The Bush Doctrine Lives -- In Pakistan
The Bush theory of the "unitary executive" ( a modern theory of dictatorship, espoused by three or four US Supreme Court justices) has been taken to its logical extent by Bush's favourite partner in the war to promote "democracy". General Mushareff has declared martial law in Pakistan, and fired the Chief Justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court for disagreeing with him.
Yesterday, Bush Administration spokespersons loudly and publicly told Mushareff not to do it. Quietly and more effectively Bush Administration decision makers whispered to him that nothing would really happen, so go ahead.
Perhaps Bush and Cheney are looking for experience in this business, for their own coup just before January 2009.
The Bush Doctrine Wins Again!
In yet another stunning victory for the Bush Doctrine of "Talk Democracy, But Do Nothing", the world's fifth largest democracy, Bangladesh, has now become -- a repressive military dictatorship. They join the ranks of Bush's other favourite allies -- Mushareff in Pakistan, Mubarak in Egypt, the leaders of the post-Soviet Central Asian Republics -- who have rejected electoral politics in favour of the big gun.
The US State Department has said they are not interested in a specific date for a return to Bangladeshi elections. I guess it is easier for them to deal with one big general rather than that awful mess you get when the ordinary people get to choose.
Free enterprisers everywhere must be cheering the news that opium production in Afghanistan has reached record levels this year. Proving that government regulations restraining an industry can be overcome even against overwhelming firepower. The corporatist elite that underwrites the Bush Administration should surely be cheered by this exercise in freedom. After all,
"opium cultivation has surged since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001. The former regime enforced an effective ban on poppy growing by threatening to jail farmers - virtually eradicating the crop in 2000 ... This year's increased poppy cultivation follows a 21 percent drop the previous year, suggesting the government has not followed through on warnings to farmers against planting poppies. Although 37,065 acres of poppies were eradicated this year, according to the Ministry for Counternarcotics, a campaign by police to destroy crops fell short of expectation."
Bravo for the fighting spirit of capitalism!
But oddly enough, the fine people of America don't think that heroin dealing is a trade they should support. Therefore, at least until the force of aggravated circumstances allows them to cancel or better control elections, the regime in Washington is obliged to put treasure and manpower into appearing to fight the War on Some Drugs. Hundreds of millions of dollars, and tens of thousands of American and allied troops. But oddly enough, that is fine too because this way the "defence" industry leg of the Military-Industrial-Media complex gets paid.
It's only Joe Schmo in America and Abdul Abdul in Afghanistan who get hurt. No wonder this guy looks bemused.
Another mission accomplished.
Our Man In Tashkent
Living in Tashkent, in the heartland of the new American empire, Craig Murray is the stuff of old-fashioned adventure novels. He is a womanizing diplomat with a fondness for drink and a history of institutionalized depression. He has told the torturers to their face that they are evil, and he has told his bosses to shut up and leave him alone. He is still the British ambassador to Uzbekistan. The Guardian has an excellent article on this fascinating man.
He has had quite a year.
"I had a period under psychiatric care as an in-patient for depression last autumn. I've gone through the break-up of my marriage. In November, I suffered a pulmonary embolism and very nearly died. It is most unlikely that I will be an ambassador again after I leave [my post here], I think for the very reason you are interviewing me now. An aura of controversy is not one that is useful to the diplomatic corps."And this "aura of controversy" is because he couldn't stay silent in the face of massive human rights abuses by the American ally.
"People come to me very often after being tortured. Normally this includes homosexual and heterosexual rape of close relatives in front of the victim; rape with objects such as broken bottles; asphyxiation; pulling out of fingernails; smashing of limbs with blunt objects; and use of boiling liquids including complete immersion of the body. This is not uncommon. Thousands of people a year suffer from this torture at the hands of the authorities." ...You might imagine the stink this speech caused!
In October 2002, Murray made a speech to his fellow diplomats and Uzbekistani officials at a human rights conference in Tashkent in which he became the first western official for four years to state publicly that "Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy", and to highlight the "prevalence of torture in Uzbekistani prisons" in a system where "brutality is inherent". Highlighting a case in which two men were boiled to death, he added: "All of us know that this is not an isolated incident."
Whenever I hear George Bush claim the current situation in Afghanistan as a “victory” or a “success” for his regime, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The American invasion of a decayed State has led to the formation of a non-State; a loose confederation of warlords’ territories, with Karzai as US-puppet warlord of an attenuated Kabul region.
The elections that were supposed to have been the public façade behind which the continuing deadly civil war could be disguised from the tax-paying American public, has had to be postponed because the warlords cannot agree on the end result. The position of women -- a terrible position under the Taliban regime as the Bush propaganda machine never failed to report -- has not improved at all. They are still third-class chattels even in areas heavily patrolled by US troops. As Meena Nanji reports:
"For most women, life has not changed much since the ousting of the Taliban. While ostensibly there are increased opportunities: women can go to school, receive health care and gain employment, in reality few women can take advantage of these possibilities and they are largely restricted to Kabul. According to the many aid workers and Afghan women that I spoke to, women continue to be very fearful of the armed US-backed mujahideen who exert control over much of the country. Most women, even in Kabul, still wear the burqa (the head to toe garment that covers the whole body) as a protective measure against public humiliation and physical attack. The U.N and international human rights groups recently released reports detailing increased incidents of beatings, kidnappings and rape by U.S-funded regional warlords and their militia, stating: "local militia commanders…violate women's rights and commit sexual abuse with impunity".There is no sign at all that the insurgency (or resistance movement) is being contained; a hot war is being fought in many areas and US and other casualties continue to mount on a daily basis. The aid community cowers in fear. By any reasonable measure, Afghanistan is a mess. However, while Iraq gets all the headlines these days, the American military occupation of Afghanistan is far more important, with much larger implications strategically.
