Nations Under Attack (Part 1): In the Empire’s Gunsights

This is the first in what I plan to be a series of articles examining the current world situation which appears to be increasingly headed to another major economic crisis and the possibility of a major world conflict. Either of these events will undoubtedly devastate the lives and livelihoods of billions of ordinary people across the planet. This comes at a critical time in history, when in the face of a climate crisis and ever more voracious exploitation it seems that corporate profits and governmental paralysis are dooming many species to extinction—and perhaps the humanity itself. Part 2 briefly describes the elements of the US War Machine and then covers the main components of the toolkit deployed against targeted nations. Part 3 deals with narrative as a tool of war.

War is a Con

War has never about defending human rights or spreading democracy; every war is at heart a conflict manufactured by elites of one or other country and enacted against the ordinary people of both the aggressor nation and its victim of the moment. As author, activist, journalist, and radio host David Swanson points out in War is a Lie, all wars are, and have always been, based on lies. This is so even for the wars we commonly think of as having been necessary defences of democracy or for some humanitarian purpose, such as George HW Bush’s first Iraq war (see The First Iraq War Was Also Sold to the Public Based on a Pack of Lies by Joshua Holland). The eternal truth is that no matter how they are sold to the public and history, all wars are fundamentally acts of one set of elites against other elites to acquire coveted resources and power. 

It’s all about Elites

Core to this is the understanding that all nations of the world are defined not just by recognised cultures, ethnicities, borders, legal systems, and governments, but by a division of the world’s resources among competing blocks of elites whose alliances, allegiances and enmities evolve to take advantage of changing circumstances. While these elites have historically been closely associated with their respective “home” nation states, intermarriage of the elites between nations (for example between the British royals and royals of other European nations) have always meant that there has been a certain international aspect to this. Indeed, alliances between state level and lower level elites were commonly cemented through arranged and more casually entered into marriages up to and beyond the end of the nineteenth century—as they say, birds of a feather. Building on this, and as documented in books such as Peter Phillips’ (professor of Political Sociology at Sonoma State University and media researcher for Project Censored and Media Freedom Foundation) Giants: The Global Power Elite (2018),  the 20th and early 21st Centuries have the rise of a truly trans-national elite that has cemented itself as a dominant global force such as has never before been possible.

In this sense, the first and second World Wars constituted battles between European elites for control over the planet’s resources. WWI largely being a battle for dominance between elites of Britain and Germany for control over the resources of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, while WWII was a battle between the elites of the Axis nations, being Germany and Japan (the former of which, at least initially, sought control over the resources of eastern and central Europe and Russia) and those of Britain, France and the USA. It must be noted that the US elites were split over this, as many had actively supported the rise and resurgence of Germany as an industrial powerhouse and military force during the late 1920’s and into the 1930’s (notable examples being Henry Ford and Prescott Bush).

That these wars served elite interests is evidenced in the fact that none of these wars came as a result of any form of popular demand from the citizenry that they attack another country and in no case was there any question that the public should be consulted by way of a referendum before the government of the day declared war or undertook acts of war leading to a war situation. This fact is just as true in the many wars and acts of war that have been initiated by the US and its allies since the end of WWII, all of which have been justified to the public on the basis of lies, distortions and false flag operations.

Democracy is a Con Too

It is important to recognise that, just as today, the faces fronting past and present wars (such as Hitler, Roosevelt, Churchill, Johnson, Nixon, Bush, Blair, Obama and Trump) are largely merely the current front-of-house salesmen, cheerleaders and agents of the elite interests that are instrumental in their selection and appointment to office. This fact is very well illustrated in the hacked party papers provided to Wikileaks during the 2016 Democratic Party primaries which document how the popular leading candidate, Bernie Saunders, was effectively nobbled by the Party elite in favour of Hillary Clinton—the anointed establishment favourite.

Across the so-called democratic West, the public is generally only asked to choose between candidates that have been vetted and preselected by parties made up of insignificant fractions of the general population and which are universally dominated by powerful, wealthy interests and campaign donors. Far from being true democracies, the general public of these countries is never asked about important questions, like whether we should go to war or not, or whether we should be allied with any particular nation or opposed to another, signed up to a “free trade” treaty or party of a cabal of intelligence agencies. No, ordinary citizens only tend to get asked to voice an opinion on questions like whether we should have a new flag, be able to smoke dope, trade on Sundays or marry people of the same gender.

