Global Detention

Photo by Ninian Reid | CC BY 2.0

“Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about fascism…”

— Max Horkheimer

Nikita Khrushchev: The difference between the Soviet Union and China is that I rose to power from the peasant class, whereas you came from the privileged Mandarin class.

Zhou Enlai: True. But there is this similarity. Each of us is a traitor to his class.

There is now a clear genocidal intent in the Saudi attack on Yemen. An attack assisted by and designed in part by the United States. It is worth noting at the top that once King Abdullah died, and Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud took the throne, the shape of the Saudi power structure was changed. And the most important part of that change was the ascension of Mohammad bin Salman to defense minister. Bin Salman is all of thirty one, and in addition has retained the title of Minister of State, and added secretary general of the Royal Court. A rather astounding and nearly unprecedented consolidation of power in the hands of thirty one year old. Additionally the eighty-one-year-old King is already suffering dementia and is not expected to long survive his tenure as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques {sic}. Bin Salman is second in line to the throne.

Also worth noting that a week after Trump visited the Kingdom and did the sword dance and touched the orb (and seriously, what the fuck is all that?) the president appointed clear cut nut job Michael D’Andrea to head up Iranian affairs at the CIA. A guy nicknamed ‘The Undertaker’. And a chain smoking abusive bully who converted to Islam (I mean there is a real story in unpacking D’Andrea). And a short time later a terror attack hit Tehran. Not to mention that secretary of war James ‘Mad Dog” Mattis is a longtime anti-Iranian zealot. You connect the dots. The U.S. is now ramping up an already breathtaking assault on the Arab world, and on the global south overall. And barely any of this is even mentioned in the mainstream press.

The logic at work, from the U.S. assault on Yugoslavia (which looms as the real trial run) to Libya and Iraq and now Syria, has been not just to defuse pockets of developing resistance to Western capital, but to dominate labor markets and control resources. The penetration of Western capital is the engine behind this massive wave of attacks on the global south. All of this began, in a sense, at least in its current incarnation, after 1989 and the fall of the U.S.S.R. But the hyper escalation began with 9/11. And it was Obama, far more than Bush, that implemented the structural and tactical policy that Trump has inherited. And to return to the Saudis for a moment; Obama oversaw a cooperation with the Saudis in channeling money to Takfiri mercenaries as part of the assault on Syria. To the tune of billions of dollars (or as one analyst put it, over a hundred thousand dollars a year for every single anti Assad terrorist mercenary). And it was Obama who had U.S. military advisors in Riyadh, from day one, of the Saudi attack on Yemen. An attack that has left millions suffering starvation, and an outbreak of Cholera — a proxy biological attack itself, and a totally destroyed infrastructure.

And remember, too, that Saudi Arabia only exists in its current form because of the U.K., and because of subsidizing from the West. And the British saw some sort of logic in supporting the minority fringe fundamentalism of Wahabbist Islam. A short bit of history here: it was in the 1700s that Ibn Saud formed an alliance with itinerant religious fanatic Adl al-Wahhab and this alliance formed into a movement of fanatic reformists who terrorized the peninsula until the start of the 19th century. And once destroyed by Egyptians (and Turks), the Wahab doctine survived underground in small enclaves of nomadic tribes. But it was the start of the 20th century that saw the return of Saudi power and Wahabi ideology.

Johnny Grant wrote…

“…Abd-al Aziz, the then Saud leader, returned from exile determined to reclaim the family’s former power. In doing so he used much the same tactics as his ancestor, Ibn Saud, namely emplying fear under the banner of jihad. But there were two other important aspects to Aziz’s strategy that can’t be overlooked: the Ikhwan project, and the support from the British.

A major part of Abd-al Aziz’s strategy for reclaiming the peninsula was to extend Wahhabism through radical teaching into the surrounding Bedouin tribes. The traditional tribesmen were considered theological ‘blank slates’ by the House of Saud. Primitive and unenlightened, the Jahiliyyah were opened up to Wahhabi conversion by Saudi clerics with great enthusiasm.”

