A Call for Peace: Say NO to America’s Military Adventure

With the pace of war against Iran now thundering in all its fury, it is time to mobilize once again to demand peace
By Michael Carmichael
Global Research, December 29, 2011
Planetarymovement.org – 2011-12-20

Michael Carmichael’s Talk to the Elders for Peace, Chapel Hill, N.C. on December 19th, 2011.

Good afternoon.

I am delighted to be here amongst all of you lovely people working together for peace. In fact, since we are the Elders for Peace, we are all veterans of the perpetual war against peace. Our side never wins, but we still keep working just the same. Never winning, because peace versus war is not a game. We are working for the survival of not only the human race, or even our tiny planet. In our time, when technology has finally led mankind to weapons of mass destruction of literally infinite power – the power to destroy in virtual simultaneity every form of life on earth, we are among the relatively few humans who have embarked on the mission in search of the key to survival of life as we know it.

Today, we find ourselves inside the vortex of a gigantic conundrum – the United States of America. Our nation is the strongest military force in the history of the known universe. For the past century, we have been waging wars all over our tiny planet.

The Great War, WWI was followed by WWII, a war that many believe was even greater. Both world wars catapulted our nation into the leading role of all the nations on earth. We are the richest, the most respected, the most reviled, the most envied, the most powerful nation among nations.

We are the most warlike nation. We must, therefore, be the most warlike people ever to have populated this planet.

Over the past decade, our nation has prosecuted wars in the Middle East. A war of vengeance against Afghanistan. A war of cupidity against Iraq. Both wars have gone badly for America. While the final combat forces departed Iraq last week, more than 100,000 of our troops are still waging a twilight war in Afghanistan.

But it is really worse than that, for our press, television and mainstream media do not reveal the truth to our people. We are already engaged in a third major land war in the Middle East, a war against Iran.

Before we examine the onrushing Iran War, let us review a few of the latest developments.

Good news

1 – The United States is Pulling out of Iraq. The last combat forces departed from Iraq last week.

2 – The United States is winding down our military operations in Afghanistan.

3 – The United States is preparing to cut the military budget, and for the time being both principal parties appear to be engaged with this important idea.

4 – Former President George W. Bush has been constrained to the confines of the USA by legal maneuvers that would swiftly lead to his indictment for violations of the Geneva Convention on Torture if he were to travel abroad. In recent months, Former President Bush was troubled by attempts to place him under arrest when he visited Canada very briefly, and he was forced to cancel his trip to Switzerland for fear of arrest for war crimes and torture.

5 – Certain Key Elements of our government, the White House, the Obama Administration and the Department of State, are resisting increasingly shrill demands for war against Iran, and at the same time they are fighting for the right to conduct diplomatic contacts with Iran against an ominous array of forces recently unleashed in Congress and beyond.

Bad News

1 – The War on Drugs is a multinational disaster with over 35,000 civilians killed in Mexico over the past five years. The War on Drugs is our most costly war and the most counterproductive. Little is being done to control it. Virtually nothing is being done to bring it to an end.

2 – The Military-Industrial-Complex (MIC) is moving inexorably toward war with Iran.

3 – Technology is totally autonomous – it cannot be controlled. It cannot be managed. It cannot be suppressed. Technology in the hands of the MIC is advancing rapidly toward the robotification of war via drones for surveillance and targeted assassinations. This ominous trend in the technology of death will continue to gain momentum, and this dreadful development of technology is now unstoppable. Soon, we will be witnessing battlefields with many forms of robotic and cybernetic warriors – cyborgs – organisms with biological and cybernetic components. Cyborg assassins. Robotic assassins. The world of Terminator is racing rapidly toward us right now, and nothing whatsoever is being done to restrain it.

4 – Mind Control, Mental Programming, Brainwashing and Perception Management have reached or exceeded Orwellian levels, and we are now moving confidently toward Huxleyian levels of totalitarian enslavement as vividly portrayed in Brave New World – a far more advanced dystopia than George Orwell’s Oceania, where torture was still applied to recalcitrant subjects. Brave New World programmed masses via propaganda, brainwashing and sensuality. Here are direct quotations from Aldous Huxley about the evolution of totalitarianism:

It is possible to make people contented with their servitude. I think this can be done. I think it has been done in the past, and it can be done even more effectively now because you can distract them with bread and circuses and you can provide them with endless amounts of distractions and propaganda. . .

The nightmare of 1984 is destined to modulate into the nightmare of Brave New World – the change will be brought about as a result of a self-need for increased efficiency . . .

Totalitarian regimes of the future will not be based upon terror, because they will have other means – brainwashing and propaganda – which will be much more efficient and much more economical than terrorism and torture.

5 – As evidence of point 3 above, Congress is almost totally enthralled (literally in moral and intellectual bondage) to the Military Industrial Complex. We now live in a Military Dictatorship dressed up in the political refinement of democracy, but that is only a myth. The reality is Military Dictatorship.

6 – Three days ago by a margin of 410 to 11, Congress has just passed one of the most potentially dangerous pieces of legislation in world history, The Iran Threat Reduction Act. Every member of the North Carolina delegation voted in favor except for two who were absent – both rock-ribbed Republicans (Myrick and Coble). While other nations and international organizations are attempting to criminalize war, the US congress is attempting to criminalize diplomatic contact and potential peace negotiations. This astonishing piece of legislation symbolizes the dangers Americans face from their elected representatives in government and those from the Military Industrial Complex who are actually in control of our government.

The Iran War

The buildup of the Iran War has been long and arduous. Over the past eight years, our military intelligence establishment working hand-in-glove with other shadow agencies of other nations has been building up the notion of a casus belli against Iran predicated upon their allegedly clandestine nuclear arms program.

We all know that Iran is an Islamist state. In 1979, the populist uprising long incubated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini finally ejected the hated regime of the Shah, one of America’s most cherished allies in the oil-rich region.

It must be said that the Shah was a great burden unto his people. While he lived in unparalleled luxury seated on a jewel-encrusted throne shaped like a peacock, the Shah entertained more lavishly than any other potentate on earth, even though his people suffered under the cruel heel of the Savak, one of the most brutal, repressive and predatory secret police forces ever devised.

The United States was on intimate terms with Savak. We trained them. We armed them, and they served our purposes in their region.

Richard Nixon loved the Shah, and the Shah loved Richard Nixon. The Shah granted Nixon the power and privilege of oil-riches, and Nixon tacitly granted the Shah immunity from the crime of heroin production, one of the largest and most profitable industries on earth, a fact known by Interpol for decades.

We all know, the Shah fell, and Khomeini rose to power.

What we often forget is that soon after the Iranian Revolution, our honorable ally, Saddam Hussein, at our beckoning and with our blessing, attacked Iran with arms we provided unto him. The Iran-Iraq War lasted 8 years. We do not know the exact number of casualties, but the figure of one million is probably far too small. We do know that Saddam Hussein did our bidding, and we do know that under the administration of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, we secretly armed Iran in order to permit the Reagan White House to wage an illegal war by arming the Nicaraguan Contras, a political movement that was nothing more than a death squad of gigantic proportions that murdered nuns, priests, women, children and poets in their campaign of carnage against a democratically elected government that sought to create economic justice within their own finite economy.

Today, the Republican presidential candidates sing from the same songbook on Iran – with one notable exception, Ron Paul. The official Republican line is: war with Iran to purge them of their Islamist regime and destroy their nuclear program. Rank and file Republicans bitterly criticize President Obama for being too soft on Iran. It is ironic that rank and file Democrats are beginning to believe the same thing.

Last week, by a margin of 410 to 11 – the House of Representatives just passed a bill that would criminalize diplomatic contact between the USA and Iran. The bill barring diplomacy with Iran is the work of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-FL) backed by Howard Berman, (D-CA). The White House, the Department of State and key members of the Senate are working to ensure the failure of this egregious piece of legislation.

Our nation is suffering deeply in the throes of Islamophobia, and now we have developed an even more virulent phobia, Iranophobia, a fear of the nation and people of Iran. America is not the only nation afflicted with Iranophobia, the small and vulnerable nation of Israel is obsessed with the threat of imminent nuclear annihilation by an Iranian nuclear bomb, a weapon whose existence at this point in time is totally imaginary, the hypothetical component of a conspiracy theory. If America and Israel were psychiatric patients, their condition would be described as delusional. Instead, our government and our obeisant media are doing everything in their power to brainwash the American people to inculcate into their psyches the fear of every molecule of Iranian origin.

The Iran War is the brainchild of the neocons of the Bush-Cheney administration. In top secret meetings of the national security council, Dick Cheney argued for war against Iran as early as 2002 and 2003. Cheney’s daughter, Elizabeth Cheney served in the State Department as the conduit for $85 million per year in funds to “pro-democracy” organizations inside Iran – groups like the Mujaheddin e-Khalq, a Marxist Islamist paramilitary cult of celibate terrorists, commandos, assassins and agents who sublimate their sexual desires for the practice of assassination, bomb manufacture, espionage, torture and terrorism. Today, 3000 members of the MEK are stranded in Camp Ashraf, an encampment inside Iraq that is now scheduled for demolition by the government of Prime Minister Maliki. Astonishingly, Governor Howard Dean has combined forces with Republican neoconservatives to remove the MEK from the US listing of terrorist organizations, so we can continue to provide them with more aid for their cult of terror.

While the tempo and pace of the buildup of the Iran War has been long, complicated and terrifying for those of us who monitor it, we must report that in the last few months, the pace is definitely quickening.

• Iran has arrested an untold number of Americans who languish in their prison system classified as “spies.” Apparently, Americans are crossing the border between Afghanistan and Iran as if they were embarking on “hikes” – and we the people of the United States know very little about these cases, their number, the individuals, the circumstances.

• Just over a year ago, a cyber attack by the Stuxnet Worm was unleashed against the Iranian nuclear industry. This anonymous cyber attack made international headlines in most of the advanced nations on earth, but only a slight smear on the inner pages of our newspapers in the USA.

• In July of this year, an Iranian nuclear scientist was shot dead by an assassin on a motorcycle in Tehran.

• In America, ABC ran a story headlined: „Who is Killing Iran’s Nuclear Scientists?”

• In Britain, the BBC ran a story headlined: „Is Iran Already Under Covert Attack?”

• In London, the coverage read: „Iranian Scientist’s Death Probably the Work of Western Security Agencies: Analysts Suggest Mossad or CIA Behind the Murder.”

• Recently, the Obama administration announced the interception of a disturbing terrorist plot allegedly masterminded by the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards or the Quds Force. The US Drug Enforcement Administration intercepted intelligence about an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador in Washington by outsourcing the murder to contract killers connected to a Mexican drug cartel. While this story was shocking, we have been advised by our government to take it seriously, even though it is considered to be risible, laughable and incredible in almost all other parts of the world. It may be worth reminding ourselves that propagandists have long operated with the principle of the big lie: the bigger the lie, the more likely people are to believe it. After the exposure of this fantastic plot, the United States elevated the level of monitoring and surveillance of the nation of Iran.

• In November, working under their new Director Yukiya Amano, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report on the Iranian nuclear program. The first Amano-Era IAEA report cited evidence that Iran was „studying nuclear weapons.” Iranian officials immediately denied the report of nuclear weapons research. In America the most authoritative source on US-Iranian tension, Seymour Hersh described the Amano report on Iran as: „The shift in tone at the I.A.E.A. seems linked to a change at the top.” and, „The new report, therefore, leaves us where we’ve been since 2002, when George Bush declared Iran to be a member of the Axis of Evil—with lots of belligerent talk but no definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons program.” Thus, the IAEA report created more tension, but little more. Seymour Hersh appeared on Democracy Now in a lengthy interview explaining his reservations about the objectivity of the IAEA report. The Seymour Hersh story on Democracy Now was headlined: „Propaganda used ahead of Iraq War Now Being Reused Over Iran’s Nuke Program.”

• As you will know, a US drone spy plane was recently shot down over Iran.

• You may not know that only three weeks ago there was a mysterious series of explosions at a nuclear facility located in close proximity to the historic city of Isfahan in Iran.

• Shortly after these explosions, Iran ordered the closure of the British embassy.

Throughout it all, we are being assured by our government that Iran is culpable of violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but we are given no conclusive evidence that this casus belli is any more credible than the risible case Colin Powell presented to the United Nations in February 2002 stating that Saddam Hussein posed a threat because of his vast and powerful arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

While Powell’s presentation impressed the domestic news media and its obedient audience – the American public, I was in Europe at the time – and nobody accepted Powell’s presentation as true. From the outset, Powell’s presentation was deemed to be a total fabrication. That lack of American credibility is why the global demonstrations of February 15th 2003 were so enormous. One million Romans marched in protest; one million Japanese marched to protest; in London, I was with Tony Benn in a vast throng estimated at one million in Hyde Park to protest the US-led march into the folly we now know as the Iraq War.


Humanity is perpetually marching into folly. War is the most violent form of folly. War is predicated on delusions: delusions of grandeur; delusions of demonization.

While reading Cormac McCarthy’s historical novel, Blood Meridian, I met one of the most unforgettable villains in world literature: Judge Holden.

The Judge joined a group of mercenaries led by John Joel Glanton who were commissioned to kill Indians in Mexico. Glanton’s force was made up of psychopaths, including a former priest, outlaws and a violence prone youth as well as Judge Holden.

Glanton and his mercenaries murdered hundreds of Indians and took their scalps in exchange for generous bounties from Mexican authorities.

But, the Glanton atrocity did not stop there. So lucrative was the project of war, that Glanton and his men would kill innocent Mexican civilians: men, women and children and take their scalps to exchange for hoards of gold and silver and furs and jewels and guns and clothes and horses and treasure from the Mexican authorities.

In one episode as retold by McCarthy, surely one of our greatest literary artists, Judge Holden lectured the raw recruits on war.

The Judge – on war

Around a campfire one evening after a series of murderous atrocities, Judge Holden engaged some of Glanton’s Indian Fighters on the nature of war. After some noticed that the Bible warned those who lived by the sword that they would perish by it, the Judge responded:

What right man would have it any other way?

When someone reminded the group that the Bible recounted many tales of bloody wars, Judge Holden said:

It makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. As well to ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.

After some banter with another character about the trade of the Indian Fighters, the Judge told the men that all human endeavor is concentrated in war. When asked if that was the reason war endures, the Judge said:

No. It endures because young men love it, and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not. Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard. Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere in the worth of the principals and define them. But trial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of war for here that which is wagered swallow up game, player, all.

At that point, the Judge provided a metaphor for war that is the major literary legacy of Blood Meridian:

Suppose two men at cards with nothing to wager save their lives. Who has not heard such a tale? A turn of the card. The whole universe for such a player has labored clanking to this moment which will tell if he is to die at that man’s hand or that man at his. What more certain validation of a man’s worth could there be? This enhancement of the game to its ultimate state admits no argument concerning the notion of fate. The selection of one man over another is a preference absolute and irrevocable and it is a dull man indeed who could reckon so profound a decision without agency or significance either one. In such games as have for their stake the annihilation of the defeated the decisions are quite clear. The man holding this particular arrangement of cards in his hand is thereby removed from existence. This is the nature of war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification. Seen so, war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.

As elders for peace, we have seen wars come and go and come again.

We have seen the brutality of man against man.

We have seen the brutality of man against animals, the deer of Orange County, the Tigers of China, the whales of the seven seas – all slain for sport, for gold, for pleasure.

We have seen men and women executed for crimes they did or did not commit.

We have seen the relentless assault on the black and tan races by the white master-race.

Perhaps, these visions of violence, torture, destruction and death are what unites us in our movement to protest, to oppose and to abolish war.

With the pace of war against Iran now thundering in all its fury, it is time to mobilize once again to demand peace.


