Friday, December 30

Top Ten war movies on my hard drive.


   Time for some fun Holiday stuff.

   I've gotten a lot of emails from readers of this blog over the past year (Holy Shit! This blog is a year old already!) requesting articles on 'this war' or 'that world event' which, I must say, I really do appreciate. People requesting articles makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside so thank you all for that. One of the most common questions I get asked is what kind of stuff I watch or read. So I thought I'd do movies since the 'holiday season' is here and there'll be good stuff on TV to sit down and feel fat and satiated over. Ain't First world problems grand?

   Naturally, I'm talking war movies here.

   The thing about war movies is that you can probably really only enjoy them if you've never actually been in a war. So long as it remains theoretical, war is entertainment. In many ways movies are the lingua franca of our time, the place where ideas get disseminated into the global culture and the  Zeitgeist gets measured by box office tickets sold. Movies today are a lot like how the Romans amused themselves in the amphitheaters only today, nobody really dies, they don't give out free bread and instead charge you a day's salary for the popcorn and sugar water at the in house feeding station. Seven bucks for popcorn! What the fuck?

  In writing this movie post, I was thinking of scanning my memory and coming up with some default list of war movies that "the critics" would agree with to make myself sound all erudite and intelligent. But then I'd be bullshitting you. So I came up with a novel strategy. You see, I moved house a while back and had no Internet or TV for a whole five days. To entertain myself, all I had were movies I'd stored on my external drives. And I said to myself, these must be the movies I really like and not the ones I should like since those on my drives were the ones I'd deemed worthy of digital storage. So I used that criteria to compile this list...

  Sure, I'm probably leaving out a whole bunch of great movies and your favorite war movie but what the hell. Here, in no particular order, are the war movies I re watch when I find myself getting philosophical at 3AM and need to remind myself how fortunate I am not to have been born in the wrong place at the wrong time and conscripted as a foot soldier into some general or politician's pocket shooting war.


   WATERLOO


  

   Seriously, they don't make them like this anymore. Made in 1970, before today's CGI (where today they hire fifty extras to run around in the foreground while bulking out the background with 50,000 pixelated enemy formations), this is a movie that truly 'spared no expense' and hired real actual men to act out the pew-pew. And it sure does show on screen. You get to see thousands of guys dressed in period costume run around that Belgian field re enacting one of the most decisive battles of all time. It really puts you there. Muskets, line formations, cavalry attacks, infantry squares, the whiff of grapeshot, cannon balls, it's all just brilliantly rendered by actual men. Wide shots reveal huge line infantry ranks while you can almost hear producer Dino De Laurentis shitting bricks in the background wondering if this production was going to pay off. Rod Steiger plays the titular little man with the emperor complex and Orson Welles shows up as "the unavoidable" Louis XVIII, the last French monarch to die without being king. Watch this if you want to see 50,000 extras in full period costume run around on screen for real!


   A BRIDGE TOO FAR




   This is classic stuff. Made by seventies era logic, a different time when WWII was still fresh in the Zeitgeist's memory. As a kid back then, all the comic books were still WWII based; Victor, Warlord and Commando. The WWII generation were entering their golden years (we survived the war but we're going to die anyway...argh!) So war movies as retrospective were popular. And it was a time when it was still possible to make an epic movie with a shitload of Hollywood stars who took a pay cut to make something huge possible. Check out that cast list! Directed by Richard Attenborough, it was all for a movie about a 'little' operation called Market Garden; Montgomery's 1944 dick waving attempt to end the war fast and prove he had balls and could be as unpredictable and foxy as the great man in the desert himself, Rommel. In the end, Montgomery's gambit failed. Maybe it should have been planned by my favourite British general of WWII, Richard O'Connor. The idea that you could para drop 30,000 men behind German lines, capture bridges and clear the way for an armor thrust into the heart of Nazi Germany to end the war quickly was pure hubris built on the Allied success at Normandy and the capture of Paris. Here, in 1944 on the Western Front, the Wehrmacht proved it still had teeth! The scene with Robert Redford rowing across a Dutch canal under enemy mortar fire stands out. "Holy Mary...mother of God..." Brilliant war movie stuff!






   Before you think I only watch '70s war movies, let me throw Spielberg's amazing movie into the mix. I remember watching this in a Santa Monica theater in the '90s and it was like all my stupid fascination with men killing each other got thrown against the fire of visceral reality. War is fucking horrible. And that's why it sells tickets. Because we humans love it. From the nail biting 20 minute Normandy opening sequence, on through the accurate representation of WWII equipment (that Tiger tank looked really real!), you cannot escape this movie if you want to get your war on. It's a total experience. It really does put to rest that movie trope where, after guns get fired, people handily die neatly so the main characters can move on with the rest of the plot. That's the shitty thing about war movies generally. They always leave out the awkward wounded, that sad fact that after an engagement you're left with say 20 dead but 60 more wounded screaming in pain and calling out for their mom. Fucking reality, how does it work? This movie doesn't flinch when it comes to examining the ugly truth of pulling the trigger on a live human. Men die and it's ugly. War is the worst thing about our species. And, worse still, sometimes it's justified.


   APOCALYPSE NOW




   'Nam. The jungle. Napalm. A soundtrack by The Doors. A script by John Milius based on Conrad's Heart of Darkness. And directed by Coppola who remortgaged his house to get it finished after the studios pulled funding after the whole production turned into a cluster fuck in the Philippine jungle. This is the Vietnam war movie for me. Hell, they even made a movie about the war zone making the movie became! But how can you not like the end product? One of those rare auteur movies that don't get made anymore because everything that gets green lit in Hollywood these days has to pass through shitloads of corporate fucktards who run market analytics and get back to you on Thursday.

  Marlon Brando showed up on set 100lbs overweight after cashing the million dollar check Coppola wrote him, so Coppola had to improvise on the fly, filming the final Col. Kurtz scenes in close ups and shadow. He made it work! It's an artistic vision, a philosophical journey and damn tour de force film making. The newly released Redux version adds a good fortyish minutes to the original and highlights French history of meddling in Indo China by way of a dinner conversation and a sensuous opium smoking lady. If you're partial to the 'herb', there's no better war movie to sink your mind into and become one with the screwed up violent nature of us upright apes.


   THE LONGEST DAY



   The definitive D-Day movie. Hands down the best. Based on Cornelius Ryan's book (again) with a slew of military consultants on hand who actually participated in the landings, this is the movie to see if you've got three hours to sink into epic war. Again, the cast list is a who's who of Hollywood at the time and all actors took a pay cut so it could get made. One of my favorite aspects of this movie is the accurate rendering of all participants (the Germans are not portrayed as mindless goose stepping Hitler lovers and speak actual German with subtitled English) and so too is the role of the French Resistance (not brain dead frog surrender monkeys with a penchant for wine and running away) like the American Right liked to portray when they came up with "Freedom Fries" in the cafeteria, this movie is detailed and accurate. Sure, there are some hokey bits with John Wayne showing up but we're talking early 60s here so we've got to forgive the iconophry and get with the program.

   This is strict by the book narrative and it works. It's pure war movie goodness.
  

   THE THIN RED LINE








   Yeah sure, that choice is going to throw some of you. Sure, the hill assault scene is amazing. But you know what? This whole war movie sticks with you. Sure Terence Malick is the kind of director that gets accused of masturbating onto film but I "get it". It's art. It's war. Sometimes they meet like the WWI poetry of Siegfried Sassoon. Who doesn't realize the thin line between life and death more than a soldier in war? That's the question that gets asked here. The philosophical wonderings are sweet. In a way, they capture what soldiers really think (at least in the eyes of an artist). Plenty of people think it's not a great war movie but I re watched it recently, and, as I get older, I really can connect with the life and death philosophy of war that Malick here tries to explore. It's a superior war movie and you should like it.



