zaterdag 21 augustus 2021

Was Russland zur politischen Zukunft Afghanistans sagt

 Afghanistan

Was Russland zur politischen Zukunft Afghanistans sagt

Wie es mit Afghanistan politisch weitergeht und ob man die Taliban-Regierung anerkennen sollte, ist derzeit eines der am heftigsten diskutierten Themen der Weltpolitik. Daher will ich hier den offiziellen Standpunkt Russlands aufzeigen.

Am Donnerstag hat Maria Sacharova, die Sprecherin des russischen Außenministeriums, ausführlich dargelegt, wie Russland die Lage in Afghanistan politisch einschätzt. Über einen Teil der russischen Erklärung habe ich schon berichtet, hier will ich der Vollständigkeit halber die gesamte russische Erklärung zeigen, die ich übersetzt habe. 

Beginn der Übersetzung:

Zu den Erklärungen, die die offiziellen Vertreter Russlands bereits in Beantwortung der im Zusammenhang mit der veränderten politischen Lage in Afghanistan eingegangenen Fragen abgegeben haben, möchten wir Folgendes hinzufügen.

Der Einzug der Taliban in Kabul am 15. August ist eine vollendete Tatsache, eine Realität, die die internationale Gemeinschaft beim Aufbau ihrer künftigen Beziehungen zu Afghanistan berücksichtigen sollte. Lediglich die zentrale Provinz Panjshir, wo bewaffnete Widerstandseinheiten aus afghanischen Tadschiken unter der Führung des ehemaligen Vizepräsidenten Saleh und des Sohnes von Ahmad Shah Masoud gebildet wurden, bleibt außerhalb der Kontrolle der Taliban.

Präsident Ghani, der das Land verlassen hat und kürzlich in den Vereinigten Arabischen Emiraten gesehen wurde, ist für die Geschehnisse verantwortlich. In den vergangenen drei Jahren hatte er jede Gelegenheit, den Erfolg des innerafghanischen Friedensprozesses sicherzustellen und die reibungslose Bildung einer alle ethnisch-politischen Kräfte des Landes umfassenden Regierung zu erleichtern. Diese Chance wurde jedoch vertan.

Wir stellen fest, dass die Taliban sich aktiv um die Wiederherstellung der Ordnung bemühen; sie haben ihre Bereitschaft gezeigt, mit einflussreichen afghanischen Politikern, insbesondere dem ehemaligen Präsidenten Hamid Karzai, einen Dialog über die künftige Staatsstruktur zu führen; sie sind bereit, die Interessen der Bürger, einschließlich der Rechte der Frauen, zu berücksichtigen.

Ich möchte Ihre Aufmerksamkeit auf die Bemerkung lenken, die der Außenminister der Russischen Föderation, Sergej Lawrow, heute auf der Pressekonferenz gemacht hat. Er betonte, dass wir, als ganz Afghanistan in einen Bürgerkrieg verwickelt war, für den Übergang zu einem nationalen Dialog eingetreten sind, an dem alle afghanischen Kräfte und die ethnischen und religiösen Gruppen, die sich im Land gegenüberstehen, beteiligt werden sollten. Genauso ist es jetzt, nachdem die Taliban die Macht in Kabul und den meisten anderen Städten und Provinzen übernommen haben: Russland setzt sich für einen nationalen Dialog ein, der die Bildung einer repräsentativen Regierung ermöglicht. Sie würde dann mit Unterstützung der Bürger Afghanistans eine Vereinbarung über die endgültige Regelung des multiethnischen Landes ausarbeiten.

Wenn wir darüber sprechen, wie dies geschehen könnte, dann ist es wie in den letzten Jahren, als im Rahmen der erweiterten Troika (Russland, USA, China, Pakistan) und des Moskauer Formats, das weltweit als der wirksamste Mechanismus zur Förderung externer Unterstützung für eine Lösung in Afghanistan anerkannt ist, aktiv gearbeitet wurde. Russland hat sich für die frühestmögliche Aufnahme dieser Verhandlungen ausgesprochen. Die Regierung und der Präsident Afghanistans, die entsprechende Vereinbarungen getroffen hatten, zögerten, diese umzusetzen, und wir haben uns dazu bereits geäußert, auch auf Pressekonferenzen. Aber was geschehen ist, ist nun mal geschehen. Das ist die Realität, mit der man mit Diplomatie, mit Geschichtskenntnissen und mit allen Mitteln des diplomatischen Geschicks umgehen muss. Wir bekräftigen erneut unsere konsequente Linie, den nationalen Dialog in Afghanistan auf jede erdenkliche Weise von außen zu unterstützen. Ich möchte daran erinnern, dass wir uns an die einschlägigen Beschlüsse des UN-Sicherheitsrats halten. Wir glauben – wie Außenminister Sergej Lawrow heute sagte -, dass das Moskauer Format die besten Aussichten hat. Die Situation hat bereits eine überregionale Dimension angenommen. Nachbarländer, die weiter von Afghanistan entfernt sind, reagieren darauf. An dem Moskauer Format nehmen alle fünf zentralasiatischen Staaten sowie China, Pakistan, Iran, Indien, Russland, die Vereinigten Staaten und die Konfliktparteien selbst teil. Bislang wurden keine offiziellen Vorschläge gemacht, aber, wie Lawrow bemerkte, wurde die Wirksamkeit dieser „Begleitgruppe“ der afghanischen Verhandlungen immer von allen anerkannt. Russland ist bereit, die Arbeit des Moskauer Formats wieder aufzunehmen, wenn dies für zweckmäßig erachtet wird. Wir sehen alle Erklärungen der Taliban, in denen sie den Wunsch äußern, einen Dialog mit anderen politischen Kräften in Afghanistan aufzunehmen. Sie haben bereits eine Reihe von Treffen mit Vertretern der politischen Kräfte angekündigt.

