God, Hope & Helping Others
One would think that the so-called “Global War on Terror”, which has been given fresh impetus by the Paris attacks, must be going swimmingly. What else could explain the great enthusiasm with which it is pursued? It may be recalled that it started in earnest after the WTC attack – also a declaration of war, as it was put at the time.
As is often the case when Islamist fundamentalists strike, the actual attackers immolated themselves on occasion of the attack itself, making it impossible to exact retribution. Except by proxy, that is. This was playing right into the hands of those who had planned the attacks. It seems to us that they have ultimately succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Not to put too fine a point to it, our wise political leaders have evidently been outfoxed by a bunch of turbaned cave dwellers and goat buggerers in the Hindu Kush.
Steve Bell on the reaction to the Paris attacks.
To wit, between 2013 and 2014, the global death toll from terrorist attackshas increased by yet another 80%, setting a new sad record. So 15 years of bombing places far and wide to smithereens, engaging in extremely costly “nation building” exercises, droning assorted terrorist groups so thoroughly that selected Al Qaeda leaders can by now boast of having been killed up to 17 times (only to miraculously reappear again), have produced this by way of bottom line results:
This is eerily reminiscent of the US government’s “War on Poverty”, which stopped the decline in poverty dead in its tracks the moment it began, or the even worse effort known as the “War on Drugs”, which has done nothing to decrease the drug epidemic, but has given birth to the largest and most brutal criminal cartels the world has ever seen. Can people really be that stupid? Unfortunately the answer is yes, they can. This is only half of the answer though.
Death by terrorism in 2014. Not a single Western country even makes the list (and even now, France would not make it). The biggest number of victims can be found in places like Iraq and Nigeria. Boko Haram has killed even more people than ISIS in 2014 (the deaths in Iraq are not exclusively attributable to IS) – click to enlarge.
The other half of the answer has been already been supplied decades ago by the legendary Smedley Butler: War is a racket. However, most people are blissfully unaware of how big a racket it actually is. It is in fact the greatest scam ever – even the more recent “climate change” scam is comfortably put in the shade by it.
Why are all Republican presidential candidates (apart from two exceptions) and Democratic front-runner Billary alike loudly screeching for more war, in spite of the sobering evidence? When confronted with such seemingly intractable questions, it is usually a good idea to follow the money. Should the mafia be aware of the associated statistics, it is presumably green with envy. Readers should definitely take the time to read Tom Engelhardt’s recent article “It’s a $cam” in its entirety. Below we are presenting just a handful of morsels from the first few paragraphs:
“Let’s begin with the $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills, Iraqi oil money held in the U.S. The Bush administration began flying it into Baghdad on C-130s soon after U.S. troops entered that city in April 2003. Essentially dumped into the void that had once been the Iraqi state, at least $1.2 to $1.6 billion of it was stolen and ended up years later in a mysterious bunker in Lebanon. And that’s just what happened as the starting gun went off.
It’s never ended. In 2011, the final report of the congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting estimated that somewhere between $31 billion and $60 billion taxpayer dollars had been lost to fraud and waste in the American “reconstruction” of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Iraq, for instance, there was that $75 million police academy, initially hailed “as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country’s security.” It was, however, so poorly constructed that it proved a health hazard. In 2006, “feces and urine rained from the ceilings in [its] student barracks” and that was only the beginning of its problems. When the bad press started, Parsons Corporation, the private contractor that built it, agreed to fix it for nothing more than the princely sum already paid.[…]
Typically enough, the Khan Bani Saad Correctional Facility, a $40 million prison Parsons also contracted to build, was never even finished.[…]
And why stick to buildings, when there were those Iraqi roads to nowhere paid for by American dollars? At least one of them did at least prove useful to insurgent groups moving their guerrillas around (like the $37 million bridge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built between Afghanistan and Tajikistan that helped facilitate the region’s booming drug trade in opium and heroin).[…]
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) hired an American nonprofit, International Relief and Development (IRD), to oversee an ambitious road-building program meant to gain the support of rural villagers.Almost $300 million later, it could point to “less than 100 miles of gravel road completed.” Each mile of road had, by then, cost U.S. taxpayers $2.8 million, instead of the expected $290,000, while a quarter of the road-building funds reportedly went directly to IRD for administrative and staff costs. Needless to say, as the road program failed, USAID hired IRD to oversee other non-transportation projects.”
