HomeArticleOn The Syria Occupation And The New Face Of Imperialism

On The Syria Occupation And The New Face Of Imperialism

US forces have attacked the Syrian military, reporting over a hundred deaths.The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is calling the air strike a massacre, a war crime, and a crime against humanity.

The US is an invading, occupying force that is in Syria without the permission of its government, yet it is claiming that the air strike was an act of “self-defense” against an “unprovoked attack” upon the US-backed SDF, a mostly Kurdish militia which had occupied an area of Syrian land. No Americans suffered any injuries or deaths in the attack. The SDF suffered a single reported injury.

It’s a bit like saying you broke into someone’s house and strangled them from behind with a garotte in self-defense.

Believe it or not, it appears very likely that the US military’s latest act of butchery waged upon Middle Easterners on their own land was not about self-defense at all, but about oil. The always insightful Moon of Alabamamakes a compelling case that not only is America’s version of events full of plot holes, but that the whole thing could very well have been “a trap” to sabotage a local deal that had been made for the SDF to turn over an oil and gas field to the Syrian government in the near future.

This would fit in perfectly with comments Professor Joshua Landis made about the attack, saying that America’s plan is to keep Syria weak, poor and divided in order to disadvantage US/Israel/Saudi rivals Iran and Russia. It would also clarify US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s assertion a few weeks ago that thousands of American troops are being kept in Syria to prevent Assad from regaining control of areas that have been liberated from ISIS.

This is what the new imperialism looks like.

When the Russian Federation annexed Crimea in 2014, everyone lost their minds. Countries don’t just annex territory from other countries anymore! It’s so barbaric! It’s so… 20th century.

That’s simply not how we do things in the modern world. We don’t expand our geopolitical power by blatant land grabs, we expand it with treaties, alliances, intelligence/surveillance deals, trade agreements, corporate contracts, secret pacts, and occupations of key strategic locations under the pretense of fighting terrorism. Like civilized people.

In the old days, an empire would expand itself by invading a weaker territory, killing its people until they gave up, and planting its flag there. We’d change the maps so that everyone could see that the region was now under the control of Rome or the British Crown or Napoleon or whomever, and the power structures would align themselves accordingly. It was all relatively simple and transparent.

The new imperialism doesn’t do that. You will never see Syria made into the 51st state.

Since the end of the second World War it has been increasingly taboo for a government to overtly invade a country and add it to that government’s official territory, and many international laws were locked into place to reflect that. And yet world power has arguably never been more consolidated than it is right now. The US, the UK, the EU, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Canada, Australia and many other nations tend to march more or less in lockstep with one another on a vast array of subjects ranging from neoliberalism to surveillance to which “regime” is in need of more crushing sanctions on a given day. The alignment isn’t perfect, but it’s too close to perfect to deny.

Here in Australia we joke about being America’s 51st state, but, like Syria, we never will be. We don’t need to be. We’re already answerable to the same corporatist powers which control the US, so we trot right along into every US war, every US trade deal, and operate as a US intelligence asset just the same as we would if they’d planted the stars and stripes on our capitol buildings and called us Wisconsota. Through military alliance, intelligence alliance, corporatist agreements, and a good old-fashioned coup staged by the CIA and MI6, we transitioned smoothly from subservience under the old form of imperialism to subservience under the new. A whole continent full of McDonald’s-eating sheep.

In the new imperialism, countries keep their borders, keep their names, and on paper keep their own sovereign governments as well. Australia remains Australia, Syria remains Syria. But the power dynamics are all bent to funnel toward the favor of the same vast power conglomerate.

You can’t see the new empire on a map, so people assume that it isn’t there, but the only reason you can’t see it on the maps we were trained to read in school is because the new empire isn’t in any way limited by geography. It is unconcerned with the little lines drawn between the countries on our plastic classroom globes, or the different colors their manufacturers painted the different nations with. The nationless band of plutocrats who use governments as tools and weapons are not limited by those things. They don’t think in those terms. They don’t care about land and governments, they care about money, power, and influence. And none of those things are geographically confined.

So they’re content to control a few strategic locations in Syria to wage a disruption campaign against rivals of the empire. They don’t need to annex Syria in order to do that, or even oust Assad. They’re not interested in the country, they’re interested in the nonlocalized new empire. They’ll control a few oil fields, secure a few shady alliances, unleash a few terrorist armies, all to funnel more and more power into the new empire, one contract at a time. Corporations and banks are not limited by national borders, and neither are the oligarchs who own them.

Nations and governments don’t exist anymore. Not in the sense that they used to, anyway. The notion of meaningfully separate, sovereign governments is at this time a fairy tale told to the masses to keep us from realizing that we’re all being thrown into the gears of an exploitative threshing machine that only exists to feed the avaricious agendas of a few ruling elites.

This has all been made possible by an ongoing war on the societal concept of sovereignty. Our concept of sovereignty is now so weakened that a powerful government can get away with invading another country and claiming “self defense” when it kills the people there, so weakened that constant domestic surveillance by secretive and unaccountable intelligence agencies is now considered normal, so weakened that the public will ferociously defend a police officer that guns down a civilian who reached for his wallet a little too fast.