   Not exactly a full on war movie I know. But I'm throwing it into the mix because I love it so much and fuck everything. James Woods as the gonzo journalist in an impossible war zone is my fantasy alter ego. If only I had the balls to sneak into Syria right now. Oliver Stone wrote the script, directed the movie and I suppose it should be mixed up with 'Platoon' and 'JFK' which means I'm tipping my hat to those movies too. But Salvador is my favorite Oliver Stone movie. Gringos meddling in South America has never led to anything good (just ask Cortez) but this gritty movie highlights that in spades. The harrowing scene at the end where border control seizes his newly acquired wife wrecks my head every time I watch it. It's as relevant today for all nationalities where 'small people' get caught up in global chessgame proxy resource wars. After we wreck your country because we don't like your government, don't show up on our border as a refugee. You'll get called an 'illegal alien'.


FULL METAL JACKET






Can you leave Stanley Kubrick out of any favorite movie list? Probably not possible. Sure, who doesn't love Dr Strangelove or Barry Lyndon? But Kubrick knocked it out of the park in this study of how ordinary men get mind fucked into being 'soldiers'. This movie is the ultimate meditation on war. Young kids plucked from adolescence and transported into a reality devised by old men. Old men that run countries and see war as a solution. The hierarchy of human affairs is on display here against the background of the Vietnam War. This movie is ugly, visceral and somehow quiet. It's kind of like war itself.

GALLIPOLI





I love Australia. And I love Peter Weir. This is probably the greatest 'anti war' movie ever made. Seriously. And it was all Churchill's fault when he was  'First Lord of the Admiralty".  Chucking the ANZACs against the Turks, hoping to open up a new "Southern Front" versus German allies sounded like a good idea, but in practice, it turned out to be one of the worst ideas in military history. Those guys got bogged down into one of the worst impossible situations in military history. But the Aussies and New Zealanders were thrown against the problem nonetheless. The ANZACs have always been great fighters as far the the British Empire went but this was not their finest hour. Why? Because Churchill fucked up. He wasted divisions in an amphibious assault that got bogged down on a beach and a rocky coastline versus machine guns. This movie not only shows the futility of that operation but also the totality itself. Young men seek adventure. And old men equip them with weapons and point to an enemy and say that is where adventure is.

MASTER AND COMMANDER









  Do you have an interest in the Age of Sail? Sure you do. This movie depicts it brilliantly. There was a time before our Facebooky, Twiterized world when shit was really real. That means you getting pressganged onto a Royal Navy ship in the 18th century. That sure was a scary time. (By that logic I suppose, when was there a time in human history that wasn't scary). Still, if you want to know how the British built their empire, this movie approaches it. Sea power. A dominant navy. The world got explored by wooden Euro ships and this movie captures that idea. Rival Euro powers killing each other for golden trinkets stolen from foreign shores? Sure. But this movie has more. It recognizes science too and how warfare and enemies propel us forward as a species. The British gave birth to a Darwin in the wake of conquest. In a way, the US landed on the moon to beat the Russians. We humans are propelled forward by conflict. It's ugly. We're sad. But it is.

   Oh yeah, and there are great cannon battles on roiling sea. Do you aim at sail or hull? This movie puts you there and makes you realize how lucky you are not to be a crew member. Your life today is basically the dream of every sailor. Food, clothing and shelter are today things we take for granted. There was a time when your life now was the dream of the ages. Even if you're poor as fuck, these days the life of a poor man is so much better than a poor man's life in the past. These days, the poorest pleb has a better diet than the King of England in 1750. The modern world scares the shit out of me but you know what, the visceral reality of the past and this Royal Navy movie scares me even more. I got born in the perfect zone! A rare 1980s incarnation which will be seen by future historians as the perfect war free zone in comparison to the global proxy resource wars that will come later in the 21st century.



KELLY'S HEROES






    I'm throwing this movie into the mix and yeah, I know it has no place here. But you know what, it's probably my favorite war movie. Yeah sure, that's horrible. Why? Because it's war as comedy. War as something other than tragedy. That's so wrong. And yet I love it. I remember watching it as a kid and crying buckets when it ended. The camaraderie. Soldiers in war. The idea that being shot at binds you together as men. Roman legions operated off this principle. All soldiers do. And as a kid, this movie made my child's brain realize that. Sure, there's something wrong with us as humans if we organize ourselves into armies and make it an industry and devise elaborate ways of killing each other. But in my child's brain, there was something in this movie that appealed to that dark side of my brain.


    War as comedy. War as binding men together for a common goal. Sure, I'm bullshitting here but tell me you don't love this movie. Oddball coming out of the tunnel in a Sherman tank gunning down Nazis, Don Rickles weighing up the price of gold and that classic scene where Eastwood, Oddball and Telly Savalas confront a Tiger Tank with Sergio Leone music. War is terrible. But for some reason this movie turned war into fun. For whatever reason, my ten your old brain cried when it ended. WW II was probably the last 'good war'. War will never be so simple again. The bad guys will never be so easy to define in our proxy resource war future. This movie, for me, harks back to a time when war was worth it.


  Anyway, that's my mind dump on war movies.


  

Tuesday, December 20

Kim Jong Il: Crazy like a Fox!







  2011 has been a pretty shitty year for dictators who like holding on to power and not dying.

  Dictator expiration dates this year started in Ivory Coast and spread to Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya and Yemen. That left Laurent Gbagbo and Mubarak locked up awaiting war crimes trials, Abidine Ben Ali and Saleh looking for beach front property in Saudi Arabia and Gadaffi dead. Assad is barely holding on in Syria and that is probably why it's the only civil uprising I haven't written about this year. Probably because it's been the least likely to succeed.

   The death of Kim Jong Il on Sunday at the age of 69 means he's the only dictator to lose power this year due to "natural causes". That's pretty funny when you think about it. But seeing all these tongue in cheek obituaries of the Korean leader on the likes of CNN or Fox News, hinting at the fact that he was a crazy mother fucker, mental or certifiably insane, well, that kind of bullshit wasn't so funny to me and did bother me a little more than watching any US news network usually bothers me.

   Why? Because Kim Jong IL was crazy like a fox.

   Sure, Kim Jong Il had a fucked up hairdo and got wasted on Hennessy XO and ate caviar while his country starved but that's not really how you judge a dictator these days. Most men have foibles and eccentricities, hell, I'm a walking nightmare myself and wouldn't stand up to too much scrutiny if some media outfit stuck cameras in my face but that's not how you judge dictators in our current sci-fi dystopia. No, these days, and probably always, at least going back as far as the Greek city-states and their occasional 'tyrant' rulers, the general rule is that bat shit insane rulers get judged on one thing and one thing only.

   How long do they manage to stay in power?

   Thing is, crazy people don't stay in power very long. Just like Roman emperor Caligula, it doesn't take more than a few years of crazy shit (making your horse a general, constantly banging your sister) before the army gets sick enough of your shit to stab you to death in your sleep. By this logic alone, the only thing that really matters when you talk about dictatorships is longevity and by this accounting we can say one thing about Kim Jong Il...

   He was not fucking crazy.

   In fact, from a maintaining power perspective, the guy was smart as hell.

   From the moment his bigger and greater and much beloved daddy (the father of modern North Korea) Kim Il Sung died in 1994, people wondered if Kim Jong JR could pull off his father's job and fill daddy's shoes. That's never been an easy job for less gifted sons and in 1994 that job was getting even more difficult for North Korea and Kim Jong JR in particular.

   A lot of people don't realize that North Korea wasn't always totally screwed up.

