While Barack Obama’s presidency may have begun with receipt of wholly undeserved accolades – inauguration itself and then an inexplicable Nobel Peace Prize – an opportunity has arisen for his presidency to end with a more fitting award – an Oscar. For Barack Obama’s oft-professed admiration of Ronald Reagan has found its ultimate expression in a series of acting performances far exceeding anything ever managed by a B-list Gipper. In announcing his extension of America’s patented, permanent War on Terror1 to the ever-gullible American people, Obama made it all the way through the pitch with a perfectly straight face, even though the terrorists we have now decided to label as enemies are monsters created by the United States and its friends in the Middle East. In more recent days, Obama has attended screenings of his version of The Empire Strikes Back before international audiences, telling the United Nations how proud he is of his very own coalition of the willing, while eliding – rather negligently, one might say, for a former college professor – the educational potential of the highly apposite phrase, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” What we should be talking about, if we were a society capable of intelligent analysis rather than just fight-or-flight viciousness, is not the nature of the bit parts America’s allies are willing to play in the sequel to G.W. Bush’s smash hit, but what their wills intend to create, and how the sudden ISIS crisis is their way of creating it.
If Barack Obama deserves the Oscar for Best Actor in a Drama (and John Kerry requires a category of his own for tragedy), an award for production assistance must surely go to the Associated Press. The AP has diligently set the scene for Washington’s latest epic production, relentlessly characterizing our hero as a reluctant warrior who tried his best to avoid being dragged into the Syrian civil war, expecting its readers to have forgotten all about Kerry’s hysterical, unsubstantiated, and obviously bellicose accusations that Assad had transgressed Obama’s chemical-weapons Red Line. Russia’s diplomatic success in fending off America’s plan to rain death and destruction on Syria has been drowned out by incessant repetition of the blatant lie that the Russians have been the aggressors in the Ukraine and a wholly unwarranted demonization of Vladimir Putin that supports the empire’s long-term plan to weaken and, if possible, dismantle Russia. Methodically inoculated against the perception of American hypocrisy, the AP’s readers are allowed to see no violation of international law, infringement upon the sovereignty of others, or need for sanctions against the blessed Homeland, despite its multi-billion dollar interference in the Ukraine and its years-long, open sponsorship of terrorists in Syria – terrorists seeking to depose a democratically elected, secular government. Treated, perhaps deservingly, as bovine herds, the American people are whipped up with daily recordings of wolf calls, as effective as the wailing of any muezzin, in the form of the modern mantra of selective outrage, the beheading story. Strangely, the western audience had not been particularly perturbed by the beheading of Muslims. The various terrorist factions that the West and its friends have been training, financing, and equipping have been beheading their victims for quite some time. Saudi Arabia – a regressive monarchy that one might think could never be close to the Home of the Free – beheads people regularly for reasons that would violate even Rick Perry’s notions of Eighth Amendment proportionality, yet no one is calling for a war on Saudi Arabia or accusing these rather fundamentalist folks of being “monsters, not Muslims,” as America’s English sheepdog, David Cameron, might say. These headless Muslims might just as well be headless chickens in a factory farm, for all the attention they have been accorded. But if a westerner – especially a Jew – is decapitated, then, all of a sudden, we have ourselves a slash pic with box-office potential. Much as the murderous accomplishments of ISIS pale into insignificance when compared to the global body count of the world’s greatest, professional terrorist organization – the United States – so the group’s much-ballyhooed facility with social media fails to match the manipulative magnificence of the western corporate media.
Exceptional Ambition: The Last, Desperate Play of an Empire in Denial
ISIS is not a threat; ISIS is a carefully manufactured pretext. ISIS has provided Barack Obama with a way to run around Mr. Putin’s roadblock and, in due course, impose regime change on Syria, chalking yet another country off the imperial bucket list, and leaving yet another hellhole in America’s glorious wake. And those of us who have not been distracted by the children’s picture show of American public discourse know very well that Syria is the gateway to Iran. Over two years ago, we asked if the American people were stupid enough to allow Iran to meet the same fate as Iraq. Based on their apparent willingness to rally around the false flag raised by an American empire of grotesque and exceptional cynicism, the answer to that question must be, sadly, a resounding affirmative. The only question remaining is what the next pretext will be. Will the U.S. accuse Iran of threatening the world with WMDs? (Yawn. Another sequel!) Will the Iranians be found complicit in the support of ISIS? (Surely, too droll even for Washington, although when many members of Congress don’t know the difference between Shiites and Sunnis, anything is possible.) Will the CIA engineer a “false flag” event, like 9-11, and blame it on the Iranians? (Why not? They’ve done it many times before, all over the world, and it works beautifully.) Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. There will be a pretext, for reasons we are about to discuss, and Congress – even if it is asked, for purely political purposes – will vote for it without a Ted Cruz-style filibuster, just as they have recently rubber-stamped the country’s official policy of supporting terrorism. (One has to wonder how many stump speeches this fall will feature the refrain, to be accompanied by a waving of little flags, that our terrorists are better than their terrorists. But even the few legislators to have expressed reservations, like Justin Amash and Rand Paul, can not be expected to tell their hapless constituents that, in the final analysis, they are all our terrorists.)
