Martial Law, the Financial Bailout, and War

Published on, by Peter Dale Scott, January 8, 2009.

Paulson’s Financial Bailout: It is becoming clear that the bailout measures of late 2008 may have consequences at least as grave for an open society as the response to 9/11 in 2001. Many members of Congress felt coerced into voting against their inclinations, and the normal procedures for orderly consideration of a bill were dispensed with.

The excuse for bypassing normal legislative procedures was the existence of an emergency. But one of the most reprehensible features of the legislation, that it allowed Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to permit bailed-out institutions to use public money for exorbitant salaries and bonuses, was inserted by Paulson after the immediate crisis had passed …

… In the meantime, some aspects of the financial meltdown, although they arose for many reasons and were not the result of some conspiratorial cabal, may be prolonged because of their utility to the war-minded. Consider that, from the perspective of maintaining America’s imperial thrust into Afghanistan (and even Pakistan), the financial crisis has had some desired consequences:

1) The dollar’s value against other international currencies, notably the euro, has improved, thus improving America’s balance of payments and also offsetting the threat to the dollar’s important role as the primary unit of international trade.

2) Thanks to the determined international marketing of overvalued derivatives based on predatory lending, the resulting financial crisis has been internationalized, with economies elsewhere suffering even greater shocks than the United States. This has relatively improved America’s capacity to finance a major war effort overseas (which has always had a major impact on the U.S. balance of payments).

3) The price of oil has plummeted from $147 a barrel last July to under $40, thus weakening the economies of Russia, China, and especially Saudi Arabia, the country whose international foundations have been supporting Al Qaeda.

The Afghan situation is grim, but it is not hopeless. Two skilled observers, Barnett R. Rubin and Ahmed Rashid, have proposed a political solution for the entire region that would promise greater security for the entire area than Obama’s ill-considered proposal to send 20,000 more U.S. troops.43 In Rashid’s words,

President-elect Obama and Western leaders have to adopt a comprehensive approach that sees the region [with Afghanistan's neighbors, including Pakistan, India, Russia, China, Iran, and the former Soviet states] as a unit with interlocking development issues to be resolved such as poverty, illiteracy and weak governance. There has to be a more comprehensive but more subtle approach to democratising the region and forcing powerful but negative stakeholders in local power structures – such as the drug mafias – either to change their thinking or be eliminated.44

That observers with such recognized status are offering a sensible political solution does not provide me with much optimism. For three decades now Barnett Rubin has been offering sound advice on Iran and Afghanistan to Washington, only to be ignored by those lobbying for covert operations and military solutions. This dialectic is reminiscent of the Vietnam War, where for over a decade reasonable proposals to demilitarize the conflict were similarly ignored.

I repeat that the future is unpredictable. But I fear that Obama’s proposal to send 20,000 additional troops will carry the day, with its predictable consequences of a wider war in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.45 With this I also fear an increased use of the U.S. Army to control protests by the American people.

I earnestly hope that my fears are misplaced. Time will tell. (full long text).

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