Hollywood and the war machine

 

War is hell, but for Hollywood it has been a Godsend, providing the perfect dramatic setting against which courageous heroes win the hearts and minds of the movie going public.

The Pentagon recognises the power of these celluloid dreams and encourages Hollywood to create heroic myths; to rewrite history to suit its own strategy and as a recruiting tool to provide a steady flow of willing young patriots for its wars.

Hollywood  Video Icon
The Pentagon calls the shots
Producer: Diana Ferraro
Hollywood: Chronicler of the war
Producer: Tim Tate

What does Hollywood get out of this ‘deal with the devil’? Access to billions of dollars worth of military kit, from helicopters to aircraft carriers, enabling filmmakers to make bigger and more spectacular battle scenes, which in turn generate more box office revenue. Providing they accept the Pentagon’s advice, even toe the party line and show the US military in a positive light.

So is it a case of art imitating life, or a sinister force using art to influence life and death – and the public perception of both?

Empire will examine Hollywood, the Pentagon, and war.

Joining us as guests: Oliver Stone, the eight times Academy Award-winning filmmaker; Michael Moore, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker; and Christopher Hedges, an author and the former Middle East bureau chief of the New York Times.

Our interviewees this week are: Phil Strub, US Department of Defense Film Liaison Unit; Julian Barnes, Pentagon correspondent, LA Times; David Robb, the author of  Operation Hollywood; Prof Klaus Dodds, the author of Screening Terror; Matthew Alford, the author of Reel Power; Prof Melani McAlister, the author of Culture, Media, and US Interests in the Middle East.

‘Bible codes’ on Afghan army guns + US burns Bibles in Afghanistan row (US white christian imperialist war demystified)

Revelations that US troops have been using guns with a Biblical reference inscribed on part of the weapon throws the claim that their military is a secular force into question. The Pentagon has been buying scopes from a company called Trijicon for at least five years. It is South African founder started the practice three decades ago. The company has continued to insrcribe the parts ever since. Al Jazeera’s David Chater has more on the gun sights which are being used in Afghanistan. (Jan 21, 09).

Ref: Al Jazeera

US burns Bibles in Afghanistan row

The video, shot about a year ago, appeared to show military chaplains stationed in the US air base at Bagram discussing how to distribute copies of the Bible printed in the country’s main Pashto and Dari languages.

In one recorded sermon, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, tells soldiers that, as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility “to be witnesses for him”.

“The special forces guys – they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus … we hunt them down,” he said.

“Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That’s what we do, that’s our business.”

Ref: Al Jazeera

VIDEO: Post-American world! + The US as a great warrior tribe

RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze speaks to American journalist and CNN programme host Fareed Zakaria to find out what he thinks about Obama’s administration in Washington, and the U.S. influence in the world.

FOCUS: IMPERIUM
The US as a great warrior tribe

According to tribal Yemeni tradition, if a dispute has been resolved peacefully, any dagger that has been drawn cannot go back into its scabbard unless it tastes blood. Traditionally, an animal is slaughtered to satisfy its thirst and restore its holder’s honour.

Since the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact without a single shot, let alone nuclear warheads, being fired, the ‘Greater Middle East’ region has been turned into a real theatre of war.

From the Gulf war in 1991 through to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, from Somalia in 1993 to Yemen in 2010, and through Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US military has gone to great lengths to demonstrate its strategic capacity to act in faraway places and to prove its ability to guard and advance US and Western interests.

In no time, military means and out-right war and occupation replaced diplomacy and international law.

In return, the Pentagon’s budget has almost doubled from the level it was before 9/11 to surpass the combined military expenditures of all the countries of the world, all under the guise of the ‘global war against terror’.

Alas, the costly failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and other countries have demonstrated that the Muslim world is far too stubborn to be offered as a sacrifice in the pursuit of global leadership.

Tribal vs. state identities

Since then, the devastating wars of terror that have taken place in the shadows of accelerated globalisation have weakened state structures and institutions and reinforced tribal and sectarian identities. Regimes not directly affected, took preventative measures by strengthening their grip on power through increased security and tribal alliances.

The US and its regional allies have empowered and financed tribal leaders, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, to defeat unrelenting Islamist opposition or nationalist insurgencies, just as America’s enemies have tried to gain the support of tribes for their cause against the “foreigners”.

Washington followed in the footsteps of the UK, which boasts extensive experience of tribal politics in its former colonies, to arm and finance tribal leaders to fight its war in Iraq under the guise of “The Awakening” or ”The Sons of Iraq”.

Likewise in Afghanistan, where the US built on its long experience with the northern tribes in the 1980s to regain the initiative against the Soviet supported regime in Kabul.

In the process, salient – and not so salient – tribal power has been empowered in all the areas of conflict in the ‘Greater Middle East’ by undemocratic leaders. Yemen, Libya, Jordan, Palestine and, even failed states like Afghanistan and Somalia, have witnessed the emergence of tribal loyalties and power.

But the failure of the US and its allies to attain stability – let alone to declare victory – has slowly but surely transformed the political landscape into a coalition of tribes or ‘a warrior ruling tribe’ over many.

‘Sons of America’

This transformation was not limited to the Middle East. Compromised by globalisation and market diktats, the most modern countries, such as the US, just like the least modern, such as Yemen, are increasingly acting in primordial ways and means.

As their sovereignty is compromised by multinational corporate decisions, capital, labour and investment movements, as well as communication and cultural globalisation, many states make up for their diminishing role over their economy and culture through alternative means of collective identities such as rallying their people around the flag.

With the advent of 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’, anger, humiliation and fear nudged the US into wars of ‘shock and awe’, revenge, torture, and rendition – stripping their ‘enemy-combatants’ of their very humanity in far away prisons.

The politics of fear engineered by cynical racism and nationalism drove wars that have compromised traditional republican values and civil liberties just as its wars of choice undermined its ‘social contract’ and whipped US citizens into a collective frenzy.

