Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mining, Harvesting and Civic Carcinogens in the National Security State

Two seemingly disconnected news articles recently caught our attention.

On May 30th, the New York Times News Service published a report on how the “FBI’s Counter-terrorism Operations” were “Scrutinizing Political Activists.” The article described the great lengths to which the Bureau went to spy on a self-described anarchist and organizer of anti corporate protests whose criminal record consisted entirely of being arrested at those demonstrations. In addition to combing through garbage, emails, and bank accounts, the FBI infiltrated meetings and deployed agents to strike up fake friendships with the investigated suspect. A former FBI agent turned civil libertarian considered the program to be a colossal farce. “You have a bunch of guys and women all over the country sent out to find terrorism,” he said, “fortunately, there isn’t a lot of terrorism in many communities, so they end up pursuing people who are critical of the government” and mislabelling non violent civil disobedience as ‘terrorism’.

A few days before, on May 25th, the U.K. Guardian carried a story which reported on criticism of General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, by Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the former British ambassador to the war-torn country. Earlier this year, Petraeus told Congress that “precision operations by US special mission units” were killing or capturing “some 360 targeted insurgent leaders” every 90 days. [1] According to the Guardian, Petraeus’s staff argued that the tactic was demoralizing the Taliban and would ultimately make the movement more likely to agree to a peace deal on the terms agreeable to the West. [2] Cowper Coles criticised the strategy, stating that “boasting” about “body counts” was “profoundly wrong” and not “conducive to a political settlement.” Cowper-Coles added, “it produces tactical success in cleansing insurgents out of particular areas, but it's essentially moving water around a puddle, and I think any general who boasts of the number of Pashtun insurgents he's killed should be ashamed of himself."


At first blush, the stories fell into the Keystone Kops category -- gub’mint unglued, doing outrageous but otherwise ineffectually stupid things. However, the apparent ineffectiveness hides a more sinister and socially cancerous mechanism at work. The stories illustrate how the National Security State creates its own non-existent necessities.

The denouement was the poisonous fruit of the Government’s vow to protect the country from terrorism. Ten years ago, when President Bush first announced the “war on terrorism,” our blog observed

“What the Government will have to presume is that everyone is at least a potential terrorist. In the most fundamental sense that is a presumption which is entirely antithetical to the concept of civil friendship, i.e., societas." (Woodchip Gazette, 010915)
The fight against an imagined harm -- that is, a harm which could exist in general but which is not specifically present -- creates a reaction without an actual object; the exercise of a means without an actual purpose.

It always helps to begin with Latin. To pro-tect means to raise a barrier before something. By extension, it means to take preventative measures against a contemplated harm. How then does government protect us from terrorism? To erect a wall against a present and identifiable external enemy is one thing; but what happens when the harm is an enemy who might e anyone, anywhere? How do we fight a war against potential enemies?

The entire difficulty with the phenomenon of terrorism is that it is not conducted by an official or state agent but is carried out by anonymous actors at random. We are immediately embroiled in three levels of “known unknowns” -- a non-present, unspecified harm by an uncertain actor.

In 2008 then CIA chief, Mike McConnell, told Congress that “the enemy” had developed the capacity to “blend in” -- in other words, that anyone one of us could be one of them. If it took McConnell seven years to figure out that terrorists tend to “blend in” he is the stupidest man on the planet. [3]

President Bush’s vow to detect and defend against terrorism ipso facto placed all ‘blendables’ under suspicion. By definition, su[b]-spicion (from the Latin 'to look under') replaces the face-value of things with an imagined harm or hypothesized guilt assumed to be lurking behind appearances. Since everyone is at least a ‘a potential enemy suspect’, civic trust is replaced by suspicion and a necessity for general surveillance has been created ex nihilo.

This is not a play on words. The general theory of data mining is that random bits of innocent facts can and eventually will disclose guilty patterns not detectable with primitive linear thinking such as concepts of probable cause. Innocence Hides Guilt and In Garbage There is Truth.

Nor are these simply Orwellian slogans, they are slogans which reflect an Orwellian corruption of civil society at a very root level.

Apologists for the national security state have argued that “rooting out” terrorism was no different than “waging war” against crime. Without doubt, terrorism is a species of crime; i.e. random, unauthorized, anti-social behavior committed by anyone so inclined. The defect was not in the analogy but in the assumed premise that we “wage war” against criminals. We do not and the Constitution with good reason places strict limits on the official reaction to criminality.

Aristotle pointed out centuries ago that what we call society is simply a network and hierarchy of friendships. We assume that everyone of us, at some basic level, is at least not an enemy. If our root assumption is precisely the opposite -- that anyone is a potential terrorist -- our self-protection has metastasized into self-destruction.