With Hillary Clinton sending unmistakeable signals to the owners of America that she intends to be an overtly, as opposed to covertly, aggressive empress, the course of American foreign policy is not hard to predict, especially when long-term forces are considered. As the American people watch “reality television,” the real world around them is moving rapidly to a turning point. By some measures, 2014 will see China overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy. While the United States has been busy destroying sovereign countries in the Middle East, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands, creating even larger numbers of refugees, and desecrating priceless cultural sites with destructive tools unavailable to most teenage vandals, the Chinese have quietly gone about the business of doing business. As Pepe Escobar of Asia Times has explained, the Chinese have been making deals all over the world, without asking too many questions or seeking to impose any kind of political agenda. (Of course, Mother Nature is no more a consenting party to those deals than she is to America’s resource exploitation. While Chinese capitalism may not produce quite as much human chaos as American capitalism, the destruction of the planetary ecosystem is guaranteed no matter which flavor prevails.) The Chinese are placing themselves in an extremely strong position, and their increasing ties with a Russia that is, stupidly, being spurned by a Europe utterly under America’s thumb, presents the United States with the very real prospect of losing its preeminence. Indeed, so thorough is the Chinese penetration of global commerce that they have even started making deals with Middle Eastern oil producers, chiefly, but not solely, the Iranians. Both Russian and Chinese warships have sailed through the crucial Straits of Hormuz to dock at Bandar Abbas, a stone’s throw away from the base of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Iran, and possibly Venezuela, could soon become members of the BRICS, a prospect that could spell the end of American global hegemony in three letters: O-I-L. A race to Tehran has begun, with China’s resumption of trade along the ancient Silk Road presenting an alternative to America’s penchant for recreating the human misery of the Trail of Tears2. And this is a race that the U.S. cannot afford to lose.
Iran is the final piece of America’s Middle East puzzle, but the Americans may not have manipulated their bloody Rubik’s Cube quickly enough. Although neocons see Iran as a means of weakening Russia (a geographical assumption, courtesy of the Russophobic Zbigniew Brzezinski, that may turn out to be as dangerously misguided as Winston Churchill’s obsession with the “soft underbelly” of Europe), Iran has tremendous geostrategic value in its own right. As we discussed some time ago (in Only the Terrorists Can Save Us Now) America’s global hegemony depends upon the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. Given that dead dinosaurs still fuel the bulk of human activity, OPEC’s willingness to price its product in dollars is tremendously beneficial to the United States. Thus, the Middle East is more important to the U.S. than the Crimea ever was to another doomed and murderous empire, Hitler’s Third Reich. Not only does the U.S. need a guaranteed supply of oil to quench the insatiable thirst of its global war machine; it needs a guarantee that petrodollars will always be in demand, even when they are only fit for use as bathroom tissue. (Clearly, America’s hopes for energy independence from its fracking revolution are being hedged in a most forceful way. The empire’s needs are simply too great and too immediate to ignore the safety offered by the Sheikhs.) Should the non-occidental world find it possible to function without dollars – say under an alternative, mutual exchange mechanism developed by an expanded BRICS, as Russia and China are already implementing in their recent, massive natural gas deal – then the empire will be unable to finance its war machine without making crushing domestic sacrifices that would rouse the American people from their television sets in a manner most unbecoming for the putative pinnacle of human civilization. America’s desire to remain the only global superpower in a world that is moving east, combined with the Saudis’ visceral hatred of the Shiites and Israel’s desperate quest for regional hegemony, constitute a destructive storm for the ages heading straight for Tehran.
For the Iranians, the Russians, the Chinese, and all of those who have been on the receiving end of America’s destructive power, it is patently clear that the gravest threat to global peace is not the latest bogeyman dreamed up by Western manipulators, but the United States itself. The fate of the American Empire hangs in the balance, and when that much power, and that much profit, are at stake, the United States – the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons in anger3 – is capable of anything.