   In fact, during the Cold War and in the years after the Korean War, the North was actually more prosperous than the South. Not because they were churning out cool stuff or selling anything on the world market but simply because they had a superpower friend in the Soviet Union who supplied them with mega tonnages of grain from the Ukrainian steppe and filled out the North's army with the latest Warsaw Pact military equipment. China too, with their baby brother commie neighbor next door still hadn't turned into the hyper capitalist police state it is today. They too had a policy of making sure that their  commie Southern neighbor had enough food to feed everybody and nothing tarnished communism's "good name" around the world.  Kim Jong's daddy presided over all this while experimenting with his very own little Orwellian pocket country and cast himself as the cult leader of his own totalitarian police state. Seems he read Nineteen-Eighty Four as an operational tech manual and missed the idea that it was supposed to be fiction.


Kim Il Sung: Still worshipped by everyone.

   But this free ride was dying by the time Kim Jong Il got his chance to lead North Korea in 1994.

   The Soviet Union was gone now along with all that free food and monetary aid. China was turning free market and their sickly neighbor to the south was being seen as more and more of an embarrassment and liability. China to this day views NK like some famous movie star might view an awkward retarded brother who has a habit of masturbating in public and ruining famous older brother's PR. Sure, you can slap him around for doing it but that'll just draw more attention and get you in  trouble for child abuse. Your only choice is to sit there and enjoy your prosperity and fame while accepting the fact that your awkward brother occasionally jizzes on your leg.

   And that's been Kim Jong JR's leadership plan since the day he took power.

   Pretending he's crazy and jizzing on people.

   Kim Jong Il took power with a pretty shitty hand and managed to play bluff poker with it for 17 years. He threatened the South Korean capital with thousands of artillery pieces and pretended everyday he was just crazy enough to use them. The South responded with a policy of "Sunshine Diplomacy" which was basically a policy of giving Kim Jong lots of cash in return for him keeping his dick in his pants.

   To get his hands on some American dollars, Junior started work on a nuke and even played crazy enough to get the Americans, the Japanese and the South to help build him a $4.6 billion light water nuclear reactor in Kumho in 1994. This was seen by the West as a better deal than continuing to have the North  operating its two  existing gas-graphite reactors which were unstable but easier to breed plutonium from. Kim Jong IL played crazy and bagged the cash.

   Every time Kim Jong felt the Japanese were getting too big for their britches, he'd rustle up a missile 'Test" over the Sea of Japan and pretend it was 'necessary' which invariably made the Japs go screaming to the Yanks looking for them to do something about the crazy person next door. Usually, this meant another few million tonnes of food aid, energy supplies and a wagging finger hoping the crazy guy doesn't do it again. If the West didn't have such corporate controlled media, this whole strategy would be labeled 'appeasement' by Fox News. But instead the likes of CNN and Fox called Kim Jong Il crazy and threw their hands in the air and accepted the politician's line that there were no better options.

   Kim Jong Il played bluff and if he played crazy enough, there was always, from a Western point of view, the chance he might deliver in spades and press the big red button of win on Seoul. That'd be a lot of Star Craft games interrupted. For all his rich neighbors, it was easier to just pay the 'protection' money the 'crazy' guy demanded.

   Where things got interesting was when North Korea went through with an actual nuke test in 2006. They finally broke into the fission club even though Kim Jong had signed the NPT. Sure, seismic readings indicated the underground test was a failure on the Richter Scale and the expected kilo tonnage was below yield and only a partial chain reaction. But it still made everyone in the region shudder and food and monetary aid finally dried up. It was a bridge too far. Carrots weren't worth it anymore for his neighbors. Kim Jong Il knew his country was dying and he needed more aid and cash if he wanted to pass off the goodies to his son. At home, he was forced now to rely on the cult of personality state he'd inherited from his father and total lock down of information from the outside was key. The huge Army and security apparatus meant that information on the State was in lock down even when the people starved.



   Sure Kim Jong would up the stakes every now and again and sink a SK Destroyer, shell a disputed SK Island and threaten madness on Seoul but Kim Jong always had survival in mind and was never interested in an actual shooting war. An Apocalypse on the Korean Peninsula was never his goal. It was a war he knew he could never win.

  
   Despite the mega casualties, he knew South Korea would always win a war with the North. The US and SK would lay waste the North in a month. And that's where China would come in. That's why they never wanted this war to happen either and preferred North Korea as some kind of metaphorical buffer zone against the West. After the initial flurry of steel rain on Seoul, the usual disruption and loss of life  would ensue. There would be street battles in Seoul between SK troops and the North's special forces who might infiltrate the capital through tunnel networks under the DMZ. Still, without modern armor this force would always be a symbolic force so Kim Jong could feel good about being the mighty leader of his brainwashed zombie population in Pyongyang. The battle of 1970s Warsaw Pact equipment versus modern laser guided and night vision equipment would stand no chance and the counter attack would be merciless.

   Kim Jong Il never had any illusions he could win this war.


  The US and South Koreans would begin a co ordinated air campaign after the initial NK artillery barrage on Seoul, targeting North Korean radar sites initially and also going after as much of that arty North of Seoul as they could. I can see that being a turkey shoot of epic proportions for the US and South Korean pilots. That along with counter battery fire from the US and SK in the South would lay waste the North's artillery to a manageable level (mobile potshots from self propelled arty hiding under bridges and in tunnels excepted). Interestingly, this might be the time North Korea decides to break out the chemical or biological weaponry and lay down a plague on Seoul.


    You see how the crazy never ends?

   Any actual shooting war on the Korean peninsula would lead to regime change and if the current elite in Pyongyang are interested in anything, it is self preservation. That's why the political elite will probably go along with this power transition to Kim Jong -un. At least for the time being. They'll wait and see if he's their kind of crazy. The kind that can maintain the status quo and power structure in North Korea for another 30 years. In many ways, that's a special kind of calculated crazy that keeps the elite in power, the people starved, afraid, dependent and the state itself in control of all information.

   Shit's so scary these days, the real crazy question in all of this is if North Korea is the past or the future of our crazy species.
  

Wednesday, December 7

Drone Warfare: How UAVs are changing the 'rules' of 21st century conflict.







    Warfare is taking a new turn in the 21st Century.

    If there's one weapon that proves we're living today in some kind of dystopian future sci fi novel it must be the existence and increasing capabilities of unmanned attack drones. The deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers at the hands of NATO last week and the resulting diplomatic shitstorm shines a big fat xenon flashlight on how future proxy resource wars are going to play out.

    The future will be war by remote control.

    All those drones you read about hitting targets in Pakistan or Yemen or whatever other strategic desert the US gets interested in these days are piloted remotely by US Air Force personnel operating from air conditioned rooms on the far side of the planet from the target zone. How sci fi is that? The base of operations is Creech Air Force base just outside Las Vegas in the Nevadan desert. From here pilot commands get relayed around the globe by a network of military satellites and deliver precision death from the sky on the cheap. Drones can deliver a Hellfire missile for far less cost than a $350 million F-22 Raptor can. And target damage is the same no matter how that ordinance gets delivered. Pilot training is cheaper too with the added caveat of not risking a pilot's life in the process and, let's face it, with a whole generation of unsupervised 12 year old Xbox Live kids sitting home alone with an overworked mom and a dad who bailed to Reno with the babysitter, the US Air Force already has a built in supply of semi trained potential pilots on standby. That is, of course, if the Air Force brass don't mind their com channels filled with terms like homo, faggot and fuck this lag.

    But the real question posed by unrestricted drone warfare is how drones change and re write the rulebook and ethics of modern warfare itself. Brookings Institution policy wonk PW Singer makes a chilling observation:
  
  • IF armed unmanned drones are used against legitimate military targets in, say, Pakistan
  • AND these drones are piloted out of the suburbs of Las Vegas, Nevada
  • THEN is a Pakistani 'radical' car bomb in the Walmart parking lot outside that Air Force base in Las Vegas an act of terrorism... or a legitimate act of military retaliation?


