Meanwhile in Beijing…

Lost amid the deluge of western media coverage of the upcoming US presidential election on November 6 has been an equally if not more important event, beginning on November 8, when the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China convenes in Beijing to elect a new Central Committee and replace seven of the nine members of the current Politburo, who are due to retire and/or stand down. These include the current President of People’s Republic – Hu Jintao.

His successor is likely to be the current vice president, Xi Jinping, who is seen as close to the military and is likely to adopt a more robust stance when it comes to dealing with the West than the moderate one taken by Jintao. This will likely manifest most over the issue of US support for Taiwan, when it comes to heightening tension with Japan over the territorial rights to a group of islands in the East China Sea (Senkaku Islands in Japan and Diaoyu Islands in China) but also when it comes to US policy towards the Middle East, from which China derives around 40 percent of its oil.

The key difference in global terms between the significance of the US presidential election and the imminent leadership reorganisation in China is the difference between the political and economic crisis engulfing a declining power, the United States, and the growing political and economic strength of its emergent rival to the East, China.

China’s economic growth over the past three decades has been simply staggering, averaging around 10 percent year on year. Though its growth has dipped and is predicted to end 2012 at around 7.7%, the success of the People’s Republic in weathering the global recession to the extent it has continues to confound economists in the West.

A key factor in China’s continued economic growth even as global markets for its exports, in particular the US, have contracted sharply, is the boost to domestic demand as a consequence of the rapid urbanisation that has seen millions migrate from the countryside into the city. Meeting the concomitant increased need for jobs has presented the current leadership with one of the biggest challenges any Chinese government has faced since it opened up its economy in the late 1970s. It has gone some way to meeting this challenge, as well as stimulating its economy, with a raft of major infrastructure projects, taking advantage of its unique position within the global economy of being deposit rich as a consequence of an economic model that has hitherto placed a priority on saving over consumption.

Strict controls over the convertibility of the renminbi has lent further stability to China’s economy, acting as a firewall against the sudden and often sharp fluctuations suffered by convertible currencies.

For the US – a declining economic power relative to China, though still some way ahead in terms of overall GDP – China’s sharp increase in military spending in recent years, needed to protect its accumulating global interests and economic alliances, is undoubtedly a major source of concern. This strategic threat to US hegemony is reflected in a staggering US defence budget of over $1 trillion in 2012. Compare this to China’s 2012 defence budget of $106.4 billion (which constitutes an 11.2 percent increase from 2011). To put this disparity in even greater context, the US defence budget constitutes 46.5 percent of the entire world’s military budget, whilst China’s constitutes around 7 percent. Regardless, Romney’s pledge to increase US defence spending by 2 trillion dollars over the next ten years if elected president is located in the mounting worry within a section of the US political and security establishment over China’s increased military spending.

China’s role as the world’s major creditor to the US, to the tune of $1.2 trillion (2011), in effect funding US domestic consumption, is one half of the reason why the relationship between both countries will remain a mutually dependent at least in the short term, despite being adversaries. For China, its main priority lies in continuing to ensure the viability of US domestic consumption in order to maintain the US as its largest export market, though in recent years it has placed more emphasis on regional markets.

It is predicted that China’s GDP will have caught up with the US by 2018, though US GDP per capita will still remain considerably higher. However, based on current projections, China’s GDP per capita is predicted to outstrip that of the US by 2030.

Western critics of China have long pointed to the lack of democratic and political rights enjoyed by its citizens. But this reflects the paucity of understanding in the West when it comes to the distinct development of Chinese culture and its fractured history. The relationship between the state and society in China is much different to its western counterpart. In China the state is seen as sacrosanct, with a premium placed on unity over the ability to change course through the election of a new government every few years and thus risk instability.

The ‘century of humiliation’ by which China’s subjugation at the hands of the western and Japanese colonialism is known, beginning with the Opium Wars of the mid-nineteenth century and ending with the Chinese Revolution in 1949, remains indelibly imprinted on Chinese mass consciousness, with the aforementioned national sovereignty exalted above any other factor in the life of the nation as a result.

