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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Chukwuemeka Uche Onuora

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War, the experts say, is organized chaos. The just concluded campaign in Iraq has demonstrated the logical correctness of that assertion and has proven beyond a reasonable doubt both the limits and capabilities of technologically-advanced warfare. In doing so however, it has underscored one enduring fact of life; that despite the hypocritical intentions or dubious humanness of warfare, it is at its core, a raw and unadulterated (increasingly fanatical) portrayal of the primal and rabid instincts of our animal species in furtherance of our interests. And that despite our self-proclaimed Intelligence Quotient and moral compunctions, humans adhere to a strict survivalist code that closely mirrors the Darwinian dogma of interrelationships amongst our species. The Americans went to Iraq to validate that recurring doctrine of human "civilization" and interrelations, the doctrine of "…if I slap you…" diplomacy. The crudeness of the term itself underscores the crudeness of the technique, it hinges on the principle of politics by intimidation. America went to war (if you can call it that) to prove a point to her real or imagined adversaries the world over, which can be summed up by the phrase "…you better behave or else I will give you a dirty slap…" The likes of Iran, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and even China have essentially (nay officially) been put on notice that America is being run by fundamentalists, with the hardware to back-up their ambitions. If you evaluate the amount and appraise the diversity of military hardware that the Americans have in their inventory, and their willingness to use said hardware in the furtherance of their foreign policy (based as it is on cowboy diplomacy and the Lone Ranger mentality to go it alone if need be), it is no wonder that Dubya (Bush), Dickey (Cheney), Rummy (Rumsfeld), Pauley (Wolfowitz), and Richey (Perle) have no compunctions putting their investments to use.

America's intentions become clearer in a dispassionate assessment of America's foreign policy since she burst unto the scene of international relations, dating back to a watershed in her history, when she defeated the Spaniards in 1898. Citing intelligence and an investigation that have on further analysis and in retrospect become obvious trumped-up charges against Spain, the US went to war and in the clearest demonstration of the recurring pattern of gunboat diplomacy (a precursor to Cowboy diplomacy), defeated her and seized some of her colonial possessions (Cuba, the Philippines et al.). This created one of the earliest identity crises for the world's "greatest" democracy; it created a situation whereby the world's greatest (I use this term pejoratively) democracy traversed the realm of a "democratic" experiment into the Imperialist's paradise. A democratic country founded on freedom and the rights of man now took possession (by force) of foreign lands that had no affinity (cultural or otherwise) to the motherland. They (the inhabitants of said lands) had no rights nearing that which the white majority in the homeland were entitled to, but served mainly as geo-strategic platforms from which American power was projected abroad. Despite their classifications as "territories" as opposed to colonies, they created a more recognizable connotation (which was familiar to "Old Europe" and the rest of the world) then the utopian ideals of the Declaration of Independence. The protestations of a few good men, who held unto their convictions in the face of public euphoria over the Spanish-American war, were overrun by the American media's love affair with the swashbuckling Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough-Riders. In the end, it propelled him into the presidency, and sealed public acquiescence to America's role as a "reluctant" imperialist power. It was from this platform that the American public by and large was weaned from the diffident logic of isolationism, and force-fed the more abrasive (in-your-face) unilateralism. In the final analysis of the Spanish-American War, just as in any analysis of International Law, as it relates to the Iraq Campaign, I shed no tears whatsoever for the vanquished. Neither the racist conquistadors of Spanish hegemony, who single-handedly wiped out an entire race of Ameri-Indians in the Central and Southern Americas, nor the fascist regime of Saddam Hussein Al-Tikriti a.k.a the Ace of Spades, gets any "love" from me. They were despicable entities that deserved what they received; however, this does not automatically preclude any discussions or debate about the validity or duplicity of American military actions in effecting either outcome. To the victor goes the spoils of war, and an even greater advantage; the latitude to pen the history of the circumstances permitting and related to the military conquest. And so Rome was right in annihilating Carthage after the battle of Zama; Kaiser Wilhelm, Emperor Franz-Josef, and Mehmed V become the villains of the First World War; Shaka Zulu becomes a war mongering and barbaric tout; and Jaja of Opobo becomes the obstacle to H.M trade in the Oil Rivers "Protectorate". This is not to say that all of the aforementioned were saints, but perhaps history would be different had they prevailed, and the 20/20 hindsight through which historians now assess them, would be viewed in a different light.