Snapshot taken at a meeting of death merchant cronies.
The article continues in this vein and believe it or not, the above was just the harmless stuff. It becomes even more absurd as one reads on. Not only do the numbers become ever more staggering, the failures become concomitantly greater and more bizarre (such as the $43 million compressed natural gas station in Afghanistan, similar to one built in neighboring Pakistan for $300,000, located in an area bereft of infrastructure capable of delivering natural gas; or the $8.4 billion pumped into an Afghan “drug eradication program”, which was followed by a hitherto unbroken string of record opium harvests).
That is however not all. Even more astounding is the fact that most of the individuals who demonstrably bear personal responsibility for these cases of fraudulent theft of taxpayer funds have not only not been sanctioned, but have in fact been rewarded and promoted. As Engelhardt puts is:
“In short, there turns out to be much good fortune in the disaster business, a fact which gives the whole process the look of a classic swindle in which the patsies lose their shirts but the scam artists make out like bandits.”
We have long had a cynical view of government and its endless follies and outrages. There is little that can surprise us anymore. We must confess though that the sheer size and audacity of this racket still manages to impress us.
The war on terror is the best racket yet – it is a gift that will likely keep on giving for a very long time. It possesses a certain fateful inevitability: Western governments go about poking assorted hornet’s nests, until the hornets come swarming out to sting us, providing fresh reasons to expand the war.
This is not meant to imply that one shouldn’t defend oneself against terrorism, but it might be a good idea to reevaluate the strategy (as Justin Raimondo noted, at this juncture, simply quarantining IS may be worth considering). Doing more of what clearly hasn’t worked so far is certainly likely to keep the above mentioned racket going, but based on the evidence it isn’t going to achieve much else.
The conflict in Syria specifically has been characterized by miscalculations galore. It seems everybody is finally realizing that IS may be more of a threat than was hitherto assumed. As a number of governments in the region that are allied with the West have found out, they are in a situation akin to that the sorcerer’s apprentice found himself in. The spirits they have summoned are now ignoring their commands – and they can no longer get rid of them.
Arab potentates aren’t the only ones in the region beginning to wonder what they have cultivated next door in their eagerness to see Syrian tinpot despot Assad toppled. Even the Grand Poobah of Turkey has recently begun to sound a bit worried.
Lettuce water this tender green shoot a bit….ouch!
Cartoon via tribune.gr
As an aside to all this, Abdel Hamid Abaaoud (born in Belgium, natch), the suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks, seems blessed with an extraordinary amount of luck. He keeps getting caught, but manages to escape every time. He enjoys freedom of movement all over the show, in spite of having starred in truly gruesome IS videos, meaning he’s not exactly Mr. Anonymous. Some people are beginning to wonder how this is possible, since Allah seems highly unlikely to have anything to do with it, contrary to Abaaoud’s claims. It smells of state support actually.
Helloooo dogg…doggie? My, how big you are! And what big teeth you have!
Meanwhile, Deep State representatives are once again sensing an opening. They have already reiterated their nonsensical, nay, downright dangerous demand to do away with encryption on a “just trust us” basis (see the assessment of cyber-security specialist Brian Krebs here). The idea is totally hare-brained, i.e., par for the course for government bureaucrats.
And wouldn’t you know, it’s all Edward Snowden’s fault, for having provided proof of the unconstitutional misdeeds of certain spook agencies. Presumably he has magically caused the French authorities to ignore warnings about the terrorists and the planned attacks they received from at least three different foreign intelligence services by inundating them with his traitor-rays from Moscow.
