OP-ED: No one can stop this war machine —Farish A Noor
American militarism today is intimately linked with and to the needs and interests of global capital, and today in the Iraqi theatre we can see the sordid pageant of capitalist interests working hand in glove with the military-industrial complex
This week all eyes will be on Washington to see if Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair can finally talk some sense into the president of the United States of America and his cohort of Neo-Con warmongers. Flying to the United States from his holidays in Bermuda, the prime minister of the United Kingdom must have wished that his plane was swallowed by the infamous Bermuda Triangle, but alas, no such unearthly force was on hand to deliver him from his worries.
The British media, however, was around to ply the embattled prime minister with all kinds of kindly advice on what to say, when and how to say it. However it would be naďve for us to believe that the American war machine that has been let loose to wreck havoc in Iraq could have been stopped or tamed by even the wisest of sages. For the question here is not whether the American army can be controlled, if the individual acts of violence and brutality meted out by US Marines — unguided and misinformed as they are — could have been curbed.
It is well known by now that the US forces in Iraq have no sense of direction or purpose. Short of biding their time and cutting their losses before the fateful handover deadline in June, the American army — and its allies — are busy with the task of keeping themselves alive above all else. And staying alive is a costly business in Iraq these days. The US is said to have a force of 120,000 men and women in the country. A quick calculation of the daily cost of keeping so many troops and officials there on a daily basis would give us an idea of the magnitude of the military operation underway.
For a start those 120,000 troops have to be fed at least three times a day. (Which is, by the way, more than some Iraqis get to eat and drink one might add.) That effectively means providing food and drink for 360,000 meals on a daily basis. It also means providing water, beds, shelter, medical aid, entertainment and security for 120,000 bodies on a daily basis. The costs of such a mammoth project can only be described as astronomical, and what is more they are borne by the taxpayers of the USA themselves. Along the way companies such as Halliburton have been allowed to rake in enormous profits, by providing basic services like meals at a hugely exaggerated price.
This Herculean feat could only be achieved thanks to the creation of a global economic and communications system that allows for such logistical nightmares to be translated into reality. America can only move so large a number of soldiers and military hardware to Iraq because the global economic and financial infrastructure for such deployments are already in place. And we should not forget that US troops are also stationed elsewhere in the world at the moment — from the Arab states to Pakistan and Afghanistan all the way to the Philippines. Globalisation has made it easy for people the world over to consume American pop culture and junk food at a moments notice, but it also means that it has made it easier for an American army to find itself parked at your doorstep.
Far from decrying the US adventure in Iraq (or Afghanistan, Pakistan, Southeast Asia and the Arab states) as a case of neo-imperialism at work, we should be looking at the mechanics of globalisation itself, and how globalisation has served as the engine for American expansionism the world over. The two are intimately linked, and indeed America’s military over-reach today is the logical conclusion of a globalisation process that has gone seriously and dangerously out of control. The projection of American power abroad in turn serves to ensure that the mechanics of the globalisation process — driven as it is by the blind logic of global capitalism — remains unchallenged, and so the two are in fact mutually inter-dependent and self-serving.
This also explains why it is that none of the international bodies and multinational organisations in the world have not been able to mount an effective challenge to US global supremacy or offer an alternative to the present state of global affairs. Neither the European Union (EU) or the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have been able to say anything, much less stop or slow down, the march of the US military-economic juggernaut. This is because both the EU and OIC are likewise trapped in the same logic of global capitalism that is driving the globalisation process ever onwards.
Consider the failure of the EU to bring about positive internal integration within its borders for instance. Thus far all the member states of the EU have managed to do is agree on the need to lower tariffs and import controls within the EU itself, in order to encourage free trade and the free movement of goods and services. This has done nothing to improve the quality of life of ordinary citizens in the EU itself — the EU still does not have a common welfare policy, for instance — but has only helped the capitalist business interests imbedded within Europe. As for a common foreign policy or alternative blueprint for Iraq and the Middle East in general, the EU has failed singularly to provide any counterpoint to Washington.
Likewise the OIC has failed to get its act together and has only made progress as far as economic co-operation is concerned. The last OIC meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was a case in point, with Muslim governments agreeing to work closer together to create some semblance of a ‘common Muslim market’ that was more wishful thinking than anything else. Thus far the OIC countries have achieved next to nothing as far as the protection of human rights, workers rights and public institutions within their own borders is concerned.
It is therefore hardly a surprise if the OIC has been largely silent over the past months, as the situation in Iraq deteriorates and slips out of control. For how can the OIC speak up when it has nothing to say or offer to the people of Iraq themselves? The logic of OIC co-operation thus far has been the same one that has propelled the globalisation process all along: Economic co-operation and the freeing of local markets for greater foreign capital penetration.
Looked at from this point of view the doves of peace had better re-orient their priorities and get their own house in order. American militarism today is intimately linked with and to the needs and interests of global capital, and today in the Iraqi theatre we can see the sordid pageant of capitalist interests working hand in glove with the military-industrial complex that was the bugbear of the progressive Left in the 1960s and 1970s.
In the midst of these developments, counsels of peace and exhortations to brotherly love would be as useless as throwing Palestinian babies in front of Israeli tanks and bulldozers in a pathetic effort to stop them rolling forward. No-one can stop this infernal war machine as long as we do not recognise it for what it is: A raw expression of capitalist might thrown against a Third World country that is about to be exploited and colonised till no resistance is offered.
Dr Farish A Noor is a Malaysian political scientist and human rights activist