by Gail Malone
Across the western world, countries have succumbed to pressure and incrementally introduced the paraphernalia of a security state. Albeit without the promised security and massive breaches of privacy and other hard won human rights. The rise of the security state has implications across the planet from austerity measures, the militarisation of police forces and copious amounts of tax dollars funnelled into the Military Industrial Complex. This, we are told, is needed to fight the farcical ‘War on Terror’ (WoT), a euphemism for rapacious imperialism. But is the world any safer?
Since 9/11, terrorism is the catchall that deems the US impervious to international law and conventions. Thus allowing them to embark on the genocidal, wholesale destruction of nation states. All in the name of freedom and democracy and sadly too many people believe the hype. The same areas have been victims of the British Empire, now morphed into the US Empire, for over a hundred years. The Taliban were not the target in South Waziristan when it was bombed in Pink’s War (1925), and sectarian violence had nothing to do with carving up the Middle East in the Sykes–Picot Agreement (1916). It was done in the interests of Empire and continues still; wanton, scorched earth destruction, carried out on nations by the forces of imperialism. In the 21st century, killing is on an industrial scale, with staggering civilian casualties for the crime of a geo-strategic accident of birth, coupled with a ‘non compliant’ government. The excuses given for these poor, hapless countries’ invasions have been flimsy at best, downright lies at worst and illegal. Countries that had nothing to do with 9/11, the catalyst for their catastrophic, opportunistic invasions and occupations, have their trauma sanitised in the western media with terminologies of ‘humanitarian interventions’, under the mantra of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ and the WoT. There is not a single country that has been invaded since 9/11 that could be marketed as a success, still the WoT marches on with no end in sight. Halfway through its second decade we are seeing the WoT MKII; Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya revisited.
Our world has become one of surveillance from drones, dirigibles, CCTVs, metadata and phone data collected en masse, in effect criminalising entire populations. Overt spying causing self censorship, communities scared of the words they speak, the actions they take because free speech has its limits in a post 9/11 world. The risk of punishment for what were once considered essentials of democracy; free speech, a free press and the right to protest is becoming normalised. Privacy, is acknowledged as essential to humans having healthy relations, hence privacy being enshrined in Article 12 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Surveillance stifles ideas and breeds a climate of suspicion and distrust of fellow citizens. It’s an axe constantly over the population’s heads and a form of collective punishment, an anathema to democracy. A recent interview in a New York times article regarding Afghanistan’s dirigibles reported;
We cannot sleep on our rooftops anymore, said Mohammadullah, who goes by one name, a resident of Asadabad, the capital of Kunar Province, where families regularly sleep on their roofs during the summer’s sweltering heat, and who was voicing a common concern. “Whenever our female family members walk in the yard during the day, or whenever we want to say ‘hi’ to our wife when we sleep on rooftops, we feel someone is watching us.
This is indicative of how benign behaviours are self censored due to a lack of privacy. Still, with all the intrusions, suicide attacks persist in Afghanistan. There are also ever more frequent fundamentalist attacks in the west, where people are surveilled on a grand scale. Ironically, you guessed it, in the name of freedom and democracy.
Surveillance has not proven its worth as a panacea for protecting societies from terrorist attacks or even lowering general crime rates. However, funding opportunities for security agencies appears to be a bottomless pit. Regardless of inflicting austerity measures on already burdened taxpayers in a negative gain, social control experiment, the cash flow to the WoT and its adjuncts is always forthcoming. Countless countries’ wealth is siphoned out of infrastructure; schools, roads, hospitals etc. into the accoutrements of the surveillance, military and prison industrial complexes. All inextricably linked, providing not for the common good of society but for the benefit of the few, making a mockery of democracy, issuing its institutions no more gravitas than a marketing slogan. In the US alone, 2016 Defence spending reached $46,980,719,773 by mid March. It is impossible to know exactly how much money the NSA (National Security Agency) receives annually, as it’s categorised as a ‘black’ program, meaning classified. It’s estimated to received 14% of the total intelligence budget, about $10 billion. To contextualise the phenomenal amounts of money that are being diverted from the common good, compare the above figures to Afghanistan’s GDP of $20,038 million for the year 2014. Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan cost US taxpayers alone $686 billion, figures on the human cost of the WoT aren’t forthcoming. The relegation of human life, rights and well being as secondary to western hegemonic ambitions is breathtaking in its scope.
