Category Archives: United Kingdom

Morrison’s Dangerous Fantasies Represent a Danger to Australia’s Future

Australia has just caused surprise among its friends, concern among its neighbours, and an overtly hostile reaction from the Chinese with its announcement that it was scrapping the submarine deal it had signed with France and replacing it with a scheme, cooked together with British and American allies, to buy 8 nuclear powered submarines.

The scheme as announced was extraordinarily short on details. There is apparently at least 18 months of negotiating ahead before the contract is even signed. After that there will be a lengthy delay, estimated being at least 10 years in length, before the first submarine is ever delivered. By that time, who knows what the state of the world’s geopolitical system will be. One can be assured that the Chinese, against whom the plan is obviously directed, will have taken multiple steps to ensure its own safety.

The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was not short of hyperbole in announcing the deal. He described the relationship with the United States as the “forever partnership”. As the old joke goes, there are only two forever’s, death and taxes. Morrison’s words are reflective of an unfortunate tendency among Australian politicians. They are inclined not to look at the map when making grand geopolitical statements.

Australia is a thinly populated European nation that sits at the southern end of the Asian landmass. In keeping with its geography, the bulk of Australian foreign trade is conducted with those same Asian neighbours. Ironically, China is by far Australia’s largest trading partner, followed by Japan.

The British are yesterday’s men when it comes to Asia having finally been forced to give up its holding in Hong Kong that they took by force from China in the 19th century. The United States likes to project itself is an important figure in the Asian scheme of things. As the recent debacle in Afghanistan showed, however, American influence in the region is marked by one rebuttal after another.

With the possible exception of Japan, United States influence in the region is rapidly fading, notwithstanding its provocative sailings in the South China Sea and its overt support for the island of Taiwan. It is conveniently forgotten by Western commentators that from 1949 to 1972 the island of Taiwan held China’s seat on the United Nations Security Council. There was no suggestion then that Taiwan was a separate country. It could hardly have claimed to be, yet retaining China’s seat on the Security Council.

Now, Taiwan is making noises about becoming an independent country, something that the Beijing government has declared to be totally unacceptable, and which they will prevent by the use of force if necessary. It would be very unwise for the West to ignore the determination of the People’s Republic of China to recapture its rebellious neighbour. It would be equally unwise for the Americans to underestimate the Chinese level of determination and attempt to defend Taiwan from returning to the control of the mainland.

It is into this fraught situation that the Australian government is being inexorably drawn by its latest agreement with the Americans. Although the Australian media are almost completely silent on the point, one of the consequences of this new agreement with the Americans will be an increase in the number of United States military holdings in Australia. They already control the operation of the spy base at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory. It was former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam‘s intention to close the base that led to the coup against his government in November 1975.

The United States has operated a baleful influence upon Australian foreign policy ever since. There is absolutely nothing in the latest announcement of Australia buying United States designed nuclear powered ships that will do a single thing to reduce that influence. Quite the contrary.

The current posturing by the Australian Prime Minister will do nothing to alter that reality. Together with his defence minister, Peter Dutton, who has been a failure at each of his previous ministerial postings, they are both talking loudly about the wonderful future of Australia. They are either too vain or too stupid to see that this latest deal does more than any other single decision in recent years to entrap Australia in a subservient role to the United States.

As Scott Ritter writes in RT: “This is a story of geopolitically driven military procurement gone mad”,1, pointing out that this deal “further exacerbates the existing geopolitical crisis with China by injecting a military dimension that will never see the light of day.”

Ritter goes on to seek answers to problems he sees as being associated with the announced purchase; for instance, first of all, how much will it cost?  Secondly, how will Australia operate advanced nuclear power systems when it has no indigenous nuclear experience to draw upon? And how does Australia plan to man a large nuclear submarine when it can barely field four crews for its existing Collins class fleet.

These are legitimate questions to ask, yet the timid Opposition Labor Party seems paralysed by them.

As Alan Gyngell points out2, the United States’ expectations of Australia’s support in almost anything going, whether it involves China or not (although that is the greatest danger) will grow. It represents an application of responsibility to ensure the ongoing welfare of the Australian people. By the time the submarines are delivered, if at all, the present generation of political leaders will be long gone. The damage they are doing will last a lot longer.

  1. US-UK-Australia Submarine Deal is a Dangerous Joke, 18 September 2021.
  2. Australia Signs up for the Anglosphere“, September 19, 2021.
The post Morrison’s Dangerous Fantasies Represent a Danger to Australia’s Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Anglo Unilateralists Strike

When President Joe Biden won the White House, he promised, with a facility of unceasing boredom, that diplomacy was back.  “Diplomacy is back at the centre of our foreign policy,” he stated on February 4.  “As I said in my inaugural address, we will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.”

The fact that such diplomacy had never gone away seemed to escape him.  In the simpleton’s view of politics, his predecessor had abandoned the jaw jaw approach to international relations for muscular and mindless US unilateralism.  Allies had been belittled, ignored and mocked.  Strongmen had been feted, admired and praised.  It was now incumbent upon the United States, urged Biden, that “American leadership” confront “this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage and disrupt our democracy.”

It would have been more accurate to say that President Donald Trump’s coarse, business board room model was simply too much of a shock for those familiarly comfortable with guile, deception and dissimulation.  But Biden’s return to acceptable hypocrisy did not mask the “America First” note in his temper.  Since then, that temper has seen a dramatic, ahead-of-schedule exit from Afghanistan, building on Trump’s undertakings to conclude open-ended wars and commitments.  US allies began to wonder whether the Biden model was that different from Trump’s cruder original.

With the announcement on September 15 of the trilateral security pact AUKUS, an agreement between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia to deepen military ties in an effort to contain China, the “diplomacy is back” cart was soiled and upended.  The European Union had not been consulted.  A furious France only received a few hours’ notice that the agreement they had made through the Naval Group with Australia to construct the next generation of attack class submarines had been dissolved.  Countries in the Indo-Pacific were also left in the dark.

France, in some ways even more than China, the primary target of AUKUS, is incandescent with rage.  On Franceinfo radio, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was unsparing in his remarks.  “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do.” He confessed to feeling anger and bitterness. “This isn’t done between allies.”

As recently as July, Le Drian had visited Washington, where he pointedly stated that France was “an Indo-Pacific nation with territories that give [it] the world’s second-largest exclusive economic zone” with a permanent military presence of 8,500 personnel in the region.  Paris, along with EU member states, was in the process of formulating a clear Indo-Pacific strategy.  Efforts were being made in creating “strategic partnerships” with Japan, Australia and India.  Regional organisations such as ASEAN were being brought into the fold.  Any “transatlantic pivot toward the Indo-Pacific” had to be taken “together”.

At the end of August, Australia and France held their inaugural Foreign and Defence (2+2) Ministerial Consultations. No hint was given that something was brewing.  As the joint statement outlined, “Ministers underscored the importance of the strong and enduring commitment of other partners, including the United States, and Indo-Pacific partners in upholding an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific in accordance with international law.”

With notions of sham togetherness shaken, retaliation in the old diplomatic tradition has followed.  President Emmanuel Macron has recalled the French ambassadors to the United States and Australia.  Britain was rebuked somewhat differently, being spared the same harsh treatment; being underhanded was the very sort of thing Paris expected from their historical enemy. In Le Drian’s words, its conduct had been “opportunistic”, with London being little more than “the fifth wheel of the wagon”.

In a joint statement, Le Drian and French Minister for the Army Florence Parly emphasised that this new security arrangement had been arrived at to the “exclusion of a European ally and partner … at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.”  The move signalled “a lack of consistency which France can only notice and regret.”

Special words were reserved for Australia, a country now wooed by an unconvincing promise of eight nuclear-powered submarines that are only promised to enter service sometime in the 2040s.  The decision was “contrary to the letter and the spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust.”  Le Drian, in a separate observation, weighed on the theme of infidelity, calling the decision, “A knife in the back.”

None of this takes away from the fact that the original Franco-Australian contract, reached in 2016, was an ill-thought out undertaking to build 12 conventional Barracuda class submarines in imitation of the nuclear powered Suffren design.  It was vain, costly and promised obsolescence before viable performance. Then again, the French argument goes, the Australians wanted it.

The justifications for this episode of Anglophonic mischief have varied in their insolence and disingenuousness.  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was all shine and floss in claiming that France remained “a vital partner” in ensuring security in the Indo-Pacific “and we want to find every opportunity to deepen our transatlantic cooperation” in the area.  To a question suggesting that France had been stabbed in the back, Blinken mechanically repeated the vital importance of a “transatlantic” association.