Whatever the outcome of the US presidential election on November 6 is, events in Beijing on November 8 will undoubtedly prove of equal if not more significance for a southern hemisphere that has long suffered as a consequence of the unipolarity enjoyed by Washington.

Us Marines Pose with Ss Flag

This Sept. 2010 photo posted recently on the Titiusville, Fla.- based arms manufacturer Knight’s Armament’s Internet blog, shows members of Charlie Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Camp Pendleton, CA in Sangin, Helmand province, Afghanistan. The Marine Corps confirmed Thursday Feb 8 2012 that one of its scout sniper teams in Afghanistan posed for a photograph in front of a flag with a logo resembling that of the notorious Nazi SS. (AP Photo/knightarmco.com).

 

Iran Bomb Plot

by George Galloway

“It reads like a Hollywood film script” said the FBI Director Robert Mueller at the podium on the breakfast news unveiling what might be an Oscar-Winner at least in the ‘Wag the Dog’ category.

Iran it seems, at least in the script, planned to blow up the Saudi Ambassador to Washington in a restaurant frequented by American senators and scores of other diners. And it contracted, through an Iranian- American citizen (who appears to have been convicted long before his presumably forthcoming trial) guided by a named “member of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard”, a Mexican Drug Cartel to do the job for a price of $1.5 million. Only the hired assassin was in fact an FBI operative, turned by them from his drug-dealing past into a sting operator. Thus the $100,000 down payment the Iranian-American allegedly paid into the agent’s bank account goes to the US Treasury to reduce President Obama’s deficit. Which may of course be where it came from in the first place.

In my long years writing for Private Eye mainly under Richard Ingram he often used to opine as to whether or not a story had the “ring of truth”. This one has more than a tinkle of falsehood.

If Iran wanted to attack Saudi Arabia – which admittedly wants to “cut the head off the snake ( Iran)” according to Wikileaks- it could do so on its doorstep in Iraq or in the kingdom itself. It could have chosen a more exalted target than the inconsequential commoner installed in Saudi Arabia’s US embassy since the mysterious disappearance of Prince Bandar bin-Sultan its former occupant. He’s the man George W Bush called “Bandar Bush”, so close was he to the long-ruling family in the US. And it would surely have the means to carry out such an attack itself rather than hire a Mexican Drug Cartel which turned out not to be what it seemed. But if Iran for reasons of deniability wanted to appoint a proxy to carry out such an attack, it would surely approach a proxy it knew something about, rather than an undercover American policeman.

One scenario being advanced is that a rogue section of the Iranian regime might be involved rather than Ahmedinijad himself. Equally plausible is that the rogue section lies within the American administration itself.

Would the Iranian regime really be so stupid as to kill perhaps a hundred diners, including US politicians, in the capital of their most threatening adversary? And for what? Who would gain from such an act of mass murder, and what would they gain? Qui Bono in this story: Iran, or those who wish to make war upon Iran and change its regime?

This mangy Wag the Shaggy Dog story may well run out of the same trap as any one of a long line of FBI entrapment tales like the ‘Breaking News’ plot by ‘Al Qaeda’ to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago which started life on CNN as a Bin Laden plot but which turned out be the ravings of a mentally ill Muslim-American, set up to talk about such a plot by the FBI itself.

Or in the longer tradition of ‘False Flag’ operations that anyone who has read Graham Greene’s ‘Quiet American’ will recognise. The US has never shirked from even the crudest of such operations from the Bay of Pigs and other Cuban adventures through the fake Gulf of Tonkin incident which was used to propel American forces into the disastrous quagmire of Vietnam.

This story does seem to mark a stepping up of US preparations for aggression against Iran, involving as it does the highest officials of the Unites States in a claim which the gullible, which includes the British government which was quick to say that Iran must be held ‘accountable’ for this alleged crime, will regard as a legitimate casus belli.

After all when George Bush (Senior) was held to be the victim of a plot to assassinate him during a visit to Kuwait it troubled few that a semen-stained Bill Clinton spilled the blood of innocents, including my friend Leila Al-Attar Iraq’s pre-eminent woman painter, in both Iraq and at Sudan’s pharmaceutical plant in Al-Shiffa.