Aziz courted the British, who saw the wisdom in having a fanatical puritanical autocrat control the restive tribes and signed him up as part of a British protectorate. In 1932 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was born, and a few years later oil was discovered. The formation of the Kingdom also saw an early cooperation with Israel. Common goal drove this partnership and it was Israel, with of course U.K. help, that fought the revolutionary republican forces in Yemen that wanted to overthrow the authoritarian Imam of the time – forces backed by Egypt’s Nasser.

Asher Orkaby writes…

“Since neither London nor Riyadh wanted to openly support the royalist forces, they needed a partner that would be willing to organize airlifts clandestinely over hostile territory. They turned to Israel, the only country with more to lose than Saudi Arabia from an Egyptian triumph in Yemen. Israeli leaders, for their part, believed that supporting a proxy conflict with Egypt would forestall an Egyptian-Israeli confrontation in the Sinai, keeping Nasser too preoccupied to attack Israel.

The celebrated Israeli transport pilot Aryeh Oz, then serving as the leader of Israel’s International Squadron 120, led the mission. Using a retrofitted Boeing Stratocruiser, he oversaw 14 flight missions to Yemen’s northern highlands between 1964 and 1966, carrying vital weapons and supplies that, in numerous cases, helped turn the tide of battle in favor of the royalists. Israeli pilots charted a flight path directly over Saudi territory, avoiding Egyptian fighter jets patrolling the Red Sea.”

Israel and Saudi cooperation continues, especially in regard to Iran. And the influence of Saudi money extends to every corner of the Imperialist West. Let me quote Fintan O’Toole…

“Wahhabism was born in the 18th century, Salafism in the 19th. And they are not “Islam” – Salafis and Wahhabis make up 3 per cent of Muslims. One of the more bizarre aspects of this ideology is that it involves attacks on things most Muslims regard as sacred. When western liberals wring their hands about giving offence to Muslims by depicting or representing the prophet, they miss the most important point. Cartoons in Charlie Hebdo are vastly less offensive to most Muslims than the destruction of early Islamic tombs by the Saudis. But of course self-appointed defenders of Islamic sensitivities, funded by Saudi largesse, won’t tell you that.”

Western governments abide by the dictum, just don’t mention the Saudis. The vast majority of Iraqis and Syrians believe ISIS is a western invention. And so it is, by way of Saudi Arabia. The mdrnist blog notes…

“These are precisely the populations which the western media universally insisted ISIS drew its support and sympathy. These are the people who the Western right insist simply spawn such savage groups periodically from the depths of their Oriental inscrutability, and of whom Western liberals parrot the equally racist absurdity that they are just so constitutionally barbaric as to morph into head-choppers after a certain sum of bombs have been dropped.”

The Western mainstream press and good deal of the left in the West continue to express the generalizing Orientalism that links Milosevic, Qadaffi, and Assad as all the same, and all somehow inherently despotic and creations outside history. The demonizing of Islam is linked to the Western (meaning U.S. and U.K.) need to bury the reality of Saudi influence, and the history of Wahabbi fanaticism. But it is also a part of the hidden security apparatus (or deep state, a term predictably being ridiculed in mainstream media now) that works to defuse and squash any organic grassroots movements of resistance.

Ole Tunander wrote….

“US Rear-Admiral James Lyons, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Plans, Policy and Operations, in 1984 set up a ‘terrorist unit’ — known as the Red Cell — recruited from his own naval special forces (SEAL Team Six), to attack naval bases worldwide. This unit set off bombs, wounded US personnel and took hundreds of hostages as part of its operations. According to Lyons, it was necessary for US forces to get ‘physical’ experience of the terrorist threat in order to ‘change the mindset’ and ‘raise the awareness’ of the troops to prevent a possibly even more devastating attack.

Once again, the US was developing a security system that included both sides of the coin. With the end of the Cold War and the decline of the Soviet threat, however, many Europeans believe this ‘dual structure’ — with its specifically tasked terrorist units — may have evolved into an instrument for establishing not only internal Western stability but also US global hegemony.”

Ya think? The recent Manchester bombing is a perfect expression of the mechanisms of the hidden security hierarchy. John Pilger observed…

“The unsayable in Britain’s general election campaign is this. The causes of the Manchester atrocity, in which 22 mostly young people were murdered by a jihadist, are being suppressed to protect the secrets of British foreign policy.