In short, the United States of America, the most powerful and advanced liberal democracy, began acting as the most aggressive of all the world’s tribes. And although much of this change was engineered by the Bush administration under the fog of the ‘war on terror’, Barack Obama’s election has defused war criticism, diminished the ‘peace movement’ and once again united the country under the flags of war.

In the process, tribal loyalty replaced patriotism, revenge superseded legality, and “you’re either with US or against us” wrecked international solidarity and even sympathy with the US after the 9/11 attacks.

War without end

As asymmetrical warfare takes up the fight from conventional wars, battles are replaced by bombings and massacres, military bases by hideouts and remote control rooms, population control and policing by propaganda and terror, and national borders are surpassed by new fault lines passing through every minor Middle Eastern state and every major Western city.

As Afghans, Pakistanis, Yemenis and Somalis volunteer to fight and even die on behalf of their cause and collective identities, against corrupt autocratic regimes, demoralised soldiers and private contractors with fancy gear, who do you think wins at the end of the day?

Before you answer, consider two important lessons of asymmetrical war that have been ignored in the sweeping post-9/11 transformation.

Firstly, in the long term, loyalty, kinship, sacrifice and a sense of justice and belonging is more potent than firepower.

Secondly, “he who fights terrorists for any period of time is likely to become one himself”.

All of which begs for a change in the whole paradigm of the ongoing ‘global war on terror’ that holds entire populations hostage to fear and war.

To be continued …

REF: Al jazeera

De-Dollarization: Dismantling America’s Financial-Military Empire (bye bye US fucking A!)

The city of Yakaterinburg, Russia’s largest east of the Urals, may become known not only as the death place of the tsars but of American hegemony too – and not only where US U-2 pilot Gary Powers was shot down in 1960, but where the US-centered international financial order was brought to ground.

Challenging America will be the prime focus of extended meetings in Yekaterinburg, Russia (formerly Sverdlovsk) today and tomorrow (June 15-16) for Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other top officials of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The alliance is comprised of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrghyzstan and Uzbekistan, with observer status for Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia. It will be joined on Tuesday by Brazil for trade discussions among the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

The attendees have assured American diplomats that dismantling the US financial and military empire is not their aim. They simply want to discuss mutual aid – but in a way that has no role for the United States, NATO or the US dollar as a vehicle for trade. US diplomats may well ask what this really means, if not a move to make US hegemony obsolete. That is what a multipolar world means, after all. For starters, in 2005 the SCO asked Washington to set a timeline to withdraw from its military bases in Central Asia. Two years later the SCO countries formally aligned themselves with the former CIS republics belonging to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), established in 2002 as a counterweight to NATO.

Yet the meeting has elicited only a collective yawn from the US and even European press despite its agenda is to replace the global dollar standard with a new financial and military defense system. A Council on Foreign Relations spokesman has said he hardly can imagine that Russia and China can overcome their geopolitical rivalry,1 suggesting that America can use the divide-and-conquer that Britain used so deftly for many centuries in fragmenting foreign opposition to its own empire. But George W. Bush (“I’m a uniter, not a divider”) built on the Clinton administration’s legacy in driving Russia, China and their neighbors to find a common ground when it comes to finding an alternative to the dollar and hence to the US ability to run balance-of-payments deficits ad infinitum.

What may prove to be the last rites of American hegemony began already in April at the G-20 conference, and became even more explicit at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 5, when Mr. Medvedev called for China, Russia and India to “build an increasingly multipolar world order.” What this means in plain English is: We have reached our limit in subsidizing the United States’ military encirclement of Eurasia while also allowing the US to appropriate our exports, companies, stocks and real estate in exchange for paper money of questionable worth.

“The artificially maintained unipolar system,” Mr. Medvedev spelled out, is based on “one big centre of consumption, financed by a growing deficit, and thus growing debts, one formerly strong reserve currency, and one dominant system of assessing assets and risks.”2 At the root of the global financial crisis, he concluded, is that the United States makes too little and spends too much. Especially upsetting is its military spending, such as the stepped-up US military aid to Georgia announced just last week, the NATO missile shield in Eastern Europe and the US buildup in the oil-rich Middle East and Central Asia.

The sticking point with all these countries is the US ability to print unlimited amounts of dollars. Overspending by US consumers on imports in excess of exports, US buy-outs of foreign companies and real estate, and the dollars that the Pentagon spends abroad all end up in foreign central banks. These agencies then face a hard choice: either to recycle these dollars back to the United States by purchasing US Treasury bills, or to let the “free market” force up their currency relative to the dollar – thereby pricing their exports out of world markets and hence creating domestic unemployment and business insolvency.

When China and other countries recycle their dollar inflows by buying US Treasury bills to “invest” in the United States, this buildup is not really voluntary. It does not reflect faith in the U.S. economy enriching foreign central banks for their savings, or any calculated investment preference, but simply a lack of alternatives. “Free markets” US-style hook countries into a system that forces them to accept dollars without limit. Now they want out.

This means creating a new alternative. Rather than making merely “cosmetic changes as some countries and perhaps the international financial organisations themselves might want,” Mr. Medvedev ended his St. Petersburg speech, “what we need are financial institutions of a completely new type, where particular political issues and motives, and particular countries will not dominate.”

When foreign military spending forced the US balance of payments into deficit and drove the United States off gold in 1971, central banks were left without the traditional asset used to settle payments imbalances. The alternative by default was to invest their subsequent payments inflows in US Treasury bonds, as if these still were “as good as gold.” Central banks now hold $4 trillion of these bonds in their international reserves – land these loans have financed most of the US Government’s domestic budget deficits for over three decades now! Given the fact that about half of US Government discretionary spending is for military operations – including more than 750 foreign military bases and increasingly expensive operations in the oil-producing and transporting countries – the international financial system is organized in a way that finances the Pentagon, along with US buyouts of foreign assets expected to yield much more than the Treasury bonds that foreign central banks hold.

The main political issue confronting the world’s central banks is therefore how to avoid adding yet more dollars to their reserves and thereby financing yet further US deficit spending – including military spending on their borders?