Australia’s simply disposed Defence Minister Peter Dutton preferred fantasy by way of explanation, claiming that his government had been “upfront, open and honest”.  “We can understand of course, the French are upset at the cancellation of a contract but in the end, our job is to act in our national interest.”  Britain’s Defence Minister Ben Wallace was of like mind, promising that, “Nothing was done by sneaking behind anyone’s back.”  But sneaking there was, and it was the Anglosphere, led by the United States, doing the sneaking.

AUKUS is less a trio than a hefty, bullying chief accompanied by a willing assistant and an enthusiastic supplicant.  It is a declaration of hostile intent in a region of the world that promises to be the Europe of 1914.  It has also encouraged the EU to formulate its own Indo-Pacific policy with haste and independence. “The regrettable decision which has just been announced on the FSP [Future Submarine Program] only reinforces the need to raise the issue of European strategic autonomy loud and clear,” observed Le Drian and Parley.  Policy makers in Beijing will be struggling to stifle their amusement.

The post The Anglo Unilateralists Strike first appeared on Dissident Voice.

In the name of humanitarianism, Covid is crushing local as well as global solidarity

There seems to be a glaring illogic to official arguments about the need to vaccinate British children against Covid that no one in the corporate media wishes to highlight.

Days ago the British government’s experts on vaccinations, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, withstood strong political pressure and decided not to recommend vaccinating children aged between 12 and 15. That was because the JCVI concluded that vaccination could not be justified in the case of children on health grounds.

The implication was that the known health risks associated with vaccination for children – primarily from heart inflammation – outweighed the health benefits. The JCVI also indicated that there might be unknown, longer-term health risks too, given the lack of follow-up among young people and children who have already been vaccinated.

But while the JCVI defied the government, they did not entirely ignore the political demands of them. They offered the government’s four chief medical officers a get-out clause that could be exploited to rationalise the approval of child vaccinations: they conceded that vaccinations might offer other, non-health benefits.

Utilitarian arguments

Predictably, this utilitarian justification for child vaccinations has been seized on by the British government. Here is the Guardian uncritically regurgitating the official position:

There have also been concerns about the indirect effects of the virus on children. The biggest has been the disruption to schools, which had a severe impact on their mental and physical health, as well as their education.

That, essentially, is why the four CMOs have said children aged between 12 and 15 should be eligible for the jab.

They believe that being vaccinated will reduce the risk of disruption to school and extracurricular activities and the effect of this on their mental health and wellbeing.

Let’s unpack that argument.

Covid poses no serious threat to the overwhelming majority of children, the JCVI and the chief medical officers are agreed. (Those few children who are at risk can be vaccinated under existing rules.)

But, according to the government, Covid has inflicted physical, mental and educational suffering on children because classrooms had to be shut for prolonged periods to protect vulnerable adults in the period before the adult population could be vaccinated.

Now most adults, and almost all vulnerable adults, are vaccinated against Covid, offering them a significant degree of protection.

But still children need to be injected with a vaccine that may, on balance, do more harm to their health than good.

If this is the official argument, we should all be asking: Why?

Two scenarios

There are two potential scenarios for assessing this argument.

The first:

The vaccine works against transmission and severe illness in adults. Schools therefore no longer need to be shut down to protect the adult population. Adults are now largely safe – unless they have decided not to get vaccinated. And that, in turn, means that “indirect” harm to children’s mental and physical wellbeing caused by school closures should no longer be a consideration.

If this is the case, then there are no grounds – either health ones or indirect, non-health ones – to justify vaccinating children.

The second:

The vaccine doesn’t stop transmission and severe illness, but it reduces some transmission and mitigates the worst effects of Covid. This is what the evidence increasingly suggests.

If this is the case, then vaccinating children will not only fail to stop a proportion of them catching and transmitting Covid but it will also fail in its stated purpose: preventing the future closure of schools and the associated, indirect harms to children.

Worse, at the same time vaccination may increase children’s risk of damage to their health from the vaccine itself, as the JCVI’s original conclusion implies.

Just to be clear, as the “follow the science” crowd prepare yet again to be outraged, these are not my arguments. They are implicit in the official reasoning of the experts assessing whether to vaccinate children. They have been ignored on political grounds, because the government would prefer to look like it is actively getting us “back to normal”, and because it has chosen to put all its eggs in the easy (and profitable) vaccine basket.

If vaccines are all that is needed to solve the pandemic, then there is no need to look at other things, such as the gradual dismantling of the National Health Service by successive governments, very much including the current one; our over-consumption economies; nutrient-poor diets promoted by the farming and food industries; and much else besides.

Unadulterated racism

There are, in fact, much more obvious, unequivocal reasons to oppose vaccinating children – aside from the matter that vaccination subordinates children’s health to the adult population’s wellbeing on the flimsiest of pretexts.

First, vaccination doses wasted on British children could be put to far better use vaccinating vulnerable populations in the Global South. There are good self-interested reasons for us to back this position, especially given the fact that the fight is against a global pandemic in a modern world that is highly interconnected.

But more altruistic – and ethical – concerns should also be at the forefront of discussions too. Our lives aren’t more important than those of Africans or Asians. To think otherwise – to imagine that we deserve a third or fourth booster shot or need to vaccinate children to reduce the risk of Covid deaths in the west to near-zero – is pure, unadulterated racism.

And second, a growing body of medical reseach indicates that natural immunity confers stronger, longer-lasting protection against Covid.

Given that the virus poses little medical threat to children, the evidence so far suggests they would be better off catching Covid, as apparently half of them already have.

That is both because it serves their own interests by developing in them better immunity against future, nastier variants; and because it serves the interests of the adults around them – assuming (and admittedly it’s a big assumption) that the goal here is not to have adults dependent on endless booster shots to prevent waning immunity and enrich Pfizer.

Worst of both worlds

By contrast, the approach the British government is pursuing – and most of the corporate media is cheerleading – is the worst of both worlds.

British officials want to treat Covid as a continuing menace to public health, one that apparently can never be eradicated. A state of permanent emergency means the government can accrue to itself ever increasing powers, including for surveillance, on the pretext that we are in an endless war against the virus.

But at the same time the government’s implicit “zero tolerance” approach to Covid – in this case, a futile ambition to prevent any hospitalisations or deaths from the virus in the UK – means that the interests of British children, and populations in foreign countries we helped to impoverish through our colonial history, can be sacrificed for the good of adults in rich western countries.

The combined effect of these two approaches is to foster a political climate in which western governments and the corporate media are better placed to replicate the colonial policy priorities they have traditionally pursued abroad but this time apply them to the home front.

The supposed war against the virus – a war that children apparently must be recruited to fight on our behalf – rather neatly echoes the earlier, now discredited and unravelling “war on terror”.

Both can be presented as threats to our civilisation. Both require the state to redirect vast resources to corporate elites (the “defence” industries and now Big Pharma). Both have led to widespread fear among the populace, making it more compliant. Both require a permanent state of emergency and the sacrifice of our liberties. Both have been promoted in terms of a bogus humanitarianism. And neither war can be won.

Dog eat dog

Recognising these parallels is not the same as denial, though the government and media have every interest to cultivate this as an assumption. There were and are terrorists, even if the term readily gets mangled to serve political agendas. And there is a dangerous virus that vulnerable populations need protection from.

But just as the “terror” threat arose in response to – and to mask – our arrogant, colonial control over, and plundering of, other people’s resources, so this pandemic threat appears to have arisen, in large part, from our arrogant invasion of every last habitat on the planet, and our ever less healthy, consumption-driven lifestyles.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote an article that went viral called “A lesson coronavirus is about to teach the world“. In it, I argued that our capitalist societies, with their dog-eat-dog ideologies, were the least suited to deal with a health crisis that required solidarity, both local and global.

I noted that Donald Tump, then the US president, was trying to secure an early, exclusive deal for a “silver bullet” – a vaccine – whose first doses he planned to reserve for Americans as a vote-winner at home and then use as leverage over other states to reward those who complied with his, or possibly US, interests. The planet could be divided into friends and foes – those who received the vaccine and those who were denied it.

It was a typically Trumpian vanity project that he did not realise. But in many ways, it has come to pass in a different fashion and in ways that have the potential to be more dangerous than I could foresee.

Divide and rule

The vaccine has indeed been sold as a silver bullet, a panacea that lifts from our shoulders not just the burden of lockdowns and masks but the need for any reflection on what “normal life” means and whether we should want to return to it.

And just as Trump wanted to use vaccine distribution as a tool of divide-and-rule, the vaccination process itself has come to serve a similar end. With the quick roll-out of vaccines, our societies have almost immediately divided between those who demand vaccine passports and mandates as the price for inclusion and those who demand the protection of basic liberties and cultivation of social solidarity without conditions.

In popular discourse, of course, this is being spun as a fight between responsible vaxxers and irresponsible anti-vaxxers. That is more divide-and-rule nonsense. Those in favour of vaccination, and those who have been vaccinated, can be just as concerned about the direction we are heading in as the “anti-vaxxers”.

