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Tag Archives: war

War, what is it good for?

By Richard O’Brien

With all due deference to Edwin Starr . . . 2, 3, 4

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, y’all
War, huh, good God
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, armed homicides, extra-judicial executions and excessive use of force by state security forces amount to over 500,000 per year or 1,500 per day . . .

I said, war, huh
Good God, y’all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again
War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

. . . and while it’s difficult to estimate exactly how many people are injured in armed conflict, past statistics indicate that as many as 28 people are seriously injured for every person killed.

Aaaaah, war-huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it, say it, say it
War, huh
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

An estimated 12-14 billion bullets are produced every year. That’s almost enough to shoot every person on the planet, twice. There are an estimated 900 million guns in the world right now, and about 8 million ‘light weapons’ (such as heavy machine guns) are produced each year.

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again y’all
War, huh, good God
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War is responsible for almost all of the 60 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, the highest level since WW2. It’s also responsible for the overwhelming majority of the world’s poverty, deaths from disease (due to the destruction of infrastructure) and the rape and sexual abuse of women and girls. According to UNICEF starvation alone kills over 20,000 people each day, most of them (90%) children under the age of 5.

Ooooh, war, huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again
War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

There are more international laws regulating the trade of bananas than weapons.

Ooooooh, war, huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
You tell me

Total global military expenditure was $US1.711 trillion in 2014, that’s a 50% increase since 9/11. In the Middle East military expenditure has increased in that time by 75%. More than three-quarters of world’s weapons come from 6 countries: the USA (31%), Russia (27%), China (5%), Germany (5%), France (5%) and the UK (4%). Apart from Germany, all of those countries make up the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council. Do you want to know what we could buy if we took just one fifth of that $1.711 trillion away?

Say it, say it, say it, say it

Scientists estimate that conserving 20-30% of our oceans would cost between $5 billion and $19 billion a year. That would create about a million new jobs, a sustainable fish catch worth $70-80 billion a year and further ecosystem services worth a gross value of $4.5-6.7 trillion a year.

The global economy is losing between $2 trillion and $5 trillion each year due to deforestation. The cost of halving deforestation is estimated at $15 billion a year.
Ending our dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power would require additional annual investments of around $280 billion. In addition to the environmental benefits, that investment would more than pay off in the form of saved fuel costs, additional jobs created and removing our dependence on fossil fuels, which is the primary cause of . . .

War, huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
Stand up and shout it


Oil, spoils, and perpetual war

By Mike Mizzi

It was Winston Churchill who first realised the importance of the Middle East’s oil fields during the evolution of the British Royal Navy’s ships from coal to diesel engine technology. As the inhabitants of the region have since discovered, it has been a mixed blessing and to many a downright curse. Millions have died fighting over control of what is euphemistically called “black gold”. Up until Saddam Hussein nationalised the Iraqi oil fields, won as spoil by the British and allies during WWI, the nature of the oil fields of Iraq’s high quality oil has determined the motives, actions and consequences of a multitude of wars with the last being G.W Bush’s invasion of that country under the guise of having identified Iraq as a danger to America’s commercial interests by way of Saddam possessing weapons of mass destruction with his intent on attacking US interests in the middle east and Israel. In fact Saddam is said to actually have had WMD as reported in a report by the New York Times. However the reliability of this story has been hotly contested. In any case the facts have now become irrelevant and events continue to move on in that part of the world.

In 1951 Iran nationalised its oil industry, then controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now BP, and Iranian oil was subjected to an international embargo. In an effort to bring Iranian oil production back to international markets, the U.S. State Department suggested the creation of a “Consortium” of major oil companies. The “Consortium for Iran” was subsequently formed by the following companies: which became known as The Seven Sisters:

  • Anglo-Persian Oil Company (United Kingdom): This company subsequently became Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and then British Petroleum. Following the amalgamation of Amoco (which in turn was formerly Standard Oil of Indiana) and Atlantic Richfield into British Petroleum, the name was shortened to BP in 2000.
  • Gulf Oil (United States): In 1984 most of Gulf was acquired by SoCal and the enlarged SoCal entity became Chevron. The smaller parts of Persian Gulf Oil were acquired by BP and Cumberland Farms. A network of service stations in the northeastern United States still bears the Gulf name.
  • Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands/United Kingdom).
  • Standard Oil of California (SoCal) (United States): Became Chevron in 1984 when SoCal acquired Gulf Oil.
  • Standard Oil of New Jersey, Esso, (United States): Subsequently became Exxon, which renamed itself Exxon-Mobil following the acquisition of Mobil n 1999.
  • Standard Oil Co. of New York (Socony) (United States): Subsequently became Mobil which was acquired by Exxon in 1999 to form Exxon-Mobil.
  • Texaco (United States): Acquired by Chevron in 2001.