Why we (keep) fighting

A few months ago, I offered up Five Reasons Why the U.S. Keeps Fighting All These Wars.  One of those reasons was: „Because We Can.”  In today’s guest post, Nuno Monteiro of Yale University offers an extended structural explanation for this tendency, attributing it primarily to the current condition of uni-polarity and the incentives its creates for the United States and for its various weaker adversaries.  For the full version of his argument, consult the forthcoming issue ofInternational Security.

Nuno P. Monteiro writes:

Twenty years ago this week, the Soviet Union was dissolved. Two years before, Moscow had dropped its geopolitical ambitions, allowing the Berlin Wall to fall peacefully. The United States had won the Cold War.

Since then, U.S. military power is unmatched. Because enemy airplanes rarely come close to U.S. jets, no active American pilot has achieved the five kills necessary for the honorific title of „ace”. Likewise, the U.S. Navy is larger than all the other seventeen high-seas fleets combined. The two most effective non-U.S. land forces (the British and French armies) are roughly the size of the smallest branch of the U.S. military machine, its Marine Corps.

Has this unparalleled power allowed the United States to enjoy the much-touted peace dividend it earned by winning the Cold War? Is the United States better able to impose its will peacefully today than when Stalin blocked Berlin or Khrushchev placed nuclear missiles in Cuba?

Many seem to think so. Writing in the New York Times a week ago, Joshua Goldstein and Steven Pinker argued that „war really is going out of style.” In what concerns the United States, however, nothing could be further from the truth. The last two decades, less than ten percent of U.S. history, account for more than 25 percent of the nation’s total wartime. Between the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 and the Soviet demise, great powers were involved in wars on average one every six years. Since it became the sole superpower, the United States has been at war for more than half the time, or twelve out of twenty two years.

These wars in Kuwait (1991), Kosovo (1999), Afghanistan (2001-present), and Iraq (2003-11) all resulted from other states not complying with U.S. demands. When threatened with U.S. military action, Slobodan Milosevic did not fold, the Taliban did not give in, nor did Saddam Hussein roll over. In contrast, the Soviet Union always took U.S. threats seriously. Despite its tremendous might, it refrained from taking West Berlin and withdrew its missiles from Cuba.

Why were U.S. threats heeded by the Soviet bear but now disregarded by secondary powers? Two explanations are commonly offered. The first is that the United States is militarily overextended. The second is that while the Soviets were evil but rational, today’s enemies are irrational.

Both these views are wrong. The war in Afghanistan does not prevent the United States from badly damaging any non-nuclear state that defies it while suffering relatively little itself. And the U.S.’s new enemies are no less rational than its old ones. If U.S. threats were able to deter shoe-slamming „we will bury you” Khrushchev and his hundreds of intercontinental nuclear missiles, why is the United States unable to stop North Korea and its handful of rudimentary warheads – not to mention Iran, which has none?

Because threats are not the problem. Backed by the mightiest military in history, U.S. threats are eminently credible. In fact, the absence of another great power capable of deterring Washington gives the U.S. a free hand abroad. As Saddam’s foreign minister Tariq Aziz lamented after Iraq’s humiliating defeat in the Gulf War, „We don’t have a patron anymore. If we still had the Soviets as our patron,none of this would have happened.”

The problem lies elsewhere. During the Cold War, mutually assured destruction kept the peace. The prospect of an unprovoked U.S. attack, which would ultimately lead to the U.S.’s own destruction, was unthinkable. But now that the Soviet Union is gone, America’s enemies feel vulnerable even if they comply with Washington’s demands. They know that the United States has the wherewithal to take them down if it so decides, so they are unlikely to accept any U.S. demands (to abandon a nuclear program, for example) that would leave them in a position of even greater weakness. This is what explains U.S. involvement in so many „hot” wars since the Cold War ended.

As the world’s sole superpower, the United States is often seen as an aggressive behemoth. To make its threats effective, we are told, it must restrain itself through a less aggressive military posture, a commitment to multilateral action, or even a pledge to eschew regime change. But even if it does all this, as long as U.S. power remains unmatched, Washington will continue to face difficulties having its way without resorting to war. This should come as no surprise. It follows from the unparalleled power of the United States.

Nuno P. Monteiro is an assistant professor of political science at Yale University.  His article„Unrest Assured: Why Unipolarity Is Not Peaceful” is out this month in International Security.  His website is http://www.nunomonteiro.org.


Next Year’s Wars-Ten conflicts to watch in 2012.

What conflict situations are most at risk of deteriorating further in 2012? When Foreign Policyasked the International Crisis Group to evaluate which manmade disasters could explode in the coming year, we put our heads together and came up with 10 crisis areas that warrant particular concern.

Admittedly, there is always a certain arbitrariness to lists. This one is no different. But, in part, that serves a purpose: It will, hopefully, get people talking. Why no room for Sudan – surely a crisis of terrifying proportions? Or for Europe’s forgotten conflicts – in the North Caucasus, for example, or in Nagorno-Karabakh? You’ll see also that we have not included some that are deeply troubling yet strangely under-reported, like Mexico or northern Nigeria. No room, too, for the hardy perennial standoff on the Korean Peninsula, despite the uncertainty surrounding the death of Kim Jong Il.

No reader should interpret their omission as meaning those situations are improving. They are not. But we did feel it is useful to highlight a few places that, to our mind, deserve no less attention. What follows is our top 10. At the end – and just to remind ourselves that progress is possible – we’ve included two countries for which we, cautiously, feel 2012 could augur well.


Many in Syria and abroad are now banking on the regime’s imminent collapse and assuming everything will get better from that point on. The reality could turn out to be quite different. As dynamics in both Syria and the broader international arena turn squarely against the regime, many hope that the bloody stalemate finally might end. But however much it now seems inevitable that President Bashar al-Assad will leave the stage after his regime’s terrifying brutality over recent months, the initial post-Assad stages carry enormous risks.

On the one hand, the emotionally charged communal polarization, particularly around the Alawite community, has made regime supporters dig in their heels, believing it is „kill or be killed,” and their fears of large-scale retribution when Assad falls are very real. On the other, the rising strategic stakes have heightened the regional and wider international competition among all players, who now view the crisis as an historic opportunity to decisively tilt the regional balance of power. In that explosive mix, the first cross-border concern is surely Lebanon: The more Assad’s ouster appears imminent, the more Hezbollah – and its backers in Tehran – will view the Syrian crisis as an existential struggle designed to deal them a decisive blow, and the greater the risk that they would choose to go for broke and draw to launch attacks against Israel in an attempt to radically alter the focus of attention. „Powder keg” doesn’t begin to describe it. The danger is real that any one of these issues could derail or even foreclose the possibility of a successful transition.


Even if Iran and Israel somehow manage to sail safely past the rocks of the Syrian crisis, the enmity between them over the nuclear issue could blow them very dangerously off course. Though sanctions against Iran and saber-rattling all around intensified at the end of 2011, some may see this as merely the continuation of a long-term trend in the epically poor relations between Iran and Israel.

Two factors make 2012 a possible turning point for the worse, however. First, the most recent International Atomic Energy Agency report is particularly unambiguous: It may not have turned up significantly new evidence of Teheran’s intention to build a nuclear weapon, but it did highlight more clearly than ever before Iran’s obfuscation and unwillingness to cooperate with the international body. Second, the U.S. elections will force support for Israel onto the U.S. domestic agenda even more than usual, and generally create a favorable environment for Israel to act, with any number of unexpected, unintended – and potentially disastrous – consequences.


A decade of major security, development, and humanitarian assistance from the international community has failed to create a stable Afghanistan, a fact highlighted by deteriorating security and a growing insurgent presence in previously stable provinces over the past year. In 2011, the capital alone saw a barrage of suicide bombings, including the deadliest attack in the city since 2001; multiple strikes on foreign missions in Kabul, the British Council, and U.S. Embassy; and the assassination of former president and chief peace negotiator Burhanuddin Rabbani. The prospects for next year are no brighter, with many key provinces scheduled for transfer to the ill-equipped Afghan security forces by early 2012.

The litany of obstacles to peace, or at least stability, in Afghanistan is by now familiar. President Hamid Karzai rules by fiat, employing a combination of patronage and executive abuse of power. State institutions and services are weak or nonexistent in much of the country, or else so riddled with corruption that Afghans want nothing to do with them. Dari-speaking ethnic minorities remain skeptical about the prospects for reconciliation with the predominately Pashtun Taliban insurgency, which enjoys the backing of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services. The Taliban leadership in Quetta seem to reason that victory is within reach and that they have simply to bide their time until the planned U.S. withdrawal in 2014.


Throughout 2011, Pakistan’s relations with the United States were sliding from bad to worse, and NATO’s deadly yet apparently accidental bombing of Pakistani soldiers in November turned a miserable relationship into an all but openly hostile one. Partially as a result, but also due to the Pakistani military’s support of militants operating in Afghanistan, ties between Islamabad and Kabul are fraying. The elected government has made some progress in its rapprochement with India, moving to normalize trade relations. Yet the process remains hostage to the military’s continued support for militant groups such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the renamed Lashkar-Tayyeba, responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Another terror attack could result in all-out war between the two nuclear-armed adversaries.

The biggest dangers for Pakistan, however, come not from external sources but rather from within. The transition from dictatorship to democracy is not at all consolidated, and the military still control crucial areas of foreign and security policy. Radical Islamism is destabilizing and even dominating the country at times, with violent attacks on leading liberal political figures shaking what little confidence anyone may have had that Pakistan can escape disaster. Yet there is still some hope, because radical Islamists lack popular support, and the two political parties that are likely to win the next general election in 2013 (provided the democratic transition is not disrupted by the military) – the ruling PPP and the opposition PML-N – have the capacity and the political will to take the country back to its moderate moorings.


Yemen stands between violent collapse and a thin hope of a peaceful transfer of power. Under increasing pressure from international and regional actors, President Ali Abdullah Saleh finally signed a transition agreement on Nov. 23. Under the agreement, he immediately transferred significant authorities to his vice president and is scheduled to officially leave office after early elections that are scheduled for Feb. 21. This was an important first step, but one that fell far short of solving Yemen’s problems.

Many challenges remain, including holding signatories responsible for implementing the transitional agreement, adequately addressing unresolved issues of political inclusion and justice, and improving dire economic and humanitarian conditions. Moreover, tensions between Yemen’s competing armed power centers, particularly Saleh’s family on one hand versus defected general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and the (unrelated) powerful al-Ahmar clan on the other, remain unresolved and are a potential flashpoint for further violence. One of the most challenging tasks during the first phase of the transition will be securing a durable ceasefire, removing all military and armed tribesmen from urban centers, and beginning meaningful reform of the military and security forces.

It’s a tall order, and international actors have a part to play. Threats of targeted sanctions against Saleh and his family from members of the U.N. Security Council played a part in bringing some regime hard-liners to the negotiating table. Now, with an agreement signed, implementation requires that pressure must be applied to all sides: Saleh and his supporters on one hand and the opposition parties and their affiliates on the other. For now, support has coalesced around Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who, according to the agreement, will be the consensus candidate in the February elections. As a relatively neutral figure, Hadi may encourage some measure of compromise and security.

Adding to the uncertainty over Yemen’s future are southern activists whose demands may yet range from immediate independence to a federation of North and South Yemen, and Houthi rebels in northern Yemen who seek greater rights for their community and a degree of local autonomy. And, while politicians negotiate in Sanaa, government forces and local tribesmen are in an ongoing fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Abyan governorate. The one certainty is that the struggle for Yemen will last long into 2012.


Several states in the region are surviving on luck: their infrastructure near collapse, their political systems eaten away by corruption, their public services almost nonexistent. On top of all this, Tajikistan, for example, now faces a growing security threat from both local and external insurgencies, something it has almost zero capacity to contain. Adding to the country’s woes, relations with neighboring Uzbekistan are at an all-time low, with their long-running water dispute no closer to resolution and occasionally deadly border incidents threatening to spark deeper violence.

As for Uzbekistan itself, Washington increasingly relies on Tashkent for logistics in Afghanistan, but the brutal nature of the regime means it is not only an embarrassing partner but also, ultimately, a very unreliable one. Already there has been at least one attack on the rail line transiting U.S. material through the country. Given how U.S.-Pakistan relations seem to hit a new low every week, Washington may feel it has little choice, but it certainly seems to be „out of the fire and into the frying pan” at best.

Then there is volatile Kyrgyzstan. Without prompt, genuine and exhaustive measures to address the damage done by the 2010 ethnic pogroms in the south, the country risks another round of mass violence. The ultranationalist mayor of Osh, Melis Myrzakmatov, who has in the past claimed that Bishkek’s writ does not extend to the southern city and now muses out loud about creating a municipal police force independent of the Ministry of Interior, will no doubt continue to fire shots across the bows of the central government in 2012.


Reassuring declarations from the government in Bujumbura sound hollow, as the end of the Arusha consensus, which concluded the civil war in 2000, combined with the deteriorating political climate that followed the boycott of the 2010 elections, have contributed directly to an escalation of violence and insecurity. The elements of the peace deal are being dismantled one by one. The not-so-hidden struggle between the opposition and the ruling party, combined with the government’s intensifying repression, is leaving ever more victims since the 2010 polls. Independent media are harassed by the authorities, who are allegedly commissioning targeted assassinations. At the same time, state corruption is on the rise, governance indicators are in the red, and social tension is mounting as living conditions deteriorate due to rising prices of basic commodities. Unless the government takes measures to reverse these trends, Burundi could edge toward renewed civil war in 2012.


Joseph Kabila has been re-elected president and officially sworn in, but that’s unlikely to satisfy his political opponents, particularly supporters of opposition candidate Etienne Tshisekedi. The vote was badly flawed, with reports of pre-marked ballots, voter intimidation, localized violence, widespread mismanagement and fiddled results. The election commission and Supreme Court were also stuffed with Kabila loyalists, rendering their arbitration worthless in the eyes of an angry opposition that may be marginalized for the next five years if legislative election results are also mishandled.

The election standoff is a symptom of larger trends. In his five years in power, Kabila has stacked many national institutions in his favor, leaving his opponents with few avenues to pursue grievances peacefully. International players have also quietly disengaged from Congolese affairs. Despite the sizable U.N. presence in Congo, and the involvement of donor countries like the United States and Britain, together with the European Union, little has been done to check Kabila’s consolidation of power.

As calls for international arbitration fall on deaf ears in Kinshasa and most Western capitals, Congo’s electoral authorities appear unable to salvage any sense of credibility from results. Kabila’s illegitimate mandate threatens not only Congo’s peace and stability. The muffled international response to the flawed polls, and the silent acquiescence of regional leaders, bode ill for democracy across the continent. If only the African Union reacted to stolen elections with the outrage it reserves for coups – both are, after all, equally unconstitutional changes of government – politicians might at least think twice before rigging.


It is too soon to tell whether Kenya’s recently launched military campaign in southern Somalia will succeed in defeating al-Shabaab – the militant Islamist group that formed during the fragmentation of the Islamic Courts Union, which controlled most of southern Somalia for part of the last decade – or end up a protracted and messy conflict. Now that Kenya will become part of the African Union’s mission in Somalia, however, it looks like it is there for the duration. Its prolonged presence in southern Somalia could be very unpopular, and the risks for Kenya’s internal stability are very real. Following the launch of the campaign in mid-October, al-Shabaab immediately threatened retaliatory attacks. The possibility of an al-Shabaab terror campaign has to be taken very seriously and there is a palpable sense of unease in Nairobi. In late October, the organization carried out two grenade attacks in the capital on Kenyan, not Western, targets. A Kenyan al-Shabaab member was jailed for the attacks. Since then there have been a number of incidents near the border with Somalia.