Fear has driven our division: between those who primarily fear the virus and those who primarily fear western elites whose authoritarian instincts are coming to the fore as they confront imminent economic and environmental crises they have no answers for.

Increasingly, where we stand on issues surrounding the pandemic has little to do with “the science” and relates chiefly to where each of us stands on that spectrum of fear.

Hoarding impulse

The vaccination of children highlights this most especially, which is why I have chosen to focus on it. We want children vaccinated not,, because the research suggests they need it or society benefits from it, but because knowing they are vaccinated will still our fear of the virus a little more.

Similarly, we want foreigners denied the vaccine – and that is the choice we make when we prioritise our children being vaccinated and demand booster shots for ourselves – because that too will allay our fears.

We hoard the vaccinations, just as we once did toilet paper. We try to fortify our borders against the virus, just as we do against “immigrants”, even though the rational part of our brain knows that the virus will lap up on our shores, in new variants, unless poorer nations are in a position to vaccinate their populations too.

Our fears, the politicians’ power complexes and the corporations’ profit motives combine to fuel this madness. And in the process we intensify the dog-eat-dog ideology we call western civilisation.

We turn on each other, we prioritise ourselves over the foreigner, we set parent against child, we pit the vaccinated against the unvaccinated – all in the name of a bogus humanitarianism and solidarity.

The post In the name of humanitarianism, Covid is crushing local as well as global solidarity first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Nuclear White Elephants: Australia’s New Submarine Deal

It does not get any messier or more chaotic than this.  Since 2009, when Australia’s Future Submarine Program (FSP) known as Project SEA 1000, began to take shape, strategists and policy makers have been keen to pursue the next big White Elephant of defence spending.  And few areas of an already wasteful area of public expenditure are more costly – often mindlessly so – than submarines.

The Australian effort here is particularly impressive.  Pick a real winner by signing a contract for a yet to be designed attack class submarine, supposedly necessary in an increasingly dangerous region.  Ensure that this design is based on a nuclear model and remove that attribute, aptly described as “dumbing down a nuclear submarine by removing the whole basis of its superior capability, and then charging at least twice as much for a far less capable submarine.”

Just to make things interesting, make sure the order is for 12 of these yet to be designed and built creatures.  Make sure, as well, that they are only ready sometime in the 2030s, by which time they risk being obsolete in a field of other contending submarines with superior capabilities.

The dubious honour for this monumentally foolish contract, with an initial cost of AU$50 billion, fell to the French submarine company DCNS (now called Naval Group). It nudged out German and Japanese contenders with pre-existing designs.  “The decision,” a government announcement in April 2016 explained, “was driven by DCNS’s ability to best meet all of the Australian Government requirements.  These included superior sensor performance and stealth characteristics, as well as range and endurance similar to the Collins class submarine.  The Government’s considerations also included cost, schedule, program execution, through-life support and Australian industry involvement.”

The contract warmed the French military establishment.  It was praised as the “contract of the century”.  Le Parisien’s editorial lauded the prospect of thousands of jobs.  President François Hollande could say that he was also capable of pulling off a contract to aid the French military industrial complex, despite being a socialist.  A “50-year marriage”, claimed French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian with honeymoon exuberance, had begun.

The post-nuptials were not promising.  Rear Admiral Greg Sammut had to concede in an estimates hearing before Australian senators that another AU$50 billion would be required to sustain the submarines for the duration of their operating life.  “Many of the detailed costs of acquisition and sustainment will be determined during the design process through choices made but at this point early estimation of the sustainment costs for the fleet are of the order of up to $50 billion on a constant price basis.”

Tiffs and disagreements over distribution of labour and further costs started to bite.  How much of the work would actually be undertaken by labour based in Australia?  Would the French company be keeping the lion’s share?  With such problems, and the pace of development, another idea started to gain momentum in the halls of defence: a competing, cheaper design, based on a rejigged version of Australia’s existing Collins Class submarine, might be a suitable alternative.  In the meantime, perhaps a German alternative might also figure, namely the Type 214 diesel electric submarine developed by Howaldtswerker-Deutsche Werft GmbH (HDW).

In May, Naval Group’s Transfer of Technology program manager Fabrice Leduc solemnly told his staff that the submarine project had been subjected to a “political timeline” following a change of minister in the Australian Defence portfolio.  The new occupant, Peter Dutton, was biding his time because “he wanted to have some strong warranties from the industry and especially Naval Group in terms of cost and schedule.”  The marriage had truly soured.

On September 15, the press gallery in Canberra was awash with rumours that a divorce was being proposed.  In the early hours of the following day, the question as to whether Australia would be dissolving its union with Naval Group was answered. In place of that union would be a ménage à trois with the United States and United Kingdom, a security three-way with Australia as the subordinate partner.  The glue that will hold this union together is a common suspicion: China.  In place of the Attack Class submarine: a nuclear powered alternative with Anglo-American blessing, based on the US Virginia class or UK Astute class.

In their joint statement announcing the creation of AUKUS, a name deserving a place in a science fiction glossary, the joint leaders of the three countries “guided” by their “enduring ideals and shared commitment to the international rules-based order” had resolved “to deepen diplomatic, security, and defence cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, including by working with partners, to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.”  AUKUS would be a new “enhanced trilateral security partnership” to further such goals.

The agreement is nothing less than an announcement to powers in the region that the Anglophone bloc intends to police, oversee and, if necessary, punish.  The three countries will “promote deeper information and technology.”  Security, science relating to defence, technology, industrial bases and supply chains will be further integrated.  Deeper cooperation would take place “on a range of security and defence capabilities.”

The first initiative of the agreement stands out: “we commit to a shared ambition to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.”  Expertise to “bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date” from the submarine programs of both the US and the UK would be drawn on.  AUKUS unmistakably ties the countries into the same security orbit, meshing them to principles of “interoperability, commonality, and mutual benefit.”

Australia’s submarine policy has previously eschewed nuclear propulsion. Now, as a dowry for receiving such largesse, Canberra is offering up Australia as a confirmed US asset in policing the Indo-Pacific. In any conflict situation, the wallahs of the antipodes are unlikely to say no to any request to do battle with the Middle Kingdom.  US Navy commanders will also be smacking their lips at maintaining attack vessels in Australia as part of the arrangement.

In the meantime, neighbours will be troubled, despite assurances that the vessels will only have a conventional weapons capability.  Nearby Indonesia is unlikely to be glowing in admiration.

The dissolution of the union with Naval Group will also be costly, with the defence company bound to push for a generous compensation package.  (AU$400 million is a suggested figure, though this is unlikely to satisfy either Naval Group or the Parisian overlords)  To this can be added AU$2 billion already spent.

As the divorce costs are sorted, some Australian politicians have pledged to make dissenting noises, with the Greens leader Adam Bandt already warning that the decision promised to “put floating Chernobyls in the heart of Australia’s cities.”  Protests from anti-nuclear activists and advocates are in the offing.

Then arises that enduring problem of actually building these naval beasts.  US lawmakers will be rooting for the construction of the submarines on home soil, a situation which promises to mirror the headaches caused by the Naval Group contract.  Australia also lacks a shipyard able to build or maintain such vessels.

In playing its part in the creation of AUKUS, Canberra has exchanged one white elephant of the sea for another.  But in doing so, Australia has done so in manner more threatening, and more significant, than anything associated with the Naval Group Contract.  The small space Australian diplomats might have had in keeping Canberra out of any foolish conflict in the Indo-Pacific has become miniscule.  The war mongers will be dewily ecstatic.

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Despite its exit, the US will continue to wage war on Afghanistan

The United States has always been a bad loser. Whether it has viewed itself as an imperial power, a military superpower or, in today’s preferred terminology, the “world’s policeman”, the assumption is that everyone else must submit to its will.

All of which is the context for judging the outcry in western capitals over the US army’s hurried exit last month from Kabul, its final hold-out in Afghanistan.

There are lots of voices on both sides of the Atlantic lamenting that messy evacuation. And it is hard not to hear in them – even after a catastrophic and entirely futile two-decade military occupation of Afghanistan – a longing for some kind of re-engagement.

Politicians are describing the pull-out as a “defeat” and bewailing it as evidence that the US is a declining power. Others are warning that Afghanistan will become a sanctuary for Islamic extremism, leading to a rise in global terrorism.

Liberals, meanwhile, are anxious about a renewed assault on women’s rights under the Taliban, or they are demanding that more Afghans be helped to flee.

The subtext is that western powers need to meddle a little – or maybe a lot – more and longer in Afghanistan. The situation, it is implied, can still be fixed, or at the very least the Taliban can be punished as a warning to others not to follow in its footsteps.