As reported at the time at my old Central Asia blog site, the attack on Afghanistan allowed the US to take advantage of a weakened Russia and a distracted China to plant huge permanent military garrisons throughout the heart of Central Asia. These bases ensure American complicity with some of the most repressive regimes in the world. They move American power from the strategic bases along the Pacific rim of Asia to the tactical heartland of the continent, and thuas form a major linchpin in the design of the strategic realignment currently being undertaken by the forces of America Inc. In Chalmers Johnson's excellent essay "America's Empire of Bases", he attempts to describe the immense imperial infrastructure currently in place.
"Once upon a time, you could trace the spread of imperialism by counting up colonies. America's version of the colony is the military base ... Official records on these subjects are misleading, although instructive. According to the Defense Department's annual "Base Structure Report" for fiscal year 2003, which itemizes foreign and domestic U.S. military real estate, the Pentagon currently owns or rents 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries and HAS another 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories ... The military high command deploys to our overseas bases some 253,288 uniformed personnel, plus an equal number of dependents and Department of Defense civilian officials, and employs an additional 44,446 locally hired foreigners. The Pentagon claims that these bases contain 44,870 barracks, hangars, hospitals, and other buildings, which it owns, and that it leases 4,844 more.And the purpose of all this? Power and control. The neocon imperial planners have identified an
These numbers, although staggeringly large, do not begin to cover all the actual bases we occupy globally. The 2003 Base Status Report fails to mention, for instance, any garrisons in Kosovo -- even though it is the site of the huge Camp Bondsteel, built in 1999 and maintained ever since by Kellogg, Brown & Root. The Report similarly omits bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan, although the U.S. military has established colossal base structures throughout the so-called arc of instability in the two-and-a-half years since 9/11 ... The Pentagon similarly fails to note all of the $5-billion-worth of military and espionage installations in Britain, which have long been conveniently disguised as Royal Air Force bases. If there were an honest count, the actual size of our military empire would probably top 1,000 different bases in other people's countries, but no one -- possibly not even the Pentagon -- knows the exact number for sure, although it has been distinctly on the rise in recent years."
"arc of instability," which is said to run from the Andean region of South America (read: Colombia) through North Africa and then sweeps across the Middle East to the Philippines and Indonesia. This is, of course, more or less identical with what used to be called the Third World -- and perhaps no less crucially it covers the world's key oil reserves."It is also plain that the Asian portions of this "arc" cut directly though lands where Islam is the dominant cultural force. The Bush regime has not handled this aspect well. With the instincts of backwoods Know Nothings, they have demonized Muslims as a propaganda tool. This has brought its own set of complications. As Peter Singer puts it in his very useful "The War on Terrorism: The Big Picture":
"Relations between the world’s dominant state power and the world’s community of over 1.4 billion Muslim believers stand at question, with potential terrible consequences. More than some lost popularity contest, the deepening divide between the United States and the world’s Muslim states and communities is a critical impediment to success on a breadth of vital issues, ranging from running down terrorist groups, their leaders, and supporters, to the expansion of human development and freedom, whose absence steers the next generation of recruits to radicalism."Late in the game, maybe too late, the Powers of Central Asia have awakened to the danger. Russia is firmly opposed to American moves into places like Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. They have made moves to strengthen their own military position in Kyrgyzstan, and late last year, the dictator of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, declared that he would not allow the US base there to become permanent. Chinese analysts suspect that the unannounced intention behind the new U.S. positions, particularly when coupled with Washington's newly intensified military cooperation with India, is the containment of China. They are reorganizing their own forces accordingly.
No matter the resistance, the imperial forces of America Inc will stay in place. As Walter Russel Mead boasts in his "Power, Terror, Peace and War: America's Grand Strategy In A World At Risk," "Those who cannot stand us must learn at least to fear us." Putting aside the jingoism, for American capitalism there is hardly any choice. This empire is now a vital part of the sovietized American economy, an economy that would implode without the hundreds of billions of taxpayers' dollars poured into imperial procurements. Chalmers Johnson once again:
"Fully one third of the funds recently appropriated for the war in Iraq (about $30 billion), for instance, are going into private American hands for" services to the imperial military machine.In some ways, the continuing chaos in Afghanistan is a boon to the Bush regime. It grants a kind of justification for the continued presence of American forces throughout the region. However, it is a two-edged sword, because Bush has to disguise the truth as best he can, in order to keep telling the American public that Afghanistan is a success. As usual, the mainstream media are helping him out. The networks and cable shows concentrate their cameras on the continuing -- and far more colourful -- disaster in Baghdad, all but ignoring the dusty and complicated and crucial mess further east.