Since then a set of “New Seven Sisters” has formed and developed in other nations and outside of the OECD. According to the Financial Times this group comprises:

  • Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia)
  • China National petroleum Company (China)
  • Gazprom (Russia)
  • Nationa Iranain Oil Company(Iran)
  • Petrobas (Brazil)
  • PDVSA(Venezuela)
  • Petronas (Malaysia)

Between them, these fourteen corporations control the energy infrastructure, development and distribution of the most contentious commodity know to man, oil. And it is on this basis that what we are seeing unfolding in the middle east has been formulated.

As Churchill quickly realised , they who control the oil control the world and it was upon this that the latter era of the British empire was maintained and the Commonwealth enriched. The destruction of the Ottoman empire was mostly undertaken so that Britain could gain control of the oil rich fields of Iraq and the Levant. Technological advancements made in these oil fields has underwritten much of Europe and the USA’s technological achievements. Hitler’s war in the Middle East centred around wresting control of these oil fields from the British as a stepping stone into the vast resource and potentially slave labour rich continent of Africa. The fate of empires both past, extant and nascent has hinged on who controlled the oil fields of the Levant and this ‘argy bargy’ continues to this very day with new players emerging over time.

The protection of their oil interests by China has as recently as last week seen the dispatch of naval vessels by China into the Mediterranean as the Chinese become nervous over the possibility of Iraq’s oil fields, in which it has vast interests, falling into the hands of ISIS.

The existence of oil in this part of the world has created a cycle of perpetual war from which there seems to be no escape. Both regular armies and proxies, such as ISIS have been used to fight for control over these oil fields and now we see the mercenary armies such as Blackwater and others being used by multinational oil servants in the US government in what has turned out to be a non stop war of attrition.

Even Russia’s entry into the theatre of hostilities is centred on the oil fortunes of Vladimir Putin whose oil revenues have fallen drastically in recent times due to price manipulations by the OPEC cartel led by Saudi Arabia.

“In early March when Russia first sent troops into Ukraine, oil was trading comfortably above $100 per barrel. Now, it’s around $81, a level not seen in three years.

That’s a tough pill for Russia to swallow since the country relies heavily on oil revenues to bankroll its budget –over half of the government’s revenues come from oil and gas”.

In the meantime a new oil player has arisen in the middle east, Israel, which has discovered vast oil reserves in the Golan heights.

Speculation as to Russia’s true motives in the area has been running riot with many predicting the invasion of Israel by Russia in an effort to balance the damage done to it’s oil revenues by Israel’s allies the US and Saudi Arabia. Some are even calling Putin’s move the commencement of WWIII and the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy.

Whatever the outcome of the latest round of hostilities in the region it seems the fate of the Middle East shall remain perpetual war and the spoils, however temporary, will go to the victor.


The Maintenance of Madness: How Australia Funded a Warlord in Afghanistan

The Federal Cabinet has approved the deployment of about 300 additional Australian troops to the Middle East to help train Iraqi forces in their fight against Islamic State. The deployment will be for two years from the middle of may, and the troops join 200 existing special forces troops already in deployment in the region.

The Australian contingent will be joined by more than 100 New Zealand military personnel. They will be based at Taji military complex north of Baghdad, which is considered an “enduring base” by the United States Military, one of 14 such bases in the country.

Prime Minister Abbott made statements regarding the deployment at a press conference on the 3rd of March this year.

“We won’t have a combat role. It’s a training mission, not a combat mission. This is not just about Iraq, this is about our national security.”

A casual glance at the history of conflict in the Middle East will show that military intervention does not, as the government claims, increase national security, in fact it performs the exact opposite function, creating heavily armed and motivated militia groups with the spurious justification of prior Western aggression for their continued aggression.