Die russische Botschaft in Kabul, einschließlich ihrer Konsularabteilung, arbeitet wie gewohnt weiter. Mit den Vertretern der neuen Regierung werden Arbeitsbeziehungen aufgebaut, um vor allem die Sicherheit der russischen Bürger und das reibungslose Funktionieren unserer Vertretungen zu gewährleisten. Bei der konsularischen Arbeit gibt es gewisse Schwierigkeiten, die mit dem Zusammenbruch des früheren Staatssystems zusammenhängen. So wurde beispielsweise die Legalisierung von Dokumenten aus verständlichen Gründen ausgesetzt, das ist auf den Zusammenbruch der staatlichen Struktur, des öffentlichen Dienstes, zurückzuführen, der früher in Afghanistan tätig war.

Im Konsularregister sind etwa 100 russische Staatsangehörige eingetragen, zumeist ethnische Afghanen, die zu verschiedenen Zeiten in Russland oder der Sowjetunion studiert, hier Familien gegründet, die Staatsbürgerschaft erworben haben und dann in ihre historische Heimat zurückgekehrt sind. Der Konsularische Dienst der Botschaft befasst sich schwerpunktmäßig mit diesen und anderen Anfragen russischer Bürger. Wir stellen fest, dass es sich bei den meisten dieser Anfragen um Bitten um Unterstützung bei der Rückkehr in das Gebiet der Russischen Föderation handelt. Sie alle werden sorgfältig geprüft werden.

Ich möchte betonen, dass es nicht um eine Evakuierung von Botschaftsangehörigen oder russischen Bürgern in Afghanistan geht. Im Moment arbeiten wir an der üblichen Organisation mehrerer Charterflüge. Wir haben das bereits während der Coronavirus-Pandemie mit der dortigen Fluggesellschaft Ariana getan. Da es derzeit keine solche Möglichkeit gibt, planen wir die Organisation von Sonderflügen, auch für russische Staatsbürger, die Afghanistan verlassen wollen. Vertreter der Taliban haben uns versichert, dass dem nichts im Wege steht und haben uns entsprechende Sicherheitsgarantien gegeben.

Uns liegen keine Informationen darüber vor, dass Bürger unseres Landes bei den bekannten Vorfällen auf dem Flughafen in Kabul in den vergangenen Tagen zu Schaden gekommen sind.

Wir halten es für verfrüht, Prognosen über die Aussichten für die Handels- und Wirtschaftsbeziehungen zwischen Russland und Afghanistan unter dem neuen Regime abzugeben. Wir haben jedoch keinen Grund zu der Annahme, dass sie keine Impulse für ihre weitere Entwicklung erhalten werden, sobald das System der staatlichen Strukturen etabliert ist und die afghanische Gesellschaft zur Ruhe gekommen ist. Jetzt stehen andere Themen auf der Tagesordnung, zu denen wir uns natürlich äußern werden, sobald wir Informationen erhalten.

Angesichts der gegenwärtigen Situation auf dem Flughafen von Kabul und der Tatsache, dass mehrere westliche Länder nicht für die Abreise ihrer Diplomaten, Soldaten und Zivilisten aus Afghanistan gesorgt haben, ganz zu schweigen von den Afghanen, die mit ihnen zusammengearbeitet haben, und ihren Familien, die das Land verlassen wollen, aber nicht können, möchten wir folgendes mitteilen:

Um eine Verschlechterung der humanitären Lage in Afghanistan zu verhindern, sind wir bereit, die Dienste der russischen zivilen Luftfahrt zur Verfügung zu stellen, um den Flug einer beliebigen Anzahl afghanischer Staatsangehöriger, einschließlich Frauen und Kinder, in alle Länder zu gewährleisten, die an ihrer Aufnahme und Unterbringung interessiert sind.

Wie uns Vertreter der neuen Regierung in Afghanistan versichert haben, gibt es keine prinzipiellen Hindernisse für die Ankunft und den Abflug russischer Flugzeuge in Kabul. Die Sicherheit der Flugzeuge, der Besatzungen und der Passagiere ist gewährleistet.

Ende der Übersetzung

Das russische Außenministerium stellt die Pressekonferenzen nun mit Zeitstempel auf YouTube online, sodass Interessierte sich diese Erklärung auch im Video anschauen können.

https://www.anti-spiegel.ru/2021/was-russland-zur-politischen-zukunft-afghanistans-sagt/


NRC Houdt Illusies Warm

 

Optreden van het kabinet in Afghanistan-crisis getuigt van weinig respect voor Kamer 

Afghanistan-crisis

Commentaar

Machteloos stemmend zijn de beelden van de snel verslechterende situatie rondom het vliegveld van Kabul. Afghaanse burgers die hun leven wagen om een evacuatievlucht te bereiken, baby’s die over hoofden van wachtenden naar het begin van de rij worden getild, als ultieme wanhoopsdaad. De kansen om Kabul nog te verlaten, slinken met het uur voor de achterblijvers. Dat geldt voor buitenlanders én Afghanen. In deze chaos voert Nederland nu evcuatievluchten uit om de achtergebleven Nederlanders (ruim 700 zijn het er nog) in veiligheid te brengen. Ook spant Nederland zich in om Afghanen te evacueren die voor Nederland gewerkt hebben. Niet alleen gaat het om de tientallen tolken, maar ook om koks, bewakers, of chauffeurs. Die belofte moest het kabinet deze week in de Tweede Kamer doen. Volgens Defensie zijn er inmiddels vijf evacuatievluchten uit Kabul vertrokken. 

