukant “shut up!”, while Oliver constantly harassed Lowkey to stop him from talking. With such a departure from reasoned discussion, a basic and always banal point was missed.
The CIA employs people in Langley whose sole function in life is to work out ways of maintaining power. The most obvious conclusion, therefore, is that empire’s interests were in both Gaddafi’s basket and the bitter tribes of eastern Libya. This is not to say that the governments determine the cause of history. Rather it is consistent and well known policy to build diplomatic dams to ensure that any radical sentiment can be contained with reforms that conserve the general order and/or make strategic gains. Effective strategies are contingent upon planning and a feasible transitional power structure, such conditions require years of meticulous planning and negotiations.
There is now a mountain of evidence that French, US and British intelligence services were in play from the very beginning. So, we must posit the hidden fist that precipitates the market’s hand. As I have argued elsewhere, morality is never the catalyst for military force and to even humour the possibility is to fall into the realms of ideology. Likewise, as Sukant argued from the platform, imperial intervention is not engaged upon on a whim. The decision to engage in Libya was taken by our government not on the basis of caprice, but strategy. If one refuses to accept this, then it is a legitimate question to ask “how do you consider yourself anti-imperialist?”
If one holds that our government invaded the sovereign territory of Libya on the basis of unverified and unsubstantiated claims of “massacres” to prevent a “greater massacre”, then one accepts that our government is at war for reasons that include morality, compassion and a form of internationalism. Advocates of such a position, are, as far as I am concerned, are liberal. The fundamental lesson of Iraq has not be learnt – don’t believe the words of leaders and embedded correspondents.
Holding such a position does not entail that the Libyan people are represented by those who seek to negotiate terms with imperialism. Never did Sukant or anyone undermine the legitimate grievances of the Libyan people, who are not all “contras”. The masses should not be forgotten, neglected or spoke past. The reason the anti-imperialist position is taken is not tokenist, foolish support for old leadership, it is because we must understand the liberation of the world’s people requires a true break with 500 years of imperial rule from the North European peoples and their settler colonies. We must also pay homage where it is due, for all Gaddafi’s faults (and, yes, there are many) he did fund, support and facilitate anti-imperialist struggles throughout the world. The Libyan crowd who attended the meeting and heckled Sukant non-stop exposed that they’ve little care for what Gaddafi does internationally, as they have such grievances with him domestically. Such a position is understandable, for a Libyan. Not supposed Internationalists.
The Libyan people stand in an intolerable situation. Once again, collective punishment is being administered by the forces of empire against the mass population for the power of their leadership. As I write this, the people are being bombed with depleted uranium infused rockets by a conglomerate of Western governments and their neo-colonial client states. Libya has tribal conflict grounds enough for civil war – and it is a battle of structural elites one ruled by a variable who the West hate (especially the tories), the others trusted figures who know how to do business. In between all of this are the Libyan masses – who lack proper representation and are stranded between a rock and a hard place.
The rebel’s leadership are strongly neo-liberal and represent sections of Libyan society, bitter at Gaddafi’s stifling of their interests, economic and otherwise. The “Interim Government” has been recognised by the French, Qatari, Italian and Portugese government and have begun a process of privatising the nationalised Central Bank and Oil industries. Just like in Iraq, the destabilisation of the regime is followed by the seizing of the countries assets through a scheme of privitisation. The language is more complex, the procedure more beauracratic, but the will remains colonial, and the architects remain Western.
There was nothing new in the build up to this war – anyone who is a serious about anti-imperialism did not fall into the trap of moral ambiguity. There is not a case of Western interventionism that was engaged in for compassionate reasons. The state cannot operate on such a level, to humour it is deeply naive. Seymour himself recognises this, as he sees the state as a structure composed of the interests of capital – neocons just call it realism. We call it empire and empire works to further its interests continuously.
