PARIS and BRUSSELS – The 12 euro nations are still champagne-euphoric, everybody clutching their brand-new, mint-conditon, ultra high-tech cash. Fashion-mad Tokyo girls line up in front of Gucci and Prada boutiques in Saint Germain, eager to spend their euros in French sales mode (up to 50 percent discounts), and dreaming of the day Asia gets its “asian” in shiny banknotes and coins. In Brussels, the wacky, Magritte-like capital of Europe, a Rome of all sorts of legal and illicit trafficking, all business are happily conducted in the currency of the future. The British, on the other side of everything, merely sulk, but swinging Brits in the know in Paris and Brussels are also partying like mad in euro-mode.
Behind the euphoria, from Paris to Athens and from Barcelona to Brussels, it is also possible to detect a very subtle movement of tectonic geopolitical plates. Simple-minded intellects might define it as “anti-Americanism.” It is in fact a pervasive awareness in all European social circles that in the likely event of the success of the euro, the next step of European political integration is absolutely inevitable. There are minor glitches – like the neo-fascist, megalomaniac antics of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Italy. But the big picture indicates Europe is in the beginning stages of a slow but inevitable historical process – the emergence of a counterpower to the New American Order.
The New American Order was supremely reinforced by none other than Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. Osama’s strategic blunder was to believe America would fall into his trap of a “clash of civilizations.” Professional conspiracy theorists unfortunately have not yet come up with the magnificent possibility that Osama may in fact be an American agent. After September 11, American military and economic supremacy literally and metaphorically suffocates the whole earth – and soon the skies, courtesy of the coming Star Wars militarization of space.
American-made rubbish about “the end of history” or “the clash of civilizations” has been swept under Afghan carpets by the impregnable reality of what Italian philosopher and professor of political science Antonio Negri termed “Empire” in his seminal book published by Harvard University Press. Negri writes that in the period between Hobbes and Hume, English political theory practically established the legitimacy of the state, based on a transcendental notion of power. This power, the Leviathan – more or less liberal – is the lesser evil in the war of everybody against everybody else. Leviathan is better because it establishes and preserves peace. The modern – though supple – version of Leviathan is Empire, a universal entity basically incarnated by America. Peace means Pax Americana. And the selected members incorporated into Empire – portions of Western Europe and Asia, small elites in Latin America – are willing volunteers. The rest – 80 percent of the planet – vegetate.
The ruthless precepts of the New American Order are very clear – and were already enunciated even as the Bush II term started. We don’t give a damn about the international community. We don’t even give a damn about NATO – as long as it follows our orders. We – and no other international bodies – define our priorities. This means that Washington is not bound to respect any any treaties whatsoever. This means that Washington is allowed to spit on global environmental concerns (informed elites all over Europe are still fuming over the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol). This means that America decides – and the rest of the world complies or sulks.
The Irish Times recently published a piece in which the writer examines the impact of the German bombing of the Basque village of Guernica on Picasso’s soul, and then asks rhetorically why the bombing of Afghan villages simply does not move us. The deadliest aerial armada in history has engineered and is still engineering a series of mini-Guernicas in Afghanistan. Entire villages – or pick-up convoys – have been obliterated simply because there was a “suspicion” they might be harboring Taliban or Al-Qaeda operatives. Obviously, if there had been some sort of monitoring or some real intelligence on site – provided by the international community – the Pentagon bombers would have behaved with a little more circumspection. But who cares? Donald Rumsfeld – not exactly a Mount Rushmore of subtlety – spells it out everyday live on CNN: We do what we gotta do do.
By all counts – including various involved UN agencies – the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan may now be equal or even superior to the death toll from the World Trade Center attack. History may now have been made as far as the concept of “equal response” is concerned.
Not even millennial rockfaces in the Hindu Kush believe that George W Bush and the Pentagon gang intervened in Afghanistan to help the Afghans win a “liberation war.” Until September 11, the White House – apart from a few destabilization plans floated inside the Pentagon itself – simply tolerated the murderous Taliban theocracy, and it was even involved in negotiation of sorts to try to get Osama bin Laden.
Conversations in Paris and Brussels reveal a general perception that Washington obviously has not decided to rid the world of dictatorships. But China and Russia fully understand what is at stake. One does not hear a single peep in the “international community” these days about the continuing bloody repression of Chechens and Uighurs. There are no independent journalists on site to monitor what’s happening – the Russians and the Chinese simply don’t allow them.