Haast is geboden. Hoe langer de evacuatie duurt, des te kleiner de kansen op succes voor de betrokkenen. Het is de vraag hoe lang er nog vliegtuigen kunnen opstijgen in Kabul. Helemáál onzeker is het of mensen het vliegveld nog kunnen bereiken, nu de Taliban zich steeds meer laten gelden op straat. Maar de haast wás er al. De afgelopen maanden wonnen de Taliban snel terrein. Andere landen, zoals Frankrijk, bereidden maatregelen voor om ingezetenen of Afghanen te evacueren. Nederland oogde verrast. „Iedereen die dit had kunnen voorzien, verdient een Nobelprijs”, zei demissionair minister Sigrid Kaag (Buitenlandse Zaken, D66) deze week in de Tweede Kamer. Feit is dat er al een opdracht van de Kamer lág om zo snel mogelijk in ieder geval de Afghaanse tolken in veiligheid te brengen. Die motie is maar deels uitgevoerd: 43 tolken zijn naar Nederland gebracht, 65 zitten nog in Afghanistan. De snelheid van de gebeurtenissen was niet te voorzien, maar dát Kabul zou vallen, was geen verrassing. 

Het is te vroeg voor een finaal oordeel over het crisismanagement van het kabinet. Eerst moet de evacuatie in Afghanistan voltooid zijn. Maar twee debatten in de Tweede Kamer over Afghanistan stemden niet optimistisch. Het optreden van de drie demissionaire bewindslieden (naast Kaag ook minister Ank Bijleveld (Defensie, CDA) en Ankie Broekers-Knol (Asiel, VVD) was verwarrend en beschamend. Bijvoorbeeld toen Bijleveld zei dat de Nederlandse missie in Afghanistan zinvol was geweest, want „we hebben Afghanen laten zien dat het ook anders kan.” De ministers en staatssecretaris spraken elkaar regelmatig tegen, bijvoorbeeld toen het ging over de interpretatie van een nieuwe Kamermotie. De Kamer drong er bij het kabinet op aan alle Afghanen die voor Nederland hadden gewerkt, én Afghanen die voor journalisten of mensenrechtenorganisaties hadden gewerkt, in veiligheid te brengen en de kans op asiel te geven. Het kabinet moest die met ruime meerderheid aangenomen motie uitvoeren, maar met name Broekers-Knol begon in het debat de inhoud van de motie te veranderen, waardoor de strekking volledig veranderde. De motie, ingediend door D66-Kamerlid Salima Belhaj, ging volgens haar alleen om Afghanen die „onophoudelijk” hebben gewerkt voor Nederland, en die in een „acute en schrijnende situatie” zitten. Nederland zou hun asielaanvraag „voortvarend” behandelen. 

Zuiniger dan dat kón bijna niet. Het was terecht dat de Kamer, inclusief D66 en ChristenUnie, die nog deel uitmaken van Rutte III, hier een streep trokken. Wat Broekers-Knol deed, was op twee manieren ongehoord. Ze sprak ten eerste haar ambtsgenoten Kaag en Bijleveld tegen, waardoor Rutte III een gedesintegreerde indruk maakte. Erger nog was dat ze blijk gaf van minachting van de Kamer. De Tweede Kamer gaat over haar eigen moties, en over de interpretatie daarvan. Dat een kabinetslid die eenvoudige regel niet respecteerde, is onzuiver. Zelfs de kabinetsbrief die de nacht erop verscheen, was onhelder. Aan de ene kant beloofde het kabinet de motie „naar letter en geest” uit te voeren. Maar het kabinet hield toch slagen om de arm. 

Het incident stond bovendien niet op zichzelf. Tijdens de Kamerdebatten hadden Kamerleden regelmatig zware kritiek op de in hun ogen arrogante manier waarop met de volksvertegenwoordiging werd omgegaan. De motie over de Afghaanse tolken was niet uitgevoerd. Kamervragen werden niet beantwoord. En de motie-Belhaj werd voor de ogen van de Kamer min of meer herschreven. Daarbij ergerde de Kamer zich terecht aan de wollige en ontwijkende manier waarop belangrijke vragen werden beantwoord. Belhaj, in haar rol als commissievoorzitter, sprak de kabinetsleden daar scherp op aan. De Kamerleden hadden grote zorgen. Juist in een crisis als deze is respect voor de volksvertegenwoordiging essentieel.

https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2021/08/21/optreden-van-het-kabinet-in-afghanistan-crisis-getuigt-van-weinig-respect-voor-kamer-a4055539#/handelsblad/2021/08/21/#208

Tucker on Biden

 

Tucker: ABC news appears to edit portions that made Biden look 'unpresidential'

vrijdag 20 augustus 2021

Patterson Deppen, America as a Base Nation Revisited

 TOMGRAM

Patterson Deppen, America as a Base Nation Revisited

POSTED ON 

In January 2004, Chalmers Johnson wrote “America’s Empire of Bases” for TomDispatch, breaking what was, in effect, a silence around those strange edifices, some the size of small towns, scattered around the planet. He began it this way:

“As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize — or do not want to recognize — that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire — an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can’t begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.”

Seventeen years have passed since then, years in which the U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan, across the Greater Middle East, and deep into Africa. Those wars have all been — if you’ll excuse the use of the term this way — based on that very “empire of bases,” which grew to a staggering size in this century. And yet most Americans have paid no attention to it whatsoever.  (Remind me of the last time any aspect of that Baseworld featured in a political campaign in this country.) And yet it was a historically unique (and expensive) way of garrisoning the planet, without the bother of the sort of colonies older empires had relied on.

At TomDispatch, however, we’ve never taken our eyes off that strange global imperial edifice. In July 2007, for instance, Nick Turse produced his first of many pieces on those unprecedented bases and the militarization of the planet that went with them. Citing the gigantic ones in then-U.S.-occupied Iraq, he wrote: “Even with the multi-square mile, multi-billion dollar, state-of-the-art Balad Air Base and Camp Victory thrown in, however, the bases in [Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates’ new plan will be but a drop in the bucket for an organization that may well be the world’s largest landlord. For many years, the U.S. military has been gobbling up large swaths of the planet and huge amounts of just about everything on (or in) it. So, with the latest Pentagon Iraq plans in mind, take a quick spin with me around this Pentagon planet of ours.”

