Glasnost In London — War Fever In Washington
by Eric Margolis by Eric Margolis
LONDON — What used to be called "Cool London" looks more like "Crash London" these days. Of all the leading industrial nations, Britain has so far suffered more than any other nation, even the United States.
Most major banks, even venerable names like Barclay’s and Lloyd’s, are on life support. The financial district around Canary Wharf is beginning to look like a ghost town, as offices close and whole floors of financial drones are fired. Gloom pervades just about everywhere.
Meanwhile, two senior British officials have created a sensation by finally speaking some hard truths that contradict all the lies spewed out by Washington and London about the bogus "war on terror."
Lord West, the security minister of Britain’s Labor government (equivalent to the US Homeland Security chief), dropped a bombshell last week by declaring that his nation’s military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan had actually fueled global radicalism against Britain and the US as well as domestic "terrorism" in the United Kingdom.
According to the outspoken minister, the Western power’s recent policies in the Muslim world were encouraging what we term terrorism. Interestingly, I happened to be in London at the time, promoting my new book, American Raj, which argues precisely the same point.
West described as "bollocks" former PM Tony Blair’s claims the US-led "war on terror" had nothing to do with growing Islamic radicalism. This comes soon after Britain’s foreign secretary, David Miliband, urged an end to the use of the term "war on terror," which he called deceptive and misleading.
In an extraordinary move, cabinet minutes of Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq may shortly be made public, raising the possibility of serious criminal charges against some senior British officials. At minimum, the sanctimonious Blair is likely to be exposed as a liar and hypocrite in his claims the Iraq war was justified and necessary.
Many Britons are calling for war crimes trials against their former leaders and are angered by plans to send more British troops to Afghanistan. Britain’s soldiers have become as much auxiliaries in the American military machine as were Nepal’s renowned Gurkha troops in the British Empire.
While glasnost sweeps London, in Washington, it’s déjà vu and love your government. President Barack Obama vowed to continue President Bush’s war policies in Afghanistan and intensify the eight-year-old conflict by doubling the number of US troops and aircraft there in coming months.
In addition, Washington is rife with rumors that the Obama administration plans to dump the US-installed president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and replace him by one of four CIA-groomed candidates. The problem is, three new stooges won’t be any better than one old stooge.
London is warning Washington both against a precipitous change of regime in Kabul that would be widely viewed as crass political manipulation and against a plan to arm tribes in neighboring Pakistan that the US used in by now totally fragmented Iraq.
Obama’s dismaying eagerness to expand the war demonstrates political inexperience and a faulty grasp of events in Afghanistan. A change of administration in Washington, and departure of the reviled Bush, offered an ideal opportunity for Washington to declare a pause in the Afghan War and reassess its policies. It also presented an ideal opportunity to offer negotiations to Taliban and its growing number of supporters.
The Afghan War will have to be ended by a political settlement that includes the Taliban-led nationalist alliance that represents over half of Afghanistan’s population, the Pashtun people. There is simply no purely military solution to this grinding conflict — as even the Secretary General of NATO admits.
But instead of diplomacy, the new administration elected to stick its head ever deeper into the Afghan hornet’s nest. The bill for an intensified war will likely reach $4 billion monthly by midyear at a time when the United States is bankrupt and running on borrowed money from China and Japan.
The 20,000—30,000 more US troops slated to go to Afghanistan will also be standing on a smoking volcano: Pakistan. The Afghan War is relentlessly seeping into Pakistan, enflaming its people against the NATO powers and, as Lord West rightly says, generating new jihadist forces.
Polls show most Pakistanis strongly oppose the US-led war in Afghanistan and the grudging involvement of their armed forces in it. Intensifying US air attacks on Pakistan have aroused fierce anti-American sentiment across this nation of 165 million.
Why is President Obama, who came to power on an antiwar platform, committed to expanding a war where there are no vital US interests?
Oil is certainly one reason. The proposed route for pipelines taking oil and gas from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea coast run right through Taliban-Pashtun territory.
Another reason: Americans still want revenge for 9/11. In the absence of a clear perpetrator, Taliban has been selected as the most convenient and identifiable target though it had nothing to do with the attacks and knew nothing about them. The 9/11 attacks were mounted from Germany and Spain, not Afghanistan, and planned by a group of Pakistanis. Washington is yet to offer a White Paper promised in 2001 "proving" the guilt of Osama bin Laden in the attacks.
There is also the less obvious question of NATO. Washington arm-twisted the reluctant NATO alliance badly for the US-led forces as their vulnerable supply lines come increasingly under Taliban attack. Here in Europe, the majority of public opinion opposes the Afghanistan War as a neocolonial adventure for oil and imperial influence.
The US could survive a defeat in Afghanistan, as it did in Vietnam. But the NATO alliance might not.
The end of the cold war and collapse of the USSR removed the raison d’tre of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization which was created to resist Soviet invasion of Western Europe.
According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of America’s leading strategists, NATO serves as the primary tool for America’s strategic domination of Europe. Japan fulfills the same role for the US in Asia. The Soviet Union used the Warsaw Pact to dominate Eastern Europe.
The US also uses NATO to help deter the creation of a truly united — and rival — Europe with its own unified armed forces. The EU will not become a truly integrated national state until it has its own independent armed forces.
NATO’s defeat in Afghanistan would raise questions about its continuing purpose and obedience to US strategic demands. Calls would inevitably come for empowerment of the European Defense Union, an independent European armed force that answers to the EU Brussels, not to Washington.
This, I believe, is one of the primary reasons why vested interests in Washington — notably the Pentagon — have prevailed on the new president to expand the war in Afghanistan by claiming that America’s influence in Europe depends on victory in Afghanistan.
The US and its allies cannot be seen to be defeated by a bunch of Afghan tribesmen. Coming after the epic defeat in Vietnam and the trillion-dollar fiasco in Iraq, defeat in Afghanistan is simply unthinkable to the military-industrial-petroleum-financial complex that still seems to be calling many of the shots in Washington.
Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada. He is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.