Defence Department secretary Dennis Richardson has let it slip that highly trained military personnel, likely indirectly trained by US or Coalition forces, make up the leadership of ISIS:

“[ISIS] is led by experienced former Iraqi generals and others with substantial military experience.”

ISIS is, in effect, the current incarnation of AQI, or Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a branch of the central body of Al-Qaeda with links to Osama Bin Laden and notable members of the terrorist organisation. Older readers and the more historically astute will remember that the United States was responsible for training and arming mujahideen forces against the then Soviet Union during its war in Afghanistan, including Bin Laden and his compatriots, who later became instrumental in forming the modern day iteration of Al-Qaeda.

The official reason for deployment is to help the Iraqi government prepare sufficient forces to maintain the momentum of the counter-attack against Islamic State and regain control of its territory.

Abbott noted that Australian personnel will “not be working with irregulars, we don’t work with informal, armed groups.”

It turns out that this statement is entirely false and doesn’t accord with the documentary record.

Around November 2010, under the then Gillard government, six senior militia fighters loyal to Afghan warlord Matiullah Khan were flown to Australia to train with elite special forces as part of a “covert strategy to strengthen military operations against the Taliban.”

Matiullah Khan is known in the press as “Australia’s biggest ally in Afghanistan”. His uncle is former Uruzgan governor Jan Mohammed Khan, who has a reputation for corruption, brutality and double dealing.

In a few short years he went from being a taxi driver to a millionaire running security for NATO convoys in the area. He was appointed chief of police in Uruzgan province, despite numerous allegations of human rights abuses. There are reports that he has dealings with drug smugglers and Taliban insurgents.

We have contracted with his private army, Kandak Amniante Uruzgan, to provide security services to the bases around his compound in the Uruzgan province.

Under an arrangement with the Ministry of the Interior, the Australian Government pays for roughly 600 of Matiullah’s 1,500 fighters, including Matiullah himself, despite the fact that the force is not under government control or oversight.

Matiullah Kahn was killed in Kabul earlier this year in March by a suicide bomber.

From the Pakistani Daily Times:

“Khan’s militia has been involved in mass murder, rape and abductions of men and women.

The New York Times reported that he was earning $ 2.5 million a month through highway robbery, abduction, drug trafficking and extortion. Once, Khan warned his opponents that he could eliminate them by purchasing suicide bombers with the money he received from the Australian army.

WikiLeaks of the US embassy pinned him as a stand-over merchant, a wealthy warlord and drug trafficker.

Australian intelligence knew he was a corrupt war criminal but, despite the US army’s opposition, the Australian army and intelligence corps lobbied to make him an inspector general of the Uruzgan police in 2011.”

From Green Left Weekly, citing a story published in the Dutch Daily, De Pers:

“The extent of Matiullah’s brutality was shown in a massacre reported on by the July 18 Dutch daily De Pers.

The paper said the previous month, Matiullah’s army made a surprise attack on a meeting of 80 people in Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province. Five people were killed in the ensuing shootout.

The remaining 75 were knifed to death.

Mohammed Daoud, the district chief of Chora, told De Pers: “As torture, they were first stabbed in the shoulders and legs. The corpses were treated with chemicals to make them unrecognisable.””

In this interview released several days before his death, the contents of Matiullah’s office suite are described as containing “plaques of appreciation from the Australian Federal Police” and a “boxed boomerang – a gift from Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, formerly head of the Australian Defence Force.

From the same interview, detailing a raid on a nearby village by Jan Mohammed Khan and Matiullah Khan:

“One man told me how his son was made to lie on the ground – and then they drove a truck over his head.”

These accounts are horrifying, and our complicity in them more so. Indirect involvement in these abuses, though despicable, could be rationalised as a product of the idea that we are working towards some greater good, and indeed, it seems this is the justification for our involvement from many of the sources mentioned in the above interview and publications.

Our direct involvement in war crimes in the region however, cannot be rationalised away.

Reports from The Age in 2009 describe cover-ups by the ADF of attacks on civilians by SAS soldiers in Iraq around 2006-7. The attacks in November 2007 resulted in the murders of three men, two women and one child in a house that allegedly belonged to an insurgent.

In the same month, the newspaper reported the use of SAS patrols as death squads, carrying out assassinations in Afghanistan.