Similarly, eight years later, in September 2015, at the time of the publication of his then-new book Base Nation, David Vine took TomDispatch readers on an updated spin through that very planet of bases in “Garrisoning the Globe.” He began with a paragraph that could, sadly enough, have been written yesterday (or undoubtedly, even more sadly, tomorrow):

“With the U.S. military having withdrawn many of its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans would be forgiven for being unaware that hundreds of U.S. bases and hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops still encircle the globe. Although few know it, the United States garrisons the planet unlike any country in history, and the evidence is on view from Honduras to Oman, Japan to Germany, Singapore to Djibouti.”

Today, even more sadly, Patterson Deppen offers the latest look at that global imperial structure, still standing despite the recent American disaster in Afghanistan, and for so many on this planet (as it isn’t for Americans), symbolic of the nature of the U.S. presence globally.  His piece is based on a brand-new count of the Pentagon’s bases and reminds us that, since Johnson wrote those words about our Baseworld 17 years ago, remarkably little has changed in the way this country approaches much of the rest of the planet. Tom

The All-American Base World

750 U.S. Military Bases Still Remain Around the Planet

It was the spring of 2003 during the American-led invasion of Iraq. I was in second grade, living on a U.S. military base in Germany, attending one of the Pentagon’s many schools for families of servicemen stationed abroad. One Friday morning, my class was on the verge of an uproar. Gathered around our homeroom lunch menu, we were horrified to find that the golden, perfectly crisped French fries we adored had been replaced with something called “freedom fries.”

“What are freedom fries?” we demanded to know.

Our teacher quickly reassured us by saying something like: “Freedom fries are the exact same thing as French fries, just better.” Since France, she explained, was not supporting “our” war in Iraq, “we just changed the name, because who needs France anyway?” Hungry for lunch, we saw little reason to disagree. After all, our most coveted side dish would still be there, even if relabeled.  

While 20 years have passed since then, that otherwise obscure childhood memory came back to me last month when, in the midst of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Biden announced an end to American “combat” operations in Iraq. To many Americans, it may have appeared that he was just keeping his promiseto end the two forever wars that came to define the post-9/11 “global war on terror.” However, much as those “freedom fries” didn’t actually become something else, this country’s “forever wars” may not really be coming to an end either. Rather, they are being relabeled and seem to be continuing via other means.

Having closed down hundreds of military bases and combat outposts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon will now shift to an “advise-and-assist” role in Iraq. Meanwhile, its top leadership is now busy “pivoting” to Asia in pursuit of new geostrategic objectives primarily centered around “containing” China. As a result, in the Greater Middle East and significant parts of Africa, the U.S. will be trying to keep a far lower profile, while remaining militarily engaged through training programs and private contractors.

As for me, two decades after I finished those freedom fries in Germany, I’ve just finished compiling a list of American military bases around the world, the most comprehensive possible at this moment from publicly available information. It should help make greater sense of what could prove to be a significant period of transition for the U.S. military.

Despite a modest overall decline in such bases, rest assured that the hundreds that remain will play a vital role in the continuation of some version of Washington’s forever wars and could also help facilitate a new Cold War with China. According to my current count, our country still has more than 750 significant military bases implanted around the globe. And here’s the simple reality: unless they are, in the end, dismantled, America’s imperial role on this planet won’t end either, spelling disaster for this country in the years to come. 

Tallying Up the “Bases of Empire”  

I was tasked with compiling what we’ve (hopefully) called the “2021 U.S. Overseas Base Closure List” after reaching out to Leah Bolger, president of World BEYOND War. As part of a group known as the Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition (OBRACC) committed to shutting down such bases, Bolger put me in contact with its co-founder David Vine, the author of the classic book on the subject, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World 

Bolger, Vine, and I then decided to put together just such a new list as a tool for focusing on future U.S. base closures around the world. In addition to providing the most comprehensive accounting of such overseas bases, our research also further confirms that the presence of even one in a country can contribute significantly to anti-American protests, environmental destruction, and ever greater costs for the American taxpayer.

In fact, our new count does show that their total number globally has declined in a modest fashion (and even, in a few cases, fallen dramatically) over the past decade. From 2011 on, nearly a thousand combat outposts and a modest number of major bases have been closed in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in Somalia. Just a little over five years ago, David Vine estimated that there were around 800 major U.S. bases in more than 70 countries, colonies, or territories outside the continental United States. In 2021, our count suggests that the figure has fallen to approximately 750. Yet, lest you think that all is finally heading in the right direction, the number of places with such bases has actually increased in those same years.

Since the Pentagon has generally sought to conceal the presence of at least some of them, putting together such a list can be complicated indeed, starting with how one even defines such a “base.” We decided that the simplest way was to use the Pentagon’s own definition of a “base site,” even if its public counts of them are notoriously inaccurate. (I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that its figures are invariably too low, never too high.)

So, our list defined such a major base as any “specific geographic location that has individual land parcels or facilities assigned to it… that is, or was owned by, leased to, or otherwise under the jurisdiction of a Department of Defense Component on behalf of the United States.”

Using this definition helps to simplify what counts and what doesn’t, but it also leaves much out of the picture. Not included are significant numbers of small ports, repair complexes, warehouses, fueling stations, and surveillance facilities controlled by this country, not to speak of the nearly 50 bases the American government directly funds for the militaries of other countries. Most appear to be in Central America (and other parts of Latin America), places familiar indeed with the presence of the U.S. military, which has been involved in 175 years of military interventions in the region. 

Still, according to our list, American military bases overseas are now scattered across 81 countries, colonies, or territories on every continent except Antarctica. And while their total numbers may be down, their reach has only continued to expand. Between 1989 and today, in fact, the military has more than doubled the number of places in which it has bases from 40 to 81.