The same cancerous paradigm applies to the New World Order’s ongoing “zonal wars” in Iraq, Af-Pakistan and -- soon -- Mexico. The difference is that what is guarded against in this case is not potential terrorism but potential potential. This necessitates more drastic measures such that surveillance is replaced by killing.

Colonialism is nothing new and has existed at least since the days when Greeks and Romans established outpost settlements (coloni) in hostile territories. What distinguishes present day zonal wars from their historical antecedents is the method and nature of their emplacement.

The post Cold War methodology was first drafted as of 1992 in Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney’s proposed Defense Planning Guide. [ 5 ], [ 6 ] This draft was then polished up in a white paper entitled Rebuilding America’s Defenses [ 7 ] published by the defense-industry funded Project for a New American Century (PNAC). This paper in turn got massaged into the official National Security Strategy of the United States of America, promulgated in September 2002. Although not an official government document, the PNAC paper serves as a fundamental text which accurately reflects official policy.

The premise of zonal wars is that “potentially powerful states” might challenge America’s geo-political preeminence or “expand their own influence.” (Rebuilding etc., p. i; ch. 1, p. 2.) This requires a “refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential global competitor." (Planning Guide Memorandum, 18 Feb. 1992, I 91/28291, p. 4.) Accordingly, the United States needs to “preserve and extend its position of global leadership by maintaining the preeminence of U.S. military forces” and by developing “the full range of missions needed to exercise U.S. global leadership.” (Rebuilding, p. iv.)

The key word, here as in other contexts, is ‘potential’ which, it bears repeating, refers to a happenstance which can be imagined to occur. Here, as with suspicion, an actual policy is built upon an imagined circumstance. Of course, ‘contingency planning’ is nothing new but critical to the reasonableness of the plan is the probability and specificity of the allegedly foreseeable condition. To plan for ‘a possibility’ without specification is nonsense.

Once again Latin. The word ‘potential’ derives from potens or “power” -- and refers to a latent or possible power to do something. To speak of “potentially powerful states” is to say nothing more than that another country could become powerful.

Thus deconstructed, the avowed purpose of U.S. geo-political policy is meaningless as a true purpose. A purpose consists in the doing of X in order to cause or achieve a specific Y. In contrast, the goal of the so called ‘missions’ is to prevent a potential -- to stop something that might occur but has not occurred. How does one stop something that has not occurred?

Since the object-condition is in fact imaginary, the only real factor left is the means itself; that is, the meeting of an imaginary power with the exercise of real power.

As implemented, the full range of zonal missions includes, “deployment o[f] forward operating bases” as a “force multiplier” in “power projection operations.” (Rebuilding, p. 20.) These power projection operations include “constabulary” duties for "shaping the security environment in critical regions.” ( Ibid, pp. iv and 6.)

Once again, ‘purpose-based language’ is merely a cover for the ongoing exercise of so-called ‘leadership’ and what the leadership boils down to is ‘power projection’ and the purpose of power projection is to prevent any other state or group from becoming a ‘potential rival’.

Americans are notoriously careless of language, as if meaning could be conveyed apart from the words used. But it is critical to grasp the meaning of policy junk-speak that employs terms like “potential rival” or “potential threat.” A potential rival is an entity which is not but could become a rival. A potential threat is the possibility of a potential harm.

In either case a policy is conjured up against potential but imaginary objects so that the means is the only reality left. Stripped of bureaucratic burble, U.S. policy is simply Bad Bad Leroy Brown Comes to Town to throw His Weight Around. (See Rebuilding, p. 11.)

And what is brought to town are zonal occupations in which everyone is placed under suspicion and treated accordingly. The word ‘constabulary’ used in the PNAC paper never found much acceptance among military bureaucrats who prefer words like ‘stabilizing’ or the more traditional ‘peace-keeping’. No matter; the underlying concepts are the same. The 'shaping' takes the form of degrading civil society and making the zone itself less viable and less secure on the theory that a weakened zone presents less of a so-called ‘potential threat’.

Needless to say, the usual pogey-bait is proffered up with yap about enhancing democracy, protecting human rights and building economies where individual entrepreneurship can thrive. Without deconstructing each of the tweets, it will suffice to say that each of these subsidiary goals must ultimately align and conform to the primary goal of ‘power projection’. Whatever might be served up as window-dressing, ‘shaping the security environment’ means promoting chaos in order to retain control.

The PNAC mavens were brazenly candid about this, going so far as to state that "constabulary missions" were "likely" to "generate" violence. (Rebuilding, p. 11.)

How does maintaining security manage to generate violence? It does so because the reality under the label consists in degrading infrastructures while engineering a low level state of ongoing urban, ethnic and social warfare. So called ‘full spectrum’ military-police-intelligence operations include infiltration, random searches, arbitrary arrests, and generally brutalizing the civilian population by both provoking incidents and responding to the provocation.

