Monday, January 08, 2007

christianist billionaires, heroin and the military-industrial complex

in response to my sibel/wolfowitz post, starroute said...

There is a mystery for me about the military-industrial complex -- in large part because it's so faceless. It's regularly described on one hand as though it consisted of nothing more than massive corporations staffed by anonymous CEO's plus a pack of revolving-door former military officers -- and on the other as though it was a coherent conspiracy, consciously manipulating US domestic spending and foreign policy to its own ends.

It can't be both, can it? But if it isn't, then which? Can something like the military-industrial complex turn into a sort of super-organism, carefully maintaining its own existence and continued growth even without a guiding intellect? Or is there some sort of deliberate direction to the whole thing, fixed on certain definite goals and not merely stomping around and smashing things like Godzilla?

One thing I do know is that the military-industrial complex originally was born out of extreme right-wing Cold War politics. When Eisenhower warned against it, he wasn't just pointing out an abstract threat for the future. The military-industrial complex had been actively frustrating his policies during the last couple of years of his administration, starting after the launching of Sputnik and the invention of the missile gap.

The American Security Council was central to it at that point. There's an interesting blog post about all this here -- which is too long to quote in full, but the relevant section of which begins:

In 1958 ASC launched the Institute for American Strategy (IAS) for the purpose of further spreading Cold War political propaganda among the public, indoctrinating public policy "elites" and military personnel in the ideology of right wing think, emphasizing the importance of powerful military industrial complex interests and trying to convince anyone they could buttonhole that commies had infiltrated the master suites of government. ACS sponsored events such as the National Military Conferences which were essentially git-to-know-ya gatherings for Pentagon officials and National Security Council big wigs looking to hoot it up, share shrimp cocktails and exchange boing-eyed scare stories with corporate executives from such board rooms as United Fruit and Standard Oil.

Recall Eisenhower warning of the power of the military industrial complex -- these are the very people of whom he was speaking. The IAS was funded by the right wing Richardson Foundation (H. Smith Richardson) and administered by "political warfare" advocate/expert Frank Barnett and long time ASC member Col. William Kintner. IAS president was John M. Fisher. Barnett was research director for the Richardson Foundation as well. . . .

In 1962 Barnett co-founds (and becomes president) of the National Strategy Information Center. Others affiliated with or advising the NSIC over the years include Joseph Coors, Frank Shakespeare (Heritage Foundation) and former CIA director William J. Casey. As well as this feller right here ---- Prescott Bush.

The MIC bunch had things pretty much their own way through the 60's, but with the fading of the Cold War in the 70's, a change in direction became necessary. That was where George H.W. Bush's Team B came in -- with its connections to the old Cold Warriors of ASC and the Committee on the Present Danger on one hand and to the Neocons on the other. (Paul Wolfowitz was a leading advisor.) The immediate outcome was both a partial re-kindling of the Cold War, which continued through the 1980's, and the invention of the Great War on Terror as an increasingly important substitute for the Cold War.

The rogue CIA guys like Shackley and Clines were part of that nexus as well -- because of both their own Cold War fanaticism and their association with Bush -- and they were the ones who added in the drugs-and-arms connection.

That 1970's mix of obsessed generals, Neocons, and profiteering spooks -- with a few Bushes thrown in for flavoring -- is clearly at the root of much of what's wrong right now. But as I said in starting, it's the role of the big military contractors that perplexes me. Are they just in it for the money -- or is there a fanatical, xenophobic, perhaps Christianoid mindset behind them as well?


great post, as usual, by starroute.

Looking at starroute's original question - whether the MIC is either a coherent conspiracy or a super-organism - if we take Sibel's allegations and push them a little bit, it's not difficult to come to a possible 'conclusion' that there is indeed a coherent conspiracy - in fact, in the simple version of the conspiracy, we don't even need to push the allegations very far at all.

Where you have ologopolistic industries, regulations are *always* required to prevent stuff like price collusion - for example, it is illegal for competitors to discuss pricing with each other. We don't have to look very far to see why, or to see that organisations will collude at the first opportunity - even where there are criminal penalties. Look at the AIG case in the insurance industry for example - and you have 'competitors' putting in false (high) bids on certain contracts, presumably with an explicit promise that the favour will be returned on a different contract.