        That right there my friends is one of the most interesting military questions of our time.

        Is the 'War on Terror' justifiable if you can remotely deal death from the skies on the other side of the planet and call it 'military action'? By that very logic, a Pakistani or Yemeni national chucking a grenade into an American Mall food court during the Christmas shopping season is a military strike and not terrorism. The only difference between terrorism and legitimate military action here seems to be the intended target. The brass at the Pentagon will say drone strikes only reign down on the bad guys and they're ever so sorry if their wives and children get vaporized because they were sitting next to them when the Hellfire missile 'eliminated their mountain dwelling'. By the same logic, any pissed off Pashtun with a beef against the US who plants a pipe bomb at a strip mall outside Creech AFB can say the target was USAF personnel and he's ever so sorry the blast took out some women and children shopping next door at JC Penney.

       Same difference morality wise, right?

       That's how drone warfare looses you the moral high ground. The new paradigm of 21st century US drone warfare makes all civilians targets and covert operations 'outside theater' on US soil by Middle East nationals legitimate acts of war.

       The other interesting thing about drone warfare is that it pits high tech versus low tech.

       High tech industrial economies versus low tech desert strongmen sitting on the oil everybody wants. Those on desert sands who don't play ball in the global energy chess game get called 'terrorists'. Those who go along with the program get called 'allies'. It's a global petro dollar game of Risk and it sure is fun to watch if you're a fan of how 21st century proxy resource wars are going to play out.

      Drone warfare offers high tech societies a future where they can minimize casualties by using machines. It's easy to see why Western war planners like the concept. In Western countries human casualties still matter. Volunteer armies are not easy to recruit. Sure, the current state of Western economies makes recruiting easier simply because there are a whole lot more people in search of a paycheck. But in the US right now the Army still buys air time on TV and runs commercials showing how cool it is to run around in foreign deserts dressed as a soldier and shoot 'enemies' while omitting the unfortunate fact that you might die while doing it. Not dying in a war has always been a key goal for every soldier. It's kind of important. Bodies coming home pine boxed from foreign shores always put a dent in the war aspirations of politicians. Kitchener's WWI "I Want You" posters were similar beguiling motifs back in 1914 but that was a different time, when throwing generations of young men onto the Somme didn't lose you street cred. Today, shit's different. Casualties matter more than ever in our corpo sci fi dystopia because everybody wants to live forever so they can continue buying cool new TVs.

        Let's face it, we're living in Blade Runner.

       The US is way ahead in drone technology but that doesn't mean there are not a whole bunch of other nations fast tracking their own remote machines to give their generals something new to play around with on their war planning desks. Drones are such a hot commodity right now and their worth so precious that the US won't sell them except to "trusted partners" (code speak for the UK and Israel). And even those sales are only previous generation stuff (unarmed Predator recon types) while the US keeps all the serious stuff (armed stealth drones) for themselves. When the US restricts arms sales, you know they're pretty serious about drone warfare and future tech.






         The standard vanilla US drone is the Predator MQ-1.

        Designed in the early nineties as an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, it didn't take the Air Force brass or the CIA long to figure out that fitting some AGM-114 Hellfire's on that baby could make it a pretty potent interdiction craft. The Predator family soon expanded into four variants, all rear prop driven and they've been used all over Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and Iran though the US government refuses to acknowledge their attack role even though you can read about it in every newspaper every day.


        The fun part of this story is that the US just lost one of their top secret RQ-170 Stealth Drones over Iran this week. That sure must have pissed the CIA off and earned some X-Box kid at Creech AFB a sizable pay cut. I mean, that wreckage is liable to wind up in some Chinese science lab pretty soon just like the wreckage of the F-117 Stealth fighter that was shot down during the Kosovo War did, downed by the Serbs with a shitty Soviet SA-3 system that proved awesome back in 1999. The US responded by "accidentally" dropping five 2000lb JDAMS on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade two months later but it still wasn't enough to prevent the wreckage boarding the fast train to China. The RQ-170 'wreckage' in Iran is probably bound for the same fate. [UPDATE] Iran just displayed the captured drone and it looks perfectly intact!



        The Iranians are claiming they jammed it and hacked the controls by way of a 'cyber attack' and I, like everyone else, thought that a bit of a stretch considering their whole nuke program got grounded last summer by a computer virus. But that intact drone footage sure seems like a 'controlled' landing to me. I'm sure the CIA are having a shit fit behind the scenes. They barely even acknowledge the existence of the RQ-170 Stealth Drone in the first place. To have one on display in Tehran and picked over by Iranian tech crews has fail written all over it from a US point of view.


     An RQ-170 was spotted in 2009 at a remote airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan which is funny when you consider the Taliban have no radar to track it in the first place and rely on good old goat panic as an enemy early warning system. The RQ-170 was stationed in Afghanistan but obviously had bigger prey in mind. That Stealth Drone is the system that kept an eye in the sky on Bin Laden's house in next door Pakistan while the SEAL Team raided it and, incidently, where the US lost that 'Stealth Helicopter' that nobody even knew existed.


    Iran's new perfectly intact wreckage!



        These latest developments in classified robotic warfare, projects like the RQ-170, are developed at the famed Skunk Works facility in the Californian desert. That top secret tech development center and the experimental aircraft rolling out of there bring up another fun question in all of this and that is the very nature of Air Power itself. The US Air Force branched out of the Army in 1947 after the strategic bombing program over the Reich proved so successful if you didn't give a shit about civilians. Hell, Hiroshima and Nagasaki proved that in spades when civilians were the actual target.

       However, in our current logic, this does tend to cause problems. Especially when you're fighting the smaller proxy resource wars the US finds itself engaged in on multiple fronts today. There was even one fun report by way of Wikileaks a while back, that revealed that British forces in Afghanistan had actually put in a request for the US to stop bombing by drone because they were missing their targets too often and killing civilians; acts which made the whole ground war over there more difficult since landing a bomb on a goat herder's mud shack and wiping out his whole family is likely to turn that goat herder into a fully committed IED laying enemy combatant pretty fast.

    UPDATE 2013: Check out ARGUS. If they're showing you this on Nova (a PBS documentary), that means it's already old technology. With these drones now flying over US cities, say goodbye to that quaint idea known as privacy.



        The truth is, there is no stopping the robot future. No US politician and no sleazy defense contractor is going to sit back and let the Chinese or Russians catch up. We're on the fast track to robotic war. The scope and theater of this war is unlimited when you consider the retaliatory strike options on US soil from low tech guys with no access to RQ-170 stealth aircraft of their own but plenty of access to U-Haul trucks and fertilizer. No one knows what UAVs will unleash in the future.

        Only one thing is for sure about the future when it comes to us humans.

        There will be warfare there.

       

    Tuesday, November 22

    Doomsday Scenario: A nuke in a major world city.









       I got to thinking the other day of global doomsday scenarios.

       Yeah, I'm that miserable.

       And I'm not talking ancient Mayan calender 2012 galactic alignment bullshit either. If this world goes belly up, it'll be entirely our own doing. Asteroid impacts and super volcanoes have a habit of taking too long. And let's face it, doomsday forecasting is a pretty common hobby these days. Especially in Western economies where we're all looking around and wondering what the fuck happened? Europe and the US are going through an existential crisis right now. With 50 million people on food stamps in the US and the Euro currency on the brink of implosion, it's logical that there are a whole lot more plebs willing to wander outside their comfort zones and don a figurative and funky hand drawn cardboard "The End is Nigh" sign on the doorstep of their local supermarket. The global elite stole all the cash. Tragic and criminal, but not exactly a full on Domesday Book. At least not yet.