America’s history of violent conquest is undergirded by the thorough conditioning of its population, whose capacity for criticism of the empire has been systematically degraded and destroyed. A rather extreme example was provided by one William Krueger of Leesburg, Florida, whose opinions were aired by this Sunday’s edition of the Leesburg Daily Commercial. Portraying the entirety of the Islamic world as religious fanatics intent on killing all civilized westerners who refuse to convert to their religion, lumping Hezbollah in with al-Qaeda, and describing the Iranian hostage crisis as “unprovoked,” Mr. Krueger concludes that the only way to eliminate the “most serious threat to [America’s] existence… that we have faced in [our] lifetime” is to “kill them all!” Obviously, the owners of the military-industrial complex need not worry about citizens like this. But it is not just so-called conservatives like Mr. Krueger who provide the empire with domestic support. On the contrary, America’s full-spectrum dominance would not be possible without full-spectrum complicity. In this respect, the opinions of John Crisp, an English professor and syndicated columnist, are far more illuminating of the psychpathologies of the imperial citizenry.
In a recent column that would have offended conservatives by calling for recognition of the need to cooperate with Iran in the fight against ISIS, Crisp betrayed the very arrogance that ensures the United States will never recognize the need to abandon its empire and become a proper country instead, dealing with other nations as equals instead of dominating them. Crisp shows he’s on the right side straight away:
Things used to be simpler. During the Cold War our Middle East strategy was driven by the desire to fend off communism and to protect our access to cheap crude oil, even if we were required to support despotic, undemocratic regimes.
Actually, we were not required to support despotic regimes; we chose to do so. In the case of Iran, we could have done business with a democratically elected government. Perhaps we would have had to pay a little more for the oil, but it was, after all, their oil. But we didn’t want to do that – any more than we wanted to pay too much for fruit from Guatemala or copper from Chile. So we orchestrated a coup and installed the Shah, trained his secret police, and rode off into the sunset. “Fending off communism” provided a marvelous pretext for maximizing corporate profits. All of this is brushed under the carpet by Crisp as a complication presented by “our history,” without spelling out just how big a complication it is. (Another professor missing an obvious opportunity to edify.) Then we get to the meat of the argument:
The most desirable outcomes — the destruction of the Islamic State, a new regime in Syria, a stable, multi-sectarian Iraq — are unlikely.
Unfortunately, we lost much of our ability to impose an effective, unilateral strategy in the Middle East when Cheney/Bush/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz smashed the genie’s bottle in Iraq by removing dictator Saddam Hussein. Now any strategy that doesn’t take into account the intensification of the abysmal Sunni/Shia divide and the rise of Iran is unlikely to succeed.[…]
In its own backyard, Iran cannot be ignored. Working with Iran to destroy the Islamic State is a better option than any we currently have.
When even “liberals” like Crisp accept that “a new regime in Syria” is “desirable,” it is clear that the next phase in the imperial project will meet little domestic resistance. There are no more qualms here about the removal of a democratically elected leader in Syria than there were about America’s regime change in Iran in 1953. Crisp claims that “things” are “more complicated” now, yet he continues to support the same old imperial formula. Indeed, his lament that “we lost our ability to impose” a “unilateral strategy” could not be a more explicit affirmation of America’s self-assigned right to rule the world as it sees fit. In the end, Crisp’s column amounts to little more than a cheap shot across the narrows of the partisan divide, blaming our predicament on the techniques of Obama’s predecessors instead of fingering (bipartisan) imperialism itself. While he may not be calling for war with Iran, as the Zionist Cal Thomas does, Crisp – in his own way as clueless as the brainwashed Citizen Krueger – seems utterly unable to connect the dots from forced regime change in Syria to confrontation with Tehran, expecting Iran to cooperate with the empire that seeks to destroy it and its best friend in the region (which also happens to be the one country that has been fighting ISIS from day one). The propagation of such touchingly naive ignorance helps advance the imperial project just as much as the ravings of conservative lunatics, the appearance of debate within the punditry propelling the ship of state forward with alternating strokes from port and starboard.
Thus, with no realistic prospect of internal resistance to American imperialism, or recognition of the need to coexist with other significant powers in a new, multipolar order, the configuration of global power will have to be settled the old-fashioned way. And when the Americans survey the world of ashes that they will come to own, we hope they will be happy with their creation. In the annals of history, it will be quite exceptional.