If you take Sibel's claims - with respect to say the American Turkish Council and I suspect that AIPAC is equally in play here, although it doesn't get as much attention (wrt her case) - they can basically be conceived of as 'fronts' for the MIC (more so than representatives of Turkey and Israel) - and when I say 'fronts,' I mean that they have effectively become fronts, aka they have been white-anted, which may be different from their original purpose. So these organizations are the 'smoke-filled-rooms' where the behemoths of the MIC meet and devise their 'coherent conspiracy' - which at it's simplest is to sell as much product, at the highest profit, as possible. We know that this sort of arrangement can lead to all sorts of troublesome 'market' outcomes when leaders in any industry meet (think tobacco, insurance, banking, oil etc) - when the MIC does it, knowing that they are immune from prosecution (because of the bribes and the threat of job losses), and knowing their product, then it becomes particularly problematic.

Now - if you want to push Sibel's allegations to the edge, it's not too difficult to imagine that there is a fully integrated vertical industry in place - where the MIC itself is actually dealing the heroin and the logistics arm of the MIC is the Pentagon. We start to get into some definitional issues here - I strongly suspect that it isn't the 'MIC' that is profiting from dealing the heroin - but perhaps that it's the 'executives' of the MIC who are getting all the profits and laundering them through the banking centers in dubai and cyprus etc.

Interestingly, despite the fact that Sibel implicates the 'geostrategists' - and the region she describes is part of the grand resource-chessboard - I don't think I've ever heard her mention oil in any substantive sense.

And if you really want to push Sibel's claims to the edge, it's not inconceivable that she's saying that the ATC (and AIPAC) are an 'arm' of 'al-Qaeda' (or perhaps even al-Qaeda headquarters) - which comes back to starroute's point that maybe the MIC is a "coherent conspiracy, consciously manipulating US domestic spending and foreign policy to its own ends."

I'm sure it won't be lost on you that the same OSP cabal that cooked up the iraq invasion - via delusion and/or groupthink and/or whatever else - are the same people that Sibel is fingering.

(now is probably a good time to introduce steven andreson's post - but one more dollop of starroute first)

Now to starroute's final question:
"Are they just in it for the money -- or is there a fanatical, xenophobic, perhaps Christianoid mindset behind them as well?"
Y'all know my default position on that question - but in terms of xenophobia, specifically, we have a substantial body of evidence that these same people have supported pakistan for the best part of 3 decades, including helping them build, and sell, nuclear weapons, and we have them dealing with Turkey, and we have them selling weapons to the chechens, and helping the KLA. So that seems to answer part of the question. On the other hand, we know that the pentagon is freakishly christianist - is that a design flaw, or a design feature? I don't know.

ok - so here's steven andreson's post
I am drawn back to considering the 9-11 murders. We were told that bin Laden organized these attacks out of Afghanistan, yet there was very little explaination how that was done. Here, we are told that Afghanistan is the center of the opium and drug trade going to Europe. However, the routes and the wherewithalls involving Turkey, for example, are not discussed.

If we can easily see that the U.S. intelligence services or some American crime organizations are behind the drug trade, why shouldn't we have the same question about 9-11?

The physics of the 9-11 bombings are confusing to me because I don't understand about how to demolish these buildings or operating these planes.

The motivations behind these attacks, are just as confusing, but it seems understanding the why's should be more important.

So, did we go to war with Afghanistan, despite the cooperation of the Taliban in the possible recovery of bin Laden because the Taliban were not supportive enough of American control of the poppy fields?

Did the United States support the Islamic resistance to the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in order to obtain control or to maintain control of opium production?

How much of our attack on Afghanistan was about drugs instead of bin Laden? After all, bin Laden has not been captured and the poppy fields under United States control have had record outputs.

If Afghanistan is about opium, and the Europeans are the one's whose populations suffer from this production, why haven't they exposed this fact? Are the elites in Europe making too much out of the drug trade to spend any effort protecting their own populations?

Would Turkey's involvement in the drug trade be exposed and the role of the United States crime organizations and corrupt politicians thwarted if Turkey became a member of the European Union? Or not?

Is the war on terrorism really a way to obscure the fact that American politicians and their benefactors are drug dealers?

I was under the impression that the stock market was kept from collapsing mostly by the influx of drug money laudered through American banks and investments. Is this true, and if so, wouldn't this be another motivation for 9-11? Was the attack part of a plan to maintain this kind of market manipulation?

