A Rouge Forum Broadside
by Rich Gibson
The US military never recovered from its shattering defeat in Vietnam, nor could it ever learn the lessons it should have learned--because the military is snared by the structures of US imperialism, that is, it can never be the friend of the people anywhere. Sooner or later the deadly logic of imperialism-- exterminate them--plays out, as it is beginning to play out in Iraq where the US military, already weary from a week-long drive across the sand, may soon decide that the only way to quickly win Baghdad is to destroy it-and its people. The April 3 Associated Press admission of the US' use of cluster bombs, solely an anti-personnel weapon, against Baghdad, is a harbinger of more to come. Public impatience may play a role in the decision to carpet bomb civilians, but a more powerful force will be the continued wild surges and slides of stocks which, at this writing, are below 8000 and falling. Nevertheless, the official US refusal to count Iraqi dead and wounded may obscure an extermination which has already begun.
The war on Iraq for control of Mideast oil may be someday won, but the strategic war for world domination is already lost. Every potential imperial competitor, from Germany to the Euro nations, to Japan, Russia, and China can see that the vaunted US military can be turned into a paper tiger, as Mao once put it, unable to field competent leadership, split by racism, sexism, and a growing distrust by GI's of their officers who throw troops into battle for Exxon, without a practical plan. Imagine the dismay that swept across the ranks in the US- controlled Iraqi deserts when a top US general announced he had played the wrong war games. The towering imperial gaze, unable to witness human connections from the satellite, could not predict that Iraqi people would fight, nor that 110,000 US citizens would lose their jobs in March 2003.
The already debilitated Iraqi military's resistance-which in losing can win--demonstrated, once again, that the apparently weak can overcome a technologically superior (but morally bankrupt) invader through honoring the terrain, knowing the enemy, working one's own strengths, and commitment in battle. On the US/UK side, hubris was so towering that Pentagon and War Department leaders could not see the power of nationalism, religious irrationalism, and the fact that there is an economic base beyond terror for Hussein's power--many, many people are invested in his rule. Steeped in their own mythology from false success in Grenada and Panama, the US forgot the background: the US military has not won a campaign against a capable enemy since World War II. Korea was a draw. Gulf I was no war, but a massacre.
Now many US troops are on food stamps and dependant on local charities (the average private making slightly less than $13,000 per year). In July 2002, the press was riddled with articles questioning why so many soldiers were killing their wives. Despite Donald Rumsfeld's claims about a professional military being vastly superior to the unwashed draftees of the Vietnam era (a smear he was forced to retract), National Guard, Coast Guard, and other second-tier supplementary groups have been repeatedly mobilized to fight overseas in the last decade. The first fragging took place within a week of war's beginning. Private Jessica Lynch, the blond about-to-be-recruiting-poster who made fame by doing a wrong turn, getting captured, and rescued on video, was economically drafted from ruined West Virginia where she could not get the money to go to a teachers' college.
The US command is in crisis, finger-pointing has already begun.
In just ten days of war, US military officers were left, pants down, explaining lie after lie:
Encapsulated US reporting from the battlefield is no lie, no mere spectacle. It is fragmented ciphering; this one here, that one there, and here we go. But it is also measuring death, not simply as a commodity, but as an acceptable price for those who agree it is theirs to pay. Families of the dead hold up cheaply framed photos at home, on print couches, declaring to the audience loyalty and piety--something that no Yale family would ever do. This is no lie to the survivors. They prove their lives with their dead. One insurgent family did hold up their picture of their black son, and denounce George W. Bush as his murderer revealing a demographic understanding that other Blue Star families will consider typical. The black/white divide is deep in the US. Mainstream media regularly report 70% support for war, not mentioning 70% opposition in the black community. But, black and white, incipient nationalism has arched over racism, creating a population so gullible that it was convinced, with no evidence, that Iraq is somehow responsible for the terrorism of September 11.
The greatest lie, out of the sight of embedded reporters, was the context of the war, an imperial invasion to protect the control oil profits, within a broader international war of the rich on the poor. The war of liberation, against weapons of mass destruction, to halt the spread of 9/11 Al Queda terror, to protect the Arabic region from the expansionist Iraqis, to free the Kurds and the Shiites, the crusade to stop Islamic jihadists in the name of democracy, is a sham and delusion for all to see--or as is being seen as Haliburton Brown and Root commandeer the oil fields before the dead are all buried.
All the while, Turkish troops gather at the Iraqi border, Iranian mullahs declare their renewed hegemony, mujahadeen volunteers pour into Baghdad, Saudi royals cringe back from the thought of awakening their illiterate citizens, Israeli Zionists step up their persistent invasion, Russian former KGB bosses (advertised as truly heartfelt and good men by the US president) look back on Grozny and a job well done, UN members denounce the US and their people pour into the streets; one event crashing into the next, one greed colliding with another.