All of this ignores the fact that the so-called “war for Afghanistan” was lost long ago. “Defeat” did not occur at Kabul airport. The evacuation was a very belated recognition that the US military had no reason, not even the purported one, to be in Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden evaded capture.

In fact, as experts on the region have pointed out, the US defeated itself. Once al-Qaeda had fled Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s chastened fighters had slunk back to their villages with no appetite to take on the US Robocop, each local warlord or tribal leader seized the moment. They settled scores with enemies by informing on them, identifying to the US their rivals as  “terrorists” or Taliban.

US commanders blew ever bigger holes through the new Pax Americana as their indiscriminate drone strikes killed friend and foe alike. Soon most Afghans outside the corrupt Kabul elite had good reason to hate the US and want it gone. It was the Pentagon that brought the Taliban back from the dead.

Deceitful spin

But it was not just the Afghan elite that was corrupt. The country became a bottomless pit, with Kabul at its centre, into which US and British taxpayers poured endless money that enriched the war industries, from defence officials and arms manufacturers to mercenaries and private contractors.

Those 20 years produced a vigorous, powerful Afghanistan lobby in the heart of Washington that had every incentive to perpetuate the bogus narrative of a “winnable war”.

The lobby understood that their enrichment was best sold under the pretence – once again – of humanitarianism: that the caring West was obligated to bring democracy to Afghanistan.

That deceitful spin, currently being given full throat by politicians, is not just there to rationalise the past. It will shape the future, too, in yet more disastrous ways for Afghanistan.

With American boots no longer officially on the ground, pressure is already building for war by other means.

It should not be a difficult sell. After all, that was the faulty lesson learned by the Washington foreign policy elite after US troops found themselves greeted in Iraq, not by rice and rose petals, but by roadside bombs.

In subsequent Middle East wars, in Libya, Syria and Yemen, the US has preferred to fight more covertly, from a greater distance or through proxies. The advantage is no American body bags and no democratic oversight. Everything happens in the shadows.

There is already a clamour in the Pentagon, in think tanks, among arms manufacturers and defence contractors, and in the US media, too, to do exactly the same now in Afghanistan.

Nothing could be more foolhardy.

Brink of collapse

Indeed, the US has already begun waging war on the Taliban and – because the group is now Afghanistan’s effective government – on an entire country under Taliban rule. The war is being conducted through global financial institutions, and may soon be given a formal makeover as a “sanctions regime”.

The US did exactly the same to Vietnam for 20 years following its defeat there in 1975. And more recently Washington has used that same blueprint on states that refuse to live under its thumb, from Iran to Venezuela.

Washington has frozen at least $9.5bn of Afghanistan’s assets in what amounts to an act of international piracy. Donors from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to the European Union, Britain and the US are withholding development funds and assistance. Most Afghan banks are shuttered. Money is in very short supply.

Afghanistan is already in the grip of drought, and existing food shortages are likely to intensify during the winter into famine. Last week a UN report warned that, without urgent financial help, 97 percent of Afghans could soon be plunged into poverty.

All of this compounds Afghanistan’s troubles under the US occupation, when the number of Afghans in poverty doubled and child malnutrition became rampant. According to Ashok Swain, Unesco’s chair on international water cooperation, “more than one-third of Afghans have no food, half no drinking water, two-thirds no electricity”.

That is an indictment of US misrule over the past two decades when, it might have been assumed, at least some of the $2tn spent on Afghanistan had gone towards Washington’s much-vaunted “nation-building” project rather than guns and gunships.

Now Afghans’ dire plight can be used as a launchpad for the US to cripple the Taliban as it struggles to rebuild a hollowed-out country.

The real aspiration of sanctions will be to engineer Afghanistan’s economic collapse – as an exemplar to others of US power and reach, and vindictiveness, and in the hope that the Afghan people can be starved to the point at which they rise up against their leaders.

Deepen existing splits

All of this can easily be framed in humanitarian terms, as it has been elsewhere. Late last month, the US drove through the United Nations Security Council a resolution calling for free travel through Kabul airport, guarantees on human rights, and assurances that the country will not become a shelter for terrorism.

Any of those demands can be turned into a pretext to extend sanctions to the Afghan government itself. Governments, including Britain’s, are already reported to be struggling to find ways to approve charities directing aid to Afghanistan.

But it is the sanctions themselves that will cause humanitarian suffering. Unpaid teachers mean no school for children, especially girls. No funds for rural clinics will result in more women dying in childbirth and higher infant mortality rates. Closed banks end in those with guns – men – terrorising everyone else over limited resources.

Isolating the Taliban with sanctions will have two entirely predictable outcomes.

First, it will push the country into the arms of China, which will be well-positioned to assist Afghanistan in return for access to its mineral wealth. Beijing has already announced plans to do business with the Taliban that include reopening the Mes Aynak copper mine.

As US President Joe Biden’s administration is already well-advanced in crafting China as the new global menace, trying to curtail its influence on neighbours, any alliance between the Taliban and China could easily provide further grounds for the US intensifying sanctions.

Secondly, sanctions are also certain to deepen existing splits within the Taliban, between the hardliners in the north and east opposed to engagement with the West, and those in the south keen to win over the international community in a bid to legitimise Taliban rule.

At the moment, the Taliban doves are probably in the ascendant, ready to help the US root out internal enemies such as the ISKP, Islamic State group’s offshoot in Afghanistan. But that could quickly change if Washington reverts to type.

A combination of sanctions, clumsy covert operations and Washington overplaying its hand could quickly drive the hardliners into power, or into an alliance with the local IS faction.

That scenario may have already been given a boost by a US drone strike on Kabul in late August, in retaliation for an ISKP attack on the airport that killed 13 US soldiers. New witness testimonies suggest the strike killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children, not Islamic militants.

Familiar game plan

If that weren’t bad enough, Washington hawks are calling for the Taliban to be officially designated a “foreign terrorist organisation“, and the new Afghan government a state sponsor of terrorism, which would make it all but impossible for the Biden administration to engage with it. Others such as Lindsey Graham, an influential US politician, are trying to pile on the pressure by calling for troops to return.

How readily this mindset could become the Washington consensus is highlighted by US media reports of plans by the CIA to operate covertly within Afghanistan. As if nothing has been learned, the agency appears to be hoping to cultivate opponents of the Taliban, including once again the warlords whose lawlessness brought the Taliban to power more than two decades ago.

This is a game plan the US and Britain know well from their training and arming of the mujahideen to oust the Soviet army from Afghanistan in the 1980s and overthrow a few years later Afghanistan’s secular communist government.

Biden will have an added incentive to keep meddling in Afghanistan to prevent any attacks originating from there that could be exploited by his political opponents and blamed on his pulling out troops.

According to the New York Times, the CIA believes it must be ready to “counter threats” likely to emerge from a “chaos” the Taliban will supposedly unleash.

But Afghanistan will be far less chaotic if the Taliban are strong, not if – as is being proposed – the US undermines Taliban cohesion by operating spies in its midst, subverts the Taliban’s authority by launching drone strikes from neighbouring countries, and recruits warlords or sponsors rival Islamic groups to keep the Taliban under pressure.

William J Burns, the CIA’s director, has said the agency is ready to run operations “over the horizon“, – at arm’s length. The New York Times has reported that US officials predict “Afghan opponents of the Taliban will most likely emerge who will want to help and provide information to the United States”.

This strategy will lead to a failed state, one immiserated by US sanctions and divided between warlords feuding over the few resources left. That is precisely the soil in which the worst kind of Islamic extremism will flourish.

Destabilising Afghanistan is what got the US into this mess in the first place. Washington seems only too ready to begin that process all over again.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Despite its exit, the US will continue to wage war on Afghanistan first appeared on Dissident Voice.

9/11 Collapsed Towers… And Empire

AFP 2021 / Seth McAllister

The United States’ 245-year history as a political entity has been one long trail of wars and more wars. It is estimated that nearly 95 percent of that historical span has seen the nation involved in either all-out wars, proxy conflicts, or other military subterfuges.

But since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, the US has gone into hyper-war mode. Twenty years ago, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan ushered in multiple other American wars and covert operations from Asia to Africa, from the Middle East to the Americas.

At one point, the former Obama administration was bombing seven countries simultaneously all in the name of “fighting terrorism”. Hundreds of US bombs rain down somewhere on the planet every day.

What is rather sickening is how the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 event this weekend is marked with solemn speeches by US president Joe Biden and his British counterpart Boris Johnson – the two countries that spearheaded the “War on Terror” era.

Biden claims that 9/11 demonstrates the “unity and resilience” of the American people, while Johnson blusters with platitudes about 9/11 showing that “terrorists did not defeat Western democracy and freedoms”. This self-indulgent piffle is contemptible and nauseating.