It is within this full-spectrum, strategic context that Petraeus’s reference to “precision operations by US special mission units” must be understood. These American einsatzgruppen are simply the ongoing preemptive response to potential provocation.

Such a policy of ‘power projection’ against potentials is simply an abuser’s wet dream. “I’m going to beat you until you love me” is not a true foundation for civil society; unless, that is, civil society is to be degraded in to a vast sado-masochist spectacle.

The difference between the FBI’s “ongoing surveillance of potential terrorists” and U.S./NATO “power projection missions” is simply a question of spectral intensity; but the inherent purposelessness is the same.

In the concluding chapters of 1984, Orwell explains that, under IngSoc, the Inner Party realized it was no longer necessary to conjure up reasons for the exercise of power; rather, the projection of power was its own self sufficient good.

The image of society in 1984 is that of a boot in the face.

Effectively speaking, Orwell’s image forms the operative nexus between the two seemingly disconnected reports. It makes no difference that the FBI surveillance is teleologically absurd; it is the nature of NatSec to maintain surveillance, period.

Similarly, it makes no difference to Petraeus that the best way to negotiate with a party is to set up a table and chairs; “disposing” the Taliban to negotiate is its own power-projecting goal.


The mistake of progressives and the so-called Left has been to assume that what was at issue is a policy -- a Bush doctrine, a NeoCon strategy an Obama Formula. What evolved was not a “policy” but a political cancer.

The metastasizing event was like a tromp d’oeil in which positive potentials got replaced with negative ones. As with individuals, it is the nature of the social organism to give vent to inchoate, latent potentials -- what is usually called the 'creative energy of a people.' These are unknown but knowable. In contrast, defense against knowable unknowns produces a contractive effect. The fight against potential terrorism and potential power ends up suspecting everything, disorienting everything, subverting everything and, ultimately, destroying everything. As a society, the United States is being consumed by its self-defense.

That said, it is important not to confuse the image of the state with underlying causes. While it is possible that a state could become endemically and institutionally sadistic per se, it behooves us to attempt a diagnosis as to what forces or factors are driving the Orwellian denouement.

Likewise, while it is true that the United States has turned its own citizens into “potential enemies” and has become the abuser in ongoing abusive relationships around the world, it overstates the case to say that there is no ulterior purpose beyond sadistic indulgence in a power-projection paradigm.

The difficulty in detecting a qui bono results from the contextual shift entailed in global capitalism.

Wars for bananas are nothing new. However, they have hitherto followed a discrete national pattern whereby country X saw resource Y in region Z and thereupon intruded and grabbed. If profit followed the flag it was because capitalism itself subsisted in a national context or phase. In contrast, the globalization of capitalism necessarily resulted in a corresponding globalization of gunboat diplomacy.

At that point, a threshold was passed. What is the target when all is one? When two parts operating within a larger sphere are at war, the picture is one of con-flict, meaning literally the butting of two rams heads. But what is the picture when the inter-national whole is itself at war with itself? The picture there is simply one of ongoing convulsions and contractions, globally.

The “war” in Afghanistan corroborates this analysis. Since the 1980’s the existence of natural gas reserves in Central Asia (Turkmenistan) implicated the foreseeable need for a pipeline either through Turkey to the Mediterranean or through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean.

However, the building of such a pipeline represented a major investment requiring multiple investors, the consent of multiple countries and multiple agreements concerning purchasing rights, transit licenses, transport agreements and so on. One does not sink billions into a project only to see what fair winds might bring at the end of the day.

Thus, as of 1997 UNOCAL, on behalf of an international consortium of oil companies entered into negotiations with the Taliban [sic] over pipeline rights through Afghanistan. In 1998, UNOCAL (USA), Gazprom (Russia), Delta Oil. Co. (Saudi Arabia) and TurkmenRusgaz, as investors, finalized a sheaf of agreements with Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as represented by the Taliban.

Speaking on behalf of UNOCAL, V.P., John Maresca, tooted the benefits of these agreements but told Congress that “without [a] peaceful settlement of conflicts within the region, cross-border oil and gas pipelines are not likely to be built.” Noting that the proposed pipeline traversed Taliban controlled territory, he stated that UNOCAL could not begin construction “until an internationally recognized Afghanistan government [was]in place.” [8 ]

Some have interpreted this statement as a call for the Taliban to be overthrown. It was not. UNOCAL had just reached an agreement with the Taliban. It was politically neutral statement which belabored the obvious fact that solid agreements can exist only between solid parties.

Instead, President Clinton bombed Afghanistan and UNOCAL halted its activities (Aug. 1998). A month later, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency financed an Enron study for a pipeline through Turkey. In April 1999 Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan re-activated the pipeline project without UNOCAL participation. Two months later, Clinton froze Taliban assets in the U.S. Thereafter, the U.S. government and the Taliban held intermittent negotiations through August 2001.

