By chance (being snow-bound) I re-watched Adam Curtis’s 2004 series ‘The Power of Nightmares’. So it seemed quite normal, when I switched on the news and heard David Cameron’s announcement that the terrorist incident in Mali needed ‘a global response… possibly for decades’! Only later, did it sink in that this is 2013 not 2002.
Not being able to remember what George Orwell had written in ‘1984’, about the need for governments to ‘always have an enemy’, I turned to Wikipedia and read:
Ministry of Peace (Newspeak: Minipax)
Minipax supports Oceania’s perpetual war.
The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society. At present, when few human beings even have enough to eat, this problem is obviously not urgent, and it might not have become so, even if no artificial processes of destruction had been at work.
…which seemed worryingly apposite, given the lack of demand in the global economy and shrinking wages. A war (that magically this government will be able to fund, even though the UK is supposed to be broke) is the traditional right-wing answer to a recession.
For those who do not remember, or have never seen ‘The Power of Nightmares’, let me summarise:
The thesis is that after 9/11, both the neoconservatives and the fundamentalist jihadists had an investment in building each other up as ‘evil empires’ because both were failing to convince their respective populations to change their ‘immoral, corrupt and liberal’ ways. Adam Curtis argues persuasively that that the idea of al-Qaeda as a formal organization was primarily an American invention:
“The reality was that bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri had become the focus of a loose association of disillusioned Islamist militants who were attracted by the new strategy. But there was no organization. These were militants who mostly planned their own operations and looked to bin Laden for funding and assistance. He was not their commander. There is also no evidence that bin Laden used the term “al-Qaeda” to refer to the name of a group until after September 11 attacks, when he realized that this was the term the Americans had given it.”
It seems that Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair also accepted this analysis because he is quoted as saying after the July 7, 2005 London bombings “Al-Qaeda is not an organization. Al-Qaeda is a way of working …”
However, these caveats are no bar to David Cameron:
The prime minister said the seizure of a Saharan gas facility by a group of international jihadists last week was a stark reminder of the threat from terrorism the world over.
He pledged a global response to what he described as a global threat.
“It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months,”
“What we face is an extremist Islamist violent al-Qaida-linked terrorist group – just as we have to deal with that in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
The major point in Adam Curtis’ film is that the Bush neocons ‘persuaded’ themselves (or simply made up stories) about the global terrorist threat in order to further their own ideological goals and economic policies. The extremely small group of fundamentalist Jihadists also had an investment in maintaining the US mythologies about their power. Both were united in their belief that frightening populations (the power of nightmares) would create the societies that they wanted.
That the Coalition is in need of a distraction from the economy is obvious .. but perhaps David Cameron is also remembering how the Falklands turned Margaret Thatcher’s electoral prospects around. He may well think that a bit of ‘frightening’ would not go amiss.
However, the reality is… notwithstanding a proud history… Mali is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. It is also the third largest producer of gold in the African continent which may be relevant… but probably most significantly, ‘Mali is one of the main transit routes for South American drugs coming to Europe’.
In other words, there are all the conditions for ‘social conflict’, liberation movements, religious fundamentalism, corporate imperative and criminality… but not a global terror threat.
‘The first Crusaders may have been fired by a fervent desire to murder infidels in the name of Christ. But many who followed them did their murdering more for profit than anything else.’
In any event, if David Cameron and the Western powers really wanted to stop ‘terrorism’ in Mali, they would take action against the gun runners, drug smugglers and the banks who are sustaining the armed insurgents. (They could also try implementing some policies which would do something to alleviate the appalling poverty. Disastrously, Mali underwent ‘economic reform’ in 1988, as required by the World Bank and IMF!)
‘And yet our governments have known about this trade and these specific routes for several years now and done very little. Particularly the French have had a good idea what is going on in this reason and what has been going on in its banks. Our governments know that many of the banks of West Africa from Mali down to Togo, and inland from the coast across the Sahel up to Moroco, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria are all handling and laundering this money.’
He concludes by asking:
‘Could it be that there are interests in our countries that are willing to tolerate islamists as long as they stick to the day job of helping us and our preferred African leaders bank the proceeds of the war with drugs.’
Chris Stone makes a similar point:
They started the War on Drugs in the 1970s, and now there’s MORE drugs than there used to be. They started the War on Crime back in the 1930s, and now there’s MORE crime. They started the War on Terrorism in the last decade, and now there’s MORE terrorism.
All of which links to my thinking about another film, ‘The House I live in’ …. The profitability of the US Penal-Industrial Complex which has an investment in perpetuating drug-taking/pushing. The film also suggests that the US government benefits by removing unemployed and ‘unwanted’ people from society. This, in turn, leads to my remembering Chris Grayling’s proposal for a Titan jail housing 2000 inmates and presumably run by G4S or Serco…
And that reminds me of a Franklin D. Rooseveldt quote:
In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.