For starters, the six SCO countries and BRIC countries intend to trade in their own currencies so as to get the benefit of mutual credit that the United States until now has monopolized for itself. Toward this end, China has struck bilateral deals with Argentina and Brazil to denominate their trade in renminbi rather than the dollar, sterling or euros,3 and two weeks ago China reached an agreement with Malaysia to denominate trade between the two countries in renminbi.[4] Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad explained to me in January that as a Muslim country, Malaysia wants to avoid doing anything that would facilitate US military action against Islamic countries, including Palestine. The nation has too many dollar assets as it is, his colleagues explained. Central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan of the People’s Bank of China wrote an official statement on its website that the goal is now to create a reserve currency “that is disconnected from individual nations.”5 This is the aim of the discussions in Yekaterinburg.

In addition to avoiding financing the US buyout of their own industry and the US military encirclement of the globe, China, Russia and other countries no doubt would like to get the same kind of free ride that America has been getting. As matters stand, they see the United States as a lawless nation, financially as well as militarily. How else to characterize a nation that holds out a set of laws for others – on war, debt repayment and treatment of prisoners – but ignores them itself? The United States is now the world’s largest debtor yet has avoided the pain of “structural adjustments” imposed on other debtor economies. US interest-rate and tax reductions in the face of exploding trade and budget deficits are seen as the height of hypocrisy in view of the austerity programs that Washington forces on other countries via the IMF and other Washington vehicles.

The United States tells debtor economies to sell off their public utilities and natural resources, raise their interest rates and increase taxes while gutting their social safety nets to squeeze out money to pay creditors. And at home, Congress blocked China’s CNOOK from buying Unocal on grounds of national security, much as it blocked Dubai from buying US ports and other sovereign wealth funds from buying into key infrastructure. Foreigners are invited to emulate the Japanese purchase of white elephant trophies such as Rockefeller Center, on which investors quickly lost a billion dollars and ended up walking away.

In this respect the US has not really given China and other payments-surplus nations much alternative but to find a way to avoid further dollar buildups. To date, China’s attempts to diversify its dollar holdings beyond Treasury bonds have not proved very successful. For starters, Hank Paulson of Goldman Sachs steered its central bank into higher-yielding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac securities, explaining that these were de facto public obligations. They collapsed in 2008, but at least the US Government took these two mortgage-lending agencies over, formally adding their $5.2 trillion in obligations onto the national debt. In fact, it was largely foreign official investment that prompted the bailout. Imposing a loss for foreign official agencies would have broken the Treasury-bill standard then and there, not only by utterly destroying US credibility but because there simply are too few Government bonds to absorb the dollars being flooded into the world economy by the soaring US balance-of-payments deficits.

Seeking more of an equity position to protect the value of their dollar holdings as the Federal Reserve’s credit bubble drove interest rates down China’s sovereign wealth funds sought to diversify in late 2007. China bought stakes in the well-connected Blackstone equity fund and Morgan Stanley on Wall Street, Barclays in Britain South Africa’s Standard Bank (once affiliated with Chase Manhattan back in the apartheid 1960s) and in the soon-to-collapse Belgian financial conglomerate Fortis. But the US financial sector was collapsing under the weight of its debt pyramiding, and prices for shares plunged for banks and investment firms across the globe.

Foreigners see the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization as Washington surrogates in a financial system backed by American military bases and aircraft carriers encircling the globe. But this military domination is a vestige of an American empire no longer able to rule by economic strength. US military power is muscle-bound, based more on atomic weaponry and long-distance air strikes than on ground operations, which have become too politically unpopular to mount on any large scale.

On the economic front there is no foreseeable way in which the United States can work off the $4 trillion it owes foreign governments, their central banks and the sovereign wealth funds set up to dispose of the global dollar glut. America has become a deadbeat – and indeed, a militarily aggressive one as it seeks to hold onto the unique power it once earned by economic means. The problem is how to constrain its behavior. Yu Yongding, a former Chinese central bank advisor now with China’s Academy of Sciences, suggested that US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner be advised that the United States should “save” first and foremost by cutting back its military budget. “U.S. tax revenue is not likely to increase in the short term because of low economic growth, inflexible expenditures and the cost of ‘fighting two wars.’”6

At present it is foreign savings, not those of Americans that are financing the US budget deficit by buying most Treasury bonds. The effect is taxation without representation for foreign voters as to how the US Government uses their forced savings. It therefore is necessary for financial diplomats to broaden the scope of their policy-making beyond the private-sector marketplace. Exchange rates are determined by many factors besides “consumers wielding credit cards,” the usual euphemism that the US media cite for America’s balance-of-payments deficit. Since the 13th century, war has been a dominating factor in the balance of payments of leading nations – and of their national debts. Government bond financing consists mainly of war debts, as normal peacetime budgets tend to be balanced. This links the war budget directly to the balance of payments and exchange rates.

Foreign nations see themselves stuck with unpayable IOUs – under conditions where, if they move to stop the US free lunch, the dollar will plunge and their dollar holdings will fall in value relative to their own domestic currencies and other currencies. If China’s currency rises by 10% against the dollar, its central bank will show the equivalent of a $200 million loss on its $2 trillion of dollar holdings as denominated in yuan. This explains why, when bond ratings agencies talk of the US Treasury securities losing their AAA rating, they don’t mean that the government cannot simply print the paper dollars to “make good” on these bonds. They mean that dollars will depreciate in international value. And that is just what is now occurring. When Mr. Geithner put on his serious face and told an audience at Peking University in early June that he believed in a “strong dollar” and China’s US investments therefore were safe and sound, he was greeted with derisive laughter.7

Anticipation of a rise in China’s exchange rate provides an incentive for speculators to seek to borrow in dollars to buy renminbi and benefit from the appreciation. For China, the problem is that this speculative inflow would become a self-fulfilling prophecy by forcing up its currency. So the problem of international reserves is inherently linked to that of capital controls. Why should China see its profitable companies sold for yet more freely-created US dollars, which the central bank must use to buy low-yielding US Treasury bills or lose yet further money on Wall Street?

