A former air force base near Brussels, dedicated to the His Majesty the Belgian King, is gradually being converted at an estimated billion dollars (for now – but just watch those numbers fly) to house the nerve center of the biggest war machine the world has ever known.
For the best part of 50 years the legions of peace keepers have been roughing it in a so called temporary structure, having received the unceremonious order of the boot from the late French president Charles De Gaulle, who grew tired with NATO’s various attempts to bump him off. De Gaulle’s sin was the independent French nuclear arsenal. So he slung NATO out, lock, stock and barrel with a single contemptuous wave of the hand.
The chief command post of the Cold War lost its logical reason d’etre in the instant that the Berlin Wall collapsed, along with the entire Soviet Empire. Yet NATO, like Topsy, just went on growing. Thanks to membership multiplying among converts to capitalism in Eastern Europe, NATO’s borders now lap Russia’s, with 28 members all told and more in the queue. This is a rather strange state of affairs given that the former Public Enemy Number One, the old bogey of communism, gave up the ghost back in 1989.
In normal circumstances, this spanking new structure would need to mount a telescope the size of the one topping Mount Palomar to scour the world for potential enemies. What happened of course is that NATO went looking for enemies under the banner of its new self-appointed role as global humanitarian Protector in Chief.
In the past the summit office of Lord Protector (Secretary General, currently occupied by the Great Dane, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s Very Own Viking) was a fairly low key job, reserved for some generally unknown figure plucked from the obscurity of backwater politics.
The best known was the Belgian, Willy Claes, but only because he got the sack in 1995 after just a year in office. He was caught with his hands in the till in a famous corruption scandal concerning a huge deal involving Italian helicopters. (His NATO biography airbrushes 1984-style the facts about this. Secretary Gens are above reproach, like biblical prophets). Rasmussen, on the other hand, certainly a smart, dedicated self-courting promoter, a long time ornament of Right-wing dry as dust Danish politics, has acquired something of the status of a rock star in the global military-industrial firmament.
He’s certainly the greatest Dane since, well, Hans Christian Anderson. His suite of offices in the current ‘run down’ structure intentionally reminds visitors of the Oval Office in the West Wing of the White House. From this plush seat of power he commands a constantly expanding global octopus, whose web site – to offer one choice example – gushes with excitement at NATO’s fraternal relations with Mongolia.
Rasmussen regards himself as one of the most important figures on earth, and in a sense he is perfectly correct. Certainly he belongs to the quintet completed by the President of the United States, the military commander of SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe), the Secretary General of the UN and increasingly, whoever happens to be President of the EU Council of Ministers.
Indeed it is no happenstance that during the Reign of Rasmussen, which began in 2009, NATO has absorbed some important functions of the UN (such as the deadly so-called ‘humanitarian’ military interventions) and is moving inexorably closer to becoming the military arm of the EU (which has the same number of member states).
It is of course an accident of history – namely De Gaulle’s furious expulsion of NATO from French soil back in 1967 – but the fact is that the new European Pentagon and the palatial quarters of the EU are close neighbours. What could be more natural in the circumstances than nuptials foretold, come the day? There is a certain demented logic in that. After all, we have it from the lips of King Ras himself that ‘NATO is here to stay – and NATO will stay here in Brussels.’
Earlier this year a few more millions, small change in NATO coin, were spent on staging the big shindig in Chicago, yet another exercise steeped in self gratification. Practically no-one asked what all the big shots of the military-industrial-political universe were in town to discuss, but it certainly was not anything serious about getting out of the Afghan snake pit, the total destruction of Libya, once the Arab world’s most advanced nation, now in smoking ruins and playground of warlord fanatics, or why the Balkan cess pit continues to spew up noxious gasses.
That’s not the NATO way. How about this for a mouthful of cotton wool, uttered by the Lord Protector himself at the close of this year’s NATO summit:
‘We came to Chicago with three goals. And we have met them. We have focused on the future of Afghanistan. We have decided to invest smartly in our defence even in times of austerity. And we have engaged with our partners around the world to address the challenges we all face in the 21st century,’ NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after the two-day series of meetings.’
