The years-long drawing out of the American empire’s propaganda runup to a world war makes perfect sense. For a conflict as big as the one being planned by neoconservatives, including Trump’s new national security advisor John Bolton, the American people need a large buffer time between when the “threat” is first hinted at, and when the bombs start dropping. I falsely expected this runup to reach its destination by the end of last year, but 2018 seems a near-certain year for it to happen in.
Just look at the ever bigger geopolitical disruptions that are being normalized right now. In the last two months, the U.S. has committed to Syria involvement indefinitely, backed Kurdish troops so that an illegal massacre of Syrians could take place, bombed Russian troops in Syria, increased aggressions toward Russia’s ally Iran under false pretenses, and stood by as Israel has escalated its attacks on Syria while planning a broader war with Iran.
You could say World War III is already happening, if only on a scale that’s limited to the middle east. And every factor shows the U.S, in its desperate moment of imperial collapse, will let this spill over into worldwide catastrophe. John Bolton’s promise last year that Iran’s government will be overthrown “by 2019” shows how close we are to it.
“Prior to the end of 2016 the average American rarely even thought about Russia, almost never thought about Vladimir Putin, and had no idea what a Kremlin was,” writes Caitlin Johnstone in her article We Are One False Flag Event Away From World War 3. “Now hatred for Russia is at the forefront of consciousness in mainstream America, and now infected the UK as well and is quickly metastasizing throughout Australia and Europe. The wood has been slowly dried for some major future event, and a false flag event will be like a lit match on the kindling. The media will pick it up and run with it full-throttle, and people will be herded by fear toward the war door.”
NATO’s military actions towards Russia aren’t just in response to Russia’s colonialist takeover in Ukraine. The American empire sees Russia as a threat to its control over Syria and other regions, so it’s using all the old cold war tactics to bully Russia into submission: intensive demonization of Putin and Russia in American media. Pressuring NATO allies into joining in the fight. Preparing the Pentagon for a bogus threat of a “preemptive strike” from Russia. Blacklistings of anti-imperialists as Russian agents. It’s a march to disaster that only makes sense when you’re in the bubble of Washington DC groupthink.
To make the absurdity of it obvious, wild McCarthyite conspiracy theories come from even top U.S. officials while they pitch this cold war. Last month the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats charged at a senate hearing that Russia and China were conspiring to sow “subversion,” and that visiting Chinese students are potential spies. All without any attempt at substantiation. When will Americans stop taking their leaders’ war commands seriously? History and basic psychology show the war propagandists don’t have much to worry about; when you’ve got a person angry and fearful, there’s no limit to what you can make them believe or do.
Alternative media journalists, marginalized as “fake news” and heavily censored by online platforms, cannot even name the culprits of this war campaign without being called conspiracy cranks. This culprit cabal, properly known as the “deep state,” is the unelected series of military and intelligence operatives whose influence goes deep into media, the Democratic and Republican parties, and now the policies of the formerly rogue Trump administration. Ignoring the deep state makes the whole problem invisible.
“Absolutely, there is a deep state, because the deep state is the intelligence agencies that do not have oversight,” said senator Rand Paul last week. “Only eight people in Congress know what they’re doing, and traditionally, those eight people have been a rubber stamp to let the intelligence communities do whatever they want. There is no skeptic among the eight people that are supposedly overseeing the intelligence community.”
This hidden reigning caste, along with their partners in corporate America, have no problem with letting society deteriorate as the country’s leaders carry out these grandiose military adventures. Amid a new annual military budget of $700 billion, the U.S. national debt is now at $21 trillion, showing the fragility and incompetence that empires fall into during their late stages. America, warned MIT economist Peter Temin last year, is regressing into a third world country for most of the population. Neoliberal capitalism, rampant governmental corruption, an erosion of civil liberties and democratic institutions, and a permanent state of war have battered and confused the population.
A society like this is vulnerable to war campaigns, as long as the deep state can manage to make their campaign all-encompassing and dramatic. Otherwise the people might see the misery this system has forced them into, and refuse to go along with the establishment’s deceptions.
So the fear is constantly being ratcheted up: media scares about Russia’s nukes and demands for the president to “do something about Russia;” claims from intelligence officials that Russia is targeting American power grids; headlines complaining about how much the U.S. needs to expand its unparalleled military stash to compete with Russia. So is the case for Iran and North Korea, two other clearly non-threatening nations which Bolton is still well on the path to starting wars with.
In January, President Trump said: “I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity. Without a major event where people pull together, that’s hard to do. But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing.” Trump being an unmoderated version of the rest of the United States warmongers, this could be a hint at a coming false flag that’s used to set off these conflicts. The U.S. government has an extensive history of false flags, and has used them several times in recent years to justify Syrian military involvement. So Johnstone is most certainly right that at some point, when the public is fully acclimated to war, a “major event” will conveniently materialize.
When will the event come? If this March 17 statement from Russian General Staff spokesman General Sergey Rudskoy is reliable, it’s being planned already: “We have reliable information at our disposal that US instructors have trained a number of militant groups in the vicinity of the town of At-Tanf, to stage provocations involving chemical warfare agents in southern Syria.” He continued: “The provocations will be used as a pretext by the United States and its allies to launch strikes on military and government infrastructure in Syria.” This when the Russian government has clearly threatened retaliation if U.S. attacks on Syria are expanded.
Johnstone’s prescription is to expose the deep state’s lies so that Americans will reject the calls to war when the provocation comes. But the empire is determined to do as much damage as possible, and I think we need to fight this war effort more directly. We need to build a nationwide resistance to militarism, involving antiwar strikes, protests, mass boycotts of the war tax, and disobedience from armed service members. We need to create a Vietnam-level antiwar movement, and fast. Millions of Americans are willing to take these actions. All we need to do is tell them how urgently they need to mobilize.