Sunday, August 28, 2011
Why our soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan
The blogosphere can be a strange place. Sometimes you make friends there and then just as quickly alienate them as I recently discovered.
I’d been involved in a blog debate with some newfound friends in the States. It was interesting, I thought, that Barack Obama had stacked his administration with the same bankers and financial advisers who were responsible for creating the 2008 financial crisis in the first place, and that the government bailout benefitted the financial elite—at the expense of ordinary people. It seemed to me that Obama had abandoned working class homeowners to save the big financial institutions. It was clearly a failed strategy. The U.S. economy is sputtering and the country has sunken deeper in debt—$14.7 trillion and counting—threatening to set off another financial crisis.
When my blogger buds defended Obama on the grounds that he made the best deal he could under the circumstances, I cited Iceland as a very different example. Iceland’s banks—which had been privatized—had also collapsed, far more dramatically than their U.S. counterparts. The minute the Icelandic government nationalized the banks, the country slipped into a deep recession. Finally the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in offering to lend the country $2.1 billion to bail itself out. And then an odd thing happened. The 320,000 Icelandic citizens just said “no.” They refused to pay the debt, changed governments, told their creditors and the IMF to take a hike and are in the process of rewriting their constitution to prevent anything similar happening in the future.
Of course this hasn’t been reported in the international mainstream media. Instead we hear a lot in the news about the punishing IMF loans being inflicted on Ireland and Greece, and possibly Spain, Portugal, Italy and maybe even France, which all serve as a stiff warning to the Americans to get their financial house in order.
But America isn’t in debt because of its recent love affair with casino capitalism. After all, the $1 trillion U.S. bailout of its financial sector is less than 10 percent of its national debt. So where did the money go?
It’s not much of a mystery. Today, the U.S. military accounts for 47 percent of the world’s total military spending. That’s almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Put in another perspective, the U.S. spends 8 times more than the second place spender, China. The U.S. is currently burning through almost $700 billion a year on its armed forces, and with all hidden costs accounted, is spending 54 percent of the entire national budget on military-related expenses.
So why is the U.S. government giving its corporate class an easy ride while punishing its own working class people to support such a large military force with 737 military bases around the world?
Simply put, corporate America is acutely aware of the fact that the world is running out of fossil fuel. That’s why seven of the world’s top-ten largest corporations are oil-energy companies, and, surprisingly, three of those are Chinese state-owned corporations. The other four are Dutch Royal Shell, Exxon-Mobil, BP and Chevron. And all of these companies have major stakes in the Middle East.
Even before the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush Administration had been planning a military intervention in Afghanistan. The corporate objective was the construction of a major oil pipeline through Afghanistan that was being blocked by the Taliban. Since 9/11 the rest is history.
Afghanistan and oil-rich Iraq have been subjected to a decade of war at a cost of several hundred thousand lives and trillions of dollars. But the U.S. and western corporations have been involved in the region for decades before that, starting in 1933 with Standard Oil in Saudi Arabia and soon afterward the British development of the Iranian oil fields. Today, the Middle East is still the biggest prize in the world’s dwindling oil reserve.
And a military map of the region tells the story. America and its allies are presently involved military ventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, and may be instrumental in funding “Arab Spring” uprisings elsewhere in the region.
Meanwhile, the Russians are actively involved on the northern periphery. And the Chinese have been building strong trade and military alliances with Pakistan, Iran and Turkey—now directly connecting themselves to the Mediterranean along the old Silk Road. And China also has growing relations with Algeria, Morocco, Chad, Nigeria and Ethiopia and the African Union, mirroring the U.S. strategy.
In other words, we have the makings of a major geopolitical resource war heating up between the U.S. alliance and China in the Middle East-North Africa corridor—with Pakistan and Iran as the most likely flash points.
How does that affect us here in Canada? Aside from our own cozy oil relationship (read: tar sands) with the U.S., the Canadian government told us it was going to war with Afghanistan after 9/11 to a) defend Canada’s national interests, b) ensure Canadian leadership in world affairs and c) help Afghanistan rebuild. Huh? Those can’t be the real reasons. And we were initially told that we’d be out of the war in a little over a year. But we weren’t told anything about the existing U.S. invasion-and-pipeline plans there.
So to date 157 Canadians—including 10 New Brunswickers and 24 other Maritimers—have died in Afghanistan since we entered the war a decade ago, and some 2500 to 2800 Canadian Forces personnel are still on the ground, with recent estimates pegging our cost for the war in excess of $18 billion.
Does anyone else think that our precious blood and treasure might be better spent developing viable fuel alternatives? Or are we just too far gone on our dirty addiction to fossil fuel to get that we’re ready to kill and be killed for the stuff?