Ten years ago in October 2003, my first article was published in Palestine Chronicle. It was a result of the previous year’s reading of many books concerning the U.S. and its relationships with the Middle East countries, the interest brought about by the events of 9/11 and how they were shaped and reported by the mainstream media.
At that point in time, I knew enough about U.S. adventures in other parts of the world, most notably from growing up during the Vietnam era and its reckless pursuit of an imagined enemy in a region of the globe that did not appear to have any concern with North America. However, I knew I was not well versed in Middle East history, simply knowing its broad outlines. From my current perspective I could not actually say what I did or did not know at the time, as it has all blended together into my current positions on global affairs. Since then I have read many hundreds of books and read tens of thousands of on-line articles – works from all sides of the story in order to gain the fullest view possible.
From all this reading, the official version of events never seemed to align with the reality that others lived through and reported on. That has been true of most major events from 9/11 forward and is true of most major events preceding 9/11. My focus at the time became Palestine, as it seemed to be the center of most of the action in the Middle East, that if the Palestinian problem could be solved, then much of the other problems would also be solved. I was and remain both right and wrong.
I am right in that if a peace and settlement could be made that fairly represented the indigenous rights of the Palestinian people within their own sovereign territory, a significant change would have occurred in the region. I am wrong in that the creation of a Palestinian sovereign territory involves much more than simply trying to settle a disagreement between two peoples. It involves also the major superpowers of the world and their respective alignments, it involves the current corporate financialized economy of the world and its alignments within the superpowers and the protections and harvesting of the natural resources of the region, and it involves the many peoples of the Middle East who at most times do not appear to have much say in what is happening to them.
It is in essence, the invisible center of a global system of military and corporate rule that benefits those in power without much concern for the citizens of the world.
About a year ago, I stopped reading, stopped writing, wondered what the sense was in continuing to argue against a system that held all the power, tolerated only a tiny bit of weak dissent, and was becoming more and more aggressive and open in its violent responses to anyone anywhere who went against their interests. Yes, there were many sane voice out there, many positive events, but they never seemed to have made a dent in the progress of military and economic power over the peoples of the world.
I could get away from the books, the writing, the television, the internet; that part was easy. What I could not get away from was myself, and I am not inclined to drink myself into oblivion or use any other drug that might do that for me. What I had learned, what I had thought about, the images I had seen, the analyzing, synthesizing, and articulation of a world full of ideas, all remained within me. I could not escape myself, the anger, the frustration, the numbing idea that in the universal scheme of things, none of what I thought or wrote mattered. But it does matter, absolutely; and it is good that the ideas could not be escaped.
It matters because while there is suffering in the world, I cannot be unaware of it, and I need to do what I can to at least express my anger and frustration at the processes that dominate our world and create that suffering. And it is good that the ideas cannot be removed, for as much as I may be preaching to the choir a lot of the time, there may be others somewhere who read my material—and thus were exposed to the ideas—ideas that do not expire once brought to life.
As it all started with my reaction to the 9/11 events, perhaps that is as good a place to start as any. Basically, 9/11 has been ‘normalized’; by that, I mean it is historically acknowledged as being a starting point in various events around the world, without much thought given anymore to the actuality of the event. Both threads of thought are wrong.
It was not a starting point for many events. Yes, it was a catalyst that allowed the progression of several events that were already in the works—I remember the phrase from the Project for a New American Century indicating we need “a new Pearl Harbor”. It is a convenient historical marker, but it does not represent any major historical digression from the overall thread of U.S. history. Certain things became more obvious afterwards, became more aggressive, but the main direction of U.S. events did not change trajectory.
And it was not a singular event catching the U.S. unawares, created by a bunch of religious fanatics living in caves and mud huts who “hated us for what we are.” The official version does not add up, does not make any sense, and should not for anyone who is able to critically look at the official explanations of how and why things unfolded the way they did. I won’t argue those points here as there are many sources available online that look at all the questions. Suffice to say that the reality of the event is unknown, much can be conjectured, and we all now suffer from the event that provided the public excuse for the ongoing “war on terror.”