To the extent that both major parties in most of the duopolistic Western democratic nations have been subverted by essentially the same interests and ideologies promoted through the various elite funded “think tanks” (see The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein), the act of voting in general elections, while providing some variation in the micro level of our lives (such as degrees of  persecution of the poor or demonisation of refugees), essentially changes very little at the macro level—under both parties it seems that we are destined to remain allied to the same hegemonic powers, we are still sent to die in the same wars and we are still subject to the same neoliberal economic policies that shift ever more money into the hands of the already extremely wealthy.

Enslaved to the Transnational Capitalist Class

As documented in Phillips’ book, the rise of what he terms the Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC) since the end of WWII has seen the Western elite block dominate global events and power structures through a range of measures such as the end of the Gold Standard; the weakening and elimination of laws restraining banking operations and corporate financing of political parties; the establishment and funding of ideologically aligned “think tanks” and academic institutes in universities; and the formation of powerful bodies such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the G7 and G30 groups, the Bilderberg Group and the World Economic Forum.

These bodies have been instrumental in the widespread transmission of neoliberal “free market” and austerity based economic policies across the world which have devastated the poor and have increasingly seen the hollowing out of the middle classes in both the USA and other nations that have embraced this pernicious ideology. This has been combined with a deliberate policy promoting the indebtedness of nations and their citizenry and, in particular, of younger generations through the financialisation of education (privatisation, higher fees and student loans) and the casualisation of work (destruction of unions, use of individual contracts, short term and zero hours contracts, legally mandated probationary periods and at will terminations).

Trade Deals are a Con as well

Trade deals, such as NAFTA and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), are written in secret by vested corporate interests and signed with little or no public consultation, let alone a democratic vote on either what they should contain or on whether they are in the best interests of the general population. Such agreements have seen jobs of thousands shipped offshore, environmental and labour conditions weakened and the cost of medicines increased. Labour, intellectual property and environmental laws have been shaped and aligned to favour the vested interests of the corporates who wrote the agreements to benefit themselves.

These agreements are presented as a take it or leave situation for their governments, we get in on the trade and take all of the other stuff or we lose trade and the consequential economic benefits for all. What is more, the purported benefits of these agreements are often not even subject to a rigorous analysis and, even then, what economic analysis is done has been shown to be based on unrealistic assumptions—such as full employment, a constant income distribution and total labour market flexibility.

“A paper from Tufts University, for example, argues that standard economic modelling trade agreement assumes full employment and a constant income distribution. Using a different modelling approach (the UN Global Policy Model), their TPPA economic analysis suggests that all countries (including New Zealand) will experience modest increases in unemployment and income inequality.”  Source: Edward Miller | Feb 2, 2018 | Economics, inequality, ISDS

Opportunities are Diminishing

In spite of their already extreme wealth and the vast degree of wealth inequality we see in the world today, it seems that the elites have an insatiable hunger for ever more. The mantra of perpetual growth drives the global stock markets and CEOs everywhere are rewarded on the basis that share prices and profits will reliably increase by 8-10% per annum with no quarterly deviations from the ever upward trend. The major problem with this expectation of perpetual growth is that the world is a finite place with a fixed quantity of resources to exploit. Another problem is that these resources have already largely been divided up among the elites—growth opportunities available for the elites come from a diminishing pool of unclaimed resources and their ever increasing pool of savings that tends to be fed into financial speculation rather than productive investment. As explained in the many critiques since Marx first wrote Das Capital, such as David Harvey’s  Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason, this phenomenon is a well established feature (failure) of the capitalist system.

The net result of this process is an ever increasing effort to transfer resources from public ownership through privatisations (ever noticed that nearly everything in the public sphere is being sold off or privatised these days? No, well watch out for the Amazon now that Brazil has a neoliberal government and check out what been done to Britain’s National Health System (NHS) under the Tories), a rise in intra/inter-elite battles for dominance (as in Brexit), increased focus on countries and regions not currently allocated to the dominant elites under the existing global carve up (Syria, Iran, China, Russia, parts of Africa, the Arctic and Antarctic, oceanic sea floor, outer-space) and a focus on perpetual war as a means of reliable profits through (hopefully) everlasting cycles of creation and destruction (notice the increased “defence” spending, increasingly shrill war rhetoric , demonisation of opponents and more virulent projection of hate onto target nations and scapegoat populations).