Critical questions – such as why the security service MI5 maintained terrorist “assets” in Manchester and why the government did not warn the public of the threat in their midst – remain unanswered, deflected by the promise of an internal “review”. The alleged suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was part of an extremist group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, that thrived in Manchester and was cultivated and used by MI5 for more than 20 years.”

When Hillary Clinton ordered the assassination of Qadaffi, the killers were part of this same group that the U.K. protected and employed, in theory, when necessary. Again, this imperial policy goes back to WW2. And the goal was to stop secular states, to stop Pan-Arabism lest control of resources fall out of Western control. And the creation of Israel was part of the plan. Pilger adds…“Pan-Arabism has since been crushed; the goal now is division and conquest.” The truth is Mu’ammar Gaddafi never intended to massacre anyone. But the fact he controlled massive oil reserves served, among other things (like wanting to create a new currency to replace the dollar), to put a target on his back. The destruction of Libya included massive bombing of civilian areas and an estimated death toll (including a high percentage of children) in the tens of thousands. Obama ordered troops to South Sudan, the Congo, and the Central African Republic…a de-facto invasion of desperately poor nations, all with total invisibility in U.S. media. The western narrative on terrorist attacks never varies. Lone wolf acting alone. Product of a barbaric Islam, a culture of violence, anti modern, savage and anti democratic.

Jim Kavanagh wrote…

“The Abedi family was part of a protected cohort of Salafist proxy soldiers that have been used by “the West” to destroy the Libyan state. There are a number of such cohorts around the world that have been used for decades to overthrow relatively prosperous and secular, but insufficiently compliant, governments in the Arab and Muslim world—and members of those groups have perpetrated several blowback attacks in Western countries, via various winding roads. In this case, the direct line from Libya to Mali to Manchester is particularly easy to trace.”

The attack in Tehran, the one applauded by Trump and the craven imbecile Dana Rohrbacher, was claimed by ISIS. And ISIS, as must be clear by now, is the creation of Saudi Arabia with huge amounts of help from the U.S., Israel, and U.K. And secondary assistance from NATO, Turkey, Jordan, and the other gulf monarchies. When Trump blames Iran for the terror in its capital, he is part of the inversion of reality that is now daily fare in western media. Iran is the largest democracy in the region and the greatest opponent of fanatical Salafi terrorism. Israel continues to be a crucial actor in the global Imperial project of the U.S. They support ISIS financially, but also with safe passage through the Golan Heights, and with free hospital care; not to mention the intermittent air strikes by the Israeli air force. With Netanyahu under investigation for corruption, one can expect Israeli aggression will only increase in an effort to distract from his domestic problems.

“…more than seventy American companies and individuals have won up to $27 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last three years, according to a recent study by the Center for Public Integrity. According to the study, nearly 75 per cent of these private companies had employees or board members, who either served in, or had close ties to, the executive branch of the Republican and Democratic administrations, members of Congress, or the highest levels of the military.” — Garikai Chengu

So what is the conclusion one draws from all these facts? Well, firstly, the United States is the #1 world aggressor. The Saudis, like ISIS, like Kagame, are just a tool. Iran hasn’t invaded anyone for 300 years. It isn’t Russia that has 800 military bases around the world. That would be the U.S. And it was under Obama, who now looms as the worst president in history, that the constitution was essentially shredded. The U.S. now assassinates anyone anywhere in the world without due process, advocates indefinite detention of anyone, even U.S. citizens, without trial, and can label any American a terrorist without due process (you can be labeled a terrorist for paying cash at an internet cafe).