To avoid this quandary it is necessary to reverse the philosophy of open capital markets that the world has held ever since Bretton Woods in 1944. On the occasion of Mr. Geithner’s visit to China, “Zhou Xiaochuan, minister of the Peoples Bank of China, the country’s central bank, said pointedly that this was the first time since the semiannual talks began in 2006 that China needed to learn from American mistakes as well as its successes” when it came to deregulating capital markets and dismantling controls.8

An era therefore is coming to an end. In the face of continued US overspending, de-dollarization threatens to force countries to return to the kind of dual exchange rates common between World Wars I and II: one exchange rate for commodity trade, another for capital movements and investments, at least from dollar-area economies.

Even without capital controls, the nations meeting at Yekaterinburg are taking steps to avoid being the unwilling recipients of yet more dollars. Seeing that US global hegemony cannot continue without spending power that they themselves supply, governments are attempting to hasten what Chalmers Johnson has called “the sorrows of empire” in his book by that name – the bankruptcy of the US financial-military world order. If China, Russia and their non-aligned allies have their way, the United States will no longer live off the savings of others (in the form of its own recycled dollars) nor have the money for unlimited military expenditures and adventures.

US officials wanted to attend the Yekaterinburg meeting as observers. They were told No. It is a word that Americans will hear much more in the future.

Ref: Global Research

Notes
1 Andrew Scheineson, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” Council on Foreign Relations,

Updated: March 24, 2009: “While some experts say the organization has emerged as a powerful anti-U.S. bulwark in Central Asia, others believe frictions between its two largest members, Russia and China, effectively preclude a strong, unified SCO.”

2 Kremlin.ru, June 5, 2009, in Johnson’s Russia List, June 8, 2009, #8.

3 Jamil Anderlini and Javier Blas, “China reveals big rise in gold reserves,” Financial Times, April 24, 2009. See also “Chinese political advisors propose making yuan an int’l currency.” Beijing, March 7, 2009 (Xinhua). “The key to financial reform is to make the yuan an international currency, said [Peter Kwong Ching] Woo [chairman of the Hong Kong-based Wharf (Holdings) Limited] in a speech to the Second Session of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country’s top political advisory body. That means using the Chinese currency to settle international trade payments …”

4 Shai Oster, “Malaysia, China Consider Ending Trade in Dollars,” Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2009.

5 Jonathan Wheatley, “Brazil and China in plan to axe dollar,” Financial Times, May 19, 2009.

6 “Another Dollar Crisis inevitable unless U.S. starts Saving – China central bank adviser. Global Crisis ‘Inevitable’ Unless U.S. Starts Saving, Yu Says,” Bloomberg News, June 1, 2009. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=aCV0pFcAFyZw&refer=asia

7 Kathrin Hille, “Lesson in friendship draws blushes,” Financial Times, June 2, 2009.

8 Steven R. Weisman, “U.S. Tells China Subprime Woes Are No Reason to Keep Markets Closed,” The New York Times, June 18, 2008.

US war on the third world! (welcome to US neverendig doctrine!)

CIA Covert Operations and U.S. Interventions Since World War II.
What you didn’t learn in school and don’t hear on the mainstream media. This is a two-hour video compilation featuring the following ten segments: 1. Martin Luther King Jr. 2. John Stockwell, Ex-CIA Station Chief 3. Bill Moyers, “the Secret Government” 4. Coverup: Behind the Iran-Contra Affair 5. School of Assassins 6. Genocide by Sanctions 7. Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now 8. The Panama Deception 9. Ramsy Clark, former U.S. Attorney General 10. S. Brian Wilson, Vietnam Veteran for Peace We encourage the copying and distribution of this video “What I’ve Learned About U.S.Foreign Policy” Re-edited as of March 2005 Dear Friend, “I’ve put together this 2-hour video called ‘What I’ve Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy’.

The basic message being that the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), the military-industrial-complex, the Pentagon, the multinational corporations, the media and the Government of the United States are responsible for the deaths of millions of people in the third world, not to mention the poverty and oppression of millions more. We support, arm, and train dictators and militaries that do these evil actions to their own people. All of this is to insure that we control the natural resources of these countries and their market place, use the people for cheap labor and keep the business of war (which is our biggest business) ongoing.

The CIA has also done business with international drug dealers, allowing heroin and cocaine to enter the U.S., using the enormous profits to fund more covert operations. Since WWII the US has bombed Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and now currently Iraq, once again killing millions of innocent people!

The mainstream media, or corporate media (as some refer to it), will not tell these truths because it is owned by the very corporations who benefit from all of this. When it comes to foreign policy, the mainstream media gets its stories straight from the Pentagon and the CIA. We have been taught all our lives that the US fights for freedom and democracy, that we are the good guys. And since so many people in America are doing well, do have freedom, opportunity and wealth, or are just trying to get by, there is very little motivation to look into the things being said on this tape.

I believe that Americans are living in a state of mass denial, kind of a mass hypnosis. It is the BIG LIE! If Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Ted Koppel aren’t telling us these things, then they cannot be true, which is what most people believe. And that is how it works. The people who are attempting to get this message out are labeled as crackpots, radicals, subversives, or worse, and are not given the opportunity to be heard on the mainstream media. If you’re interested in knowing this other truth, horrible as it is, then I suggest you watch this video.

These atrocities, supported by our system, with our tax dollars, will continue until the American people wake up and put a stop to this evil. The first step is to understand that this is really happening. We have been lied to! I believe the people on this video are telling the truth and it’s absolutely frightening.” In Peace and Solidarity, Frank Dorrel «

Chinese hacked into Pentagon

The Chinese military hacked into a Pentagon computer network in June in the most successful cyber attack on the US defence department, say American ­officials.

The Pentagon acknowledged shutting down part of a computer system serving the office of Robert Gates, defence secretary, but declined to say who it believed was behind the attack.