The above graph from ‘Forbes Statista’, shows the estimated war funding for the US from 2001 to 2015 at approximately $1.7 trillion. However, this costing seems conservative when looking at the bigger picture, Rupert Cornwell reports in the ‘Independent’;
The total cost to America of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus the related military operations in Pakistan, is set to exceed $4 trillion – more than three times the sum so far authorised by Congress in the decade since the 9/11 attacks.
Keep in mind these figures only pertain to US spending. NATO/ISAF and any number of military contracting firms and mercenary fighters aren’t factored in. Neither are the burgeoning budgets of the security states mushrooming across the western hemisphere.
When there is a serious breach in security, a suicide bombing or attack within the so called ‘free world’, these very institutions have their hands up for increased powers and funding in order to ‘keep us safe’. Attacks violently demonstrate the futility of the institutions of the security state and the WoT. Are they grossly inefficient or complicit? Either way they don’t earn their keep and their budgets can’t be justified. Meanwhile there is never an attack horrifying enough to cause self reflection, a need to examine the root causes of terrorism. Or to ask the simple but pertinent question; why has terrorism increased after 15 odd years of the WoT?
The elephant in the room is US foreign policy, coupled with a blind eye turned to their Gulf allies and NATO member, Turkey’s material support of terrorism. Not to mention Saudi Arabia funding the breeding grounds of fundamentalist ideology, Wahhabi Mosques across the Arab Peninsular, Central Asia and Africa. WikiLeaks cables released in 2011 indicate that the number of Madrassas in Pakistan are far more widespread than previously thought. And yet KSA was appointed to chair a key panel at UNHRC, the Kingdom’s penchant for public beheading, other sundry human rights abuses and the ongoing genocide in Yemen, notwithstanding. General Petraeus commented on the US’s relationship with Saudi Arabia; “No country is the perfect ally, the perfect partner, without any reservations whatsoever, so welcome to the real world, welcome to the premier league”. That being said, it is not the real world, it’s the domain of a few, completely cut off from the real world, the ‘premier league’ an aberration. The real world is that in which innocents, the so called ‘collateral damage’ and their loved ones exist, paying the ultimate price for being caught in the middle of a fight for US hegemony and their boogey man du jour. This factor is never acknowledged as in any way a contributor to terrorism and what is known in CIA circles as ‘blow back’. That being, the unexpected consequences of US covert meddling, of which the citizenry is ignorant, unable to comprehend why terrorist attacks are directed at them. The cycle of ‘blow back’ leaves US citizens confused, frightened and confounded as to why ‘they hate us’. The population is rendered vulnerable to authoritarian methods to keep them ‘safe’ and more amenable to ‘getting them over there, before they get us here’ and the indignity of being spied on by their own government, their Constitution left in tatters.
The WoT uses despicable weapons such as depleted uranium, creating wastelands that are worthless for habitation of man or beast. DU was used in both Gulf wars, Fallujah, Iraq is a veritable wasteland from DU contamination. The US showed little regard for its own soldiers, where DU was concerned and preferred they were not informed of the real consequences of its use. It should therefore come as no surprise the Pentagon showed even less regard for Iraqi citizens. The logic; the crime of genocide must have ‘intent’, if the consequences are unknown, there is no ‘intent’, good old plausible deniability. The chances of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ mitigating the mess are slim. As yet, the US has only made cursory reparations for the poisoning of Vietnam with chemical weapons, Agent Orange among others, causing inter-generational birth defects, since the 1960s through to the present. Vietnam, also invaded on a lie, caused a death toll in the millions, the environment and people poisoned for generations. I believe genocide is not too strong a term. The carnage, you guessed it, was perpetrated by the same players still walking roughshod over any country that shows independence. It’s a war crime to use weapons that can continue to kill after a conflict is over, still we see DU and Cluster Munitions used with gay abandon, by the forces of imperium. Their position of might and the willingness to use it on defenseless populations raises precious little international ire, international law is of little to no consequence, as it is not imposed on powerful countries.
