Sunday, July 24, 2011

Norway: It's not terrorism if you're a photogenic white guy who hates the government?

   Like most people, when I first heard of the bombing in Oslo, I started group-thinking along with everybody else that al-Qaeda were behind it and had chalked up some opportunistic infidel deaths to buy some longevity in global media now that their dear leader got air dumped in the Indian Ocean. I presumed headlines and a media frenzy were the motivation for the bombing. You're nobody these days without column inches. Al-Qaeda, being mainly a media phenomena anyhow, with no command and control structure, no real logistics operation and no more chips to play on the global stage except media infamy for 9/11 and some amorphous rallying call to angry Muslim youth to use 'terror' against the Western oligarchy; I figured this was just a cheap way to blast a soft target and remind us all that al-Qaeda are still here. Muslim populations in the Middle East sure have a legitimate beef with us Westerners for meddling in their desert shitholes just so we can keep the petro dollar Christmas tree lights on.

   Still, I grabbed popcorn.  Nothing starts a whole new war like dead white people.

   But then I started thinking about it. Norway? Why the hell would, and I'm using the terminology of Western countries here, why would the "terrorists" strike Norway of all places? I mean, they aren't exactly enemy number one or close to first on the list of "countries a young pissed off Muslim extremist with no girlfriend" is likely to want to murder children in. Sure, it's a NATO member and a soft target with no TSA and Patriot Act keeping them all safe. But when you're a young Muslim donning a suicide vest to make a point by chalking up a respectable civilian body count, Norway is by no means the first place you'd choose to make that point. Then I thought of Gaddafi and that threat he made two weeks ago about bombing the Euros and NATO capitals. If some young Libyan pulled this shit, then the much derided NATO ground assault on Tripoli that I fantasized about last week was suddenly in play.

   Hell, if the whole "war on terror" is really real I thought, as I switched from popcorn to beer, then why didn't some sexually repressed but horny young Muslim or Gaddafi 'Manchurian Candidate' plant a bomb in say, Times Square, or blow up an airliner with a Calvin Klein underwear bomb? Oh shit, yeah, 'they' already tried that and I've already been duly 'terrified' by what the desert brown people want to do to me. Okay, I thought, maybe Norway is a legitimate target, what with their fancy socialist democracy, high taxes and top rating on 'best countries in the world to live in' index. Perhaps one of those young Muslims living in a segregated Muslim district in Oslo wanted to draw attention to the fact that they're highly pissed off with their living situation. And, let's face it, no letter writing campaign is ever going to change public awareness like a bunch of dead people.

   That's when breaking news told me that a "suspect had been apprehended by Norwegian police". And right then I knew this guy wasn't al-Qaeda. Any decent fundamentalist would have saved the last bullet in the mag for himself. And not for that 72 virgin bullshit they like to promulgate on CNN or Fox. Proper religious fundamentalists die by their sword along with their victims and let god sort out the moral dilemma of heaven and hell allocation. It's how you prove you truly believe in an afterlife right? By dying and going to a better place? It's why I wonder why all these religious fundamentalists on all sides don't just kill themselves by default and board the short train to paradise. Why waste time dealing with the nuance of the human world when you can take the fast track to everlasting bliss?

   Turned out, by my third beer, the shooter had been identified. Pictures of him surfaced.

   Holy shit, I thought, he might be the best looking Muslim 'terrorist' I'd ever seen!

  Brad Pitt could play that guy in a movie. He's the most photogenic blonde Euro terrorist since the baddies in 'Die Hard'. Aren't terrorists supposed to be bearded brown desert people with funny headgear? And that's when I noticed that the "Terror Attack in Oslo" headlines started shifting editorially to "Extremist Attacks in Oslo". Suddenly, terrorism was off the table now that a blond photogenic white Norwegian guy did it.

   This subtle editorial shift sums up the whole "War on Terror" thing in one neat little pistachio shell. Terrorism since 9/11 has been purely the domain of brown people in foreign deserts where the oil is. It's the kind of subtle editorial shift that goes unnoticed but it's there, full on and in your face, that is if you've got the time or inclination to pay attention to the conglomerated bullshit excuse for news reporting we get these days. Chances are, most people in Western countries are too busy holding down their jobs or looking for a decent paying one in the economic crisis to pay too much attention to what goes down in Norway. Especially if it's not an al-Qaeda operation with any likelihood of bombing them while they ride public transport  to get to that job. Truth is, the lone crusade of an extremist with some beef with his government isn't really a priority except for a quick empathetic fear of what it might be like to be hunted like game for twenty minutes in a forest/lake setting in Norway. World events these days are supposed to fit a narrative. When they don't, the story must shift to something far more confusing and people are left to figure out our crazy times and the madness of fellow humans all by themselves.