However, empire’s time is coming to an end; it is freefalling and will have hit the ground before the end of our lifetimes. While hurtling towards the ground, austerity budget in hand, it is prone to lash out and attempt to reclaim its losses. We must not take our eyes off it and make sure the beast dies its long overdue death. The Libyan intervention is the containment of the Arab Spring, an attempt from empire to stifle third world momentum. It is an ill conceived plan to make strategic gains. It could be a disaster, let us hope it is and that the Libyan people unite to slice the fingers off the imperial forces. Though, one at the moment must admit, the West may have a dream come true if the world remains enchanted. As Gideon Rachman articulated in the Financial Times other day:
“policymakers in Washington…have a dream. In this, the governments of Syria and Iran are toppled and replaced by much more moderate regimes. The Israelis, reassured by the disappearance of their biggest foes, agree to the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Egypt stabilises and becomes a prosperous democracy. Colonel Gaddafi is defeated and the grateful Libyans hail the west as heroes. A new and legitimate Yemeni government takes up the fight against al-Qaeda. The Saudi government embraces reforms that defuse its internal crisis, and keep the oil flowing.”
The invasion was got through on the basis of an information gap, filled by international media and a diasporic Libyan community. Diplomacy was not extended, just arms. Now the imperial airforce controls the skies of another Arab country, bombs its people at will and our radicals want to perpetuate the moral ambiguity that this thrived upon. It is just like Iraq in this respect. Think about the amount of people queueing up to assassinate Saddam, both literally and metaphorically. When the time came to invade, there were thousands of Iraqis ready to sing to the tune of empire to kill their foe. With Libya it is no different. With the destruction of Iraq witnessed by all, one would think the world would have learnt a lesson, especially the world’s self-professed radicals. Instead, they deliver talks substantiated with moral ambiguity. As far as I am concerned, it is not possible at this moment in history to be neutral between forces – it is clear what the terms of this conflict now are and those who take the side of the rebellion, side with the imperialists. This goes some way to explaining why Richard Seymour has “far more in common” with a neo-conservative follower of Irving Kristol than a third-worldist.
“It is no use painting the foot of the tree white, the strength of the bark cries out from beneath the paint” (Aime Cesaire).
After years in the doghouse, the doctrine of humanitarian intervention is once again scratching at the door – begging for a return from exile. The line of obfuscation: “we were hijacked by neo-cons in the case of Iraq, really the doctrine stands for the type of morality exhibited in Sierra Leone or the Balkans”. The recent media contortions of unrest in Libya have not only opened the doghouse, but added a sense of immediacy to the need for debate of this issue and let the mongrel back in.
Having myself previously espoused the theory, believing it to be a continuation of the internationalism of the left, I critique it on the most fundamental issue with the doctrine – that it is a moral cloak. The doctrine is of no practical value – it is merely ideological. Platitudinous as it may be, it needs to be said: military aggression is never “humanitarian”, neither is starving third world countries through sanctions, installing puppet governments nor riding rough shot over historical and cultural traditions. Abstract morality, the supposed guiding principle, necessarily excludes historical analysis – as from a vacuum it is far easier to make blunt Manichean decisions where the West is good and all systems that are different are evil. Engaging in a genuine global political discussion of ethics entails fidelity to the truths of history – acknowledging that Western imperialism in all its forms and guises is not the solution, but the fundamental problem stifling true progress through imposing its will upon the world. Our global ethic seeks to break the chains of hegemony and unleash the forces, some good, some bad that have been excluded from the modern conception of statehood and stability.
Humanitarian language is spoken to drive up popular support for what would otherwise be seen as antithetical to the values of freedom, democracy and justice. The self-acknowledging imperialist does not care for internationalism and does not recognise the universality of their obligations. Their support is harnessed through statistics and analysis about the effect on Western markets – a cost/benefit analysis suffices to garner their support.
Fluffed up language about alienated and oppressed “others”, who require the liberal media to speak for them is used for a purpose. At times prefiguring imperial intervention it is worth comparing the business and mainstream news. The business is brazen in its intentionality – the mainstream news argues for the same conclusions, not through appealing to heads or wallets, but to hearts. It is of no coincidence that the manual for liberal intervention is dusted off when the cost of a barrel of oil has increased to as much as it was pre-Iraq. Liberal humanitarianism carries the “compassionate” along with the imperial without the vast majority being aware of this reality.