Finally, in an exceedingly amusing development, Vladimir Putin appears to have morphed overnight from pariah and enemy du jour to the “go to man”/ “hottest ticket in town” on fighting IS (or the “problem solver who cannot be ignored”, as the FT averred). Not that he is doing anything different – he is also poking the hornet’s nest and getting stung in return. However, everybody knows he is different in at least one respect.
As we remarked to a friend recently, whatever one thinks of Putin, it is clear that he is an implacable enemy of Islamist radicals. The Chechen war stands as a monument to his Machiavellian ruthlessness in dealing with such people. So-called collateral damage definitely wasn’t on his mind much. In order to pacify the place, he simply ordered his military to raze the capital Grozny. Once Grozny was reduced to sufficiently small pieces of rubble, the army combed the surrounding landscape and shot everything that moved funny. Then a sort of local mafia boss was installed as the new governor, to ensure the place remained pacified.
Grozny after Putin makeover.
Photo via hubpages.com
We suspect though that the Middle East is a different kettle of fish though. Restoring something akin to the decades of pan-Arab nationalist oppression seems a highly dubious proposition. Too much has happened, and the place is packed with armed groups that will continue to be at each other’s throats no matter what.
Putin is merely acting in line with old KGB traditions though. Here is an excerpt from a 20 year old newspaper report on how the KGB treated Islamist kidnappers aligned with Hezbollah who had taken Soviet diplomats hostage in Lebanon and had made the mistake of killing one of them:
“The incident began when four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped last September by Muslim extremists who demanded that Moscow pressure the Syrian government to stop pro-Syrian militiamen from shelling rival Muslim positions in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. The militiamen, the Jerusalem paper said, did not cease their attacks, and the body of one of the Soviet diplomats, Arkady Katkov, was found a few days later in a field in Beirut.
The KGB then apparently kidnapped and killed a relative of an unnamed leader of the Shi’ite Hezbollah (Party of God) group, a radical, pro-Iranian group that has been suspected of various terrorist activities against Western targets in Lebanon.
Parts of the man’s body, the paper said, were then sent to the Hezbollah leader with a warning that he would lose other relatives in a similar fashion if the three remaining Soviet diplomats were not immediately released. They were quickly freed.
The newspaper quoted “observers in Jerusalem” as saying: “This is the way the Soviets operate. They do things – they don’t talk. And this is the language Hezbollah understands.”
One could probably call that an exchange of messages of increasing intensity.
G 20 meeting – Putin the rediscovered “problem solver”. As an old KGB hand, he can at least be relied on to be utterly ruthless when combating Islamic extremists.
Photo credit: FOCUS Online/Wochit
Of course there remain differences over Assad’s fate, but they may be smaller than appears on the surface. Parhaps Syria will end up partitioned at some point, with Assad’s Alawite clan controlling the part that contains Russia’s Mediterranean port.
It seems it is high time for a strategic rethink in the GWoT, but powerful forces are arrayed against it. Apart from the fact that a truly huge racket is at stake, the situation is also reminiscent of the proverbial guy with the hammer – everything looks like a nail to him. So we should reasonably expect more of the same, only in even grander style (as the so-called “surge” has shown, any successes tend not only to be temporary, but have a habit to soon give way to even greater disasters).
At least we can all be comforted by recent news that there is no reason to worry about the euro zone. As Mish relates, Keynesian economist Nouriel Roubini has rediscovered the broken window fallacy by arguing that the Paris attacks will “help the euro zone economy”. What is it with these geniuses? Paul Krugman has made similar arguments after the WTC attack and the Katrina hurricane. Obviously, it would be best if we just nuked all our cities. We’d have growth out the wazoo!
However, this is perhaps less surprising than it should be. No-one can accuse Keynesians (regardless which prefixes adorn them by way of sect differentiation, i.e., New, neo-, post-,…) of being founts of economic literacy. After all, their master thought aimless ditch digging and pyramid building were viable “economic policies”.
Charts by Institute for Economics and Peace/ Guardian