Books of Interest

The 9/11 dust is finally settling. Blumenthal takes us on a nightmare tour of the landscape, starting with two key moments in 2018 that dramatically expose the plot behind the passion play taking place even as we sip our morning coffee: Trump’s absence from the establishment’s lovefest-funeral for McCain, and a few days later, the New York Times editorial ‘I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration’, excoriating Trump’s ‘amoral leadership’.


McCain has been latched onto as the anti-Trump icon (he’s safely dead so he can’t mess things up, a habit this very Trump-like loose cannon was prone to). At the virtual state funeral (absent the head of state), McCain’s  daytime talkshow host daughter Meghan repackaged McCain’s ‘finest hour’, the (illegal, horrible, criminal) Vietnam War as a fight for the ‘life and liberty of other peoples in other lands’, a celebration of American empire, rebuking Trump (America was always great)  as a threat to its survival.


Blumenthal’s message is crystal clear: US-Israel policy from 1979 on has been to create and support Muslim terrorism, even as it claims to be fight terrorism. It used jihadi in Afghanistan to undermine the Soviet Union, and has used them against Iran and Syria. Create the problem, and provide the solution.

Anderson's Axis of Resistance takes on the leftist position of 'a plague on all your houses'. Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, ‘the intellectual voice of the Syrian revolution’ (for westerners), presents a bleak portrait of “three monsters … treading on Syria’s corpse’: (1) the Assad regime and its allies, (2) DAESH/ISIS and the other jihadists, and (3) the West (the USA, UK, France, etc). This is the general view from outside the Syrian cauldron, but leads nowhere.

 

 

I remember the view from Cairo, where I was writing for Al-Ahram Weekly as the 'Arab Spring' exploded. The first few months of 2011 in Egypt saw the collapse of the pro-western dictator Hosni Mubarak, and a wave of uprisings in the region, including Syria. Would protestors succeed there too, I asked myself. But the Syrian army was not behind the protests, as was the case in Egypt, where the army was angered by Mubarak's embarrassing attempt to promote his younger son* as heir. There was no such split in Syria, despite resentment of the Alawite dominance and persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood.
 
I realized that any uprising was doomed, more so, since Assad was not Mubarak,

Jeremy Kuzmarov, Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the foreign policy of the permanent warfare state, Clarity, 2019.


In Obama’s Unending Wars, Kuzmarov has brought together many telling proofs, nuggets, of just how horrible the world is, and just how responsible the US and its henchmen around the world are. A kind of who-does-it. Kuzmarov is that rare analyst (Belen Fernandez is another) who respects footnotes, leaving fascinating bits there that would otherwise detract from his focus.


Standing out in my mind after reading OUW is the power that China has matured into in the past three decades, the US more and more resentful and frightened by it. Russia also has reclaimed much of its international clout, abandoned by Yeltsin, retrieved and nurtured by Putin, again infuriating the US. Other developed countries play almost no part in OUW, as if passive spectators of the geopolitical battles now being fought, as if they don’t even exist.


But as a Canadian, that makes perfect sense. Canada long ago lost any respect internationally, respect it once merited during and immediately after WWII, the only ‘good war’ the world has ever seen, fought courageously by ‘good guys’ against ‘bad guys’. We are living in a grey fog ever since.



Fernandez's second book could be called The imperial messenger: Thomas Friedman at work Part II, or This is Not a Travel Book. The subject of her first book delightfully keeps popping up at conferences, interviewing American puppets, his spirit haunting her from the New York Times opeds exhorting Africans to tend their gardens, saluting Colombian ex-president Uribe.*

Her observations are often laced with strychnine, since, for all her revulsion at the empire, she can't avoid its footprint. It is everywhere, often ridiculous, all too often lethal, tragic,

the global superpower that has specialized in making much of the planet an unfit abode for its inhabitants via a combination of perennial war, environmental despoliation, and punitive economic policies resulting in mass migration. Despite being founded on slavery and the genocide of Native Americans, it presents itself as the global model for greatness—a position that is unilaterally interpreted as a carte blanche to bomb, invade, and otherwise enlighten the rest of the world as it sees fit.

Every few pages, a lightbulb moment.

Matt Farwell, Michael Ames, American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the US Tragedy in Afghanistan, Penguin, 2019.


Bergdahl captured the American imagination in 2009 when he disappeared from what had become his living hell. His battalion commander, Lt Baker, was not only an obnoxious tyrant (handing out Field-Grade Article 15s, just short of a court martial, supposedly for being out of uniform, but in fact for complaining about the mission to a Guardian photo-journalist in a video broadcast), but he had ordered them to build the OB (observation post) Mest on a cemetery, defiling, even defecating on gravestones near the FOB (forward operating base) Sharana.


He was as much a victim of the latest American COIN (counterinsurgency) strategy as a deserter. Taken captive by the enemy (Taliban) under the protection of an ally (Pakistan), embodying the self-enforcing illogic of the entire war.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergIV.html