Two decades after the US and Britain launched their criminal blitzkrieg on Afghanistan and the rest of the world, those two nations are more financially broke than ever. Internally, they are more bitterly divided than ever. More evidently, their so-called democracies are in reality oligarchies where a tiny rich elite rule over a mass of impoverished people who are spied on and treated like serfs by unaccountable secret agencies and a mass media in hock with oligarchic masters.

If there was a genuine commemoration of 9/11 it would entail a mass uprising by the people to overthrow the war-mongering class system that Biden and Johnson serve as frontmen.

Just this week – of all weeks – the American and British states are in effect admitting that their societies are collapsing from vast economic inequality and crumbling infrastructure. The Biden administration is trying to release a budget of up to $4.5 trillion to alleviate poverty and repair decrepit roads, bridges, buildings and other public utilities.

The Johnson regime in Britain is forced to admit that the National Health Service is overwhelmed by a chronic lack of funding. Taxes are being hiked that will hit low-income workers in order to pay for the £12 billion ($16bn) needed to prop up the enfeebled health service.

All of the cost for trying to repair the US and Britain to make these countries a modicum of decency for its citizens to live in could have been covered by the expenditure on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere that the US and Britain have directly or indirectly been involved in.

A new estimate of the cost for the “war on terror” by the United States alone is put at $8 trillion. This is roughly double the infrastructure bill that Biden is trying to get passed by Congress. American politicians are objecting to the extravagance of that “rescue budget”, yet they had no qualms about spending $8 trillion on wars. It is also estimated that for Britain its military adventurism in Afghanistan alone cost a total of $30 billion. Again, just imagine how British society might be better off if that money had been spent instead on attending to the health needs of its citizens.

But 9/11 also ushered in wanton warmongering regimes in Washington and London that have bled the American and British public of finances and democratic rights. In 2001, the US national debt was about $6 trillion. This year that debt burden on future American generations has escalated to $28 trillion – a crushing, unsustainable burden largely driven by criminal wars.

The healthcare costs for American military veterans wounded and maimed from the wars on terror are projected at $2 trillion. Over 30,000 US service members and veterans are reckoned to have committed suicide over the past 20 years. That’s 10 times the number of American people who died on the day of 9/11.

Untold millions of innocent civilians were killed by the wars that the US and British launched after 9/11. Such suffering and destruction all for nothing except for the enrichment of war-profiteering corporations and the oligarchic elite.

fThe United States and Britain have been so deformed by criminal wars they have become dysfunctional and dystopian. They have inflicted failed states around the world, but none more so than on their own people. The towers that fell on 9/11 were a premonition of much bigger collapse.

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A Message to the EU: Address the Real Public Health Crisis by Banning Glyphosate (Part One)

The herbicide glyphosate – the most widely used herbicide on the planet – is authorised for use in the EU until December 2022. The EU is currently assessing whether its licence should be renewed.

Environmentalist and campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason has just written an open letter to the head of the Pesticides Unit at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Jose Tarazona.

Mason wrote to Tarazona  because the Rapporteur Member States (France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden) tasked with risk assessing glyphosate and appointed by the European Commission in 2019, said on 21 June 2021 that there was no problem with glyphosate-based herbicides.

A tireless campaigner against glyphosate, Mason has produced dozens of lengthy reports over the last decade documenting how her former nature reserve in South Wales was destroyed by glyphosate used on adjoining areas and how that substance is a major contributory factor in spiralling rates of disease – a ‘silent’ public health crisis; silent only because the media and officials fail to acknowledge or report on it.

Indeed, to explain away the huge increases in various cancers and neurological disorders, officials cite ‘lifestyle behaviour’, poor diets or lack of exercise to divert attention from the elephant in the room and government collusion with the agrochemical sector.

Drawing on hundreds of peer reviewed papers and official reports over the years, Mason has described in detail the devastating health and environmental impacts of glyphosate as well as the malfeasance and corruption that has led to this state of affairs.

Mason informs Tarazona that the European Commission has colluded with the US Environmental Protection Agency to allow Bayer to keep glyphosate on the market.

To support her claims, she enclosed a 5,900-word report with her letter informing Tarazona of the environmental devastation and severe public health crisis. Her report brings together recent research and analyses into the toxicity of glyphosate and industry dominance over regulatory processes.

What appears below is the first part of a two-part article based on Mason’s report. This first part briefly highlights aspects of the public health crisis resulting from the use of glyphosate-based herbicides. The second part will argue that glyphosate remains in use due to industry influence over regulatory processes.

Toxic Legacy

Dr Stephanie Seneff, a US scientist who works at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has just published the book Toxic Legacy: How the Weedkiller Glyphosate is Destroying Our Health and the Environment.  She has written an article on her family background and why she wrote the book.

Seneff says:

This organic chemical compound, C3H8NO5P, is much more toxic to life forms than we have been led to believe. Glyphosate’s mechanism of toxicity is unique and diabolical. It is a slow killer, slowly robbing you of your good health over time, until you finally succumb to incapacitating or life-threatening disease.

Dr Don Huber, emeritus professor of plant pathophysiology at Purdue University, who has been studying glyphosate for 40 years and genetically modified (GM) Roundup-ready crops for 25 years, said some years ago:

Future historians may well look back upon our time and write, not about how many pounds of pesticide we did or didn’t apply, but how willing we are to sacrifice our children and future generations for this massive genetic engineering experiment that is based on flawed science and failed promises just to benefit the bottom line of commercial enterprise.

When UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was elected in 2019, he stood outside Downing Street and committed himself to:

… liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules.

Mason notes that the Department for Envionment & Rural Affairs authorises farmers to use all forms of Roundup (Monsanto’s – now Bayer – proprietary glyphosate-based herbicide) on crops in the UK. Many farmers in the UK claim they cannot do without it and are keen to start using GM Roundup-ready crops post-Brexit.

There is strong pressure on the European Commission from the Glyphosate Renewal Group, a group of manufacturers of glyphosate, who have asked for the licence for glyphosate to be renewed for 15 years from December 2022.

In June 2021, the Rapporteur Member States from France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden apparently gave the green light. They see no signs that glyphosate can cause cancer or any other issue. But evidence is emerging that they used flawed industry science (to be described in part two of this article).

Devastating health impacts

In August 2018, samples of four oat-based UK cereals were sent to the Health Research Institute Laboratories in the US following a newspaper report about US children eating weedkiller in their oat-based cereals.

Dr John Fagan, the director of the lab, said:

These results are consistently concerning. The levels consumed in a single daily helping of any one of these cereals, even the one with the lowest level of contamination, is sufficient to put the person’s glyphosate levels above the levels that cause fatty liver disease in rats (and likely in people).

Washington State University (WSU) researchers have found a variety of diseases and other health problems in the second- and third-generation offspring of rats exposed to glyphosate. In the first study of its kind, the researchers saw descendants of exposed rats developing prostate, kidney and ovarian diseases, obesity and birth abnormalities.

Michael Skinner, a WSU professor of biological sciences, and his colleagues exposed pregnant rats to the herbicide between their eighth and 14th days of gestation. The dose – half the amount expected to show no adverse effect – produced no apparent ill effects on either the parents or the first generation of offspring.

But, writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers say they saw “dramatic increases” in several pathologies affecting the second and third generations. The second generation had ‘significant increases’ in testis, ovary and mammary gland diseases as well as obesity. In third-generation males, the researchers saw a 30% increase in prostate disease – three times that of a control population. The third generation of females had a 40% increase in kidney disease or four times that of the controls.

More than one-third of the second-generation mothers had unsuccessful pregnancies, with most of those affected dying. Two out of five males and females in the third generation were obese.

Skinner and his colleagues call this phenomenon generational toxicology and they have seen it over the years in fungicides, pesticides, jet fuel, the plastics compound bisphenol A, the insect repellent DEET and the herbicide atrazine. At work are epigenetic changes that turn genes on and off, often because of environmental influences.

Roundup kills bumble bees

Although Mason mainly discusses the health impacts of glyphosate in her report to Tarazona, she did mention at least one disturbing environmental impact. In April 2021, the Journal of Applied Ecology published an article ‘Roundup causes high levels of mortality following contact exposure in bumble bees.’

The article’s abstract stated that pollinators underpin global food production but are suffering significant declines across the world.

It went on to say:

Pesticides are thought to be important drivers of these declines. Herbicides are the most widely applied type of pesticides and are broadly considered ‘bee safe’ by regulatory bodies who explicitly allow their application directly onto foraging bees. We aimed to test the mortality effects of spraying the world’s most popular herbicide brand (Roundup) directly onto bumble bees (Bombus terrestris audax).

The authors argue that Roundup products pose a significant hazard to bees, in both agricultural and urban systems and exposure of bees to them should be limited. They added that surfactants, or other co‐formulants, in herbicides and other pesticides may contribute to global bee declines.

