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Brussels Bombings

Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) is a long term campaign of insurgency carried out by decentralized guerrillas acting independently of an official state, but in the name of a victimized people. The insurgency may include media manipulation, legal challenges, political action, and non-violent protests, as in the campaign of Gandhi. But all too often an insurgency vaults past non-violence and manifests in symbolic destruction of property and deadly attacks on civilians.

The Western oligarchy’s response to 4GW, part of what one might call 5GW or unrestricted warfare, has increasingly been the drone strike, which has increased bystander civilian casualties, which has incensed and increased the pool of volunteers for insurgency, and so on.

As a result we have two sides killing people they don’t even know and expecting to eventually prevail. We shake our heads, glad it didn’t happen to us. In the aftermath some of us want more attacks on the other side, while some want less, but very few of us can actually change the political/economic systems we were born into. Without a change, the warfare will continue.

Swimming with Unreasonable Sharks

We are back from summer vacation, and boy do we have slides to show you.

As we did last year, we joined my wife’s daughter and her family in renting a beachside house. Oak Island NC is a barrier island – separated from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway – and is near Myrtle Beach SC. The ocean side shoreline runs East to West, and faces South, so you can sort of watch both the sunrise and the sunset. We drove in through lightly-flooded West Beach Drive just as the weakling Hurricane Bertha was passing far out to sea. Last year the air was hot and the water was chilly. This year the air was warm and the water was mild. So I was not surprised to read, New Study Sees Atlantic Warming Behind a Host of Recent Climate Shifts, in Dot Earth:

Using climate models and observations, a fascinating study in this week’s issue of Nature Climate Change points to a marked recent warming of the Atlantic Ocean as a powerful shaper of a host of notable changes in climate and ocean patterns in the last couple of decades — including Pacific wind, sea level and ocean patterns, the decade-plus hiatus in global warming and even California’s deepening drought.

Other climate scientists question whether the Atlantic is actually a mover and shaper, or just part of a complex system, but the article confirmed my sense that the ocean felt like bathwater this summer. Once Bertha moved away we had clear sunny days, but fewer and fewer strong waves to surf.

The house was ten lots away from the one we had last year, and far more comfortable. I would wake up, lurch into the surf and swim up and down while trying to forget all the media buzz about Jaws and sharks and gators. One doesn’t have to venture far out to feel terribly alone in the water. After breakfast I would surf the internet and read. After lunch we men would pile into the waves for body-surfing. Rinse and Repeat. Sometimes the women interrupted our swimming, eating, drinking (and my reading) to drive them places. The idea is supposed to be that everyone gets to relax, but in practice the women kept busy planning and preparing meals, dressing to hunt shells on the beach, dressing to go shopping for t-shirts, dressing to sit on the beach, dressing to go to the Food Lion, etc. And the boys dragged their poor grandmother out to the mall or the WalMart or the Surf Shop.

When they weren’t in the water, the boys played an online war game called Call of Duty almost constantly. I think we had a connection delay because our guys could run around a corner and empty a clip into an opponent – who, unbloodied, would then take them down with one shot. That game features a background voice that barks commands at the players as they coordinate an assault in an urban battlezone. I grew to hate that voice. “Domination!” “Secure the objective!” “We’re losing A!”  “We’re falling behind!” “We’re being dominated!” That insistent voice reminded me of Harlan Ellison’s Twilight Zone episode, Soldier, where Michael Ansara is a heat ray-wielding warrior from the future, wearing an earpiece that urges him, “Find your enemy. Attack, Kill. Attack, Kill.”

We didn’t see any loggerheads hatch this year. Around high tide, we watched brown pelicans diving for fish and flying in tight formations against the wind, and looser formations with the wind. The pelicans were frequently escorted by gulls. Around low tide, tiny Sanderlings and longer-legged and -beaked Willets would scour the beach for anything that might be edible. The women noted that there weren’t as many shells to pick from this year. Once while they looked for conch, whelk and scallops shells, I scored a Corona bottlecap, a rubber band, two rubber hairbands and a charred cigarette. One of the boys found an almost full plastic bottle of Mountain Dew. In the low tide surf there was also a lot of what appeared to be clear, decomposed plastic foam, much like you’d find in the Pacific and Gulf dead zones. My wife found an intact crab, and was wondering what killed it, but we didn’t see any live crabs in the surf.

Last year we went to Pelican Seafood, picked through all sorts of seafood and had a great dinner at the house. This year, Pelican said the boats only brought shrimp, scallops, one salmon and one snapper. It could have simply been a slow day, but it made me wonder what will be available next time. In The Bottleneck Years, HE Taylor’s speculative fiction novel (also posted on Science Blogs), the recently deceased author predicts that the fishermen will sink their boats complaining that the sea had become populated by nothing but jellyfish.

