[News] War porn: The new safe sex
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 29 12:29:59 EDT 2012
War porn: The new safe sex
By Pepe Escobar
(This is the much-abridged version of a
conference at the XII Seminar of Political
Solidarity at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, March 27, 2012.)
The early 21st century is addicted to war porn, a
prime spectator sport consumed by global couch
and digital potatoes. War porn took the limelight
on the evening of September 11, 2001, when the
George W Bush administration launched the "war on
terror" - which was interpreted by many of its
practitioners as a subtle legitimization of
United States state terror against, predominantly, Muslims.
This was also a war OF terror - as in a
manifestation of state terror pitting urban
high-tech might against basically rural, low-tech
cunning. The US did not exercise this monopoly;
Beijing practiced it in Xinjiang, its far west,
and Russia practiced it in Chechnya.
Like porn, war porn cannot exist without being
based on a lie - a crude representation. But
unlike porn, war porn is the real thing; unlike
crude, cheap snuff movies, people in war porn actually die - in droves.
The lie to finish all lies at the center of this
representation was definitely established with
the leak of the 2005 Downing Street memo, in
which the head of the British MI6 confirmed that
the Bush administration wanted to take out Iraq's
Saddam Hussein by linking Islamic terrorism with
(non-existent) weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
So, as the memo put it, "The intelligence and
facts were being fixed around the policy."
In the end, George "you're either with us or
against us" Bush did star in his own,
larger-than-life snuff movie - that happened to
double as the invasion and destruction of the eastern flank of the Arab nation.
The new Guernica
Iraq may indeed be seen as the Star Wars of war
porn - an apotheosis of sequels. Take the
(second) Fallujah offensive in late 2004. At the
time I described it as the new Guernica. I also
took the liberty of paraphrasing Jean-Paul
Sartre, writing about the Algerian War; after
Fallujah no two Americans shall meet without a
corpse lying between them. To quote Coppola's
Apocalypse Now, there were bodies, bodies everywhere.
The Francisco Franco in Fallujah was Iyad Allawi,
the US-installed interim premier. It was Allawi
who "asked" the Pentagon to bomb Fallujah. In
Guernica - as in Fallujah - there was no
distinction between civilians and guerrillas: it
was the rule of "Viva la muerte!"
United States Marine Corps commanders said on the
record that Fallujah was the house of Satan.
Franco denied the massacre in Guernica and blamed
the local population - just as Allawi and the
Pentagon denied any civilian deaths and insisted "insurgents" were guilty.
Fallujah was reduced to rubble, at least 200,000
residents became refugees, and thousands of
civilians were killed, in order to "save it"
(echoes of Vietnam). No one in Western corporate
media had the guts to say that in fact Fallujah was the American Halabja.
Fifteen years before Fallujah, in Halabja,
Washington was a very enthusiastic supplier of
chemical weapons to Saddam, who used them to gas
thousands of Kurds. The Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) at the time said it was not Saddam;
it was Khomeinist Iran. Yet Saddam did it, and
did it deliberately, just like the US in Fallujah.
Fallujah doctors identified swollen and yellowish
corpses without any injuries, as well as "melted
bodies" - victims of napalm, the cocktail of
polystyrene and jet fuel. Residents who managed
to escape told of bombing by "poisonous gases"
and "weird bombs that smoke like a mushroom cloud
... and then small pieces fall from the air with
long tails of smoke behind them. The pieces of
these strange bombs explode into large fires that
burn the skin even when you throw water over them."
That's exactly what happens to people bombed with
napalm or white phosphorus. The United Nations
banned the bombing of civilians with napalm in
1980. The US is the only country in the world still using napalm.
Fallujah also provided a mini-snuff movie hit;
the summary execution of a wounded, defenseless
Iraqi man inside a mosque by a US Marine. The
execution, caught on tape, and watched by
millions on YouTube, graphically spelled out the
"special" rules of engagement. US Marine
commanders at the time were telling their
soldiers to "shoot everything that moves and
everything that doesn't move"; to fire "two
bullets in every body"; in case of seeing any
military-aged men in the streets of Fallujah, to
"drop 'em"; and to spray every home with
machine-gun and tank fire before entering them.