One has to ask the question: how exactly does action of this sort confer an increase in our national security? If the Iraqi military is to be trained by the same forces responsible for the financial support of a local warlord and who have engaged in war crimes of their own, I don’t see it as unreasonable to suppose that ethics and adherence to international law will be covered as an afterthought, if at all.

The approach of fighting fire with fire has been an abject failure in stemming the tide of radicalised Islamic extremism in the Middle Eastern theatre, and this new deployment of troops into the region is simply more of the same.

We cannot hope to bring peace to the Middle East with the sword.

This article was originally published on the author’s blog, which you can find here.

Jake Bilardi and the Helen Lovejoy Approach to Justifying War

Front page news in todays Herald Sun:


“Jihadi Jake’s plan to attack Melbourne”

The photograph of an eighteen year old boy stares back at us from the right of the headline. The article describes his blog posts, which detailed the boy’s fantasies of bombing Melbourne and carrying out grenade and knife attacks as “chilling”, and states that “chemicals” were found in the boy’s home. Jake Bilardi is now dead, allegedly as part of a suicide bombing which resulted in the deaths of ten or more people.

How hysterical has the media become to trot out this story as if it were proof of an existential threat to Australians everywhere?

In between lazy appeals to the public’s fear of ISIS, the article mentions that Jake Bilardi was intensely interested in world politics, and prior to his ‘radicalisation’ was an atheist. In a blog post Jake penned some weeks before his death, he states that he was “growing tired of the filthiness and corruption of Australian society” and that his research into the war on terror led him to form a “complete hatred and opposition to the entire system Australia and the majority of the world was based upon.”

We can all agree that the path Jake took was not an exemplary one. He chose to side with a group of fascists responsible for horrific crimes against humanity, an act that we must condemn wherever it occurs and whoever it involves.

But why, when context is so key to understanding these complex issues, is the Herald Sun not asking important, difficult questions?

The question we should be asking ourselves as a country is, what could we have done differently to prevent this from happening? We can blame ISIS until we’re blue in the face, the fact of the matter is that in doing so we are accomplishing nothing except for currying a feeling of moral, cultural and nationalistic superiority. Whether this is grounded or not, it confers no benefit to us as a community.

Jake’s mother had died several years prior to his involvement with ISIS, and friends and family point to this as a turning point for the boy, leading an already quiet young man to withdraw even further into himself. Where were the support services this human being needed? Where was the funding that could have provided those services, services which may have prevented his eventual death in a foreign land at the hands of sick old men? It was being spent on fighter jets and defence.

It’s true that we each have personal responsibility for the choices we make, and that as adults we bear the consequences for our actions. But Jake was not an adult. He was eighteen years old, a vulnerable, seemingly confused but intelligent young man looking for a sense of meaning and belonging in a world that had painfully wronged him. Why did we, as a people, not provide that for him? What is it about our culture that makes that search for meaning lead to the ranks of a bizarre quasi-religious militia on the other side of the world?

To use this child’s death as grist for the war mill is despicable behaviour, and the editors of the Herald Sun should be ashamed of the tone of the articles they allowed to be published this morning. We could have used this as an opportunity to ask ourselves what each of us can do to fix the endemic social problems here at home, and in doing so create a society so vastly preferable to religious extremism that it would be next to unthinkable to leave it to engage in such chaotic violence. We could have fostered some empathy with the real victims of this situation, the ten or more innocent human beings who may have lost their lives because of our inability to constructively criticise our own nation and implement support networks for those most in need, or perhaps with his family, who no doubt will experience vilification and hatred from the strikingly ISIS-like neoconservatives calling for a nuclear genocide in the middle east.

Mark Knight’s cartoon depicts Jake at his computer, surrounded by shadowy figures with culturally incorrect facial hair and overemphasised features, disturbingly reminiscent of antisemitic propaganda from the second world war. The caption reads, “you’re never alone on the internet.” A statement that is all too true, but that applies not just to the violent extremists overseas, but equally to their equivalents in our own parliament.

The Herald Sun’s comment:

“President Barack Obama may have to put American boots on the ground to stop the slaughter.”

Are we so afraid of the spectre of terrorism that it has become an acceptable behaviour for the mainstream media to sell war using the death of a child?

Whatever the answer to that question may be, we can be sure of one thing: if Obama puts American boots on the ground, the last thing we’ll see is an end to slaughter.

This article was originally published on the author’s blog, which you can find here.

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