        I've got a Doomsday scenario which I'm pretty much convinced is written into the DNA of the 21st century. It just has to happen. From the moment Oppenheimer marvelled at his 'destroyer of worlds' fireworks in the Nevadan desert in 1945 and us upright apes stumbled across fission, a Fat Man going off in a world city sometime in the future was pretty much written into the narrative. It's a simple numbers game. In the long run, the probability of nuclear disaster goes to 100%. The fewer people who have the bomb, the longer that event will take to occur. That's the whole philosophy behind the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

        Postponing D-Day.

        But really, it's just a matter of where and when. That's just how we humans roll. What good is inventing a super weapon anyway if it never gets used? The time interval between Hiroshima and a rogue nuke blast in a major world city will be seen by future historians as a mere blip because once it happens, you'll be able to skip all the mediocre history in between.

        It will be the event that will change everything.

       And yeah, I'm aware that I'm sounding like the guy with the cardboard sign outside the supermarket. Doomsday forecasting is a pretty shitty enterprise because you are always wrong up until the time you are right. And by the time you are right, nobody gives a shit anymore because they're too busy looting the local 7-11 for canned goods.

       How will it happen?

       For one thing, it won't be a nation state affair. The Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) paradigm has worked out pretty well for the last sixty years and I don't see that changing anytime soon. When the event comes, it won't be the major powers trading ICBMs. At least not at the beginning. No, when the big one goes off in New York, Los Angeles or London (or, just as likely, a smaller but significant world city near you) it won't be because China or Russia sanctioned it. That'd just be insane on every body's part and invoke a "take us back to the Stone Age" war. No, when the fireworks come, the nuke will be 'rogue', some low yield, low tech piece of shit lifted from an arms depot in Pakistan, traded on the black market in some Albanian dive bar and detonated by a bunch of whack job religious freaks with some beef against your version of what god you'll meet after you die. (If any).

       Sure, the 'War on Terror' is bullshit designed to stake a claim on Mesopotamia's oil reserves but that doesn't mean there are not a whole bunch of people out there who hate the West's guts and very willing to press the red button. In fact, there's easily enough seething animosity at current Western Mid East policy that enlists no shortage of reactionaries willing to let loose the Unforgettable Fire for whatever eschatological reason you want to choose from. The 21st century corpo techno dystopia we're all living in means it's only a matter of time before nukes fall out of the hands of nation states and into the hands of a genuine Bond villain.

       Source number one?

       Pakistan.

       That's right, America's ally from hell.

       Pakistan is the country in the world right now that gets zero media attention versus its time bomb weight in international affairs. Sure, US military doctrine is all about surrounding Iran and engaging in proxy resource wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but the true energy wars are still a decade away. There's an old saying in military generalship circles when embarking on any campaign that goes "always plan for the unexpected." That sure holds true today. Especially for Western intel outfits who are scared shitless behind the scenes of the real 'event' that would make 9/11 seem minor. These days, the War on Terror is like a trench coated flasher showing up at your eight year old's birthday party. Sure it's fucked up but it isn't actual physical contact. It's only a view that results in psychological damage. Nobody actually got raped. World media right now adheres to the same consolatory 'it could be worse' paradigm. Shit's bad, we're broke and global resource wars are about to get kickstarted but so what, the supermarkets are still full and there's still gas in your car. Accept the inappropriate view of flasher dick.

        A 'rogue' nuke will shatter all that.

        Here's how.

        In the US right now, you can't get on an aeroplane without having some mouth breather feel up your nut sack for an underwear bomb. Meanwhile, uninspected cargo ships roll in and out of the world's ports everyday. Millions of steel containers get unloaded and any of them could contain the rogue nuke from hell. And the politicians don't give a shit. They're so busy fighting the last decade's "terrorism war" that they miss the point every time in favor of the ease of global commerce. Free flow of capital trumps everything. Bagging cash defeats logic. Future generations in the post apocalyptic wasteland will hate us and yeah, Mad Max II is an awesome movie but who wants to live there?

        I'm not saying enhance the police state already created for citizens since 9/11. I'm saying ditch the TSA and put all those guys to work in the world's ports. That's where the real threat lies if you really give a shit about "terrorism". In fact, getting your nutsack felt up before you board a plane is pretty much proof that the "terrorists" have already won. If you buy the idea that they "hated us for our freedom", then today's lockdown dystopia is proof that the metaphoric bad guys are already high fiving like crazy and snorting lines off hooker tits. We today have created a lockdown sci fi dystopia that would make Orwell shit bricks. The "good" cop's house got raided. The whistleblower is 'illegal'. A public assembly to redress grievances needs a 'protest permit'. Cops pepper spray your face for pitching a tent on the sidewalk because you occupy some space and wonder what the fuck is going on.



    Nukes. In the 50s, they were a spectator sport. Go figure that shit.


       Let's get to the serious stuff, the rogue doomsday nuke itself.

        Pakistan sure is a fun zone if you like studying nations on the precipice of failure. But you know what the CIA, Mossad, Russia's intel services (former KGB) and the hodge podge UN (IAEA) really care about? Pakistan's nukes. So let's examine those for a minute. Pakistan is critical to Western interests because they are so scary. You remember that drooling guy on the playground when you were a kid? You know, the one who stole your lunch money? The one that was dangerous when you were nine but is now forty and living in a trailer park addicted to meth. Pakistan is that guy. Only today he's still the bully in his prime and stealing US lunch money because no Pentagon intel report knows how far the crazy will go. Obama's drone strikes on those Pashtun fucktards inside Pakistan are not exactly helping to cool shit down either. Hell, that's probably why they had no problem letting Bin Laden kick back and watch himself on TV in a compound a mile from a major military base.

        Let's face it, the West's bad guy number one was a hero over there.

        That says everything you need to know.

        Pakistan hates the US right now. And the sleazy Pakistani politicians who have a tenuous hold on the seething time bomb over there like the pay off money the US provides. The US dumps $2 billion a year into the Pakistani military and even that extortion cash buys them nothing. The Pakistani political system is barely functional. The Pakistani secret service (ISI) sponsers jihadi groups who attack US troops in Afghanistan. Those same Jihadis have infiltrated the Paki military and nobody knows how many generals are symapathetic to the fundamentalists or are fundies themselves and, for a small donation, might pull a sick day for a whole regiment while a bunch of loons drive off base with a kiloton yield sky god bomb stashed in the back of a U-Haul truck.

          Let's face it, the more Pakistan destabilizes, the more the chances of my doomsday scenario happening sky rocket. Next up, it's a simple matter of loading the bomb onto some rusty Panamanian freighter with dodgy paperwork and then it's time to set sail for a port city near you. Meanwhile, some sleazy ISI guy calls up the whack jobs on board and releases the launch codes and signs off with a friendly 'Allah Ackbar'. A week later, the vessel approaches a Western City, let's say San Francisco, and rolls into the harbor unchecked. Meanwhile, the TSA are searching your WWII vet grand dad to see if he's a closet terrorist. What kind of defense plan is that? It's so shit it's the reason I know the War on Terror is a media event and not real. If it were real, intelligent guys would be fighting it and ditching the hyperbole.

        So, D-Day happens and a square mile of San Francisco is ashes.

        What next?

        For one thing, we've just entered a Brave New World.

        Every human on the planet is shitting themselves wondering what the Pentagon's next move will be and the world's nuke arsenals are on high alert. Meanwhile, Western countries have turned overnight into police states. Only kidding, they're already police states but I'm talking full on no holes barred shit like checkpoints every where, the National Guard roaming around in military trucks doing random searches of your grandma's bra. The TSA will quadruple in size and be everywhere. X-Ray scanner vans will drive around city streets, laughing at your naked fat ass and checking what kind of merch you bought at Home Depot.

