February 17, 2010
A fresh dispatch from the imperial satrapy of Bactria brings word that the Pentagon has ended the eyeblink-brief "suspension" of one of its super-duper missile systems following the "unfortunate" slaughter of 12 civilians, including five children, in the opening hours of the all-out media blitz -- sorry, the "largest military operation of the Afghan war" -- now being inflicted on the city of Marja.
As you'll recall, after this initial child sacrifice to waft the pleasing smell of innocent blood to great Ares, that he might smile upon the bold Achaeans in their martial endeavor, mighty Agamemnon himself -- now robed in the flesh of General Stanley "Black Ops" McChrystal -- stepped forth before the cameras, and with great show of crocodilian regret, declared that the "errant" missile system would be withdrawn from battle forthwith, until such time as it could be determined why it killed all those civilians and, worst of all, gummed up the glowing press which the Pentagon had painstakingly cultivated during the run-up to the attack.
But as the ever-astute Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com notes, the Pentagon concluded its in-depth investigation of the incident in a matter of hours. What's more, the brass found that not only was there no error whatsoever in the hi-tech death-hurling technology, but also that the whole incident was actually the result of the heroic efforts of a clean-limbed young Leatherneck to save the cowering civilians in his tender care.
Yes, that's right. The Pentagon's story now is that it killed 12 civilians in order to save civilians. As Reuters reports:
"We know now that the missile arrived at the target it was supposed to arrive at. It wasn't a rogue missile. There was no technical fault in it," [Major General Nick Carter, the British commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan] told reporters ... A young U.S. Marine Corps officer in charge in the area where the rockets were fired was protecting a number of civilians behind his positions, Carter said.
And so he called in the missile strike on the house, because, as another occupation spokesman put it: "It is not unusual for the insurgents to operate in compounds where there are civilians sheltering."
So you kill civilians in order to protect civilians. And every civilian is a potential enemy who might harm civilians -- so you kill them. (Three more civilians in Marja were shot down just yesterday.) Every house is a potential nest of no-goodniks -- and thus a legitimate target for destruction.
And if it turns out that you kill a whole houseful of civilians -- if it turns out you take five children and shatter their skulls, spill their viscera from gaping holes torn across their bellies, and crush their small, undefended bodies beneath rubble and stone -- why, that's OK. Because all that matters is that the weapon functioned in the way it was intended to function. The rules of engagement were followed to the letter. Everything happened as it was supposed to happen.
The five children died because they were supposed to die. The system worked.
This point seems difficult for some to grasp. Oh, how terrible, they say, when these "mistakes" are made! Oh, how these "unfortunate tragedies" detract from the altruistic intentions of our young, progressive president and his humanitarian war machine! Oh, isn't it such a shame when things go wrong!
But nothing is going wrong. When you read of children lying in a broken heap, their lifeblood draining away into dark, coagulated pools -- that means the system is functioning properly. That's what the system does. That is what it is there to do: to kill, destroy and dominate. That's why we have installed the system in Afghanistan.
And what is the ultimate goal of this system, the purpose of the killing, destroying and dominating?
As Frida Berrigan at TomDispatch points out, the United States now owns a virtual monopoly in the ever-burgeoning world market for weapons of death. And under its young, progressive president, Barack Obama, the government is relentlessly pushing to strip away the few remaining fig leaves of regulation hindering this immensely destructive but staggeringly profitable business:
As Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morell explained in January, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants to see "wholesale changes to the rules and regulations on government technology exports" in the name of "competitiveness."
When he says "government technology exports," Morell of course means weapons and other military technologies. "Tinkering with our antiquated, bureaucratic, overly cumbersome system is not enough to maintain our competitiveness in the global economy and also help our friends and allies buy the equipment they need to contribute to global security," he continued, "[Gates] strongly supports the administration’s efforts to completely reform our export control regime, starting ideally with a blank sheet of paper."
... In addition to revising these export controls, the administration is looking at the issue of "dual-use" technologies. These are not weapons. They do not shoot or explode. Included are high-speed computer processors, surveillance and detection networks, and a host of other complex and evolving technologies that could have military as well as civilian applications. This category might also include intangible items like cyber-entities or access to controlled web environments.
