Skies everywhere will soon darken and stay darker for some time. The earth's average temperature will go down at least half a degree from a smoky pall that is spreading across the globe from the oil fires in Kuwait.
Because oil prices had to go above $20 a barrel but stay below $25, a certain amount of oil had to go off the world market; not too little, not too much. The simplest way to get rid of this oil was to burn it. The simplest way to burn it was to have a war.
These are dangerous times. Both Iraq and Kuwait are smoking ruins. Things are going very well for America. It has shown itself as a powerful but delicate machine. Things must go well for it. If things go badly, the system starts falling apart into a bad horror movie of depression, war and homelessness.
The delicate balance is between oil at $20 a barrel and oil at $25.
In Los Angeles, 10 million workers must drive two hours a day to get to work. The price of gas has to stay low enough to let them commute or the American Dream begins to collapse. If commuting costs too much, the car stops looking like a dream machine and starts looking like a mechanical monster. Only by using oil now can we sell our time to buy back our survival. The price of oil is the price of simulated happiness. It has to stay low enough to let some people think happiness will come from their VCRs and their minivans.
In Texas, when oil prices went below 20 dollars a barrel a few years back, the economy began to collapse. It brought the U.S. real estate market and banking system with it. For a few years, our economy has been in a financial afterlife. The money missing from failed savings and loans was temporarily covered by the government but this further destabilized the world and the economy.
Extreme measures were needed to create "lasting peace and prosperity." War continued peace through different means. The information system found a total cartoon war victory. There were no casualties. The enemy army collapsed and begged forgiveness. TV ratings and consumer confidence were raised by violent measures.
It had been announced that lies and press censorship would be used to make certain Operation Desert Storm looked good. But it turned out the military didn't need to censor the news. It won a perfect victory. Was this victory perhaps too perfect?
Can we know for certain whether the last nine months' melodrama was live or preplanned? The media corporations control what most people hear so perfectly that the spectacle no longer bothers to tie up the loose ends. It states its strategy openly to anyone who reads the fine print.
While it organizes victory parades for the patsies, the information system admits in its "sophisticated channels" that it effectively set up the whole Persian Gulf Crisis. The Washington Post let out the first part of the set-up: the U.S. government quietly pushed Hussein to go into Kuwait. U.S. Ambassador April Glasspie told Saddam Hussein that his dispute with Kuwait was an Arab to Arab affair. She said also "We have many Americans who would like to see the price of oil go above $25 because they come from oil-producing states."
Does it matter that high circles of the U.S. government provoked the recent war for their own reasons and for their own benefits? There were, on both sides, at most 400 decision makers controlling the whole struggle. All the cards were held by the heads of the networks, Bush, Hussein and their generals, the Emir of Kuwait, and the heads of a few other countries. If you think about it, this by itself says a lot about the state of this present society.
But the deception system of the war machine is important because it became the management system for the whole society. CNN brags that it won the Gulf War by piping Pentagon supplied disinformation into Saddam Hussein's living room. If that is true, we all received the same calculated disinformation as Hussein (more on that later.) The war/information machine attacked everyone at once.
The complete fix only makes sense when you look at the environment that the U.S. was operating in. The U.S. held all the cards from the beginning. Iraq is a remote-controlled industrialized society living only on oil revenues. Hussein was a dictator installed by the CIA and always operating on a short leash. He is as brutal and short-sighted as the average U.S. client dictator or used car dealer. He had already proved his loyalty to his Western World bosses when he invaded Iran and fought an eight-year war to protect the oil kingdoms of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
A strong gang can control a weaker gang. This basic principle of gangland is well know to even those who claim to be innocent and idealistic. If there is any doubt, the CIA has made this principle into a science and studied it in many advanced seminars. As the former head of the CIA, Bush was thus Hussein's godfather.
Hussein was set up to take a big fall. His narrow-mindedness made him easily manageable. At the time of the invasion, Kuwait had lowered the price of oil while demanding that Hussein repay his debts. Saddam took April Glasspie's bait and invaded Kuwait, thinking that the U.S. also wanted higher oil prices. Hussein didn't realize that for the U.S., a war with Iraq would be an even easier way to raise prices and keep U.S. control.
The second stage of the set-up was even simpler. The Emir of Kuwait has $3 billion in U.S. banks alone. Once Hussein invaded, the Emir was more effective than even Bush in getting the whole world behind the military build-up. While he probably wasn't in on a scheme to invade his own country, his reactions and his influence could be easily calculated into such a scheme.
There are really a vast number of imaginable reasons for provoking this war: to give Americans a new enemy, to control oil prices, to give the U.S. a permanent military base in the Persian Gulf, to teach other nations a lesson, to make money for the Pentagon, to eliminate all talk of the "peace dividend," to distract the average person from the misery of work and shopping, to militarize society for continuation of the drug war.
While different groups of managers, stockholders and journalists were carried along for different reasons, only a few big players needed to see the whole plan from the beginning. (We speculate here that boss Bush himself supported this scheme with the goal of controlling oil prices since he comes from the Texas oil faction of capitalists.)
Only a few people had to see the total strategy because the system is nearly perfect. The routine of daily life in America, from work to advertising to shopping malls, demands blind obedience while advertising meaningless choice. You hear about Coke vs Pepsi, work vs unemployment or Bush vs Dukakis but the real message is work or starve, wear Nike or be cast-out, and find a boy/girlfriend or die. Those who join the system as managers, journalists, spies, or professors, have joined the dictatorship of lies that envelops everyone today. They lack even the slight room to maneuver of ten years ago. They are simpering slaves to both the unwritten rules of fashion and the unquestionable rules of bureaucracy/"democracy."