Kenya has a sizable ethnic Somali and wider Muslim population, most of whom are critical of the government’s military campaign in Somalia, the more so for its associations with the Western-led counterterrorism struggle. There is significant risk that the military campaign exacerbates already worrisome radicalization in Kenya, particularly if it goes badly and civilian deaths mount.

In response to the threat of al-Shabaab attacks on Kenyan soil, the Kenyan government has launched a massive sweep in ethnic-Somali majority areas, aiming to flush out the group’s supporters. Although the police and security services have mostly shown restraint, local leaders in the northeastern border region have already accused the military of excessive force. The real test will come if al-Shabaab carries out a major attack in Kenya. There are fears this would trigger a draconian crackdown on ethnic Somalis in Kenya, with grave consequences for intercommunal relations and societal cohesion and harmony, especially ahead of general elections this year, the first since the 2007 polls sparked widespread ethnic violence.


Venezuela’s homicide rates are among the highest in the hemisphere – twice those of Colombia and three times those of Mexico – despite largely escaping the world’s attention. Rates were rising even before Hugo Chávez assumed power. But under his 12 years they have skyrocketed, from 4,550 in 1998 to 17,600 last year. The victims are predominantly poor young men – killed for as little as a mobile phone, caught in gunfire between gangs, or even subject to extrajudicial killings by security forces.

Criminal violence has not yet permeated the country’s politics. But signs ahead of presidential elections next year are ominous. The regime itself has armed local civilian militias to, in its own words, „defend the revolution.” Thus far it has failed to tackle corruption within the security forces, or their complicity in crime. Arms are easily available – reportedly more than 12 million weapons circulate in a country with a population of only 29 million. Impunity is a major driver of violence, with judicial independence eroded through sustained attacks by the government. According to some estimates, fewer than one in 10 police investigations ever leads to arrest.

It’s not yet clear who will face off against Chávez for the presidency, nor do we know the extent of political space in which candidates will be able to contest for office. But with the president’s ailing health adding considerable uncertainty, bitter enmity between him and some opposition leaders, and Venezuelan society polarized, militarized and lacking credible institutional conflict-resolution mechanisms, next year could prove testing indeed.


Now for the good news. Here are two countries whose 2012 is looking relatively bright.


The victory by the moderate Islamist An-Nahda Party in October’s elections is a victory for democracy. Of course, no one would underestimate the major challenges the nation still confronts. There is a continuing threat of violence, whether from agents provocateurs bent on discrediting An-Nahda, the more radical Salafists marginalized by the An-Nahda victory, or working class towns and cities in the country’s interior, which have been largely sidelined since the fall of president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and where the economic, social, and security situation continues to worsen. Small vestiges of the old regime in ministries and the Constituent Assembly, while weak, could still play a spoiler role. New business elites, meanwhile, appear only too quick to adopt the poor practices of their predecessors. The new government will have to move quickly away from wrangling over transitional details – prime ministerial powers, constitutional reform and new elections – and concentrate on reversing the country’s economic decline and tackling corruption and unemployment.

Still, having held the first free, competitive election to follow the onset of the Arab Spring – in a relatively transparent manner and in an atmosphere of enthusiasm – it is clear that Tunisians already have much to be proud of. If the country’s relative stability and evident progress could be a beacon to the rest of the wider region, that would be no bad thing.


The government’s pledges on reform are being fulfilled: The military has moved out of front-line politics; top opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi was released, is engaging with the government at top levels, and is set to run in elections; many other political prisoners were also released; there are livelier debates in parliament that are even broadcast on TV; and some previously banned websites are now unblocked. There is a major opportunity for this long-suffering country to continue in a positive direction in 2012.

The outside world, particularly the West, needs to respond by engaging further and dropping counterproductive sanctions that have harmed civilians without loosening the junta’s grip on power. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Myanmar in early December was the right move at the right time, but it is not enough. Key next steps to watch for from the regime include releasing all remaining political prisoners, passing a new media law that would curtail censorship, and signing ceasefires with armed ethnic groups that would be a key step towards ending abuses by the military in these border conflicts.


Branding The “War on Terror“ Global Power Relationships Shift as Competition for Resources Intensifies

As competition for oil, water and other resources intensify, global power relationships are shifting, providing backdrops for a string of conflicts from Iraq to Libya. Brazilian-born journalist Pepe Escobar, one of the most perceptive analysts of these trends, was interviewed by German Lars Schall.

Lars Schall interviews Pepe Escobar

December 29, 2011 “Consortium News ” – Mr. Escobar, given your experience in that field, what would you highlight as the most crucial misunderstanding held by the general public related to the so called “War on Terror”?

Pepe Escobar: This is the cover story for a “Clash of Civilizations“ and an undercover cold war that maybe becomes a hot war between the U.S. and the two strategic competitors, China and Russia. They couldn’t go directly against any of these two BRICS members. [BRICS is an organization of emerging economies consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa].

Remember that before the “War on Terror“ and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Americans were trying to find out who was going to be our next enemy? So you needed a pre-fabricated external enemy – before that there was the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain and the evil of communism. After the evil was defeated by realpolitik – okay, who’s next?

First they thought about China, but they said, no, we can’t take China, it’s a big power, it’s nuclear armed. The same thing with Russia – and they were doing nice, they had a puppet in the Kremlin,Boris Yeltsin, who was privatizing everything like crazy and was plundering Russia’s resources to the benefit, hypothetically, of Western corporations. Then Putin took the whole thing upside-down.

So the “War on Terror“ was perfect because Islam was branded as the enemy, and 9/11, it couldn’t have been more convenient because then, what was conceptionalized before, you had the Pearl Harbor element – you could sell it not only to the American public but to world public opinion. But undercover the real agenda of the global “War on Terror,“ which the Pentagon calls “The Long War“ – meaning infinite war – is in fact that there are two emerging powers that pose a real serious threat to the United States.

Russia basically because it is nuclear armed. At that time they were not thinking about Russia as a major oil and gas exporter – this was before [Vladimir] Putin re-organized Gazprom, so that Gazprom would become the top international major in oil and gas. And China, which at that time, ten years ago, the Americans were looking at it as still struggling, maybe there would be a peasant revolt, whatever, they didn’t think that China was the big competitor. And now, of course, they have 3.2 trillion U.S. dollars in foreign reserves and U.S. treasury bonds etc. (laughs.)

The perfect pretext was 9/11, but undercover the war for energy resources in the Persian Gulf andCentral Asia intensified, and they had the neo-con masterplan, which incredibly is being implemented now, which is to destabilize this “Arc of Instability,“ this is Pentagon-coined, of course, from the Maghreb through Northern Africa across the Middle East and all the way to Central Asia via Afghanistan/Pakistan – which is the intersection between Central Asia and South Asia – up to the Chinese border in Xinjiang.

So they needed to implement their strategy, which was conceptionalized finally after 9/11 – this is the Pentagon’s “Full Spectrum Dominance“ doctrine, which is something you will never ever read about in the U.S. mainstream press or in the European mainstream press for that matter. Since 2002 the “Full Spectrum Dominance“ doctrine is the official Pentagon doctrine. It is intrinsically linked to America’s National Security – we have to be the predominant power not only on land, on sea and in the air but also in cyberspace and outerspace. That is the essence of the “Full Spectrum Dominance“ doctrine.

[Compare for example Jim Garamone (American Forces Press Service): “Joint Vision 2020 Emphazises Full Spectrum Dominance“, published June 2, 2000 at the website of theU.S. Department of Defense under: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=45289 ] 

This is being applied now after the “Arab Spring,“ and that’s incredible because nobody is talking about it also. Everybody was saying at the beginning: Wow, finally the Arabs are “awakening,“ but that is too hard a  term, as it means that the Arabs were sleeping for the past 100 years – that is not true.

“Spring“ is also not really the right word, I would say that it is a process of enhanced conciousness of the working classes and the middle classes in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Bahrain and other parts of the Middle East as well. And then came the counter-revolution, and this process of counter-revolution is leading directly to the implementation of further steps of the “Full Spectrum Dominance“ doctrine.

We can go back to this later on, but basically what I’m trying to say is that the counter-revolution, orchestrated by the U.S. and especially by the House of Saud, re-instrumentalized what has happened in Tunisia and Egypt, they unleashed the counter-revolution in the Persian Gulf, they try to bribe the military dictatorship in Egypt to keep it that way as a military dictatorship (they gave already 4 billion U.S. dollars to the Tantawi junta, and more is coming from Saudi Arabia), and meanwhile in Central Asia the United States is trying to re-organize itself because suddenly they have noticed that they are losing terrain to who else? China and Russia.

This in terms of oil and gas deals between China and Russia themselves, between Turkmenistan and China, between all these players and Iran as well – Russia and China have very close cooperation with Iran in their oil and gas fields.

So the Americans are saying: Okay, how do we re-organize the whole thing? The “War on Terror“ for all practical purposes is more or less over in the Pentagon way of seeing the world. Now it’s back to “Full Spectrum Dominance“ – we have to control the whole thing. So this means control of the Mediterranean Sea as a NATO lake, which was what they have implementated in Libya and now will try to implement in Syria; control the rest of Africa, sending troops to Uganda like Obama did a few weeks ago, which is not only Uganda but the heart of Central Africa, it’s Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo – lots of oil, lots of minerals, lots of rare earths as well, all extremely precious.

So the West has to be there and the U.S. has to be in control, forget about China. This means raving up AFRICOM, the African Command sitting in Stuttgart, Germany, and soon probably sitting in Benghazi, Libya.

I was talking to people from the European Union in Brussels a few days ago, some smart dissidents who don’t agree with what they are doing, and they told me off the record: Look, there is going to be a military base in Libya, this was the project right from the beginning.

There will not be a lot of European boots on the ground, it’s going to be Turkish, Qatari, UAE, those mercenaries that get trained by Blackwater – now Xe – in the United Arab Emirates, these people will be part of this base and it’s going to be the base that NATO and AFRICOM wanted in North African territory.

For me the number one answer to your question is this: the “War on Terror“ was a diversion that lasted more or less ten years. Now even the Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Obama administration, everybody is saying out loud: “al-Qaeda is operationally ineffective” – these are their own words.

Virtually everybody is dead, apart from al-Zawahiri and the new guy that they have named to be their military commander, but I can’t even remember his name, they have a new one every week or so. Everybody is dead, they are not in Afghanistan anymore, they have a few trainers in the tribal areas in the Waziristans, they are ineffective in the rest of the world, though, of course, they are in power now in Tripoli because the West has used them. Those guys were trained in a military camp north of Kabul.

I was there in this place in early 2001, and I was told that they had a lot of Libyans there. And yes, these Libyans were the guys from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, LIFG, and they were trained in this camp north of Kabul, it was very easy to go there. So now they are in Libya, the military commander of Tripoli, Abdelhakim Belhadj, with his cohorts, they are very well armed, very well trained, they will not go away, and these al-Qaeda-linked jihadis were used by the West with no second thoughts.

Would you say that al-Qaeda, now as a phantom and in the “good old days“ as a real force, was an useful tool for the foreign policy of the U.S.A.?

Pepe Escobar: Yes, of course it was! It was the perfect excuse because they kept them to try to implement “Full Spectrum Dominance“ anywhere that they could. In Central Asia they were very active – until maybe two years ago – during the Bush administration.

Remember that Cheney used to go to Central Asia every two or three months at that time. The U.S. tried to strike deals directly with the Kazakhs, with the Turkmen, and especially with the Azerbaijanis – the Azerbaijani elite is very close with the Republicans in the U.S. So Dick Cheney was there all the time.

And their special embassador, who is still working for the Obama administration, Richard Morningstar, is the oil envoy of Washington to Central Asia, he knows the area well, he knows all the players. The Americans tried to pressure them: don’t do deals with Russia, don’t do deals with China, bypass Iran and do deals with us. What is happening now? They did deals with Russia, they did deals with China, they did not bypass Iran and they didn’t do any deals with the Americans. (laughs.)

Usually, people expect when you do a war that you want to win it. But isn’t it the case in Central Asia that a perpetual war theater has some advantages for the “military petroleum complex” (as economist James K. Galbraith called it) vis-à-vis China and Russia? [For the term „military-petroleum complex” compare James K. Galbraith: „Unbearable Costs of Empire”, originally published by The American Prospect magazine, November 2002, republished at Third World Travelor.]

Pepe Escobar: Yes, but the problem is that they don’t know who they are dealing with. They forget cultural factors, they forget that Turkmen, for instance, are very independent and prefer to do deals with people who speak the same language, which is Russian. If the middleman Medvedev goes to Ashgabat to talk to President Berdimuhamedov in Russian it is much easier to clinch a deal.

Or if the Chinese go to Ashgabat, they say: Look, we build anything you want and we even build a pipeline ourselves. So give us a good rate for your gas and we build this pipeline tomorrow from eastern Turkmenistan to western China. This is exactly what they did, two years ago the pipeline was inaugurated. And this applies to the Africans as well: there are no conditionalities, there is no interference in internal politics.

The Americans tried this for a while, like with Uzbekistan and this guy who boils his own people, Islam Karimov. They had a very close understanding with the Bush administration, and the U.S. had a military base in Karimabad near the Afghan border during the Bush years, which was very helpful to the Americans, but afterwards they started to criticize human rights in Uzbekistan – so what did the Uzbeks say? No more base, bye bye! And they are part of this pipeline that goes from Turkmenistan to China via Uzbekistan. They changed tactics a bit, but at the end the Americans lost the plot.

Now the Americans are realizing that they were losing terrain to both Russia and China in Central Asia, so they redeployed in the Persian Gulf, in northern Africa and inside Africa as well. Libya will be very helpful for new oil and gas explorations. The Libyans say that they will keep the contracts that they have with the Italians – there is this gas pipeline from northern Libya to Sicily and the shipments to Italy. But the new contracts will go to Total, BP and the Americans, not to the Russians and the Chinese.

Libya was, is and will be profitable for Western energy majors. In Central Asia their only hope is Azerbaijan, because they more or less control the energy business in Azerbaijan, and like I have said, the elites work as a satrapy of Washington, basically. But the problem is that they cannot control Turkmenistan. They’ve been pressuring Turkmenistan to build Nabucco, the pipeline. Nabucco will cost a fortune, it will cost around 20 billion euros, nobody knows where this money is coming from, especially in a European crisis.

The Turkmen say that they can provide enough gas, but nobody knows if they actually have that kind of gas, because they are swapping gas with Iran, they are selling a lot of gas to China, and they are still selling gas via the old Soviet pipeline. Nabucco is going to need a lot of gas and nobody knows if Turkmenistan has it. And the Turkmen still say: you need to prove us that you have the investment for the pipeline, which can be built within the next three to four years, so that we can commit our gas reserves to this pipeline.

But this means, if Turkmenistan does not have enough gas, the Europeans have to find it somewhere else, and it shouldn’t be in Azerbaijan, unless they spend over 22 billion U.S. dollars in new investment.

So while everybody is stuck, the Russians built two pipelines: North Stream and South Stream. Putin is winning the war against Nabucco because he started first and he made deals with governments, with Gerhard Schröder of Germany for North Stream and with Silvio Berlsconi of Italy for South Stream. So North and South Stream is winning against Nabucco, because they still don’t know where the money is coming from, they don’t know if they will have enough gas, and they don’t know where they are finding the gas if it is not in Turkmenistan or in Azerbaijan.

Turkey wants to have a lot of the gas for itself as well, plus the transit fees, it is an absolute mess. I keep reading these official pronouncements from Nabucco, which is based in Vienna, and every month or so there is an official communication: it is going to work, we have the 20 billion euros, it will be ready in 2017, we will start next year – but we are hearing this for the past five years, if I’m not mistaken.