One can well imagine the faceless script-writer yawning that chewing gum onto the page on auto-pilot.
Such ridiculous out-of-this-world hyperbole running on high octane self-justification conceals the real mission and the purpose of the glittering new pile in Belgium, namely a global system designed for containment of rival military and industrial powers (specifically Russia and China) fished straight from the old Cold War agenda.
NATO did not invade Afghanistan to corner Bin Laden, otherwise they would not have spent a decade (and billions piled on billions, $40 million a year just to air-condition army tents) looking for him. Afghanistan is regarded by NATO and the US specifically as first and foremost vital oil pipeline country, essential for the purpose of pumping the riches of the Caspian oil fields to western markets.
This is a much under-studied fact, which supplies incidentally important additional supporting explanations for 9/11. Before the invasion, the west, encouraged by the Seven Sisters big oil monopoly, were actively courting the Taliban authorities in order to gain the necessary way leaves: but the Taliban leadership, for reasons that I do not know precisely but which I can offer an educated guess as understandably bridling at foreign troops based in the country to protect the said pipelines, failed to take the bait.
Hey presto, down go the Towers and before you can say Hans Christian Rasmussen, NATO invades with the stated aim to catch Bin Laden/and or/ ‘modernize the most backward state on earth.’
If you dig deeply enough you can find NATO propaganda churners waxing on about ‘mutual security,’ ‘resolving disputes in as peaceable a manner as possible’ and this particularly ripe plum, ‘maintaining troops to enforce peaceful intents.’ This, clearly, is a contradiction in terms whichever way you look at it. Does ‘enforcing peaceful intents’ by any chance cover destruction of the unitary state of Yugoslavia as a feast for the nation-gobbling EU? Of course everyone’s now forgotten, or perhaps never even knew thanks to the cowering, spineless corporate media, that the US imported battle hardened Mujahedeen, veterans of the struggle against Russian invaders in Afghanistan, secretly hired as mercenaries to ‘even up the odds’ in favour of the Muslim side.
So much for much vaunted united front in this wretched holy war which released the venoms that will take generations – if ever – to disperse. The late Richard Holbrooke, US envoy in the region, memorably described the ruse as ‘a necessary pact with the devil’, even though the deal was cut with other allied powers completely in the dark. These same ‘guests’, we are now told, happily melted away to become the radicalized elements who are supposed to be infesting the entire Muslim community in Europe and the States, which in turn of course justifies the fatuous NATO-preserving ‘war on terror.’
Libya was bombed back to the stone age in order to pillage Libyan oil and the national safe security deposit stacked from floor to ceiling with gleaming tablets of gold. Even Silvio Berlusconi, bless (for once) his old black heart, a veteran crony as he was of the late ‘Colonel’ Gadaffi, publicly aired his qualms at such a blatant exercise in state commissioned terror. I almost admire him for that.
Turkey doesn’t rate much attention in the western media because it’s largely off-radar to the commentariat, who do not understand the country or its politics but are vaguely nervous about the place because it has had an Islamic government – and a very popular one at that that – for the last years. So it fails to come out in the wash that NATO and the US between them sponsored four coups or attempted coups, three hard, one soft, against successive elected authorities in Turkey. The Prime Minister, Adnan Menderes, and two of his ministers, suspected by the stoutly militant secular army of closet Islamic leanings, were summarily lynched after the 1960 putsch.
The Turkish media has been preoccupied for almost four years now by the Balyoz or Sledgehammer Plot cooked up by a secret state organization – Ergenekon, roughly ‘iron mountain’ – weaving together the armed forces, secret services and sulking Right wing secular politicians currently excluded from enjoying their customary fruits of power. A string of officers and sympathizers are now contemplating long jail sentences. The overthrow of the Islamic government now firmly seated in power in Ankara – despite the fact that Turkey is a very important NATO power, her armed forces the second strongest in the alliance after the US – is a senior NATO/US priority.
Of course this Janus like-madness and blatant hypocrisy makes no sense whatsoever, unless it is understood that the West prefers Turkey to be weak, compliant and sunk in poverty, instead of the whizzing motor of the world economy that she is now. There is no austerity crisis in euro-less Turkey. A modern Islamic state, 17th in the world GDP league, is a shining beacon to Muslims everywhere, the last thing that the United States and its allies wish to see or inflate.