The clearly choreographed statements coming out of Riyadh within moments of the US Attorney General’s press conference indicate a way in which this story could now unfold. The Saudi regime says that evidence of Iran’s guilt in this plot is “overwhelming” and that “action” must follow. Of course notwithstanding the hundreds of billions of Saudi Riyals spent on western weaponry the Saudis cannot hope to prevail in any “action” against Iran. But any action on which it did embark against Iran could swiftly bring in the United States which has long been pledged to protect Saudi security.

There is an Arabic saying, unique I think to Iraqis, which translated says “you cannot hurt someone who is holding you by the balls”. Iran is holding the US by the balls in Iraq and in the Gulf region as a whole. The destruction of the former regime in Iraq, as any half-informed observer must have known, could only have as one of its principal consequences a surge in the power and influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran next door. Frustration at this, and at the losing battle in Iran’s other neighbour Afghanistan, may well have tipped the ailing and failing US administration of Barak Obama into a disastrous attempt to break the logjam. If it has then they and us as their ‘shoulder to shoulder’ ally may have plenty of cause to regret it.

Iran is not Iraq in 2003, enfeebled by more than a decade of punishing economic sanctions, its regime isolated and hated. Iran is a strong country and whatever its internal divisions likely to unite overwhelmingly against any US aggression. And it has friends, all over the region and the world. The capacity for blowback in such an aggression appears to be being disastrously “misunderestimated”, as George W Bush would put it, in both Washington and London. This hoary ‘restaurant plot’ may tip us into a new cauldron in the Muslim world, containing a soup hotter than hell.

Shoot the Messenger

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The apoplectic reaction by the US political establishment to the latest Wikileaks dossier has been revelatory in its illustration of an empire in decline, via its increasingly desperate attempts to maintain its reach through a combination of overt military aggression, threats, espionage, smear and the subversion of democracy wherever and whenever deemed necessary.

Calls for the execution of Wikileaks editor-in-chief and spokesperson, Julian Assange, by various US officials and politicians have nothing to do with threats to US national security, but everything to do with panic over the true nature of the US establishment and its attitude towards its assorted enemies, satraps and so-called allies around the world having been so comprehensively and embarrassingly revealed. The news for example that US diplomats had been instructed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to spy on UN officials explodes the myth of international diplomacy as a mechanism for reasoned negotiation in good faith between nations in the interests of global stability and peace. On the contrary, it reveals that where the United States is concerned the only stability that matters is one in which its writ runs everywhere on the planet, with any dissent or resistance to that writ viewed and dealt with as a matter of extreme prejudice.

Currently, the regime most in the crosshairs of US aggression is Iran. This we already knew. But the extent of dependency the US exercises over its various Arab ‘allies’ in the region is quite staggering. The exhortation of the Saudi kleptocracy to the US to “cut the head off the snake” in relation to Iran, calling for a military option to destroy Iran’s nuclear programme sends a chill down the spine in its reckless advocacy of a major conflagration that would undoubtedly spread far beyond Iran’s borders.

The revelation that other US client states in the region – Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, and unsurprisingly Israel – agree with the desirability of a military strike against Iran empathically illustrates the level of panic throughout the region on the part of the aforementioned regimes at Iran’s obdurate resistance to US and Israeli hegemony in the region. Excepting Israel, it also reveals the huge disconnect that exists between those regimes and their respective populations, the majority of whom, according to a recent poll conducted by the US-based Brookings Institute, view a nuclear Iran in a positive light.

Elsewhere we’ve been informed as to the dishonest and mendacious role the US played in the aftermath of the coup in Honduras in refusing to describe the forced removal of elected leftist president, Manuel Zelaya, as a coup led to US recognition of the ensuing election months later and its declared winner, Porfirio Lobo, of the conservative and pro-US National Party.

Despite the outpouring of relief and joy at the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the Wikileaks dossiers confirm that were US foreign policy is concerned the objective of maintaining its empire by fair means or foul continues unabated.

