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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

there will be blood - reflections on the present state of the human meat grinder

Jeremy Harding’s long review essay about Angola in the LRB is a fascinating exercise in the history of the Cold war as pursued in one of its side pockets, even if Harding recounts it at a cold blooded jet fighter height, mainly. Clearly, one of the many things Obama could have congratulated Castro for in Cuba was his strong contribution to the end of apartheid. Without Cuban troops and Soviet weapons in Angola in the seventies and eighties, the South African apartheid forces and the Americans would have rolled over Namibia and Angola, and apartheid might still have its leather gloved grip on the region.
I read it with some memory of the events that it went through. However, I found it suprisingly relevant to today’s politics. Reagan’s under-secretary of state, Crocker, was the author of the doctrine of linkage and constructive engagement with South Africa, which meant, generally, supporting the racist regime.Its the same cynical, immoral and ultimately futile policy that Clinton seems to have pursued and to want to pursue with Saudi Arabia. Clinton’s pretense to have made women’s rights a presence on the world stage was undermined by the warm ties and weapons sales that she advocated while Secretary of State. More weapons were sold to the Gulf state, I believe, during the brief period of Clinton’s stay at State than have ever been sold to them before. This, in a period in which the Saudi’s imprisoned numerous immigant workers, mostly female, for sorcery, executed various “sorcerers”, and made only the most cosmetic of attempts to impress the West with civil rights. The West, in the person of a press that is tightly connected, on the corporate level, was always cooperative with the propaganda project. The New Yorker recently published a celebratory article centering on one fabulously wealthy Saudi woman who is bravely going out there and driving herself. This is treated as a blow for human rights on par with the march at Selma. Meanwhile, we pretend that our moral justification in Afghanistan is fighting for the country’s oppressed women, who are treated by the Taliban exactly how the Saudis treat women.
Clinton, like Reagan, has her eyes on the prize: the untrammeled use of American power to promote capitalism and various cherrypicked moral principles – the latter not too closely. It took Obama six years to start quietly undoing a foreign policy founded on brainless toughness and a penchant for doing ‘stupid stuff’. Clinton, by all accounts, wants to undo Obama’s undoing.
I suppose I should say that “Clinton” and “Obama” represent pieces on the chess board, functions more than personalities. Clinton stands in for the longstanding complex of money and military power that has transformed the DC metro area into a real estate agent’s wet dream. This is an old American disease.
And like any disease, there will be blood. There always is. The pundits are hungry for it. O, the wars we have missed! In Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen… oops, not quite Yemen. There we are still pounding the shit out of civilians, and nobody that I know of is selling any t shirt saying Je suis Yemen. No, in Brussels the death of 35 is two days of headlines, while in Aden, another bomb strike, another hundred civilian deaths is a real yawner. And so the pundits, like ticks, cheer for the opening of another jugular somewhere. It will be good for us. It will demonstrate our resolution. We will be tough.
In Angola, maybe a million died. A Cold war story with twists and turns and a nice O.Henry ending: the white apartheid soldiers who did such damage to Angola, and who were ultimately defeated by the Cubans, are now mercenaries defending the once Marxist state, and the “freedom fighters” there, so beloved by Reagan, have been tracked down with the encouragement of the Americans and Total Oil and murdered.
Such is the state of the human meat grinder on the cusp of major global climate change.

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