EDITOR’S CHOICE
Comment: China flexes its limited muscles – Sep-04

Editorial Comment: China’s cyber-spies – Sep-03

Beware: enemy attacks in cyberspace – Sep-03

Beijing pledges crackdown on hackers – Aug-27

Current and former officials have told the Financial Times an internal investigation has revealed that the incursion came from the People’s Liberation Army.

One senior US official said the Pentagon had pinpointed the exact origins of the attack. Another person familiar with the event said there was a “very high level of confidence…trending towards total certainty” that the PLA was responsible. The defence ministry in Beijing declined to comment on Monday.

Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, raised reports of Chinese infiltration of German government computers with Wen Jiabao, China’s premier, in a visit to Beijing, after which the Chinese foreign ministry said the government opposed and forbade “any criminal acts undermining computer systems, including hacking”.

“We have explicit laws and regulations in this regard,” said Jiang Yu, from the ministry. “Hacking is a global issue and China is frequently a victim.”

George W. Bush, US president, is due to meet Hu Jintao, China’s president, on Thursday in Australia prior to the Apec summit.

The PLA regularly probes US military networks – and the Pentagon is widely assumed to scan Chinese networks – but US officials said the penetration in June raised concerns to a new level because of fears that China had shown it could disrupt systems at critical times.

“The PLA has demonstrated the ability to conduct attacks that disable our system…and the ability in a conflict situation to re-enter and disrupt on a very large scale,” said a former official, who said the PLA had penetrated the networks of US defence companies and think-tanks.

Hackers from numerous locations in China spent several months probing the Pentagon system before overcoming its defences, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Pentagon took down the network for more than a week while the attacks continued, and is to conduct a comprehensive diagnosis. “These are multiple wake-up calls stirring us to levels of more aggressive vigilance,” said Richard Lawless, the Pentagon’s top Asia official at the time of the attacks.

The Pentagon is still investigating how much data was downloaded, but one person with knowledge of the attack said most of the information was probably “unclassified”. He said the event had forced officials to reconsider the kind of information they send over unsecured e-mail systems.

John Hamre, a Clinton-era deputy defence secretary involved with cyber security, said that while he had no knowledge of the June attack, criminal groups sometimes masked cyber attacks to make it appear they came from government computers in a particular country.

The National Security Council said the White House had created a team of experts to consider whether the administration needed to restrict the use of BlackBerries because of concerns about cyber espionage.

Additional reporting by Richard McGregor in Beijing

To contact the reporter email demetri.sevastopulo@ft.com

Ref: FT.com

A Warning to Africa: The New U.S. Imperial Grand Strategy

Imperialism is constant for capitalism. But it passes through various phases as the system evolves. At present the world is experiencing a new age of imperialism marked by a U.S. grand strategy of global domination. One indication of how things have changed is that the U.S. military is now truly global in its operations with permanent bases on every continent, including Africa, where a new scramble for control is taking place focused on oil.

Elite opinion in the United States in the decade immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union often decried the absence of a U.S. grand strategy comparable to what George Kennan labeled “containment,” under the mantle of which the United States intervened throughout the Cold War years. The key question, as posed in November 2000 by national-security analyst Richard Haass, was that of determining how the United States should utilize its current “surplus of power” to reshape the world. Haass’s answer, which doubtless contributed to his being hired immediately after as director of policy planning for Colin Powell’s State Department in the new Bush administration, was to promote an “Imperial America” strategy aimed at securing U.S. global dominance for decades to come. Only months before, a similar, if even more nakedly militaristic, grand strategy had been presented by the Project for the New American Century, in a report authored by future top Bush-administration figures Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Lewis Libby, among others.^1

This new imperial grand strategy became a reality, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, in the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq—and was soon officially enshrined in the White House’s /National Security Strategy statement of 2002. Summing up the new imperial thrust in Harvard Magazine, Stephen Peter Rosen, director of the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard and a founding member of the Project for the New American Century, wrote:

A political unit that has overwhelming superiority in military power, and uses that power to influence the internal behavior of other states, is called an empire. Because the United States does not seek to control territory or govern the overseas citizens of the empire, we are an indirect empire, to be sure, but an empire nonetheless. If this is correct, our goal is not combating a rival, but maintaining our imperial position, and maintaining imperial order. Planning for imperial wars is different from planning for conventional international wars….Imperial wars to restore order are not so constrained [by deterrence considerations]. The maximum amount of force can and should be used as quickly as possible for psychological impact—to demonstrate that the empire cannot be challenged with impunity….[I]mperial strategy focuses on preventing the emergence of powerful, hostile challengers to the empire: by war if necessary, but by imperial assimilation if possible.2

Commenting in late 2002 in Foreign Policy, John Lewis Gaddis, professor of military and naval history at Yale, stated that the goal of the impending war on Iraq was one of inflicting an “Agincourt on the banks of the Euphrates.” This would be a demonstration of power so great that, as in Henry V’s famous fifteenth-century victory in France, the geopolitical landscape would be changed for decades to come. What was ultimately at issue, according to Gaddis, was “the management of the international system by a single hegemon”—the United States. This securing of hegemony over the entire world by the United States by means of preemptive actions was, he contended, nothing less than “a new grand strategy of transformation.”3

The Nature of Grand Strategy Since the time of Clausewitz, tactics has been designated in military circles as “the art of using troops in battle”; strategy as “the art of using battles to win the war.”^4 In contrast, the idea of “grand strategy” as classically promoted by military strategists and historians, such as Edward Meade Earle and B. H. Liddell Hart, refers to the integration of the war-making potential of a state with its larger political-economic ends. As historian Paul Kennedy observed in Grand Strategies in War and Peace (1991): “a true grand strategy” is “concerned with peace as much as (perhaps even more than) with war….about the evolution or integration of policies that should operate for decades, or even for centuries.”^5

Grand strategies are geopolitical in orientation, geared to domination of whole geographical regions—including strategic resources such as minerals and waterways, economic assets, populations, and vital military positions. The most successful grand strategies of the past are seen as those of long-standing empires, which have been able to maintain their power over large geographical expanses for extended periods of time. Hence, historians of grand strategy commonly focus on the nineteenth-century British Empire (Pax Britannica) and even the ancient Roman Empire (Pax Romana).