The rules of engagement in Iraq were codified in
a 182-page field manual distributed to each and
every soldier and issued in October 2004 by the
Pentagon. This counter-insurgency manual stressed
five rules; "protect the population; establish
local political institutions; reinforce local
governments; eliminate insurgent capabilities;
and exploit information from local sources."
Now back to reality. Fallujah's population was
not protected: it was bombed out of the city and
turned into a mass of thousands of refugees.
Political institutions were already in place: the
Fallujah Shura was running the city. No local
government can possibly run a pile of rubble to
be recovered by seething citizens, not to mention
be "reinforced". "Insurgent capabilities" were
not eliminated; the resistance dispersed around
the 22 other cities out of control by the US
occupation, and spread up north all the way to
Mosul; and the Americans remained without
intelligence "from local sources" because they
antagonized every possible heart and mind.
Meanwhile, in the US, most of the population was
already immune to war porn. When the Abu Ghraib
scandal broke out in the spring of 2004, I was
driving through Texas, exploring Bushland.
Virtually everybody I spoke to either attributed
the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners to "a few bad
apples", or defended it on patriotic grounds ("we
must teach a lesson to "terrorists").
I love a man in uniform
In thesis, there is an approved mechanism in the
21st century to defend civilians from war porn.
It's the R2P - "responsibility to protect"
doctrine. This was an idea floated already in
2001 - a few weeks after the war on terror was
unleashed, in fact - by the Canadian government
and a few foundations. The idea was that the
concert of nations had a "moral duty" to deploy a
humanitarian intervention in cases such as
Halabja, not to mention the Khmer Rouge in
Cambodia in the mid-1970s or the genocide in Rwanda in the mid-1990s.
In 2004, a panel at the UN codified the idea -
crucially with the Security Council being able to
authorize a "military intervention" only "as a
last resort". Then, in 2005, the UN General
Assembly endorsed a resolution supporting R2P,
and in 2006 the UN Security Council passed
resolution 1674 about "the protection of
civilians in armed conflict"; they should be
protected against "genocide, war crimes, ethnic
cleansing and crimes against humanity".
Now fast-forward to the end of 2008, early 2009,
when Israel - using American fighter jets to
raise hell - unleashed a large-scale attack on
the civilian population of the Gaza strip.
Look at the official US reaction; "Israel has
obviously decided to protect herself and her
people," said then-president Bush. The US
Congress voted by a staggering 390-to-5 to
recognize "Israel's right to defend itself
against attacks from Gaza". The incoming Barack
Obama administration was thunderously silent.
Only future Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
said, "We support Israel's right to self-defense."
At least 1,300 civilians - including scores of
women and children - were killed by state terror
in Gaza. Nobody invoked R2P. Nobody pointed to
Israel's graphic failure in its "responsibility
to protect" Palestinians. Nobody called for a
"humanitarian intervention" targeting Israel.
The mere notion that a superpower - and other
lesser powers - make their foreign policy
decisions based on humanitarian grounds, such as
protecting people under siege, is an absolute
joke. So already at the time we learned how R2P
was to be instrumentalized. It did not apply to
the US in Iraq or Afghanistan. It did not apply
to Israel in Palestine. It would eventually apply
only to frame "rogue" rulers that are not "our
bastards" - as in Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in
2011. "Humanitarian" intervention, yes; but only to get rid of "the bad guys."
And the beauty of R2P was that it could be turned
upside down anytime. Bush pleaded for the
"liberation" of suffering Afghans - and
especially burqa-clad Afghan women - from the
"evil" Taliban, in fact configuring Afghanistan as a humanitarian intervention.
And when the bogus links between al-Qaeda and the
non-existent WMDs were debunked, Washington began
to justify the invasion, occupation and
destruction of Iraq via ... R2P; "responsibility
to protect" Iraqis from Saddam, and then to protect Iraqis from themselves.
The killer awoke before dawn
The most recent installment in serial episodes of
war porn is the Kandahar massacre, when,
according to the official Pentagon version (or
cover up) an American army sergeant, a sniper and
Iraqi war veteran - a highly trained assassin -
shot 17 Afghan civilians, including nine women
and four children, in two villages two miles
apart, and burned some of their bodies.