        The interesting thing is that every nuke blast is traceable to the source uranium. So within hours, the US will know it came from Pakistan. So does the US nuke Pakistan back to the Stone Age for the actions of a small bunch of organized religous freaks? That's the most interesting question in modern warfare right now. Do you punish 170 million people (most of them illiterate peasants) for the actions of a small group of Islamic crazies? How do you respond? Millions in Afghanistan and Iraq got killed or displaced because of the actions of nineteen Saudi Arabian terrorists. Hell, Bin Laden family relatives got a free flight out of the country after 9/11 when the air space was in lock down.

        At some point, you've got to admit, we today are living in a dystopian sci fi novel and nobody realizes it because there are so many ways to escape reality. It's a scary world and as the energy depletes and the population passes 7 billion, you have to switch off the TV and face some scary truths.

        That guy with the sign outside the supermarket might not be a whack job.


    Wednesday, November 9

    Why Israel wants to attack Iran.







       If Israel attacks Iran, it won't just be because they fear a Shia nuke.

       Sure, a big red button of win on the Ayatollah's desk would be a credible check on Israeli power and would certainly start an arms race in the Middle East (the Saudi's too would race to centrifuge some yellow cake into something blowable) but this is not what Israel really fears. Besides, Israel has 200+ nukes of its own and is not a signer of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. They know an Iranian nuke would be merely 'theater balancing'. If the Iranians ever used it, Israel would glass them back to the Stone Age. That's the fun thing about nukes. They're really only useful when they never get used. In fact, nukes are the greatest peace keeping weapons ever invented.

       And that's a problem for Israeli expansionist right wingers.

       The real reason Israel wants a war with Iran has little to do with nukes and a whole lot more to do with the current political and military situation in Israel's own back yard. The recent Palestinian UNESCO vote at the UN was pretty much a slap across the face to Israel. Israel knows the rest of the world hates their guts for not making a peace deal with the Palestinians. And the UNESCO vote was no empty gesture either. Since UNESCO was a general assembly vote it could not be vetoed by Israel via AIPAC via the US. Sure, you might think UNESCO is just an educational, scientific and cultural organization but the fun part mixed up in all the fine print is that the vote allows the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court. So soon, you could have international arrest warrants out for Israeli leaders who like to bust out the white phosphorous after some fucktard Gazan goat herder launches a home made rocket at a school bus.

       In truth, Israeli right wingers are getting extra twitchy.

       The Palestinians have finally realized they cannot win their war with Israel militarily. So they've gotten smart and changed tactics. They're now aiming for a political and moral victory. And that's a war right wing politicians in Israel can't send the mighty IDF to win. In fact, it's a war the Israelis think they might lose. Especially when they themselves score major PR failures like the raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmera which seriously pissed off the rest of the world and especially Turkey, a major NATO power in the region. In truth, the Israeli right cannot get what it wants (more land and settlements) through peace and negotiation.

       The Israelis can at best delay the Iranian nuke program with a bombing mission but the truth is, the Iranian nuke program is diversified enough that nothing is gonna stop a Shia nuke in the long run. Uranium enrichment and warhead design is tricky but nothing the Iranian mathematicians can't work out with a pencil given enough time. If Israel attacks Iran they're playing a different game then the one advertised on TV. It's about delaying Iran while neutralizing Southern Lebanon.

       So it might soon be time to grab the popcorn folks.

       If Israel attacks Iran's nuke sites it'll be because they want to provoke an Iranian response in their own backyard that'll allow them to finally settle their Lebensraum and 'illegal' settlement problem once and for all. Since the pesky Persians have no air force capable of conducting a reciprocal strike, they'll have to rely on their asymmetrical forces. And Iran sure has plenty of these. The Iranians basically have a proxy army right next door to Israel in Southern Lebanon and as soon as this war goes live (if it ever does and hopefully not), you can expect Hezbollah, the al-Aqsa martyr brigades, al-Qassam and all the other Iranian funded proxies to launch everything they've got at Tel Aviv.

       This will be the open invitation Israel needs to finally take the gloves off and do what they've been itching to do since the IDF got its nose bloodied by Shia heavy infantry in Lebanon in 2006. The forces there are no joke either. Entrenched and well equipped with rocket artillery, mainly consisting of 122mm Katyushas (range 30km), they also have Syrian made BM-21s, Iranian Arash and maybe 100 Fajr-5 (range Tel Aviv) and also a nice spectrum of modern anti tank weapons including the RPG-32, (the Israelis lost 30 of their supposedly invincible Merkeva tanks to them in 2006). This pesky Iranian proxy army next door is not going to be defeated unless the Israeli military goes total war on their asses. And a war with Iran will be all the justification they need to get the ball rolling.




       The Israeli right wants more territory and they are not going to get it by entering peaceful negotiations with the Palestinians. That strategy is for wimps. All that more peace talks will buy is some good Israeli PR in the minds of a foreign public with the collective memory of a goldfish. And that's worth jack shit in the regional power play and won't deliver the needed real estate. A walled in Palestinian state will only be desirable to the Israelis after they've chopped it all up into small manageable chunks linked by roads and water supplies they control. That annexation isn't complete yet. And with the way the Palestinian question is playing on the world stage right now, the Israelis are seeing problems brewing with their ongoing annexation policy. They're also nervous about fighting a growing demographic time bomb at home where Israeli Arabs and Palestinians are fucking like jack rabbits creating a voting bloc which could skew things away from the distinctly Jewish state they've been expanding since 1948.

       So is total war the solution?

       Of course it fucking is. It always is for us upright apes. Total war will solve a whole bunch of Israeli problems but start a whole set of new ones for the wider world. By attacking Iran and provoking an Iranian proxy response against Israel, the IDF will finally get to settle the Southern Lebanon, Gaza, Golan Heights and illegal settlement problem once and for all. All with the added bonus of setting back Iran's shitty nuke program a few years. Sure, the Iranian's will launch some of their semi accurate Shahab 3s back at Israel, maybe even aiming for the Israeli nuke facility at Dimona in the hopes of whipping up some Geiger counter juice of their own.

       Will Israel need US support? Sure. But they won't get that by simply asking. Even if the answer is "no", Netanyahu knows he can just act and drag the Americans in by default. He knows the Iranian response to an attack will be to use every tactic in the playbook once the pew-pew starts and Natanz is burning. One tactic will be mining the shallow waters of the Gulf and, quite possibly, firing Chinese Silkworm missiles at all those fat oil tankers lumbering off the Iranian coast with 40% of seaborne world oil supply in their bellies. Oil prices will shoot through the roof overnight, the brittle American and Euro economies will crash dive and the US will be forced into this thing in a big way.

       Sure, the Chinese and Russians will be pissed but will they get involved in the shooting and kick start WWIII? Probably not. It'll be more fun for them to just sit back and watch the death spasms of American superpower. I'll admit that I've said before that WWIII is on the table but the Russkis and Chinese will probably just play the waiting game and supply Iran with fucktons of weaponry while issuing angry protests at the UN and secretly laughing their asses off. That's the smart move. They can win this thing just by sitting back and watching the fireworks. Sure, the world economy will tank but Russian and Chinese populations are better suited to austerity than all the spoiled assholes in Western countries who'll shit a brick when they can't afford a new flatscreen.