I have questions, but at the moment, no answers.
Lots of great issues raised here. I've tried to get my head around many of them before.

The motivation of 911? I have no idea why osama would want to do it (in the official version) - the official narrative is apparently that he wanted to get the US quagmired in iraq or somewhere. if so, osama: 2, democracy-givers: 0. But as we've seen, I don't really think that there are strong delineators between *ahem* good and evil - so that complicates things a whole lot. Similarly, if we are to suggest that the neocons and osama are on the same side, then we presumably need to account for the 93 attack on the wtc - and i don't really know how to do that.

In terms of control of the afghan poppy fields - whether during the soviet war, or the 2001 invasion - and the implications of the booming poppy supply over the last few years - I've mentioned a few times that I've been trying to do an 'industry analysis' of the heroin trade for a month or so now (which is why i was particularly interested in this World Bank report.) In most industries, an increase of supply of 300% (or whatever) is terrible for profitability - so i'm not one to immediately jump to the conclusion that the booming supply is great for business. OTOH - standard strategy analysis tells us that if you have really high margins, then you should actually try to reduce them by selling as much as possible (particularly when you can't 'brand' your product).

I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence that heroin consumption has increased dramatically in the last 5 years - there's some anecdotal evidence that heroin deaths have jumped 75% in 3 years in LA - but that appears to be related to heroin quality more than increased consumption. and we have some evidence that the market share of afghan/turkish heroin in the US has tripled to 15% - but the details are all a bit murky. remember - the turkish producers were supplying 90-ish% of the european market, and only 5% of the US market. The 'obvious' advice from any corporate strategist would be to try to cut back on the supply, and increase the price, so that you could take advantage of the euro-monopoly - rather than flood the market and try to raise market share in the US. So it's all a bit baffling.

As for Turkey's admission into the European Union - I don't really know how that plays out, net-net. it's difficult to imagine how it could make importing drugs any easier (they don't seem to have any problems today).

Is the war on terrorism really a way to obscure the fact that American politicians and their benefactors are drug dealers?
i don't really think so - but they are perhaps related. It appears that the politicians don't really need any obscuring. otoh, it appears that the MIC and the heroin trade are intrinsically entwined - and TWOT is undoubtedly a great MIC boondoggle - so perhaps there is a connection. As starroute notes, TWOT is also a propaganda play by (in part) the christianist billionaires - but I have no idea what motivates these people.

that is all.


Pignut said...

Seeing the world in terms of big conspiracies can be disempowering. A lot of small conspiracies makes more sense to me. People driven by ideological motives getting manipulated by people with profit motives, who in turn are getting scammed by their colleagues and subordinates.

The alliance between Christian fundamentalists, free marketeers, Jewish fundamentalists, secular Israeli nationalists, Turks, Kurds and Iraqi shiites and god knows who else is bound to be rather shaky. This should give us cause for optimism.

The drug trade is not intentionally run as a government conspiracy, there are zealots in every police force and government who want it stamped out. The problem is that they simply create ideal conditions for corruption. Higher profits for customs officials to look the other way, bigger payoffs for detectives to take on major dealers as informants etc.

Likewise with terrorism. The threat of terrorism gives resources and power to new anti-terrorism bodies. Have you ever noticed how police forces proliferate in some countries, especially countries with turbulent histories? Some countries have an army, a regular police force, a secret police, a military police, an elite police, a secret service, an anti-terrorism squad, a security police etc.

All of these forces are run by people who stay in power longer than governments. When a new ruling elite takes over, they face resistance from high ranking police officers appointed by their predecessors, and discover that they don't really have much power over the police. So they create a new police force headed by yes men, give them all the power and try to put the old police on traffic duty. Then there's another coup and the new rulers find they have two hostile and suspicious police forces to deal with. and so on.

When these police forces go under cover, things get really messy. Each force has their own informants inside the criminal gangs and terrorist groups, each one occasionally uses these insiders to up the ante a bit by creating a bit of hysteria, so the antiterrorism/organised crime funding doesn't get cut. This works especially well with basically liberal political groups. If an agent provocateur can convince the government that a basically harmless group of pacifists is a front for a core group of terrorists, he creates lots of cushy well paid jobs for anti-terrorist police. Infiltrating CND is a lot safer than infiltrating the IRA or FARQ. And while all this is going on some of the cops are using their connections in organised crime to line their pockets. No one really wants to blow the cover of the most valuable informants so the different police forces all waste a lot of time and money investigating each other.