The U.S. has entered a gilded age in which the affluent classes, the managerial class (now increasingly elitist, and including a kind of new technological expert priest class ) who live largely in big urban centers, have grown ideologically and culturally apart from the underemployed working class, are aligned with the impossibly rich 1%. The haute bourgeoisie are now not just structurally opposed to the working class, but culturally as well. They are white professional gentrifying educated and anti socialist. Race and gender cut across this, too. The violence against the third world is the same violence vent on black communities in the U.S. And I’ve seen essays arguing that racism is at an all time low (and argued this with a pseudo leftist in fact) when of course it is only a certain kind of manufactured image of anti racism that has grown. The real racism against black people is reaching new levels of sadism. The academic left concerns itself increasingly with identity issues while ignoring the massive uptick in direct violence against the global poor. No country the U.S. has attacked has offered even the remotest threat. Yemen was and is the poorest country in the Arab world. And domestically, despite various liberal laws now providing protection (and Dean Spade is very good on this with regards to trans people) there has been a growth of material punishment and marginalization of the most vulnerable. The mythology that passing laws changes something, like racism say, is actually one that ends up justifying racism because now, supposedly, in a post racist society if you fail it is because you are lazy or somehow just not up to the task. And running alongside this is the growing prison population. The violence against black communities is the same violence directed at Yemen, and Libya and Syria. There remains in the U.S. a dire housing shortage, food insecurity has grown, and stripped down welfare benefits. The state is the great punisher today, both domestically and globally. And the global violence is masked because much of it takes place through the hidden security apparatus, and domestically through the illusions of legal faux legitimacy. That Obama succeeded in sustaining an image of progressive liberalism is one of the great propaganda achievements of the modern era. For Obama did nothing for the poor, and globally intensified the imperialist drive for global hegemony. And that is the story in one sentence. Globally the United States has destroyed secular governments, supported monarchies and dictatorships, propagandized against all secular socialist minded leaders and in fact against any leader not prostrate in obedience. Our allies, such as Israel, are exactly the same. Expansionist and racist and militant. Or like Saudi Arabia, degenerate and morally bankrupt societies of bigotry and cruelty. That is the company the U.S. keeps.

Gordan Huff, a Vietnam veteran, wrote…

“Every day my father would return from the Ford factory, describing 120-degree heat and air steeped in carcinogenic solvents. His friends and coworkers died in their 50s. By age 55, he had suffered half a dozen heart attacks and was on disability of $60 a month to support a family of 4. This is a common story, not an exception, this is how my generation grew up, mowing lawns, shoveling snow for money for shoes, working to support a family as early as 10. This is the American generation that went to Vietnam and it was the generation that taught the Pentagon that their games would not continue unopposed.

Today it’s different. The public questions little, those in the military question nothing. When America’s invading armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, under bush never found WMDs or the massive underground terrorist fortresses Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld spoke of, what was the downside? Thousands of American military were killed over not just nothing but abject lies.

When billions in cash was stolen in both Iraq and Afghanistan, when 250,000 AK 47’s purchased by the US government for the Iraqi military simply disappeared, nobody saw it. When Haliburton Corporation furnished the US Army with drinking water taken unfiltered from the Euphrates River, one of the most polluted bodies of water on Earth, hundreds infected with Hepatitis and other diseases, nothing was said, certainly no congressional investigation but the Pentagon was silent as well. Also silent were the troops in the field, silent then and still silent.”

And Hollywood deserves a fair share of blame for the effectiveness of the propaganda. The endless repetition of Imperial lies and the fawning adoration of militarism has helped create a nation run by a sub literate gangster billionaire. A president who appoints only other billionaires or just old fashioned regressive cracker racists like Jefferson Sessions. Raw meat tossed to the xenophobic right wing. And I will tell you now, Trump will get re-elected because the class segregation is now deeply entrenched and the collaborator liberal class will in the end defer to their own self interest. They will vote Democratic (Chelsea Clinton? Michelle Obama? Cory Booker?…who is the next Democrat to run against Trump? It wont be Hillary because I think her health will prevent it). But whoever it is, they will lose. And for the same reasons Hillary lost this time.

This is a society of extraordinary denial and self delusion. Global aggression and the artificial Salafi terrorist mercenaries are the result of Capitalism and Imperialism. They are the proxy warriors in the West’s irrational lust for more. Of everything. And of the barely concealed death instinct of the western psyche.

John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. Plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. Taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. A collection of plays, Sea of Cortez & Other Plays was published in 1999, and his book on aesthetics, Aesthetic Resistance and Dis-Interest was published by Mimesis International in 2016.