Revelations over the negative views held by US diplomats on the likes of Prince Andrew, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Britain’s role and military effectiveness in Afghanistan and so on, should not come as a shock either. After all, Britain’s view of itself as a US partner on the world stage has never been one shared in truth by Washington, at least not since the end of the Second World War, even though the notion continues to indulge the vanity of the British political establishment.

Indeed, with over half a dozen US air bases located on British soil, it would be more accurate to describe the UK as a US aircraft carrier than an ally in the grand cause of freedom and democracy.

Though the machinations of the US government have focused most in the dossier, China’s relationship with North Korea has also been mentioned, albeit through second hand sources in the shape of South Korean officials and therefore open to question. Alleged links between the Russian government and Russian mafia at home and abroad have also been reported, though if true is this much of a surprise given Russia’s increasingly fractious relationship with the West?

With the dossier dominating the headlines over the past week, Julian Assange and everyone else involved with Wikileaks deserve much credit for their courage in revealing to the world the truth behind the mask of US diplomacy and how the day to day banal business of empire is conducted around the world. His effectiveness in doing so is reflected in the fact that an Interpol arrest warrant has been issued for Assange at the behest of the Swedish authorities, the Wikileaks website has been removed by its US server, previously mentioned calls for Assange’s execution within the US have mounted, and he has come in for condemnation from governments around the world.

With this in mind one can only surmise that he must be doing something right.

Afghanistan – a Bigger Defeat Than Vietnam?

I continue to enjoy Dave Osler’s blog just because of the quality of his writing, but sadly the comments threads are increasingly bereft of sentient life. Recently Dave raised the question of “why Iraq is not a rerun of Vietnam

He makes some intelligent points about the political differences,

As far as the situation can be read from this distance, the answer looks negative. Although Sunni elements continue their armed struggle against both the Iraqi government and Shia Muslims, al Maliki enjoys a degree of popular support well in excess of the social base on which the Saigon administration rested.

So long as the resistance feeds off religious sectarianism – in other words, for the foreseeable future – it will remain minority property and thus fail to achieve the critical mass required of a fully-fledged national liberation movement.

Similarly, while an element of rebellion among GIs and squaddies is obviously present, it has not reached the point where officers are being frag bombed in any number. Remember that both armies are volunteer based rather than conscripted.

Opposition to the war, in the US and Europe, is an article of the liberal faith. But it is mostly taken as read, rather than expressed by explicit protest. Where the liberals live, the game to play is compromise solution.

It is fashionable in some quarters to blame the Stop the War Coalition for the inability to mobilise activists in any number. That is probably unfair; give or take this or that piece of blatant but nevertheless minor anti-democratic jiggery-pokery, I am not sure that I would have done that much differently had I been in Lindsey German’s shoes.

Finally, while the war is costing the US dearly in economic terms, the tab has yet to prove too big to pick up. Washington can even afford to run a parallel occupation in Afghanistan, bail out the banks and the motor industry, and still not find itself in the straits that forced Nixon to scrap Bretton Woods.

But I think he misses the important issue that the Iraq and Afghan wars are part of the same conflict, and that in terms of comparing objectives with outcome, the USA has been soundly defeated.

They sought to leverage military power through a “coalition of the willing” to remould the world for a new American Century. They have failed dismally. America’s standing in the world is diminished, and despite spending more on their military than the next 17 highest military spending countries combined, the USA have proven unable to defeat Afghan guerillas, and this is partly due to their hubris that they did not take the politics of nation building seriously.

Agruably, the defeat in Afghanistan is much greater than the defeat in Vietnam for America. The key turning point was 2002 when the squandered their position in Afghanistan, and switched resources to preparing a war towards Iraq, which meant that the Americans resurrected the warlords in Afghanistan and led the ISI in Pakistan to believe that the USA were not serious; which in turn ensured that the Taliban would resurface. At that point America’s eventual military defeat in Afghanistan became assured as they had undermined any prospect of a stable political settlement.

Significantly, NATO waging a war in Afghanistan has sealed the fate of that organisation, and after almost a decade of direct US military involvement in Central Asia, American has less influence in the neighbouring Turkic republics than it has had at any time since the end of the USSR.

