Rocket Bombs and War without End in the 'War on Terror'

By Poynting, Scott | New Zealand Sociology, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Rocket Bombs and War without End in the 'War on Terror'


Poynting, Scott, New Zealand Sociology


Introduction: Can Blair be relevant today?

The 'War on Terror' has long since dragged out into the "war without end" of Ellen Meiksins Wood's (2003, pp.143-168) prognosis. That is, there is currently a global "Empire of Capital" in which "the world's most powerful military force, the most powerful the world has ever known" can be expected "to achieve any reasonable military goal." This establishes a new principle whereby military action "now requires no specific aim at all". Thus not only are "we ... asked to accept 'disproportionate' means", but "in the absence of specific ends, no such calculus [of proportionality between ends and means] is relevant at all. There is a new principle of war without end, either in purpose or in time" (Wood, 2003, p.149).

That prognosis was recorded not long after the United States (US)-led invasion of Iraq; over the following twelve years, some 1.3 million people, mostly civilians, were killed in that unending war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, 2015). Six such civilian casualties, including a three-year-old, were accounted for by elite New Zealand troops in 2010 in Afghanistan's Baghlan province, in abortive attacks on two villages (Hager & Stephenson, 2017). Accounted for, that is, without accountability: the victims and the events have disappeared down the 'memory hole' of the New Zealand state. This atrocity should alert us that even a small, distant and peripheral outpost of the 'Empire of Capital' has been drawn into the wholesale state crime of the USled empire's 'War on Terror'.

Of course, the sacking of Iraq since 2003 has led to the mother of all blowbacks in the advent of the so-called 'Islamic State' (ISIL - 'in Syria and the Levant' - or 'Daesh' in the Arabic-derived acronym). ISIL's rise has seen Syria's President, the likely war criminal Bashar al-Assad now nuanced, if not entirely rehabilitated, from being a figure of evil and candidate for regime change in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Then United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister David Cameron urged intervention by a western alliance and US President Obama drew an imaginary 'red line' over the Syrian state's use of chemical weapons against its own civilians - the very same crime that had been a pretext for former Iraq President Saddam Hussein's head to be torn from his body on the scaffold (Reuters, 2004). In Syria, just as in Iraq for a considerable period, the regional stability of a murderous Baathist regime had been preferred by the Empire to the alternative disruption and so it apparently became once more, as ISIL took over from Al Qaeda as the global face of evil. Syria's ally Russia rapidly went from enemy to ally of this Empire in the fight against ISIS. (In the time this article has been in production, there has been another poison gas attack of unproven provenance in Syria, with contradictory recriminations, then an unlawful cruise missile attack by the US, and Russia has been relegated to enemy again - Dejevsky, 2017). A fictional account of such historical ironies would likely seem overdone.

Thinking about state crime and the 'War on Terror' brings to mind Blair's contribution. No, not Tony, but Eric Blair, a radicalised Briton who unsurprisingly came to the attention of the intelligence services. A British citizen, this Blair was born abroad. As a young man, he was influenced by radical ideas and in fact became a radical himself. He went overseas to engage in armed conflict against a brutal military dictatorship. He joined a militia and, along with a group of other British citizens, trained with them in the use of military weapons. He participated in civil warfare, including bombing a military emplacement. He returned to Britain with his radicalism and his insurgent experience.

Eric Blair was one of about two thousand Britons who joined the antiFascist struggle during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. He wrote about it as George Orwell, a quintessentially English writer. …

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