To further comprehend America's intentions in regards to her empire, it is important to understand the real implications of Globalization and Free Trade on America's terms. In addition, it is pertinent to understand her inclinations to wield her military might as a tool in the furtherance of these intentions no matter whose ox is gored in the process. The disconnect between the hypocrisy in America's foreign policy and her self-proclaimed status as "the" Defender of democracy, highlights the inveterate duplicity of her new age mantra; democracy for America's enemies in the middle-east and elsewhere, but detached tolerance for "good-guy" brigands (tin-pot dictatorships all of them) such as Mubarak of Egypt, the Al Sabahs of Kuwait, Musharraf of Pakistan, and the Al Sauds of Saudi Arabia among others. In America's mind, democracy becomes a less viable option when it threatens her "strategic" interests. Perhaps, regime change would be necessary in Turkey if the costs of such an adventure were negligible. The Americans tried to bribe and intimidate her "ally", Turkey, into allowing the famed 4th ID to open up a northern front for the Iraqi campaign, failing which she forswore any favors or aid that Turkey might have received in return. This brazen combination of checkbook and "if I slap you" diplomacy shocked the world because increasingly, world opinion is formed and forged by rapidly disseminated information via the 24X7 news coverage that has become the gold standard amongst news organizations. Fueled primarily by America's success at birthing the Internet and advances in Satellite and Communications technology, an increasing number of the world's citizens have almost immediate access to information that their predecessors of the gunboat-diplomacy age were not privileged to have. As such, most people mistakenly regarded America's machinations and diplomatic maneuvering as made-in-the-US evils, rather than recognizing the roots of such actions in our instinctively primal human nature. The difference between American Imperialism today and Europe's Imperialism of the past (as the clearest example in the not-to-distant past) is that Cowboy diplomacy is being practiced in the age of information technology, while Europe's patented gunboat diplomacy occurred in an age of industrial technology devoid of any notion of non-European human rights.

Chalmers Johnson in his 2000 book (Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire) cogently articulated the behemoth that US military expenditures have grown to become. To provide a minor insight into the costs of American hegemony and the perpetuation of her global influence, the Brookings Institution estimates that it has cost the US $5.5 trillion to build and maintain her nuclear arsenal. The US in the past five years alone has spent over $1 trillion dollars on maintaining her armed forces. America's defense budget has been increased by 14 per cent to $US379 billion, a greater amount than the next nine biggest military spenders combined. It is evident to all and sundry that an army this well-equipped needs wars to fight from time to time, it is an inescapable fact of life. It needs to justify the investment that has been pumped into it, in other words, it has to yield dividends. The transformation from neo-conservative fantasy to mainstream reality is accomplished by finding and labeling a desirable bad guy or villain just like in the movies, and finding a reason, any reason, to wield the proverbial big-stick. 9/11 (despite all its destruction and calamity) had a silver lining for a clique within the US polity; it provided them with a blank check to run rough-shod over any person or entity deemed by the C-IN-C as an enemy of the state. Watching the 30-day war (as it will no doubt be dubbed) unfold, gave me the eerie feeling of watching a third-rate Hollywood testosterone-filled and muscle-bound superhero do battle with the bad guys. From Chemical Ali, to the Missile Man, to Dr. Germ, and Comical Ali, (even to Hollywood celebrities such as Baghdad Sean); to even familiar "enemy combatants" of the War on Terror such as Jihad Johnny, the Dirty Bomber, the Shoe Bomber, the Gitmo Inhabitants et al. it just seemed too surreal to be taken at face-value. America has won the war in Iraq, it is not clear how she will fare in winning the peace (apologies for this oft-stated cliché), because it entails skills and resources other than the military might to which American policy-makers and opinion-shapers and to a significant extent the American people have grown addicted to. The American polity has increasingly found diplomacy by consensus a less viable option (an anathema perhaps) in her relations with the rest of the world ever since the demise of the Soviet Union. Choosing instead to assert herself by pursuing aggressive military expansionist diplomacy, the US has adopted diplomacy by imperialism, and seems content to pursue this approach ad-infinitum. The paradigm of a new reality is upon us, Cowboy diplomacy as an approach to foreign policy was revealed by Dubya on the set of his new reality series appropriately entitled; "Who Wants to be the Most Patriotic American?"; and was underscored by his Oscar-winning performance on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Dubya took a calculated risk in launching his Operation Iraqi Freedom, his political success was tied to a quick, relatively-antiseptic campaign. In so doing, he recreated an old theme in political governance, at least in 21st century America, "How to Win an Election Using the Fog of War and Cowboy Diplomacy". Republican pollsters have correctly determined that America has undergone a backlash from the liberalism of the 60s, 70s, and to a lesser extent, the 80s. However, the hardening of American public opinion, and the increasing conservatism of not only the American heartland, but also of American Suburbia, has left the Democrats in complete disarray. In simple terms, the hippies (the peace, love, and happiness devotees) have grown up. This is further emphasized by the increasing supremacy of the Fox News Channel in the ratings and the success of Conservative Talk Radio. Cowboy diplomacy appeals to the primal American, especially in the wake of 911, and as they say, all politics is local. Against this backdrop, it will be entertaining to see election 2004 unfold. The unintended consequences of Cowboy Diplomacy manifest in diametrically opposing viewpoints; one is Dubya's coronation as Emperor of the U.S (a modern day Caesar if you will) and the other is the threat to the lives of innocent Americans and sundry bystanders who will be the ones to pay the price of "if I slap you diplomacy"; either as victims of terrorist acts or collateral damage or casualties of war a la Ali Ismaeel Abbas, the 12-year-old Iraqi boy whose arms were blown off in an explosion that killed his family.