Modern war has evolved with an emphasis on protection of combatants rather than civilians; 90% of victims from the WoT are civilians, making it safer being a combatant than an innocent bystander. It also keeps citizens placated against war when their boys aren’t heading home in body bags. This for all intents and purposes means the WoT is a war on civilians, in countries with very young populations for all the talk of surgical strikes and precision bombing. The US, its allies and proxies essentially wage war on poor nations’ civilian populations, comprised predominantly of women and children. The median age in Afghanistan is: 18.4 years, Yemen: 18.8 years, Iraq: 19.7 years, Palestine: Gaza 18.4 years and the West Bank 22.7 years, Syria: 23.8 years. In Afghanistan, October 2001 until the end of 2013 between 106,000–170,000 civilians were killed, between 426,369 to 793,663 people have been killed in Iraq since the US invasion and a staggering 250,000 plus Syrians have died in 5 years, the UN has ceased recording numbers.
In a first for the Australian Military, manslaughter charges were brought against ADF servicemen. In Uruzgan Province on February 12, 2009 during a night raid, five children were killed; three boys, one girl and two infants, a boy and a girl. A Military Court in Australia found no ‘duty of care’ was owed Afghan civilians or their property;
But when, in an action of negligence against the Crown, or a member of the armed forces of the Crown, it is made to appear to the court that the matters complained of formed part of or an incident in, active naval or
Military operations against the enemy, then, in my opinion, the action must fail on the ground that while in
The course of actually operating against the enemy, the forces of the Crown are under no duty of care to avoid causing loss or damage to private individuals.
On October 21, 2010 Australia’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan was debated in Parliament for the first time, nine years after the invasion. As is usual, when Australia is following the US into unjustified war, the ANZUS Treaty is invoked. This is a tried and true method of hoodwinking the Australian public into accepting their government’s misadventures with the US. The problem is; the Treaty has no teeth in regard to Afghanistan or Iraq. The Treaty calls for ‘consultation’ and applies to the Pacific Region, Article III states; “The Parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific.” Australian politicians rely on the people not having read the Treaty and know they can count on the Australian media not to bring its shortcomings to their attention. No matter how much one wishes to appease an ally, it’s drawing a longbow to include Afghanistan and Iraq within the Pacific rim.
In the debate, just 18 odd months after the killing of 6 innocent children in Uruzgan, Australia’s FM, Kevin Rudd had the guile to state, Australia stays the course because; “Put simply, it is to help protect innocent people, including innocent Australians, from being murdered by terrorists.” Seems that protection wasn’t forthcoming to Afghans, to whom no legal duty of care extends for the Australian military. The Afghan war cost Australian taxpayers $7.5 billion for a country of 24 million people. There’s no monetary figure that can be placed on the senseless loss of life for the Afghan people. Again, the newspeak of ‘humanitarian intervention’, and ‘winning hearts and minds’ is given lie when put to close inspection, night raids and drone strikes on families do not win hearts and minds and the security situation for Afghans deteriorates. Bombings in Afghanistan’s traditionally restive areas continue unabated, even urban Kabul is not spared, 15 years of the WoT and security for the people is virtually non-existent. Suicide bombings are a relatively new phenomenon, unheard of during the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. The same holds true in Iraq and like Afghanistan has been ravaged by suicide attacks which sadly have become part of life. Suicide bombings are also happening in Syria, with the usual devastating consequences. There seems to be a definite correlation between suicide attacks and the presence of US Forces.
What 95 percent of all suicide attacks have in common, since 1980, is not religion, but a specific strategic motivation to respond to a military intervention, often specifically a military occupation, of territory that the terrorists view as their homeland or prize greatly. From Lebanon and the West Bank in the 80s and 90s, to Iraq and Afghanistan, and up through the Paris suicide attacks we’ve just experienced in the last days, military intervention — and specifically when the military intervention is occupying territory — that’s what prompts suicide terrorism more than anything else. – Robert Pape
Ignoring the absolute failures of Iraq and Afghanistan, the WoT marched on to another spectacular failure in Libya, culminating in a complete collapse of the institutions of State and civil society. Thus providing the conditions for an influx of terrorist organisations and a recipe for disaster. This culminating in the murder of US Ambassador Stephens and three other Americans, rumoured to have been gun running, and takfiris and weapons spilling into Syria. To the uninitiated this consequence might seem unforeseen, nothing could be further from the truth, it is continuing the WoT’s modus operandi of wanton destruction of infrastructure and horrific crimes against civilian populations in order to place a US friendly puppet in place. Syria has been suffering from the blood letting of a proxy army of terrorists, built on the back of the 15 year WoT’s brutality and foreign policy failures. Foreign fighters from 100 odd countries have flooded into Syria through Turkey. The Western media, right on cue took up the mantra of ‘Assad the evil dictator must go’, accused of wholesale slaughter of his own population, although facts on the ground say otherwise. The propaganda war against Syria reached new heights in fervour; BBC, CNN, Fox, The Guardian, Al Jazeera et al went along for the ride and Syrian voices that didn’t meet the ‘official’ narrative are not to be heard.