   The reality is that Anders Behring Breivik is a terrorist. Pure and simple. He used 'terror' to  make a point to the Norwegian government for what he saw as its Marxist Socialist agenda leading Norway down the wrong path and letting in too many desert people who have no interest in assimilating into Norwegian culture. Or something. It's an argument you can make. And, I suppose, a fair point to put on the discussion table if you believe in democracy. Let the people decide in the proper forum right? After all, isn't democracy the sneaking suspicion that more than 50% of the people are right more than 50% of the time? But I suppose, if we are to learn anything from history, it's that war and mass murder are the fast track to making your point heard. So break out the automatic weaponry, head to the local mosque at prayer time and start hosing all those evil Muslim children with 7.62mm hollow points to make that point, right?

  Wait, what?

   Scratch that. No, instead, this guy headed to a Norwegian Youth Camp and mowed down 85 white teenagers to prove a point about how bad Muslims are. Okay, let me check my notes. Maybe I skipped the chapter in world military history where murdering your own racial group makes you a hero among them because you wanted to prove to them and the government how 'bad' the enemy racial group are. That's when I stopped trying to piece together the psychology of this guy. He doesn't even deserve the mental energy. Call me radical, but I like my terrorists to at least have a proper point. You know, something like freeing oppressed people from tyranny or blowing up a hotel full of enemy personnel because they're occupying your country or something. At the very least, a cogent ideology you can disagree with on a human level but understand if you were to put yourself in the shooter's shoes and experience his shitty life from childhood.

   But this fucking millionaire?

   Growing up in one of the richest countries on the planet with all kinds of social services and free education and healthcare and unemployment insurance, this fuck up started two businesses that tanked so at 32, he went to live on a farm outside Oslo. Yeah, it was all part of his plan. It's a hard life being a fuck up but a lot easier if you own a farm. How can you hate people if you live on a farm in Norway anyway? You've already scored huge in the life lottery and got incarnated in the first world in the 21st century where life is golden. It made me think of that scene in 12 Monkey's when Bruce Willis time travels back from the post apocalyptic virus future and stumbles across a shitty stream in a nondescript forest and cries with joy, raving that this is all anyone ever needs, fresh water, sky, clean air, a wood supply with fish and wild game to hunt.

   But that's me being all idealistic.

   We humans are pretty simple when it comes down to it. But in the celebrity fap zone sci fi dystopia that we've created for ourselves, where you're nobody if you're not on TV or on some shitty reality show, there are plenty of sick fucks out there who can't see the wood from the trees in the '12 Monkey' forest. This fame whore just wanted headlines and the inevitable media frenzy that makes mass murder an instant ticket to fame. Blame whoever. The media business itself or the insatiable human nature that consumes it. But Anders Behring Breivik is on the front page of every media outlet on the planet today. And that's mission accomplished for him. And yeah, I'm aware of the meta post modern irony of me writing about it.

   We're going to hear a lot of of bullshit in the media over the next week about this guy and the reasons why he did what he did. It'll probably lead to debates about multiculturalism, Muslim integration in free societies, curbs on civil liberties to prevent it from happening again and mountains of other things. But at the end of the day, this fame whore succeeded, just like 'al-Qaeda' did, in making fools of us all. Violence works as do body counts and war. War is the only thing that ever changed anything in human history. Sad fact. And don't quote me Gandhi, that was just war by peaceful means. 

   What a waste of a good farm.



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Libya: Does NATO have the balls for a ground assault on Tripoli?

    There's no doubt that NATO needs Operation "Odyssey Dawn" to just go away now. Shuffle off into the pages of some history book that nobody will read. That's a pretty good bet these days too. With the collective memory of the public in our dystopian sci fi future bordering on goldfish territory, it's safe to assume that the sleazy corporations and oligarchies that run Western foreign policy could hide behind the curtain and watch this mess go away just by the inexorable force of inertia alone. Or at least until the X Factor comes on TV. 