The crusaders' coalition, made up of only Britain and the US, is no coalition but a suspicious pairing-a collapsed kingdom ignoring the will of its people, and a suicidal kakistocracy-the rule of the worst imaginable. That US financial oligarches can only produce talent like George W. Bush and Al Gore is indicative of a nation grown depraved from years of privileged consumerism, with many people incapable of an authentic human connection that does not involve a financial transaction. Many US citizens are so distanced from the genuinely tragic experiences of their neighbors and the world that much of the purposeless population, tailing fascist leadership, is capable of hideous deeds.
Prior to the Iraq oil invasion a clash of civilizations, fanatical Christians vs. equally fanatical Muslims, was almost unthinkable. Now a regression into a strange modern form of the Dark Ages, virulent international fascism, is barbarously possible. The great danger may be from the US' own potential economic and military collapse. US society may not go out with a whimper, but many big bangs.
Meanwhile, the US economy rots, finance capital seated so far above the collapsed industrial base that the absence of steel-making capability goes unnoted, in a society that promises the world endless warfare. The Euro, the currency adopted by Iraq in 1999, at odds with the dollar, surges toward the oil fields. China watches. Opposition to China does not drive US foreign policy in the Gulf region, but it surely informs US long-term strategy.
While China spends about $65 billion per year on its military, about 1/5 US expenditures, the Chinese military is one of the most powerful in the world. Moreover, the Chinese economy is poised to challenge the US, well before the projected time-lines of Chinese leadership (about 50 years). And, like most economies today, based on military potential, the ecology of Chinese industrial capitalism is crucially linked to oil as the natural commodity that runs its profits and its production of fear.
With at least 400 nuclear warheads, more than half deployable across continents, most able to reach all of the US except the most southeastern corners, the Chinese military can checkmate US nuclear threats. While the Chinese military is hardly technologically advanced, yet, it fields the largest army in the world, unsullied by disastrous imperial adventures (other than a failed swipe at Vietnam) in the last 50 years. Steeped in the theory and practice of people's war, part of which is the study of how the technologically inferior can defeat the superficially powerful by exploiting critical vulnerabilities, until now the Chinese have shown no desire to challenge the US, other than through patience. Even so, while the Chinese military has been deployed to build national unity, and prepares to struggle for regional domination, the rapidly industrializing economy may force Chinese red-capitalists to clash for international raw materials and markets. And while the chief view of the Chinese military has been, until now, the commonplace notion of a quick-strike victory, a coup de main, events in the Iraq war may give them new ideas, as the failed Russian invasion of Finland gave the German fascists a new viewpoint about sixty years ago.
As the US industrial base was outsourced over the last thirty years, China industrialized, using its Party dictatorship to control a desperate low-wage workforce. From 2000 to 2003, for example, 200,000 industrial-assembly jobs in border-town Mexican maquiladora plants were lost to China, where it is still cheaper to do the assembly and ship finished products across the Pacific. It follows that while the Chinese economy is the second-largest in the world, it is also growing to be one of the most inequitable. As the Party moves to mechanize agriculture, unskilled peasant farmers are driven from the land, arriving homeless in cities, while at the same time the usual city-rural income gap explodes. In 2002, the rural-urban income gap was one-to-three.
According to the Economic Policy Institute: "China now accounts for over one-fifth of global trade growth. Its export increase this year is equal to its total exports in 1990. China's exports are now equal to 79% of Japan's, compared with 22% in 1990 and 14% in 1980. If it sustains the 12% annual growth rate of the past five years, China's exports will exceed Japan's by 2005 and the US's by 2009." The US export-import trade imbalance with China is accelerating, reaching about 12 to 1 in 2003, as the consumer-culture of the imperial nation braids its own noose.
The Chinese industrial sector has grown at a rate of about 200 % per year over the last five years, and the growth is accelerating, to be rushed forward again when the massive Yangtze River project, not only offering hydro-power but opening the interior of the nation to the ship traffic of the global economy, is completed this decade. China relies heavily on hydro-power, but it is also has major oil and natural gas resources. Even so, oil prices rose rapidly in China over the last five years, having a dual impact: oil and gas production became more profitable, while those sectors that depend on the resources cut back. And, in the interim, China's industrialization has increased its demand for oil, to the point where it will import more oil than the US in 2003. In early April 2003, China began to attempt to invest in the Kazakhstan oil and natural gas fields near the Caspian Sea, and was rebuffed by US and British firms developing the corrupt region.