The big picture presents three facets: the economy, the environment, and the military/political. These are the faces of our current global crisis, not separate departments with no relation to each other, but fully intertwined in what is apparently a downward spiral towards a rather gloomy end. It does not have to be that way, but the inertia of our civilization is currently heading us that way.
In the decade since I began reading, I read more than political/historical works I also included many science books, most related to the environment. Within the decade it became obvious, partly from the basic observations I could make in areas where I had lived and hiked over many decades, that climate change was real and was influenced by human activity. There is very strong scientific evidence for this, and it relates not just to the air temperature warming, but also the warming of the oceans, the acidification of the oceans, the increasing frequency of supposedly ‘one-hundred year’ events, and other related phenomenon such as the Arctic ice summer melt and the thinning of that and other ice around the world.
This all ties in with human economic activity from both our extractive efforts for resources and our over consumptive actions in highly ‘disposable’ societies, at least for the developed world and increasingly for some of the larger ‘emerging’ countries—Brazil, China, India—emerging into that same consumptive lifestyle. It also then ties into the military-industrial complex as the governments of various countries attempt to guard and harvest these resources, mainly the developed countries controlling the economic and military structures of less powerful, more readily, and perhaps willingly manipulated countries.
The current global economy is the proverbial ‘house of cards’ wherein the wealth is created within the world of the financial markets, markets that are well removed from actual productivity. It is held together by faith alone, faith that the U.S. dollar will remain the global reserve currency, that the various governments of the world will continue to use and honor the Washington consensus/Bretton Woods arrangements that morphed into the World Trade Organization and the many institutions promoting ‘free trade’, and the many supposed ‘free trade’ agreements that entangle the economic world.
There is no such thing as any ‘free markets’ anywhere in the world except maybe for local and regional markets that work with the consensus of the people of the area. Otherwise, the only thing that is free is the ability of money to be moved around wherever the corporations and banksters wish it to be moved.
Ultimately, the corporations and financial leaders are the new governance of the world. Democracy and sovereignty cannot exist within that structure and it is all too evident that it does not. Nominally in some countries there is the pretense of sovereignty and the pretense of democracy but the power that has been given over to the corporations puts limits on and curtails the democratic sovereign rights of the citizens of most countries. These corporations carry no responsibility to the people of the world, and are designed singularly for the purpose of increasing their own wealth.
Until that power is curbed, true democracy, a true independent sovereignty cannot exist. And again, that also ties into the military-industrial complex as the hyphenated appellation indicates it should.
The world is entangled in a web of military and political events driven by the arrogance, hubris, false ‘exceptionalism’, feigned democracy, and globalization dogma from mainly U.S. political-corporate leaders. NATO and the EU are generally willing and complicit adventurers within the empire. This empire uses soft power—the power of Madison Avenue and Wall Street—to persuade the world of the empire’s righteousness and to keep its citizens distracted and entertained with its many diversions. Hard power— Thomas Freedman’s infamous ‘invisible’ fist of the military—is now obviously visible since the events of 9/11, although it was obviously visible before that for those who cared to look and could see through the haze of lies and propaganda that has become our cultural and political lives.
U.S. history is consistent with military adventures and solutions. It started with the Indian wars, shifted over to the Mexican, then Spanish wars, leading overseas to the Philippines. From there it encompassed all of Latin America, directly and indirectly, through invasions, military and political support of various regimes, and the ugly training of a generation of military leaders at the School of the Americas.
The military gained predominance with the creation of the nuclear industry and all the damage it has wrought. Accompanying this was the ‘communist threat’, a created paradigm that provided strength to the military-industrial complex, and allowed the U.S. government to create and retain the ‘fear factor’ of the threats of communism. From that, global warring proceeded with the complacency of the public assisted by the declining power of the media. When the Soviet dictatorship self-imploded, the world stood at the abyss of peace…but the U.S. quickly hauled us back from the brink, waiting for and receiving its ‘new Pearl Harbor.’
The new Pearl Harbor arrived and various events were set into motion.
The U.S. and much of the rest of the world, now lives in an environment of constant, ever-present, and omnipotently enabled surveillance. The U.S. has hundreds (some estimates reach over a thousand) of army bases of many different kinds spread over more than one hundred and fifty countries. It has constant surveillance from home and abroad, ready, able and willing to kill remotely through drones controlled by a stick-jockey somewhere in the ‘homeland.’ The global rights of citizens have been effectively reduced such that all people are under threat of imminent indefinite removal as the state security apparatus decides.