They called for pesticide companies to release the full list of ingredients for each pesticide formulation, as lack of access to this information hampers research to determine safe exposure levels for beneficial insects in agro‐ecosystems.

Bayer’s multi-million-dollar headache

Mason asks Tarazona whether he has been following the trials against Monsanto in the US for concealing that its herbicide Roundup caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

She explains to him that three cases have been won against Monsanto/Bayer (Bayer bought Monsanto in 2018) and in 2021 there are thousands more awaiting to have their cases heard in court.

Attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr said in 2018 that Bayer needs more than an aspirin to cure its Monsanto-sized headache.

Kennedy has been involved with some of these cases and has read enough of the scientific literature on glyphosate to conclude that there is cascading scientific evidence linking glyphosate to a constellation of other injuries that have become prevalent since its introduction, including obesity, depression, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, kidney and inflammatory bowel disease, brain, breast and prostate cancer, miscarriage, birth defects and declining sperm counts.

He added that strong science suggests glyphosate is the culprit in the exploding epidemics of celiac disease, colitis, gluten sensitivities, diabetes and non-alcoholic liver cancer which, for the first time, is attacking children as young as 10.

As if that is not worrying enough, Kennedy noted that researchers peg glyphosate as a potent endocrine disruptor, which interferes with sexual development in children. It is also a chelator that removes important minerals from the body and disrupts the microbiome, destroying beneficial bacteria in the human gut and triggering brain inflammation and other ill effects.

Although a Monsanto scientist claimed that glyphosate is excreted unchanged from the body, Mason cites a study by Ridley & Mirly (1988) which found bioaccumulation of glyphosate in bone, marrow, blood and glands (including thyroid, testes and ovaries) and major organs (heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen and stomach). The paper was commissioned by Monsanto but was not published.

In a 1990 study conducted by Monsanto between 1987 and 1989 (again unpublished), glyphosate was found to induce a statistically-significant cataractous formation in the eyes of rats. Over the course of the study, cataract lens changes were seen in the low-, mid- and high dose groups in both male and female rats. The pathologist concluded that there was a glyphosate-treated related response for lens changes to the eyes.

Mason notes that the Assessment by the Rapporteur Member States tasked with risk assessing glyphosate have concluded that, based on the available ecotoxicological information glyphosate the current classification “Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects” should be retained and the current classification as “causes serious eye damage” (H318) should be retained.”

She therefore asks: how can a chemical like glyphosate still be on the market?

Mason states that, according to the UN’s Global Chemicals Outlook II, glyphosate was at the top of the top ten products used on major crops in the United States, by volume, in 2016. Clothianidin (also manufactured by Bayer) is number ten.

She says:

No wonder Bayer doesn’t want to lose its licence for glyphosate or for clothianidin, a long-acting neonicotinoid insecticide that is very persistent in the soil. Both chemicals are on the market illegally thanks to the corrupt EU and US regulatory authorities.

And that is an issue which Mason draws Tarazona’s attention to and will be touched on in the second part of this article.

•  Readers can access Rosemary Mason’s new report, with all relevant references, here.

•  Recommended reading for Jose Tarazona and readers who want to dig deeper into the issues: all of Rosemary Mason’s previous reports can be accessed here.

The post A Message to the EU: Address the Real Public Health Crisis by Banning Glyphosate (Part One) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Terror Attacks in Kabul Suspiciously on Cue… Who Gains?

Could an atrocity have been arranged by some of Baradar’s men at the request of the CIA?

Three days before the bloody carnage at Kabul airport, CIA director William Burns held a secret meeting with a top Taliban commander in the Afghan capital. That is only one of several suspicious events this week in the countdown to the dramatic U.S. evacuation.

At least 13 U.S. troops guarding an entrance to Kabul airport were killed in an apparent suicide bomb attack. Dozens of Afghans waiting in line for evacuation by military cargo planes were also killed. A second blast hit a nearby hotel used by British officials to process immigration documents.

It was not the main ranks of the Taliban who carried out the atrocities. The militant group which swept into power on August 15 after taking over Kabul has ring-fenced the capital with checkpoints. The explosions occurred in airport districts under the control of the U.S. and British military.

A little-known terror group, Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K), claimed responsibility for the bombings. IS-K was barely reported before until this week when the U.S. and British intelligence services issued high-profile warnings of imminent terror attacks by this group at Kabul airport. Those warnings came only hours before the actual attacks. President Joe Biden even mentioned this new terror organization earlier this week and pointedly claimed they were “sworn enemies” of the Taliban.

How is an obscure terror outfit supposed to infiltrate a highly secure area – past “sworn enemy” Taliban checkpoints – and then breach U.S. and British military cordons?

How is it that U.S. and British intelligence had such precise information on imminent threats when these same intelligence agencies were caught completely flat-footed by the historic takeover of Kabul by the Taliban on August 15? When the Taliban swept into the capital it marked the collapse of a regime that the Americans and British had propped for nearly 20 years during their military occupation of Afghanistan. Could their intelligence agencies miss foreseeing such a momentous event and yet less than two weeks later we are expected to believe these same agencies were able to pinpoint an imminent atrocity requiring complex planning?

What is the political fallout from the airport bombings? President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are adamant that the evacuation from Kabul will be completed by the deadline on August 31. Biden said the atrocity underscores the urgency to get out of Afghanistan, although he threw in the token vow that “we will hunt down” the perpetrators.

To be sure, the president is coming under intense political fire for capitulating against the Taliban and terrorists and for betraying Afghan allies. Some Republicans are demanding his resignation due to his overseeing a disaster and national disgrace. It is estimated that up to 250,000 Afghans who worked with the U.S. military occupation will be left behind and in danger of reprisal attacks.

There seems a negligible chance that the deaths of 13 U.S. troops – the largest single-day killing of Americans in Afghanistan since a Chinook helicopter was shot down in August 2011 with 38 onboard – will provoke an extension of the Pentagon’s mission in the country. Even after the bombings this week, the Pentagon advised Biden to stick to the August 31 deadline. The Taliban have also stated that all U.S. and NATO troops must be out of the country by that date.

Polls were showing that most Americans agreed with Biden’s pullout from Afghanistan – the longest war by the U.S. was seen as futile and unwinnable. The sickening bomb attacks this week will only underscore the public sense of war-weariness. Hawkish calls for returning large-scale forces to Afghanistan have little political resonance.

This brings us back to the secret meeting earlier this week between the CIA’s William Burns and Taliban commander Abdul Ghani Baradar. The Washington Post reported that Biden sent Burns to meet with Baradar in Kabul. It was the most senior contact between the Biden administration and the Taliban since the latter’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15. The details of the discussion were not disclosed and some reports indicated other Taliban figures were not aware of the meeting.

Baradar is one of the founding members of the Taliban. He was captured by Pakistan intelligence and the CIA in 2010. But at the request of the United States, Baradar was released from prison in 2018. Thereafter he led the Taliban in negotiations with the U.S. on finding an end to the conflict. Those talks culminated in a deal in February 2020 with the Trump administration agreeing to troop withdrawal this year. Biden has stuck to the pullout plan.

From his career path, there is good reason to believe that Baradar is the CIA’s man inside the Taliban. Let’s say at least that he has the agency’s ear.

Why else would CIA chief Burns meet Baradar at such a crucial time in the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan? To get Taliban assurances of security measures safeguarding American troops as they exit? That obviously didn’t happen.

What else, then? Could an atrocity have been arranged by some of Baradar’s men at the request of the CIA? The objective being to shift focus from a shambolic, shameful retreat to one of necessity due to terror threats. It seems uncanny that U.S. and British intelligence services were warning of an event only hours before it happened in a way that was precisely predicted. The other consequence of benefit is that the droves of desperate Afghans queueing near Kabul airport are dispersed out of fear of more bloodshed. The beneficial optic is that U.S. and British military planes will take off on August 31 without the harrowing, pitiful scenes of Afghans running down the runway after them. Hence, the empire wraps up its bloody criminal war, with a little less shame than otherwise.

The post Terror Attacks in Kabul Suspiciously on Cue… Who Gains? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Neocons Speak: Afghanistan as Political Real Estate

When the tears dry, it is worth considering why there is so much upset about the fall of Kabul (or reconquest) by the Taliban and the messy withdrawal of US-led forces.  A large shield is employed: women, rights of the subject, education.  Remove the shield, and we are left with a simple equation of power gone wrong in the name of paternalistic warmongering.

The noisiest group of Afghanistan stayers are the neoconservatives resentful because their bit of political real estate is getting away.  In being defeated, they are left with the task of explaining to the soldiery that blood was not expended in vain against a foe they failed to defeat.  “You took out a brutal enemy,” goes a statement from US President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, “and denied Al Qaeda a safe haven while building schools, sending supplies, and providing medical care.”  The couple throw in the contribution of Dr. Sakena Yacoobi of the Afghan Institute of Learning, behind the opening of “schools for girls and women around the nation.”

