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Is It World War III Yet?
Tuesday, 30 January 2007 21:46
by Stephen P. Pizzo

Remember when World War III was envisioned as a nuclear Armageddon? That threat hung over the heads of my generation through our entire childhoods and into our adult lives. Then it vanished along with the Soviet Union. We may face it again someday, but for right now it's gone.

What isn't gone is the threat of another World War. And, thanks to George W. Bush and his Neoncon advisers we are on the brink of just that... a major war with international implications. And like almost every other world war, it has snuck up on us. To understand how that could be so you all you need to do is look back 93 years, to June 28, 1914.

At approximately 11:00 am on June 28, 1914,  Prince Franz Ferdinand, the  Archduke of Austria, and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The assassin was Gavrilo Princip, a member of a Bosnian separatist group. The event was the trigger of World War I, which began less than two months after Franz Ferdinand's death, with Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia. (More)

World War I,  was a global military conflict that took place mostly in Europe between 1914 and 1918. It left millions dead and re-shaped the modern world. The Allied Powers, led by France, Russia, the British Empire, and later, Italy, defeated the Central Powers: Austria-Hungary, the German Empire, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. (More)

Ferdinand wasn't the reason all Europe and the near east were thrust into years of bloody conflict. His assassination was simply the spark that ignited a long simmering toxic stew of petty gripes, border disputes, rivalries, personal hatreds and ethnic tensions.  The lid had been on for a long time, the pressure had built and all it took was one moron to come along and set the whole thing off.

Exactly those conditions existed in Middle East on March 19, 2003 when George W. Bush decided it was good time to take out Saddam Hussein.

Just look at the geopolitical conditions that were boiling at the time. To the west Sunni nations, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, had each forged strong political and economic ties with the Christian/Judeao west. These nations were modernizing along western lines and falling increasingly in line with western diplomatic wishes, including tolerating and even recognizing Israel.

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To the east was the 900 pound gorilla, Shiite Iran. Iran was heading in the polar-opposite direction. Iran was determined to reclaim it;s Shia's mission as keeper of the pure Islamic flame and to reinstate Islamic religious rule throughout the region.

Stuck smack in the middle were Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Iraq, dominated by it's minority Sunnis. had fought Iran to a standstill 1980's, brutal war that  killed millions on both sides. After failing to defeat Iran, Iraq attacked neighboring Kuwait, only to be thrown out by western forces a few months later.

Afghanistan, to Iran's immediate east, had been in the hands of a crackpot cult of militant Muslims, the Taliban, which the Iranian hated and feared.

Then there was Syria, a majority Sunni nation, caught quite between Iraq and a hard place. It had mutual enemy Israel on it's southern border and a democratic Lebanon on its western.  Syria had supported Saddam's dictatorship through ties with their common Baath parties. But, having been defeated decades earlier by Israel, which still occupied captured Syrian territory, Syria had turned to Iran for help, which Iran happily provided through its proxy army, Hezbollah.

And that's where things stood on March 19, 2003 when George W. Bush assassinated his version of Archduck Ferdinand by launching a full-scale invasion of Iraq. He lit a match that ignited the highly flammable tensions that filled the region – Israel v. Palestinians, Palestinians v. Palestinians, Shia v. Sunnis, Shia v.Shia, Sunni v. Sunni, Christians v. Muslims, Muslims v. Modernity, Modernity v. Muslims, Oil consuming nations v. anyone who gets in the way of their oil supplies. If there was ever a region ready to blow, it was the Middle East on March 19, 2003.

Only a fool would strike anywhere near such a fuse.

Bush's reckless war tore the lid off a boiling cauldron that is now  boiling over and threatens to engulf the entire region in what history will likely record as a full fledged world war. 

The decisions Congress must make in the months ahead about what to do with our troops in that region will be shaped by how they see what's actually going on and where it's headed. Which is why they need to start framing it in terms larger than “civil war.” Because it's not about Iraq today anymore than it was about Bosnia in 1914. It beyond that now. Way beyond that.

When this kind of war breaks out certain patterns are immediately recognizable. During World War I we witnessed the same kind of things we are now seeing in Iraq, among which is ethnic cleansing. During WWI the Armenians were massacred by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. We can parse terms, was it a massacre or was it genocide, but whatever it was it looks a lot like what gearing up in Iraq right now.  So far at least 180,000 Sunnis have be ethnically forced to out --  cleansed -- from just Baghdad alone...right under the noses of US forces. Those who refuse to leave are killed.

