Friday, November 19, 2010

Welcome to NATOstan By Pepe Escobar

Be afraid. Be very afraid. At the Lisbon summit this Friday and Saturday, a gargantuan, innocuously sounding, self-described "military alliance of democratic states in Europe and North America" that happens to be a Cold War relic sits in its own nuclear-adorned couch to speculate what it is actually all about.

In this otherwise Freudian scenario, the guest of honor is United States President Barack Obama, who imperially presides over the other 27 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, all duly acknowledging their tributary vows and commitments on everything from European-wide missile defense (subjected to the US global missile shield) and permanent stationing of hundreds of US nuclear bombs in Europe to the turbo-charging of cyber warfare (subjected to the Pentagon's new Cyber Command), a blitzkrieg of navy patrol stunts on the globe's strategic sea lanes, and the spread of military bases guarding strategic nodes of Pipelineistan.

In short: the menu in Lisbon is a Pentagon steak with bearnaise sauce. Indigestion guaranteed - and no money (as in overvalued euros) back.

Less is more is not our thing
In Lisbon, NATO is endorsing a new "Strategic Concept" - a sort of letter of intentions reviewed every decade. This is the first one since 1999 - and consequently the blueprint for the early 21st century. NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen has been spinning it as "more effective" (as in improved missile defense and cyber defense); "more engaged" (as in swarming with global "partners'); and "more efficient (as in firing 4,000 people from their command structure).

Here - complete with made in China piped bird singing - [1] one may see how NATO loves to bathe itself in a "hills are alive with the sound of music" atmosphere. And here, one sees what "Strategic Concept" seems to be about. [2]

Add the Rasmussen rant, and one finally finds what's been lost in translation: NATO is now effectively being christened as the ultimate Transformer global Robocop, consigning the helpless UN to a New York sand box.

NATO has left Western Europe a long time ago; too small, too provincial. It's already in Central and South Asia as well as Northeast Africa, interlinked with the Pentagon's AFRICOM (only five countries - Eritrea, Libya, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sudan and Zimbabwe - are not Pentagon-related). Way beyond the Afghan killing fields, NATO is fast becoming a huge "forward operating base" for policing the Middle East, Africa, Asia and even the South Atlantic, where the Pentagon reactivated the Fourth Fleet; as much as the 2009 military coup in Honduras
worked and the 2010 in Ecuador didn't, Brazilians are very much aware of the Pentagon and NATO's designs in Central and South America, and will definitely put up a fight.

Spoiler alert: Americans not anesthetized enough by the current porno-scanner/federal pat-down theater of the absurd taking place at their airports, and impoverished, crisis-hit Europeans won't fail to notice that "more effective, more engaged and more efficient" NATO is spectacularly losing a war in Central Asia as we speak.

Gucci in da house
Anyway, soon Europe may be wildly celebrating a continent-wide missile dome able to protect everyone from Ibiza to Innsbruck and Munich to Monte Carlo from those evil (non-existent) Iranian missiles, as well as from those existent, zany but effective Taepodong-2 from Pyongyang. Call it the Gucci Star Wars.

The Gucci shield will be duly joined by the Dior bombshells - as in the US-owned 200 to 350 nuclear weapons sleeping in NATO bases in Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy and Turkey (plus the 300 nuclear bombs owned by France and the 225 by Britain). Crucially it is these five "bomb resident" countries that would launch the US babies in any eventuality, something that makes a mockery of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which, by the way, Iran has subscribed. The bottom line: NATO may hold a portfolio of as many as 900 nuclear weapons in Europe. It's like comparing Real Madrid or Bayern Munich with a North Korea third division team.

Last month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not allow any ruffles in her Hermes scarf, forcefully stating, "NATO must remain a nuclear alliance as long as nuclear weapons exist." And Rasmussen hit the home run, adding, "the anti-missile defense system is a complement to nuclear deterrence, and not a substitute."

Is anybody complaining about all this nuclear paranoia? Not really. Rasmussen is right when he spins about NATO's "partners"; it's virtually everyone and his neighbor (75 nations, almost 40% of the UN), from the Central Asian "stans" in the Partnership for Peace to the Middle Easterners in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative; from the "contact countries" in East Asia/South Pacific to the Troop Contributing Nations for International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (that includes Mongolia and Tonga). Not to mention the all-important NATO-Russia Council (Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is the first Russian leader to actually go to a NATO summit). Needless to say, all these "partners" have also gone to Lisbon.

Turkey shoot, anyone?
Even though its raison d'etre was to defend Western Europe from the Soviet Union, it's useless to expect NATO at the Lisbon summit to clarify what the hell it is actually accomplishing in Central Asia/ Afghanistan (see Have (infinite) war, will travel, Asia Times Online, November 18, 2010). It's safer to attribute to the realm of a Tom & Jerry cartoon the fact that NATO is more terrified of some ragtag Taliban than it was of the Red Army.

