Blowback – The Washington War Party’s Folly Comes Home To Roost

Exactly 26 years ago last week, peace was breaking out in a manner that the world had not experienced since June 1914. The Berlin Wall—-the symbol of a century of state tyranny, grotesque mass warfare and the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over the planet—-had come tumbling down on November 9, 1989.

It was only a matter of time before the economically decrepit Soviet regime would be no more, and that the world’s vast arsenal of weapons and nuclear bombs could be dismantled.

Indeed, shortly thereafter according to Gorbachev, President George H.W. Bush and Secretary Baker promised that NATO would not be expanded by “as much as a thumb’s width further to the East” in return for acquiescing to the reunification of Germany.

So with its “mission accomplished” there was no logical reason why NATO should not have been disbanded in parallel with the Warsaw Pact’s demise, and for an obvious and overpowering reason: On November 9, 1989 there were no material military threats to US security anywhere on the planet outside of the suddenly vanishing front line of the Cold War.

As it turns out, however, there was a virulent threat to peace still lurking on the Potomac. The great general and president, Dwight Eisenhower, had called it the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address, but that memorable phrase had been abbreviated by his speechwriters, who deleted the word “congressional” in a gesture of comity to the legislative branch.

So restore Ike’s deleted reference to the pork barrels and Sunday afternoon warriors of Capitol Hill and toss in the legions of beltway busybodies that constituted the civilian branches of the cold war armada (State, AID etc.) and the circle would have been complete. It constituted the most awesome machine of warfare and imperial hegemony since the Roman legions bestrode most of the civilized world.

In a word, the real threat to peace circa 1990 was that Pax Americana would not go away quietly in the night.

Ronald Reagan had called the dying Soviet Union an Evil Empire, but it was actually a passing freak of history. It had arisen by a fluke 72 years earlier—–almost to the day of the Berlin Wall’s fall—–only because Imperial Russia had been reduced to anarchy by the carnage of the Great War, enabling Lenin to storm the Winter Palace and install his own special Bolshevik brand of hell on earth.

So the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant the world could have reverted to the status quo ante. That is, to a normalcy of peace, liberal commerce and a minimum of armaments that had prevailed in the late 19th century. The 20th century curse of militarism, totalitarianism and global warfare was over.

Needless to say, the sudden end to 20th century history posed an existential threat to Imperial Washington. A trillion dollar complex of weapons suppliers, warfare state bureaucracies, intelligence and security contractors, arms exporters, foreign aid vendors, military bases, grand poobahs and porkers of the Congressional defense committes, think tanks, research grants and much more——were all suddenly without an enemy and raison d’etre.

As it has happened, Imperial Washington did find its necessary enemy in the rise of so-called “global terrorism”.

But the everlasting truth is that the relative handful of suicidal jihadi who have perpetrated murderous episodes of terror like 9/11 and this weekend’s carnage in Paris did not exist in November 1989; and they would not be marauding the West today save for the unrelenting arrogance, stupidity, duplicity and mendacity of Imperial Washington.

That is, the gates of hell have been opened by Washington’s senseless destruction of regimes in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere that refused to do its bidding. Yet not one of these backwaters of tyranny and economic and military insignificance posed any threat whatsoever to the safety and security of American citizens in Lincoln NE or Manchester NH.

That the middle east and the Arab/Islamic world in particular is now a burned out zone of failed states and an incubator of barbaric religious and sectarian fanaticism is because Imperial Washington made it that way.

So what has metastasized from the ruins left by American intervention is not an organized military threat or state sponsored attacks on the civilian life of the West; it is the random blowback of suicidal flotsam and jetsam that have been puked from the jaws of hell which Washington so foolishly opened.

It did so under the banner of two stunningly false predicates. One of these was the long-standing Washington error that America’s security and economic well-being depends upon keeping an armada in the Persian Gulf in order to protect the surrounding oilfields and the flow of tankers through the straits of Hormuz.

That doctrine has been wrong from the days it was officially enunciated by one of America’s great economic ignoramuses, Henry Kissinger, at the time of the original oil crisis in 1973. The 42 years since then have proven in spades that its doesn’t matter who controls the oilfields, and that the only effective cure for high oil prices is the free market, not the Fifth Fleet.

Every tin pot dictator from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to Saddam Hussein, to the bloody-minded chieftains of Nigeria, to the purportedly medieval Mullahs and fanatical Republican Guards of Iran have produced oil—-and all they could because they desperately needed the revenue.

For crying out loud, even the barbaric thugs of ISIS milk every possible drop of petroleum from the tiny, wheezing oilfields scattered around their backwater domain. So there is no economic case whatsoever for Imperial Washington’s massive military presence in the middle east, and most especially for its long-time alliance with the despicable regime of Saudi Arabia.

The truth is, there is no such thing as an OPEC cartel——virtually every member produces all they can and cheats whenever possible. The only thing that resembles production control in the global oil market is the fact that the Saudi princes treat their oil reserves not much differently than Exxon.

That is, they attempt to maximize the present value of their 270 billion barrels of reserves, but ultimately are no more clairvoyant at calibrating the best oil price to accomplish that than are the economists at Exxon or the IEA.