Another central problem is the opium / heroin trade in Afghanistan. What are your observation with regards to this problem? Who are the major players in that business? And would you say that this whole affair is a shame for the West?

Pepe Escobar: Oh, yes. One of the major players has always been Ahmed Ali Karzai, Hamid Karzai’s brother. I met him after 9/11 in Quetta, he was always living in Quetta because this was his perfect base. Quetta is a fascinating place. I would say it is the smuggling capital of the East – and that’s no mean feat because you are competing with Hong Kong, you are competing actually with everybody, with the Russians, with the Ukrainian mafia.

In Quetta you have a transportation mafia, you have a heroin mafia, and from Quetta all these networks start to diversify. There is one network that goes through northern Pakistan and goes to Tajikistan, they is another one that bifurcates in Tajikistan and goes towards Central Asia and from Central Asia to Turkey.

So there are these Pakistani/Afghan opium networks, there is another Tajik network which is basically refining. Everybody knows there is a CIA network, what we don’t know is exactly what trajectory they follow. Probably it’s a trajectory from Afghanistan via Uzbekistan to get to Turkey, probably flying from Uzbekistan. Everybody has a network.

As far as I know the Chinese mafias don’t have a network in Afghanistan, but maybe soon they will. And this is the major problem for Russia. Whenever you talk to Russian officials about what is the big deal in Afghanistan, they immediately say: There is a drug war against us, and the source is Afghan opium.

They have now more victims related to heroin than they had during the 1980′s with the war in Afghanistan.

Pepe Escobar: You are absolutely right, exactly. This is one of the key focusses for the Russians within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It’s not only to keep American bases outside of the region, just like the Chinese want as well. It’s to try to find a way to fight these drug, opium mafias. It’s a big problem for Russia, and it’s also a big problem for Iran as well.

For Iran because of the Afghan refugees. The Afghan refugees basically moved to eastern Iran, so if you go to Mashhad in eastern Iran, if you go to the suburbs of Mashhad that’s the opium center, that’s the smuggling center. They cross Afghanistan, they cross via Herat, from Herat to Mashhad with very good roads now it’s like seven hours maximum, and from Mashhad they distribute this opium all across Iran, there is a huge drug problem for Iran as well, and Iran is an observer member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and one of the main reasons for them to join the SCO is to try to organize a regional mechanism to fight a real drug war, because these countries are badly suffering from it.

If true, then they are processing heroin in Afghanistan, they are not only growing the opium. And one question that I always ask myself is, who provides the chemicals involved in the manufacturing process? I guess the Afghans don’t have factories to produce acetic acid chloride, do they?

Pepe Escobar: Honestly, I cannot answer this question, but I would say there is outside help involved, it’s true. In Afghanistan they simply cannot process. In fact, the refineries used to be in Tajikistan or in Pakistan, in Quetta, for instance, or in Dushanbe in Tajikistan. The people from the Panjshir valley who deal with the trafficking, everything is concentrated in Dushanbe, 40 minutes to northern Afghanistan by helicopter – and they have their own private helicopters. So I would say yes, there is outside help, and then, of course, it’s specualtion: is it Western outside help? (laughs.)

Is it just by chance that one can have the impression: where energy resources and / or illicit drugs are placed (for example South America, Central Asia, South East Asia), the U.S. military and intelligence is never really far away?

Pepe Escobar: They are, they are everywhere. Though they can’t be in South America at the moment because of what is going on in South America since, I would say, 2002. It’s a geopolitical earthquake, in fact, because the South Americans for the first time in their history with the elections of first Chavez, and then Lula in Brazil in 2002, and then in Ecuador, even in Uruguay, even when Kirschner won in Argentina – they decided: Okay, let’s get our act together now that most of our governments are center-left or at least nominally progressive.

Let’s get our backyard in order, organize ourselves via the Unasur, for instance, the Union of South American countries, and also the Mercosur, which is a commercial/trade union. And let’s try to fight American interference directly. And this is what’s been happening. Remember the failed coup against Chavez in 2002, which was directly organized by Washington, there is extensive proof, you can find it on the net, Eva Golinger, a Venezuelan-American lawyer, she wrote excellent books about it. Okay, and they tried in 2007 to destabilize Bolivia as well, the failed coup in Ecuador over a year ago. So why is it not happening anymore in South America? Because of political, economic and geopolitical unity.

But don’t doubt it, if the Pentagon found an opening to interfere directly in Venezuela again, they will do it. The problem is, now there are Russian advisors over there, there are Chinese traders in Venezuela, Iranian commercial interests as well. Venezuela is not only trading with South America and they are now a member of Mercosur as well, so they are trading a lot with Brazil and Argentina etc., but they are trading with the other side of the world as well – and with two of America’s strategic competitors, plus their nemesis, Iran. So that explains a lot.

Since 2002, South America for the Pentagon is a big, big problem, and no wonder these Republican whacko candidates in their last foreign policy debate, they were saying that Hamas and Hezbollah are all over South America, that they have to pay attention to Latin America because we forget that there are a lot of communists and terrorists over there. It’s no wonder.

But would you say it’s a coincidence, this historical connection between energy resources and illicit drugs? For example, in the Vietnam war.

Pepe Escobar: True, with Air America. Remember, Air America was not only defending civilians in Laos and Vietnam, basically this was a CIA heroin smuggling operation, of course. – But the thing is, it’s not necessarily so. I would mention Colombia. Colombia was a completely different case, Colombia was a case of indigenous cartels, they were fighting among themselves to see who would have the monopoly of exporting cocaine to the U.S., I would say there were few American interests here – selling equipment and weapons, yes, but the Americans were not at the forefront of the battle against the cartels.

So when they fragmented, the cartels went all over the place. So now for the past three or four years, it’s the Peruvians who control the distribution of cocaine in South America, it’s not the Colombians anymore.

They delocalized, for instance, to Brazil as a refinery center and an export center as well. I would say every week there’s a major apprehension of coke at Sao Paulo’s International Airport, for instance. So if you multiply this by what really goes through, it’s amazing. Now the airport in Sao Paulo is one of the major shipping routes of cocaine to North America, or to Europe as well. Once there used to be heroin coming from Central Asia via Europe that was landing in Brazil as well. It was funny, there was a time during the 80s, I remember, there was an Italian connection: people would bring heroin from Milan to Sao Paulo, and would take cocaine from Sao Paulo to Milan. (laughs.) That was almost thirty years ago.

In the Colombian case it’s very different. There is not a direct relation between drugs and energy. In Venezuela as well: the only game in town over there is energy, it’s a battle for energy. Hugo Chavez, whatever you think about him, was very clever, because: Okay, my way out is to do deals with other players. So they made a gigantic deal with China, and now they are one of the top suppliers of oil to China.

Soon they will be selling China one million barrels of oil per day, and they could expand to two million easily, if the Chinese invest in the Orinoco region, exploiting the new fields, which they will do, it’s not a priority at the moment, because for the moment the Chinese are concentrated in Siberia, Central Asia, and Africa, But they still have this Plan C or Plan D for them, which is Venezuela.

Do they also count on Brazil as an oil exporter?

Pepe Escobar: Definitely, because of the pre-salt deposits in Brazil, which is a kind of mixed blessing, in fact. Petrobras is regarded all over the world as one of the most competent national oil companies. The problem is they have to develop this specific technology to perforate this salt layer to extract the oil. It’s an extremely complex and extremely expensive operation. They say they will start in 2017, I doubt it.

The last figure that I saw in terms of investment that they needed, this was a few months ago, they were talking about 220 to 240 billion U.S. dollars of investment over the next few years to start extracting oil from the pre-salt layer. Everybody wants to be part of it. Chevron is already here, Exxon Mobil, Gazprom wants to be here, and of course the Chinese. And I’m sure when the Brazilians start issuing tenders, the Chinese are going to be at the forefront, all of their companies, CNPC, CNOOC, all of them.

But this is a long term project for the Chinese, of course, because in a realistic assessment there’s not going to be oil from the pre-salt layer before 2019/2020, so the Chinese are thinking ahead.

We hear quite a lot about the BRICS. Would you say this is just a nice name once given by Goldman Sachs or is there more behind it, a comprehensive strategy, something like this?

Pepe Escobar: They still don’t have a comprehensive strategy. It used to be a nice name in 2001/2002; not anymore, because now they are meeting regularly, not only an official annual meeting, but their foreign ministers are meeting, their deputy foreign ministers are meeting just like they did in St. Petersburg recently for that matter. Their interests are more or less the same in terms of: for Russia and China to keep the U.S. out of their backyard, which is basically Central Asia and the former Soviet Republics.

For Brazil it’s to keep the Americans out of South America as much as humanly possible, considering that the relations between Brazil and the U.S. are very, very close, and the United States still regards Brazil as a key ally in Latin America. It’s a very complicated foreign policy game between Brazil and the U.S.

For India, they want to be in the same group of all emerging countries as well, but without antogonizing the U.S. too much, so they have a difficult game to play as well. South Africa was included basically so that they would have a continental span, so that three continents were represented.

I would say from the point of view of the BRICS, and in fact they discussed this in Brasilia over a year ago – the fifth BRIC would be Turkey, it would be BRICT actually, but at the last minute they decided to include South Africa, because they said: we need the largest economy from Africa as well, and because Brazil and South Africa and India started to trade among themselves much more over the past 4 years than over the past 400. Brazil and South Africa are integrating very closely, and South Africa is the bridge between Brazil and India.

So it would suit all of these three players. But soon the BRICS might include – I say “might“ because they started discussing but still don’t know how to do it as a formal mechanism: Turkey, Indonesia and South Korea, which are natural candidates, there is no question about it. Two in Asia and one in the Middle East, the intersection between Europe and Asia.

So they started to talk about more integration in terms of our economies, cultural exchanges, all those bla-bla-bla’s…now they are thinking: Okay, we need geopolitically to pound our fist on the table, even if very softly in the beginning. So it started in Libya, they abstained from voting UN 1973, which was already a big step. They were mildly condemned by the Europeans and the Americans for that. But they said, this is still not a red line, this is a very, very yellow line, we cannot afford to antagonize the Americans at this point.

And then came the latest proposal for a UN Security Council vote on Syria, and the BRICS immediately said: No way, this is the red line. For many reasons, because Russia and China have very good deals with Syria. Brazil and Syria are very close. There are millions of Syrians living in Brazil and Syrian-Libanese living in Brazil, so in Brazil people call them Syrian-Libanese, it’s indinstinctive for most people here because they started coming in the 1920′s, 1930′s, and after the Second World War as well, they are very well integrated in Brazilian society, and there is lots of commercial deals between Brazil and Syria. These are some of the reasons why they have a common position for this as well.

As for South Africa, it is evident. The first time they voted for the UN resolution, they were pressured by Obama, Obama called president Zuma, they were on the phone for two hours or so, and Obama said: Look, you got to vote for us, otherwise you are going to be in trouble. So Zuma voted against his will. And later he was part of the African Union delegation to organize a peace deal between the rebels and Gaddafi. And the Gaddafi regime said yes, the rebels said no. Why? Because NATO told them to say no.

So South Africa had their reasons, too. Syria is the red line. So now they are starting to organize their geopolitical approach vis-à-vis the Atlanticist West in a much more coordinated way. And in terms of economics, they are putting pressure on the IMF to give more voting power rights to Brazil and China.

There are three guys as regional chair directors at the IMF, and the Chinese and the Brazilians are saying for years: we need more directors and we need more voting rights. That was part of the discussion, remember when the Brazilian minister of finance said: Look, maybe we can devise a mechanism to help the struggling European economies. That was their message to say: The thing goes to the IMF, and we want to be there, we want more voting rights, and then we decide if we can help or not, but this has to be within the IMF mechanism.

Yes, they are definitely coordinating much more than they were, I would say, two years ago. Soon BRICS is going to be BRICTS, BRICTIISS, an expanded BRIC. But now it is configured as a counterpower in geopolitical terms, in terms of appeal to the developing world, because the appeal by the BRICS to the  Non-Aligned Movement, NAM, for instance, to other countries in South America, to a lot of countries in the Middle East, to many countries in South-East Asia is huge against what is an Atlanticist U.S.-NATO, which is basically the same thing because the U.S. controls NATO.

NATO aligned with the most ultra-reactionary and repressive Persian Gulf monarchies. The realignment of the chessboard is something very tricky now because now these countries, especially Qatar and the Emirates, they are sub-sects of NATO. In one of my pieces recently I was venturing the possibility of soon talking about a NATOGCC, or GCCNATO, Gulf Cooperation Council – I usually call them Gulf Counterrevolutionary Club, because this is what they are.

So the merging between NATO and the GCC now is total. And if we include the merger between the Western military-industrial complex in the U.S. and the Saudi defense system which is total as well, we can say that Pentagon and the GCC is all the same thing.

And the BRICS look at this and for some of them this is extremely complicated, for China, for instance, because still their number one oil supplier is Saudi Arabia. For the moment Saudi Arabia is outrunning Angola. Venezuela is already among the top five. Libya was not among the top five, that’s why they said: Okay, not now, maybe later. But how do they organize the relationship between Beijing and Riyadh, because they see that Riyadh is totally aligned with the Pentagon agenda, and at the same time they depend on their oil, and this explains among other things why the Chinese are so eager to be less and less dependent on Middle Eastern oil.

So this means more deals with Iran. My guess, my more or less informed guess is soon the Chinese will go to Iran and say: How much money do you need to totally upgrade your oil and gas installations? Here it is, but deal with us.

This explains the pipeline from Turkmenistan to China, this explains the two pipelines from Siberia to China, and this explain China in Angola and in Central Africa as well, and this will explain China coming to Brazil as soon as possible, saying: How much money do you want? The Saudi-China relation for Beijing is very complicated, and that means, for now, they they cannot antogonize Saudi Arabia on anything.

Related to the BRICS, do you pay attention to the fact that the central banks of Russia, China and India and also South American central banks are buying gold big time?

Pepe Escobar: Oh, yes! In the moment they are buying gold, and they still have in the backburner the Plan B, which is a basket of currencies in terms of an international currency system. The Russians and the Chinese want it, the Brazilians also want it, it would include probably the U.S. dollar, the euro, yuan, maybe ruble, maybe real as well, maybe yen, but the Japanese are not part of this conversation, and for the moment, of course, it’s to buy gold, including those who are not in this loop but are connected to the loop, Venezuela. Remember Venezuela was repatriating all their gold that they had in European banks, the first shipment already arrived in Caracas.

Do you think there could be some sort a connection in the pricing of oil with gold in the future going ahead?

Pepe Escobar: I don’t know, Lars, honest answer. I don’t know. You know why? I would say it depends on a move connected to bypassing the petrodollar. And this move already started a few years ago. Iran wants to do it badly like yesterday. Russia already said: Yes, we want it. Venezuela already said in South America: Yes, we want it as well. But I think this is the nuclear option. Can you imagine the day when you have major oil producers inside OPEC saying: It’s not going to be the petrodollar anymore, it’s going to be our own currencies or it’s going to be a basket of currencies. That’s basically the end of the American hegemony for good.

The whole country will burn, basically.

Pepe Escobar: Exactly. The whole globe will burn. I see this as the nuclear option. A few years ago when Iran was establishing an energy bourse, in fact, they did, it’s already there.

Since 2008. [Oil Bourse Opens in Kish, published at Fars News Agency on Feb. 18, 2008]

Pepe Escobar: I remember in 2005, I interviewed the guy in charge of establishing this bourse in Tehran. We had a fantastic conversation, and then I got into a big fight with the editor at that time of Asia Times, because he said: If we publish this, the Americans will bomb our site tomorrow.