Paul Wolfowitz, who served as Bush’s deputy defence secretary, is less sentimental in his assessment of the Afghanistan fiasco. To Australia’s Radio National, he was unsparing in calling the victors “a terrorist mob that has been hating the United States for the last 20 years.”  They had provided the launching ground for “one of history’s worst attacks on the United States” and were now “going to be running that bit of hostile territory.”

Being in Afghanistan, he asserted, was not costly for the occupiers – at least to the US.  It made good sense in preventing it from “once again becoming a haven for terrorists”.  For the last year and a half, there had not been a single American death.  He chided the simpletons at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs who dared survey Americans with the question, “Would you like to leave [Afghanistan] and get out?”  They would have been far better framing it differently: “Do you support withdrawal if it means the country is going to be overrun by the same people who hated us 20 years ago and from where an attack that killed 3,000 Americans took place”.

To talk about “endless wars” was also something to avoid.  In a reminder that the US imperial footprint remains global, Wolfowitz drew attention to the fact that Washington was hardly going to withdraw from South Korea, where it was still officially at war with the North.  It kept troops in countries it had previously been at war with: Germany and Japan.  Americans, he lamented, had not “been told the facts” by their politicians.

Boiled down to its essentials, such a view has little time for Afghans with a country “more or less ungovernable for long periods of time”.  (What uncooperative savages.)  The Obama administration’s deployment of 100,000 soldiers had been an “overreach” with unclear intention.  It was far better to treat Afghanistan as a state to contain with “a limited commitment” of US forces rather than “extending to the idea that Afghanistan would become a latter-day Switzerland.”  Ringing the real estate, not advancing the people, mattered.

Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton, a caricature of US interventionist policies, never had much time for the withdrawal argument, either.  Earlier in August, with the Taliban humming along with speed in capturing a swag of provincial cities, Bolton warned that it was “literally [President Joe] Biden’s last chance to reverse his and Trump’s erroneous withdrawal policy.  When the Taliban wins, it compromises the security of all Americans.”

Another voice from the neoconservative stable advocating the need for a continued boot print of US power was Max Boot, who thought it nonsensical to keep US troops in Iraq while withdrawing them from Afghanistan.  US forces needed, he wrote in the Irish Independent (July 29) “to stay in both countries to prevent a resurgence of the terrorist threat to the US and its allies.”  The “imperative” to prevent both countries from becoming “international terrorist bases” remained, but only one had an adequate military presence to provide insurance.  Decent of Boot to show such candour.

The British, long wedded to the idea of empire as gift and necessity, have also piled onto the wagon of stayers, saying less about the merits of protecting Afghan citizens than keeping trouble boxed and localised.  “We will run the risk of terrorist entities re-establishing in Afghanistan, to bring harm in Europe and elsewhere,” feared General Sir Richard Barrons.  “I think this is a very poor strategic outcome.”

British Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, a former captain in the Royal Green Jackets, went further by suggesting that plucky Britain best go it alone in the face of foolhardy US withdrawal.  “Just because the US chose to depart does not mean we should slavishly follow suit,” he exhorted. “Would it not make sense to stay close to the Afghan people given the importance of this bit of real estate?”

The one who tops all of this off must be former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, always one given to evangelising wars waged in the name of a sinister, tinfoil humanitarianism.  As executive of an institute bearing his name (modest to a fault), he railed against a withdrawal executed “in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘forever wars’”.  Like Wolfowitz, he dismissed the use of such terms and comparisons, noting the diminishing troop deployment on Afghan soil and the fact that “no allied soldier had lost their life in combat for 18 months.”

Despite the withdrawal, Blair suggested that options were available to “the West” which needed some “tangible demonstration” that it was not in “retreat”.  A “list of incentives, sanctions and actions” had to be drawn up against the Taliban.  In doing so, his motivation was simple: that these turbaned fanatics represented a strategic risk, part of “Radical Islam” that had been “almost 100 years in gestation”.

Far from ditching the prospect for future interventions, the high priest of illegal war is all-embracing of the formula.  “Intervention,” he opines, “can take many forms. We need to do it learning the proper lessons of the past 20 years according not to our short-term politics, but our long-term strategic interests.”  Be fearful for Afghanistan’s sovereignty, and woe to those lessons.

The post The Neocons Speak: Afghanistan as Political Real Estate first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Afghanistan:  The Abomination of “White Man’s Burden” and Fake Feminist Narratives

Take up the White Man’s Burden, send for the best ye breed,
Go bind your sons to exile, to serve your captives need – new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child…
Take up the White Man’s burden, the savage wars of peace.

— Rudyard Kipling (1899)

The 2011 UK census recorded that Asian groups together numbered roughly 7% of Britain’s population, Black people 3% and mixed-race 2%, making a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) total of 12%.  In various combinations they are the decedents of people who’ve once been owned, colonised, lost their lands, original culture, languages etc, and in modern societies have little or no collective institutional or financial power, to combat their ghettoisation in the lower reaches the UK class system.  The reason they are here, subject to western structural racism, is because the Tony Blairs of the 18th and 19th C slaughtered and enslaved their ancestors.  Throughout this period of the slavery and racist-imperialist gravy-train – and as Rudyard Kipling’s famous sentiments demonstrate – this oppression was represented as doing indigenous peoples some sort of service or favour.

Elites abandoning the post-war decolonisation consensus in our era, returned to this racist faked foreign policy benevolence, force-feeding the public the narrative, that from intrusive Iraq, Afghanistan wars and elsewhere, ‘America is spreading democracy’.  The extent to which America is itself a democracy is up for debate, but this marketing is simply a rehash, of the 19th C ‘Onward march of western civilisation’ expansionist ideology. When asked, Ghandi is reputed to have mocked the notion of western civilisation saying ‘I think it would be a good idea’.

Modern racist-imperialists – prominently Blair, his former ministers and his media enablers – blatantly reuse tropes of the same racist propaganda.  As the US project in Afghanistan grinds to a halt and tragedy overtakes the country, this propaganda practice has again gone into overdrive.  The BBC and most of the corporate media continue to re-spin the years of western domination of Afghanistan as about, educating its women and children.  In light of the new US withdrawal position, this is not just last year’s Orwell-like Ministry of Truth-style propaganda, but also a racist narrative that’s again hundreds of years old.  During the period of the 18th/19th C imperialist gravy-train, western conquest was similarly represented as ‘civilising the primitive savage’ and justified by narratives of supposedly ‘teaching the ‘w*gs/ darkies Christianity’.  Obscuring the slurs of implied ethnic primitivism from modern media presentation, hardly changes the truth of the material and ideological dynamic.

The ‘educating Afghan women and children’ narrative would, as public discourse, be treated with the shocked incredulity it deserves, were indigenous Afghan casualties, from western conquest and occupation, not as a editorial agenda frequently media played down, effaced and censored from representation,   No matter how many Afghan mothers protest the western killing of their children, this phenomenon has been mainly absented from prominence in news agendas.

When the UK Times unusually broke ranks reporting a 2009 US atrocity, it was left to campaigning scrutiny site Media Lens to follow up in 2010, writing… “American-led troops dragged Afghan children from their beds and shot them during a night raid on December 27 last year, leaving ten people dead. Afghan government investigators said that eight of the dead were schoolchildren, and that some of them had been handcuffed before being killed.”

The extent of the problem meant in 2011 after a further nine children died in a NATO air strike, even President Karzai – an ambitious local politician in effect, simply a western satrap – was forced against potential self-interest, to embarrass General Petraeus publicly stating   “On behalf of the people of Afghanistan I want you to stop the killings of civilians” and the subsequent apology was “not enough”.   The France 24 news site covering Karzai’s statement, also referred to the similar indigenous 65 non-combatants killed during operations in Kunar province’s Ghaziabad district; six civilians killed in neighbouring Nangarhar province, and the hundreds who took to the streets of Kabul protesting the killing of children, all by western forces.

The brutal Taliban shooting of Malala Yousafzai was used as a propaganda boost to the ‘advancing civilisation’ narrative by western media and political elites.  But it is perhaps significant that the Taliban who are hardly public relations sophisticates, felt they need only appeal to the lived experience of indigenous people in Afghanistan and the bordering area of Pakistan – in a 2013 response to the surviving Malala, publicly questioning…

if you were shot but [by] Americans in a drone attack, would world have ever heard updates on your medical status? Would you be called ‘daughter of the nation’? Would the media make a fuss about you? Would General Kiyani have come to visit you and would the world media be constantly reporting on you?… Would a Malala day be announced?… More than 300 innocent women and children have been killed in drones attacks but who cares… (numbers unverified).