Although bereft of practical functionality, the doctrine evokes “morality” as if it is absolute and recognised by all. An analysis of our moral heart is instructive. Principles of exception run through all moral calculuses from Bentham to Rawls. Action based (deontological) and consequentialist (teleological) ethical systems have restricted scope that essentially break down to subjective choices on the part of the moral agent. When applied internationally a deeply Eurocentric and worrying political ethic manifests. The realpolitick, as most know only too well, restricts moral salience to nation-hood, cultural affinities or whiteness. The unseen foundation upon which abstract thought takes place is oppression.
Liberal internationalism is paternalistic and neo-colonialist at heart. The presupposition is that the Enlightenment provided the whole world with the tools and pathway for progress – in light of this, all that predated must be destroyed for the dawn of the new demands the disintegrating of the old. The march of “progress” and “civilisation” can only be described as barbarous. World history will judge the damage of our new ontologies – our whole way of being in the world is infected with a sense of mastery. Liberal internationalism is predicated upon the global hierarchy which places the thought, products, culture and lives of the West on high and all “others” upon low. Our moralising is nothing more than a shrill call for assimilation.
Human Rights may purport to be universal. In their abstract form, the declarations are universal in scope – but never in application. That many do not even reflect upon their inconsistent and contradictory ethics is enough to underwrite their claims. Universal morality is not an ideal that I wish to shatter, rather, like Aime Cesaire: “I have a different idea of a universal. It is of a universal rich with all that is particular, rich with all the particulars there are, the deepening of each particular, the coexistence of them all”. It is time we all realised we cannot attain this ideal without acknowledging the rotten core of Western morality and its vacuous and decrepit universality, and follow the consequences of this realisation through, no matter the cost. In the short term this entails removing the West’s global military and “diplomatic” presence, not extending it.
By Adam Hudson
During the Nuremberg Trials, the chief American prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, famously stated[i]: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” America has a long history of war and its accumulated evils. It began as thirteen small colonies that sat along the Atlantic coast. In over a century, the United States expanded all the way to the Pacific Ocean – from sea to shining sea. The process was not pretty. It involved the genocide of the native Americans and the enslavement of millions of black Africans whose free labor was needed to fuel the American capitalist economy. At the dawn of the twentieth century, the United States began to colonize other lands, such as Hawaii, the Philippines and Cuba. Since then, it has occupied and intervened with military force in all regions of the globe[ii], such as Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. This is not to mention the democratically-elected leaders America overthrew in places like Chile and Iran. The United States currently occupies two countries – Iraq and Afghanistan – and has a network of over 700 military bases globally[iii]. As such, the United States is a de facto empire[iv].
One key element of American imperial history is its use of torture, which can be traced back to America’s treatment of African slaves. Such an analysis of torture, especially in the post-9/11 era, is very uncommon in mainstream political discourse. As such, before I proceed, it is important to dispel the current myths about torture propagated in the mainstream media.
As is well known, the United States has tortured hundreds of detainees suspected of being involved in terrorism. It is hard not to notice when the former Vice President brags about personally authorizing the use of torture on national television[v]. These acts included water-boarding, physical beatings, stress positions, sleep deprivation, and, in some cases, murder[vi].
The primary justification is that torture is a necessary tool to extract information from people who might know about impending threats of terrorism. Politicians (both Republican and Democrat), intellectuals, pundits and other leaders argue that America faces a new kind of threat. America is up against extremist, religious fanatics who hate the United States and wish to kill innocent Americans. Current domestic and international laws and law enforcement tactics are not sufficient to subdue this threat. As Alberto Gonzalez said to former President George W. Bush, the Geneva Conventions are “obsolete” in this new war against terrorism.[vii]
As a result, the United States must be willing to torture terrorist suspects in order to extract vital information that could prevent the next terrorist attack. This apocalyptic mindset has impacted the current American psyche and post-9/11 American foreign policy. Since the war is against a nebulous enemy, the war against terrorism is essentially a permanent war.