The Saudis have taken notice and warned that if this continues they will have no choice but to begin arming and supporting Iraq's beleaguered Sunnis. Iran has countered that it would respond to that by making “trouble” for the Saudis – a thinly veiled threat to disrupt Saudi oil facilities and stir up opposition to the already fragile Saudi royal family.

Meanwhile Pakistan has been secretly rearming Afghan's defeated Taliban. Why? Because they simply do not want a US-dominated government on their border because they see the US as closer to Pakistan's mortal foe, India – a suspicion the US reinforced by singing a controversial nuclear deal with India earlier this year.

It's no coincidence that the Iran/Hezbollah./Syria axis decided now was the right moment to openly challenge the western-leaning democratic government in Lebanon. While Syria sees the destabilization of Lebanon as a bargaining chit in it's bid to reclaim the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and Hezbollah. sees it as the front line in its war against Israel, Iran sees Lebanon as the keystone in it's dream of establishing a Shia crescent running form Iran to the Mediterranean.

So what's everyone's next move? Iran knows the US can't sustain it's occupation of Iraq and is already taking an increasingly aggressive hand in shaping the new Iraq. That will mean growing Shiite control and that will manifest itself in growing pressure on Iraq's Sunnis. The Saudis won't stand for it and will jump into the fray by backing Sunni insurgents with money and US weapons. If that doesn't turn the tide, the Saudis could provide Sunnis with close air support with its formidable US-supplied air force. 

The Iranians don't have an air force to speak of, but they do have long range missiles that can reach Saudi oil fields and refining facilities. One tit will be followed by one tat, then two, then three... then all hell breaks loose.

All this will force Syria to finally chose a side. Are they going to go with the dark side, Iran, or throw their lot in with fellow Sunni nations. If Syria goes with Iran then Lebanon is toast and Israel will look to Jordon and Egypt to join with them in a joint defense of Lebanon against Syria and, if necessary Iran as well. Because for Israel, a Syria and Lebanon controlled by Iran would be unacceptable.

The Iranians clearly see that scenario as a real possibility, which why they are racing to get a working nuclear weapon – to make Israel think twice before taking a swing at them.

More clues emerged last week when King Hussein of Jordon announced that he'd like his country to begin its own  “civilian” nuclear program – like Iran's.  Why? Because he too sees something awful his way comes.

And let us not forget those Ottoman Turks of WW I. They are still around in todays Turkey. During WW I they tried to exterminate the Armenians. This time they will try to itch another scratch that's been bugging them for decades, the Kurds. Turkey would love to get rid of separatist Kurds once and for  all. 

The Turks caught the Armenians by surprise and with the upper hand in WW I. The Kurds will not go quietly or as easily.  That fight will be particularly bloody. And, as a member of NATO, meaning some  generals in Belgium is going to have some hard decisions. Internally Turkey will be torn to pieces by those who, on one side want to become part of Western Europe and those on the other side whose hearts are with their ancient Muslim roots. Turkey will not likely emerge from such a war as we know it today.

I have no idea how this would affect the Israeli/Palestinian mess, except to say that it would be supremely foolish of the Palestinians to see all the trouble around them as an opportunity to make trouble for Israel. There is no nation on earth with less of a sense of humor when cornered than Israel.

It all seems so obvious, certainly to leaders in the region who are clearly already moving on their own and in their own national interests. Only the US seems unable or unwilling to see what we've ignited over there.  We got it wrong from day one, and we're still getting it wrong. First we were told the problem was the tyrant, Saddam. Then, when it got worse the problem was  “dead enders,” and Saddam loyalists. When it got worse again, it was blamed on “insurgents and al Qaida.” Now that the whole country is coming apart, it's a “civil war.”

Yes. George, it's a civil war... and so much more. It's the beginning of a major regional war... call it what you want, World War III, or the Middle East War or Smack Down in the Desert. But its a more than just a civil war – a lot more.

Just as the first two world wars reshaped all of Europe and the near east, this war will reshape the Middle East. It will reshape the region in ways we cannot now predict or prevent. All we can do now is prepare. Act like it's an emergency, because it is:
  • We should withdraw our troops from Iraq immediately.
  • We should redirect the $8 billion a month we are wasting there by allocating half to rebuilding and repairing our own now exhausted military and national defenses
  • We should direct the other $4 billion a month into a crash “Manhattan Project” to develop and deploy alternative energy as quickly as possible.
There was  a shred of evidence that even George W. Bush may have an inkling he's created a mess that could envelope the whole world. Last week he authorized doubling the size of our strategic oil reserves.