This global presence remains unprecedented. No other imperial power has ever had the equivalent, including the British, French, and Spanish empires. They form what Chalmers Johnson, former CIA consultant turned critic of U.S. militarism, once referred to as an “empire of bases” or a “globe-girdling Base World.”

As long as this count of 750 military bases in 81 places remains a reality, so, too, will U.S. wars. As succinctly put by David Vine in his latest book, The United States of War“Bases frequently beget wars, which can beget more bases, which can beget more wars, and so on.”  

Over the Horizon Wars?

In Afghanistan, where Kabul fell to the Taliban earlier this week, our military had only recently ordered a rushed, late-in-the-night withdrawal from its last major stronghold, Bagram Airfield, and no U.S. bases remain there. The numbers have similarly fallen in Iraq where that military now controls only six bases, while earlier in this century the number would have been closer to 505, ranging from large ones to small military outposts.

Dismantling and shutting down such bases in those lands, in Somalia, and in other countries as well, along with the full-scale departure of American military forces from two of those three countries, were historically significant, no matter how long they took, given the domineering “boots on the ground” approach they once facilitated. And why did such changes occur when they did? The answer has much to do with the staggering human, political, and economic costs of these endless failed wars. According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, the toll of just those remarkably unsuccessful conflicts in Washington’s war on terror was tremendous: minimally 801,000 deaths (with more on the way) since 9/11 in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen.

The weight of such suffering was, of course, disproportionately carried by the people of the countries who have faced Washington’s invasions, occupations, air strikes, and interference over almost two decades. More than 300,000 civilians across those and other countries have been killed and an estimated nearly 37 million more displaced. Around 15,000 U.S. forces, including soldiers and private contractors, have also died. Untold scores of devastating injuries have occurred as well to millions of civilians, opposition fighters, and American troops. In total, it’s estimated that, by 2020, these post-9/11 wars had cost American taxpayers $6.4 trillion.

While the overall number of U.S. military bases abroad may be in decline as the failure of the war on terror sinks in, the forever wars are likely to continue more covertly through Special Operations forces, private military contractors, and ongoing air strikes, whether in Iraq, Somalia, or elsewhere.

In Afghanistan, even when there were only 650 U.S. troops left, guarding the U.S. embassy in Kabul, the U.S. was still intensifying its air strikes in the country. It launched a dozen in July alone, recently killing 18 civilians in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. According to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, attacks like these were being carried out from a base or bases in the Middle East equipped with “over the horizon capabilities,” supposedly located in the United Arab Emirates, or UAE, and Qatar. In this period, Washington has also been seeking (as yet without success) to establish new bases in countries that neighbor Afghanistan for continued surveillance, reconnaissance, and potentially air strikes, including possibly leasing Russian military bases in Tajikistan.

And mind you, when it comes to the Middle East, the UAE and Qatar are just the beginning. There are U.S. military bases in every Persian Gulf country except Iran and Yemen: seven in Oman, three in the UAE, 11 in Saudi Arabia, seven in Qatar, 12 in Bahrain, 10 in Kuwait, and those six still in Iraq. Any of these could potentially contribute to the sorts of “over the horizon” wars the U.S. now seems committed to in countries like Iraq, just as its bases in Kenya and Djibouti are enabling it to launch air strikes in Somalia.

New Bases, New Wars

Meanwhile, halfway around the world, thanks in part to a growing push for a Cold War-style “containment” of China, new bases are being constructed in the Pacific.

There are, at best, minimal barriers in this country to building military bases overseas. If Pentagon officials determine that a new $990 million base is needed in Guam to “enhance warfighting capabilities” in Washington’s pivot to Asia, there are few ways to prevent them from doing so.

Camp Blaz, the first Marine Corps base to be built on the Pacific Island of Guam since 1952, has been under construction since 2020 without the slightest pushback or debate over whether it was needed or not from policymakers and officials in Washington or among the American public. Even more new bases are being proposed for the nearby Pacific Islands of Palau, Tinian, and Yap. On the other hand, a locally much-protested new base in Henoko on the Japanese island of Okinawa, the Futenma Replacement Facility, is “unlikely” ever to be completed.

Little of any of this is even known in this country, which is why a public list of the full extent of such bases, old and new, around the world is of importance, however difficult it may be to produce based on the patchy Pentagon record available. Not only can it show the far-reaching extent and changing nature of this country’s imperial efforts globally, it could also act as a tool for promoting future base closures in places like Guam and Japan, where there at present are 52 and 119 bases respectively — were the American public one day to seriously question where their tax dollars were really going and why.

Just as there’s very little standing in the way of the Pentagon constructing new bases overseas, there is essentially nothing preventing President Biden from closing them. As OBRACC points out, while there is a process involving congressional authorization for closing any domestic U.S. military base, no such authorization is needed abroad. Unfortunately, in this country there is as yet no significant movement for ending that Baseworld of ours. Elsewhere, however, demands and protests aimed at shutting down such bases from Belgium to GuamJapan to the United Kingdom — in nearly 40 countries all told — have taken place within the past few years.

In December 2020, however, even the highest-ranking U.S. military official, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, asked: “Is every one of those [bases] absolutely positively necessary for the defense of the United States?”

In short, no. Anything but. Still, as of today, despite the modest decline in their numbers, the 750 or so that remain are likely to play a vital role in any continuation of Washington’s “forever wars,” while supporting the expansion of a new Cold War with China. As Chalmers Johnson warned in 2009, “Few empires of the past voluntarily gave up their dominions in order to remain independent, self-governing polities… If we do not learn from their examples, our decline and fall is foreordained.”

In the end, new bases only mean new wars and, as the last nearly 20 years have shown, that’s hardly a formula for success for American citizens or others around the world.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Apocalypse, Please!

Apocalypse, please

The COVID-19 pandemic, like other catastrophes before it, got some of us hooked on phobic energy and terror. Why?