Contrary to Morgan-Stanley economist Stephen Roach who has written extensively on the impenetrability of the Chinese economy, a recession in part caused by an extended Iraq war could be devastating for China, one of the most export-dependant economies in the world, relying on exports for nearly 75% of its growth in the last several years. Should de-industrialized consumer societies retrench, the impact on China could be devastating. And, while the Chinese currency, the yuan, has remained remarkably stable against the dollar in the last five years, either a deflationary or inflationary spiral in the rest of the world could ravage people in China who often live on the borders of starvation. Whether or not the Chinese economy is walled off from the rest of the world, though, Morgan-Stanley's Roach agrees that a global recession would promptly place China in sharp competition with its neighbors-and the imperial world.
Over time, as the big-fish-eat-little-fish nature of capital's processes play out, smaller national players are likely to be forced to choose sides, aligning with bigger warriors, as the powers paired up before WWI. No one can predict how quickly this tendency will materialize full-blown, and there may be many small proxy wars in the interim, but in the long run the key big opponents appear to be the US and China-a horrific confrontation.
The interaction of irrationalist ideology, from religious fanaticism to nationalism and all in between, within the demands of capital, an anarchistic war of all on all, with each surviving capitalist necessarily becoming an imperialist and each imperialist requiring a national army and more resources, cheaper labor, bigger markets; this ruthless interplay can only result in what we see now: barbaric international warfare conducted in the name of justice-on all sides. As the promise of perpetual (preventative) war plays out in life, the hundreds of thousands of participants on all sides, and all of their relatives and friends, and all of those more influenced than not by their national media and priests and mullahs, will form a broader and broader human base for the destruction of reason. Their real and close social connections form the flesh and blood networks of fascism, which reinforce and recreate the hierarchical relations that make it permissible. The spouses of the US troops, for example, are now organizing street demonstrations in support of their husbands and wives, under the guidance of the homeland military--and the protection of the Homeland Security Agency.
Or, on the off chance, the victims of the tyrants' many wars will begin to kill their officers-offering a form of pedagogy that may equal the combined teach-ins during Vietnam. But, to follow the thought up a discomforting vein, the Vietnamese did not shoot their officers who later urged them into national capitalism, and thus through the back door of imperialism, nor did the victorious members of the African National Congress, absolutely reliant on the leadership of the South African Communist Party, take militant note of the betrayal of their program for democracy and equality, in the name of the national interest. Mutiny may be good, but it must be thorough, not solely in the body, but in the many minds who conduct it. Epochal change is surrounded by capital's love of crises. Real change is not first a change of mind, but it is finally that. The breakout from capital's encirclement, then, is not another world war or another depression, but under any and all circumstances a shift on consciousness-a decision to live in another way.
The way out cannot be fashioned from dreams or magic. It can only be won from what is offered from our circumstances: a world united through systems of manufacture, trade, communications, and technology, but shattered by exploitation of people, labor, and knowledge--science reaching its zenith in smart bombs. But capitalism does not ruin itself. Indeed, fickle capital thrives on war and crises, leaving the losers, marrying the winners-ever eyeing the chance to exploit someone else, more severely. It follows that the economic base for a more just world is not enough, nor are the poisoned social relations of several thousand years of Master-Slave subservience and domination enough. The counterfeit promises of democracy under capitalism, that is, freedom obtained through disconnecting with others, humanity measured by possessions, are not enough either. The beacon of genuine freedom, the battle for what is true and unfettered creativity on the job and off, won by forging caring communities of people in struggle against barbarism, can help show the way.
There are no appearances of organized resistance in China, but the relentless working of class struggle is afoot. Massive strikes of miners put down by the not-so-Red Army, homeless rebellions, are all the order of the day despite the boom in Shanghai and other sea-towns. Forty years of peoples' war is unlikely to be completely forgotten. Still, it has proved possible to nearly eradicate the memory of the guerrilla war conducted by the revolutionary colonies of the US, and it may be equally possible to buy, and scare off, those memories in China for some time to come. The continuing power of nationalism has not played out anywhere in the world. Yet.
The massive revolutionary change of mind required to end the limitless industrialized society, to overcome the social relations of capitalism and replace them with humane communities, is the challenge presented to every educator, everywhere, and time is running short. Disconnecting the links of faithless human relationships that buttress capital, and the ruin of clear thought it demands, is the urgent order of the day.
On the dollar and the euro: http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/nobloodreferences.html
On China's nuclear arsenal: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the SIPRI Yearbook 1999
Counting Iraqi Dead, New York Times April 2 2003
Mao Tse Tung on Guerrilla War http://www.maoism.org/msw/vol2/mswv2_08.htm
Isvan Meszaros: Socialism or Barbarism, Monthly Review Press 2002
Fredy Perlman, The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism, http://www.pipeline.com/~rgibson/PerlmanNationalism.htm