Despite the compelling arguments used to justify torture, adopting an objective view of the facts rips them asunder. First, there is little to no evidence to prove that torture is a useful interrogation technique. In fact, the evidence that does exist proves the opposite – that torture is ineffective because the suspect will say anything, whether it’s true or not, in order to make the torture stop. Ali Soufan, an intelligence official who interrogated Guantanamo terror suspect Abu Zubaydah, stated[viii] that conventional interrogation techniques compelled Zubaydah to provide actionable intelligence. It was only after Zubaydah was waterboarded several times that he could not provide useful intelligence.
Second, most of the people detained, usually indefinitely, in places like Guantanamo Bay and CIA-owned black sites are not diehard terrorists. The vast majority of them are innocent. Even President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and other high government officials may have been aware of this[ix]. Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Cheney “had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were innocent…If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.” The apocalyptic mindset of the broader War on Terror justified this tragedy.
Third, torture and cruel or inhumane treatment is a violation of U.S. domestic law and international law. The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment and the Torture Act prohibits the use of torture[x]. There are several international treaties that prohibit the use of torture. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions[xi], the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[xii], the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture explicitly prohibit torture and cruel or inhuman treatment[xiii]. The Convention Against Torture even states that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
Sending a person to a country where it is known they will be tortured – a practice known as extraordinary rendition – is also illegal under international law. However, the current Obama administration continues this practice. Torturing an individual violates that person’s fundamental human rights and their inherent dignity as a human being. Not only is torture illegal, it is also immoral and one of the many accumulated evils of war.
Given the transparency of official justifications for torture, one question remains. Why does the United States continue to torture people, even though it is ineffective, illegal and immoral? Torture has historically been used by governments for four main reasons.[xiv] One reason is to extract a confession and establish guilt. Torture is commonly used in countries where the presumption of innocence does not exist in the legal system. The second reason is for power. Powerful rulers would torture people in order to instill fear in their citizenry and remind them of who has authority. The third reason is to curb political dissent. While all three of these reasons may be applicable to the United States, the fourth reason gets to the heart of why America tortures. The fourth historical reason for utilizing torture is to subjugate a group of people considered to be sub-human.
An apt comparison to the American use of torture would be the French use of torture during the Algerian War of Independence.[xv] The French colonization of Algeria was based on the racist ideology of the French civilizing mission. In the eyes of the French colonial power, their culture was superior and more advanced than the cultures of racially-inferior “others”, in this case, the Algerians. The French saw it was their duty to “civilize” people who they viewed as primitive through colonialism. As such, the French annexed Algeria and established colonial settlements on Algerian land. When Algerian nationalists engaged in guerrilla warfare to oust the French, France felt it was up against a new kind of enemy – Maoist-inspired guerrillas. In order to defeat this enemy, the French believed it was necessary to engage in exceptional and unconventional means of warfare. This included denial of prisoner-of-war protections for captured combatants, trials in military tribunals, torture and execution. The French counter-insurgency strategy is very similar to American foreign policy post-9/11. It was motivated, in large part, by a belief in Algerian sub-humanity; in other words, racism.
Racism is not just an individual problem of prejudice or hate. It is an ideology used to justify systems of hegemony and oppression. It creates a binary between the Self and the Other. The Self is ascribed all positive aspects of humanity, such as rationality, intelligence, high culture, and credit for creating the benefits of modern civilization. The Other is ascribed all negative aspects of humanity, such as irrationality, primitivity, criminality, and barbarity. By categorizing certain groups as inferior “others”, hegemonic powers rob those people of their humanity, thus, making it easier to commit acts of brutality against them for imperial interests.
Racism, under the banner of “manifest destiny”, was used to justify the genocide committed against the Native Americans that made room for American territorial expansion. Racism was used to justify the enslavement of millions of black Africans whose free labor was exploited to work on plantations and build the American economy.