The Iranians said: This is our first step to entice people to start buying oil contracts with us at our bourse and not in New York or in London. And then I told this guy: You know what you’re doing when this thing goes ahead. You are going to be bombed by the U.S. tomorrow. They said: Yes, we know the risks. But the guy who was implementing this mechanism for us was a former trader in London actually. It was a very complicated messy affair.

After my interview, it took them three years, as you have said, they only established it in 2008. It’s a very small bourse, but as far as the Iranians see it, it’s just the beginning. They like this bourse. They started with petrochemicals first. They start to deal with petrochemicals, oil and gas for the future and they were especially interested in attracting buyers from the developing world plus Russia and China, so that they could buy Iranian energy products in Iran directly. I’m sure, Russia and China loved the idea as well, but for the moment it’s an embryo of something much bigger coming later.

You call the “Great Game 2.0″ in Central Asia / the Greater Middle East “Pipelineistan.” Is it of advantage to be familiar with good ol’ Halford Mackinder (a British geographer credited with being the father of geopolitics) in “Pipelineistan”?

Pepe Escobar: No, the thing is, the people who are familiar with Mackinder are the Brzeziński crowd and people at national security agencies in Washington. They think they can apply Mackinder and win. (laughs.) The Russians and the Chinese would say: Not in our region, guys, here is different. We have the resources. Russia is a continental power. China, it’s a kingdom and a civilization in itself, we don’t admit foreign interference, you are never going to control our part of Eurasia, you can control the euro part of Eurasia, but that stops at the Bosphorus.

To the right of the Bosphorus, Turkey has regional ambitions, Iran has regional ambitions, we have our former Soviet Republics, which we still see as our satellites, South East Asia now is linked to China in terms of trade, commerce, and I would say parts of South East Asia are becoming a sub-sect of China, in fact.

Remember, during the Asian Miracle, when the World Bank launched that famous book in 1993, “The Asian Miracle,“ it was Japan as the lead goose, then the other four tigers right behind it, then the mini-tigers, and China was way behind, and now in 2011 the whole thing is upside down, because it’s China as the larger-than-life goose, and then we have all these mini-gooses behind China trying to keep up and clinch deals as well, because the Chinese diaspora in all these countries is essential.

They control most of the economy in Indonesia, they control most of the economy in Thailand, mixed marriages Thai-Chinese, they control most of the economy in the Philippines, they control a lot of the economy in Malaysia, they control the whole economy in Singapore. Tigers? Not really. Mini-gooses. The whole thing is upside down.

So I don’t see Mackinder being applied. They thought during the Bush administration because of hubris, and because they said, remember, they were saying it on a daily basis practically: We create our own reality, and then you people in the rest of the world have to keep up. They thought that they could implement their new great game strategy in Central Asia by building this pipeline in Afghanistan, finally, the TAPI – Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, bypassing Iran and bypassing Russia and China.

They thought that they could force the Turkmen to sell gas to Western companies and not to China or to be linked to the Russian pipeline network. They were still drunk with their success of the BTC, the Baku- Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, saying this was the beginning of many other pipelines bypassing Iran.

But that was in the beginning of the Bush administration until 2003/2004 after the “success“ of the Iraq war. Now, only a few years later, as we were talking before, they didn’t win anything. In fact, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which is a mechanism that is counter this proliferation of American initiatives in Central Asia is getting stronger and stronger.

In terms of energy deals, Russia, Iran, China, Turkmenistan, they all are dealing among themselves. Obviously there is space with Europe, but they cannot deal with Europe in the case of Iran because of the sanctions, and in the case of Turkmenistan because to build a pipeline like Nabucco, over 20 billion euros, it’s unfeasible. To give you an idea: BTC cost 4.5 billion U.S. dollars at that time, and at that time everybody was saying: it’s ridiculous to build a pipeline like this when we could have had a shorter route from Iran that probably costs ten times less than this pipeline. They built it anyway. So now it’s 500 percent more than BTC was.

So the Americans are not winning anything, in fact, in Afghanistan they are shooting themselves in the foot, because now they antagonized not only Pakistan, which they did when they began to bomb the country over the last few years with the drone war, they antagonized the Afghans themselves, which were really willing to cut a deal with the Americans. The tribal leaders were even saying let’s talk to the Americans what kind of a base complex they want after they retire in 2014. They were willing to discuss it.

Nowadays, forget it, because Pakistan don’t want to discuss this anymore, they are fed up, and Pakistan and China are getting closer and closer, the Chinese are going to exploit this rift between Washington and Islamabad. In Afghanistan, there will be a total mess, they don’t want American bases, I’m sure, after 2014, so the Pentagon has to force these bases over to Afghan controls, we still don’t know the road map for this as well. So if you analyze in terms of successes of the new great game American-style in Eurasia over the past four or five years, there is not much to show. (laughs.)

If one would address the question: “Why do wars happen at all?”, would you say that the fact that bankers are at the top of the list of beneficiaries of wars is an important part of the answer, insofar for example:

[Editor: For background, see J.S. Kim: “Inside The Illusory Empire Of The Banking Commodity Con Game“, published at The Underground Investor on Oct. 19, 2010: „The U.S. Federal Reserve creates money to fund the war and lends it to the American government. The American government in turn must pay interest on the money they borrow from the Central Bank to fund the war. The greater the war appropriations, the greater the profits are for bankers.”]

Pepe Escobar: I agree if there were a lot of war appropriations, if the looting is conducive. In Iraq it didn’t happen. The looting in Iraq would supposedly be the oil that would not only pay for the war, but for America’s supply of oil for the next 1,000 years or so, the new American Reich based on Iraqi oil. Didn’t work.

We had a fascinating historical lesson of what happened in Iraq. The neocons thought in the beginning, obviously, because they knew absolutely [nothing] about the Middle East, they don’t even travel, they don’t even go there, they thought: Okay, this will cost us virtually nothing, we will make the Iraqis pay for the whole thing later on, and then when the oil comes, that’s it. Remember what they used to say: We’re the new OPEC, this was in late 2002/03.

Didn’t work. And now we have a different, let’s say, variant of the model, that you’ve just explained: wars paid by foreign powers. China is financing the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, part of the war in Libya, it didn’t cost much, but anyway, still the war in Libya, the war in Somalia, the war in Yemen, the next war in Uganda or Sudan that the U.S. decides to start. This is being financed basically by Chinese buying U.S. treasury bonds. It’s a variant of the model.

In an article for al-Jazeera you’ve once quoted a study related to the cost of the War on Terror, published by the Eisenhower project at Brown University. [Pepe Escobar: “Why the US won’t leave Afghanistan“, published at Al Jazeera on July 12, 2011] Do you remember? 

Pepe Escobar: Yes, I do.

And the costs were four billion?

Pepe Escobar: Yes, depending on the variables, depending on the medical costs for the injured veterans in the U.S., which escalate and go on forever, because they still have to pay pensions for these people, it could be between four and six trillion U.S. dollars. So what did the U.S. get for these four to six trillion dollars so far? We can say, so far they only got Libya, which is not exactly a priority for them.

It was part of the original neocon plan – it starts with Iraq, then Lebanon, Syria, especially Iran. For the moment the only thing they get is Libya. That’s why Syria is so important because Syria is the way to Iran, and it is still the same what the neocons said in 2002, and it is still part of the Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine. We always come back to the same themes, because these themes are the basis of what we are watching nowadays.

Do you think that the war in Libya qualifies as a Resource War, not only related to oil and maybe the gold currency that Gaddafi wanted to issue, but also related to the Great Man Made River project?

Pepe Escobar: Yes, I was going to say that, Lars, absolutely, it’s a water war already. I was writing a few months ago a long story about coming water wars – no, it’s not coming, they are already here. This was the first big water war, if you think about it. There is going to be a lot of water wars in the Middle East, Southern Turkey, Israel-Palestine, but this one is big because of the Great Man Made River project – over 20 billion U.S. dollars financed by the Libyan government, by Gaddafi, with a lot of Canadian expertise involved.

And no money from the International Monetary Fund.

Pepe Escobar: Especially that! No money from the IMF and from those schemes at the World Bank when you have to keep paying interest until you die three times over. They built this by themselves and they imported the technology that they needed, and they built an indigenous pipeline system undercover in the southern desert to bring water to the coast line in Libya. It’s absolutely fantastic because they have a reservoir of fresh water in the southern desert that lasts according to the best estimates for a thousand years. A thousand years of fresh water.

Can you imagine, the project isn’t even totally completed, I think 80 percent are completed. Obviously, the three major water companies in the world are French, and in my opinion this explains 99 percent of the French rationale for the war. They want to privatize these one thousand years of fresh water and sell it to the whole planet. And then we have Sarkozy and the interests of the industrial-military complex in France, we need more gas and oil for Total, which they were always complaining that they always wanted the lion’s share of Libya’s energy exports.

There is an alliance of the Qataris, the industrial-military complex in France and Sarkozy, who is basically a lackey of these people, and the Qataris wanted to be involved in trade and commerce in Northern Africa. NATO and AFRICOM interests in establishing a beach head. There were so many interests. Gaddafi couldn’t win from the beginning because all these interests in the axis Pentagon, NATO, key European countries like France and England, and the monarchies of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and House of Saud as well, because they wanted to bring Gaddafi down because there was a bad beef between King Abdullah and Gaddafi since 2002, before the invasion of Iraq.

Gaddafi couldn’t possibly face this, too many powerful interests were behind it, they wanted to renegotiate the contracts, they wanted the new oil and gas contracts to go only to European and American companies, maybe Turkish companies, but not to BRICS countries, and Gaddafi, he was interviewed by German journalists two or three days before the resolution was passed, and he said explicitly: If you attack us, the next contracts are going to BRIC countries – so he was attacked three days later. (laughs.) Absolutely obvious.

And what you’ve mentioned, very importent as well: the gold dinar, because the gold dinar could have been an African currency, he could have financed development projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, he was already doing this, financing a lot of projects in Sub-Saharan African countries, and he was bypassing completely the Bretton Woods system and this from the point of view of Washington, the Bank of International Settlements, all this gang – it’s a no-no, it’s an absolute no-no. And remember, when Saddam started selling oil in euro in Iraq in late 2002. Major reason for the invasion as well.

Do you think it was good for the Benghazi “rebels“ to establish a central bank that is in bed with Western central banks?

Pepe Escobar: This is what they wanted. In fact, these people of the Transition National Council, which is bag of dodgy cats – opportunists, former Gaddafi officials, Islamists linked to al-Qaeda from Cyrenaica, exiles living in Virginia, come on! This is a bloody tragic joke, in fact. And of course, from the beginning, they had a Qatari connection: one of the advisors of Sheika Moza, the wife of the Emir of Qatar, was the link between Qatar and the Transition National Council.

So why Qatar got this independent central bank based in Benghazi, obviously, Qatari influence, because they wanted to get into the financial and the trade system in Northern Africa, they are expanding. Qatar is a fast-expanding mini empire. It’s very, very impressive. I remember Doha ten years ago, it was a backwater. I remember very well. I used to go Iraq via Qatar. I saw it growing year by year, and nowadays when you arrive in Doha, you think you are in a mini-Hong Kong already.

And their tentacles are everywhere: in Europe, in the U.S., in the Middle East, of course, and northern Africa as well, they trade heavily with Asia, they are setting their sights in Brazil nowadays. So it’s very impressive. And their move in Northern Africa was very clever, because they are now localized in Northern Africa, and, as they hope, the rest of Africa: We want to trade with everybody, we have a very good banking system, we sell gas to anyone who wants to buy. Mini-empire in the make.

What do we have to expect in the next year related to Syria and Iran. These are allies, right?

Pepe Escobar: Yes. Well, this is the multi-trillion-dollar question. I would go to Iran as soon as I can, the problem for us to get a press visa to Iran, after the Green Movement in 2009, it’s very difficult. You need a press visa to go to Iran, because if you want to talk to the IRGC, for instance, officials, people from the govenment, you need that kind of visa. I am going to try again, exactly to get from those people their point of view, and I am talking especially about the IRGC commanders, the people in the oil industry, and of course, in order to talk to average Tehranians, which is something that I have always enjoyed doing.

In the North of Tehran, you think you are in California. In South Tehran, you know you are in the hardcore heart of the Middle East. There are two universes in one city, and the spectrum of opinions that you get just by a fourty minute taxi ride, is absolutely outstanding. You see people who want to kill Rafsanjani the day they’d meet him, you see people defending the ayatollahs strictly, you see people saying, without the Green Movement we’re lost. It’ a universe in itself.

And the echoes that I get from my friends who live there or from Iranians who send me a lot of stuff is: people are consuming, they are living their lives, there is lots of inflation, prices have been rising substantially, but they want to go out, try to buy an iPad that was smuggled from China, they want to have a new European car that they can afford, they want to keep eating meat, which is very funny, because the Brazilian meat that they import is cheaper than the Iranian-produced meat. Go figure! You have that kind of stuff.

And at the same time, they know that something is brewing. It could be an Israeli strike, it could be a U.S.-Israeli strike, it could be a strike only on the nuclear facilities, but a lot of people fear a strike on the civilian infrastructure. They always say: Look, what happened to Iraq. They attacked civilian buildings – yes, it’s true, I saw it for myself.

People are expecting the worst. They are trying to keep a brave face, but they immediately recognize there is a power struggle inside the regime between the Ahmadinejad faction and the revolutionary guards ultra-hardline faction, which is against Ahmadinejad because he wants some sort of a compromise with the West. These IRGC guys, they want confrontation.

This is very dangerous. Why? Because the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameinei, is supporting this faction against Ahmadinejad. He wants Iran to be respected for what it is, and we can assume that he is welcoming this confrontation. This is extremely dangerous, because we could have an incident that would be the casus belli for an attack, an Israeli-Anglo-American attack, let’s put it this way.

People are very much aware of this, and they are very much afraid of this power struggle at the top of the regime. At the same time, next year they will have parliamentary elections, and they are going to have Presidential elections in 2013, where the favorite, at least for the moment, is Larijani, he is a former nuclear negotiator and a close friend and protege of Khamenei’s. This means the hardliners are very much in power and control, and incredibly as it might seem, Ahmadinejad at the moment he is more or less sidelined, and he is considered by these hardliners as an appeaser vis-à-vis the West.

So the internal situation inside Iran is extremely worrying. And they know what might happen in Syria, and they know that Syria is the short cut to get to them. But at the same time the hardliners they are not only expecting an attack on Syria, in fact, they say: maybe they won’t even use the short cut, maybe they will attack us directly. So they are preparing for this as well. Everything very worrying.

Do you perceive a similar mood in Israel?

Pepe Escobar: I don’t know. I have a lot of Jewish friends in South America, in the U.S. and in Europe, they come and go to Israel, and when they come back, they say: Look, people are lost in Israel, they don’t know how to deal with the Arab Spring, the regime doesn’t know how to deal with the Arab Spring, they don’t even know how to deal with the the non-Spring in Syria, because they expect what might come next as even worst, like a Muslim Brotherhood antagonistic government in Damascus. Which is a no-no for Israel.

They prefer to deal with the devil they know, which is an ineffectual devil, the Assad regime. There is a civil society movement, very strong in Israel, against corruption, inflation and rising costs of living, they are anti-war and anti-government as well.

And then we have a government that is a hostage of this absolutely disgusting settler lobby. Extreme right-wing, Lieberman-Ukrainian immigrants, it’s horrible, because the progressive left in Israel, you read them in the Israeli press once in a while, but they have been marginalized. Even inside the U.S.: the progressive Jews in the U.S., they are more or less marginalized, because AIPAC is controlling the discourse.

If you listen to radio, read the mainstream press, watch the networks, it’s like an AIPAC press release after another. You don’t see Jewish progressives saying: It’s crazy, what we are doing, we have to sit down and talk about Palestine, sit down and talk about the Golan Heights, about Iran. This is a minority position.