Like with Abu Ghraib, there was the usual torrent
of denials from the Pentagon - as in "this is not
us" or "we don't do things these way"; not to
mention a tsunami of stories in US corporate
media humanizing the hero-turned-mass killer, as
in "he's such a good guy, a family man". In
contrast, not a single word about The Other - the
Afghan victims. They are faceless; and nobody knows their names.
A - serious - Afghan enquiry established that
some 20 soldiers may have been part of the
massacre - as in My Lai in Vietnam; and that
included the rape of two of the women. It does
make sense. War porn is a lethal, group
subculture - complete with targeted
assassinations, revenge killings, desecration of
bodies, harvesting of trophies (severed fingers
or ears), burning of Korans and pissing on dead
bodies. It's essentially a collective sport.
US "kill teams" have deliberately executed
random, innocent Afghan civilians, mostly
teenagers, for sport, planted weapons on their
bodies, and then posed with their corpses as
trophies. Not by accident they had been operating
out of a base in the same area of the Kandahar massacre.
And we should not forget former top US commander
in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, who
in April 10, 2010, admitted, bluntly, "We've shot
an amazing number of people" who were not a
threat to the US or Western civilization.
The Pentagon spins and sells in Afghanistan what
it sold in Iraq (and even way back in Vietnam for
that matter); the idea that this is a
"population-centric counter-insurgency" - or
COIN, to "win hearts and minds", and part of a great nation building project.
This is a monumental lie. The Obama surge in
Afghanistan - based on COIN - was a total
failure. What replaced it was hardcore, covert,
dark war, led by "kill teams" of Special Forces.
That implies an inflation of air strikes and
night raids. No to mention drone strikes, both in
Afghanistan and in Pakistan's tribal areas, whose
favorite targets seem to be Pashtun wedding parties.
Incidentally, the CIA claims that since May 2010,
ultra-smart drones have killed more than 600
"carefully selected" human targets - and, miraculously, not a single civilian.
Expect to see this war porn extravaganza
celebrated in an orgy of upcoming, joint
Pentagon-Hollywood blockbusters. In real life,
this is spun by people such as John Nagl, who was
on General David Petraeus' staff in Iraq and now
runs the pro-Pentagon think-tank Center for New American Security.
The new stellar macho, macho men may be the
commandos under the Joint Special Operations
Command (JSOC). But this a Pentagon production,
which has created, according to Nagl, an
"industrial strength counter-terrorism killing machine".
Reality, though, is much more prosaic. COIN
techniques, applied by McChrystal, relied on only
three components; 24-hour surveillance by drones;
monitoring of mobile phones; and pinpointing the
physical location of the phones from their signals.
This implies that anyone in an area under a drone
watch using a cell phone was branded as a
"terrorist", or at least "terrorist sympathizer".
And then the focus of the night raids in
Afghanistan shifted from "high value targets" -
high-level and mid-level al-Qaeda and Taliban -
to anyone who was branded as helping the Taliban.
In May 2009, before McChrystal arrived, US
Special Forces were carrying 20 raids a month. By
November, they were 90 a month. By the spring of
2010, they were 250 a month. When McChrystal was
fired - because of a story in Rolling Stone (he
was competing with Lady Gaga for the cover; Lady
Gaga won) - and Obama replaced him with Petraeus
in the summer of 2010, there were 600 a month. By
April 2011, they were more than 1,000 a month.
So this is how it works. Don't even think of
using a cell phone in Kandahar and other Afghan
provinces. Otherwise, the "eyes in the sky" are
going to get you. At the very least you will be
sent to jail, along with thousands of other
civilians branded as "terrorist sympathizers";
and intelligence analysts will use your data to
compile their "kill/capture list" and catch even more civilians in their net.
As for the civilian "collateral damage" of the
night raids, they were always presented by the
Pentagon as "terrorists". Example; in a raid in
Gardez on February 12, 2010, two men were killed;
a local government prosecutor and an Afghan
intelligence official, as well as three women
(two of them pregnant). The killers told the
US-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
command in Kabul that the two men were
"terrorists" and the women had been found tied up
and gagged. Then the actual target of the raid
turned himself in for questioning a few days
later, and was released without any charges.
