Monday, August 8, 2011

Benghazi: Postcards from the edge of civilization.

    Benghazi sure is a 'fun' zone these days if you enjoy a front row seat for how 21st century resource wars are going to play out. I think it's pretty obvious right now that proxy resource wars are in our future. Hell, they're here right now. Proxy bullshit wars are the new 'Domino theory' but with no Kissinger or McNamara to sell the idea to the plebs. And, let's face it, things are easier these days if governments bypass the idiots who elect them and keep their intentions on the down low. All you really need today is some semi plausible story about a bad guy in some foreign desert where there's oil and people will believe he's a bad guy so long as a compliant media rolls out that stock footage of the 'terrorists' on monkey bars.

   But the NATO mission in Libya is getting harder to explain.

   Libya is just another place, along with Detroit, Baghdad and Fukishima, where we all get a front row seat to preview all the shit that's going to make the 21st century the worst century in human history. We humans are screwed. And yeah, I'm a major pessimist on long term human survival. Military history will do that to you I guess. But the sad truth is that there are no 'good' wars like WWII left to fight anymore. The future of war is just lots of pesky details. Details that won't make for good TV. There are no more obviously evil Nazis to rail against. Just lots of sleazy guys on all sides whose sleaziness is proportional to the energy reserves sleazy guys happen to be sitting on that other sleazy guys want.

   The West needs energy but so do the Chinese and the other BRIC economies. The market for cool stuff is getting crowded now. The future is lots of land grabs that are getting harder and harder to explain to the public. Especially in Western 'democracies'.  It's going to be shady resource squabbles up until the point when China or Russia or the US get sick of proxy wars and finally need that oil or freshwater or farmland more than they are prepared to allow rival powers to grab it. That's when shit will get real interesting. Ultimately, our Facebooky, Twitterized post modern feel good consumerist utopia runs up against the hard wall of finite resources and depleting energy. And that's when the fun starts and the 'real' wars get greenlit.

   Benghazi today is ground zero for this new proxy war paradigm

   Right now it's a latter day 70s Saigon, full of the usual free for all characters and rapine that makes any big city in a warzone really shitty for the local population but exciting as hell if you're an insurgent, rebel, CIA operative, Islamic religious freak, Bedouin heroin addict, foreign economic hitman, arms dealer, renegade journalist or just some guy trying to make a quick buck off the fall of yet another desert oil producer. It's like Casablanca in 1941 but with no Bogart to make it all sensible to a foreign public who don't give a shit anymore because they're too busy applying for foodstamps.

   The NATO air campaign is not following the script, you know, the script some pencil pusher in the Pentagon or Whitehall scribbled together just as Gaddafi was about to punish Benghazi for its 40 year history of hating his guts. The NATO script hoped Gaddafi would die quickly by Tomahawk (the British bombed his compound on night one of Odyssey Dawn but missed) and all the evils of the pesky Middle East dictator would go away after the Western corpotocracy stepped into the rubble and rewrote the oil deals and dumped 'democracy' on the unwitting citizen victims of Libya who were supposed to be happy with all the benefits of globalization via a McDonald's dollar menu in Tripoli.

   The problem with wars these days is that they have a nasty habit of not following the pleb fed script.

   In the future dystopian corpo sci fi novel that we're all living in, food is still relatively cheap, oil is still available and there are no ration tickets yet. We're living in that time just before things start to get real ugly, where the contents of the plastic Coca Cola bottle are still worth more than the wondrous plastic container itself; the dream of every ancient warrior, a capable, durable, refillable water carrier that you'd pass down to your son but which we toss idly in the trash because it looks ugly on the floor of our 'Prius'.  Our throwaway dystopia relegates foreign wars that any rich country gets engaged in to just one more event on TV, competing for viewers along with shitty reality shows, singing competitions, home improvement bullshit and that show about some guy who can tell you what your dog really meant when he took a shit on your Blu Ray collection.

   Benghazi is the dirty underbelly of all our lives right now. Sure, the Libyan debacle is a sideshow when compared to big global chessmoves like Iraq or Afghanistan but it's got a certain naked land grab feel about it that works as the perfect metaphor for how big powers are going to gobble up all the low hanging fruit in the increasingly shitty 21st century. And eventually they'll come into conflict over some Arctic oil puddle the melting ice makes extractable. That's where this is all headed. All the world's capitals will soon know the free for all global squabble that Benghazi is right now.