For the United States today what is at stake is no longer control of a mere portion of the globe, but a truly global Pax Americana. Although some commentators have seen the latest U.S. imperial thrust as the work of a small cabal of neoconservatives within the Bush administration, the reality is one of broad concurrence within the U.S. power structure on the necessity of expanding the U.S. empire. One recent collection, including contributions by administration critics, is entitled The Obligation of Empire: United States’ Grand Strategy for a New Century.^6

Ivo. H. Daadler (senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former foreign policy advisor to Howard Dean) and James M. Lindsay (vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously employed by Clinton’s National Security Council) argue in their book America Unbound that the United States has long had a “secret empire,” disguised by multilateralism. The Bush White House’s unilateral policy of building “empire on American power alone” has changed things only to the extent that it has stripped away the empire’s hidden character and reduced its overall force by relying less on vassal states. According to Daadler and Lindsay, the United States is now under the command of “hegemonist” thinkers who want to ensure that the United States dominates the entire globe, both in its own national self-interest and in order to reshape the world in tune with “democratic imperialism.” But such an aggressive posture, they point out, is not outside the historic range of U.S. policy. A unilateralist imperial thrust can be traced back to Theodore Roosevelt and was present from the beginning of the Cold War era in the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. Still, Daadler and Lindsay hold out the possibility of a more cooperative strategy, with the other great powers falling in behind the United States, as a superior approach to running an empire.^7

Such cooperative imperialism, however, becomes more difficult to achieve once the hegemon’s power begins to wane. Not only is the United States suffering increased economic competition, but with the demise of the Soviet Union the NATO alliance has weakened: Washington’s European vassals do not always follow its lead, even though they are unable to challenge it directly. The temptation facing a waning hegemonic power still armed and dangerous—caught in such circumstances is to attempt to rebuild and even expand its power by acting unilaterally and monopolizing the spoils.

The War for the ‘New American Century Capitalism is a system that is worldwide in its economic scope but divided politically into competing states that develop economically at different rates. The contradiction of uneven capitalist development was classically expressed by Lenin in 1916 in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism:

There can be no other conceivable basis under capitalism for the division of spheres of influence, of interests, of colonies, etc., than a calculation of the strength of the participants in the division, their general economic, financial, military strength, etc. And the strength of these participants in the division does not change to an equal degree, for under capitalism the development of different undertakings, trusts, branches of industry, or countries cannot be even. Half a century ago, Germany was a miserable, insignificant country, as far as its capitalist strength was concerned, compared with the strength of England at that time. Japan was similarly insignificant compared with Russia. Is it “conceivable” that in ten or twenty years’ time the relative strength of the imperialist powers will have remained unchanged? Absolutely inconceivable.8

It is now widely acknowledged that the world is undergoing a global economic transformation. Not only is the growth rate of the world economy as a whole slowing, but the relative economic strength of the United States is continuing to weaken. In 1950 the United States accounted for about half of world GDP, falling to a little over a fifth by 2003. Likewise it accounted for almost half of the world’s stock of global foreign direct investment in 1960, compared to a little over 20 percent at the beginning of this century. According to projections of Goldman Sachs, China could overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy by 2039.^9

This growing threat to U.S. power is fueling Washington’s obsession with laying the groundwork for a “New American Century.” Its current interventionism is aimed at taking advantage of its present short-term economic and military primacy to secure strategic assets that will provide long-term guarantees of global supremacy. The goal is to extend U.S. power directly while depriving potential competitors of those vital strategic assets that might allow them eventually to challenge it globally or even within particular regions.

The National Security Strategy of the United States of 2002 gave notice that “Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.” But grand strategy extends beyond mere military power. Economic advantages vis-à-vis potential rivals are the real coin of intercapitalist competition. Hence, U.S. grand strategy integrates military power with the struggle to control capital, trade, the value of the dollar, and strategic raw materials.

Perhaps the clearest ordering of U.S. strategic objectives has been provided by Robert J. Art, professor of international relations at Brandeis and a research associate of the Olin Institute, in A Grand Strategy for America. “A grand strategy,” he writes, “tells a nation’s leaders what goals they should aim for and how best they can use their country’s military power to attain these goals.” In conceptualizing such a grand strategy for the Untied States, Art presents six “overarching national interests” in order of importance:

First, prevent an attack on the American homeland

Second, prevent great-power Eurasian wars and, if possible, the intense security competitions that make them more likely

Third, preserve access to a reasonably priced and secure supply of oil

Fourth, preserve an open international economic order

Fifth, foster the spread of democracy and respect for human rights abroad, and prevent genocide or mass murder in civil wars

Sixth, protect the global environment, especially from the adverse effects of global warming and severe climate change.

After national defense proper, i.e., defense of “the homeland” against external attack, the next three highest strategic priorities are thus: (1) the traditional geopolitical goal of hegemony over the Eurasian heartland seen as the key to world power, (2) securing control over world oil supplies, and (3) promoting global-capitalist economic relations.

In order to meet these objectives, Art contends, Washington should “maintain forward-based forces” in Europe and East Asia (the two rimlands of Eurasia with great power concentrations) and in the Persian Gulf (containing the bulk of world oil reserves). “Eurasia is home to most of the world’s people, most of its proven oil reserves, and most of its military powers, as well as a large share of its economic growth.” It is therefore crucial that the U.S. imperial grand strategy be aimed at strengthening its hegemony in this region, beginning with the key oil regions of South-Central Asia.^10

With the wars on and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq still unresolved, Washington has been stepping-up its threats of a “preemptive” attack on these states’ more powerful neighbor, Iran. The main justification offered for this is Iran’s uranium-enrichment program, which could eventually allow it to develop nuclear weapons capabilities. Yet, there are other reasons that the United States is interested in Iran. Like Iraq before it, Iran is a leading oil power, now with the second largest proven oil reserves behind Saudi Arabia and ahead of Iraq. Control of Iran is thus crucial to Washington’s goal of dominating the Persian Gulf and its oil.