Whereas the majority is supported by the Evangelics and new-born Christians in the U.S., who believe in Armaggedon.

Pepe Escobar. Exactly. You have the majority of the establishment who wants to have an Eretz Israel, a greater Israel, and the religious nuts, who say: Okay, the best way to (expedite) Armaggedon is a war against our neighbours.

The maniacs are running the asylum.

Pepe Escobar: Yes, it’s crazy. I would say, since the beginning of the Arab Spring, 2011 was the year that the maniacs took over the asylum completely. And that’s why 2012 could be such a really terrible year, I think, for all this arc: Northern Africa, Middle East and Central Asia. In Central Asia basically Af/Pak, because the situation in Af/Pak tends to be going down the drain very fast.

What’s your take of the recent assault by NATO troops on Pakistan? [See “’Mistakes made’: Pentagon ‘regrets’ slaughter of 24 Pakistani troops“, published at Russia Today on Dec. 22, 2011]


Pepe Escobar: This is a very complex thing, because maybe there’s a hidden motive behind it, and we still don’t know what it could be. Could be that some Pakistani provoked it, could be that NATO itself provoked it to have a better excuse to ramp up the demonization of Pakistan campaign, try to provoke a military coup, so that the factions within the Pakistani military who are more pro-American are running the show. It’s still very murky.

But there is something behind this attack that makes no sense: NATO knows where all the Pakistani checkpoints are in the tribal areas, they have the maps and the coordinates, they simply cannot bomb a Pakistani military checkpoint, because they know that it is a friendly place, it’s not that they were bombing a Pashtun wedding in Waziristan in a mud house, where the satellite said: This house is full of al-Qaeda, bomb them – boom! It’s different. Our writers in India and Pakistan are not convinced by the official story. Short of calling it a lie, it’s still a story to tell.

But it is a problem, because Pakistan and China have the closest relations to each other possible.

Pepe Escobar: Yes, and anything that happens in Pakistan from now on, drives Islamabad closer and closer to Bejing, it’s absolutely inevitable. Pakistani public opinion is fed up with American interference, with the relentless drone war and the loss of their sovereignty if they had ever had any, by the way.

And of course, the Chinese are reacting typically, they are very quiet, they are not making any move, they are just waiting for the leadership in Islamabad to come running to Bejing and say: Take care of us, please. And it is not very hard with the way the Americans are acting. The only two things that matters to Washington; they don’t give a flying fuck – excuse me for the expression – about the Pakistani people. What they cared about was the “War on Terror“ to exterminate al-Qaeda.

So now they are saying openly and on the record, that al-Qaeda is ineffective, since the death of bin Laden – was it bin Laden or not is still open for speculation, but they killed al-Qaeda. So what are they doing in Af/Pak? Oh, now we have a problem, because Pakistan is a very unstable country, they are now the heartbeat of the terrorist movement in the world, it’s not Aghanistan anymore, and can you imagine if these nuclear weapons fall into the hand of the terrorists.

This is the only thing that matters. They want to find a pretext to interfere in Pakistan to get a hold of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. It’s an extremely long shot, of course, but this is what the Pentagon would like to do. This is their agenda.

The political elite in Pakistan apart from Imran Khan, I would say, is corrupt. Imran Khan by himself is not a corrupt man, he is getting a hundred thousand people everytime he speaks in public in Pakistan, because they start to see him as an alternative. He says: Let’s get rid of the Americans, let’s get rid of the corrupt political elite, let’s get the military to stay in their barracks, let’s have a true civilian government, let’s try to develop the country and try to bridge the inequality gap. That’s why he is so popular now, he could win the next elections.

But basically, Pakistani civil society is fed up with the state of things. And for the Americans this is really bad news, because they want since Zia to have the military in control basically, doing what the Pentagon tells them to do, and for the past few years conduct their “War on Terror“ the way they want it from their bases inside Pakistan, like this one in Balochistan,
Samsi, and the drone war in the Waziristans, but this is not going to happen anymore, I don’t see it happening. The Chinese are just waiting. I think they will admit Pakistan to the SCO, this is something that could happen next year, so Pakistan would be inside a meachanism that implies military cooperation with the Chinese.

The problem is that the Pakistani military is not a monolithic organization, there are layers, there are people who were appointed by Musharraf, there are people, like some Pashtun middle-ranking officers, who are sympathetic to the Taliban in Pakistan or even al-Qaeda, and there are cracks inside this arrangement. And I am sure the army leaders, their relationship with the Pentagon is more than difficult at the moment, especially after the last raid, which was an attack against their own, this was an attack against an army post. This is for them a bit too much.

Anti-Americanism is on the raise everywhere in the world.

Pepe Escobar: Except in the Persian Gulf. (laughs.)

Would you say it’s a bit tragic given the friendliness of the ordinary American people?

Pepe Escobar: It’s true. I have been going to the U.S. since I was a kid, I traveled to at least 40 states, I lived there on both coasts, I have friends in the U.S., a lot of people who read my stuff know where I am coming from, but I also have a lot of readers who are saying: you are a Taliban-Communist-Apocalyptic-Anti-American bla-bla-bla – the whole thing. They still don’t get it.

One thing is to be very fond of the country and American pop culture, American entertainment, American icons in music, in literature, in cinema, in architecture, in art etc., and another thing is to criticize their foreign policy. If you grew up like myself, I grew up in Brazil and Europe during the 1960/70′s – the military dictatorship installed in Brazil in 1964, when I was ten years old, was an American coup.


Pepe Escobar: We learned here in South America by ourselves what it means to live under a military dictatorship sponsored by the U.S. So we know what we are talking about. Obviously, the people in the Middle East also know what they are talking about. Some people in Asia also know what they are talking about, like the South Koreans, for instance, they lived under a military regime sanctioned by the U.S. before they became a democracy.

So it’s very tragic that after the beginning of the Arab Spring, a lot of people in the Persian Gulf haven’t seen already that they live in extremely autocratic regimes, they are vassals and satrapies of the U.S. empire, and they simply cannot count on their own governments to get the minimum of sovereignty.

So when you see indigenous pro-democracy movements in Bahrain or in Eastern Saudi Arabia, you see how the response is. Even in Egypt, where they said: Let’s get finally rid of the system once and for all – they didn’t get rid of the system, the snake is still there, and the snake is being financed by Saudi Arabia.

There was no revolution in Egypt, the revolution maybe will start if they get rid of the Tantawi junta, which is what the masses in Tahrir Square, the Google generation and the working class in Egypt want. But the problem is the army in Egypt controls – there are different estimates about it – from 25 to 40 percent of the Egyptian economy, they are not going to give that up. It’s got to be a real bloody revolution for these people to go, and obviously the U.S. don’t want this.

As a geopolitical analyst would you say that the future of Germany is much more in the East of Eurasia (Russia, China) than in New York and London?

Pepe Escobar: I would love to pose this question to you. My maybe wild guess is that Germany wants to integrate more with Russia.

Yes. Well, the economic and political elites here in this country [Germany] are still aligned to the U.S.

Pepe Escobar: Exactly.

As you could see when Angela Merkel as the chancellor of Germany received the highest civilian medal this year in Washington DC, the “Medal of Freedom.“ She has now something in common with Duke Ellington, because he received it once, too (in 1969). But the thing is that I think this is telling.

Pepe Escobar: It is. That’s the problem with Germany, because it’s an Atlanticist thing, but they know that their future in terms of all the raw materials and the commodities that they need they can have from Russia. They can have the rest of the world as their market, which they already have. It’s a fabulous exporting power. They don’t have to be subjugated to this Atlanticist link, definitely not. But as you have said correctly: the elites in Berlin and Frankfurt are still very Americanized.

For me both as a journalist and from my perspective as a German, it is interesting that you are familiar with my favorite German of all-time, Heinrich Heine…

Pepe Escobar: Heine!

…who was also a journalist.

Pepe Escobar: Unfortunately, I only read him in translation. Wonderful translations in English and in Spanish. I never read him in German, but German friends tell me that his German is absolutely outstanding.

Yes, together with people like Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Goethe he is at the very top.

Pepe Escobar: I was a major Nietzsche fan for some years. One of my best philosophy professors, he was a Nietzsche specialist, a French guy, Gerard Lebrun, he was one of the best Nietzsche scholars in France. I learned a lot from him. And Nietzsche is still one of my go-to guys.

And he was a fan of Heine’s poetry, too.

Pepe Escobar: Yes, he was a fan of Heine’s poetry, exactly.

From a journalistic point of view, do you think that journalism in the West is in a profound crisis?

Pepe Escobar: Oh yes. I give you two personal examples. One of the reasons why I wanted to become a journalist was Watergate. I was in college at that time, I was 19, and I hadn’t decided at that time what to do, I thought maybe visual arts, and I was always a big fan of literature, but I thought with literature I cannot made a living.

Then I wanted to become a journalist, and that, Watergate, was my role model in the profession. Later on, before digital journalism, I worked for big national papers, I got the insight of how the industry works. A big national paper is basically a corporate institution, they operate more or less the same all over the world.

Then I became seriously disenchanted about it, I wouldn’t say disgusted, not yet. I became disgusted, finally, with mainstram media after the beginning of the “War on Terror“ and before the war in Iraq, because then most of the credibility of the mainstream press in the world disappeared.

When you see the New York Times printing lies in their front page everyday for months, that was for me the end of respectable mainstream journalism. And papers like Le Monde, that I used to read since I was in high-school for that matter, they became an Americanized rag like a bad copy of the New York Times, and sometimes even more reactionary. It’s a bit sad that I don’t read German papers, because at least their cultural sections are still the best in the world.

And the modern German “Feuilleton“ is more or less an invention by Heinrich Heine…

Pepe Escobar: I used to read a lot of the English papers, but you can’t sometimes even trust the gold standard of English media, like the Guardian or the Independent, who were historically very strong center, left, progressive papers. So this disenchantment became total this past decade, I may say. You have to go to the net, if you want to find information that connects the dots, it’s in the net, it’s not in mainstream media anymore. And my friends who still work at big papers, they tell me: Look, it’s impossible to discuss with our editors what should and what should not be printed. It’s over.

Would you say that the whole handling of affairs related to 9/11 was a big push for alternative media?

Pepe Escobar: It was, because if you wanted to know after 9/11 what was really going on – forget about mainstream media anywhere in the world. The only place where you could find it was in the net – independent observers and analysts, who took the trouble of going through documents, in mainstream media it was impossible.

Nowadays, sometimes they filter these guys, you see them once in a while, but these are just glimpses. The mainstream discourse itself is monolithic. There is no alternative. And there is really no alternative, because you only listen to these guys all saying the same thing for decades.

Yes, and most of those experts and big news media outlets are linked to the Round Tables like the Royal Institute of International Affaires, Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Club…

Pepe Escobar: Exactly, they all work for the same think tanks. And other media outlets have credibility problems as well. The international Chinese tv-channel in English, CCTV9, because you would need at least a minimum of debates, but there are no debates going on. I like what RT, Russia Today, is doing, I am a contributor, but they don’t criticize Russia. Big problem.

I also work for al-Jazeera, which is great, because I can reach people and get responses that I otherwise would not have, for example from people in Africa. But they have an enormous problem of credibility, because of their coverage of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya compared to their coverage of what happens in the Persian Gulf, they simply cannot criticize themselves and they cannot criticize – forget about it – the House of Saud, because of the close relations between the House of Saud and the Emir of Qatar. It’s very complicated when you are navigating this universe.

We are very happy, all of us, who work and write for Asia Times because it is truly independent and we are respected for that. We have Zionists’ opinions in it, we have extreme-right opinions, extreme-left opinions, we have the middle, we have the Iranians, the Pakistanis, the Russians, the Chinese, we even have a North Korean writing for us, so it’s all there.

We don’t have any specific editorial line, no, it’s open for everybody. That is what people respect us for. But that’s something hard to find. We have for example tremendous problems with financing. I have been involved with this for the past few months, and it’s a headache: we want to expand, but we don’t want to lose our editorial control. Very tricky equation.

I wish you many success with that!

Pepe Escobar: Thank you!

Pepe Escobar was born in 1954 in Brazil and has been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering geopolitical stories from the Middle East to Central Asia and has reported during this decade from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, the Central Asian Republics, U.S.A. and China. He now works for Hong Kong/Thailand-based Asia Times as “The Roving Eye“ and is an analyst for The Real News in Washington DC, as well as a contributor to Russia Today and Al Jazeera. He is author of three books:Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid WarRed Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge, and Obama does Globalistan.


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Playing Chess in Eurasia

Bets are off on which is the great story of 2011. Is it the Arab Spring(s)? Is it the Arab counter-revolution, unleashed by the House of Saud? Is it the “birth pangs” of the Greater Middle East remixed as serial regime changes? Is it R2P (“responsibility to protect”) legitimizing “humanitarian” bombing? Is it the freeze out of the “reset” between the US and Russia? Is it the death of al-Qaeda? Is it the euro disaster? Is it the US announcing a Pacific century cum New Cold War against China? Is it the build up towards an attack on Iran? (well, this one started with Dubya, Dick and Rummy ages ago …)

Underneath all these interlinked plots — and the accompanying hysteria of Cold War-style headlines — there’s a never-ending thriller floating downstream: Pipelineistan. That’s the chessboard where the half-hidden twin of the Pentagon’s “long war” is played out. Virtually all current geopolitical developments are energy-related. So fasten your seat belts, it’s time to revisit Dr Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “grand chessboard” in Eurasia to find out who’s winning the Pipelineistan wars.

Got tickets to the opera?

Let’s start with Nabucco (the gas opera). Nabucco is above all a key, strategic Western powerplay; how to deliver Caspian Sea gas to Europe. Energy execs call it “opening the Southern Corridor” (of gas). The problem is this Open Sesame will only deliver if supplied by a tsunami of gas from two key “stans”: Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.

The 3,900-kilometer Nabucco will hit five transit countries — Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Turkey — and it may end costing a staggering 26 billion euros (US$33.7 billion).1

Construction — endlessly delayed — might start by 2013. Essentially, everything is still a bloody mess. Nobody knows about prices, or the details of transit rights. Turkey is also eager to resell the gas on its own. Moreover, if Baku and Ankara decide to develop in tandem the Shah Deniz phase II2 fields in Azerbaijan to feed the pipeline, they will need an extra $20 billion in investment.

Turkmenistan’s president, the spectacularly named Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, sticks to his trademark wobbly script (Check him out singing his original hit “For You, My White Flower” ). He always says the European Union’s myriad proposals “would be studied” and cooperation with the Europeans is “a strategic priority” of his foreign policy. But the EU’s Holy Grail — an ironclad agreement to get the gas — is ever more elusive. The Russians and even the Azeris bet this will never happen.

Our man Gurbanguly, savvy operator that he is, would prefer to hatch his eggs in a Chinese basket — rather than in those far-away euro-messy lands. That’s why he wobbles — feigning he’s open to any offer. He knows better than anybody that for the Europeans Nabucco is the key to be released (a bit) from the grip of Russia’s Gazprom. At the same time he keeps in mind how to maximize his Chinese profits while not antagonizing Russia.

Every European bureaucracy (not) worth its name is behind Nabucco, 3 and most of all an eager European Commission (EC), the EU’s fat salary-infested executive branch. The EC’s do-or-die strategic priority is to link the Turkmen port of Turkmenbashi to the Absheron Peninsula in Azerbaijan via a Trans-Caspian Gas pipeline (TCGP).4 It’s a breeze; I did the trip on a vodka-infested Azeri cargo ship and it took me only 12 hours.

But how to pull it off? Moscow locked up all Azeri gas. Gazprom locked up all the surplus gas from Turkmenistan. The only option would be Iran. Now tell that to the US Senate – who has declared economic war5 against Iran.