 To read the news in the spring of 2021 was to encounter every day a deluge of columns, editorials and think-pieces – so many think-pieces – on the diverse psychological traumas unique to our liminal moment, our transition out of quarantine, our return to something pundits insist on calling ‘normal’. We read, for instance, about the stresses of returning to the workplace; of leaving pets and family from whom we’ve grown inseparable; of resuming the horrors of dating; of reckoning with the Covid ‘19’ (that is, the pounds we’ve gained); and with the acceleration of addiction (around 40 per cent of drinkers said that their alcohol consumption had increased since the pandemic began). A recent video essay in The New York Times called ‘Are You Dreading a Return to “Normal”? You’re Not Alone’ chronicles a reluctance to return that is, counterintuitively, widespread.

Another terror goes undiscussed in such analyses, perhaps because it undermines our shared romance as self-possessing realists capable of understanding our desires and modifying our behaviours. What I have in mind here is that that some of us seem to pre-emptively miss COVID-19, to fear the moment when it will recede into our collective rear view. We fear a time after COVID-19 not because its passage will require the various reckonings and returns enumerated above. We fear it because we’ve come to enjoy its privations. On social media and in person, we increasingly appear, many of us, to perceive the recession – not exactly of the virus itself but certainly of the relational and cultural formations it engendered – as a psychic loss. It bears stating explicitly that this anxiety is both different from and, in a sense, foundational to the other stresses of re-entry listed above. In those accounts, we’re depicted as fundamentally excited about our return to ‘normal’ and worried merely about the hiccups that will inevitably attend the resumption of regular programming.

Yet for many of us – and, here, I mean a certain kind of reflexively secular, (over)educated liberal – the coming emancipation feels less than happy. Ever since the massive rollout of the vaccine programme in many parts of the developed world, another, incompletely repressed part of us has begun surfacing with greater vehemence. This part seems angry, resentful and, most to the point, betrayed at the premise of return. This part of us seems anxious not only about the conditions attendant upon re-entry but about the very removal of the conditions of emergency and exception we’ve necessarily adopted. As with many cultural barometers today, this one is most legible online, in fora where user comments are hosted. The user sections in online newspapers favoured by moderates, liberals and Leftists alike, as well as in less moderated venues such as Reddit, have begun to feature a particular kind of voice lashing back at any editorial content suggesting that the end of COVID-19 is near. How can we really be sure, they ask? How can we really trust guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when they tell us to leave our masks at home – especially when they keep changing their minds and they’ve been wrong before? Of those sounding optimistic notes, users demand to know their epidemiological credentials. Is it really responsible, they ask, for anyone but a medical expert to call for return?

The opinion pages and comment sections of The New York Times provide as representative a sample of this affect as any outlet. In late February, the conservative commentator Ross Douthat wrote a column for the paper called ‘The Covid Emergency Must End’. While acknowledging the myriad complications that might prevent the return to normality in the spring and summer, he nonetheless opined that, unlike in the darkest days under Donald Trump:

today the situation is radically different. And Joe Biden would be doing our struggling, freezing country a great service if he suggested, with evidence, that with continued effort and reasonably good fortune, the era of emergency might be over by the Fourth of July.

Douthat’s own evidence came from recent CDC data.

Predictably, most NYT commentators found a good deal to hate in this position. One of the most upvoted and NYT recommended posts came from a user called ‘B1indSqu1rrel’, who wrote, with a punitive assurance characteristic of many others:

Tell me are you in the habit of closing your eyes and relaxing because you are almost home from a long difficult drive, or do you wait until you park your car? Do you often lie down of the floor of your home because it’s almost bedtime, or do you wait and actually get in bed?

In another upvoted and recommended comment, ‘DP’ writes:

If you really would like to help, how about telling people to mask up, wash their hands, and stay the heck away from people as much as possible until this thing is ACTUALLY over, and not trying to get back to normal as soon as things look like they are starting to change? The beginning of a recovery is not a recovery.

Many others simply stressed that Douthat’s lack of epidemiological expertise prevented him from editorialising on this subject. ‘I will follow Mr Douthat’s advice when he shows me his Medical Certification as an expert in infectious disease,’ writes ‘j p smith’.

Writing for The Daily Telegraph in July, Sherelle Jacobs observed keenly that people ‘have become [so] attached to the gilded trappings of lockdown’ that they have shifted the goalposts of what would constitute a safe reopening of Britain. For people in this group, the UK’s prime minister Boris Johnson shouldn’t accept the drastic mitigations of risk offered by widespread vaccination but should instead settle for nothing less than a ‘Zero Covid utopia’.

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Iam not an epidemiologist, nor am I interested in virology in the biological sense. What I am interested in, and what my training as a literary critic leaves me well prepared to see, is what I call, if somewhat grandiosely, the surplus phobic energy of the response. Some people seem to want or even need something much more existential – spiritual? libidinal? – than the pure scientific accuracy to which they pledge their allegiance. This excess is evident in their aggression toward the very genre of the editorial itself, and their insistence that our moment of emergency can reasonably brook no opinion but the most pessimistic.

These responses expose part of our collective cultural unconscious that has identified not, perhaps, with the virus itself, but certainly with the conditions of lockdown: with emergency culture, maybe even apocalypse culture, with conditions of prolonged terror and the kind of defensive retreat that terror inspires. (The psychology I’m highlighting here might find its analogue in broader cultural fetishes for zombie narratives, which likewise discover pleasure in dystopian rituals of quarantine and isolation.)

This strange pleasure is different from the so-called ‘pleasures of lockdown’ – reconnecting with family, eschewing long commutes – that were so comprehensively covered in articles such as ‘Loving the Lockdown’ in The New York Times in May 2020. For a long time, this need for protection and security replaced the role fulfilled before the pandemic by in-person sociality itself. But doesn’t it seem naive to imagine that this new culture would just be chucked, wholesale, for an acceptance of what was before? The grim affect that’s emerged online in the past few months seems to suggest as much.