Iran’s geopolitical importance, moreover, stretches far beyond the Middle East. It is a key prize (as in the case also of Afghanistan) in the New Great Game for control of all of South-Central Asia, including the Caspian Sea Basin with its enormous fossil fuel reserves. U.S. strategic planners are obsessed with fears of an Asian energy-security grid, in which Russia, China, Iran, and the Central Asian countries (possibly also including Japan) would come together economically and in an energy accord to break the U.S. and Western stranglehold on the world oil and gas market—creating the basis for a general shift of world power to the East. At present China, the world’s fastest growing economy, lacks energy security even as its demand for fossil fuels is rapidly mounting. It is attempting to solve this partly through greater access to the energy resources of Iran and the Central Asian states. Recent U.S. attempts to establish a stronger alliance with India, with Washington bolstering India’s status as a nuclear power, are clearly part of this New Great Game for control of South-Central Asia—reminiscent of the nineteenth-century Great Game between Britain and Russia for control of this part of Asia.^11

The New Scramble for Africa If there is a New Great Game afoot in Asia there is also a “New Scramble for Africa” on the part of the great powers.^12 The National Security Strategy of the United States of 2002 declared that “combating global terror” and ensuring U.S. energy security required that the United States increase its commitments to Africa and called upon “coalitions of the willing” to generate regional security arrangements on that continent. Soon after the U.S. European Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany—in charge of U.S. military operations in Sub-Saharan Africa—increased its activities in West Africa, centering on those states with substantial oil production andor reserves in or around the Gulf of Guinea (stretching roughly from the Ivory Coast to Angola). The U.S. military’s European Command now devotes 70 percent of its time to African affairs, up from almost nothing as recently as 2003.^13

As pointed out by Richard Haass, now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in his foreword to the 2005 council report entitled More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa: “By the end of the decade sub-Saharan Africa is likely to become as important as a source of U.S. energy imports as the Middle East.”^14 West Africa has some 60 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. Its oil is the low sulfur, sweet crude prized by the U.S. economy. U.S. agencies and think tanks project that one in every five new barrels of oil entering the global economy in the latter half of this decade will come from the Gulf of Guinea, raising its share of U.S. oil imports from 15 to over 20 percent by 2010, and 25 percent by 2015. Nigeria already supplies the United States with 10 percent of its imported oil. Angola provides 4 percent of U.S. oil imports, which could double by the end of the decade. The discovery of new reserves and the expansion of oil production are turning other states in the region into major oil exporters, including Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Principe, Gabon, Cameroon, and Chad. Mauritania is scheduled to emerge as an oil exporter by 2007. Sudan, bordering the Red Sea in the east and Chad to the west, is an important oil producer.

At present the main, permanent U.S. military base in Africa is the one established in 2002 in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, giving the United States strategic control of the maritime zone through which a quarter of the world’s oil production passes. The Djibouti base is also in close proximity to the Sudanese oil pipeline. (The French military has long had a major presence in Djibouti and also has an air base at Abeche, Chad on the Sudanese border.) The Djibouti base allows the United States to dominate the eastern end of the broad oil swath cutting across Africa that it now considers vital to its strategic interests—a vast strip running southwest from the 994-mile Higleig-Port Sudan oil pipeline in the east to the 640-mile Chad-Cameroon pipeline and the Gulf of Guinea in the West. A new U.S. forward-operating location in Uganda gives the United States the potential of dominating southern Sudan, where most of that country’s oil is to be found.

In West Africa, the U.S. military’s European Command has now established forward-operating locations in Senegal, Mali, Ghana, and Gabon—as well as Namibia, bordering Angola on the south—involving the upgrading of airfields, the pre-positioning of critical supplies and fuel, and access agreements for swift deployment of U.S. troops.^15 In 2003 it launched a counterterrorism program in West Africa, and in March 2004 U.S. Special Forces were directly involved in a military operation with Sahel countries against the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat—on Washington’s list of terrorist organizations. The U.S. European Command is developing a coastal security system in the Gulf of Guinea called the Gulf of Guinea Guard. It has also been planning the construction of a U.S. naval base in São Tomé and Principe, which the European Command has intimated could rival the U.S. naval base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The Pentagon is thus moving aggressively to establish a military presence in the Gulf of Guinea that will allow it to control the western part of the broad trans-Africa oil strip and the vital oil reserves now being discovered there. Operation Flintlock, a start-up U.S. military exercise in West Africa in 2005, incorporated 1,000 U.S. Special Forces. The U.S. European Command will be conducting exercises for its new rapid-reaction force for the Gulf of Guinea this summer.

Here the flag is following trade: the major U.S. and Western oil corporations are all scrambling for West African oil and demanding security. The U.S. military’s European Command, the Wall Street Journal reported in its April 25th issue, is also working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to expand the role of U.S. corporations in Africa as part of an “integrated U.S. response.” In this economic scramble for Africa’s petroleum resources the old colonial powers, Britain and France, are in competition with the United States. Militarily, however, they are working closely with the United States to secure Western imperial control of the region.

The U.S. military buildup in Africa is frequently justified as necessary both to fight terrorism and to counter growing instability in the oil region of Sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2003 Sudan has been torn by civil war and ethnic conflict focused on its southwestern Darfur region (where much of the country’s oil is located), resulting in innumerable human rights violations and mass killings by government-linked militia forces against the population of the region. Attempted coups recently occurred in the new petrostates of São Tomé and Principe (2003) and Equatorial Guinea (2004). Chad, which is run by a brutally oppressive regime shielded by a security and intelligence apparatus backed by the United States, also experienced an attempted coup in 2004. A successful coup took place in Mauritania in 2005 against U.S.-supported strongman Ely Ould Mohamed Taya. Angola’s three-decade-long civil war—instigated and fueled by the United States, which together with South Africa organized the terrorist army under Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA—lasted until the ceasefire following Savimbi’s death in 2002. Nigeria, the regional hegemon, is rife with corruption, revolts, and organized oil theft, with considerable portions of oil production in the Niger Delta region being siphoned off—up to 300,000 barrels a day in early 2004.^16 The rise of armed insurgency in the Niger Delta and the potential of conflict between the Islamic north and non-Islamic south of the country are major U.S. concerns.