   For one thing, this war is making everyone involved look bad. The French and British are just looking ineffectual with their hamfisted air strikes and with the US Congress voting to censure Obama for going to war in Libya without Congressional approval (laugh out loud funny when you consider Bush era foreign policy), everyone involved here is looking like the proverbial 8th grader school trippers at the local zoo who come across the chimpanzee enclosure. Those apes are so cute on the monkey bars until they get bored and start flinging freshly minted shit at the children behind the Plexiglas.

   The NATO mission in Libya is a lot like that. The trip sure seemed like a good idea if you didn't stop and think about it. And NATO didn't. Making sure that the supplier of 10% of the EU's oil didn't self destruct and flood the Euros with Muslim refugees in the process sure seemed like a good idea when NATO first started dropping precision ordinance on Gaddafi's tanks outside Benghazi. And barring some lucky Tomahawk strike on Gaddafi's tent (and that's always a possibility given the right intel), the NATO mission in Libya went wrong fast. That's not to say there was ever a definition of what the mission going "right" meant either.  Like Gaddafi predicted, it's already gone on longer than NATO bargained for and now they're left without a convincing exit strategy. That's always been the problem with starting small wars when you're the big guy on the block. Once you start them, you can't walk away without a win. Otherwise you just look weak. That's playground logic that every bully who preys on lunch money knows. With Gaddafi's lunch money proving harder to grab than anticipated and him entrenched in fortress Tripoli that no air campaign is ever going to break, it looks like NATO get to be the kids stuck behind the Plexiglas watching incoming turds.

   And this is where it's fun to entertain the possibility of a ground assault.

   Sure, it's never going to happen right? But let's engage in fantasy here for a few minutes, grab some popcorn and play around with the idea that the Euros have balls and how a ''boots on the ground strategy" might play out. This war was never supposed to go the distance. In the minds of politicians in Western countries, they've got this awesome military at their disposal with the latest multi million dollar combat aircraft to push around on the global chess board and anything that doesn't equal an automatic military win means there must be a glitch in the Matrix.

   Gaddafi, for his part, engaged in some high level trolling of the Euros last week. Just the other day, he threatened them with the prospect of hundreds of fools willing to martyr themselves on the streets of Paris and London if NATO didn't stop the bombing. Threats like that tend to piss people off and make the media jizz at the prospect of all the advertising revenue they'll bag while reporting it. If there's one thing the IRA proved when they started bombing economic targets in London, like say Canary Wharf in 1996, is that 'terrorism' tends to bring the politicians to the negotiating table. The dirty little secret of modern warfare despite the hype is that 'terrorism' works. Hell, it has always worked. It just comes down to what you define as terrorism. Carpet bombing cities sure counts. The London blitz, Dresden and Hiroshima were all pretty damn terrifying. If you're gonna bomb Tripoli with Rafales and Tornados, no matter how you dress it up with fancy talk about 'strategic aims' and formal apologies, when that GBU blows up in the wrong place and kills a bunch of fruitsellers it's media time and the chimpanzee shit goes airborne. Truth is, intent doesn't really matter as the smoke clears. Dead bodies are dead bodies. That's war. And it's pretty damn terrifying.

The Libyan rebels: Cool as fuck, yes. But not someone you're going to trust with artillery.

   So the real question, in our little fantasy war, is how does NATO conduct this ground campaign that'll have us grabbing the popcorn and that'll probably never happen. First off, let's take it for granted that the US, the Brits and the Frogs already have ground forces in theater. You think they could trust a bunch of those illiterate rebels in Toyota Tundras to target paint Gaddafi's tanks all by themselves? Foreign special forces have been running around Benghazi since this thing started.

  Could the French and British pull off a balls to the wall amphibious assault on Tripoli? Truth is, they probably wouldn't need to. The British would have HMS Ocean to throw at the job and the French have three Mistral class amphibious assault ships already linked up in the Mediterranean. But it'd be far easier to just unload the armor from cargo ships in Benghazi and push across the desert Eight Army style, rolling up strategic oil towns like Brega and Ras Lanuf along the way. That'd be a bit of a buzzkill on the amphibious landing front though. We haven't had a cool one in war since Inchon back in 1950.