Part of the reason that there is limited political fall out so far is that the profile of the war is kept low in the media, and reported only as a technical military story. British, Canadian and American troops in Afghanistan are a defeated army waiting for a pretext where their withdrawal can be explained away as something other than a humiliation.

The Postwar Rise of Us Imperialism

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In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, relations between Britain and the US took a sharp turn. The Lend-Lease Agreement, under which Britain had received vital supplies and equipment, loaned for the duration of hostilities in exchange for the leasing of military bases to the US in Newfoundland, Bermuda, and the British West Indies, was abruptly ended by the Truman administration. This left Britain in a vulnerable state, as in order to protect its strategic and economic interests around the globe in the postwar world it needed to retain the military equipment that had been supplied by the US. The solution to the crisis came in the shape of an Anglo-American loan from the US Treasury.

The necessity of such a loan was self evident. The British economy had been forced to run up huge debts to support the war effort, borrowing heavily from the United States and also from Commonwealth and imperial holders of sterling. Additionally, vital reserves of gold and foreign currency had been run down to finance imports of food, oil, and the raw materials necessary to support its own production of armaments.

John Maynard Keynes was appointed to head the British delegation during the negotiation of the US loan and its terms and conditions. He estimated that Britain would need £1 billion (approx $4 billion) to finance her external payments in the first year of peace, and a further $8 billion over the next three to five years. At the time British gold and dollar reserves stood at less than $500 million.

Keynes’ attempt to negotiate an interest-free grant of $5 billion was rejected by the Americans, who were keen to force the British to turn sterling from a fixed to a convertible currency and to dismantle the so-called ‘sterling area’ of countries holding substantial reserves of sterling in their foreign exchange accounts to facilitate trade with Britain. The Americans were determined to gain access to these markets on behalf of US banks and manufacturers and this was their opportunity. There was also the added US motivation of making life difficult for a newly elected Labour government with, in their view, dangerous socialist leanings towards a welfare state and the trade union movement.

In the end, the British delegation had little choice other than to accept American terms of a $5 billion loan with interest payable at 2 percent after five years. These terms were more generous than could have been found at commercial rates, however combined with American insistence of the convertibility of sterling (introduced in 1947) it was an arrangement which ultimately damaged the British economy.

But this was no surprise, for in the latter stages of the war, both the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, dominated by big banking, oil and other corporate interests, were determined to restructure the post-war world so as to ensure the dominant position of the United States.

The key elements in their strategy was US military superiority in nuclear and conventional weaponry; US-economic hegemony using the newly created International Monetary Fund and World Bank, with the emergence of the dollar as the dominant international reserve currency; and control of the world’s natural resources, in particular oil.

Indeed, with the war still raging, a struggle for economic hegemony in the postwar world was already unfolding between the allies. The extent of this imperialist rivalry is revealed in a message sent to President Roosevelt by Churchill just a few months before D-Day in 1944.

“Thank you very much for your assurances about no sheep’s eyes on our oilfields in Iran and Iraq,” Churchill wrote to the president. “Let me reciprocate by giving you the fullest assurance that we have no thought of trying to horn in upon your interests or property in Saudi Arabia. My position in this as in all-matters is that Great Britain seeks no advantage, territorial or otherwise, as a result of this war. On the other hand she will not be deprived of anything which rightly belongs to her after having given her best services to the good cause – at least not so long as your humble servant is entrusted with the conduct of her affairs.”

Be that as it may, Churchill and the British ruling class were unable to deny the new reality of US hegemony in the postwar world, and therefore decided that Britain’s interests would be best served in maintaining as close a relationship with the United States as possible. Indeed, it was Churchill who coined the term ‘special relationship’, during his famous Iron Curtain speech of March 1946 in Fulton, Missouri.

The much vaunted Marshall Plan came in the wake of the formulation of the Truman Doctrine, outlined in a speech by the then US President to Congress in 1947. In effect, it pledged that the US would resist the advance of communism in a policy of containment devised by State Department official and Kremlinologist, George Kennan. In concrete terms, containment set in place a belligerent and confrontational stance against the West’s former ally in the war against fascism, with Truman’s speech marking the start of the Cold War.

