What's Left

The Spectacular Failure of State Violence

By Stephen Gowans

How is that a government can fail spectacularly, and still enjoy its citizens' support as it rushes headlong into another failure?

Take the initial salvo in George W. Bush's war on terrorism.

Osama bin Laden, whose masterminding of the 9/11 attacks was deemed so obvious that the administration refused to put its evidence on the public record, was the ostensible raison d'etre of  the Pentagon's campaign of terror bombing over Afghanistan. "We won't rest until we hunt down this evil man," declared Bush.

Today, with bin Laden still at large, the al-Qaeda chief's name is rarely mentioned.

It's unclear how Bush thought bin Laden would be captured. How does showing thousands of wretchedly poor Afghans to an early grave, while terrorizing thousands more, bring bin Laden to book?

There was another way -- a peaceful way. Bush was offered the multimillionaire terrorist, but there was a condition -- an eminently reasonable one. Bush must first produce the "compelling" evidence he said he had of bin Laden's culpability. This, Bush refused to do, preferring instead to flex the Pentagon's steroid-bloated muscles, even if it meant (1) bin Laden would almost certainly elude capture, and (2) a whole lot of innocent people would be murdered, starved to death, and driven into refugee camps.

(A left-leaning Canadian journalist has been denied a press pass by the RCMP to cover the G-8 summit in Kaninaskis, outside of Calgary, on grounds her political views are "subversive, violent or extremist." Couldn't Bush's views be characterized as "violent", since he seems to regard the exercise of massive violence as the bedrock of foreign policy?)

Next came the claim that killing, maiming and dismembering a whole lot of Afghans would "rout out the terrorist's infrastructure."'

Instead, "the routing of Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan has only succeeded in deepening the terrorist threat to the west, senior US government officials believe," says London's The Guardian (June 17.)

It seems "the war disrupted Osama bin Laden's network but spread the threat around the world, according to a classified report."

Talk about a spectacular failure.

But terror bombing, murdering captives in a prison uprising, trashing the Geneva Convention and doing end runs around the U.S. Constitution were hardly going to put an end to terrorism. That should have been clear to all but the most historically myopic and those who brains had been  paralysed by patriotism.

Israel's modelling itself after the Nazis, with its racism, war crimes, contempt for international law, gross violation of human rights, expansionism and militarism, hasn't put an end to Palestinian terrorism. On the contrary, it has inflamed it.
And decades of the British Army cracking down on Irish terrorism hasn't stop terror attacks in Northern Ireland, either.
So why would the same dumb move work this time?

More so, why would the bombing of one country work, when al-Qaeda is a loosely connected organization with a presence in dozens of countries?

Edward Luttwak, a security specialist at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, (another person who leans toward violent political views but won't be denied a press pass), is emblematic of the cheerleaders whose enthusiastic rah-rah for more violence have blinded to them to their commander in chief's utter failures.
"Obviously the United States cannot use its vast military strength to defeat elusive terrorists hiding in Afghan caves, Pakistani tribal villages, or under cover all over the world," Luttwak writes.

Brilliant, Edward, but why weren't you saying the same thing before the brain trust at the White House decided to use its vast military strength to defeat elusive terrorists hiding in Afghan caves, Pakistani tribal villages, or under cover all over the world, and ended up instead doing little more than killing more innocent people than were killed by the 9/11 attacks, while at the same time imperilling more American lives by exacerbating the threat of more terrorist attacks? Anyone who expressed the same view back then would have been dismissed as a nut-case or naive. Now the view is "obvious."

Luttwak's admission that the violence inflicted on Afghanistan failed, without actually using the words "failure", "blunder" or "cockup," is all designed to justify more violence -- this time against Iraq. If the United States military can't defeat terrorists hiding in caves and tribal villages it "can certainly act against rogue states, and other overtly organized enemies."
In other words, we've got to smash someone, so it may as well be Iraq, since we can't get those elusive terrorists who hide in caves and tribal villages.

And on what grounds will Iraq be attacked, apart from the US military having the capability to destroy a whole country (and one that has a whole lot of oil, at that)?

Months ago the media pointed out that the administration was looking for an Iraqi link to 9/11 to justify heating up the war against the oil-rich country, which has faced over a decade of ruinous sanctions and almost daily -- though little talked about -- sorties by U.S. and U.K. bombers. Then, when one couldn't be found, it was pointed out that Bush still wanted to pursue Saddam Hussein (to complete the job his father had left undone, it was said), so the hunt for a pretext, no matter how flimsy, continued. Now, Luttwak suggests the casus belli should be, "we failed at routing out al-Qaeda, so let's bomb Baghdad. At least that's something we can do right."

Imagine that. The United States claim to excellence: to be (as Martin Luther King Jr. once put it) the world's  greatest purveyor of violence. I 'd add an amendment: history's greatest purveyor of violence.


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