Of course no-one really knows how many billions have been sunk in NATO’s wars – not excluding by the way, the shadow NATO ‘intervention’ in Iraq – and its anyone’s guess where the hammer will fact next: Syria (clearly in the warm up stages), Egypt, the Sudan, Somalia (again, allowing for the earlier US invasion), Pakistan, Venezuela, Algeria, and so on. An organization with an appetite for unprovoked aggression conducted for humanitarian aims and purposes clearly sees that it will be busily occupied re-making the global political geography for years to come.
That’s real explanation for the new billion dollar plus mansion sprouting in Belgium.
Afghanistan was never about the capture of some moody old hermit with advanced kidney disease who used to work for the western-backed opposition to the Russians in Afghanistan. It is an important demonstration of the NATO stated aim to ‘secure’ resources deemed essential to the west. Wherever NATO plants a footprint, it will always be staking out a long term investment.
And that by the way accounts for NATO surreptitiously expanding into a global organization, sucking into its remit Israel, India, New Zealand, Australia, Japan (and yes, there’s the explanation for the fascination with Mongolia). Overtures are now open now to almost every country in Africa where there’s something useful to be foraged, pumped or mined, before the Russians or the Chinese have the temerity to get there first. American troops are not in Uganda to catch the African Bin Laden, one Joseph Kony, renowned for his alleged guerrilla terrorist army composed of indoctrinated school-children. Kony may – like Bin Laden – have died or been liquidated already, and in any event his possible links with the CIA have long been out in the open.
This is the new ‘scramble for the world’ which used to be assigned to the Marxo-Communists. This one is conducted in the name of the octopus of global corporatism, the debased face of what we used to describe and somewhat respect as capitalism.
So like the Tower of Babel, yet another banal structure inevitably short listed for the ugliest construction on earth, is crawling slowly towards the Belgian sky, a new monument of rapacious consquistadoring dedicated to the false altar of peace.
What is absolutely extraordinary is that while most NATO states are shrinking their defence budgets (the equivalent of some $45 billions this year) the roll goes merrily on in Brussels. Soon the once-feared Royal Navy will gurgle down the plug hole of austerity and the RAF may not be far behind. The Libyan episode was so costly to the UK Exchequer such long range attacks are unlikely to be repeated. The German people – if not Fuherina Merkel herself – openly want less war mongering, the Dutch have not recovered from the disaster of sending their troops to the Balkans. But a billion bucks for the new Temple of NATO. No problem.
So how is it that the fabulous New Jerusalem of militarism has scarcely ignited a single critical commentary? Partially this is because the latent recall of NATO as a kind of heroic defender of the West in the Cold War means the organization can still get away with a certain after-glow of respectability, not least because Afghanistan is seen primarily as an ‘American War.’
Of course NATO did not ‘defeat’ the Warsaw Pact. Russia and her satellites collapsed as a result of internal organic decay, exactly as the CIA always insisted that it would. Yet the arrogant claims of ‘victory’ proclaimed by the Star Wars fanatics clamouring around Ronald Reagan and the Pentagon made it seem as though Uncle Sam really had won the day.
The escalating holocaust in Libya is ignored by the mainstream media, having earlier exhausted themselves beating the war drums and circulating the usual unchecked and usually unfactual atrocity propaganda. The Balkans Affray is similarly erased from the memory vaults.
And in any event, the Afghan War has been going on for so long that it will be soon like the famous 18th century Schleswig-Holstein (a disputed province between Denmark and Germany). A question of such bewildering complexity that, according to the great statesman Lord Palmerston, only three men knew the answer: one was dead, another went mad groping to understand it and the third had eventually forgotten altogether.
The ‘war on terror’ chimes with public opinion because it is still utterly unfashionable, bordering on the heretical, to associate government authorities with conducting terror on their own soil, even though they have been up to such tricks for centuries in order to mould the public mind. Hence NATO’s relentless peddling of the insidious ‘enemy within’ (see the official website) as the principal menace facing western societies today.
This is exactly the same rhyme that NATO chanted in the 1970s and 80s when its own Gladio secret guerrillas went on the rampage across Europe in what became known as the ‘years of lead.’ The continent was subjected to a now well-documented campaign of remorseless synthetic terrorism manufactured to order, with the aim of terrifying electorates with the menace, as it was then, of the original ‘enemy within’ – namely urban terrorists in allegiance to Moscow.
Voters were supposed to react by flocking to the arms of safe Right-wing governments, which in the main they largely did, so in that bleak sense the campaign was successful. Much of this violence was carried out by hands-off sub-contractors in the form of neo-Nazi sympathizers and organized crime. This insanitary period of NATO’s history kicked off in 1959, when according to a now well-known internal memo the secret regiments originally intended to ‘stay behind’ and wreak havoc on Soviet invaders, were switched to far more sinister role.
Henceforth it would be the duty of the Gladio secret armies to switch to the task of combating ‘internal subversion’ within each NATO state. Subversion meaning of course any left wing movement that appeared unsafe judged by the lights of alliance.
The Gladio units were under the control of NATO’s secret warfare committee, which today is just as active as it was then. For what possible aim would NATO disband such a useful weapon? The Swiss historian-investigator Daniele Ganser who posed exactly this question for his own book NATO’s Secret Armies got the standard ‘can’t say, won’t say’ riposte.
The organization has expunged all record of the Gladio period, except trying to contain the scandal by suggesting that only the Italian unit – ‘Gladio’ – went rogue, which of course has never satisfied any serious investigators in the matter.
NATO bears a charmed life when it comes to scrutiny of its activities or how its role keeps evolving in order to feed the military industrial complex with a means for its continuing existence. Most ‘defence’ correspondents are embedded camp followers who rarely question the standard line, accepting anything that comes from Brussels spokespeople as gospel truth. Critics of the organization find themselves cast in the role of those who are up against an organization which sees itself varnished with all the authority of established religion.
In the circumstances there is no exterior purview of what goes on inside the sacred cloisters of NATO. For all the idle pretence of ‘consultation and co-operation’ NATO is shrouded in secrecy and those proposals which surface from time to time for some kind of ‘NATO ombudsman’ naturally run into the ground. Convinced of its own invincible authority and political correctness, NATO’s defence is that of a crusade fought on behalf of millions to whom it is not however willing to explain itself. All we get from King Ras is the standard ‘NATO is here to stay’ line, as though he was the Pope talking about the Vatican – which is not an altogether inappropriate comparison.
From my perspective, I have always held to the view that purely defensive alliances which stick to a firm non-aggressive posture can find a place in the world order. But for that to be safe, then some form of purely civilian supervision over the military (as in fact practiced in all the countries of the planet who call themselves democracies) is essential. Instead we have a massive, lumbering military, as tightly sealed as a Masonic lodge, acting like a secret society for the entire world.
It is spurious to argue that being elected, the politicians of the member states are charged with the custody of supervision. If that were the case, then why is the war in Afghanistan continuing nigh on 12 years after it began? And have we really forgotten all the ‘sexed-up’ dossiers concerning the phantom ‘weapons of mass destruction’ used to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq, notably by the coteries surrounding George Bush and Tony Blair.
Critical studies of NATO are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Thus I have recently been pointed to the possibility – probability, even – that my own book (see below) on the Gladio secret armies may be on the receiving end of efforts to ensure that it is not widely disseminated in NATO’s very own backyard, namely Belgium. I am sure that my arguments and demonstrations that Gladio style tactics of secret warfare are still on active service and demonstrated in many recent ‘terrorist’ events in Europe would be the reason for that.
Veneration of secrecy has become an acceptable currency because we are collectively too lazy and drugged by consumerism. Yet censorship and banning books, for whatever reason, is always a sign of despair, bankruptcy of vision and the refusal to allow public debate and dialogue. These are fatal ingredients which undermine and destroy democracy. Organizations which encourage such actions are not democratic in nature or intent.
However, I am grateful for the reverse compliment that my work is of sufficient importance to earn the disapproval of the alliance for peace and progress and the Belgian authorities. You see, that’s the blowback of censorship in the public agora.