And ignorant and passive, too, if you’re an American.
Rolling the Dice Once Again – in Iran
By BAR executive editor Glen Ford
*”The Lords of Capital have always chosen to resolve their contradictions
Tom Engelhardt, the prolific intellectual engine of the Nation Institute’s
daily column TomDispatch,
recently predicted that the Bush administration won’t attack Iran
because…well, because they’re too sensible to launch such a mad
enterprise. In a July 9 piece titled:
“Why Cheney Won’t Take Down Iran,”
Engelhardt acknowledged the many signs that point towards an air assault on the world’s fourth biggestoil exporter by the United States, Israel or both. “Given the Bush
administration’s ‘preventive war’ doctrine,” wrote Engelhardt, “which has
opened the way for the launching of wars without significant notice or
obvious provocation, and the penchant of its officials to ignore reality,
all of this should frighten anyone”.
Then Engelhardt rolled off some of the many reasons the U.S., for its own
good, should *not* wage war on Iran: the “global shock” of $300-$400 per
barrel oil, “$12 gas at the pump”; International Atomic Energy Agency chief
Mohamed ElBaradei’s warning that a military strike “would turn the region
into a fireball”; last year’s revolt of U.S. generals and
spies, who conspired to undercut the administration’s rationale for an Iran attack;
and doubts among the chattering classes as to Dick Cheney’s clout in the
last months of George Bush’s regime.
Engelhardt tends to believe that “the weight of reality” and the strategic
presence of more “adults in the room” have brought a degree of sanity to the
Bush gang, and that Karl Rove’s 2002 declaration,
“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality” is no
longer operative in the White House. “Are they still capable of creating
‘their own reality’ and imposing it, however briefly, on the planet,” asks
Engelhardt? “Every tick upwards in the price of oil says no. Every day that
passes makes an attack on Iran harder to pull off.”
*”The Bush pirates believed the consequences of failure to invade Iraq were
far graver than the risks of war.”*
Engelhardt’s underlying assumption appears to be that an attack on Iran
would be, in a word, crazy – too crazy even for the Bush men – that the
risks to the United States and world order are so terrifyingly high that
only madmen would take the plunge. The flaw in the argument is the
assumption that the Bush men and the Lords of Capital whom they serve see
the world in much the same way as the rest of us. They do not, and we know
they do not based on their behavior in 2002-2003, when the same cost-benefit
analysis would have argued decisively against an unprovoked invasion of
Iraq. Clearly, the Bush pirates believed the consequences of failure to
invade Iraq were far graver than the risks of war. The question we should be
asking is: What makes relative peace so scary that American imperialists
would rather gamble the fate of the planet, including their own futures, on
a roll of the dice in the Persian Gulf?
*Imperialism’s Nightmare Vision*
I submit that the Lords of Capital and their servants – today, as in 2003 –
understand perfectly well that the system they oversee cannot long exist
under the current paths of world development; that their only hope to
perpetuate themselves into future decades is to violently upset the
planetary game board – as often as necessary. From the financial oligarchy’s
perspective, the death of the world as they know and possess it – *their *world
– is imminent, and can only be avoided through acts of horrific aggression,
terror and barbaric reversion to primitive modes of accumulation, i.e. brute
theft and pillage.
An exaggeration of current world realities?
That is the weight of* their* reality – actually, the weight of the
contradictions of late stage capitalism under the hegemony of the
all-powerful finance sector, which produces nothing yet seeks to monetize,
commodify and buy and sell everything. So, what do the Lords of Capital see, when they survey “their” world? They see the final failure of their grand scheme to shift the centers of global production to the South and East while somehow preserving the supremacy of
the de-industrializing West – an impossibility. As arch-speculator George
Soros keenly understands, power must”shift in favor of the developing world, particularly China” – an unacceptable outcome to the Lords of Capital. They therefore require a military
alternative to the laws of political economy and civilized relations among
nations. Their continued existence depends on their capability and *
willingness* to smash and rearrange the planetary reality whenever
imperialism’s illogical and wildly contradictory arrangements are
threatened. Raw military power – a global coercive regime – must be deployed
to counter the elemental logic of political economy (and history) with the
logic of terror.
*”**The supremacy of western finance capital can only be maintained by
periodically waging war against world order.”*
The US Stock Exchange in New York City: Most ruling classes have used patriotism to keep the population at bay and doing their bidding. How fitting that this temple of mendacity, greed and inequality should wrap itself (literally) in the flag!