To explain the psychology here, it’s tempting to invoke Stockholm syndrome, where a kidnap victim identifies with the captor; think Patty Hearst. Like some hostages, we’ve been tricked into forgetting the contours of the good, pre-viral life. But I think that the nimbler paradigm for our vexing, residual attachment to a thing we once viewed with justifiable hostility – our condition of privation – comes from Sigmund Freud’s conception of melancholy.

Freud contrasted melancholy with mourning. In the latter mode of processing grief, which he initially thought healthier than melancholy, the mourner slowly accepts the permanent loss of her beloved object – a person, a place, a belief – and replaces it with another, redirecting all of the emotional energy once invested in it toward its successor. ‘[T]he beloved object no longer exists,’ Freud writes in Mourning and Melancholia (1917), and therefore ‘demands that the libido as a whole sever its bonds with that object’.

The melancholic person is divided between her ‘true’ self and the lost object residing, zombie-like, in her psyche

By contrast, in melancholy, which for Freud is mourning’s pathological, aberrant alternative, the initial loss cannot be acknowledged by the griever. In many cases, the loss is simply too shattering and profound to be countenanced, and is thus repressed, banished to the guarded but not impermeable fortress of the unconscious. This ‘[p]reservative repression’, wrote the literary scholar Nicholas Rand in 1994, ‘seals off access to part of one’s own life in order to shelter from view the traumatic monument of an obliterated event’. However, its confinement in the crypt of the unconscious – the ‘cocoon around the chrysalis’, in the evocative phrasing of the psychoanalysts Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok in The Shell and the Kernel (1994) – doesn’t blunt the psychic pressure it exerts, the demand it continues to impose upon the would-be griever.

Instead, Freud believed that the melancholic individual processes this repressed debt and restitutes her lost object by becoming that object, taking it inside herself as a fully fledged, desiring subject in its own right, in this way psychically denying its real absence. ‘[I]dentification with the object,’ he writes, ‘then becomes the substitute for the love-investment.’ The analyst Melanie Klein wrote in 1935 that through this adoption, ‘the loved object may be preserved in safety inside oneself’. As the feminist theorist Judith Butler explained in The Psychic Life of Power (1997), ‘melancholic identification permits the loss of the object in the external world precisely because it provides a way to preserve the object as part of the ego and, hence, to avert the loss as a complete loss’.

Melancholy has a price: the melancholic person is divided between her ‘true’ self and the lost object now enjoying a zombie-like residence in her psyche; her psyche, in turn, willingly recruits itself as a servant to this phantom object in order not to be its mourner. In this way, Klein points out, melancholic incorporation is a potentially vitalising force. In Affective Mapping: Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism (2008), the literary theorist Jonathan Flatley coined the notion of ‘antidepressive’ melancholies – those, in other words, that ‘are the opposite of depressing, functioning as the very mechanism through which one may be interested in the world’. Indeed, as Freud himself began to intimate in The Ego and the Id(1923), published after his initial essay, melancholy might not even be so aberrant, but in fact the normal way that the self is formed – namely, from the adoption of things, beliefs and desires experienced but then abandoned. ‘The ego,’ writes Freud, the self, is merely ‘a precipitate of abandoned object[s]’ and identifications. We are, in other words, what we’ve lost.

If so, then are we perhaps seeing an enduring, melancholic relationship to the confinements and lockdowns initially created for our protection from the plague? Did this privation simply assume too great a role in our lives – as bearer and guarantor of security, indeed of life itself – to be replaced, at least so soon? Perhaps this psychological dynamic could make sense of many sceptical voices online who view with manifest cynicism Fauci’s announcements that travel and intimacy actually can resume post-vaccine, and that by early fall the US will be back to some version of normal.

Some degree of scepticism is warranted when it comes to ending lockdowns. After all, public health consensus has often gotten COVID-19 wrong. But maybe we are also clinging to a vision of safety because its removal feels like a threat.

In some ways, proof of this paradigm can be found in the cultural history of another epidemic – the HIV/AIDS crisis between the early 1980s and today. It has been said, if somewhat reductively, that that there are two halves to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, at least as it took shape in the global North. The halves are demarcated by the successful release in 1996 of highly active antiretroviral therapies, also called combination therapies or, more colloquially, the ‘cocktail’. These drugs unquestionably marked an inflection point in the pandemic, literally taking tens of thousands of people with AIDS off their deathbeds. They ushered in the era when, at least for the wealthy and those with medical insurance, HIV became simply another chronic and, in most cases, medically manageable condition. Life expectancy is no longer affected for the well-off by a diagnosis of HIV. And today, even transmission itself is increasingly rare, thanks to prophylactic drugs such as Truvada, or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). (Of course, even in wealthy countries like the US, many people – predominately trans people and those of colour – still contract and transmit HIV, still develop AIDS, and still die from it. For these people, there has been no ‘second half’ of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.)

But for the privileged, the first few years following the introduction of the cocktail saw the advent of a startling cultural development: the practice of barebacking and its subsets of bug-chasing and gift-giving, which refer to the abandonment of condoms and safe-sex practices. Many people, of course, had embraced unsafe sex throughout the first half of the epidemic. But barebacking proper, as an identity and, indeed, the centrepiece of a community, was a distinctly post-cocktail practice. It entailed the explicit eroticisation, even fetishisation, of HIV-positive semen. Some barebackers simply desired the risk of infection. Many made a point of not knowing either their or their sexual partner’s serostatus (the presence or absence of antibodies, as measured through a blood test technique known as serology). Others advertised their status as grounds for desire. Those who were positive (‘poz’), or at least claimed to be, might identify as gift-givers. Those who identified as negative might fashion themselves as bug-chasers.