Despite the advancements made during the civil rights movement, racism still exists in many areas of American life, such as the disproportionate number of African-Americans and Latinos in prison, de facto housing segregation, inequality in the education system, and police brutality committed against people of color. Some of the most recent cases of police brutality were the deaths of 22-year-old Oscar Grant in Oakland[xvi] and 7-year-old Aiyana Jones in Detroit[xvii] – both of whom were African-American.
America’s wars against Afghanistan and Iraq serve to maintain American global hegemony and access to key resources such as oil. The racist dehumanization of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians is committed to justify America’s wars and acts of torture primarily against people from countries whose populations are predominantly Muslim and black and brown-skinned, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. It is not difficult to witness the manifestations of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism in American society. It exists within the media and underlies the sophistry of politicians and leading intellectuals. Muslims, Arabs and South Asians are always suspected of being terrorists, similar to how black and Latino people are suspected of being drug-dealers, gang members and criminals. Racism is the fundamental ideological motivation behind America’s wars and use of torture.
The key task now is to end America’s use of torture and, more broadly, eliminate racism and imperialism; a daunting task but a necessary one, nevertheless.
That’s what you’ll conclude if you read Bob Woodward’s new book, Obama’s War. (You can read excerpts of it here, here and here.) You thought you voted for change when you cast a ballot for Barack Obama? Um, not when it comes to America occupying countries that don’t begin with a “U” and an “S.”
In fact, after you read Woodward’s book, you’ll split a gut every time you hear a politician or a government teacher talk about “civilian control over the military.” The only people really making the decisions about America’s wars are across the river from Washington in the Pentagon. They wear uniforms. They have lots of weapons they bought from the corporations they will work for when they retire.
For everyone who supported Obama in 2008, it’s reassuring to find out he understands we have to get out of Afghanistan. But for everyone who’s worried about Obama in 2010, it’s scary to find out that what he thinks should be done may not actually matter. And that’s because he’s not willing to stand up to the people who actually run this country.
And here’s the part I don’t even want to write — and none of you really want to consider:
It matters not whom we elect. The Pentagon and the military contractors call the shots. The title “Commander in Chief” is ceremonial, like “Employee of the Month” at your local Burger King.
Everything you need to know can be found in just two paragraphs from Obama’s War. Here’s the scene: Obama is meeting with his National Security Council staff on the Saturday after Thanksgiving last year. He’s getting ready to give a big speech announcing his new strategy for Afghanistan. Except…the strategy isn’t set yet. The military has presented him with just one option: escalation. But at the last minute, Obama tells everyone, hold up — the door to a plan for withdrawal isn’t closed.
The brass isn’t having it:
“Mr. President,” [Army Col. John Tien] said, “I don’t see how you can defy your military chain here. We kind of are where we are. Because if you tell General McChrystal, ‘I got your assessment, got your resource constructs, but I’ve chosen to do something else,’ you’re going to probably have to replace him. You can’t tell him, ‘Just do it my way, thanks for your hard work.’ And then where does that stop?”
The colonel did not have to elaborate. His implication was that not only McChrystal but the entire military high command might go in an unprecedented toppling — Gates; Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command. Perhaps no president could weather that, especially a 48-year-old with four years in the U.S. Senate and 10 months as commander in chief.
But here’s the question Woodward doesn’t answer: Why, exactly, can’t a president weather ending a war, even if he has to fire all his generals to do it? It’s right there in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution: The President’s in charge of the military. And so is Congress: the army can’t just march over to the Treasury Department and steal the money for wars. Article I, Section 9 says Congress has to appropriate it.
In the real world, though, the Constitution’s just a piece of paper. In the real world, a President who fired his top military in order to stop a war would be ruined before you could say “bloodless coup.” The Washington Post (filled with ads from Boeing and Northrop Grumman) would scream about how he was the reincarnation of Neville Chamberlain. Fox and CNN (filled with “experts” who work for think tanks funded by Raytheon and General Dynamics) would say he was a girly-man who had to be impeached. And Congress (which experienced its own escalation in lobbying from defense contractors just as the Afghanistan escalation was being decided) might well do it. (By the way, if you want to listen to Lyndon Johnson talk in 1964 about how he might be impeached if he didn’t follow the military-industrial complex’s orders and escalate the war in Vietnam, just go here.)
Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has been an ardent supporter of US-backed actions in Somalia. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
The dangers of turning Africa into a front in the “war on terror” – much as it was a front in two world wars and a cold war that were not of its making – have been starkly revealed in Uganda following the 11 July bombings that killed 76 people watching the World Cup final in popular nightspots. That atrocity was attributed to Somali al-Shabaab extremists seeking to carry out retribution for the presence in Somalia of Ugandan “peacekeeping” troops.
But there is no peace to keep in Somalia, where a transitional federal government (TFG), established under UN auspices in 2002, controls only a few blocks of the capital city and would have collapsed altogether but for a US-backed invasion by Ethiopia in 2006. Why did Uganda’s veteran leader, Yoweri Museveni, rush in with military support for Somalia’s decrepit regime where other African countries, barring Ethiopia and Burundi, had feared to tread?
One factor is that Museveni needs to project Uganda as a “responsible member of the international community” to deflect criticism of its own army’s alleged pillaging in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. The Ugandan People’s Defence Forces, built out of the guerrilla army that brought Museveni to power 24 years ago, are accused of human rights abuses while crushing rebellion in Uganda’s northern region.
More generally, western aid still supplies around a third of Uganda’s government budget, but donor countries were becoming uncomfortable with the corruption that has increasingly marred Museveni’s long rule. Alignment with US-backed efforts to see Somalia pacified – so as to prevent the incubation and export of terror – serves both to smooth relations and to attract US logistical and training support for the Ugandan army.
Yet Ugandans, who have paid in blood for their country’s part in the botched counter-insurgency efforts in Somalia, are now paying again in a clampdown on their civic freedoms. In a new round of security measures, the citizens of Kampala will need police clearance for all gatherings, including private parties and wedding receptions. “No gathering of more than five people, even if it is in your compound, should be held without clearance from the inspector general of police,” the Kampala metropolitan police commander, Andrew Sorowen, told the press last week.
This measure comes as no less than 35 suspects await trial, which will be held behind the closed doors of the Luzira maximum security prison, charged with involvement in the 11 July attack. Sceptical Ugandans attribute the speed and number of arrests to a “beauty contest” between Uganda’s various security forces – police, army and special operations units – vying for anti-terror funds.
A Kenyan lawyer who travelled to Kampala last week to represent one of the defendants was arrested and questioned by police before being put on a plane back to Nairobi. A Muslim human rights activist accompanying him remains in custody.
Curtailment of civil liberties is widely interpreted as a move to muzzle the opposition in the run-up to February 2011 general elections. Campaigning has already been marred by violence and fraud in the primaries to select candidates for the ruling party, headed by Museveni, who is seeking another 5-year term.
Thus, far from containing “Islamist” terror, efforts forcibly to pacify Somalia have created fertile ground – attractive to fanatics from outside that country – for it to develop and spread, while also risking fragile freedoms elsewhere
This fiasco has been led politically by Washington which, since the catastrophic American occupation of Somalia in 1993 (and given the sobering experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan), has preferred to see its security objectives advanced through African proxies and private security contractors.
Museveni, a lifelong warrior who does not know the meaning of the word “retreat”, has proved a willing proxy. In a predictably bellicose response to the Kampala bombings, he increased Uganda’s troop commitment to Somalia and led calls for other African Union states to send their own troops. The rules of engagement have been adjusted to allow peacekeepers to fire first if they feel threatened: a highly ambiguous directive that will leave nearly all actions in a grey zone.
Bolstering the Somali peacekeeping forces may be good news for US contractors such as DynCorp International, who equip and train the peacekeepers in Somalia with US state department funding. But it is hard to see how it is good for anyone else.