Anyway, what matters is the infinity of it all. Not only US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and General David Petraeus, the coalition military commander in Afghanistan, are lobbying for Infinite War. British Defense Chief General Sir David Richards has just told the Daily Mail, "NATO now needs to plan for a 30- or 40-year role to help the Afghan armed forces hold their country against the militants." Talk about Enduring Freedom.

Yet Afghanistan, that infinite quagmire, is just an appetizer. NATO is being cannily sold to world public opinion as being entitled to raise hell anywhere it pleases - leaving the UN Security Council, expanded or not, in the dust. Precedents exist - as in the illegal, failed narco-mafia state Kosovo, not by accident extensively dubbed NATOstan.

A convincing argument can be made that everywhere the Pentagon/NATO "intervened" - from the Balkans to Afghanistan to Iraq - the mess has reached Gotterdammerung proportions. Who cares? The Pentagon has planted Camp Bondsteel - its largest base in Europe - in Kosovo; and it has also planted precious mega-nuggets in the Empire of Bases in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The "spoilers" in the Pentagon/NATO's Brave New World blockbuster are undoubtedly Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Myanmar. None of them will be easily intimidated. Russian leadership is too wily to be easily co-opted - although Pentagon/NATO encroachment in the form of missile defense bases along the entire length of Russia's borders is relentless.

NATO claims that it welcomes its "partnership" with Russia. But now there's a new element in the game to force - or not - Russia to play the missile defense ball (after all the decision to go all out has already been made.) Let's call it the Turkey shoot.

The Pentagon/NATO ploy of building a multi-layered missile defense system to "protect Europe" from those non-existent Iranian nuclear-armed missiles would be a dim-witted prank if it had not already attracted the attention of the usual Eastern Europe suspects - Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania. Turkey is a much more complicated case.

According to Turkish press reports, Ankara will only accept a missile defense system if the system is NATO's, not American; if the system is deployed in all 27 NATO countries; and if NATO does not place Turkey in the unenviable position of frontline state just as it was during the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

But part three of this equation is exactly what the Pentagon has in mind - especially now that the axis Ankara-Tehran-Damascus is a reality, not to mention the developing entente cordiale between Ankara and Moscow. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu anyway has made it clear, "We do not want a Cold War zone or psychology around us."

But Cold War remix it is, and Turkey runs the risk of being just a paw in their game. Profiting from NATO's new Strategic Concept, the ultimate goal of the US global missile dome - complete with cyber warfare and Prompt Global Strike - is to encircle the heart of Eurasia and isolate, who else, Russia, Iran and China. War is peace. Welcome to the pleasure dome. Welcome to NATOstan.

1. Click here.
2. Click here.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and RedZone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obamadoes Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at                

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Have (infinite) war, will travel By Pepe Escobar

Anyone aware enough to think that Washington's goal is not to "win" the unwinnable AfPak quagmire but to keep playing its bloody infinite war game forever is now eligible for a personal stimulus package (in gold). 

Let's review the recent evidence. All of a sudden, the White House, the Pentagon and the United States House of Representatives have all embarked on a new narrative: forget major US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2011; let's move the goalpost to 2014. 

Then wily Afghan President Hamid Karzai tells the Washington Post he does not want all these US troops roaming around "his" country no more, adding please, stop killing my people with special-forces night ops - a euphemism for Pentagon terrorism. 

General David “I'm always positioning myself for 2012” Petraeus is "astonished". How could he not be? After all, Karzai wanted to give the boot to private contractors - undisputed AfPak champions of false-flag black ops - then he gave up, as he might give up again on the night raids. As for Petraeus, he only wants the best of both worlds; kick up the hell-raising, as in drone hits and night ops (who cares about collateral damage?) and sit back and talk with the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence-created Taliban. 

Incidentally, Petraeus' counter-insurgency myth has been buried in the plains south of the Hindu Kush (not that many in the US noted). The counter-insurgency (COIN) myth implies that Washington, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and what passes for "Afghan security forces" could "take, clear, hold and build" areas previously controlled by the Taliban. They could not accomplish any of this even in Marjah, insistently sold by the Pentagon and compliant corporate media as a success, not to mention much bigger Kandahar. 

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell has just weighed in on CNN, admitting the US won't be "pulling out 100,000 troops. I don't know how many troops we'll pull out." Powell also said that "inside the national security team", the whole thing is "conditions-based". Thus "conditions" may be bent to suit any narrative. Sharp noses may immediately detect a whiff of Vietnam, and Powell had to insist that Afghanistan is not that country. Well, whether Karzai is increasingly becoming the new Ngo Dinh Diem is beside the point; his assassination would not solve anything anyway. 