Even career politician former President Karzai was similarly in line with grassroots experiences, after this year’s withdrawal announcement, telling Russia’s RT (UK) “The US has lost the war in Afghanistan…years ago, when it bombed Afghan homes”.  And that this western violence had recruited for the indigenous Afghan Taliban and enabled them. “Things went wrong. They (Taliban) began to re-emerge and the part of the population went with them.”

Given that women and their children are most often the first victims of war, there has never been a significant grassroots pro-imperialism feminist movement.  In fact, in contrast to the attempts by pro-war neoliberals to camouflage their atrocities in the clothing of women’s concerns, a generational spanning tradition of anti-war feminists exists, including figures like Jane Adams, Ruth Adler, Vera Brittain, Betty Reardon, and Sylvia Pankhurst who opposed the Italian conquest of Ethiopia.  Current media spin about supposedly helping women in Afghanistan also deliberately side-lines significant figures like CodePink’s Medea Benjamin who recently commented…“A shout out to all who joined CODEPINK and other peace groups to oppose the invasion of Afghanistan. From Bush to Obama, we called for our troops to come home. Now we have to stop the military-industrial complex from dragging us into new wars.”

Another issue is can altruism – particularly with regard to educating indigenous women and children – be remotely believed as a motivation for those responsible for the West’s conquest of Afghanistan? Education has been comodified in George W. Bush’s America, and resulting student debt is at record levels.  Similarly, in contradiction to previous UK Labour Party traditions, the governments comprising PM Tony Blair, Chancellor Gordon Brown and their cabinets abolished the mandatory student support grant and even introduced fees for what had previously been free education.  Consequently, the marketing of the state education policies of Blair et al were frequently parodied by Party grassroots supporters as instead ‘Exploitation, Exploitation, Exploitation’.  Blair’s New Labour cuts to lone parent benefits – primarily harming single mothers and their children – is frequently cited as the moment Labour’s traditional support realised they had been betrayed by neoliberal entryism.  Would Britain’s neoliberal political elite attacking domestic lone mothers and working-class opportunities, really expend financial resources just to help Afghan women and their children?

Historian David Stannard has documented 100 million dead indigenous people of the Americas as victims of the largest holocaust in human history, occurring as a result of the overall conquest of the continent. For its part the US currently has a population of 331+ million people.  There are only 6+ million Native Americans left as part of this population, whose life chances are largely limited by the constraints of the Reservation system. Native Americans are practically un-findable, excluded, in most US cities, and invisible on film and TV.  If President George W Bush wanted to help indigenous people, he could have started at home.

If Bush simply wanted to ‘do good’, given former manufacturing city powerhouses like Detroit are wastelands, suffering from the export of US manufacturing jobs to global sweatshop economies, he could have fought poverty and the resulting homelessness crisis.  Perhaps most significantly he could have tackled the economic underpinnings of the ongoing post-19th C Black human rights crisis.  Are then we really supposed to believe his US conquest of Afghanistan was about some sort of ‘white man’s burden’ altruism?

In contradiction to the western white man’s burden narrative, both Bush and Blair presided over torture programs victimising Muslim people-of-colour.  One victim of the UK Blair torture regime – Fatima Boudchar – was actually pregnant when kidnapped along with her husband for rendition.  In Afghanistan torture was carried out at Bagram which corporate news outlets largely misrepresent as simply an airbase.  Most of the news outlets now pretending to be outraged by human rights concerns under the new Taliban, spun western torture under the entirely new invented term ‘water boarding’ as if it were akin to harmless surfing.  For decades prior to this it was simply known as a Nazi torture technique.  Not particularly a secret given it was represented even in popular film culture.  In Battle of the V1 (1959), a Polish female partisan subjected to Nazi water torture dies after her heart gives out.  In Circle of Deception (1960), it’s features, similarly used on a Canadian officer played by Bradford Dillman.  Yet, when the victims are simply Muslim people-of-colour, the status of the torture technique suddenly changes.

So what are the real incentives behind the US-led conquest of Afghanistan?  On 9/11 the Pentagon and Twin Towers were attacked by 15 violent Sunni Whabbist Saudi Arabians and four other Muslims.  It was suggested that Saudi Whabbists had used the Afghanistan wilderness as a training ground.  The extent of cultural collusion between the Pashton Afghan Taliban and Whabbist Saudi Arabs is often disputed.  In any case Osama Bin Laden was found in neighbouring Pakistan.  The question is if you want to combat violent Saudi Arabian Whabbists, why not stop their export and go to source – Saudi Arabia itself? Saudi Arabia is not only the source of the 9/11 attackers but its appalling human rights on the oppression of women and judicial punishment arguably exceeds that of pre-invasion Afghanistan.  In fact, since 9/11 the US instead of dealing Saudi Arabia which coincidentally is also its long term regional ally and oil supplier, has attacked or militarily threatened numerous countries that either have nothing to do with the country, or even in ethnic terms have an adversarial relationship to the Saudis – among these predominantly Shia Iraq, Syria, Iran and Berber Libya.

The approach Julian Assange and Wikileaks took to the issue in 2011 was to follow the money, and consequently put some flesh on the notion of a ‘Forever War’ that President Biden is currently citing in justifying US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The goal is to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the tax bases of the US and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of a transnational security elite. The goal is an endless war, not a successful war.

What Assange and Wikileaks are alluding to is a form of ‘Military Keynesianism’.  Keynesian economics originated as a method of circumventing the dictatorship of the marketplace, for societies to instead allocate value to things deemed socially functional – sometimes this is augmented by printing money to maintain particular activities. It was supposed to help society’s poor and working-class.  In our era it has been a way of redirecting money to the corporate rich – here particularly the military industries.  The money printing supporting this – like so many things – has been relabelled, and now termed ‘Quantitative Easing’, but condemned as Welfare or Socialism for the Rich by working-class activists.

This is not the end of the incentives Afghanistan offers.  The corporate media are now suggesting the indigenous Afghan Taliban might be motivated by the country’s wealth in Lithium – vital for cell phone products – and Copper deposits.  Strange in two decades of coverage, it has never been suggested this was a motivation for the US to go halfway around the world.

It is also worth looking at how Afghanistan fits into the entire Neo-Con agenda.  Globalised capitalism is very good at internalising its profits, while externalising its costs onto the general public and society at large.  Economically, globalised capitalism doesn’t’ actually work unless subsidised by unfeasible levels of fossil fuel supply at therefore unfeasible low cost levels.  The general public has to bear the social cost, the environmental cost, the cost of wars for oil and the potential national security cost of not having localised manufacturing production.

In keeping with this and in contrast to any genuine post-9/11 agenda, US Neo-Con wars have predominantly had two functions – attacking oil rich and/or Russian allied nations.  It only takes a casual look at the regional map to show that a US military presence in Afghanistan provides a useful jumping off point for a war or simple military intimidation of Iran.  It also gives access to gas powerhouse Turkmenistan and potentially moves America’s military ever closer to Russia’s borders.  Predictably, despite Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya, at no time during the US-led occupation did the corporate media query the military’s relationship to the country’s borders in the manner that they are doing now the indigenous Taliban are in charge.

Fuel prices are close to record highs, something that is regarded as a detriment to global trade.  As Biden announced his intention to go through with the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, OPEC said they were willing to increase global supply.  Iran seeing the knife about to taken from its throat seemed believe they were about to be let back into the global oil market, and boasted of being able to boost production.  Israel contrived a dispute with Iran over a tanker, apparently believing that this might have a negative effect on any potential ongoing US/Iran negotiations, designed to bring the country in from the cold.

If this conjunction plays-out the way it appears, then Biden ironically for equally capitalist materialistic and environmental hazardous reasons, is going to be the first prominent Democrat in decades, to open up clear blue water between himself and the Republican pro-war Neo-Con agenda, but at least hopefully we will be avoiding attacks on Iran and other future wars.

In the meantime those like Tony Blair who have hitched their careers to the Neo-Con imperialist wagon train will continue to impotently stamp their rhetorical feet, while demanding that their ridiculous white saviour narrative be believed.  While aided and abetted by the BBC and corporate media, seemingly unaware they are doing last year’s Ministry of Truth propaganda, and repeating century old racisms.

Afterword:

In reaction to Tony Blair’s latest media temper tantrum, Peter Galbraith, former UN deputy special representative for Afghanistan, said:

In terms of what was imbecilic, frankly it was the strategy that was followed for 20 years, which was to try to build a highly centralised state in a country that was as diverse – geographically and ethnically – as Afghanistan, and to engage in a counterinsurgency strategy without a local partner and the local partner was corrupt, ineffective, illegitimate.

The post Afghanistan:  The Abomination of “White Man’s Burden” and Fake Feminist Narratives first appeared on Dissident Voice.