Not surprisingly, the rise of barebacking subcultures triggered no shortage of pearl-clutching in the gay and straight press alike. Mainstream, heterosexual outlets predictably cast this practice as confirmation of the recklessly, even suicidally hedonistic nature of gay masculinity. For the more censorious in the gay press, the response was: after all the loss, this? For gay and straight observers alike, the fetishisation of HIV itself seemed perverse, an odd sort of Stockholm syndrome in its own right, an identification with an entity that had nearly wiped a generation of gay men off the face of the Earth.

To have sex in the presence of HIV means a return to the danger that has been queer culture’s defining tonality

By the mid-2000s, however, a small cohort of scholars had begun the work of re-evaluatingthese practices. In the hands of writers such as the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips and the literary scholars Leo Bersani and Tim Dean, barebacking was (re)cast as a type of gay self-fashioning made uniquely possible in a crucible of risk and lethality. For Dean, barebacking allowed gay men to practise a certain kind of kinship network – one with ancestors, descendants and siblings, as consanguineous as any family tree, and maybe more. As Dean writes in Unlimited Intimacy (2009):

sharing viruses has come to be understood as a mechanism of alliance, a way of forming consanguinity with strangers or friends. Through HIV, gay men have discovered that they can ‘breed’ without women.

Dean therefore does ‘not take for granted what might seem obvious, namely, that bareback subculture is all about death. For some of its participants, bareback sex concerns different forms of life, reproduction, and kinship.’

While barebacking in these accounts is about the proliferation of (gay) life rather than suicide, risk remained central to these encounters, too. ‘[Q]ueer sex,’ writes Dean, ‘may involve maximising risk rather than minimising it.’ It is about rejecting the privacy of the self as a defended, bounded entity and making it available to the Other.

This, for Dean, is what gay sex has always been about, and what went away in the first and more lethal half of the HIV/AIDS epidemic when safe sex reigned. To have sex in the presence of – if not in fact with – HIV for some means a return to the danger that has historically been queer culture’s defining tonality. And for the younger cohort of barebackers, many of whom didn’t live through the worst days of the HIV/AIDS crisis, this erotic culture allows them access to an experience they feel they have missed. Dean writes that the bareback sex scene can be understood as a ‘ritual summoning of ghosts’, a séance in which the barebackers become ‘interpersonal intermediaries … communicating and identifying with previous generations of the subculture’. As Bersani and Phillips put it in Intimacies (2008): ‘The barebacker is the lonely carrier of the lethal and stigmatised remains of all those to whom his infection might be traced.’ And in this way, we are challenged to think about ‘the privilege of being a living tomb’ (my emphasis).

Isuggest that we think of barebacking and our strange melancholy at the prospect of a time after COVID-19 in much the same way. The first half of the HIV/AIDS epidemic was, like the COVID-19 pandemic, an objectively horrible era that obliterated huge swathes of human life and culture. In logical terms, it offers nothing – it is irredeemable. And yet, out of both plagues, new forms of human relation, culture and expression were born. Once these new idioms of human life are introduced, the prospect of abandoning them causes great pain, and is therefore vigorously resisted, even if they emerge from conditions of privation and loss.

To put this logic in more challenging terms, there is a resistance to losing loss itself. In the early and mid-1990s, even before the advent of barebacking, therapists, psychologists and leaders in the gay community were writing about the widespread incidence of friends and patients reporting depression over not having HIV/AIDS; see In the Shadow of the Epidemic(1995) by Walt Odets and A Crisis of Meaning (1996) by Steven Schwartzberg. Some of these accounts, to be sure, can be chalked up to so-called ‘survivor’s guilt’. But alongside that guilt was a sadness at not sharing in a defining experience of all the gay men around them. This, too, is a melancholy over the non-experience – the loss – of loss.

It isn’t only disease that provokes the melancholic response. Prisoners have been reported to miss prison. And Don DeLillo’s novel Underworld (1997) explores a similar phenomenon in fears over the ending of the Cold War. In a scene set in 1992, a character named Marvin Lundy, a compulsive collector of baseball memorabilia, tells an acquaintance, Brian Glassic: ‘You’re worried and scared. You see the Cold War winding down. This makes it hard for you to breathe.’

If the vulnerability of sex is – to be sure – pleasurable, it is also alienating, destabilising, uncomfortable

‘I don’t see the Cold War winding down,’ replies Brian. ‘And if I did, good. I’d be happy about it.’

‘Let me explain something that maybe you never noticed,’ says Marvin:

when the tension and rivalry come to an end, that’s when your worst nightmares begin. All the power and intimidation of the state will seep out of your personal bloodstream. You will no longer be the main … [p]oint of reference. Because other forces will come rushing in, demanding and challenging. The Cold War is your friend. You need it to stay on top … And when the Cold War goes out of business, you won’t be able to look at some woman in the street and have a what-do-you-call-it kind of fantasy the way you do today.

‘Erotic,’ replies a mystified Brian. ‘But what’s the connection?’

‘You don’t know the connection? You don’t know that every privilege in your life and every thought in your mind depends on the ability of the two great powers to hang a threat over the planet?’
‘That’s an amazing thing to say.’
‘And you don’t know that once this threat begins to fade? … You’re the lost man of history.’

In 1987, at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic (and, for that matter, the Cold War), Bersani wrote: ‘There is a big secret about sex: most people don’t like it.’ His point here is similar to Dean’s. Both are saying that if the vulnerability of that act is – to be sure – pleasurable, it is also alienating, destabilising, uncomfortable. If we’re willing to hear it, then, our vaccine blues might have a lesson for us, too. The big secret of sociality, as learned on the back end of this newer pandemic, might be that we don’t want much of it, and that the capacity for ‘power and intimidation’, for ‘staying on top’, sexually or otherwise, might depend on threat.

To read more about the emotions, visit Psyche, a digital magazine from Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts.

Pentagon fails to account for over $2.1 trillion in assets

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