The handmaidens of empire, the media, continued to run with reiterated crimes that have long been disproved, lies peddled as truth. The approved mantra is taken up by human rights organisations and sundry NGOs. The UN played their role muzzling the Syrian Permanent Envoy to the UNSC, Dr. Bashar al Ja’afari, turning off his microphone, misinterpreting his words and restricting his travel. Their main purpose, it would appear, is to falsely accuse the Syrian President and army for civilian deaths and suffering. No Facebook filters or respectful silences for the Syrian victims of terror, nor Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya for that matter. More information is coming to light through alternative media and whistle blower sources. A clearer picture is emerging, contrary to that which the mainstream media would have us believe. Recent releases of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Saudi files show the ruthless machinations between governments to destroy Syria, and is indicative of the callous disregard for life when world hegemony beckons. The Iraq and Afghan War Logs have been invaluable in piecing together the facts of their invasions and subsequent occupations, for those outside these countries. It is a fact in international law, cynically ignored, that the US and its allies are ‘Belligerent Occupiers’, and therefore have obligations and responsibilities to the people under the Fourth Geneva Convention:
Beyond the maintenance of law and order, Occupying Powers are responsible for the care of the civilian population, including its overall health and hygiene. In particular, the Occupying Power must, to the “fullest extent of the means available to it,” ensure the population receives adequate food, water, and medical treatment; if supplies in the occupied territory are inadequate, foodstuffs and medical stores must be brought in. National Red Cross and Crescent societies, like the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, must be permitted to conduct humanitarian activities, a requirement that also applies to other relief agencies, such as those that maintain public utility services, distribute aid, and conduct rescue operations.
Certainly, the countries’ that bear the brunt of the WoT, via the NATO/Western alliance invasions, are not safer. The human cost of the WoT will never be fully known nor fully sought by the imperial powers. The deaths and maiming of the civilian population, the inability to rebuild due to brain drain inevitable in war, the collapse of the rule of law, degradation of the environment, to the generations it takes for communities to rebuild and heal their country, culture and souls, is never factored in. The world has witnessed the wholesale destruction of entire states, invaded in the name of the WoT. It has shed a malignant pall over this planet, built and natural history that stood for centuries, if not millennia, until the darkness … gone. The black market in antiquities is booming, as treasures are looted from the oldest cultures on earth, with no care or concern for what is left for posterity. These real costs are barely considered, the citizenry whose taxes pay for it are certainly not meant to consider the real costs, they are to react to fear, not think of the misery bestowed.
The entire WoT is a self fulfilling prophecy, an open ended game and a moveable feast. It has nothing to do with freedom and democracy, it would be naive to believe it did when juxtaposed against the reality of torture, kidnapping, black op sights, extra-judicial killing, night raids, drone attacks and the wholesale collection of private citizens’ data. It seems hard to imagine reeling this juggernaut in. The powerful players place themselves above international law, international institutions are impotent in their wake and the western alliance operates with impunity. The monetary costs of the WoT, as staggering as they are, are a mere a drop in the ocean, compared with the human cost and the cost to civilisation. In short, the price for the WoT is paid by those who benefit the least from it. It is only through the words of independent, investigative journalists and whistle blowers, risking their lives and liberty, that we able to see the truth emerging. Julian Assange, Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, having made a career of analysing primary source documents, sums up the powers that be in the WoT;
Looking at the enormous quantity and diversity of these military or intelligence apparatus insider documents, what I see is a vast sprawling estate in what we would traditionally call the Military Intelligence Complex or Military Industrial Complex. And this sprawling industrial estate is growing, becoming more and more secretive, becoming more and more uncontrolled. This is not a sophisticated conspiracy controlled at the top, this is a vast movement of self interest with thousands and thousands of players all working together and against each other to produce an end result which is: Iraq and Afghanistan and Columbia, and keeping that going.
We often talk about tax havens and people hiding assets and transferring money in offshore tax havens. So, I see some remarkable similarities; Guantanamo is used for laundering people to an offshore haven which doesn’t follow the rule of law. Similarly Iraq and Afghanistan and Columbia are used to wash money out of the US tax base and back.