War as a Guaranteed Investment

While most of the world’s inhabitants almost certainly just want to go about their lives—growing  up getting an education and a job, pairing up to have a family and getting old in dignity (and, I would include most members of the numerous national armed forces in this as well)—the logic of perpetual growth means that the elites and TCC are heavily vested in the war industry and the opportunities for profits that accrue from actual warfare. In Giants: The Global Power Elite, Peter Phillips documents how the world’s 17 largest investment funds that control some $41 trillion “in a self-invested network of interlocking capital that spans the globe.”

These investment companies are heavily invested in the war and war preparation industry through substantial holdings in the arms industry the top three largest companies of which being Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing. Other defence related investments include extensive holdings in Amazon ($600 million contract for CIA signed 2013) and Microsoft (new $1.76 billion defence contract signed late 2018). Given the degree to which these companies are now integrated with the US government both through contractual arrangements supporting the military environment and the revolving door and familial relationships between the executive suites and key government positions, these investment funds have a huge stake and sway in the US war industry.

It is perhaps no great surprise that both Iraq wars were started under Bush family presidencies; the Bushes have well documented longstanding links to both the oil industry and the military industrial complex. George H.W. Bush was an agent and director for the CIA prior to becoming president, George W. Bush was employed in the oil industry and, apart from Prescott Bushes role in helping to finance the Nazi’s under Hitler, the Bush dynasty founders are been credited with being in at the foundation of the US military-industrial complex:

“The Bushes and the military-industrial complex: George H. Walker and Samuel Prescott Bush were the dynasty’s founding fathers during the years of and after World War I. Walker, a St. Louis financier, made his mark in corporate reorganizations and war contracts. By 1919, he was enlisted by railroad heir W. Averell Harriman to be president of Wall Street-based WA Harriman, which invested in oil, shipping, aviation and manganese, partly in Russia and Germany, during the 1920s. Sam Bush, the current president’s other great-grandfather, ran an Ohio company, Buckeye Steel Castings, that produced armaments. In 1917, he went to Washington to head the small arms, ammunition and ordnance section of the federal War Industries Board. Both men were present at the emergence of what became the U.S. military-industrial complex.”
Source: Bush Family Values: War, Wealth, Oil by Kevin Phillips Published on Sunday, February 08, 2004 by The Los Angeles Times

The Bush family has also been found to have extensive links to the House of Saud, who are the compradors appointed by the British and US to secure the Saudi oil reverses for the Western elites.

While it cannot be said that the US interests were 100% successful in securing the Iraqi oil reserves as a result of George W. Bushes 2003 invasion, as Al Jazeera reported in 2012 the result was much more favourable for US and European oil giants (that is those associated with the Western bloc elites) than was the situation before the war:

“Prior to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, US and other western oil companies were all but completely shut out of Iraq’s oil market,” oil industry analyst Antonia Juhasz told Al Jazeera. “But thanks to the invasion and occupation, the companies are now back inside Iraq and producing oil there for the first time since being forced out of the country in 1973.” … Juhasz explained that ExxonMobil, BP and Shell were among the oil companies that “played the most aggressive roles in lobbying their governments to ensure that the invasion would result in an Iraq open to foreign oil companies”.

The real benefit from the Iraq wars for the US military industrial complex, and to the elites invested in it, came from the billions of dollars spent in arming, supplying and supporting the war effort and after the war in the many more billions reaped in “reconstruction” projects (many awarded without competitive tender and which were often not completed or and in some cases even attempted) and the ongoing maintenance of the US presence in the country through the War on Terror and the subsequent efforts to force regime change on Syria.