Officially, the Marshall Plan was implemented to provide economic aid to help in the rebuilding of the infrastructures and economies of European nations destroyed as a result of the war. In truth, it was designed to lessen the influence and appeal of communism and communist ideas throughout Western Europe among peoples who’d emerged from the cataclysm of the Second World War poverty-stricken and destitute. It was also implemented with the objective of creating markets for growing US exports and to keep Europe dependent on US economic aid. The aid itself was used more as a political weapon than as a way to ensure peace through prosperity in the war’s aftermath, evidenced in the priority given to those nations, France, Greece and Italy, in which strong and popular communist movements posed a genuine threat to the status quo.

NATO was formed in 1949 with the stated purpose of countering the threat of Soviet expansionism, thus ensuring a permanent US military presence in Europe which continues to this day. However, the stated purpose of NATO’s formation was at odds with the truth, described succinctly by Cold War historian, Melvyn Leffler, who wrote: “The Truman administration supported the Atlantic Alliance primarily because it was indispensable to the promotion of European stability through German integration.” Leffler went on to state that whilst preparing for the key meeting at which NATO was established, US officials “became convinced that the Soviets might really be interested in striking a deal, unifying Germany, and ending the division of Europe.”

Leffler’s assertion is confirmed by George Kennan, who said of the US policy in Europe at the time: “The trend of our thinking means that we do not want to see Germany reunified at this time, and that there are no conditions on which we would really find such a solution satisfactory.”

While this was taking place, British society was going through one of the most radical changes in its history. The wartime government headed by Winston Churchill and the Tories suffered a major and humiliating defeat in the 1945 general election, which came just a few months after the allied victory over the Nazis. Labour romped home with a 173-seat majority, having fought the election on a manifesto inspired by the 1942 Beveridge Report into poverty and the extent of the social and economic injustice that had long bedeviled British society. ‘Freedom from Want’ was Labour’s short but very effective slogan, tapping into the mood of the returning troops from the war and working class communities the length and breadth of the country.
Such a major shift to the left in UK domestic politics had the US establishment worried. Indeed, many within the US government feared it presaged Britain turning communist altogether.

There was little reason to fear, however. The newly installed Labour government, under Clement Attlee, was every bit as committed to the Atlantic Alliance as its predecessor – unsurprisingly given the reliance of the British economy on US largesse. Moreover, the reforms that were instituted at home were to be financed in large part by the exploitation of Britain’s remaining colonies being intensified, which had the effect of giving added impetus to the various anti-colonial struggles which had erupted throughout the Empire.

Perhaps most significant was the fact that the introduction of the welfare state, nationalisation, and government investment to bolster demand, nullified any real threat of a working class revolt in Britain inspired by the spread of communism throughout Europe, as the Americans feared. In this the dictum of ‘take away man’s need for bread and you take away his need for revolution’ was perfectly illustrated.

Afghan Turncoat

“Once a philosopher, twice a pervert.” Voltaire.

The excitable imbeciles who make up a disproportionate number of foreign correspondents are reporting that the “surge” in Afghanistan is now under way. Advertised months in advance, the only thing missing was the sponsor: “The Surge is brought to you by Empires R US”. To avoid disappointment, book now. Bush’s shameless and brazen hubris did not achieve all that it wanted. Modesty and humbleness are the public face of the new order, led as it is by the Messiah. If skulls must be crushed – and they must – the least we can do is to do it with decorum and in sorrow, not with glee. Amen.

Ringside seats have been reserved in advance for the embedded media. In the days to come, “journalists” better known for their cha cha cha on Strictly Come Dancing and heavens knows what else will morph into PR management specialists doing the ra ra ra as cheerleaders for war. War is high entertainment, and news rooms are the equivalent of Max Clifford Associates.

Ostensibly the aim of the “surge” is to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban. Concurrently, the United States is, and has been for some time now, in talks to bring the Taliban into a power sharing arrangement with the Karzai crime family. After more than eight years of fighting the “Islamo-fascists”, in which we were informed that no quarter could possibly be given in this life and death battle with theocratic and fascistic terror regimes, the somber mood music suddenly got quite upbeat. Track one ended and track two started: there is a “hardcore” demented Taliban who must be separated from the nationalist and patriotic Taliban. Although this is on the whole true, it is as true now as it was when the United States invaded Afghanistan.

