Posts Tagged ‘US military bases’

Michael Schwartz: Will Iraq’s Oil Ever Flow?

February 3, 2010
Michael Schwartz , TomDispatch.com,February 3, 2010

Americans have largely stopped thinking about Iraq, even though we still have approximately 110,000 troops there, as well as the largest “embassy” on the planet (and still growing).  We’ve generally chalked up our war in Iraq to the failed past, and some Americans, after the surge of 2007, even think of it as, if not a success, at least no longer a debacle.  Few care to spend much time considering the catastrophe we actually brought down on the Iraqis in “liberating” them.

Continues >>

Obama’s empire

July 31, 2009

An Unprecedented Network of Military Bases That is Still Expanding

Catherine Lutz, New Statesman, July 30, 2009

The 44th president of the United States was elected amid hopes that he would roll back his country’s global dominance. Today, he is commander-in-chief of an unprecedented network of military bases that is still expanding.

In December 2008, shortly before being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama pledged his belief that, “to ensure prosperity here at home and peace abroad”, it was vital to maintain “the strongest military on the planet”. Unveiling his national security team, including George Bush’s defence secretary, Robert Gates, he said: “We also agree the strength of our military has to be combined with the wisdom and force of diplomacy, and that we are going to be committed to rebuilding and restrengthening
alliances around the world to advance American interests and American security.”

Continues >>

Understanding Imperialism

December 12, 2008

“I will never apologise for the United States.

I don’t care what the facts are.”

George Bush the First in 1988 when a US missile cruiser in the Persian Gulf shot down an Iranian passenger jet, killing 290 people.

“We think the price is worth it.”

Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, in December 1996 when it was reported that UN sanctions had killed 576,000 Iraqi children under the age of five.

Today, in the name of “freedom” and “democracy” – hope-laden words – as many as 250,000 Iraqis lie dead, Iraqis and Afghanis live with the brutality of military occupation by the US and it allies and over 20,000 US soldiers are dead or maimed.

In a world where facts are irrelevant, and language is used as if we are living in a never-ending mad hatter’s party, the protests of millions keep alive some sense of human sanity. However, if we are to not just protest, but begin to challenge the source of the barbarity, we need to understand what we are up against.

The idea that Bush is a homicidal maniac surrounded by greedy bastards is appealing. But it implies we just need well-intentioned politicians and business people. As the Indian writer and activist Arundati Roy  said: “It’s true that [George Bush the Second] is a dangerous, almost suicidal pilot, but the machine he handles is far more dangerous than the man himself.”

Understanding that machine provides us with the tools we need to disable it.

Capitalism breeds war

Two Russian revolutionaries – Lenin and Nikolai Bukharin – explained why war is an inevitable result of capitalism when they analysed the causes of World War I.

Capitalism is a system of competition, but there is an inbuilt contradiction: successful companies buy up those that go broke, getting ever bigger. Lenin wrote: “Marx had proved that free competition gives rise to the concentration of production, which, in turn, at a certain stage of development, leads to monopoly.” Ever-bigger capitalist corporations combine in cartels to keep rivals out of the market. Just think of OPEC, the modern cartel of oil exporting states. Their website sums it up: “OPEC’s mission is to … ensure the stabilisation of oil prices in order to secure … a steady income to producers and a fair return on capital to those investing in the petroleum industry.”

By the twentieth century, giant corporations had developed interests extending beyond the borders of their national state. They struggle to out-compete each other in an increasingly integrated world market (called globalisation today). Microsoft, Shell, Nike, BHP-Billiton are typical.

However, contrary to many anti-globalisation theories today, we are not just confronted with marauding multinational corporations. National states have to control “spheres of influence” in order to maximise access to raw materials, markets for goods and investment, trade routes and the like for their multinational corporations. They may use economic and political means, but “the mutual relations of those states – [are] in the final analysis the relations between their military forces”.

Lenin and Bukharin concluded that imperialism – the competition between powerful nations to dominate areas of the globe – defines modern capitalism and this makes war inevitable.

Twentieth century imperialism

As Lenin and Bukharin predicted, World War I did not end the drive to war; it only laid the basis for a further re-division of the world between the major powers. World War II was an imperialist war, not a war for democracy. “War for democracy” – sounds eerily familiar doesn’t it? That’s because the machine was the same – only the drivers were different.

The war ended with a new re-partitioning of the world – by Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill. The Cold War after 1945 was a stand-off between two new superpowers, the Stalinist USSR and the US. The massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction by both sides were justified by the lies that capitalism was defending freedom from the tyranny of communism, and conversely, that the “workers’ states” – which were in reality state-run capitalist states – were a bastion against vile capitalism. It finally ended when this madness brought on the collapse of the USSR’s imperialist bloc between 1989 and 1991.

However, the inbuilt contradictions of capitalism gave rise to a new balance of power. The lunacy of wasting billions of dollars on more than enough nuclear weapons to blow the earth away sustained the longest economic boom ever. Germany and Japan, forbidden to re-arm, gained an economic advantage, riding on the back of the boom to modernise their economies without the burden of military spending. By the end of the long boom in the mid-1970s, the US was no longer the supreme economic power it had been.

The dominance of the US ruling class rested more on military than economic might. Increasingly they needed to send a message to other rising powers such as China, Japan or a united Europe that the US could and would take on any states that challenged its status as the world’s superpower. But the defeat in Vietnam undermined US confidence.