   Eastern Libya and its capital Benghazi have always been redneck country and the part of Libya that sophisticates in Tripoli like 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 helplessly 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 rebels best fighters and also the last guys you'd expect NATO to be assisting but such is the complex web of forces that guide geopolitics these days. In truth, oil makes everyone a bitch, loyalties cheap and alliances tend to shift like desert sands all so long as the proles in the US and Europe get to fill up their tanks on the cheap to make that commute from surburbia to their cubicle in Wageslavistan affordable.

   In the revolutionary 60s, Gaddafi rode to power on the idea of crumbling aristocracies in the 'Age of Aquarius' and set up Libya as a one stop shop for anyone with a beef against Western governments. In the 80s, he'd sell anyone with a business plan for mayhem some semtex or an AK and giggle as the pasty white men imperialists in the US and Europe recoiled in horror as a 747 crumbled over Scotland or the IRA blew up an office building in London. Gaddafi is an asshole. But he's the kind of asshole you'd like if he were a bad guy in a movie. Like a Darth Vader but in sunglasses and dressed in 70s porno curtains.

   Benghazi right now is the Mos Eisley in our Star Wars universe. A 'hive of scum and villainy' if you will. An international cast is waiting to feed off the flesh of Gaddafi's fallen regieme. It's the awesome new template for war towns where the global corporate oligarchy, with special forces and intelligence agencies sent in as vanguard are followed soon after by corporate journalists, money men, dealmakers and various shady fucks. The rebels in Toyota Tundra trucks are too dumb to know when they're being used. And they're not even good enough fighters to close the war they were scripted to win. Sure it's only a matter of time before the oil changes hands and the rebels stomp into Tripoli but using a bunch of malcontents as a cheap ground army smacks of discount war.

  The thing is, as the world gets increasingly deranged, because of failing financial systems, energy and food price spikes and all kinds of growing religious and ethnic tensions on an overcrowded planet, Benghazi is the new template for a frontier town at the edge of civilization. Wars started and unfinished because everyones too broke to fight on borrowed capital. Sleazy wars with hard to define goals (because the public is getting wise to bullshit). The problem for the corpo oligarchy is that unless we go to 'total war' and Clauswitz' ghost gets to witness the 21st century's end by way of his 19th century paradigm; 'total war' where the generals finally get to press the 'big red button of win' on their Strangelove desks. But then nobody wins. Nations are still toying with the idea that there's a victory to be had somewhere. Right now, total war is still bad for business.

   Soon, if not already, Washington DC, London, Rome, Madrid, Athens, Paris, Moscow and maybe even Beijing are going to start to look like war towns, places turned into siege enclaves by debt, riots and diminishing energy reserves. We've still got a decade left before things get really ugly. But we will get a front row seat to the growing 21st century sleaziness and Benghazi is the fringe model for how the world plays out. It's always ugly watching vultures stick their hairless necks into dead flesh.

   The one constant in human military history is that war is always a way to burn the mistakes of the past and wipe slates clean. War is catharsis. And it's always really ugly. But war has a habit of bringing people back to some baseline reality, a reality where those trashed plastic bottles are worth something again. New generations are doomed to keep on relearning how much of a failure war is because we upright apes are too dumb to learn from our own history books. But war is written into our DNA. Fuck the other guy, I need his shit. The world right now reminds me of the situation exactly one hundred years ago. The heady Edwardian days of the gilded age before the Great War cleansed all that animosity out of the old system. 1911 was a year when major powers were entrenching and everyone was getting pissed off.  There was a lot of positioning by nation states then who were gearing themselves up to test how conflict would work out in an industrial age. It took two World Wars to wipe that slate clean and hundreds of millions died. And that was without nukes in the equation. We're in a similar age, the final squabble for what's left after the 20th century boom, this time with 7 billion people to throw into trenches both metaphorical and real.

   The problem today for Western economies is that there is no room for anymore 'growth'. The whole financial casino is based on the idea that we keep expanding into new territory, shitting out more babies and building new markets for iPads. The new reality is that can't happen anymore and that's going to piss off a lot of people. It's the hard wall all our consumerist dreams must crash into on a finite planet. Moon Base Alpha is not going to happen anytime soon because we can't afford it anymore. We spent all the cash importing Italian marble for our countertops. So we're stuck on this rock. Caged apes tend to bash skulls for extra rations. That's us on planet earth right now.

   Stockpile popcorn. It's still cheap.

   And yeah, I'm a depressing fuck. I'd hang outside a supermarket with one of those "The End is Nigh" signs if I wasn't such a pussy.


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.