They must be constantly prepared to wage war against peace, because only
through war can they forestall the inevitable collapse of the rule of
unproductive capital – that grotesque insult to the human productive spirit
and simple common sense. The grand vision of corporate globalism – the
finance capitalists’ imperial heaven – cannot exist in the real world except
through the application of terror. That’s why the servants of the Lords of
Capital were compelled to devise the Project for a New American
Century(PNAC) as a grand military strategy to buttress the terminal illogic of
their planet-smothering version of corporate globalism.
The PNAC’s mission was to eliminate the *capability* of any state or
combination of states to mount a “deterrent to American intervention”
anywhere in the world. It was a declaration of war against the world. The
U.S. would develop the capability to wage four separate wars simultaneously
– resistance would be rendered futile.
The invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003 – the first stage of a much deeper
thrust into Asia that was foiled by the Iraqi resistance – must be
understood in the context of U.S.-based finance capital’s imperative to rule
the planet through military coercion. The rise of the euro, the approach of
peak oil – let us not get lost in the bushes. The Lords of Capital will
always have reasons for war, since the global regime they seek to maintain
constantly creates conflicts with the productive forces of the world and
threatens human existence – now, for example, diverting food production and
distribution at affordable prices in favor of biofuels.
The US-based global military-industrial-media complex needs wars not only to preserve its hegemony, but to ward off the constant propensity of capitalism to stall out. Wars are a form of military Keynesianism, fabulously profitable to the warmongering circles, and sustainers of jobs for hundreds of thousands of workers in the metropolis.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq was a terroristic display, a macabre kind of
mega-theater designed to intimidate and straightjacket the entire world,
including putative allies. As I wrote on January 30, 2003, seven weeks before the war:
“The real show is in the show, itself. The people who created George Bush’s
ridiculous War Face are not just *playing* crazy to gain transient advantage
over Frenchmen and Russians. They are Hell-bent on *proving* to the natives
(all of us) that they are capable of unimaginable destruction. We must see
it to believe it – which is why this war is all but inevitable. In the
aftermath of horror, the world will become malleable, ready for reshaping in
the not-yet-defined New Order. That’s the plan. The pirates are confident
they can improvise the post war details at their leisure, later. What we are
witnessing is essentially the buildup to a global consciousness-searing U.S.
military demonstration – the Mother of All War Shows. If we search for the
military or economic objectives of the conflict on anything so crude as a
map, we have missed the point.”
Which is not to say that Washington didn’t have strategic objectives –
dominance of the entire region and its resources – but that they did not
achieve them and, therefore, retain every “reason” for further aggression,
to continue pursuing frustrated objectives. That’s why there was no “exit
strategy” in 2003. It is the most compelling reason for remaining in Iraq,
and why an attack on Iran is just waiting to happen.
My friend Tom Engelhardt thinks the ghastly potential consequences of a
strike into Iran act as brakes to U.S. (and/or Israeli) aggression. However,
if the point of the aggression is to prove to the world that the attacker is
willing to risk global catastrophe to impose his will – if the strategy is
to play a deadly game of chicken with the rest of the planet – then the more
risky, the better.
Wingnut poster mocking the supposed leftism of the Democrats. Only in America can you find so many levels of ignorance, deviousness and imbecility intersecting at once.
It is true, as I wrote on the day Bush’s tanks crossed the Kuwaiti border,
that “the Pirates have accelerated the processes of their own ruin.” (See “They
Have Reached Too Far- Bush’s Road Leads to Ruin for Himself and His Pirates,” Black Commentator, March 20, 2003.) But the accumulated contradictions of maintaining imperial
hegemony are what drove Washington to invade Iraq – to attempt to upset the
global game board – in the first place. The fact that the invasion
“accelerated the processes” of U.S. decline simply makes another assault on
world order more “necessary” from the perspective of the Lords of Capital.
From their standpoint, the alternative is the demise of the system that
defines their existence. What civilized people would view as behavior too
risky to contemplate, *they* perceive as defensive measures to stave off
*”**If the strategy is to play a deadly game of chicken with the rest of the
planet – then the more risky, the better.”*
In the five years since the Iraq invasion, the euro has grown in buying
power from $.93 to $1.60, fossil fuel producers lose money every time they
sell oil and gas pegged to the failing dollar, and the nations of the world
continue to discover more creative ways to “redline” the U.S. out of their
political and economic affairs. What’s an imperialist to do? Bang the fist
on the table, one more time, to upset the global game. Mr. Engelhardt
believes “[e]very tick upwards in the price of oil” makes it less likely
that the U.S. will attack Iran. But it is mainly U.S. war ranting that has
sent the price of oil into the stratosphere – another American game of
chicken in which it proves it is willing to destroy the economies of the
industrial world, including its own, to somehow preserve imperial hegemony.