“Kellogg, Brown & Root, the subsidiary of Halliburton which Vice President Dick Cheney led prior to being chosen as Bush’s running mate in August 2000 was the top recipient of federal contracts for the two countries, with more than $2.3 billion awarded to the company. Bechtel Group, a major government contractor with similarly high-ranking ties, was second at around $1.03 billion.” … “most of the companies that won contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan were political players. According to the Center’s analysis, the companies, their political action committees and their employees contributed a total of nearly $49 million to national political campaigns and parties since 1990. Donations to Republican Party committees the Republican National Committee, the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee outpaced those to Democratic committees, $12.7 million to $7.1 million. Among individual candidates, President George Bush received more money from these companies than any other, a little over $500,000.” Source: Center for Public Integrity | By Maud Beelman|Thursday, October 30, 2003

Overall, the Iraq War is estimated to have cost the US some $2 trillion dollars:

“The report concluded the United States gained little from the war while Iraq was traumatized by it. The war reinvigorated radical Islamist militants in the region, set back women’s rights, and weakened an already precarious healthcare system, the report said. Meanwhile, the $212 billion reconstruction effort was largely a failure with most of that money spent on security or lost to waste and fraud, it said.” Source: Daniel Trotta, Reuters, March 15, 2013

But, neither the companies that make up the military industrial complex nor the elites that own them through their various investment companies paid this cost. The cost was ultimately met by the US taxpayer, the US forces personnel who were injured or killed, the veterans who still live with PTSD or disabilities or drug dependency or homelessness and, of course, the Iraqi people – the fabric of whose country was destroyed, families ripped apart and the million or so who died as a direct of consequence of the invasion. As always, the capitalist modus operandi is to privatise the profits while socialising the costs of their endeavours – the profit and loss accounting for the Iraq war provides a perfect example of this principle in action.

The Rush to War

War is no stranger to the USA, on updating the accounting provided by Danios in 2011 and reported by WashingtonsBlog in 2015 reveals that USA has been at war for some 225 years out of the 242 years since it was founded in 1776 – that is 93% of its history. “In most of these wars, the U.S. was on the offense. Danios admits that some of the wars were defensive. However, Danios also leaves out covert CIA operations and other acts which could be considered war.” Other acts that would qualify as war under international convention include sanctions (which the US has repeatedly used against target nations in pursuit of its geopolitical objectives, especially since the end of WWII. This has included sanctions imposed under one pretext or another against North Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Syria and Russia) and CIA actions against a host of Central and South American nations, which under the self-serving Munroe Doctrine the US government arrogantly asserts it has the right to interfere at will.

However, the events of 9/11 served to provide the pretext for an unprecedented escalation of US war mongering. In spite of the official 9/11 story pinning the blame for the 9/11 attack on 19 mostly Saudi nationals belonging to the Al Qaeda organisation (which was headed by Osama bin Laden, a member of the Saudi ruling class whose organisation was originally funded and promoted by the CIA to oust the Russians from Afghanistan), the US used the event to launch a war across the Middle East, as was subsequently revealed by General Wesley Clark:

“We’re going to take out 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan & Iran..” – General Wesley Clark interview with Amy Goodman

This wider war has since been revealed to be very much a pre-planned initiative to gain control over the resources of the area and further Israeli interests in creating and maintaining chaos in the region, especially in neighbouring Arab nations opposed to it and its occupation of Palestinian lands. Although the plan has not turned out as predicted, five of the countries listed have seen direct military and sponsored terrorist actions since, and Iran has been subject to both economic acts of war (in the shape of sanctions) and terrorist actions through the US supported MEK. Somehow Yemen has been added to the list in the intervening years as a Saudi-led initiative to gain control over its resources and its strategic location in relation to both the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea—both critical sea lanes for oil and other trade (for this reason the Bristish had a major naval base at Aden for many decades).

Overall, the current primary targets for the US empire—and the elites who use and benefit from its wars of aggression—are Russia, China and Iran. In many senses, the wars on the smaller and weaker nations mentioned above, and others such as Afghanistan, Venezuela and Ukraine, are merely stepping stones or early preparatory phases in the main battle for control. The economic, political and social issues currently affecting the US and Europe make this rush to war a compelling prospect for the elites—the opportunities for outrageous profits abound while the costs—at least to them—are minimal.

In forthcoming parts to this series of articles, I plan to examine the methods used to target nations and the ways they have fought back—either successfully or unsuccessfully. 

Steven Howard

Part 2 is here

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