That's just the beginning. Targeted assassination
- as practiced in Afghanistan - will be the
Pentagon's tactic of choice in all future US wars.
Pass the condom, darling
Libya was a major war porn atrocity exhibition -
complete with a nifty Roman touch of the defeated
"barbarian" chief sodomized in the streets and
then executed, straight on YouTube.
This, by the way, is exactly what Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, in a lightning visit to
Tripoli, had announced less than 48 hours before
the fact. Gaddafi should be "captured or killed".
When she watched it in the screen of her
BlackBerry she could only react with the semantic earthquake "Wow!"
From the minute a UN resolution imposed a no-fly
zone over Libya under the cover of R2P, it became
a green card to regime change. Plan A was always
to capture and kill Gaddafi - as in an
Afghan-style targeted assassination. That was the
Obama administration official policy. There was no plan B.
Obama said the death of Gaddafi meant, "the
strength of American leadership across the
world". That was as "We got him" (echoes of
Saddam captured by the Bush administration) as one could possibly expect.
With an extra bonus. Even though Washington paid
no less than 80% of the operating costs of those
dimwits at NATO (roughly $2 billion), it was
still pocket money. Anyway, it was still awkward
to say, "We did it", because the White House
always said this was not a war; it was a
"kinetic" something. And they were not in charge.
Only the hopelessly naïve may have swallowed the
propaganda of NATO's "humanitarian" 40,000-plus
bombing which devastated Libya's infrastructure
back to the Stone Age as a Shock and Awe in slow
motion. This never had anything to do with R2P.
This was R2P as safe sex - and the "international
community" was the condom. The "international
community", as everyone knows, is composed of
Washington, a few washed-up NATO members, and the
democratic Persian Gulf powerhouses of Qatar and
the United Arab Emirates (UAE), plus the House of
Saud in the shade. The EU, which up to extra time
was caressing the helm of Gaddafi's gowns, took
no time to fall over themselves in editorials
about the 42-year reign of a "buffoon".
As for the concept of international law, it was
left lying in a drain as filthy as the one
Gaddafi was holed up in. Saddam at least got a
fake trial in a kangaroo court before meeting the
executioner (he ended up on YouTube as well).
Osama bin Laden was simply snuffed out,
assassination-style, after a territorial invasion
of Pakistan (no YouTube - so many don't believe
it). Gaddafi went one up, snuffed out with a mix
of air war and assassination. They are The Three Graceful Scalps of War Porn.
Syria is yet another declination of war porn
narrative. If you can't R2P it, fake it.
And to think that all this was codified such a
long time ago. Already in 1997, the US Army War
College Quarterly was defining what they called
"the future of warfare". They framed it as "the
conflict between information masters and information victims".
They were sure "we are already masters of
information warfare ... Hollywood is 'preparing
the battlefield' ... Information destroys
traditional jobs and traditional cultures; it
seduces, betrays, yet remains invulnerable
sophistication in handling it will enable us to
outlast and outperform all hierarchical cultures
... Societies that fear or otherwise cannot
manage the flow of information simply will not be
competitive. They might master the technological
wherewithal to watch the videos, but we will be
writing the scripts, producing them, and
collecting the royalties. Our creativity is devastating."
Post-everything information warfare has nothing
to do with geopolitics. Just like the proverbial
Hollywood product, it is to be "spawned" out of
raw emotions; "hatred, jealousy, and greed - emotions, rather than strategy".
In Syria this is exactly how Western corporate
media has scripted the whole movie; the War
College "information warfare" tactics in
practice. The Syrian government never had much of
a chance against those "writing the scripts,
producing them, and collecting the royalties".
For example, the armed opposition, the so-called
Free Syrian Army (a nasty cocktail of defectors,
opportunists, jihadis and foreign mercenaries)
brought Western journalists to Homs and then
insisted to extract them, in extremely dangerous
condition, and with people being killed, via
Lebanon, rather than through the Red Crescent.
They were nothing else than writing the script
for a foreign-imposed "humanitarian corridor" to
be opened to Homs. This was pure theater - or war
porn packaged as a Hollywood drama.