September 09, 2010 “Al Jazeera” — The Afghan Taliban leader has said his fighters were close to victory in driving foreign forces out of the country.
In a message on Wednesday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month Ramadan, Mullah Omar called on Afghans to redouble their struggle and push for foreign troops to withdraw, saying the Nato-led coalition was losing the war.
He said victory “over the invading infidels is now imminent” attributing the progress to “belief in the help of Allah and unity among ourselves”.
“Put all your strength and planning behind the task of driving away the invaders and regaining independence of the country,” he told Afghan fighters.
He said “those military experts who have framed strategies of the invasion of Afghanistan or are now engaged in hammering out new strategies, admit themselves that all their strategies are nothing but a complete failure”.
The Taliban leader added that the occupying foreign forces “are now under pressures from their people due to the growing and heavy military expenditures, casualties and the fruitlessness of the war”.
Mullah Omar called on Barack Obama, the US president, to withdraw troops “unconditionally and as soon as possible” saying it is “the best option for regional stability”.
“The expansion, momentum and success of this jihadi resistance … has now approached close to its destination,” Reuters news agency quoted the Taliban leader as saying in an email to media.
In a section addressing US citizens, he said: “You should know that your rulers have continuously told you lies since the beginning of the aggression on Afghanistan until this very day.
“They have wasted hundreds of billion(s) of dollars of your tax money in the shape of financial expenditures and your manpower in Afghanistan and have still been wasting them. You shall be witness to another economic melt-down.”
Mullah Omar was one of the leaders of the Taliban that ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to the end of 2001.
He has been underground since the movement was driven out of power by the US invasion.
The Nato-led mission in Afghanistan has swelled to 150,000 soldiers as part of a concerted strategy to defeat the Taliban.
Last month, General David Petraeus, the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, said he saw “areas of progress” in the war and that momentum by fighters had been checked in their strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand.
Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since Mullah Omar and his movement were overthrown in late 2001, with a record number of foreign troop casualties and soaring civilian deaths.
Obama ordered in a further 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan last December following a review of the war and the last of those troops have now arrived.
The US has also said it will begin drawing down troops from July next year, a move many say has emboldened the Taliban.
23 April 1997 – Moscow
The Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter referred to as “the Parties”), desiring to develop a partnership based on equality and mutual trust for the purpose of strategic interaction in the twenty-first century, and considering the responsibility to the international community, that they bear as permanent members of the Security Council and also considering their common approaches to major international issues, declare the following:
1. In a spirit of partnership, the Parties shall strive to promote the multipolarization of the world and the establishment of a new international order.
The Parties believe that profound changes in international relations have taken place at the end of the twentieth century. The cold war is over. The bipolar system has vanished. A positive trend towards a multipolar world is gaining momentum, and relations between major States, including former cold-war adversaries, are changing. Regional economic cooperation organizations are showing considerable vitality. Diversity in the political, economic and cultural development of all countries is becoming the norm, and the role played by the forces in favour of peace and broad-based international cooperation is expanding. A growing number of countries are beginning to recognize the need for mutual respect, equality and mutual advantage – but not for hegemony and power politics – and for dialogue and cooperation – but not for confrontation and conflict. The establishment of a peaceful, stable, just and rational new international political and economic order is becoming a pressing need of the times and an imperative of historical development.
2. The Parties are in favour of making mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual advantage, peaceful coexistence and other universally recognized principles of international law the fundamental norm for conducting relations between States and the basis for a new international order.
Every country has the right independently to choose its path of development in the light of its own specific conditions and without interference from other States. Differences in their social systems, ideologies and value systems must not become an obstacle to the development of normal relations between States.
All countries, large or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community. No country should seek hegemony, engage in power politics or monopolize international affairs. The Parties believe that the renunciation of discriminatory policies and practices in economic relations, and the strengthening and expansion of trade, economic, scientific, technical and humanitarian exchanges and cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual advantage will promote their common development and prosperity.