Historically speaking, business has always been conducted in tandem with ongoing collateral power-projections. But where business deals themselves involve a full spectrum of interests and issues, it inevitably follows that the ancillary gunboat “diplomacy” should also involve the deployment of “full-spectrum” activities.

This brief recapitulation illustrates the multi-party, multi-region, multi-issue complexity of resource wars within a globalized economy. It is very difficult to see whose flag is flying over what where.

What we are witnessing is the turning of a grand historical cycle whereby capitalism reverts to the feudalism from which it emerged.

Economically speaking, what is conveniently called “feudalism” was a system in which government and economy were localized and privatized. Although the chaos of the Middle Ages has been exaggerated by bourgeois apologists, as a whole, the feudal system was both fragmented and fluid. The emergent nation state, solved the fragmentation problem on the domestic level and translated the fluidity problem to the newly defined ‘inter-national’ sphere.

From this perspective it can be seen that national capitalism and nationalised control of production served at least to delineate, and to some extent, restrain conflict. However, as far back as 1994, Le Monde Diplomatique [ See Note 9, infra ] warned that nation states had lost control over their economies and had been reduced to mere agencies which could do little more than react to international corporate behemoths. The state no longer included corporate personalities acting under its umbrella but rather global corporations used subsidiary states as agents and user-interfaces. Dick Cheney seized the day and turned this circumstance into his “Kill the Beast” policy which explicitly aimed to destroy government as an autonomous actor.

If a corporate creature like Cheney can regard the United States Government as a beast, what must he think of insects like Bolivia or Iraq?

As a result, ‘global capitalism’ is at once a progression forward and a reversion backwards. The system of capitalist production and exchange has reached an end state apotheosis. A mode of analysis that is stuck in an archaic and linear concept of causality does not take into account that, under global capitalism, chaos serves profit. The last thing corporate privateers want is a strong nation state (e.g., “Saddam”) in potential control of its own resources.

Within this globalized commerce, the qui bono both exists and does not exist at the same time. Ongoing full spectrum power projections do not really benefit “American” interests or “French” or “Brazilian.” Nor can they be said to benefit this or that international corporation because, as the Afghanistan situation illustrates, even with respect to a single commodity, no single corporation has its hand on the full banana.

After six years and billions of U.S. dollars, no American company controls Iraqi oil. In 2009, the government in Baghdad held two rounds of oil auctions. In the first round, of U.S. companies, only Exxon-Mobil won any contracts. The rest went to approximately 35 oil companies from China, India, Algeria, Angola, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. [10] [6] Winners in the second round included Russia’s Lukoil, UK’s Shell, Malaysia’s Petronas without there being any American takers. [11] [13]

"No one, even the United States, can steal the oil, whatever people think," an Iraqi oil ministry spokesman crowed. [ 12 ] But there is no “Iraqi” oil. Thirty six years after Saddam Hussein had nationalized the oil, the current auctions were held on a field-by-field basis with various provinces and ethnic groups imposing their conditions and demanding their cuts. The “oil ministry” is simply a flow through valve for petro-feudalism.

As the denouement in Iraq illustrates, ‘power-projections’ end up benefitting a systemic variable; that is, any entity which may be a ‘significant player’ at any given time. There is simply no ‘qui’ rather the system as such serves as its own ‘bono’. Where the evil to be feared and the benefit to be gained are both merely ‘possible potentials’ the means generates its own good.

Thus distilled, the civic cancer and the global qui bono are one and the same. Putting aside the irrelevance of what individual borg-units might feel, the full boot of the national security state is not an exercise in sado masochism for its own sake but is engaged in for the “good of the system” -- a good which serves any potential beneficiary in any instance but no one and nothing permanent at any time.

In a word, capitalism’s ultimate commodity has become civil society itself.

©WoodchipGazette, 2011.

Notes & References

[1] Petraeus Testimony, 3/11/2011 matrix/archives/2011/03/full_text_of_general_petraeus.php#ixzz1OyeyY4fj

[2] Cowper-Coles Criticism tactics-profoundly-wrong-ambassador?intcmp=239

[3] Blendables

[5]Defense Planning Guide

[6]Defense Planning Guide

[7]PNAC: Rebuilding America’s Defenses

[8] UNOCAL Corp. to House Committee on International Relations, SubComittee on Asia and the Pacific (February 12, 1998)

[9] Une Capitalisme Hors de Control -Les Chantiers de la Démolition Sociale par Serge Halimi Le Monde Diplomatique (July 1994)

[10]Iraqi Oil Contract Auctions

[11] Iraqi Oil Contract Auctions

[12] Iraqi Oil Contract Auctions usa-oil-idUSTRE5BB18Q20091212

[13]Iraqi Oil Contract Auction

[14] Woodchip Articles on National Security & Zonal Policies