The Saudis over-estimated the staying power of China’s temporarily surging call on global supply; and under-estimated how rapidly and extensively the $100 per barrel marker reached in 2007 would trigger a flow of investment, technology and cheap debt into the US shale patch, the Canadian tar sands, the tired petroleum provinces of Russia, the deep offshore of Brazil etc. And that’s to say nothing of solar, wind and all the other government subsidized alternative source of BTUs.

Way back when Jimmy Carter was telling us to turn down the thermostats and put on our cardigan sweaters, those of us on the free market side of the so-called energy shortage debate said the best cure for high oil prices is high prices. Now we know.

So the Fifth Fleet and its overt and covert auxiliaries should never have been there—–going all the way back to the CIA’s coup against Iranian democracy in 1953. It was in the name of protecting the oil fields that the Washington war machine installed the monstrous Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the Peacock Throne and thereby inaugurated 25 years of plunder and Savak terror.

Likewise, it was the Washington war machine that decided upon the “tilt to Saddam” in his 1980s war on the Islamic Republic, and which provided him with satellite based tracking and targeting services when he rained chemical weapons on barely armed Iranian forces.

The truth is, there never were any Iranian “terrorists” at time the Berlin Wall fell. What existed was the smoldering hostility and nationalism that had arisen among the Iranian people after four decades of Washington intervention in their internal affairs, and a theocratic Shiite regime that had come to power owing to Washington’s foolish embrace of a brutal megalomaniacal tyrant.

Even then, the rulers of Tehran had been ratified twice in honest elections. And they were far more civilized, constitutionally-minded and economically egalitarian than the absolute monarchs of the House of Saud, whose gluttonous opulence was unspeakable and whose medievalist Wahhabi network of social repression and religious intolerance was (and is) deeply offensive to every value America represents.

But having turned Iran into an enemy, Imperial Washington was just getting started when 1990 rolled around. Once again in the name of “oil security” it plunged the American war machine into the politics and religious fissures of the Persian Gulf; and did so on account of a local small potatoes conflict that had no bearing whatsoever on the safety and security of American citizens.

As US ambassador Glaspie rightly told Saddam Hussein on the eve of his Kuwait invasion, America had no dog in that hunt. Kuwait wasn’t even a country; it was a bank account sitting on a swath of oilfields around an ancient trading city that had been abandoned by Ibn Saud in the early 20th century. That’s because he didn’t know what oil was or that it was there, and, in any event, it had been made a separate protectorate by the British in 1913 for reasons that are lost in the fog of diplomatic history.

Likewise, Iraq’s contentious dispute with Kuwait had been over its claim that the Emir of Kuwait was “slant drilling” across his border into Iraq’s Rumaila field. Yet it was a wholly elastic boundary of no significance whatsoever.

In fact, the dispute over the Rumaila field started in 1960 when an Arab League declaration arbitrarily marked the Iraq–Kuwait border two miles north of the southernmost tip of the Rumaila field.

And that newly defined boundary, in turn, had come only 44 years after a pair of English and French diplomats had carved up their winnings from the Ottoman Empire’s demise by laying a straight ruler on the map. So doing, they thereby confected the artificial country of Iraq from the historically independent and hostile Mesopotamian provinces of the Shiite in the south, the Sunni in the west and the Kurds in the north.

In short, it did not matter who controlled the southern tip of the Rumaila field—–the brutal dictator of Baghdad or the opulent Emir of Kuwait. Not the price of oil, nor the peace of America nor the security of Europe nor the future of Asia depended upon it.

But Bush the Elder got persuaded by Henry Kissinger’s  economically illiterate protégés at the national security council and his Texas oilman Secretary of State that the will-o-wisp of “oil security” was at stake, and that 500,000 American troops needed to be planted in the sands of Arabia.

That was a catastrophic error, and not only because the presence of crusader boots on the purportedly sacred soil of Arabia offended the CIA-trained Mujahedeen of Afghanistan, who had become unemployed when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The 1991 CNN glorified war games in the Gulf also revived another group of unemployed crusaders. Namely, the neocon national security fanatics who had mislead Ronald Reagan into a massive military build-up to thwart what they claimed to be an ascendant Soviet Union bent on nuclear war winning capabilities and global conquest.

All things being equal, the sight of Boris Yeltsin, Vodka flask in hand, facing down the Red Army a few months later should have sent them into the permanent repudiation and obscurity they so richly deserved. But Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz managed to extract from Washington’s pyric victory in Kuwait a whole new lease on life for Imperial Washington.

Right then and there came the second erroneous predicate. To wit, that “regime change” among the assorted tyrannies of the middle east was in America’s national interest, and that the Gulf War proved it could be achieved through a sweeping interventionist menu of diplomacy, security assistance, arms shipments, covert action and open military attack and occupation.

What the neocon doctrine of Regime Change actually did, of course, was to foster the Frankenstein that became ISIS. In fact, the only real terrorists in the world which threat normal civilian life in the West are the rogue off-spring of Imperial Washington post-1990 machinations in the middle east.

(to be continued)

Regards,

David Stockman
for The Daily Reckoning

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