Parliament has voted for war in Syria. France has declared three months of a martial state of emergency. Brussels has been in lock-down. Cameron describes Corbyn and, by extension any opponents of the war, as 'terrorist sympathisers' echoing the 'with us or against us' rhetoric of George W. Bush. The Sunday Telegraph, unable to hold back its glee, trumpets on its front page - Britain Prepares for War - and The Sun decries Corbyn as a pacifist. Blood and thunder. The drum beat is getting louder. The bombast of war confuses the eye and confounds the mind.
There is no denying that ISIS is a force of evil, which must be destroyed. It has committed atrocities on a massive scale in the Middle East. Following on from Paris, Beirut and the bombing of a Russian civilian airliner, ISIS has demonstrated its global threat. However, the notion that more bombs and more war will bring peace and stability to the Middle East after fifteen years of the same is as paradoxical and counter-intuitive as the US major, who stated that the village of My Lai (in Vietnam) had to be destroyed in order to save it. Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Right now, though, it feels like we are living in a mad world, my masters.
The post 9/11 world has been defined by two main features beyond terrorism itself. On the domestic front, the rise of the gargantuan national security surveillance state with the erosion and curtailment of civil liberties. We have seen the use of torture, unlimited detention without charge or trial, extrajudicial killing and an extraordinary rendition programme run across a network of black sites.
Abroad, the US and the UK are now embroiled in a state of permanent war encompassing Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now on to Syria. We must step back and take stock. What has this perpetual war on terror, which we are assured will last decades, achieved? As the German author Jürgen Todenhöfer pointed out recently - back in 2001, there were a few hundred Jihadist fighters in the Hindu Kush. There are now globally over 100,000. He also reminded our amnesiac culture of the fact that up to a million Iraqis have been killed in that war.
The CIA term 'blowback' is bandied around to describe unintended consequences. Except that much of this was not unintended but anticipated and even facilitated. Back in 2006, the US National intelligence Estimate predicted that the Iraq war would be a recruiting sergeant for terrorism. How come? Donald Rumsfeld's disbanding of Saddam Hussein's Baathist army led to chaos and now makes up a significant component of ISIS. It is difficult to accept that a man as intelligent and experienced as Rumsfeld could make such an elementary error of judgement. This was actually part of a strategy termed counter-insurgency first coined by Edward Lansdale in Vietnam. It fits in the with the CIA playbook of destabilisation and is a hallmark of colonial-era tactics of divide and rule. The deliberate stoking of tensions through a US sponsored sectarian Shia-led Iraqi government, during the Bremer era, was notable. This ultimately led to the Sunni backlash and the creation of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the spawning of ISIS. The bombing and destabilisation of Libya in 2011 has seen a spillover of jihadism unleashing havoc and mayhem across Africa.
In Syria, a secular, democratic uprising against Assad was hijacked by the Islamist counter-revolution. This has been the pattern of the orientalist-labelled 'Arab spring', which has mutated into an Arab winter of discontent. In Syria, this was funded and armed by our regional allies - Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Moderate forces have been obliterated by both Assad and ISIS. Cameron's claim of 70,000 moderate rebels is likely to prove as mythical as Blair's WMD. These moderate forces, consistently referred to by the US, entail large numbers of Islamist fighters. All sides have been happy to see the crushing of real democratic change that might threaten the status quo.
The overthrow of Assad has been the key objective of US strategy. The aim has been to weaken the Shia sphere running from Iran to Hezbollah. This mirrors the thawing of US-Iranian relations. We are seeing the forging of a new Sykes-Picot for the 21st century splitting Syria and Iraq and perhaps other countries into smaller, more pliable, sectarian states.
ISIS directives aim to create more violence and chaos ultimately fulfilling Samuel Huntington's predictions of a clash of civilisations. They also aim to obliterate the grey zone of multicultural societies, in which non-Muslims and Muslims live side by side, forcing Muslims to therefore join the Caliphate. According to the UN, a global refugee crisis, unparalleled since WW2, has been caused by escalating global conflicts. Bombing Syria will only exacerbate all of this. Refugees are entering an increasingly xenophobic, anti-immigration Fortress Europe. The far-right will make political capital of this as we are seeing with Marine Le-Pen's National Front in France, Pegida in Germany, Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece and UKIP here. In the US, Republican presidential candidates have called for a national database of Muslims and the closing down of mosques with terrifying echoes of Nazism. In his latest outburst, Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the US. Ironically, we are doing ISIS' work for them and, in another bizarre twist, it seems that ISIS are aiding the US geopolitical strategy of a new Sykes-Picot.
Cui bono? Who gains? The key question in politics. Well the hardliners on both sides. Who loses? Everyone else. The Truman doctrine of perpetual war for perpetual peace became the foundation of modern US foreign policy. The Korean war in the 1950s signalled the rearming of the US as Churchill noted at the time. It was the beginning of an era of permanent war and the transition of the US from republic to empire. President Eisenhower, as military a man as they come, was so perturbed by this development that he coined the term 'military industrial complex' warning in his farewell speech of this burgeoning threat. Post 9/11, this complex has mushroomed into a leviathan.
Since the Paris attacks, shares of defence stocks have soared.
The chief executive of Lockheed Martin is on the record as stating that "A lot of volatility, a lot of instability, a lot of things that are happening" in both the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region means both are "growth areas" for Lockheed Martin. In other words, a reformulation of the age-old central tenet of capitalism and imperialism that war is good for business. The capture of democracy by these special interests must be reversed. Long ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt described this co-opting of democracy by special interests as nothing less than fascism.
We are now seeing the involvement of the US, UK, France, Germany, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia in the Syrian theatre; each with their own agenda. As the recent downing of a Russian jet by Turkey demonstrates, there is the potential for escalation into an international conflict. This is all taking place on the background of a new cold war between NATO and Russia as well as tense US-China relations in the Pacific. It is not hard to see why there is apocalyptic talk of the start of World War III.
Foreign policy must be reoriented away from permanent war and the support of client, reactionary states and the freezing out of rogue states, whose policies do not accord with our corporate interests. This needs to begin with re-examining our relationship with Saudi Arabia due its shameful human rights record and as a crucible exporting Wahhabism. The peoples of the Middle East must be allowed the right to self-determination without interference from either regional allies or ourselves. This is the only route to democracy in the Middle East and with it prosperity, peace and stability in the region and beyond.
The transition of Western democracy to oligarchy and plutocracy and the descent into soft fascism is under way. We must all participate actively as citizens, rather than passive consumers, to demand an end to this cycle of violence from our governments. We must re-engage in our communities and fight to defend the assault on democratic processes. The alternatives are unthinkable.