I first read the next chapter of Brown Dog,  a collection of James Harrison’s stories – tall tales really – about a simple soul who lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, passes himself off as Native American when it suits, works only when he must, drinks when he can and chases pussy when it wanders too close. Then I started Unreasonable Men, Michael Wolraich’s third person omniscient retelling of the rise of the Progressive Movement in the early 1900s. I met Michael and many other folk online several years ago at the defunct TalkingPointsMemo Cafe. Sometime later he invited me to join his political blog, dagblog, which I did for a few years. I eventually met him in person when he presented his first book, Blowing Smoke, at a Washington DC bookstore.

Unreasonable Men is well organized – each chapter has a clear date, and many omniscient assertions about the inner motivations of Speaker of the House Joe Cannon, Senate Leader Nelson Aldrich, House and Senate Gadfly “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, President Teddy Roosevelt and President William Howard Taft are supported with footnotes. Michael’s assertions may open him to challenges from conservatives who interpret history differently, but the active voice does make one feel in the moment and moves the story along. His descriptions, citing of facts and use of quotes bring life to figures that usually repose in the dust of the passive tense.

Michael opens by describing a political landscape in 1904 that could easily be mistaken for 2014. Rich vs poor, dwindling resources, financial crashes, and congressional paralysis sound like topics on Meet the Press, The Daily Show or Democracy Now. But in telling about the past he leaves us to make our own comparisons with the present. I knew from high school that Roosevelt had fallen out with Taft, and had started the Bull Moose Party, and I knew that Taft eventually became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but Michael fills in the back story. Learning about Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot’s breakneck assignation of 16 million acres of woodlands into the US Forest Service’s national reserve before an appropriations bill stripped them of that power was worth the whole book. Conservatives lost interest in conserving when it became clear that the land wasn’t being set aside for their future exploitation.

While reading about the tariff debates, I was reminded of a press conference at the Green Party Convention in 2012, which I covered for dagblog:

Each time, as [Dr Jill] Stein or [Cheri] Honkola was answering a question, [Ben] Manski was floating behind, waiting to add a few comments. I stopped trying to figure out the signals and simply raised my hand. Based on Manski’s comment about corporate money, I asked whether the Green Party had accepted or would consider accepting contributions from an environmentally-responsible corporation, if say, Patagonia wanted to support them. Stein hurriedly said that they accepted no corporate contributions or PAC money, and that even if money was found to be from a high ranking company official it would be returned. Manski chimed in that corporations had offered money in the past, but that Patagonia had not.

At the time I wondered which of us was being naive. In my opinion, government serving only business is a kind of fascism, but for government and business to be completely independent would be wasteful if not chaotic. Unless you favor anarchy, the trick seems to be a balancing act between corporate fascism and populist chaos. LaFollette and his brethren led a Progressive movement of the middle class against too much business interference, but one wonders if there is any sort of mechanism to do that today when every politician depends so heavily on corporate contributions to stay in office.

False Flag

For every spark that started a war – the explosion of the USS Maine, the attack on Pearl Harbor, hijacked jets downing the WTC towers – there seems to be a theory that the victims’ side arranged it themselves to justify an aggressive response. Such attacks are called false flag operations, and such plots were often featured on the 1960s TV show, Mission Impossible, though usually without the loss of innocent life. More recently, and to satisfy my inner nerd, Captain Ben Sisko allowed a false flag assassination on the Star Trek spinoff Deep Space 9 to get the Romulans into a war against the Dominion. On the tube, you see, False Flag is A-OK – when your side benefits.

In the initial reports, it was assumed that the Ukrainian President miscalculated badly by ordering or allowing his forces to fire on and kill more than one hundred persons during the anti-government protest. Authoritarian strongman (but now weakman) Janukovych certainly seemed like just the type to do that. But it seems to be accepted now that a group of snipers fired down into the square at protestors, police and bystanders. The question is, who gave the orders? An AP article at Yahoo, Russia, Ukraine feud over sniper carnage, discusses some possible villains:

Ukrainian authorities are investigating the Feb. 18-20 bloodbath, and they have shifted their focus from ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s government to Vladimir Putin’s Russia — pursuing the theory that the Kremlin was intent on sowing mayhem as a pretext for military incursion. Russia suggests that the snipers were organized by opposition leaders trying to whip up local and international outrage against the government. … Putin has pushed the idea that the sniper shootings were ordered by opposition leaders, while Kremlin officials have pointed to a recording of a leaked phone call between Estonia’s foreign minister and the European Union’s foreign policy chief as evidence to back up that version. …

Dmitry Orlov (who I have briefly spoken with once) claims that Western media – even the Huffington Post – won’t even let such ideas into the comment sections.