So we are in a situation where Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda strategy has handed the Pentagon the perfect operational pretext: the Pentagon may bomb anywhere, anyplace, anytime. The New American Order does not bother to tackle the roots of terrorism – provoked by different and extremely nuanced degrees of despair and inequality: it just bombs symptoms, or “anything that moves,” in straight-talking Rumsfeldspeak. Special circumstances and a series of complex contexts that force people who have nothing to lose to “move” – sometimes against American interests – are not taken into consideration.
This means that the so-called war against terror – the New Hot War – is being fought on exclusively one front: the military (dis)information front. It is a Spy War, not unlike those wacky “Spy vs Spy” cartoons featured in Mad magazine. And it is entirely one-sided. All the targets are selected by the Pentagon. And incoherence is the order of the day. There are no targets inside Saudi Arabia – the Mecca of ultra-intolerant Wahhabi fundamentalism. There are no targets inside Pakistan’s tribal areas – the cradle of Talibanization. After all, these are Washington’s allies – more or less trusted client states.
There are also indirect targets: the Chechens, the Uighurs, but especially the Kashmiris and the Palestinians. As much as there was a war of liberation by Afghans to get rid of the Taliban regime – itself subjected to Al-Qaeda’s Arabs – there is a war of liberation by Kashmiris to get rid of Indian repression, and a war of liberation by Palestinians to get rid of Israeli occupation. If the Palestinians have their right of self-determination appropriately fulfilled, there will be no excuse left for accusing them of “terrorism.”
From Asia to Europe, thinking elites who work and profit from Empire are mocking – in private – America the benevolent Leviathan, which resembles enforcer John Wayne riding into trouble spots, restoring order after a gratuituous show of violence, offing the baddie, giving the sheep ranch back to the li’l pioneer gal and riding off into the sunset. These elites are not easy prey for Washington’s spinspeak. They know that Washington’s creation of the jihad in Afghanistan in the ’80s and its destabilization of the Middle East is the background for the emergence of Osama and Al-Qaeda. They are not fooled by what an Asian banker calls a “mad-elephant nation” simultaneously carpet bombing and dropping food rations – a schizophrenic opus that soon will be a case study on institutional psychosis in selected European universitites.
But as far as the lean, mean American fighting machine is concerned, everything is swell. As any critical mind knew from day one, America is now positioned to be physically present in Central Asia for years, in a predictable replay of the Saudi Arabian scenario. The 101st Airborne is at Kandahar airport, where it has just established a semi-permanent tent city. The US is in the process of building a so-called “transportation hub” in Kyrgyzstan. It is vastly improving its bases in Uzbekistan and Pakistan. Thousands of marines will be permanently stationed in the Arabian Sea. Troops will be rotated every three or six months all over Central and South Asia. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz ominously said that “we are not just going to forget about them.” “Them” are of course irrelevant to the large American long-term design.
For the moment, Russia and China are putting up quite a discreet show. KGB-trained maestro Vladimir Putin adopts a chess player’s strategy, and the Politburo in Beijing adopts the strategy of thunderous silence. But sooner rather than later, Afghans – Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras – will start adopting the only strategy they know, the strategy of the Kalashnikov, because they absolutely hate any foreign presence in their homeland.
David Lynch is arguably the most brilliant cinematic explorer of America’s unconscious. But he can only work thanks to European financing. His Mulholland Drive was celebrated by hardcore cinema fans in France as the best movie of 2001. And best it really is: for Lynch, dreams are real, and reality is a dream, or rather a nightmare. But not even David Lynch would be capable of dreaming the Taliban-Cuban connection, the current Pentagon special, which Cubans learned about on the front page of the Communist Party newspaper, Granma. The beardless, grinning, Osama-in-suit-and-tie Pentagon special – a leaflet being dropped all over Afghanistan – pales in comparison. No wonder the global media goes bananas when confronted with the spectacle of the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Zaeef, the most famous Taliban on the planet, shackled and in a Valium daze singing Guantanamera in Guantanamo Bay.
There’s no other way to really explain what the war against Al-Qaeda is all about except through a masterful novel – or through a Lynchesque movie. Freud – who was exorcized in America through the invention of air-conditioning – compared the religious experience to an “oceanic feeling,” a sensation of being enveloped in and rocked by existence. He said the feeling is like a “sacred furor,” a wholeness within the Great Whole. Nothing matches America’s “sacred furor” – as choreographed by the Pentagon. We should all celebrate it, singing We are the World.