Today's puppets are bruised and bloodied from having their strings pulled hard and often. The TV watchers are in a state of shock. Once Hussein invaded Kuwait, the spectacle began a modern version of total war. It attacked everywhere and grabbed everyone by the collar at once.
The vast, interlocking structures of the military, government, and media are backed up by an equally vast system of self-deception and selective amnesia. Most people are already numb from the small doses of deception involved in daily life. `I'll get that promotion. If I looked more like a model he'd never cheat on me. This jacket will make me popular. I'll retire early.' When you work ten- or twelve-hour days to keep up your life-style, you need constant distraction to prevent your misery from being obvious to yourself. You are ready to accept easy answers which prove that you are not making any mistakes.
The magic hold exerted by the spectacle comes from the absence of any alternatives. The system is invisible since it hides in plain view. Only those who look at the spectacle's stranglehold on daily life can see the logic of its world management system. Our lives, in this peaceful, democratic world, are controlled by the unexplained forces of progress, fashion, sex appeal, and the economy. Most of us are over-stressed from the work needed simply to survive.
It is easy to see that we accept a war created by accountants when our own lives are moved by these same absurd forces. From everyday routine, it is easy to see why government must constantly manufacture enemies. The system constantly crushes the global working class. These people gain nothing from this dying system.
The system hides its total logic a little more deeply. The economy today rules with a remote-control iron hand. The system is based on us selling our lives at work so that we can buy back our survival. We can hide our misery in the simulation of life offered by commodities, sold at malls or elsewhere. The system is now so unstable that it must extract more work out of us while demanding that we become more stupid.
"The justifications given for being in Saudi Arabia wouldn't convince an eight-year-old for five minutes." [Noam Chomsky] The war was a kind of festival of deception. Everyone sat glued to the TV while CNN pumped out rumors from Washington that were contradicted within the hour.
The gulf war propaganda demanded submission for the sake of stupidity. One poll said that most Americans preferred even more extreme press censorship than the almost complete censorship that existed. Those still confused enough to answer a poll were naturally willing to accept the media's own empty logic. TV was saying that more lies would mean more support for the war. More support wins the war. Stupidity is patriotic.
The war was nothing but a way to continue social peace by other means. Submission to absurd authorities was maintained by making it more extreme. From the savings and loan crisis to the sleep deficit of most workers, the need for misdirection was increasing exponentially.
The Iraqi army was a kind of modern poltergeist. It appeared and disappeared many times during the course of the five month television seance. "Hussein's million man army" finally vanished from Kuwait without a trace. The infantry personnel that arrived were as surprised as anyone that there were no "huge sand fortifications" but just a few conscripts behind barbed wire.
The spectacle proved one of its pet theories: in the invasion of Kuwait, control of information counted for even more than control of the air. But this is only in a world where the spectacle already reigned supreme.
Confessed lies existed only to conceal other lies. The Pentagon talks about using the press as a tool against Hussein, to give Hussein an incorrect idea of U.S. attack plans. But this conceals that the main aim of military propaganda was to give the impression that the Iraqi army existed at all, to turn the ensuing slaughter into a fight between adversaries.
During the "dirty war" in Argentina in the 1970s, young people were picked up by the police, often at random. They were tortured until they confessed to various "crimes" and only then executed. Some who refused to confess were even let go. The object was to demonstrate the police state's ability to destroy the individual.
Despite the size of the Iraqi army on paper, Iraq could not fight modern warfare. Modern warfare is based on a conveyor belt system from factory to front line. The Iraqi army fell apart quickly because its many weapons were just second-rate gizmos sold by Russia for a quick buck. It had no real war machine since it had no independent economy. Its supply lines were cut by the embargo long before the war began. Saddam, having always been a puppet, was then a puppet with his strings cut.
The ground war was launched the day Iraq announced that it would withdraw from Kuwait. (G.I.'s have reported that the ground invasion began one day before the media was told. Bush's ultimatum to Hussein was thus a total fiction but only one of many fictions of the war.) It was launched not only to prevent peace but also because Hussein had to be shown as defeated. His withdrawal offer had demoralized the confused hopes of the Arabs. Since he had demonstrated his cowardice, he was no longer needed on the spectacle's stage.
One final product of the Iraq/Kuwait fix, bombing the oil wells to destroy the oil, was a natural result of the way the war had to be fought. Since the Iraqi army was utterly outmatched by the U.S. from the beginning, Hussein took steps to withdraw from Kuwait. But he falsely assumed that the U.S. would avoid attacking and burning the oil fields. So he gave himself a little room to maneuver. But Bush went the extra mile to get war, invading exactly as soon as Hussein announced he was leaving.
By concealing its motives from everyone, the U.S. wound up with the military victory and the ecological holocaust of oil fires that it needed.
Traffic jams have become the latest form of massacre. In America, many people spend years of their lives in traffic while losing more than time off their lives from the tension. During the ground invasion, the Iraqi army collapsed, and 50,000 to 100,000 soldiers fled Kuwait in any kind of vehicle they could find. We will never find out exactly how many Iraqis were massacred during the escape from Kuwait.
The system practices an endless scorched earth policy from Iraq to suburbia. The media has gone farther and farther in demanding this submission.
Our only alternative today is to attack the whole system that brings us both war and peace. We must begin at the point of destroying both wage labor and the spectacle before the capitalist system destroys us in the next world traffic jam.