Let’s go TAPI!

A detour to AfPak is in order. Not even the deities who lord over the Hindu Kush know if the $7.6 billion (and counting), 1,735-kilometer TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline will ever be built.

For Turkmenistan’s Oil and Gas Minister Bayramgeldy Nedirov, “There are no doubts that this [TAPI] project will be realized.”6 Pakistan and India — after infinite haggling — have finally agreed on pricing. Roughly a third of the pipeline’s cost will be financed by the Philippines-based Asian Development Bank — since both Afghanistan and Pakistan are essentially broke.

Imagine a steel serpent entering western Afghanistan towards Herat, going south underground (to prevent terrorist bombing) parallel to the Herat-Kandahar road, then taking a detour via Quetta — home of Taliban supremo Mullah Omar — to Multan in Pakistan and finally reaching Fazilka, on the Indian border.

To quote Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, “This is the stuff dreams are made of,” since the Bill Clinton administration, way before 9/11 and the now virtually extinct GWOT (“global war on terror”). Cynics may read this as gas republic Turkmenistan — holder of the fourth-largest reserves in the world — doing better to promote economic development and security in Afghanistan than 100,000 US troops.

The gas for TAPI will come from the new South Yolotan-Osman field, which already supplies China (according to British auditor Gaffney, Cline & Associates this is the world’s second-largest gas field,7 after South Pars in Iran). Our man Gurbanguly, by the way, issued a decree changing the gas field’s name to Galkynys – Turkmen for “Renaissance”; after all, Gurbanguly’s reign has been baptized as “The Epoch of New Renaissance and Great Transformations”. These “transformations” have nothing to do with the Arab Spring(s).

Here we find yet another clever gambit by our man Gurbanguly. He keeps an open door to Nabucco by freeing the gas from Dauletabad field in southeast Turkmenistan to flow via a domestic pipeline to the Caspian, and then to the oh so elusive TCGP. Even the (delicious) sturgeons in the Caspian know that without a TCGP, Nabucco is DOA.

At least for a year now our man Gurbanguly has been telling every diplomat and top oil exec in sight that he rejects Russia’s interference over Turkmenistan’s gas strategy.8 But apparently he didn’t inform the Russians.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev did visit Ashgabat — the Las Vegas of Central Asia — to talk business.9 And then, in a daring plot twist, suddenly Gazprom proclaimed its love of TAPI! Just imagine; the Americans have been dreaming of TAPI since 1996, just for rival Gazprom to barge in at overtime. No one knew what Medvedev offered to Gurbanguly so he wouldn’t keep entertaining fancy Louis Vuitton ideas. Perhaps nothing. We’ll come to that in a minute.

Ask the babushkas

TAPI’s direct competition is IPI — the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline (India, pressured by the US, has virtually dropped out; China is ready to pounce and turn it into IPC). Well, who else but Gazprom now wants to get into the IP groove as well,10 alongside China’s CNPC? The Iranian stretch of the pipeline is virtually ready. The Pakistani stretch begins in early 2012. Still another Russian chess move — and Washington never saw it coming.

Even a wooden babushka knows what Moscow does not want; the Afghan chapter of the US Empire of Bases never going away. Then there’s regime change in Syria (with the implicit end of the Russian Black Sea fleet using the port of Tartus). The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) advances in the Black Sea. The ever-expanding (at least rhetorically) US missile defense and the US’s “New Silk Road” gambit to re-penetrate Central Asia.11

It was Russia that authorized the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) to supply US and NATO troops in Afghanistan,12 an endless trek across Eurasia, including Uzbekistan — whose ghastly dictatorship US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised for its political “progress” — and Tajikistan. Pushing Moscow too far is not exactly a winning strategy.

Moscow also sees how Washington has antagonized virtually everyone in Pakistan, with the non-stop “war of the drones,” the non-stop violations of territorial sovereignty, the non-stop threats to barge in and “take over your nuclear arsenal”. Washington’s priority is for Islamabad to attack the Pakistani Taliban in Balochistan and thus be dragged into a civil war against not only Pashtuns but also Balochis. As Moscow – and Beijing – survey the battlefield, all they have to do is bide their time while sipping green tea.

When former reds see red
The Russian-Chinese entente is not always a Bolshoi dance.

Russia wants to sell gas to China for $400 per 1,000 cubic meters (cm), the same price it charges Europe. The wily Turkmen charge the Chinese only $250. Beijing already spent $4 billion in South Yolotan (and counting); they want all the gas they can get to supply the hugely successful Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China pipeline (which they built), online for two years now.13 Beijing is insatiable; oil major CNPC wants to import no less than 500% more gas from Central Asia by 2015.14

What this means is that for China the potentially $1 trillion-worth, 30-year gas deal with Russia may not be as imperative.15 Gazprom’s strategy boils down to two pipelines from Siberia to China. For Russia, this is absolutely essential in terms of making money out of Siberia. Geopolitical ramifications are immense. A close Russia-China steel umbilical cord may be interpreted in Europe — a virtual hostage of Gazprom — as perhaps a signal that they need Iran more than ever. At the same time Russia remains extremely uncomfortable with China’s energy onslaught all across Central Asia.

This is Beijing’s take, in a nutshell. We won’t pay European prices for Turkmen gas. And we don’t want a TCGP to Europe. China, Russia, even Iran, no one outside NATO wants the TCGP.16

So this is how it breaks down. The Turkmen may sell gas to

China and Iran. They may even sell gas to South Asia via TAPI (after all Gazprom has joined the party). But forget about selling gas to Europe — where Gazprom rules. No one knows whether our man Gurbanguly got the message.

All hail the gas Czar

Any way you look at it, there’s this inescapable feeling the Czar of Pipelineistan is Vladimir Putin (and just like the Terminator, he will be back, next March, as president, whatever his current predicament). After all, Russia produces more oil than Saudi Arabia (at least until 201517 ) and has the world’s largest known reserves of natural gas. Around 40% of all Russian state funds come from oil and gas.

Putin’s plan is deceptively simple; Gazprom “takes over” Western Europe and thus neutralizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Exhibit 1 is the Nord Stream, a $12 billion, twin 1224-km pipeline, respecting extraordinary complex environmental guidelines, launched last September. That’s gas from Siberia delivered under the Baltic Sea, bypassing problematic Ukraine, straight to Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Denmark and the Czech republic (10% of the entire EU annual gas consumption, or one third of China’s entire current gas consumption). Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder heads the Nord Stream consortium.

Exhibit 2 is the South Stream (the shareholder agreement is already signed between Russia, Germany, France and Italy). That’s Russian gas delivered under the Black Sea to the southern part of the EU, through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia. Instrumental in the deal was the quality time Putin spent with his close pal, former Italian prime minister Silvio “bunga bunga” Berlusconi.

Nord Stream drove Washington nuts. Not only it redesigned Europe’s energy configuration; it forged an unbreakable German-Russian strategic link. Putin, better than anyone, knows how pipelines hardwire governments. South Stream is driving Washington nuts because it beats Nabucco hands down, and it’s way cheaper. Talk about a geopolitical – and geoeconomic – battle.

Washington — alarmed at what the Germans deliciously dubbed the “modernization partnership” with Russia — is left to promote European “resistance” to Gazprom’s onslaught, as if Germany was Zucotti Park and Russia was the NYPD. Again here’s Pipelineistan infused with political reverberations. For instance, Germany and Italy are totally against NATO expansion. The reason? Nord and South Stream. The formidable German export machine is fueled by Russian energy; the motto might be “Put a Gazprom in my Audi”.

As William Engdahl, author of the seminal A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics in the New World Order, has observed, the “Nord Stream and South Stream are poised to leap out of the world of energy security and choreograph an altogether new power dynamic in the heart of Europe.”18

Putin’s roadmap is his paper, “A new integration project for Eurasia: The future in the making”, published by Izvestia in early October.19 It may be dismissed as megalomania, but it may also be read as an ippon — Putin loves judo — against NATO, the International Monetary Fund and neo-liberalism.

True, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of “snow leopard” Kazakhstan was already talking about a Eurasian Union way back in 1994. Putin, though, makes it clear this wouldn’t be Back In The USSR territory, but a “modern economic and currency union” stretching all across Central Asia.

For Putin, Syria is just a detail; the real thing is Eurasian integration. No wonder Atlanticists started freaking out with this suggestion of “a powerful supranational union that can become one of the poles of today’s world while being an efficient connecting link between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific Region”. Compare it with US President Barack Obama and Hillary’s Pacific doctrine.20

You integrate when I say so

Everything is up for grabs at the crucial intersection of hardcore geopolitics and Pipelineistan. Washington’s New Silk Road dream is not exactly a success.21

Moscow, for its part, now wants Pakistan to be a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).22 That also applies to China in relation to Iran. Imagine Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran coordinating their mutual security inside a strengthened SCO, whose motto is “non-alignment, non-confrontation and non-interference in the affairs of other countries”. R2P it ain’t.

Snags abound. For China the SCO is above all about economics and trade.23For Russia it’s above all a security bloc,24 which must absolutely find a regional solution to Afghanistan that keeps the Taliban under control and at the same time gets rid of the Afghan chapter of the US Empire of Bases.

As Pipelineistan goes, with Russia, Central Asia and Iran controlling 50% of world’s gas reserves, and with Iran and Pakistan as virtual SCO members, the name of the game becomes Asian integration — if not Eurasian. China and Russia now coordinate foreign policy in extreme detail. The trick is to connect China and Central Asia with South Asia and the Gulf — with the SCO developing as an economic/security powerhouse. In parallel, Pipelineistan may accelerate the full integration of the SCO as a counterpunch to NATO.

In realpolitik terms, that makes much more sense than a New Silk Road invented in Washington. But tell that to the Pentagon, or to a possible bomb Iran, scare China, neo-con-remote-controlled next president of the United States.

  1. Hungary sees Nabucco costs quadrupling, may sue French firm, Reuters, Oct 24, 2011. []
  2. Shah Deniz II Natural Gas Field: What Will Azerbaijan’s Decision Be? ITGI, Nabucco or TAP?, Turkish Weekly, 18 August 2011. []
  3. EU banks throw their weight Nabucco pipeline, EU Observer, September 2010. []
  4. Trans-Caspian pipeline vital to Nabucco, Petroleum Economist, October 2011. []
  5. U.S. Senate Passes Iran Oil Sanctions as EU Blacklist Grows, Bloomberg, December 5, 2011. []
  6. Gas pipeline deal for Pakistan, India imminentExpress Tribune, November 5, 2011. []
  7. Second Gas of TurkmenistanOpen Central Asia, June 5 2011. []
  8. Gazprom Disbelief Draws Turkmen Ire Moscow Times, 22 November 2011. []
  9. Russia, Turkmenistan focus on energy cooperation, Caspian problems, innovation ,BSR Russia, 24 October 2010. []
  10. Russian gas giant fund 780-km pipelinePakistan Observer, August 22, 2011. []
  11. The United States’ “New Silk Road” Strategy: What is it? Where is it Headed?, US State Dept, September 29, 2011. []
  12. US Now Relies On Alternate Afghan Supply Routes, NPR, September 16, 2011. []
  13. China
    Asia Times Online, Dec 24, 2009. []
  14. Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline’s Capacity To Nearly DoubleOil and Gas Eurasia, August 29, 2011. []
  15. Russia, China closer to gas deal says Putin, RIA NOVOSTI, October 11. []
  16. China Plans To Buy All Turkmenistan’s Gas To Scuttle Sales To Europe…,Geofinancial, November 24, 2011. []
  17. Saudi Arabia to overtake Russia as top oil producer-IEA , Reuters, Nov 9, 2011. []
  18. Russia’s High Stakes Energy Geopolitics>Global Research, November 14, 2011. []
  19. Izvestia publishes article by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on cooperation and interaction in the post-Soviet space. []
  20. China and the US: The roadmaps , Al-Jazeera, 31 Oct 2011. []
  21. US’s post-2014 Afghan agenda falters Asia Times Online, Nov 4, 2011. []
  22. Russia endorses full SCO membership for PakistanDawn, November 7, 2011. []
  23. SCO member states vow to strengthen economic cooperation , Xinhua, Nov. 7, 2011. []
  24. Russia, China don’t see US in SCOVoice of Russia, Nov 1, 2011. []

Pepe Escobar


Turkey Should Learn From Russia

Putin assured the audience that it was not in Russia’s plans to enter NATO or the European Union.
The Russian Prime Minister said that the European states must settle their own debt crisis before making offers to Russia. Are you offering us to join the EU? First sort out your debts,” Putin said, answering a question from a German participant of the forum.

The prime minister also said that Russia was not going to seek NATO membership. We are not going to join NATO or the EU. We can secure our own safety,” Putin said.

This is while Turkey’s struggle to join EU seems like begging anymore, since some European leaders such as Sarkozy stated that there is no place for Turkey in Europe. Erdogan’s foreign policy seems like a failure anymore for couple of reasons.

1. Europe has been always a region of oppressing minorities such as Muslims and Jews. Sarkozy fiercely opposes Turkey’s E.U. entry, putting a premium on traditional European boundaries, and ignoring Turkey’s European political and economic credentials, including a long-standing membership in NATO. On September 26, 2007, Sarkozy stated, “I do not think that Turkey has a place in Europe,” claiming instead that Turkey’s place was in “Asia Minor.”

In essence, Sarkozy is telling France’s five million Muslims that they have a place in French societyif they adopt France’s Western values and participate in its secular democratic institutions. By rejecting Turkey—a secular democracy with a pro-Western orientation—Sarkozy is sending the French Muslims another message: regardless of how secular, democratic, and Western you become, there is no official place for you in Europe.

Just a few days back, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Turkey to recognize the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as a genocide in remarks Friday that drew sharp criticism from Ankara. Turkey however said that France should confront its colonial past before giving lessons to others on how to face history, in an angry response Friday to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference: “Those who will not be able to face their own history for having carried out colonialism for centuries, for treating foreigners as second-class people, do not have the right to teach Turkey a history lesson or call for Turkey to face its history.

2. European leaders don’t seem to be wanting to strengthen Islamists in Turkey with acceptingTurkey as an EU member while Erdogan is in power in Turkey.

3. Turkey wants Middle East like itself, which really can’t happen. Erdogan already called Muslim brotherhood in Egypt to form a secular government, which was rejected by Muslim brotherhood as most of the revolutionaries across the Middle east called for Sharia law in their countries. Poll also confirms that the majority of Middle eastern people favor Sharia law in their countries.

4. Erdogan achieves nothing from confronting Iran’s influence, as it has already failed to bring down Assad’s government with arming jihadis into Syria. Turkey’s plan to host NATO’s fast alarming radar also which seems to be completely aimed at the superiority of Iran’s IRGC Aerospace division in Middle east won’t do Turkey any good, neither it’s aimed at protecting Turkey.

5. Turkey’s struggle to force Israel to issue an official apology also doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, Turkey is just playing in the playground. Israelis celebrated Turkey’s decision to host NATO’s radar in Turkish soil which could possibly save Israel from Iran’s missile threats and this is while Erdogan keeps questioning Israel’s secret nuclear program and complains about Israel over and over again with no action. Turkey is in fact working in the favor of Israel; Does anyone know what does it really mean to bring down Assad’s secular government , a government which helps Iranian weapons to fall in the hands of Hezbollah? does anyone really know what will happen if Turkey successfully puts radical Saudi-backed jihadis in charge of Syria? the axis of resistance in Middle east against Israel will be cut in half and Israel will see it as a great opportunity to launch news wars on Lebanon and occupy the lands it has lost in 2000.