   Still, the armor drive would be fun. 1941 all over again with British armor pushing across Libya and no Rommel to contend with. Just Gaddafi dressed in his 70s porno curtains. Of course, there's no public support for any of this right now, but let's say for the sake of argument that Gaddafi pulls off that threat of martyr bombs in Paris and London. All it'd take is a stack of bodies in your capital and an external enemy to blame it on to have the public crying for blood.

     For more wargasm, let's assume the British break out some Challengers IIs to do the job. You know I've always wondered how that classified ceramic "Chobham" armor of theirs would stand up to relentless RPG fire. Sure Iraq was a test case but Basra was no Fallujah. The French too have their own Main Battle Tank to throw at Gaddafi, the 'Leclerc', which unfortunately for the Frogs, sounds as threatening as some guy who works in a bank. When was the last time the French were involved in proper tank battle anyway? Oh yeah, summer 1940. Ooops.

   Once the NATO armored column got to Tripoli they'd probably head straight to the airport and set up a FOB right there and resupply themselves by air. That strategy worked out pretty well for the US marines when they took Baghdad in 2003. Occupying some real estate in the heart of the enemy camp is a pretty good bet when you're up against a teetering dictator with wavering support and an army who could ditch their uniforms and walk away when things get difficult. Occupying enemy real estate is also a handy way of testing what kind of fight the natives want to bring to the table. And with total air superiority, it'd be hard to see this working out bad for NATO. Of course, it's not the kind of strategy you'd employ anywhere else but in a fading dictators desert capital. But winning might still be tricky, especially if Gaddafi's forces were to prove resilient and everyone and their mother started grabbing an AK from the local armory. Unlikely, but then again, there's always the unexpected in war. My guess is Tripoli would fold in a week with a few small enclaves of die hards holding out a while longer.

  The question is, do the Euros have the balls to put their military on the world stage? Or the cash? The Russians and Chinese would sure like to know. This Libyan mission, like all small wars greater powers get mixed up in, always work out as test cases for bigger 'proper' wars. When the Russians handed the Georgians their ass in the NATO proxy war in South Ossetia in 2008 we all learned that the Warsaw Pact tank divisions hadn't really gone away. The Libyan debacle, no matter who says what, is an interesting test case for NATO as an effective fighting force. Right now a barely passing grade doesn't inspire much confidence.

   But this war still comes down to economics. With all kinds of embargoes, Gaddafi is running out of money and the situation in Tripoli is worsening. Tripoli has always been the place Libyan sophisticates hang out drinking lattes, sucking sweet smoke from fragrant hookahs and discussing how bad the western imperialists are. Truth is, a lot of them had it pretty good under Gaddafi. Free health care and free education right on up through university. Once those illiterate rebels from Benghazi take over who knows what'll be left for the coffee drinkers. Half those fools are Islamic hardliners from the desert who signed up to fight the Yankee imperialists in Iraq and Afghanistan. They don't do Starbucks culture very well. That's why the sophisticates sided with Gaddafi in the first place. Now coffee supplies are getting leaner and bread is being baked by female volunteers. Stuff like that tends to make cafe dwellers reassess their priorities.

   Paradoxically, NATO broke a cardinal rule and bombed the oil facilities at Brega last week. That's like the bully spitting in his victim's lunch before actually taking it and smacks of NATO desperation to get this thing over with. They claimed Gaddafi was using it to fuel his army. But the useless rebels held it a month before and managed to fill a tanker and collect $100 million before they passed "Go". That at least proved to the western corporatocracy that these fucktard rebels can at least play ball on the oil front.

   Gaddafi himself sees the writing on the wall. There's no win for him here long term and like all old men, he doesn't want to die penniless and locked up in some Euro jail. He's shrewd enough to see NATO's predicament and can give them the "victory" they need in exchange for a transfer of power to his son Saif, some kind of immunity from a war crimes trial in The Hague and, most critical of all, getting to keep some of that money he's stashed away in myriad offshore bank accounts. Beachfront property and a comfortable retirement sure seems like a good deal now and he's softening on the 'fight to the death' bullshit he was spouting when this war got started. If he's to cut a deal, he'd better do it quick before the rest of his generals defect and his troops chuck their uniforms, go home and act like they know nothing about rape and pillage.

   In respect to that NATO ground assault fantasy of mine, it looks like my popcorn supply is safe.