Good idea George, but not nearly enough. We need to go the rest of the way. A fierce storm is brewing. Now is the time to secure all loose gear and batten down our own hatches. Raise taxes, enact standby procedures for mandatory energy conservation. And no "duck and cover" BS. We need to start doing real things to prepare the kind of real shortages that will occur when oil supplies are disrupted.

It took two catastrophic world wars before Europeans got it all out of their system. Hopefully middle easterners can settle it with one.  In any event, we can no longer pretend nothing has really changed. We can no longer tether our national security to the fragile threat of middle east oil. We should begin the disengagement now, in a rapid but orderly manner and prepare for the troubled days ahead.

Otherwise we risk being swept up in the maelstrom, unprepared and at the mercy of events now far beyond our control.
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Comments (4)add comment

a guest said:

That's tellin' 'em
Question is: "Will they listen?" The answer to that question is: "It wouldn't make any difference if they listened. They couldn't cope with a lousy hurricane. What do you expect them to do with the mess that's whistling down upon us now?"

Personally, I expect they're going to blame it all on Scooter Libby, give themselves another tax cut and then go on vacation for a few months. Laugh if you want to -- then see if I'm wrong.

January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

from the first words (we no long envisage a nuclear holocaust?),to the phoney map featuring the illegal zionist state of "israel" and condemning Palestine, once again, to oblivion; through "rebuilding and repairing" the enforcement arm of us corporate interests, while pretending that they are "defence" forces; and down to the very last stanza, this article reads like nothing more than an exercise in gate-keeping - consolidating the more outrageous neo-con propaganda of the msm. bah! and humbug!
January 31, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

worst article ever
This is what happened the iraqipresident didnt listen to americas barks, americans got angry like a rabid dog and attacked iraq, iran saw this and said holy crap america has been smoking too much crack maybe we should build a nuclear weapon to defend ourelves, and syria was like the dirty jews want to steal the rest of our land maybe we should align ourselves with iran since we are a poor country and have an outdated military.. saudi arabia on the other hand cant see the big picture because of the dog that is ruling saud arabia king dog, who is trying to polarise sunni vs shiite, its better to stick with the muslims the the great devil the u.s because once theyve used you theyll throw you away just like they did with saddam
January 31, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

Imperialist Wars, Ottomans
Mr. Pizzo is correct insofar as WWI and today's wars in the ME are imperialist wars. WWI involved a number of European Empires; whereas, today there is only one imperial axis of evil involved so far: US, UK, Israel. The other strong global economic and military powers, Russia and China, have not yet been drawn into the fighting.

Indeed, The US axis actions tend to resemble WWII more than WWI. Hitler's aggressive actions in Europe in launching attacks on its neighbors for spurious reasons are very similar to those of the US. The difference being that the Nazis were more efficient. Similarly, the targeting of specific religious and ethnic groups: Arabs and Muslims by the axis is similar to the targeting of Jews and Romani by the Nazis. Both the Nazis and the Busheviks carried out and are carrying out their activities to capture regional resources. Both had and have economies that are heavily dependent on the armaments industry.

One point of history: The Ottomans did not intend to exterminate the Armenians, and, in fact, did not. Approximately, 600 thousand Armenians died tragically in the war from all causes: Massacre, famine, disease. These deaths are usually exaggerated today by politically motivated Armenian nationalist propagandists and unwary journalists. Similarly, some 500 thousand Muslims in the same area died for the same reasons, but are either ignored or grossly undercounted by Armenian nationalist historians or Western journalists. Alas, there was no Lancet in Eastern Anatolia in the first World War to count the Muslim deaths. These were routinely ignored by the European imperialist propagandists of the time, and can only be found in Ottoman documents.

The relocation (or "deportation") of Armenians from the war zone to other parts of the empire turned out to be particularly tragic, but the fact of the relocation was not unusual. Both the Austrian and Russian Empires engaged in similar mass "deportations" during the war, but under much more favorable conditions. These types of relocation were normal in wartime.

There was heavy use of propaganda against the German and Ottomans in WWI, much to assist Wilson in justifying America's entrance to the war, but also to justify the European imperialist partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. Whereas, the propaganda against the Germans has been studied (British Blue Book) and the Germans have been exonerated; the similar use of propaganda by Wellington House and the Americans has been ignored and is regularly cited as "historical" fact.



January 31, 2007
Votes: +0

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