So what’s changed and accounts for this embrace of the Taliban? “President” Karzai’s criminal achievements notwithstanding, the Taliban’s nationalist and revamped religious credentials have attracted support (they have moderated their interpretation and application of Wahhabism), especially when almost exclusively the sole opposition are the child rapists of the Northern Alliance or the Karzai family’s nationally syndicated caporegimes. Given the alternatives on offer, many Afghans choose the Taliban.

Added to all this is the Taliban’s infiltration of the Afghan armed forces and the lack of Pashtun volunteers to fight what they consider to be their fellow brothers. Things are now looking very bleak indeed for the United States. The realization that the Taliban can’t be beaten has sent US policy makers back to the drawing board. Its maximal objectives cannot be achieved, but perhaps its minimal goals can still be retrieved. The US has played a similar game before, in Iraq, and is now attempting to replay the “surge” in Afghanistan. As much a public relations exercise as its predecessor in Iraq, the stakes are now much higher.

The aim now is to throttle the “soft” patriotic Taliban until they accept the open hand of friendship rather than the clenched fist of permanent war with the United States. An increasingly desperate United States has accepted that everything it has done since October 2001 has been a colossal waste of time and resources. Fighting the Taliban does not advance US interests. Paying them off and empowering them just might.

Having rigged and stolen the general election, the ghastly masquerade that has surrounded “President” Hamid Karzai is over, or ought to be over. All the lovely robes in the world aren’t going to hide who the United States has allied itself with, and that’s without even mentioning the charming psychopaths and child rapists who make up the Northern Alliance.

Naturally, the Taliban is delighted, but it has one condition, or rather demand. Namely, true to their nationalist ethos, before joining any such power sharing arrangement with the Afghan Mafia and its army of Humbert Humberts, all occupation forces must withdraw. Otherwise, all is up for grabs. If such an understanding can be reached, the Taliban is game. Henry Kissinger excused his collusion in the massacre of Kurds with the reply that “covert action should not be confused with missionary work”. Presumably the same can be said again of the Afghans.

Although the Taliban would prefer a monopoly in the oppression of the Afghan population, it’d be willing to share the burden with others. Oppression is a tiresome business, after all, and surely there must be some worldly delights on offer. Indeed there are. Business being business, the Karzais don’t like anyone muscling in on their racket, and so dangling before the Taliban is a cut of the vast heroin empire overseen by “President” Karzai and his brother. I think it is safe to say that the proposed Mafia-Taliban-Humbert government of national thuggery backed up by US force is worse than the Taliban government overthrown in 2001. The hellish vision now on offer would boggle the talents of Hieronymus Bosch.

Clearly, by offering to share power with the Taliban, the US and its elegantly attired henchman have no fundamental objections to the Taliban’s brutality. With the Northern Alliance as allies, how could they? If any of this looks like Kissingerian-style politics, who said it ever went away? Not that it matters unduly, but Bush requested to see Kissinger regarding foreign policy more than any other individual outside his immediate national security advisors, and this has Kissinger’s stamp all over it. For those who thought we were there to aid Afghanistan, it is important to recall that promises come in two forms: the hollow and the broken. What’s stopping this squalid deal is the Taliban’s refusal to accommodate the US demand for a permanent military presence in the country, whose purpose is to encircle Iran as part of a policy of regime change.

Try as it will, the United States has been incapable of shifting Taliban hatred away from occupation to Shia Iran. As much as the Taliban detests Iran (the feeling is mutual), it is as nothing to the hatred engendered by occupation. History is not without a sense of irony: the Taliban’s nationalism is inadvertently aiding its supreme theocratic enemy, the Shia Mullahs in Iran. While this almost impossibly futile attempt to negotiate a permanent US military presence with the Afghan Taliban goes on, Afghans suffer. The secondary but lethal fallout form all this is the Pakistani Taliban’s increasingly successful attempts to destabilize the whole sub-continent. If all this were not enough, the forces of Salafism and jihadism are strengthened daily. War on terror, indeed.