… now I hear that no comment linking the new Ukrainian government to the neo-Nazis or the neo-Nazis to the mass murder in Kiev can get through on any news site. It seems like there is an actual news blackout on this message:

“It appears that the US State Dept. gave $5 billion to Ukrainian neo-Nazis who used some of the money to hire mass murderers who massacred protesters, policemen and bystanders in order to provide a rationale for overthrowing the democratically elected government of Ukraine and installing an anti-Russian puppet government.”

That’s about as short and sweet as I can make it. Please go and see how many places you can cut and paste that sentence. It would give us an idea of the extent of the censorship in the US. …

Orlov can’t imagine that the sniper attack could benefit anyone else but those who did benefit. Having been raised watching Mission Impossible, I can imagine a lot of things, but Orlov’s explanation does make the most sense right now.

What to do in response, though is another matter.

Russia Today and the Great Game

Reeling from the tensions in Ukraine, two American news readers bucked the Russia Today line and have become part of the story. RT America anchor Liz Wahl simply made a brief announcement and resigned. But according to the Daily Beast, her decision may not have been that sudden:

Wahl later told The Daily Beast that she had been planning the move for some time, saying that her editorial independence had been repeatedly compromised by her superiors and that employees at RT who deviated from the Russian government’s ‘narrative’ were punished.

I know that feeling. Instead of resigning, anchor Abby Martin criticized the Russian invasion during her Breaking the Set show, essentially daring RT to censor her.

Abby Martin, who works as a news anchor in Washington, told viewers that “Russia was wrong”. She admitted that she did not “know as much as I should about Ukraine’s history or the cultural dynamics of the region”. “But what I do know is that military intervention is never the answer,” she said on her Breaking the Set show. “All we can do now is hope for a peaceful outcome to a terrible situation… until then I’ll keep telling the truth as I see it.”

I caught an NPR interview of Abby Martin by Bob Garfield on Sunday evening, which is also on YouTube. Garfield introduced her as a former Occupy activist and 9/11 Truther. According to wikipedia, she covered Occupy Oakland extensively as a journalist, and her footage of the brutal police clubbing of an unarmed protester was used in a suit against the Oakland PD. She also founded Media Roots, serves on the board of Project Censored and co-directed 99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film.

Garfield suggested that Martin’s announcement seemed disingenuous – “there is gambling going on here” – because she worked for a Kremlin-funded channel that puts a “Putin-friendly gloss” on everything reported. Martin shot back that Garfield was working for a news org that takes money from oil companies, and omits news about events in the Gulf of Mexico. She asserted that “all of us in media understood that payment comes from somewhere,” and that there was a lot of self-censorship going on. Garfield claimed there was no self-censorship on his end of the mic, but said, “I certainly get that you believe that a big swath of Western media is sort of corporate-funded propaganda, including NPR”. Martin asked, “Why do I have to work for RT to tell the truth about the US establishment …?

Wahl and Martin (and Garfield) are almost certainly pawns, but so are most of us that listen to the news and try to make sense of it all. One does have to drill down to find stories that go beyond bad Yanukovych or bad Putin, but Resilience.org – the former Energy Bulletin – regularly drills for energy-related stories. At the Guardian, Ukraine crisis is about Great Power oil, gas pipeline rivalry:

Russia’s armed intervention in the Crimea undoubtedly illustrates President Putin’s ruthless determination to get his way in Ukraine. But less attention has been paid to the role of the United States in interfering in Ukrainian politics and civil society. Both powers are motivated by the desire to ensure that a geostrategically pivotal country with respect to control of critical energy pipeline routes remains in their own sphere of influence.

… while Russia’s imperial aggression is clearly a central factor, the US effort to rollback Russia’s sphere of influence in Ukraine by other means in pursuit of its own geopolitical and strategic interests raises awkward questions. As the pipeline map demonstrates, US oil and gas majors like Chevron and Exxon are increasingly encroaching on Gazprom’s regional monopoly, undermining Russia’s energy hegemony over Europe.

Ukraine is caught hapless in the midst of this accelerating struggle to dominate Eurasia’s energy corridors in the last decades of the age of fossil fuels. For those who are pondering whether we face the prospect of a New Cold War, a better question might be – did the Cold War ever really end?

At Common Dreams, Ukraine is about oil. So was World War I:

… the battle for the Persian Gulf is being carried out through its two regional powers, Saudi Arabia, the champion of Sunni Islam, and Iran, the torch carrier for Shi’ite Islam. … The U.S. backs Saudi Arabia, as it has done since 1945, when Roosevelt cut a deal with Ibn Saud to protect his illegitimate throne in exchange for the House of Saud only selling oil in dollars.