Hence there are incessant calls and no lack of seeming justifications for U.S. “humanitarian interventions” in Africa. The Council on Foreign Relations report More than Humanitarianism insists that “the United States and its allies must be ready to take appropriate action” in Darfur in Sudan “including sanctions and, if necessary, military intervention, if the Security Council is blocked from doing so.” Meanwhile the notion that the U.S. military might before long need to intervene in Nigeria is being widely floated among pundits and in policy circles. Atlantic Monthly correspondent Jeffrey Taylor wrote in April 2006 that Nigeria has become “the largest failed state on earth,” and that a further destabilization of that state, or its takeover by radical Islamic forces, would endanger “the abundant oil reserves that America has vowed to protect. Should that day come, it would herald a military intervention far more massive than the Iraqi campaign.”^17

Still, U.S. grand strategists are clear that the real issues are not the African states themselves and the welfare of their populations but oil and China’s growing presence in Africa. As the Wall Street Journal noted in “Africa Emerges as a Strategic Battlefield,” “China has made Africa a front line in its pursuit of more global influence, tripling trade with the continent to some $37 billion over the last five years and locking up energy assets, closing trade deals with regimes like Sudan’s and educating Africa’s future elites at Chinese universities and military schools.” In More than Humanitarianism, the Council on Foreign Relations likewise depicts the leading threat as coming from China: “China has altered the strategic context in Africa. All across Africa today, China is acquiring control of natural resource assets, outbidding Western contractors on major infrastructure projects, and providing soft loans and other incentives to bolster its competitive advantage.”^18 China imports more than a quarter of its oil from Africa, primarily Angola, Sudan, and Congo. It is Sudan’s largest foreign investor. It has provided heavy subsidies to Nigeria to increase its influence and has been selling fighter jets there. Most threatening from the standpoint of U.S. grand strategists is China’s $2 billion low-interest loan to Angola in 2004, which has allowed Angola to withstand IMF demands to reshape its economy and society along neoliberal lines.

For the Council on Foreign Relations, all of this adds up to nothing less than a threat to Western imperialist control of Africa. Given China’s role, the council report says, “the United States and Europe cannot consider Africa their chasse gardé [private hunting ground], as the French once saw francophone Africa. The rules are changing as China seeks not only to gain access to resources, but also to control resource production and distribution, perhaps positioning itself for priority access as these resources become scarcer.” The council report on Africa is so concerned with combating China through the expansion of U.S. military operations in the region, that none other than Chester Crocker, former assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the Reagan administration, charges it with sounding “wistfully nostalgic for an era when the United States or the West was the only major influence and could pursue its…objectives with a free hand.”^19

What is certain is that the U.S empire is being enlarged to encompass parts of Africa in the rapacious search for oil. The results could be devastating for Africa’s peoples. Like the old scramble for Africa this new one is a struggle among great powers for resources and plunder—not for the development of Africa or the welfare of its population.

A Grand Strategy of Enlargement Despite the rapidly evolving strategic context and the shift to a more naked imperialism in recent years, there is a consistency in U.S. imperial grand strategy, which derives from the broad agreement at the very top of the U.S. power structure that the United States should seek “global supremacy,” as President Jimmy Carter’s former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski put it.^20

The Council on Foreign Relations’ 2006 report on More Than Humanitarianism, which supports the enlargement of U.S. grand strategy to take in Africa, was cochaired by Anthony Lake, National Security Advisor to Clinton from 1993–1997 and Christine Todd Whitman, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Bush. As Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Lake played a leading role in defining the U.S. grand strategy in the Clinton administration. In a speech entitled “From Containment to Enlargement,” delivered to the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University on September 21, 2003, he declared that with the collapse of the Soviet Union the United States was the world’s “dominant power…we have the world’s strongest military, its largest economy and its most dynamic, multiethnic society….We contained a global threat to market democracies; now we should seek to enlarge, their reach. The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement.” Translated this meant an expansion of the sphere of world capitalism under the U.S. military-strategic umbrella. The chief enemies of this new world order were characterized by Lake as the “backlash states,” especially Iraq and Iran. Lake’s insistence, in the early Clinton era, on a grand “strategy of enlargement” for the United States is being realized today in the enlargement of the U.S. military role not only in Central Asia and the Middle East, but also in Africa.^21

U.S. imperial grand strategy is less a product of policies generated in Washington by this or that wing of the ruling class, than an inevitable result of the power position that U.S. capitalism finds itself in at the commencement of the twenty-first century. U.S. economic strength (along with that of its closest allies) has been ebbing fairly steadily. The great powers are not likely to stand in the same relation to each other economically two decades hence. At the same time U.S. world military power has increased relatively with the demise of the Soviet Union. The United States now accounts for about half of all of the world’s military spending—a proportion two or more times its share of world output.

The goal of the new U.S. imperial grand strategy is to use this unprecedented military strength to preempt emerging historical forces by creating a sphere of full-spectrum dominance so vast, now encompassing every continent, that no potential rivals will be able to challenge the United States decades down the line. This is a war against the peoples of the periphery of the capitalist world and for the expansion of world capitalism, particularly U.S. capitalism. But it is also a war to secure a “New American Century” in which third world nations are viewed as “strategic assets” within a larger global geopolitical struggle

The lessons of history are clear: attempts to gain world dominance by military means, though inevitable under capitalism, are destined to fail and can only lead to new and greater wars. It is the responsibility of those committed to world peace to resist the new U.S. imperial grand strategy by calling into question imperialism and its economic taproot: capitalism itself.

Ref: Global Research Articles by John Bellamy Foster