End Game? By William Bowles

21 August 2003

What’s an empire to do when it’s barely started on its ‘mission’ (ordained by a God no less) and the damn thing starts falling apart? Blame the ‘international terror network’ of course. And of course, that’s what the Imperium is doing as it casts about for suitable suspects. And there’s no shortage on which to pin the ‘blame’. But is anyone buying it? Not judging by the media’s reaction. Today’s Independent (21/08/03) for example, had this to say:

“[W]ith its troops overstretched and its inability to guarantee security so cruelly exposed, Washington may, for the first time, be open to negotiating a realistic division of responsibilities in Iraq. If so, this week’s bombing may also turn out to be an opportunity, tragically disguised.”

What the US imperium can’t admit to is that the Iraqis themselves might be more than a little peeved at having their country trashed and then occupied by 150,000 or so, heavily armed and trigger-happy individuals, who although not getting as good as they give, are nevertheless coming under increasing fire with every passing day.

As a result, the ‘coalition of the willing’ is proving less than willing to be shot at and blown up and who are now deserting the place like rats leaving a sinking ship (some before they’ve even got onboard).

And on this side of the pond, in spite of Herculean efforts on the part of the mass media to downplay the facts revealed (albeit reluctantly) by the Hutton enquiry, it is no longer possible to hide behind a veneer of semantics and circumlocation, that the government lied through its teeth in order to justify going to war. Literally every attempt it has made to hide this fact has backfired and revealed even more about the duplicitous nature of our ‘leaders’ even as the edifice comes crashing down about its ears. No wonder Blah is hiding out in Cliff Richard’s Caribbean hideaway.

The USUK imperial adventure has reached a watershed after barely more than 100 days. This may well prove to be the shortest-lived empire in history. And yet it still refuses to entertain the fact that it will have to drop the pretense of its ‘divine mission’ to save the world from terrorism if it wants to get the international community on board. But with no place left to go, it may well have to eat humble pie whether it likes it or not.

Alternatively and unfortunately (for us, that is), this may well prove to be ‘mission too far’ as it has embarked on a course down a one-way street. There is just too much riding on a successful outcome, not the least of which, is the future of US capitalism, at least in its present form. And aside from some pathetic bleatings from a handful of Democrats, it appears that no one wants to stick their necks out and confront the proxies for Carlyle, Halliburton, Exxon, Bechtel and the rest of the pirates.

For beneath the rhetoric lies a fundamental contradiction that is based upon a flawed analysis of the current situation. An analysis based more on desperation and wishful thinking than anything else and herein lies the rub.

For over fifty years US imperialism has based its economic (and hence political) raison d’etre on war, or preparing for one. It’s the bedrock of the economy and ironically, even as the Information Technology revolution, which in other economies (most notably the Japanese), has powered a production revolution, in the US it found its home in the media/entertainment industry which has metamorphosed into an alliance with the military-industrial complex. An unholy alliance that sells the imperial agenda through the entertainment/propaganda machine, one that extends into virtually every facet of US society and beyond.

This was in part facilitated by mergers and acquisitions (eg GEC/NBC) but more so by the semi-conductor and software industries powering a hi-tech war machine. After the disastrous experience of the Vietnam War, the power elite realised that foreign adventures can no more rely on a ‘volunteer’ army than it could a conscripted one. Unless of course its’ military adventures compared very favourably to video games. We saw this in the Gulf War of 1990 and no doubt, emboldened by the success of Desert Storm, the political class thought it could repeat the performance. How wrong can you be!

This is a unique historical phenomenon, for which there is no prior experience upon which to base possible outcomes. Moreover, it coincides firstly, with the emergence of an inter-dependent and distributed global production and financial system and secondly, with the recognition that unrestrained capitalist production and consumption threatens the very biosphere upon which we all depend for our existence.

This has changed all the rules by which the game of capital has previously played. Until fairly recently quite destructive wars, even on a global scale could be undertaken without serious threat to the ruling classes upon whose behalf they were conducted. Destroying competitors, reassigning markets, consuming surplus production and labour has been grist for the mill for a couple of centuries. But old habits die hard, at least for some.

This equation no longer holds true, at least as far as a significant section of international capital is concerned. A unique parting of the ways has taken place, one that poses a fundamental dilemma for the US and its junior partner, the UK. Without a common enemy, Communism to unite them, the replacement threat, ‘terrorism’ just doesn’t cut the rug as they say. It’s awfully difficult to justify a massive arms buildup and assorted invasions in search of an enemy that can’t be seen, let alone destroyed.

It is possible to see a way out of the current dilemma, much will depend on how the US and the UK behave under the circumstances. If they have any sense, they’ll take the opportunity offered by a resuscitated UN, not only to save face, but to reach some kind of rapprochement with other sections of the leading ruling elites. But will they take it? As things stand, it seems not, the hardliners have a vice-grip on policy through their symbiotic relationship with oil, weapons and the media.

But assuming the current disaster can be rescued, will it help the Iraqi people rebuild their shattered lives? US capital is on the defensive and with little room for manoeuvre. Publicly it will have to maintain its macho image, and of course in private it will do its usual arm-twisting, bribery and blackmail in the corridors of the UN. But this presents the poor countries of the world with the opportunity to flex their muscles and bring collective pressure to bear on the situation, perhaps through creative use of their debt burden as a lever? Transforming the UN from its Cold War role is possible under the unique and possibly temporary situation that has emerged. But will they take hold of the opportunity?

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