       Thing is, the Iranian threat to Gulf shipping will be very hard to counter without filling the skies over Iran with drones and aircraft and even then, how do you stop hundreds of Iranian speedboats dropping mines into the Straits of Hormuz? And, more interestingly, how do you pay for it all? Just the theoretical threat of mines in the Gulf is enough to push insurance rates on tankers through the roof. There goes your cheap commute from suburbia! Limited ground invasion? Western boots on the ground in Iran (if it played out like that) could be considered a proxy resource war too far by the Russkis and Chinese, especially since Iran is sitting on the 4th largest oil deposit on the planet.

       Let's face it, this war is scary as hell.

       In fact, it's so scary, I can't believe it will actually happen. I'm sure the US is pressuring Israel behind the scenes not to go ahead with their dream strike. Sure, the air waves in the US and Europe are getting flooded right now with Iranian nuke bullshit, preparing the public for the possibility of war by making it seem like Iran will soon have a multiple stage ICBM capable of raining down mega tonnage on New York City. And the average Fox News viewer probably believes it too. After all, the dumb fuck public are still scared by a bunch of idiots doing that monkey bar training thing, footage the media roll out every time they want you to be scared of bad guys in some foreign desert somewhere.

       But the scariest caveat in all of this is the shaky financial status of Western economies.

       Major powers going broke is historically a war creating environment.

      With Occupy Wall Street protests everywhere, small but worrying to the Western oligarchy, and Europe and the US teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, the scariest part is that total wars are handy ways to wipe financial slates clean, clear the streets of 'unpatriotic' long hairs and grab the resources you need to fund the extravagant life styles people in the West have grown used to. If this war does happen, that'll be pretty much confirmation that the Western oligarchy has run out of ideas on how to solve its insolvency and bankruptcy problem.

       Stockpile popcorn. Stay tuned. I still believe this war can't happen but of course, that's assuming we're living in a world run by rational men and I'm not so sure anymore, if we live in that world.

      

    Saturday, October 22

    Libya: The Dictator is dead! Next up: "Democracy"?



       It was only a matter of time before Gaddafi ended up like Saddam Hussein.

      Let's face it, it's risky business being a Mid East dictator these days. Unless of course you're a Saudi Royal and willing to do business with the global corporate oligarchy and play ball by petro dollar rules. Failure to comply means you get put on the bad guy list. And Gaddafi sure was a 'bad guy'. But then again, show me a leader in the Middle East that isn't. To climb your way to the top of the action in desert cultures, you've got to be a strongman. That means a sleazy history and high body counts the Western media can use against you when they decide they want your shit. No Mid East ruler since the time of Mohammad ever got to power on a peace and love manifesto. It's a hard dry land out there, forbidding, fruitless and it wasn't until the combustion engine got invented in the late 1800s that Western oligarchy's got interested in what was buried under all that desert sand.

       Sure, Gaddafi had it coming.

       He died by the sword just like in the old maxim.

      I was never a fan  but I will admit a certain schadenfreude at Gaddafi's power to piss off oil hungry Western interests. Just when he was playing nice again and making friends with the US via Condoleeza Rice, he suddenly found himself cast as the lead villain in a NATO funded war movie called "Odyssey Dawn". He sure looked the part. Villains are always more memorable if they have a signature look and Gaddafi sure did fit the bill. He dressed in flamboyant carpets and habitually wore something that looked like the curtains from a 1970's porno flick. He had odd habits too like bringing his tent with him when travelling abroad and pitching it on the lawns of rented multi million dollar mansions while leaving the mansion itself unoccupied. My favorite bit was the hot Ukrainian nurses he had on  payroll  that "monitored his blood pressure" while he shelled his own cities. In hindsight, the city of Misrata turned out to be Gaddafi's mini Stalingrad and the place where his forces were broken.

    Gaddafi trying to play ball in 2006.

       Gaddafi grabbed power in Libya as a 27 year old captain in a bloodless coup in 1969 while the former King was jetsetting around Europe. Fancying himself as the Arab Che Guevara, Gadaffi was the strongman material the disparate Libyan tribes could understand and he set up the new Libya as a late sixties counter cultural anti imperialist mecca where anyone looking to do bad shit to Western interests could get supplies, weapons and explosives.

       Obviously, that put him on the Western shit list.


      Libya took part in the 1973 oil embargo against the US and its support for Arab unity and opposition to western interests in Islamic states painted a big fat target on Gaddafi in the western world. In 1982, Reagan imposed sanctions and the CIA tried to off him in 1984. Two years later, a squadron of F-111s bombed his compound and killed his 15 month old adopted daughter. This was in response to the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing that killed and injured a bunch of US servicemen. The Libyan's retaliated in 1988 with the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The evidence that Gaddafi funded it was remarkably flimsy but it's gone down in history as his doing and conspiracy theories are not my forte. Truth is, everything is a conspiracy these days and whatever line of bullshit you choose to believe is a personal affair. There is no real truth anymore in the age of the Internet. 

       Let's face it, we're living in Bladerunner.

       So what now for Libya after the national strongman has ended up on display in a freezer at the local supermarket?

      Can these rebels, now styled the National Transitional Council, keep a lid on things or are 42 year old internecine scores about to get settled? Who really knows? That's probably why the NATO pencil pushers nicknamed this mission "Odyssey Dawn"; they had no clue either what the outcome of intervening in another oil rich Mid East dictatorship would be. I bet all those people dying in the popular revolt going on in Syria right now are kicking themselves that their geography doesn't sit on top of some proven oil reserves. The world we're living in demands energy and a fortunate geography buys you air support as the 21st century enters the proxy war stage. Libya was just the preliminary low hanging fruit.

       There will be a lot of factors at work in Libya once the post revolution high wears off.

       The Transnational Council are the ones sitting on the oil reserves and the ones the oligarchy is willing to do business with. All of those reserves are in Eastern Libya. And the TNC have already proved they can do business, filling a number of tankers even during the war that bagged them $200 million per load that sure helped fuel the rebel war effort.  Ironically, it was Reagan's sanctions and the inability of Gaddafi to sell his oil during the 80s and 90s, (when oil was astoundingly cheap), that preserved Libya's supply. Estimates say Libya had about 55 giga barrels of which they've gone through about half. This leaves them with significant reserves of around the 30 Gb mark and an export capacity of 1.9 million barrels per day which is why the western oligarchy got interested in this little war in the first place.



        Eastern Libya and its capital Benghazi have always been Libyan redneck country and the part sophisticates in Tripoli liked to look down on while sipping their fancy coffees in upscale cafes. Benghazi is the city where the supporters of the former king that Gaddafi deposed in the '60s got to lay low while watching as Gaddafi funneled the oil wealth out from under their feet. They've been itching for a shot at revenge for decades. It's also home to the Islamists and the wilder desert tribes and proved fervent recruiting ground for volunteers for Iraq and Afghanistan to fight the Yankee imperialists. Those are the contradictory people NATO sided with when they got involved in this war. Truth is, oil makes everyone a consumer, loyalties cheap and alliances tend to shift like desert sands all so long as us proles get to fill up our vehicles as cheaply as possible to make that commute from surburbia to the job site affordable.

        Libya, under Gaddafi, supplied 10% of the Euros oil (the reason why the French and British got concerned for [sic] humanitarian reasons) and one thing about Libyan oil is that it is especially 'sweet'. That means it only costs a dollar to refine a barrel as opposed to most other oils out there (barring Brent North Sea crude) with high sulphur content. Those Canadian tar sands the US is in love with right now are dirty and the pipeline they want to run to Texas means the US is really starting to get jittery about the future of suburban voters. If shit gets too expensive that voting block might finally go 'off reservation' and elect a guy the corporate fucks have not already bought.



       Yeah, Libya sure was a fun war to watch, if you're like me with an eye on the bigger picture. The bigger picture is nasty and Libya and Gaddafi will be merely a footnote in the ongoing global chess game. The energy chess game that pits established powers against rising powers all of them sucking at the tit of black gold. Sure, there are conflicting reports on how much spice is left. But that doesn't really matter in the end anyway.