Iran, of course, is implacably hostile to the U.S. … Iran’s main ally in the region is Syria, which the U.S. has been trying to overthrow for three years by helping the al-Qaeda-linked rebels that are attacking Syria. Syria’s chief military patron is Russia

… the upheaval in Ukraine is really about the U.S. trying to weaken Syria’s patron, Russia. If Russia is weakened, Syria is weakened. If Syria is weakened, Iran is weakened. If Iran is weakened, the U.S. has a better chance of seizing control of the world’s largest reserves of oil. That is the Great Game that is going on here.

I’m not so sure whether Iran is implacably hostile or whether both sides have implacably opposed goals.

Ukraine Divides

We live in interesting times. Having cast off a corrupt government, still burdened with staggering international debts, and facing an incursion by the powerful Russian military, Ukraine has divided itself into two entities.

One, YouKraine, is an endless succession of televised revolution clips. The other, BitKraine, is a peer-to-peer debtor nation issuing encrypted virtual currency which may or may not have any intrinsic value.

Update20140102: In, Reichstag Fire in Kiev, Dmitry Orlov posted one of those YouKraine clips.

The Long War

Good, informative piece about several US wars and leading up to the current situation: What Do You Call an Endless War? by Andrew Bacevich

For well over a decade now the United States has been “a nation at war.” Does that war have a name? …

Does it matter that ours has become and remains a nameless war? Very much so.

Names bestow meaning. When it comes to war, a name attached to a date can shape our understanding of what the conflict was all about. To specify when a war began and when it ended is to privilege certain explanations of its significance while discrediting others.

Mr Hollande’s Resource War

Did you know French troops were fighting in Mali? I didn’t. A 2013/01/11 Washington Post article, France to the rescue of Mali, claimed that Islamist radicals were the aggressors.

Mr. Hollande’s action came in response to an assault by the Islamist fighters on Konna, a town about 375 miles northeast of the capital, Bamako. When the radicals marched into Konna, Mali’s weak military fled.

According to a 2013/01/18 article, Ansar Dine and How Climate Change Contributed to the Algeria-Mali Crisis, by Juan Cole, something was bound to happen there:

The weakness of the Mali government likely is related to the drought years of the past decade, during which hundreds of thousands of Malians were forced to emigrate to other countries and the agricultural productivity and tax base of the more fertile south was devastated. This economic decline at the center made it easier for the rebel Tuareg of the north to declare their Azawad. There are several factions in the north, some of them Berber-nationalist and relatively secular, but the best fighters seem to be Ghali’s Ansar Dine, and their movement south last Thursday helped provoke the French intervention …

A Washington Post summary from yesterday (2013/05/28) hyped up the rhetoric against the rebels:

When radical Islamists stormed into northern Mali last year, they seized the ancient crossroads city of Timbuktu and began to impose their vicious intolerance on people and history. They enforced a strict form of sharia law, hacking off hands and feet for perceived violations of Islam; they burned or destroyed priceless artifacts, including manuscripts dating from when Timbuktu was at the center of Islamic study of science, culture and law.

But in France’s War in Mali, Dissident Voices subtitles it Neo-imperialist Grab Dressed up in “War on Terror” Rhetoric:

… closer examination of background events shows that France sabotaged low-key attempts that were under way to find a political solution in Mali between the French-backed regime in Bamako and the northern separatist rebels. These talks and a ceasefire had opened only weeks before the French military intervention. The collapse of those negotiations paved the way for France to militarize the country – a step that now runs the risk of plunging the impoverished West African territory into years of internecine war. The cynical agenda is to create another failed state that will be more tightly under the political control of France, giving the French government a pretext to return to its former colony and the wider Francophone region. … Earlier this week, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian let the cat out of the bag when he said that the aim was the “total re-conquest” of Mali.

And a guest poster at Cassandra’s Legacy paints this as a thinly-veiled resource war:

In fact before France began its bombings on the 11th of January, both factions had agreed to a cease fire and were negotiating a peace accord. Nonetheless, France pretended to present the internal conflict as a battle for democracy and against Islamic fundamentalism and organized a coalition of African countries as a defense force. … it even managed to secure a UN resolution to justify the intervention. … The fact is that France started to deploy its troops without waiting for anyone else as soon it found itself facing the real possibility that the government of Mali could fall,  and that the Tuareg could come to power.

What is driving France in this manner in Mali?  It is neither petroleum nor gas, primary resources whose potentially exploitable quantities in the country are not significant, and which also easily could be obtained elsewhere. Nor is it the precious metals that the country is rich in. Rather, what is driving France to act at this time is uranium and, moreover, from a double perspective, that is, both short-term and long- term.

In the long term exploiting the uranium mines in Mali will be fundamental to satisfying the Gallic hunger for uranium on which depends its entire industrial model – one of which they are also often proud,  given that they consider the nuclear energy which is produced as indigenous (notwithstanding the fact that the base fuel, uranium, is obtained outside the country).

Who is right? I don’t know, but the only MSM articles that even mentioned uranium were in response to the bombing of a mine in nearby Niger.