Marxist theory

Russian bounties, WMD’s and big game hunters

The hunter becomes the hunted

When a big game hunter goes after a large and dangerous beast, he had better understand how that beast functions, or else the hunter can become the hunted. The same is true for those who wish to bring an end to the dangerous beast known as capitalism. However, all too many show an unfortunate tendency towards complete misunderstanding of this particular beast. The story of the Russian government offering a bounty to the Taliban for any US soldier they kill in Afghanistan is an example.

Many on the left denounce that story as just another example of war mongering. They use the case of the Bush claim of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. They rely on the likes of the pro Assad Chris Hedges as an example. Hedges, who is an Assad  defender , claims that it’s the military industrial complex that is likely inventing this story because Trump is pushing us “to the brink of peace”. Another example is the group “Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting” ( which also has a similar approach as far as supporting Assad. They also refer back to the WMD claims.

 Let’s review what actually happened in the US build-up to its invasion of Iraq:

Iran-Iraq War
During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) US imperialism supported Hussein because they saw the Iranian regime as their major threat in the region.
In fact, it helped Hussein develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. It then helped Hussein target the Iranian army with chemical weapons.

Collapse of Soviet Union
This was during the waning years of the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1989. That collapse left United States imperialism as the sole superpower in the world. This led to the illusion within most of the US capitalist class that it would remain unchallenged indefinitely and also that since nobody could stand up to US imperialism militarily, they could go anywhere, invade anywhere, with i
mpunity. That was the idea of what became known as neoconservatism. The tops of the majority of the US capitalist class maneuvered to install George Bush as president in 1992 in order to carry out that strategy. They did that through a faked vote count in Florida and then a Supreme Court ruling that was completely outside the normal bounds of that court’s authority.

Rise of neoconservatives

some of the top neoconservatives. They have now been discredited.

The smashing US victory in Operation Desert Storm (1990-91) reinforced the neocon view. Despite his defeat, Saddam Hussein continued to thumb his nose at US imperialism. In those (pre-fracking) years, that was a vitally important region, and the US capitalist class concluded that it could and should do something about Hussein. Even before 9/11, neocons like then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were saying that ousting Hussein would “enhance US credibility throughout the region” and “demonstrate what US policy is all about.” 9/11 reinforced that view. As al Jazeera wrote Driven by humiliation, the Bush administration felt that the US needed to reassert its position as an unchallengeable hegemon.”

Parallel to the illusion that there was nothing standing in the way of US imperialism was the illusion that it could enforce its rule with minimal use of US troops.

All that remained was to find an excuse. That excuse was the infamous “weapons of mass destruction” – WMD.

Origin of WMD claims
The conspiracy theorists, Assad supporters, and many on the left who are more serious think that the whole WMD story was simply a lie made up out of whole cloth and cooked up by the US CIA in order to justify the US invasion. These same people claim that the “mainstream media” repeated this lie. These beliefs are partly true, but also mistaken in subtle but important ways.

In the first place, the intelligence community was divided on whether or not Hussein had continued his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs – programs that Bush & Co. knew had existed because the US had helped develop them! For example, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research and Department of Energy issued a report which doubted that Hussein was developing nuclear weapons. It is no accident that according to a Washington Post article one of the few members of Congress who actually read the 2002 NIE {National Intelligence Estimate], Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, “voted against the war resolution, explaining later that his reading of the document, filled with dissents and caveats, convinced him that the case about Iraqi weapons programs was weak.”’

Bush administration pressures intelligence community
Not only did the Bush administration pick and choose which reports it wanted to believe; it also pressured the CIA and others in the intelligence community to find the “information” that it wanted.
According to the Washington Post “Former and current intelligence officials said they felt a continual drumbeat, not only from Cheney and Libby, but also from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, Feith, and less so from CIA Director George J. Tenet, to find information or write reports in a way that would help the administration make the case that going into Iraq was urgent.”

How the NY Times reported on Powell’s false claims. They didn’t outright lie; they simply didn’t investigate.

Mainstream media
Then we get to the issue of how the “mainstream media” (really, the capitalist media) reported the issue. As the neocons were a powerful force within the US capitalist class at the time, the main capitalist news media did not want to seriously debunk their WMD claims. But it is not true that the
y simply lied about it. What they did was report on the claims without any investigation. It was similar to how this same media to this day tends to report on Israeli atrocities against Palestinians: They simply repeat the lies of the Israeli regime and then tack on at the end “according to Israel” or something like that, without any independent investigation or reports to the contrary from Palestinian sources.

That is exactly how they presented the WMD story. Take, for example, how the NY Times reported the infamous Feb. 5, 2003 speech of Colin Powell before the UN: “Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, pressing the American case for a possible war to disarm Iraq, today presented photographs, intercepts of conversations between Iraqi military officers and information from defectors aimed at proving that Saddam Hussein poses an imminent danger to the world,” they wrote. In other words, they gave a false impression by failing to investigate the truth of Powell’s claims rather than by outright lying.

Not only that, but if it were so easy to simply make things up, then how come the US didn’t “find” weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after they invaded?

US invasion “worse than a crime – it was a mistake”
The US invasion of Iraq was a disaster for US imperialism. As a French diplomat said, “it’s worse than a crime. It’s a mistake.” Among other things, the neocons’ belief that a small number of US troops would be able to control the situation in Iraq proved to be completely wrong. The result of this disaster was that the neocons were completely discredited within the US capitalist class, which united to ensure that the
militarist John McCain would be defeated by the more diplomacy-minded Barack Obama. The neocons’ main representatives, such as Paul Wolfowitz, saw their stars fade and nearly disappear. The one remnant of that “strategy” was The Mustache, AKA John Bolton, who stuck around like a piece of used chewing gum.

Did Putin set up bounties on US troops in Afghanistan?

Russian bounty claims
Fast forward to the story that Putin & Co. offered a bounty for any US soldier killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The NY Times first reported that US intelligence officials believed this on June 26.
Two days later the Washington Post reported that intelligence officials believe that the deaths of two US soldiers were linked to this bounty program. The NY Times followed this up with a story reporting that US intelligence was claiming that a small time Afghani drug smuggler, Rahmatullah Azizi, was the middle-man in this operation. They also described exactly how he allegedly carried out this role. In general, US intelligence is not certain about this story, but it thinks it’s probably true.

Compared to the WMD claims, there never were any such concrete, specific reports on the alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Putin with his puppy dog at Helsinki

Role of Trump administration vs. Bush administration
More to the point is the fact that, as opposed to the WMD claims, the present administration vigorously sought to deny the bounty reports,
just as they have nearly all intelligence reports that tend to cast Putin in a “bad” light. Trump denounced the reports as a “hoax”. In other words, the pressure this time was the exact opposite from that in the lead up to the Iraq invasion. Nor, in either case did the intelligence community simply make up the reports out of whole cloth. In the WMD case, as pointed out, Hussein had had a program like what Bush and Co. claimed; it was just that Hussein had ended that program well before the US invasion. Similarly, in the bounty case, the Russian prime minister, who comes from the secret police, is known to have organized political murders both inside Russia and outside. Why would he not embark on this program?

Military industrial complex wants war?
Some on the left claim that the military-industrial complex want war with Russia, Trump doesn’t, and that explains their conflict with Trump and why they have made up this story. Again, the
se lefts forget the political facts of life. Those who believe in wanton military adventures were the neocons, and it is exactly those representatives who have been so discredited, with one exception: John Bolton. And he parted ways with Trump exactly because he couldn’t get his way regarding war with Iran. In other words, there is hardly anybody left among capitalist strategists who believes in military adventures like the US invasion of Iraq. Overall, the military representatives have acted to restrain Trump, as for example in their opposition to Trump’s original scheme to send troops into Venezuela. It’s true that the military representatives opposed Trump’s withdrawal from Syria, but then so did almost every single major representative of the US capitalist class, including the editors of the Wall St. Journal.

The military industrial complex is not some sort of independent cabal; it is simply one part of the US capitalist class as a whole, and it represents the interests of that class. It does not advocate policies simply for immediate profit. Rather, it looks to what it considers the longer term strategic interests.

Understanding how capitalist class functions
Some on the left claim that explaining these dynamics amounts to supporting the Democrats and supporting US capitalism. This is childishness at best.
Among other things, it means that they don’t understand bourgeois capitalist democracy vs. one person dictatorial rule (AKA “bonapartism”). In general, the capitalist class prefers to rule through “democracy” because it’s safer, more stable and it’s easier for them to control their politicians. The fact that Trump is largely out of their control is an indication of the slide towards one-man rule (bonapartism). There is no way to develop a serious working class policy without understanding this development. For socialists – never mind the US working class in general – to understand capitalism as a whole, it must understand how the ruling class and its government functions.

Without that, the hunter will become the hunted.

The hunter becomes the hunted

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