3. The Parties are in favour of establishing a new and universally applicable concept of security. They believe that the cold-war mentality must be abandoned and they oppose bloc politics. Differences and disputes between countries must be settled by peaceful means, without resorting to the use or threat of force. Dialogue and consultations must be pursued with a view to promoting mutual understanding and confidence, and peace and security must be sought through bilateral and multilateral coordination and cooperation.
The Parties are of the view that the Commonwealth of Independent States is an important factor in ensuring stability and development in Eurasia. They stress that the Agreement between the Russian Federation, the Republic of Kazakstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan and the People’s Republic of China on confidence-building in the military field in the border area, as well as the Agreement on the mutual reduction of their armed forces in the border area are of great importance and can serve as a model for the achievement of regional peace, security and stability in the post-cold-war era.
The Parties intend to facilitate the disarmament process and emphasize the importance of signing the comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty and implementing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The Parties express concern at attempts to enlarge and strengthen military blocs, since this trend can pose a threat to the security of individual countries and aggravate tension on a regional and global scale.
4. The Parties are of the view that the role of the United Nations and the Security Council must be strengthened, and they highly appreciate United Nations efforts to maintain world peace and security. They believe that the United Nations, as the most universal and authoritative organization of sovereign States, has a place and role in the world that cannot be supplanted by any other international organization. The Parties are confident that the United Nations will play an important role in the establishment and maintenance of the new international order.
United Nations peacekeeping efforts should focus on the prevention of conflicts or their escalation. Peacekeeping operations can be conducted only on the basis of a Security Council decision and only with the consent of the countries concerned, in strict compliance with the mandate issued by the Security Council and under the Council’s supervision.
Whenever the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, adopts a resolution on the use of sanctions, the damage caused by the imposition of such sanctions, as well as damage to third countries and neighbouring regions, must be kept to a minimum. The sanctions themselves must be eased and lifted in due course in the light of the implementation of Security Council resolutions.
The Parties express their readiness to cooperate closely with the United Nations and its specialized agencies and to strive to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations activities. The Parties intend to hold regular consultations on matters relating to the work of the Organization and to coordinate their actions in this area in the light of prevailing circumstances.
5. The Parties stress that numerous developing countries and the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries are an important force that promotes multipolarization and the establishment of a new international order. Interaction among developing countries is gaining momentum. Their role in international politics is growing, and their share in the world economy is increasing. The rise of the developing countries will provide a powerful impetus for the historical process of establishing a new international order. These countries should take their rightful place in the future new international order and participate in international affairs on an equal and non-discriminatory basis.
6. The Parties note with satisfaction that the establishment and development of a Russian-Chinese partnership based on equality and mutual trust for the purpose of strategic interaction in the twenty-first century is in keeping with the development of the international situation and international relations in the post-cold-war era, fully meets the vital interests of the peoples of the two countries and is conducive to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region and the world as a whole.
As permanent members of the Security Council, the Russian Federation and China, adhering to the principles of partnership, good-neighbourliness and friendship, equality and trust and mutually advantageous cooperation, and in strictly abiding by the principles of international law, are forging a new type of long-term inter-State relations that are not directed against third countries. This provides important practical experience for the establishment of a new international order.
The Parties intend to make active use of and strengthen the existing system of summit meetings and high-level contacts. Their heads of State, heads of Government and Ministers for Foreign Affairs meet regularly to exchange views on bilateral relations and major international issues. Guided by a sense of their historical responsibility for world peace and development and for the future of mankind, the Parties are strengthening coordination and cooperation in international affairs. The two countries are making efforts to ensure friendly coexistence and cooperation on an equal footing with all other States and are making their due contribution to the strengthening of world peace and the common progress of mankind.
7. Mankind is on the threshold of a new era. The peoples of all countries are faced with the increasingly urgent question of the kind of international order they will live under in the next century. The Parties call on all countries to engage in an active dialogue on the establishment of a peaceful, stable, just and rational new international order, and they are prepared to take part in a joint discussion of any constructive proposals to this end.
FOR THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION: FOR THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA:
(Signed) B. YELTSIN (Signed) JIANG Zemin
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