The new enemy—variously terrorists, Islamicists, rogue states, extremists, radicals, but mostly terrorists, foreign or domestic—is another created enemy, the new fear factor used to control the operations of the world. The mainstream media is almost entirely controlled by several large corporations that are fundamental to the political-military-corporate complex. Little if any critical news, little if any news in context, and all too often, little if any truth is evident from the mainstream media. There is a revolving door between the various institutions of government, the corporations, and the military leadership, making it relatively important to maintain the façade of the global war on terror, the long war, instilling fear, obedience and complacency into the populace.
The Middle East
With the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, two significant events shaped the future of the region. Both events involved the reigning colonial powers in making arrangements for the future of the Middle East that were decidedly non-democratic. The first was the Sykes-Picot agreement between the British and the French which outlined the future division of colonial powers for the area. Those artificial boundaries remain mostly in place the modern world, fractured by the ongoing wars that are derivative of the agreement. The second event was the Balfour Declaration, more basically a letter between members of the British government promising the creation of a Jewish homeland to the Jewish people. The inter-relationship of these two agreements set the base for our current problems.
Oil was another base. The British had already made discoveries of the great potential of the oil rich region for its military, in particular the navy. The many interactions between the British with Egypt, the Palestine Mandate, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and the gulf coast states mainly concerned retaining the oil riches of the region as well as the militarily strategic advantages of the Suez Canal and the naval routes to India and the western Pacific.
After World War II, the U.S. became predominant. It too recognized the importance of the oil resource, and the strategic importance of the Middle East vis a vis its communist scare campaign, routes of transport for commerce and the military, and its containment of Russia and China.
Without repeating a history that is well presented in many books, the world has arrived at its current state of affairs.
Today the Middle East is in constant turmoil. This has been one of the successes of U.S. policy as constant turmoil, constant domestic strife, constant religious factional strife keeps these governments weak and unable to respond in any serious manner to Israel, or to stand in the way of the containment of Russia and China. One of the main truths of historical research combined with current events is that the U.S. has absolutely no interest in democracy or freedoms in the region as long as the dictators, oligarchs, and monarchies that exist are on their side. Genocide and murder mean little to their overall goals, and associating with tyrants is simply another means to fuller control.
From Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain, all the ‘democratic’ protests have faltered and remained unrealized. The phenomenon of mass protest orchestrated through internet access and websites gave the illusion of power to the people, but when the protests became too serious, the governments with their militaries push back violently. The ideas are strong, but the sword is more potent.
The big newsmaker, as of this writing, is Syria. After my decade of reading and synthesizing materials from many sources, I have arrived at the point where I do not believe anything the U.S government, the U.S. mainstream media, tries to tell me about what is actually occurring in the region. Fortunately there are many alternate internet sites available to corroborate information and further analyze and synthesize current affairs information before reaching any conclusions (RT News, al-Jazeera, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Truthout, Palestine Chronicle, Axis of Logic, Znet, Asia Times, online among my most referenced).
Of course, Syrian news is dulled by the fog and haze of war and the rhetoric of both sides, but it is clear enough that the U.S. is acting well outside international law, and is acting well outside democratic discourse. Syria is one of the countries highlighted by the neocons of the New American Century that was to be changed en route to Iran and the ultimate freeing of Israel from any possible outside threat. It also has the privilege of harboring the only Russian naval port in the Mediterranean, and is part of a proposed pipe-line route that avoids U.S. entanglements.
So what is the truth in Syria? Certainly not how the U.S. presents it. As with its other wars of aggressions, a created mythology of an evil enemy, the now discredited ‘right to protect’ dogma, and the ongoing fear of terror acts, in particular with chemical weapons in this case, all are used in attempts to rationalize, legalize, internationalize any U.S. actions against the state. The empty jargon of freedom and democracy also comes to the fore. All this is thrown away by the U.S.’s own actions in supporting some of the ‘rebels’ who turn out to be al-Qaeda linked groups operating with the support of those paragons of democracy Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Obama backed off on his personal unilateral declaration of war and is now in the process of aligning congress to accept his “limited…proportional” attack. Anyone who has followed current events knows that this is a sham and a lie intended to destroy Assad and Syria, just as Iraq and Afghanistan have been wasted through military might.
