“By any objective measure – invasions since WW2 .. actual use of nuclear weapons .. refusal to forgo first-strike use of same .. eastward expansion of NATO .. $10 trillion for-profit arms sector ($596 billion a year) .. military bases across the globe .. covert regime change .. overt regime change and terror – the USA is far and away the world’s most dangerous nation.”
Steel city scribblings December 5, 2016
Not entirely unrelated, a very good and very honourable friend – a liberal who despite cash worries of his own stumps up £5 pcm to help the Guardian in its hour of need – accuses me of tunnel vision on Syria and of being a conspiracy theorist. I’ll address the latter in a dedicated post. On tunnel vision, a key aspect of his charge was my dismissal, last post but one, of all possibility of Damascus having authorised a chemical attack last week at Idlib. We were putting away the vino at a fair old rate so I was too dulled to point out that, actually, I’d given it fourth place on my state of the art probability scale. True, it limps in at 3,000,000 : 1 – where my third place possibility of no attack having happened at all scores 15 : 1 – but good sceptic that I am, and aware of the difficulties of proving a negative, I rule out nothing absolutely. (Asked why Damascus would do any such thing while winning the war, with the world’s eyes on Syria, with Brussels underway and Washington saying days earlier that Assad’s departure is no longer a priority, he suggested cockiness. It may just have been voices in my wine, but I think he himself realised how lame that sounds.)
More dull witted yet was my failure to point out that the sin, if sin it be, of defending the regime (actually an elected government, as our indefatiguably truth-seeking liberal media never tire of not telling us) while only 99.999 percent sure of its innocence pales into insignificance at side of America’s strike-first-ask-questions-later criminal arrogance. Isn’t that the lead charge against Washington, before we get into debating its motives or whether Damascus is guilty?
(What’s that you say; two wrongs don’t make a right? Maybe not, yet that old saw comes in damned handy for justifying looking away as our own regimes lay the middle east to waste in our name, condemning its peoples to living hell in theirs.)
I ask because some liberals, in America especially, have just discovered that Washington does unjust and terrible things. Too often lacking even a basic grasp of history and geography, many see in the Homs and Afghanistan strikes further proof of the Donald’s unhinged psyche. Hillary would have done no such thing, would she?
Well, would she? If you haven’t yet seen it, check out the twelve second clip of her response to Gaddafi’s sodomisation by knife blade. More to the point, serious though the Homs attack is, it left room for a calibrated response in Moscow. The same can hardly be said of HRC’s flagship policy of ordering Russia, in Syria at the request of an elected government fighting for survival, to ground its air forces there.
I raise this not because, as some friends have suggested, I’m obsessed with November’s result and the campaigns preceding it. I’ve bigger fish to fry than the shortcomings of two individuals who in their different ways may qualify as clinical psychopaths. I raise it because, as Obama’s tenure shows, the problem isn’t with this US leader or that. Nor is it with the American people. It’s with an American ruling class which, like ruling classes everywhere but here amplified by a quarter century of unchallenged military might and doctrine of God-given exceptionalism, will stop at nothing in pursuit of the highest profits. All my gripes and grouses with liberalism – with which I have a relationship more complex and nuanced than my writings so far suggest – boil down in the end to its refusal, understandable but wrongheaded, to grasp the full and shocking logic of capitalism in the age of imperialism.
On a slightly more positive note, my drunken engagement with that very good friend did get somewhere positive. Though things got tetchy a while, we were keen to avoid serious damage. More important, we each landed a significant point. His dearest cause is the environment. The same goes for Naomi Klein and George Monbiot, two writers he admires. Me too, though I do not share all their conclusions. Like Klein and Monbiot, my friend and all intelligent people – i.e. people alarmed enough to explore man’s reckless relationship with the environment – swiftly see that the root problem is not the careless, shortsightedly self-centred behaviour of the likes of you and me. Yes, our ways do have to change but that kind of change can take place rapidly. Vastly more problematic is the recklessness at the heart of capitalism; not because ‘capitalists’ are evil people, though some clearly are, but because recklessness is an inescapable product of a system that organises wealth creation on the basis of chasing the highest returns on privately owned capital.
Like any thinking person, deep down my friend gets this, even if he’s reluctant to confront its full and horrifying significance; viz, that this imperative of chasing the highest returns must in the last analysis, by which I mean with all due allowance for sprats-to-catch-mackerel factors, trump any other consideration. Think about my assertion here. Look into it before dismissing it as extremist overstatement.
And my friend’s killer point? How do I respond to a Theresa May – patriotically closing arms deals with Saudi Arabia as missile guidance systems with Rolls Royce components rain death on farmers in Yemen – claiming that such deals are good for jobs? There he hit my achilles heel, though not entirely.
It’s not hard to counter the hypocrisy, mendacity and self serving myopia of Britain’s thoroughly unpatriotic ruling class and its witting or unwitting agents. The hard part is looking into the eyes of men and women dependent on jobs in the death-for-profit sector. On Trident the argument is easy. Leaving aside the fact those who gain most also finance Russia’s nuclear programme, Trident costs billions. Scrapping it would allow life changing payments to each of the 30,000 workers whose jobs would go. But on my friend’s specific point, exemplified by the Saudi deals, I’ve no answer. The truth is, and I’ve said so in other posts, I do not know how we get out of the horrific state we’re in.
I just never did see the logic of denying the existence or extent of a problem on the ground I don’t have its solution in my back pocket.