Washington’s conduct is, if anything, crazier than pre-Iraq invasion –
unless one understands the logic of the Lords of a dying system, whose
remaining levers of global control are artificial, largely disconnected from
the real world economy, and ultimately dependent on military coercion and
the threat to bring the whole house down.
U.S. threats to bring down the house may be redundant. In the past year, the
world has slowly become aware that the global economic order as we have
known it awaits an implosion unlike any in history. The sky really is falling in on late stage capitalism.
*The Big One*
Where has capitalism been warehousing its most fundamental contradictions
during the current epoch of decay? How has finance capital managed to
disconnect itself from so much of global productive enterprise and still
churn out ever-increasing returns, without which it would quickly die? The
answer appears in the form of the Mother of all Bubbles, the $750 trillion
in “fictitious capital” that former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and other European social
democrats point out “represents 15 times the gross domestic product (GDP) of
all countries” on Earth, including more than $500 trillion in derivatives
and other “notional” instruments.
This is the “money” that capitalist financial institutions pretend is real –
and whose shadowy presence overwhelms and distorts the real world’s
comparatively puny $50 trillion economy (the U.S. GDP is $15 trillion).
Derivatives and such instruments are not wealth, but mainly organized debt
that is treated as money, and which threatens to strangle real economic
activity. It is a “ticking time bomb” that no one – no one! – knows how to diffuse, much less eliminate.
Apparently, that’s the monopoly money the Lords of Capital have been playing
with to become “notionally” richer and richer while producing virtually
nothing and threatening everyone else with ruin if they disrespect the
Empire. Imperial heaven actually does rest on a foundation of clouds and
other smoke – and weapons of war.
*”It is a ‘ticking time bomb’ that no one – no one! – knows how to diffuse.”*
It is impossible to imagine how the Lords of Capital will separate their
mountains of play money from productive capital, or how the structures they
lord over can survive the inevitable implosion.
Back in 2002, when Washington decided to upset a disadvantageous global game
board by invading Iraq, only $100 trillion in derivatives floated in the
financial firmament. Now the bubble has swollen five-fold and, thanks to the
U.S. sub-prime lending debacle, the world is becoming aware of the looming
catastrophe. Nobody is trading the bogus instruments, which means their
“value” is nil. Since no combination of oil producers’ “sovereign funds” can
turn so much “shadow capital” into the real thing, there can be no effective
bailout or controlled deflation of the “fictitious money” bubble. It is the
end game of late stage capitalism’s terminal contradictions, the final
outcome of the Lords of Capital’s futile quest to maintain global power
while disconnected from, and a burden to, the productive sectors of the
So, will the Lords of Capital accept their class extinction – their social
death – as the edifices of their rule implode in utter ruin? Not likely.
They’ve still got the U.S. military, bigger (or, at least, more expensive)
than all the rest of the world’s armed forces, combined. The option will
still remain, to seize vital sectors and regions of the planet, holding them
hostage to continuing Western imperial sway. To just *take* stuff, in a
hi-tech war of primitive accumulation. That was the goal of the greater Iraq
adventure, until it got bogged down by pesky “insurgents.” From where the
Lords of Capital sit, they don’t have any other choices, not any longer, if
they insist on maintaining global hegemony. And they *do* insist.
Of course, there is nothing written in stone that says Iran must be the
location for the next U.S. land and resource grab – but there will be a
grab. Africa is daily penetrated and subdued, and Venezuela is as good or
bad a place as any to roll the dice. One thing is certain: the Lords of
Capital are literally incapable of transforming themselves into productive
world citizens. And they have *always* chosen to resolve their
contradictions through war.
Despite differences of temperament, Barack Obama serves the same masters as
John McCain: the Lords of Capital. That’s why Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez wisely refuses to differentiate between the nominees-to-be. “The two
candidates for the U.S. presidency attack us equally, they attack us
defending the interests of the empire,” Chavez told his socialist party.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, it is the empire and the empire must fall.”
Our job is to prevent them from bringing the rest of the world down with it
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at