       As always in war, what really matters for nobodies like you and me, is what other men in positions of power are prepared to do to deliver what the rest of us secretly want. Cash money. That's how power structures work. You stay in power playing a subtle strategic game of pleb delivery and filling your own pockets for retirement on beachfront property somewhere sunny. And killing your opponents if they become too pesky. Machiavelli layed down the rules for this whole paradigm centuries ago. And nothing has changed for us sad upright apes.

       And by Machiavelli's own measure, it seems Gaddafi screwed up royally and finally ran up against more powerful foreign men.

      

    Wednesday, October 12

    Occupy Wall Street: Can peaceful protests work anymore?






        I'm munching popcorn watching the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

       Truth is though, I'm pretty skeptical on the efficacy of protest movements in our current sci fi dystopia. I'm talking protest movements that actually achieve their aims. For instance, according to Guinness and their world record book, the largest protests in human history were against the Iraq war when 36 million people took to the world's streets.  Still, the corporate oligarchy went ahead with their proxy resource war anyway even when a sizable portion of the global public called bullshit on the reasons behind it. Let's face it, entrenched power structures just don't give a shit what the plebs think anymore.

       Back in 2003, we were living in a world where the corporate oligarchy still at least felt a need to come up with a WMD cover story so they could stake a claim in the heart of Mesopotamia's energy reserves. China and Russia hated it but couldn't do anything to oppose that resource grab. Fast forward to Libya in 2011 and the plutocracy didn't even feel the need to bother with costly machinations in popular media and conducted that proxy resource war unmolested by popular dissent.

      Since when did asking the ruling elite nicely by peaceful protest ever work in human history? When you look at it, human history is just one long narrative of who killed who to take their shit. It is certainly not a story of who asked nicely for some shit and was given it because the enlightened rulers gave up power and control because they suddenly developed a new found respect for people with no shit. Us upright apes really only understand violence. When there's blood on the streets the Roman nobility bought property; these days the corporate oligarchy invade some desert shit hole and corner some new energy reserves. Nothing like a good war to clean out the streets of protesters anyway. Being a lazy hipster is unpatriotic in a time of national emergency.



       The oligarchy rolled out al-Qaeda, a bunch of desert idiots on monkey bars and made them out to be the new Reds; and carted off thousands to foreign deserts to go fight them. People are getting wise to the proxy wars designed to tell Russia and China to keep their filthy hands off America's desert. Then came the financial crisis and the masses were getting restless so they tossed the plebs Obama, a handsome black guy who got the suit job where you live in a nice house in Washington DC and get to read the oligarchy's script while the corporate media snap pictures. "Hope and change". Yeah, right. Being a voter these days is like being some teenage punk kid shopping at Hot Topic, buying the corporate made 'rebel' T-shirt and missing the irony completely. Truth is, there are no voter choices that haven't already been pre approved by the entities that run our 'democracy'.

       Sure, you're going to quote me Gandhi or Martin Luther King and say peaceful protest can work. Thing is, those movements had a little more bite than just a bunch of longhairs with conflicting ideas as to what's wrong with our sci fi dystopia. Sure, Gandhi shaved his head, spun his own cloth and never whipped out an AK, but his movement had an arsenal of weaponry that the Occupy Wall Street protesters simply don't have. At least not yet.

       First off, the Indian Independence movement had numbers. Gandhi could pass some gas and have a million people out on the street looking for a whiff of last night's vegetarian curry. The OWS crowd can only manage 30,000 on a good day. That could change but I won't be holding my breath. Another factor is that the Indians had a charismatic leader in Gandhi himself, a little bald brown guy dressed in a towel but a graduate of University College London and smart as hell. He knew how to hurt entrenched power structures in a way that could avoid high body counts. You hit them where it hurts, namely, their wallets. You order your followers not to do business with the oligarchy. For Indians, that meant weaving their own cloth and not importing British textiles. Next up, Gandhi led the Salt March where he encouraged his countrymen to stop paying taxes to the British on salt. Salt is a useful commodity in a country where you sweat a lot and soon the British were feeling some pain. They still locked up Gandhi but that just made him more of a symbol of resistance.

       Truth is, it's hard to see Occupy Wall Street managing to make similar inroads. One major problem with going up against the corporate oligarchy is that in many ways, you're biting the hand that feeds you. Sure, the bastards have bought the political system, attained person hood and own the Supreme Court but they also run the food system, provide Internet access and employ the masses. The "99%" can agitate for better terms but the "system" is so intertwined with every man's needs that it's impossible to affect change without destroying the whole thing. There is no Bastille to storm anymore because violent revolution just gives birth to Napoleons. There is no better system than capitalism because we're all greedy, self interested fucks and the commies lost. There are a lot of working stiffs out there fully invested in the status quo and the oligarchy will have no problems filling jobs in the national guard if a bunch of protesters start rocking the ship.

       I can agree with the spirit of the protests but then you've got the amorphous demands of every guy with a sign:



       No complaint with any of those demands right?

       Thing is, to get the masses on board, you're going to need something simpler. Something you can fit into a soundbite. Trouble is, the problems of the 21st century are so myriad they don't fit on a postage stamp. This leads to disintegration. Gandhi had a simple idea, Indian Independence. MLK, had an even simpler one, equality for all. Today, shit's more complicated.

       The problems run deep. There's this palpable sense that the world can't continue on its present track. This rock just crossed the seven billion population mark and there's a feeling out there that this cannot go on. Energy, food, farmland, water, minerals, all are becoming strategic materials rather than just things we take for granted. The polar ice is melting and already there's bickering between Russia, the US, Canada and the Scandinavian nations about who owns what bit of sea floor in the Arctic. We're in that time just before full on resource shortages and the rich, wise to this, are cashing their chips out of the global casino financial system. We're in the bumpy plateau at the top of the bell curve of peak everything. Every time there's a slight recovery this is matched by a rise in oil and food prices which kills that recovery.


        Rising commodity prices sparked revolutions across the Middle East this year, tossing out dictators and replacing them with democracy. The Egyptians ditched Mubarak and got for their efforts a military/police state and a whole set of new guys with tanks banking cash and unwilling to give up power. That's the problem with revolutions succeeding. You're liable to end up with a new boss just the same as the old boss only meaner. Syrians are getting gunned down on the streets but the global oligarchy couldn't give a shit because Syria has no oil or anything they want. Gaddafi was unlucky enough to be sitting on 10% of EU oil supply and so he got tomahawked.

       Western nations are still years away from Children of Men style chaos. It takes food shortages before the masses finally take up arms against those harvesting them for fun and profit but by then it'll be way too late. The plutocracy by that stage will be safely entrenched in their privately secured armed enclaves and eating cake funded on middle class despair.

       Don't get me wrong, there's nothing I'd like more than to see the Wall Street protests spread and gather strength. Hell, they might even achieve some of their aims. Even then, they'd just be buying a bit more time on the doomsday clock. Meanwhile, the oligarchy are casting hungry eyes around the Middle East and wondering what new war they can get going to clean the streets of filthy protesting hippies.

       I see the media floating the idea of "Iran" and their 'assassination' plot against some Saudi ambassador and I shudder.

       Are they really considering that move? The world's fourth largest oil reserve sitting there with 78 million pesky Persians making the geographical error of living on the top of it. China and Russia are not going to like that resource grab. If the US and Israel get any fancy ideas about bombing Natanz, I'll take that as confirmation that the oligarchy have run out of ideas on how to fix the global financial mess they've created.

       Unfortunately for the rest of us, war wipes slates clean, makes rich men richer and puts protesters in uniform.