As Douglas Adams said, the role of a President is to hide where the power really lies.

starroute said...

Luke, reading your comments on my comments has got me thinking about just how the deathgrip of the military-industrial complex on America's resources and pocketbook is maintained.

Looking back to where it all came from, it started around 1950, when the permanent wartime economy was invented. That crucial step arose from a combination of two powerful factors. One was the anti-communist hysteria of the moment, following the fall of China. The other was the fact that after having been pulled out of the Great Depression by World War II, the U.S. had begun to slip back into recession in the late 40's -- and a jolt of military Keynesianism seemed to be the essential stimulus to ward that off. (The other response to the same problem was the invention of consumerism -- but that on its own has never been sufficient to keep the capitalist Ponzi scheme going. Only military spending has the built-in destruction of its product necessary to avoid the capitalist pitfall of over-production.)

Those two factors have remained essential ever since. On one hand, the military-industrial complex has continued to be the absolute mainstay of the U.S. economy. This has had certain interesting side-effects. For example, when Bill Clinton wanted to keep the U.S. out of Reagan-style wars, he was able to do so only through the trade-off of encouraging U.S. defense contractors to sell vast amounts of weapons to other countries, like Turkey. Another result is that, as I saw pointed out just yesterday, the Democrats are no more likely than the Republicans to cut defense spending, because so many solid Democratic voters are dependent on jobs at mostly-unionized defense plants.

However, having your economy based on peddling instruments of death inevitably tends to raise certain moral qualms. That's where the anti-communism/great war on terror part comes in. It isn't even about ideology per se so much as about needing to have some way to keep people's consciences from kicking in and starting them thinking about what they're really doing for a living. The best way to manage that is to keep the old reptilian brain (territoriality and aggression) constantly in high gear in order to suppress higher moral functions.

This suppression of conscience also makes it possible to stomach even worse devil's bargains -- going back to World War II, when the pro-Nazi sympathies of firms like Standard Oil were overlooked because the industrial backbone they controlled was essential to the war effort.

The natural conclusion to which this line of thought seems to lead is that if there really *is* some sort of directing purpose behind all this, it doesn't lie with the MIC itself, but with the smart guys who have been manipulating the U.S. economy for the last 60 years, trying desperately to prop up a facade of capitalism, avoid a recurrence of the Great Depression, and prevent the outbreak of the sort of social radicalism that would be the inevitable result of a return to Depression-like conditions. If drug profits really are part of that propping-up exercise, it would only be one more aspect of the will to keep things going at whatever cost.

I didn't have that conclusion in mind when I started this post, but I like it as an answer. Among other things, it resolves the intermittent dispute Luke and I have been having over greed vs. ideology. If the ultimate motivation all along has been to preserve capitalism (while pretending to be ensuring prosperity), that incorporates both greed and ideology on equal terms. It would also explain much about the nature of fanatical anti-communism in its heyday. And it would shed light on the fundamental contradiction of American foreign policy -- that Americans have been told ever since World War II that they are the great defenders of democracy, at the same time that it has been clear to anyone with half a brain that most of what America actually does has very little to do with democracy and is far more closely connected with maintaining both U.S. economic dominance in general and the myth of capitalism as a viable, self-regulating system in particular.

lukery said...

pignut - an interesting and thoughtful comment - thanks (and welcome).

I agree with you that lots of small conspiracies is generally the more likely scenario - however the facts of Sibel's case appear to point to a different direction - even if we simply look at all of the people she has told her story to - the different congressional committees and the 911 commission etc - and nothing happens! (not to mention that the FBI has been watching and recording these guys for years without passing the cases the Counter-terrorism, and Narcotics dept etc)

And further, how to explain how Feith & Perle got appointed to their high level positions, with their security clearances etc? (not to mention elliot abrams and the rest)

lukery said...

starroute - interesting as always.

the MIC companies are smart - if i'm not mistaken, Lockheed has factories/plants in something like 48 states, simply so that the congresscritters can't afford to vote against more militarism. that's pretty simple - and dangerous.