And all this while a 71-page Council on Foreign Relations report written by 25 "experts" gets a lot of traction in Washington. The report finds that the war costs a fortune, may not serve US interests and it's not "clear that the effort will succeed". Do people get paid to conclude this? The report also meekly suggests that depending on President Barack Obama's December strategic AfPak review, the US "should move quickly to recalculate its military presence in Afghanistan". It won't. 

Let's try following the money. The AfPak war costs roughly US $7 billion a month - money that Washington needs to borrow from Beijing. Afghanistan in itself costs $65 billion a year - not counting NATO and humanitarian aid. Afghanistan's gross domestic product is only $22 billion. So Washington is spending three times the wealth of a whole country just to occupy it. Money for nothing. Properly invested, by this time Afghanistan would be the new Singapore. 

AfPak costs nearly $100 billion a year. Surrealist as it may seem, polls indicate that for most Americans the US federal budget deficit is not a priority. No wonder no election candidates on November 2 emitted a peep about the ridiculously expensive quagmire. 

Let's face it. Whoever is writing this screenplay deserves an Oscar. 

All you need is NATO 

According to the official narrative, technically NATO only left its (cavernous) building in Europe for Afghanistan under the organization's Article 5 (emphasizing collective defense) to help Washington fight George W Bush's "war on terror" against al-Qaeda. Yet even somnolent diplomats in Brussels know that Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri crossed from eastern Afghanistan to Pakistan in early December 2001, and disappeared into a black void. 

This would never prevent NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen - ahead of the NATO summit this weekend in Lisbon - stressing that the war, well, goes on forever, as in "there is no alternative to continuing military operations". NATO's council secretary Edmund Whiteside didn't mince his words, "Afghanistan will be a very long military venture." And German Brigadier General Josef Blotz insists: "No timetable has been set for withdrawal of coalition troops." 

The "strategy" of the 152,000-soldier, 50-nation, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan ranks as a thesis on Monty Python geopolitics; to pledge a tsunami of euros for Karzai's shenanigans while forcing member countries to unleash ever more troops into the Taliban meat grinder - even though public opinion all across Europe says out loud "we can't take this anymore". 

At least the commander of British forces in southern Afghanistan, Major General Nick Carter, was sensible enough to stress that NATO would only know if it was "winning" by June 2011, "when the fighting season begins again" and everyone can "compare Taliban attacks with this year". Wait for another eight months and pray for 2014; that's the "strategy". Talk about on-the-ground intelligence. 

NATO is absolutely useless at infiltrating the historic Taliban - also known as the Quetta shura, based in Balochistan (they cannot even point a drone to where Mullah Omar is). NATO cannot infiltrate the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. And NATO cannot infiltrate the Hezb-i-Islami network, controlled by former prime minister and bomber of Kabul (in the mid-1990s) Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, based in and around the strategic Khyber Pass. 

The Pakistani ISI will always align with the Taliban under any circumstances - because this is Islamabad's way of protecting its "strategic depth" against India. The ISI will always insist on having the Taliban at the same table with Washington, otherwise any semblance of "talks" will be dead on arrival. 

Islamabad's dream scenario is the Taliban, the Haqqanis and Hezb-i-Islami controlling southern and eastern Afghanistan. That would also be instrumental in preventing another one of Islamabad's primal fears - that disgruntled Pashtuns will unite and go all out to form an across-the-artificial-border Pashtunistan. 

The key to all this mess is not Obama, Karzai, the Pentagon or NATO. It's which way General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, number 29 on Forbes' list of the most powerful people in the world, will see the wind blowing. As much as during the Bush "war on terror" years, when Islamabad was ruled from Washington, during the Obama AfPak years the White House is a hostage of Islamabad. 

But for the Pentagon/NATO axis, Pakistan is just a drop in the ocean. Next Friday and Saturday, at the Lisbon summit, the world will be presented with a NATO-goes-global narrative. Team Pentagon/NATO will be convinced to abandon its privileged outpost of infinite war - Afghanistan - over its dead nuclear bombs. After all, Washington/Brussels has implanted a precious foothold in the heart of Eurasia - arguably for life. 

The Lisbon summit, moreover, will see NATO formally adopting a new strategic concept - which essentially means keeping its nuclear arsenal in perpetuity, including US nuclear bombs stationed in Europe. You know, those nuclear bombs that Iran does not have (but Pakistan and India, not to mention Israel, do). Paraphrasing the great Burt Bacharach, what the world needs now, is NATO sweet NATO. 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and RedZone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obamadoes Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). 

He may be reached at