I doubt Erdogan knows what’s he doing himself. Every single policy of him is aimed at securing his other policy, which all seem to be failing. Maybe he just wants attention.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian 

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

The Globalization of War: The “Military Roadmap” to World War III

Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham

The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest. 

The military deployment of US-NATO forces is occurring in several regions of the world simultaneously.

The concept of the “Long War” has characterized US military doctrine since the end of World War II. The broader objective of global military dominance in support of an imperial project was first formulated under the Truman administration in the late 1940s at the outset of the Cold War.

In September 1990, some five weeks after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, US President and Commander in Chief George Herbert Walker Bush delivered a historical address to a joint session of the US Congress and the Senate in which he proclaimed a New World Order emerging from the rubble of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union.

Bush Senior had envisaged a world of “peaceful international co-operation”, one which was no longer locked into the confrontation between competing super powers, under the shadow of the doctrine of  “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) which had characterized the Cold War era.

George H Walker Bush addressed a Joint Session
of the US Congress and the Senate, September 1990

Bush declared emphatically at the outset of what became known as “the post-Cold War era” that:

“a new partnership of nations has begun, and we stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times… a new world order can emerge: A new era freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, east and west, north and south, can prosper and live in harmony.”

Of course, speeches by American presidents are often occasions for cynical platitudes and contradictions that should not be taken at face value. After all, President Bush was holding forth on international law and justice only months after his country had invaded Panama in December 1989 causing the deaths of several thousand citizens – committing crimes comparable to what Saddam Hussein would be accused of and supposedly held to account for. Also in 1991, the US and its NATO allies went on to unleash, under a “humanitarian” mantle, a protracted war against Yugoslavia, leading to the destruction, fragmentation and impoverishment of an entire country.

Nevertheless, it is instructive to use Bush Senior’s slanted vision of a “New World Order” as a reference point for how dramatically the world has changed in the intervening 20 years of the so-called post-Cold War era, and in particular how unilaterally degenerate the contemporary international conduct of the US has become under the Clinton, G. W. Bush Junior and Obama administrations.

Bush Senior’s “promise” of world peace has opened up, in the wake of the Cold War, an age of continuous warfare accompanied by a process of economic dislocation, social devastation and environmental degradation.

In a bitter irony, this concept of peaceful international co-operation and partnership was used as a pretext to unleash The Gulf War, which consisted in  “defending the sovereignty” of Kuwait and “upholding international law” following the Iraqi 1990 invasion.

We are dealing with a global military agenda, namely “Global Warfare”. Far from a world of peaceful cooperation, we are living in a dystopian world of permanent wars – wars that are being waged in flagrant contravention of international law and against public opinion and interest.

Far from a “new era more secure in the quest for peace” we may see a world more akin to George Orwell’s 1984, dominated by perpetual conflict, insecurity, authoritarian surveillance, doublethink and public mind control.

A problem for many citizens is that “doublethink and mind control” have become so deeply embedded and disseminated by the mass media, including the so-called quality free press, such as The New York Timesand The Guardian.

The Post 9/11 Era

Allegedly sponsored by Al Qaeda, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon played a central role in molding public opinion.  One of the main objectives of war propaganda is to “fabricate an enemy”. The “outside enemy” personified by Osama bin Laden is “threatening America”.

Pre-emptive war directed against “Islamic terrorists” is required to defend the Homeland. Realities are turned upside down: America is under attack.

In the wake of 9/11, the creation of this “outside enemy” served to obfuscate the real economic and strategic objectives behind the American-led wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Waged on the grounds of self-defense, the pre-emptive war is upheld as a “just war” with a humanitarian mandate.

“The Outside Enemy” Osama bin Laden, portrayed by the mainstream

From the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war in the early 1980s, the US intelligence apparatus has supported the formation of the “Islamic brigades”. Propaganda purports to erase the history of Al Qaeda, drown the truth and “kill the evidence” on how this “outside enemy” was fabricated and transformed into “Enemy Number One”.

The US intelligence apparatus has created it own terrorist organizations. And at the same time, it creates its own terrorist warnings concerning the terrorist organizations which it has itself created. Meanwhile, a cohesive multibillion dollar counterterrorism program “to go after” these terrorist organizations has been put in place.

Instead of “war” or “state terrorism”, we are told of “humanitarian intervention” directed against “terrorists”, instead of “offence”, we are told of “defense” or “protection”, instead of “mass murder” we are told of “collateral damage”.

A good versus evil dichotomy prevails. The perpetrators of war are presented as the victims. Public opinion is misled: “We must fight against evil in all its forms as a means to preserving the Western way of life.”

Breaking the “Big Lie” which presents war as a humanitarian undertaking, means breaking a criminal project of global destruction, in which the quest for profit is the overriding force. This profit-driven military agenda destroys human values and transforms people into unconscious zombies.

In truth, as this new Interactive Reader from Global Research will demonstrate, we are living in an era hallmarked by “The Globalization of War” conducted by the very states that proclaim to be defenders of democratic rights and international law.

The chief protagonist of this globalized war is the United States of America. The US, along with its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Britain, France, Canada and Germany among others, as well as an array of proxies – such as the Persian Gulf Arab states – is now emboldened to strike militarily in any region of the world.

It should be remarkable that on a tour of Asia-Pacific in November 2011, US President Barack Obama’s rhetoric was laden with bellicose statements towards China, citing the latter as a military threat to the hemisphere that the United States was ready to confront. Obama’s aggressive rhetoric towards Beijing should have been widely seen as unprecedented and unacceptable. But from a reading of the Western mainstream media, the warmongering by the US president was somehow made into normal, reasonable discourse.

This spawning militarism is rationalized with a variety of seemingly palatable pretexts: securing the world against “Islamic terrorism”, as in Afghanistan; securing the world against “weapons of mass destruction”, as in Saddam’s Iraq and currently Iran; defending human rights, as in Libya; humanitarian intervention, as in Somalia; and protecting small nations, as in confronting China on behalf of Southeast Asian states, or constructing a Ballistic Missile Defense system along the Eastern European borders of Russia. And again, the Western mainstream media plays a huge role in rationalizing the irrational, normalizing the abnormal, justifying the unjustifiable – akin to the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984.

We may accept these pretexts at face value and attempt to “normalize” a world of seemingly chaotic conflicts, as the Western mainstream media would have us. Or we can choose to see the world as it really is, that is, one where such wars and war-making are correctly understood as abominations of international law and human relations.

It is our objective in this Interactive Reader to help citizens free themselves from the indoctrinated doublethink of “wars as normal”. In a global survey, we will show that the US and its allies are fulfilling an agenda of “full spectrum dominance” in which no nation deemed to be obstructing that agenda for domination by the US and its allies is tolerated, and is in fact made a target for war.

The dynamic for globalized war has deep historical roots in the imperialism of capitalist governments. Rivalry for the raw materials of capitalist economies and geopolitical control were at root of World Wars I and II. The same impetus lay behind countless invasions and proxy wars in Latin America, Asia and Africa by the US since World War II under the guise of “defending the free world from the Evil Soviet empire”.

But with the collapse of the Soviet Union as a countervailing power, the US and its allies have become uninhibited over the past two decades to “go it alone” to assert imperial dominance. This dynamic has only been reinforced by the economic exhaustion of the capitalist powers since the onset of the financial crisis of 2008. Indeed, the rise of militarism can be seen as a compensatory corollary of their economic demise – a demise that is structural and deeply protracted beyond anything that may be deemed as the usual “end of business cycle”. We are perhaps witnessing an historic collapse in the capitalist system far greater in scope than the Great Depression. And with that, disturbingly, the rise of militarism takes on a much greater significance.

Crucial to the global control of resources are the raw materials of energy: oil and gas. Whether it is wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, or confrontation with Iran, China, Russia and Venezuela, the fundamental point of contention is control over this lifeblood of the capitalist economy. All other espoused pretexts are mere window dressing, regardless of what the mainstream media would have us believe.

World War III Scenario

The launching of an outright war using nuclear warheads against Iran – which has the world’s third largest known reserves of oil behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq – has been on the drawing board of the Pentagon since 2005.

If such a war were to be launched, the entire Middle East/Central Asia region would be drawn into a conflagration. Humanity would be precipitated into a World War III scenario.

Incredibly, the very real danger of World War III is not front-page news. The mainstream media has excluded in-depth analysis and debate on the implications of these war plans. The onslaught of World War III, were it to be carried out, would be casually described as a “no-fly zone”, an operation under NATO’s “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) with minimal “collateral damage” or as “surgical” punitive bombings against specific military targets, all of which purport to support “global security” as well as “democracy” and human rights in the targeted country.

NATO’s “Humanitarian Intervention”
Mandate defined in an ICISS report on R2P

Public opinion is largely unaware of the grave implications of these war plans, which contemplate the use of nuclear weapons, ironically in retaliation to Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program. Moreover, 21st Century military technology combines an array of sophisticated weapons systems whose destructive power would overshadow the nuclear holocausts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Lest we forget, the United States is the only country to have used nuclear weapons against civilians.

Militarization at the global level is instrumented through the US military’s Unified Command structure: the entire planet is divided up into geographic Combatant Commands under the control of the Pentagon. According to former NATO Commander General Wesley Clark, the Pentagon’s military road-map consists of a sequence of war theaters: “[The] five-year campaign plan [includes]… a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.” Like a cancer, the US war unleashed in 2003 on Iraq is mutating into a global disease.

While  The New York Times and other mainstream media outlets hailed 15 December 2011 as marking the “official” end of the nearly nine-year US war in Iraq, in reality that devastated country will remain an American war theater for the foreseeable future. Pentagon military advisers and contractors will continue to reside there and the people of Iraq will for generations be left with a legacy of US-imposed conflict and barbarity. The Pentagon’s “shock and awe” campaign in Iraq may have subsided, but its repercussions and criminal precedents are still very much extant, not only in Iraq but in the wider region and, increasingly, globally.

The 2000 Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which was the backbone of the NeoCon’s agenda, was predicated on “waging a war without borders”. The PNAC’s declared objectives were to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars” in different regions of the world as well as perform the so-called military “constabulary” duties “associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions”. Global constabulary implies a worldwide process of military policing and interventionism, includingcovert operations and “regime change”.

This diabolical military project formulated by the NeoCons was adopted and implemented from the very outset of the Obama administration. With a new team of military and foreign policy advisers, Obama has been far more effective in fostering military escalation than his White House predecessor, George Bush Junior, who has recently been condemned by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal for “Crimes against the Peace”.

This continuum of military agenda testifies to the fact that the two governing parties in the US, Democrat and Republican, are but two sides of a centrally planned military-industrial complex that is impregnable to the opinions, desires and interests of the American electorate.

Military Escalation and Preview of this Book

Contrary to the myth of “the good war”, we show in this Interactive Reader that the US entry into World War II was a deliberate strategy for self-serving imperialist gains. While the men and women who fought that war may have had moral convictions, the planners in Washington were operating on calculations of geopolitical control that had little to do with morals or legal principles – see the essays by Jacques Pauwels. The dropping of atomic bombs on Japan by the US in August 1945, obliterating hundreds of thousands of civilians, was an act of heinous barbarity that reflected the callousness of America’s imperial design. Thenuclear holocaust also set the nefarious parameters of the subsequent Cold War that gripped the world for nearly five decades following World War II. Essays by Brian Willson, Alfred McCoy and Michel Chossudovskyillustrate how the Pentagon’s genocidal wars in Asia were a continuation of America’s imperialist design – albeit under the cover of the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

Hiroshima mushroom cloud. By executive order of President
Harry S. Truman, the U.S. dropped the nuclear bomb ”Little Boy”
on Hiroshima, Monday, August 6, 1945

Nagasaki, August 9, 1945

Survivors: August 1945. In the wake of Hiroshima

The fall of the Soviet Union may have brought an end to the Cold War, but soon the US would find new pretexts for waging war on the world and asserting hegemony on behalf of its capitalist allies. These new pretexts included “upholding international law” as in the First Gulf War against Iraq that Bush Senior embarked on in 1990, presaging the Second Gulf War that Bush Junior would reprise in 2003. And the US planners innovated the “humanitarian” pretext for the invasion of Somalia in 1991 and NATO’s war on Yugoslavia – see the essay by Sean Gervasi among others. In many ways, the “humanitarian war” in Yugoslavia served as the prototype for NATO’s 2011 military attack on Libya and what appears to be an imminent onslaught against Syria – see essays by Rick Rozoff and Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya.

To the Pentagon’s silo of propaganda justifying “wars without borders” we have the additional pretexts of “war on terrorism” and “pre-emptive strikes against weapons of mass destruction”. Fittingly, as Washington’s wars multiply, so too it seems have the phony pretexts for these wars.

In the final part, which also serves as the title of this of this Interactive Reader , The Globalization of War, we show how American-led imperialism has evolved from bloody bouts of episodic militarism over several decades to the present day state of permanent belligerence, with wars or war-making stretching from North and East Africa into the Middle East and Central Asia and beyond to Eurasia (Russia), the Far East (China) and Arctic (Russia again) – See chapters by Petras, Rozoff, Engdahl and Cunningham.

Of most immediate concern are the ongoing American-led war plans within the broader Middle East/Central Asian region involving coordinated actions against Iran, Syria and Pakistan – see chapters by Chossudovsky, Rozoff and Nazemroaya.

Were these war plans to be carried out, this would lead to an extended regional war theater. The three existing and distinct war theaters (Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine) would merge into a broad regional war extending from the Lebanese-Syrian East Mediterranean coastline to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with Western China. Israel, Lebanon and Turkey would be engulfed in a conflict that would herald World War III.

Building an Effective Antiwar Movement

Meanwhile, the antiwar movement is in crisis: civil society organizations are misinformed, manipulated or co-opted. A large segment of “progressive” opinion is supportive of NATO’s R2P “humanitarian” mandate to the extent that these war plans are being carried out with the “rubber stamp” of civil society.

There is an urgent need to rebuild the antiwar movement on entirely new premises.

The holding of mass demonstrations and antiwar protests is not enough. What is required is the development of a broad and well-organized grassroots antiwar network, across the land, nationally and internationally, which challenges the structures of power and authority. People must mobilize not only against the military agenda – the authority of the state and its officials must also be challenged. Challenging and defeating the US/NATO global war agenda is profoundly predicated on the mass of people in Western countries asserting democratic governance and the genuine “rule of the people”. It will involve the mass of people breaking out of the two-party charade that hitherto passes for “democracy” – not only in the US but also in other Western states ­– to form new political organizations that truly represent the needs and interests of the majority of people. War-making, as with servile abeyance to corporate and financial elites, is endemic to the dominant political parties. It must be realized that voting for these same parties has become futile as a means to effect democratic change.

One practical way forward is for citizens to empower themselves legally. It should be understood that whatever its justification, war is a “Crime against the Peace” under Nuremberg. George Walker Bush and former British Prime Minister Anthony L. Blair have been condemned by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal for waging a criminal war of aggression against Iraq. They are war criminals and citizens’ initiatives that are growing across the world for the arraignment of Bush and Blair are one practical step towards mobilizing a popular challenge to the war system.

War crimes, however, are not limited to the former US president and British prime minister. There are “New War Criminals on the Block“. They include the current president of the United States, Barack Obama, among others. The acting heads of state and heads of government who support US-NATO-Israel wars of aggression are also war criminals under international law. This proposition, which consists in unseating the war criminals in high office, is central to the waging of an effective antiwar movement.

It is also our intention to show citizens that the root cause of war lies in the prevailing, but failing, capitalist economic system – the very system that is not only destroying lives in foreign countries but which is destroying the material and moral foundations of Western society.

We hope that this Interactive Reader, The Globalisation of War, will empower citizens to mount an all-encompassing social movement against this diabolical military agenda and for the establishment of real democracy.