The problem is Western public opinion is now
hostage to this brand of information warfare.
Forget about even the possibility of peaceful
negotiations among adult parties. What's left is
a binary good guys versus bad guys plot, where
the Big Bad Guy must be destroyed at all costs
(and on top of it his wife is a snob bitch who loves shopping!)
Only the terminally naïve may believe that
jihadis - including Libya's NATO rebels -
financed by the Gulf Counter-revolution Club,
also know as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are a
bunch of democratic reformists burning with good
intentions. Even Human Rights Watch was finally
forced to acknowledge that these armed
"activists" were responsible for "kidnapping,
detention, and torture", after receiving reports
of "executions by armed opposition groups of
security force members and civilians".
What this (soft and hard) war porn narrative
veils, in the end, is the real Syrian tragedy;
the impossibility for the much-lauded "Syrian
people" to get rid of all these crooks - the
Assad system, the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled
Syrian National Council, and the mercenary-infested Free Syrian Army.
Listen to the sound of chaos
This - very partial - catalogue of sorrows
inevitably brings us to the current supreme war
porn blockbuster - the Iran psychodrama.
2012 is the new 2002; Iran is the new Iraq; and
whatever the highway, to evoke the neo-con motto,
real men go to Tehran via Damascus, or real men go to Tehran non-stop.
Perhaps only underwater in the Arctic we would be
able to escape the cacophonous cortege of
American right-wingers - and their respective
European poodles - salivating for blood and
deploying the usual festival of fallacies like
"Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map",
"diplomacy has run its course", "the sanctions
are too late", or "Iran is within a year, six
months, a week, a day, or a minute of assembling
a bomb". Of course these dogs of war would never
bother to follow what the International Atomic
Energy Agency is actually doing, not to mention
the National Intelligence Estimates released by
the 17 US intelligence agencies.
Because they, to a great extent, are "writing the
scripts, producing them, and collecting the
royalties" in terms of corporate media, they can
get away with an astonishingly toxic fusion of
arrogance and ignorance - about the Middle East,
about Persian culture, about Asian integration,
about the nuclear issue, about the oil industry,
about the global economy, about "the Rest" as compared to "the West".
Just like with Iraq in 2002, Iran is always
dehumanized. The relentless, totally hysterical,
fear-inducing "narrative" of "should we bomb now
or should we bomb later" is always about oh so
very smart bunker buster bombs and precision
missiles that will accomplish an ultra clean
large-scale devastation job without producing a
single "collateral damage". Just like safe sex.
And even when the voice of the establishment
itself - the New York Times - admits that neither
US nor Israeli intelligence believe Iran has
decided to build a bomb (a 5-year-old could reach
the same conclusion), the hysteria remains inter-galactic.
Meanwhile, while it gets ready - "all options are
on the table", Obama himself keeps repeating -
for yet another war in what it used to call "arc
of instability", the Pentagon also found time to
repackage war porn. It took only a 60-second
video now on YouTube, titled Toward the Sound of
Chaos, released only a few days after the
Kandahar massacre. Just look at its key target
audience: the very large market of poor,
unemployed and politically very naïve young Americans.
Let's listen to the mini-movie voice over: "Where
chaos looms, the Few emerge. Marines move toward
the sounds of tyranny, injustice and despair -
with the courage and resolve to silence them. By
ending conflict, instilling order and helping
those who can't help themselves, Marines face down the threats of our time."
Maybe, in this Orwellian universe, we should ask
the dead Afghans urinated upon by US Marines, or
the thousands of dead in Fallujah, to write a
movie review. Well, dead men don't write. Maybe
we could think about the day NATO enforces a
no-fly one over Saudi Arabia to protect the
Shi'ites in the eastern province, while Pentagon
drones launch a carpet of Hellfire missiles over
those thousands of arrogant, medieval, corrupt
House of Saud princes. No, it's not going to happen.
Over a decade after the beginning of the war on
terror, this is what the world is coming to; a
lazy, virtually worldwide audience, jaded, dazed
and distracted from distraction by distraction,
helplessly hooked on the shabby atrocity exhibition of war porn.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How
the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid
War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a
snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most
recent book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at pepeasia at yahoo.com
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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