When Saddam Hussein, their former bully boy in the Middle East, looked too independent, they seized the opportunity, not to rid the world of the “new Hitler” as they proclaimed in 1991, but to strike a blow for their future. “Humanitarian” interventions in places such as the Balkans and Somalia were used to put the “Vietnam syndrome” behind them. And they bamboozled even some on the left into believing US might could be humane.

The War of Terror

The supposed “war on terror” is nothing more than the US ruling class’s drive to shore up their empire. Saddam and Al Qaeda are just a convenient pretext for US military bases in the strategic Middle East and Afghanistan, a corridor for supplies of natural gas and oil from Central Asia.

But much more than control of that strategic commodity is at stake. It is about an increasingly belligerent capitalist class who rely on military might to prevent a challenge to their power. Bases in Afghanistan complete the encirclement of China, a potential rival. And the wars demonstrate the barbarity the US is willing to unleash.

Nuclear war – the logic of imperialism

Bush’s drive towards a nuclear strike against Iran is, from the point of view of the US rulers, not madness, but the most reliable way to ensure they remain top imperialist dog.

Australia, as a middle-ranking power, allies itself with the US as a central part of its own imperialist drive to dominate the area regarded as “our own backyard”. Howard and Australia’s capitalists want to go down the nuclear road because it gives them an entry into the nuclear imperialist club. Even if Australian capitalists are only minor players, they’re increasingly flexing their muscles on “their” block. And they have enough uranium to make themselves indispensable to that club.

During the Cold War even many on the left argued that nuclear weapons threatened all of humanity, so at least some capitalists could be anti-war allies. But capitalists take risks all the time. Short term gain far outweighs long term risks, and certainly wins out over humanitarianism.

How can we stop war?

Once we recognise that wars are inevitable in capitalist society, it follows that we can’t rely on parliamentary parties that want to run this system. The US Democrats, in the midst of a massive anti-war campaign, ran a pro-war candidate for President in 2004. The ALP government enthusiastically sent troops to the Persian Gulf in 1991. Even the Greens, who use anti-war rhetoric, don’t consistently campaign to mobilise demonstrations against war, and they actually support the use of imperialist Australian troops to interfere in states in “our neighbourhood”. The German Greens campaigned for years against war and the nuclear industry. Once in government, they attacked anti-nuke campaigners and sent troops to bomb the Balkans in the mid 1990s.

To end the wars we will have to build a movement that mobilises the strength of the mass of people to demonstrate, strike and organise so that governments and bosses know they will have no peace while they occupy, bomb or exploit other countries. That movement needs to be implacably opposed to imperialism, fighting every deployment of imperialist troops, whatever the “justification”.

A Crisis of American Capitalism

September 20, 2008

by Lawrence R. Velvel

You don’t have to be a socialist (and I certainly am not) to understand that this capitalistic country is confronting a crisis of capitalism.  This is not merely a matter of the huge losses and meltdowns that have taken place and have threatened to bring down the whole system with them.  It is also a matter of the failure of a culture, a culture that has grown and grown since the sainted Reagan introduced the twin pillars of his morning in America:  unchecked greed and militarism.

Militarism today holds high carnival:  in Iraq, on somewhere between 700 and 1,100 American bases around the world (the exact number being a secret, even if known to the Pentagon), on huge carriers patrolling seas all over the world, in Bush/Cheney ideas that we should intervene all over the world, in a Pentagon budget of what — something in the neighborhood of 500 billion dollars or more, I suppose?

Unchecked greed also held high carnival, as it drove the housing market ever higher by means visibly pregnant with failure because they defied history, economics, human comprehension and sense:  Adjustable rate mortgages, with initially low rates that one knew — I certainly knew, often said, acted accordingly, and wholly fail to grasp why everyone didn’t know — were pregnant with disaster because they would be unsustainable for the buyers when the interest rates increased, as inevitably they would because rates always rise and fall; securitization that gave rise to so-called tranches so complicated that nobody could understand what the risks and rights were; derivatives which may be even more complicated and which nobody has a real handle on apparently.  It was all nuts (as this writer often said to people), and now it has come crashing down, as was inevitable.  The acclaimed geniuses — like Alan Greenspan (who led the way) — who lived in and loved celebrification, who profited from it, have been shown the fools that they are.  In Greenspan’s case, this is at least the second burst bubble he promoted, the other being the high tech stock market which melted down at the beginning of the 2000s.  (Of course, in America, where nothing succeeds like failure, as is oft typified by celebrified coaches, baseball managers and university presidents, Greenspan remains a great man.)

The heads of major firms have likewise fallen, as their houses of cards collapsed.  The fall of titans represents a horrid, economy-threatening failure of the culture of greed, dishonesty (which often was a major part of pushing the insane instruments on uncomprehending buyers), and unchecked capitalism, the culture which has been pushed on us by conservative intellectuals, politicians and the uncomprehending mainstream media since Reagan took office in 1981.  This vile culture (and the militarism which is in some important ways associated with it (e.g., a war for oil, huge profits for contractors)), came to dominate much of the American nation.  Now the culture of unchecked greed and celebrification of its richest practitioners has come acropper (as did the war in Iraq).  That it would come acropper was inevitable, based as it was on stupidity.  Leaders have been exposed as fools — yet again.

Continued . . .


%d bloggers like this: