Sunday, September 26, 2021

Joe and Donald's United States of Chaos

 Rarely a week seemed to go by during the Trump years when the sky wasn't falling. The cable news already has a tendency of covering every single day like it could be the last, but this was different. Even powerful people seemed legitimately confused and nobody seemed to know what the fuck was going on. COVID turned the whole country inside out and the sporadic government lockdowns only seemed to make shit worse. Riots raged through cities large and small while the police declared war on their own citizens. The borders became a warzone while ICE dragged children from hospital beds and locked them up in glorified dog kennels. 

At the center of it all was a demented orange president with seemingly zero game plan and an administration that couldn't shoot straight. Most of the time they seemed to be shooting at each other; leaking sensitive information to the press, plotting wars that never materialized, sabotaging each other's peace deals, and getting shit-canned left and right. The system literally seemed to be eating itself and the press seemed to vacillate between covering the spectacle with heartless glee and hyperventilating in a corner with a brown paper bag like the rest of us.

There was a very sick side of me that took a degree of sadistic joy in this myself. I'm not proud of this, innocent people were getting fucked, but after decades of holding the public in the palm of their hands, the establishment appeared to have lost all control of the narrative. Trump's cantankerous ship of fools did awful things to poor people across the globe like any other administration, but they were too incoherent to do anything substantial on the world stage. Trump kept all the old wars he pretended to hate raging but he failed to start any new ones and it wasn't like he didn't try. 

He did quite literally everything but invade Venezuela and Iran, but even despotic douchebags like Maduro and the Mullahs always seemed to get the drop on him. Everything Trump tried fell apart and the establishment was beside themselves. They seemed to take out their anger out on Trump by insisting that he was a puppet of the Kremlin even while Putin's supposed puppet was shredding Soviet era peace treaties left and right like an Enron ticker tape parade. None of it made any sense. All I knew was that there were no new boots on the ground in Caracas or Tehran and the whole world seemed to finally be waking up to the fact that this empire I've despised since I was 13 years old was a five alarm dumpster fire.

But your average American isn't a craven anti-imperialist anarchist like me. By 2019, the whole goddamn country was exhausted by the confounding hijinks of the Trump junta and was desperately seeking something old and reliable to comfort them by the fire of their smoldering super-state. Their miracle came pre-packaged by the equally exhausted elites in the form of Joe Biden, who was sold to the country across nearly every corporate news medium as the human personification of warm milk. Redneck country was still mad as hell and hopelessly in love with Trump's strange populist cult of personality, but the suburbs rejoiced in a childlike opportunity to turn back time to the wonder years of the Obama era. But this prospect was what scared me most.

In my short life, America was never more dangerous than it was under Obama; a man who could arm Al-Qaeda in Syria, turn Libya into a scorched open air slave market, back neo-Nazis in Ukraine, and deport more people in two weeks than Trump could in two years, all while charming the pants off of the international community and convincing liberal America that he was the reincarnation of JFK. This was the motherfucker who built Trump's kiddie concentration camps at the border and gave him an arsenal of toy planes to bomb shithole countries with, and his consigliere was being ushered back into the White House by a united press corps willing to bury every dead hooker they found in the trunk of his derelict son's Mercedes under a layer of censorship and shadow bans. God help me, but I was way more freaked out about Biden than I was about Trump. Trump only had Fox News in his pocket and the worst they could pull off was an insurrection at The Villages. 

About a year later and rarely a week seems to go by during the Biden regime when the sky isn't falling. Joe's presstitutes in the Fourth Estate do their damnedest to sugar coat the mess but even the suburbs aren't buying it anymore. COVID is still raging, cops are still lynching unarmed Black men with impunity, and the borders are wilder than they've ever been as the concentration camps remain full and the Border Patrol corrals Haitians by the thousands like Ku Klux cowboys from hell. At the center of it all is a rapidly disintegrating old wreck of a president with seemingly zero game plan and an administration that can't shoot straight. And with the confusing clusterfuck in Afghanistan, they seem to be on the brink of shooting each other over a foreign policy decision that nobody seems to understand, myself included.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happier than a heroin addict in Panjshir that we finally got the hell out of that mess, but I still have know earthly idea why Joe did it. Even with dementia, Biden is a lifelong neoliberal chicken-hawk who has never made peace with anyone, and now he's willing to piss off every industrial complex who made his toxic career possible to do the right thing for the first time in his life and die on a hill that even a Kennedy would have bombed to kingdom come? It doesn't make any fucking sense, nothing about this administration does. It's almost as if Trump never left the White House.

And that's just it. Americans, even jaded ones like me, often make the mistake of defining the politics of the day by whatever asshole happens to be sitting in the Oval Office. But that's not how this country really works. America has never really been a democracy. Every four years we vote for another sock puppet to run the PR campaign, but it's always the same revolving door of generals, lobbyists, and deep state hacks running the show behind the curtain. The rhetoric may change but the motives remain the same. As I pointed out above, Obama built the camps and the drones and both Trump and Biden used them. Similarly, the chaos that defined the Trump years is still defining Biden's reign as well.

That's because the American Empire as we know it is falling apart. Biden and Trump are symptoms of this collapse, not the cause of it. After twenty years of trying to dominate the Middle East and Central Asia to choke off Russia and China from the rest of the world, the elites are still no closer to preventing the unstoppable rise of a multi-polar Eurasian century. So they're losing their shit and dividing into warring factions; the Russophobic neocons, the Sinophobic realists, all of them are devoted to the same cause of preserving an empire that is crumbling through their fingers, but none of them seem to agree on how to prevent the inevitable. 

Maybe Afghanistan was a concession to China. Maybe we made a deal with the Taliban to let the country serve as a base for destabilizing Xinjiang. Maybe Hunter Biden burned his dope dealer in the Northern Alliance. Maybe all of the above. I honestly have no idea, but it all points to an empire without a coherent game plan and perhaps that is the silver lining here. When powerful people begin fucking up, the powerless people have an opportunity to get the upper hand. My advice is to forget Washington and their vexing melodrama. It's a rerun of Dynasty that you don't have to watch. Build something new in your own neck of this dying empire while Washington burns. Start a commune. Buy a farm. Drop out of this shithole country while your young. Joe and Donald's United States of Chaos is coming down with or without you. You don't have to make this inevitability any more tragic by coming down with it.

Peace, Love, & Empathy- Nicky/CH

Soundtrack; songs that influenced this post

*  Silver Lining by Rilo Kiley

*  Down In It by Nine Inch Nails

*  The Mess Inside by the Mountain Goats

*  Cowboys From Hell by Pantera

*  London Calling by the Clash

*  Peace Sells by Megadeath

*  Blank Generation by Richard Hell & the Voidoids

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Afghanarchism: What American Radicals Can Learn From the Pashtuns

 There is a narrative commonly held by observers in the west that the Afghans are a people defined by perpetual warfare. Like many stereotypes, this one comes with a cornel of truth. After all, the people of Afghanistan just got done throttling the bare hind quarters of the greatest empire Satan ever devised for the last twenty years with little more than rusty Soviet junk and raw grit. The rural highlands of southern Afghanistan have certainly fostered a distinctly martial culture that has aided its people in resisting generations of conquest, but to simply sum these people up by the wars they've fought completely misses the context of why they fight and what they were fighting for.

You see the Afghan people, in particular the Pashtuns who have made up the bulk of the Taliban, are a people who simply refuse to be ruled by anyone or anything besides their own distinctly stateless culture. The Pashtuns of Afghanistan's rugged borderlands are essentially anarchists and their successful centuries old resistance to conquest didn't begin with the Soviets or the British or even Alexander the Great. It began with the first taxman sent by a local emir to those mountains, who was returned riddled with bullets for his trouble.

The rugged mountainous region now separated superficially by the Durand Line forming the border between what is now modern day Afghanistan and Pakistan has always been a distinctly wild country populated by hard men who love their rifles and hate being told what to do. This region was traditionally known as Yaghistan which roughly translates to the land of lawlessness and rebellion. But this title was clearly bestowed upon the rural Pashtuns by another simple minded outsider, for even though these people are certainly stateless, they are anything but lawless. 

Pashtun society is governed by a strict code of honor known as Pashtunwali, or the way of the Pashtuns, which is upheld by decentralized local councils of elders and religious figures known as Jirgas. For centuries it has been the Jirgas and the Jirgas alone which have governed the land of lawlessness by settling disputes among the tribes. Every other form of rule has been stubbornly rejected and successfully resisted. No single entity has ever managed to hold a monopoly on the use of force in those mountains and many have tried. It wasn't until the 1940s, with advent of tanks and aerial bombardment in the region, that a central Afghan state was even able to successfully quell a tribal uprising and this fire superiority only gave Kabul the upper hand for a few decades before the Pashtuns could outfox them.

This is the real reason why 99% of all Afghan central governments, be they foreign or domestic, have failed, and this is why the Taliban has, against all logical odds, succeeded twice in consolidating power against seemingly insurmountable opposition. Despite this motley crew's crude brand of cruelty, they have always respected the rural Pashtun's iron will to rule themselves. And the Pashtuns in kind have found the Taliban's unique services to be quite useful. The Pashtuns view of the state is remarkably similar to that of their fellow Islamic anarchists in Somalia's short lived Islamic Courts Union. They will tolerate the existence of a central power provided that it is purely used as a voluntary means of neutral conflict resolution.

 The Pashtuns come to the government, and never the other way around, solely for judicial reasons, to seek an impartial third party to judge tribal disputes and prevent permanent warfare, and even then they do not seek out the traditional carceral role of a conventional western justice system, but merely a means of conflict resolution. It is only at the behest of the Pashtun anarchist Jirgas that the Taliban exists, not the other way around, and the Taliban knows it. The only reason these tribal renegades don't seek to overthrow power in Kabul is because they don't need to. Through pure force of will they have rendered the state totally irrelevant to their way of life and this is a phenomenal achievement.

This is not to say that Yaghistan is some kind of utopia. I did not choose to write this piece as a blind defense of some romanticized western view of the noble savage. Rural Pashtun society is rough and cruel. They have little respect for women and absolutely no use for Queer people like myself. Like many societies in Central Asia, theirs is rife with deep seated rivalries and seemingly endless blood feuds. But none of these flaws can take away from the fact that those people have made an astonishing achievement simply by existing as they do. The Pashtuns have succeeded where anarchists from Catalonia to Ukraine have failed. They have remained unruled for centuries under the constant bombardment of violent state meddlers of every conceivable variety. Kabul has been occupied by monarchs, communists, and capitalists and the borderlands have remained anarchist.

I can't help but to be inspired by this magnificent achievement and yet most of my fellow left anarchists are too consumed with identity politics to see these people as anything but backwoods savages in desperate need of western anarchist condescension to cure them of their evil ways. I don't like the Pashtun approach to most social issues myself but for me, as an American transwoman, to assume I have the solutions to these specifically indigenous problems is nothing short of intellectual colonialism and only serves to further highlight why so many bougie white westerners have failed where the Pashtuns have succeeded. Internationalism is a convenient distraction from local autonomy.

So how do we do it? How can first world anarchists succeed like the Pashtuns have? What is the secret to their success and could it ever translate to the modern world? I believe that, at least on some level, it can. The Pashtuns have succeeded against all odds because they have constructed a culture defined by statelessness where as many others have developed cultures defined by subjugation. Anarchism is more than just politics to them, it is a way of life as old as the mountains themselves. This kind of deeply cultural anarchism can't be manufactured. A bunch of white kids can't just grow beards and move to the mountains. But many, if not most pre-existing cultures, even in the metropolitan wastelands of the west, have their own unique stateless roots that can and should be tapped into.

This is particularly true in the live-free-or-die countryside of rural America. We need to foster our own unique spirit of independence tied to our own local cultures and the distinct bioregions that defined them. This could be something as old as the hillbillies of Appalachia or the Mormon pioneers of the Deseret. For me it's something as post-modern as my fellow Queer hicks in the rural Rustbelt, and it could be something even more niche than that, so long as it's authentic and it has local roots. It should always be remembered that there is nothing Kropotkin can teach you that the land can't teach better. 

From there we don't so much as rebel as we simply live. The Pashtuns never waited for some grand revolution to smash the state, they simply existed in spite of it like the Amish with Kalashnikovs. The new tribes of American anarchism need to do the same by creating parallel institutions that provide alternatives to the resources the state uses to blackmail and control us. We need our own currency, our own economy, our own schools, militias, agriculture, and perhaps above all else, judicial systems. One thing the Pashtuns learned long ago that is universal is that we do not exist for the state, the state exists for us, and it's only as powerful as we decide it should be.

As for the Afghan people themselves back in the war torn Hindu Kush, I'm not worried. They've survived far worse things than the collapse of another foolish imperial project. The Taliban are bastards and the Chinese can be every bit as rapacious as any western empire, but the Pashtuns don't need them. If the Taliban becomes foolish enough to believe that Afghanistan can be an actual country like their assimilationist neighbors and Beijing becomes greedy enough to try to mine those mountains for smartphone making minerals, they have a history lesson to learn and the Pashtuns will be more than happy to teach it to them.

Peace, Love, & Empathy- Nicky/CH

Soundtrack; songs that influenced this post

*  Faith by George Michaels

*  Search & Destroy by the Stooges

*  Rebel Rebel by David Bowie

*  Wolf Like Me by TV On the Radio

*  Common People by Pulp

*  Left of the Dial by the Replacements

*  Family Farm by the Hold Steady

*  The Passenger by Iggy Pop

*  Time for Heroes by the Libertines

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Trump the Neocon?: The Changing Climate of Antiwar Politics

 2016 was a strange fucking year to be an antiwar voter. It was the first open Democratic primary since the Iraq War without a clear peace candidate and Ron Paul's heir apparent, Rand, proved to be a total dud. It was actually pretty fucking depressing. It felt like after 8 years of Obama drone striking teenagers and killing Gadhafi, nobody gave a fuck about peace, love and understanding. Then there was Trump, who seemed to slip out from nowhere to awkwardly fill the void like a ginger dog fart. I never bought into his whole Pat Buchanan with dick jokes routine. Even if I could get past the vile xenophobia, the fucker still had all the slick charm of a Craig's List kidney thief. 

But I knew more than a few legit antiwar activists who were taken in by the orange bastard. Most of them were right wing libertarians and paleocons, and most of them would readily admit that the guy was an asshole, but they still held out hope that this whole America First scheme would light a fire beneath middle America that would drive out the neocons and usher in a new era of conservative isolationism like the kind that once dominated the GOP before Nixon. At the very least, they held out hope that that foul gangster would finally bail us out of Afghanistan. I didn't see it. So I voted for Jill Stein again.

Five years later and I find myself in I-told-you-so country again. After a very brief flirtation with anti-globalist rhetoric and getting-along-with-Putin bromides, the GOP has rejoined their war loving frenemies in the Democratic Party to crucify Joe Biden for doing what their darling Trump promised to do for four years straight and finally get us the fuck out of Afghanistan. Both sides are fucking hysterical over the shocking spectacle of old Joe doing something right for the first time in his impossibly long career as a Beltway gangbanger, but those blathering crybabies over at Fox News take the cake. 

After four years of posing like Charles Lindberg, you'd think that Biden shot their dog the way they grieve the loss of that twenty year quagmire. And Donald Trump appears to be ready and willing to join their chicken-hawk pity party, telling Sean Hannity and an other gutless pigfucking imbecile who'll listen that his long promised pull out of Afghanistan would have been completely "conditions based" and suggesting that America should declare total war on the Taliban for the crime of confiscating our fleeing Afghan Army's American war toys. All of this madness leaves me with the surreal and vexing question that if peace is the cross the GOP plans to nail Biden to in 2024, will Donald Trump, the great isolationist hope, run as a fucking neocon?

Stranger shit has happened and Donald Trump's checkered biography is full of it. We have to remember that this is a corporate welfare grifter who has literally played every single side of the fence to keep himself one step away from financial ruin. He's been a Democrat. He's been an Independent. He handsomely funded New York neoliberals and neocons alike, forking over thousands to the Clinton's alone. Then you have to consider the sneaky motherfucker's actual record in office.

While Trump waxed philosophic about putting America first and did battle with the cold warriors in the Deep State over the Russiagate hoax, he essentially pimped out the entirety of our war machine for rent to the Saudis and the Zionists. He put the West Bank at two minutes to genocide by gifting Bibi Netanyahu Jerusalem on a stake and he went out of his way to fund and fuel Mohamed bin Salman's sickening genocidal bloodbath in Yemen. He also crippled Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba with cruel sanctions at the height of the pandemic and continued to edge us ever closer to world war with China and his supposed bosom buddy Putin in Russia. And then there was his real plan for Afghanistan.

The Donald's last acting Secretary of Defense, Chris Miller, has gone on the record claiming that the post-election pull out was little more than a fucking ruse. The plan was to use the threat of peace to strong arm Afghan president and fellow parasite, Ashraf Ghani, into accepting a power sharing agreement with the Taliban on the condition that all parties involved accept the indefinite presence of about 800 special-ops hitmen as a so called "counter-terrorism force." In other words, Trump's plan wasn't to leave Afghanistan, it was to hoodwink the Taliban into consenting to the forever war lasting, well, forever. Who fucking knows if it would have worked. Like most of Trump's schemes, it might have just as likely blown up in his fucking face, but the point is Trump's plans for Afghanistan, just like everywhere else, were never much less than neocon in objective.

The truth is it was always in all the worst people's better interests to paint Donald Trump as an anti-interventionist. For his enemies in the Democratic Party and his rivals in the GOP and the Deep State, it was a way of painting the man as a tyrant kissing coward who would sell American greatness down the river for a song. For his Republican allies and there fallacious whores on Fox News, it was a way to sell their brand of corporate conservatism as a balm for pissed off middle Americans aching from decades of bipartisan warmongering and gutter capitalist globalism. 

In a classic Washington twist, it was all theater. Trump's rhetoric and bad table manners may have offended both parties legacy imperialists but he was never really a threat to anything but the empire's international PR campaign. After four years of behaving like a rent collecting stick-up artist, Biden's camp pretty much had to finally give up the ghost in Afghanistan just to shake off the reek of gangster Trump left behind. Ironically, this may be that bastard's only real antiwar legacy. The million dollar question now is will Donald Trump's duped antiwar populists follow his cult of personality into open war mongering? For the sake of what's left of this country's antiwar movement, I sure as fuck hope not.

Peace, Love, & Empathy- Nicky/CH

Soundtrack; songs that influenced this post

*  The Pretender by Foo Fighters

*  The Things That You Say That You Do by Dressy Bessy

*  Two Minutes to Midnight by Iron Maiden

*  Love Love Love by the Mountain Goats

*  About a Girl by Nirvana

*  Jesus Built My Hotrod by Ministry

*  (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding by Elvis Costello

*  Suspect Device by Stiff Little Fingers

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Twenty Years of 9/11

 It's been twenty years since 9/11 but it feels more like twenty years of 9/11. That's probably because an entire industrial complex has been constructed around a concerted effort to keep those wounds fresh and harvest the anguish they cause in order to manipulate a permanently traumatized nation into consenting to endless warfare and our own wholesale enslavement at the hands of a rapidly expanding police state. Those attacks didn't just claim the lives of over 2000 Americans, they ushered in an era of darkness that we can't seem to escape from. 

It's been twenty years of a global forever war on any strain of Islam that resists western subjugation, from the Islamic Courts of Somalia to the Pashtun tribes of Afghanistan. It's been twenty years of disastrous regime change and colonialist nation building experiments. It's been twenty years of sacrificing every civil liberty a plebian has ever managed to get their grubby hands on in this country on the alter of national security and law and order. It's been twenty years of warrantless wiretaps, extraordinary rendition, and militarized police forces patrolling the inner cities in armored vehicles. It's been a twenty year news cycle of breathless round the clock fear mongering and chest thumping jingoism. Twenty years of being screamed at by tiny men in expensive suits about the moral priority of chasing Arab boogeymen who never quite materialize. It's been twenty goddamn years of being held hostage by a single day in September 2001, and what have we learned? 

We've learned that there is no tragedy too tender for a politician to exploit for profit. We've learned that the same men who pounced on our terror from that day like bloodthirsty jackals were also in the perfect position to prevent it from even happening in the first place and either failed or chose to fail to do so. We've learned that there is no such thing as a peace party in this country and that both Democrats and Republicans are equally willing to do the bidding of the same war machine that gives our 'indispensable' nation its only true purpose. We've learned that Saudi Arabia is definitely not our friend and is at least as willing as their neocon cheerleaders to stoke the flames of Islamic extremism to line their own pockets. We've learned, once again, that the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan will never be tamed by white men and their tedious experiments with what they refer to as progress. And we've learned that terrorism has a funny habit of creeping up like vines anywhere a foreign boot meets the sacred soil of a conquered land.

But even with all this knowledge and the institutionalized trauma that comes with it, we still haven't learned nearly enough to keep ourselves any safer or less clueless than we were on September 10th. We still haven't learned to stop investing our faith in corporate backed career politicians or the polluted system they dare to call a democracy. We still haven't learned that there is zero sunlight between our two major war parties when it comes to lying us into even more open ended foreign bloodbaths, or at least we haven't learned enough to stop voting for the fucking bastards. And we still haven't learned after all this time that every bomb we drop creates two new terrorists for every innocent civilian it eviscerates. These kids, the ones we've orphaned and terrorized across the Muslim world, have sure as fuck learned something. They've learned to hate a nation that has stubbornly refused to learn the most important lesson from 9/11, and that lesson is that when it comes to someone else's country, the sanest and kindest thing you can do for their people is to simply mind your own goddamn business.

In libertarian circles this axiom is known as the Non-Aggression Principle, which is a pretty simple understanding that there is zero moral justification for the use of initiatory violence, even as a means for revenge. The only means of justifiable warfare is that which is practiced strictly out of self-defense. If a plane is hijacked over your country, you have the right to shoot it down. If a foreign army occupies your soil, you have the right to resist. And if your own country ceases to serve the will of it's people, you have every right to revolt. But there exists no moral justification for ever firing the first shot, and when it comes to war in any part of globe outside your own borders, there exists no moral justification to get involved in any way, shape or form, because getting involved in other people's conflicts only stands to make a bad situation horrific.

If Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan never armed and trained the Mujahidin in an effort to lure the Soviet Union into an unwinnable quagmire in Afghanistan, we would have never had the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. If George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had never occupied the holy land in Saudi Arabia to brutally ransack Iraq from, Osama bin Laden never would have had the leverage to convince 19 Arabs to die for his twisted jihad on September 11. If George W. Bush would have stayed the fuck out of Iraq, we would have never created the conditions for Al-Qaeda to spread across the Persian Gulf, and if Barack Obama would have stayed out of the civil war in neighboring Syria, we never would have created the conditions for Al-Qaeda to fester into the Islamic State, and on and on and on....

Every single thing our country has ever done in the Middle East, every time we've ignored another opportunity to practice the Non-Aggression Principle, has made the situation there precipitously worse. The foreign policy actions justified by 9/11 have created the worst refugee crisis the world has seen since the Second World War. And even as we finally get the fuck out of Afghanistan, with both Democrats and Republicans alike kicking and screaming, we still haven't learned our fucking lesson. Less than 48 hours before the last American military transport plane left Kabul, a drone strike ordered by our current war-criminal-in-chief as a childish act of face-saving revenge murdered a family of ten including 7 children and blew their body parts across the broken streets of that war torn city. At the funeral, surviving family members with anguish in their eyes screamed out, "Death to America!" What do you think the children at that funeral will grow up to be? What makes our 9/11 any more devastating than the one we created for them, than the ones we create every day, and that our president promises more of? Somebody has to stop this fucking madness. 

It's been twenty years of 9/11. Isn't it time we prevented the next one from happening?

Peace, Love, & Empathy- Nicky/CH

Soundtrack; songs that influenced this post

*  Reign In Blood by Tori Amos

*  Wont Get Fooled Again by the Who

*  Don't Look Back In Anger by Oasis

*  Tommy Gun by the Clash

*  Jesus etc. by Wilco

*  Let's Have a War by Fear

*  The Words That Maketh Murder by PJ Harvey

*  Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix

*  (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding by Elvis Costello

*  We Gotta Get Out of This Place by Fear