If society found some way to restore sovereignty to nations, governments, and above all to human beings, the ecocidal, omnicidal new empire which depends upon blurred lines and ignored boundaries would be unable to survive. And that would be great, in my opinion.


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Latest comments

  • Caitlin,

    Government functions like the central nervous system of a community. Finance is its circulation system. They are distinct systems, but both serving the community.
    Since money is experienced as quantified hope, we try to save as much as possible and politicians live by how much hope they provide, so cannot be trusted to control the money supply.
    Yet private interests will try to siphon as much value out as possible. Much as monarchists lost sight of their function and had to be replaced by “mob rule,” banking is losing sight of its larger function.
    What we have today is like the head and heart telling the hands and feet they don’t need so much blood and should work harder for what they do get.
    When communities were small, economics was reciprocal, but as they grew, accounting became necessary.
    As a medium, money doesn’t store well. For example, in the body, blood is the medium and fat is the store, or with cars, roads are the medium and parking lots are the store.
    Yet because everyone wants to save money for the future, it keeps getting pulled out of circulation and more has to be added.
    Government facilitates this by borrowing lots of it and creating an illusion of stored value, but spends it in ways with little return, as that would compete with private investing.
    As a completely pie in the sky observation, if government was to threaten to tax excess money out of the system and not just borrow it, people would quickly find other ways to save for the future.
    Given we all save for the same basic reasons, from raising children to retirement, we could invest in these as community needs and not just trying to save individually.
    Not only would that shrink the banks, but lead to a less atomized culture, returning economics to reciprocity.
    Wishful thinking, but the current Ponzi scheme appears to be collapsing, so new ideas might get a chance.

  • I wish i were physically young and capable enough to find a way to combat the behavior that can only be described as translucent tyranny. We see what is going on, but not all of the hows and wherefores are visible but the whys are. In simplistic terms, those who rule the world, not just the U>S., have been stealing more and more everyday, while keeping us fighting one another over relatively insignificant things – a sort of magician’s misdirection. For some reason, the vast majority fail to realize that each of us has more in common with the rest, but not one of us has anything in common with any single one of ‘them.’
    As for why, it is quite simple. As Caity calls them, the psychopathic elites (aka oligarchs) have no real concern for anyone else but for themselves and the wealth and power they can amass.
    They know that, if the planet is ever restored fully to supporting human life, if disease, poverty and hunger are ever conquered, they will not be here to see it. So, they just don’t give a sh*t about anyone or anything that does not directly fulfill the sort of comfort they want.
    And after all, is that not the definition of a psychopath?

    • There are many ways to combat the psychopaths. One need not be young, in fact, youth often (usually?) self-defeats. The revolution, and there is no other option now, must be a loving revolution.

  • Hey Caitlin, great article as always but such tragic truth. & very depressing to live presently & be woke.

  • It seems as if the unelected powers that run our governments are playing a dangerous game of chess at the expense of every species on Earth. Their madness for power does not have any concern for anything sovreign. The air, the water, the land, every mineral, animal, human, and now even space are all expendable in their sick power game of who gets controll over everything. We are in insane times and the woke are holding their loved ones close as the zombies hashtag “Not my President” or obsess about Russiagate sans evidence. The world is slipping away in this insanity. I think I need to reread your book to keep my eyes on Utopia.

  • Thanks Caitlin.

    How should we talk about the American attack on Syria and it’s continued occupation?

    It is not hard to look up the law that this policy violates. So it is important to do so and to repeat it often. That is the American Constitution in Article 6 Section 2 states clearly that “treaties made“ are “the supreme law of the land.“ Arguably the most important of those treaties is the UN Charter, because its purpose is to prevent the “scourge of war.” As a ratified treaty, the UN Charter is therefore the supreme law of the land. Anyone who violates this treaty commits a criminal act.

    Article 2-4 of the UN Charter forbids the “threat or use of force” against another member state. The American government is occupying parts of Syria and killing its people in illegal attacks without its government’s permission. Therefore this is the war crime of illegal aggression, the “supreme” crime at Nuremberg. As Robert Jackson stated at Nuremberg:“… to initiate a war of aggression . . . is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

    A definition is not yet adopted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). While Don Ferencz and Ben Ferencz are working hard to get an official ICC definition adopted, in the mean time, this will do:

    General Assembly Resolution 3314:

    “AGGRESSION is any invasion, attack, bombardment, or use of any weapons by the armed forces of State A against the territory of State B, which is neither authorized by the Security Council of the United Nations, nor done to repel a danger of imminent attack of the borders of State A by State B.”

    You issued a great directive at the end Caitlin: “…restore sovereignty to nations, governments and above all to human beings.”

    Yes.

    It’s a two step process:

    Democratize the nation you posses citizenship in.

    Democratize the UN with provisions for enforcing its decisions.

    How to both has been written clearly.

    What remains is to act to achieve both.

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