This is the world that the Obama Administration is pushing hard to create: a hellish global dystopia of bristling, bloated military-dominated regimes wielding ever-greater control over their populations with ever-more intrusive "security" technology. It is the world described in the nightmare vision voiced, as a warning, by Dwight Eisenhower more than half a century ago:
[A] life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms in not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children ... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Now that nightmare has become the happy dream of our progressive government. Where Eisenhower, the top general in history's most destructive war, saw that the weapons business was a monstrous waste, an outright theft of the lives, blood, treasure and opportunity of all humankind, Obama and his handpicked Bush holdover Gates see it as a noble enterprise that actually "contributes to global security"! They are not concerned -- even rhetorically -- about the hungry being robbed of food and the cold being stripped of clothing. No, their focus is on "maintaining our competitiveness in the global economy" -- "competitiveness" in a business where, as Berrigan notes, the United States already controls almost 70 percent of the global market.
So that's why no super-duper hi-tech death technology is going to be pulled from the order of battle in Afghanistan for longer than a single news cycle, just long enough to offset the bad headlines that a slaughter of civilians will momentarily produce. These death technologies cost too much money -- and, more importantly, make too much money -- to be set aside for any reason.
Berrigan notes the naked profit motive underlying Obama's grand strategy of "Afghanistanization" -- i.e., building up the military and security forces of the American-implanted Afghan government. As in Iraq, the aim is not so much "nation building" as "market building": setting up yet another conduit to pass American taxpayer money directly to weapons dealers:
"What’s Hot?" is the title of Vice Adm. Jeffrey Wieranga’s blog entry for Jan. 4, 2010. Wieranga is the director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which is charged with overseeing weapons exports, and such pillow talk is evidently more than acceptable – at least when it’s about weapons sales. In fact, Wieranga could barely restrain himself that day, adding: "Afghanistan is really HOT!" Admittedly, on that day the temperature in Kabul was just above freezing, but not at the Pentagon, where arms sales to Afghanistan evidently create a lot of heat.
As Wieranga went on to write, the Obama administration’s new 2010/2011 budget allocates $6 billion in weaponry for Afghan Security Forces. The Afghans will actually get those weapons for free, but U.S. weapons makers will make real money delivering them at taxpayers’ expense and, as the vice admiral pointed out, that "means there is a staggering amount of acquisition work to do."
You ain't just whistlin' Dixie, Vice Admiral. There will be "acquisition work" out the wazoo as the war goes on -- for decades afterward. But of course, these "free" arms sales are just like the samplings that pushers pass around outside the high school gates. Because once the mark is hooked, once the native military and security forces are thoroughly entrenched, they will need constant replenishment with more weapons, new technologies, and more lucrative "training" from American sources, both public and private. This in turn will leave the client state saddled with crippling public debt -- necessitating the usual "shock therapy" of "economic reform," i.e., shredding "inefficient" social programs -- like, education, sanitation, health care, etc. -- and turning the material wealth and natural resources of the country over to a few select private investors, foreign and domestic.
This treatment is not just for client states anymore, by the way. As Michael Hudson points out at CounterPunch, the American people themselves are beginning to get this full treatment. With their economy, communities and social fabric being devoured by a bloated military establishment and voracious elites, the American people are now being told -- by these same voracious elites -- that they must address the "deficit crisis" by giving up their meager "entitlements" and accepting a vastly diminished and degraded way of life ... even as their young, progressive president continues to expand the bloated military establishment in all directions.
But again, this is what the system is intended to do. Like the missile launcher that stole the lives of five children in Marja, the whole militarist-corporatist system is functioning properly in nailing humanity on a cross of iron, diminishing and degrading life all around the world -- for money, for power and profit, for the power and profit of a tiny sliver of privileged elites, so they can strut and preen and gorge themselves in comfort, for a brief time, before they too, like all the rest of us, go down howling into darkness.
That is what it comes to. That is what the system is for. That is what the war is about. That is why the children died. That is why more will die tomorrow.
And that is why your own children's lives -- their opportunities, their hopes, their possibilities for a peaceful, secure, productive, fulfilling life -- are being systematically constricted and degraded before your eyes.
There is no dysfunction in all of this. As we noted here not long ago, quoting Alex Cox: The Purpose of a System is What It Does.