This attack, if accepted by Congress, and if acted upon by the military, is pure insanity as the consequences could and with all probability will be severe and “unintended.” Unfortunately, Congress appears to have reversed the positive synergy of groups and arrived at collective stupidity. I put “unintended” in quotes as one can never be sure if chaos and disorder are perhaps the desired goal. That would allow the U.S. to argue that it needs to continue to support Israel, needs to keep fighting the war on terror, needs to keep its military engaged in the region in some manner or other, and finally to argue that it needs more homeland surveillance because surely these people are going to be attacking the homeland anytime now.
Israel is very much a part of any military action in the Middle East. This has been direct as seen with Lebanon and other border countries and with all the Palestine territories where the army rules with full authority and attacks with all the brutality a militarized country can muster. It is evident in its manipulations, interventions, and support of U.S. adventures in the region and its advocacy and support for the ongoing terror wars.
Israel is an undeclared nuclear state, its attempts at ambiguity and uncertainty cloak a military mind that would use its weapons quite readily if they scared themselves into the ultimate threat of annihilation by the much weaker more poorly armed Arab states on their borders. The only state that remains overtly hostile to Israel is Syria. Jordan has signed a peace treaty with Israel, preceded by Egypt.
Saudi Arabia has always been an enigma in its relations with Israel and the U.S. Roosevelt provided some form of verbal protection/non-aggression agreement with the House of Saud. The Saudi’s were involved with Bush Sr. and Jr. in the savings and loan bust of the 1980s and 90s recycling petrodollars for military goods and lining a few political pockets along the way. Of the 9/11 hijackers, 15 of the 19 supposedly came from Saudi Arabia, and it was a pre-eminent clan, the bin-Ladens, whose son supposedly led the attacks from the mud huts and caves of Afghanistan.
The Saudis supported and aided al-Qaeda and continue to do so in Iraq and Syria, overtly offering armaments and money to its acknowledged militant fighters in Syria. They suppress their own people, aid Bahrain in suppressing its protesters, and support the ongoing division between Sunni and Shiite. It is a wonder they continue to survive, but as allies of Israel and the U.S., their position is fairly secure—as long as they do not antagonize Russia too much in Syria.
Palestine has become less and less visible in the public eye, especially in North America and the EU. AIPAC still manages to instill in Congress the necessity of supporting Israel, aided by the fundamentalist and ignorant right wing Christian apocalyptic visionaries. Media control and political support for Israel at the highest level ensure that Palestine remains quite well hidden within the rest of the Middle East chaos. While this chaos reigns, while the peace talks reincarnate then quickly wither and die, the Israelis continue with their settlement expansion and their slow gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The brutalization of the Palestinian people continues, with the quisling Abbas doing his best to help Israel control the West Bank, while the Egyptian military, with the support of U.S. money and military equipment, keep the Rafah border of Gaza pretty much under lock and key.
Should Syria escalate into a broader regional conflict, Israel probably could not be happier. As the strongest state, the only military power with nuclear weapons, more war with Syria works to Israel’s advantage. At its minimum, it destabilizes another country that is hostile to it, with good reason as it has illegally annexed a significant portion of Syrian territory. At its maximum, a full scale ethnic cleansing and the use of nuclear weapons could proceed in the inexcusable chaos created with all the unknowns that war delivers.
From here on…
There are some readily evident truths available from all the analyzing and synthesizing from many different sources around the world.
What I have presented above is my understanding of where those truths are. It is not a pretty picture. Humanity faces environmental, economic, and political-corporate-military threats that are all intertwined.
My voice alone means nothing. I have no power whatsoever. I no longer have any expectation of saving the world. But maybe combined with millions of other voices that speak about the reality of our world, the ideas for environmental protection, democratic humanitarian laws, and an equitable and sustainable economic system may be carried forward to some day when a much more positive human condition can be realized.