the ideal alternative to military keynesianism would be (social/public) infrastructure keynesianism. if only... that would be a much more beneficial to all of us - possibly/ probably even to the economic masters of the universe.

i'm not quite convinced about your argument about the defense of (US) capitalism. Other countries seem to manage to be capitalist without the enormous defense spending, and i can't see any particular reason why the US economy is different - but you might have a point. In fact - the US military spending is likely to be a terrible 'drag' on the economy - with taxes higher than they otherwise would be, and the general problems of inefficient allocation of resources and all that stuff. (I'm sure there are economic studies out there that have actually quantified this cost)

it's possible, of course, that a series of incremental decisions to try to stave off economic (regional?) downturns by increasing military spending - and we got into the situation we are today - slowly boiling frogs and all that.

starroute said...

Luke - I'm *way* in over my head at this point, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt. But I do read things suggesting that the U.S. economy is the primary engine that keeps the world economy going -- which is why the rest of the world keeps feeding our consumption addition, despite the fact that we can no longer pay our own way.

I'd really like it if someone who knows more about this idea of overproduction as the cause of recurrent recessions -- and of wars as a traditional "cure" for overproduction -- would speak up. My understanding is that although this idea was a standard part of Marxist analysis in the early 20th century, it wasn't tied to Marxism but was taken for granted as just the way things were. It was only when the Depression of the 30's didn't correct itself after 2-3 years -- as the "panics" of the 1870's and 1890's had -- that this conventional wisdom began to be questioned. And it's only since World War II that we've had this notion that recessions can be manipulated as brief and tolerable interludes to wring the excess out of the system without doing any major harm.

What I'm starting to wonder now is whether, rather than the masterly manipulation of interest and exchange rates that we're told is going to keep us all fat and happy forever, what we have instead is the mother of all bubbles, being pumped up larger and larger over a fifty-year period to keep the whole thing from collapsing catastrophically.

But I'd sure like to see someone who knows what they're talking about weigh in.

Uncle $cam said...

Outstanding post & comments kids!

noise said...

Interesting discussion.

Terrorism used to scare and distract the public from noticing a class war?

Nah. Too cynical. :)

lukery said...

thnx Uncle $cam.

starroute - i knew that you'd mention the US' addiction to consumption and the foreign banks (apparently) proppping up the US economy - and i should have dealt with it earlier. The 'problem' with your analysis (and I'm certainly not being critical, but just trying to separate the constituent elements) is that your original argument/position was about the MIC being used to keep the US economy afloat - and now your position (again, I'm not being critical - and words like 'position' and 'argument' appear stronger than i intend) is that there are some global/foreign economic Masters of the Universe who are attempting to keep the US afloat for the purposes of (apparently) floating some foreign economies - even though the US is essentially broke. the story doesn't quite add up.

i'm sure that we all acknowledge that there have been some shenanigans in (primarily) the 3rd world by the 'economic hitmen' of the industrialized world - it's conceivable that the chess masters in Russia and China are attempting their own version of that on the US. One thing is for sure - economists around the world have been marvelling at the ability of the US to borrow cheap money - particularly in the last 5 years - yet the situation persists.

as for a 50-year bubble - my guess is that those sorts of things don't happen (or at a minimum, they can't be contrived. I can (somewhat) easily imagine a cabal of MIC contractors controlling congress/foreign policy etc (i wouldn't have believed it till this crew came along) - but i find it quite difficult to believe that there is an economic cabal controlling things at this level. Much of the difference between the MIC & and an economic cabal is that the MIC is ologopolistic - there are only a few players, and to infiltrate the system would take years. otoh - when you are talking about money, there are a whole bunch of potential players, each of whom could disrupt the system at any point in time (and there are enormous, and immediate, motivations/incentives for any/all of them to do so at a moments notice) - for example, look at what soros did re the GBP.

i dont know much about 'overproduction as the cause of recurrent recessions' - AFAIK, recessions are largely 'natural' fluctuations as seen in any complex system. we seem to have reasonably good tools for dealing with them these days, the central banks appear to be a little bit smarter than they used to - although the human tendency to try to intervene seems permanently problematic. the US (and elsewhere) housing market is likely to be an unhappy demonstration of this phenom (but again, many of us have been predicting problems on this front for years - and we continue to be wrong)

lukery said...

noise - ha! you, cynical? say it aint so.