The fog of war in any conflict is an inevitable byproduct of the chaos and degeneracy that characterizes the relationship between the adversaries. It is germane to any discussion of the socio-political and economic issues bedeviling Nigeria today. As a lucid demonstration of the madness that pervades our collective psyche, it provides irrefutable insight into the dynamics of our myopic existence. Election 2003 was fraught with the same irregularities that have characterized our practices of Oyibo man's "demoncrazy" since he left us of his own volition in 1960. Some might argue that he did not leave on his own, that he was forced out. Yeah right, just go ask the South Africans what it means to actually fight for your independence. Our fight for independence (if you can call it that) is a recurrent theme of another ancient paradigm, the principle of "See-Finish". The principle of See-Finish accentuates the situation whereby a people take for granted that which in other circumstances or societies would have more value or worth than all the pillaged loot in Switzerland. There is a large disparity between the value of freedom in Nigeria and the value of freedom in places where the fight for freedom claimed a lot more than our founding fathers going to drink tea with their British overlords and deciding on 1957 or 59 or 60. The differences between Soweto and Ajengunle are at first glance superficial, but further examination reveals one major difference, the only one that concerns me; that the value of freedom and democracy in Soweto is higher than the price tag that Ajegunle's long-suffering and smiling masses attach to it. The length to which Nigerians will go to defend their rights disintegrates under the sophisticated and technologically-advanced nay precision strikes of ethnic chromatography. The centrifugal forces of tribal absurdity take precedence over an honest appraisal of reality vis-à-vis politics on a national level as it affects all Nigerians. Too frequently in Nigeria, national politics (in terms of elections) degenerates into a run-off between the devil and the deep blue sea. I leave each citizen to resolve the question of the devil/deep-blue-sea nomenclature in terms of who the devil was and who the deep blue sea was in election 2003. However, it strikes me as curious that the AD chose not to field a presidential candidate because the incumbent president of the rival PDP is an "eminent" Omo Oduduwa. As for the ANPP (Arewa Nationals Peoples Party) choosing the realistically unelectable religious fundamentalist Buhari as its flag bearer in 2003, I leave you to draw your own conclusions as to Atiku's ascendancy come 2007, and the calculations therein. The speculations and calculations could go on and on, but it is obvious that the most viable candidates for the election where precluded either by ethnic balancing equations or political "antecedence" from having a shot at the presidency. The culpability of the Nigerian "masses" in this charade is highlighted when people concede that though there was massive rigging in the elections, the "people's" choice ultimately carried the day. It became a case of who out-rigged the other, not on the merits of their capabilities as leaders at a watershed in our life as a "nation". The rest of Nigeria's nationalities have been held hostage, as the wrangling and whining between the Big Three rises in crescendo as to who has been marginalized the most. No solutions have yet been proffered or honestly debated in terms of lifting ourselves from our self-imposed ineptitude and scandalous degeneracy. The one precondition that must transpire before any "democracy" can take root, referred to by different aliases but known universally to all and controversially to some of Nigeria's disparate interest groups and nationalities as a Sovereign National Conference, remains a Utopian (some might argue, Libidinous) fantasy for Nigeria's real patriots. I say real patriots because there are a multitude of counterfeit (419) patriots perambulating the length and breadth of société Nigeriana.

It is against this milieu that I inject that most insidious of post-Gulf War II metaphors, "fog of war" (often attributed erroneously to Clausewitz); because it is the only apt description for our inability to objectively critique national politics without resorting to the myopic clutches of ethnic sentiments and primordial subversion. In analyzing what moonlights in Nigeria as politics and democracy, we too often fail to grasp the import of our ultimate place in realizing a renaissance within Africana. Nigerian society is a conundrum of chaotic and disoriented interlocking battlefields that depicts a convoluted and frenzied state of anarchy and war. In our case, the fog of war clouds our judgments in deciding what constitutes the lawful and orderly practice of democracy and the exercise of freedom via elections, versus the chaos of warfare that has become our natural state. I borrow the assertion attributed to Bola Tinubu when he said that the PDP rigged "without imagination". But that does not automatically mean that I endorse the man or his candidacy; perhaps he would have rigged "with some imagination" had he been in a position to do so beyond the confines of his state. The power of incumbency is a powerful juggernaut to confront, and the maturity level necessary to practice a reasonably irregularity-free democracy is not even in our mind's eye at the present time. We live in the era of "when you were not looking" democracy. This being the answer that an INEC official gave Jimmy Carter during the 1999 elections, when he (Carter) confronted him with his personal eye-witness account of inflated voter turn-out at a polling station. Today, OBJ castigates the EU for not taking Nigeria's environment into consideration while observing the conduct of the 2003 polls; tomorrow, Atiku will chastise the EU observers for failing to keep faith with the Nigerian masses and democracy-lovers the world over, should he loose his bid for election in 2007. Today's champion of a "rigging-free" fantasy of an election will become tomorrow's denouncer of a marred and irregularity-filled charade, should he loose. Like Robert Nesta Marley said, "who the cap fit, let them wear it"; today's victor is OBJ and his PDP, but the vanquished is not Imam Buhari, ultimately, it is the Nigerian people. The Mexicans learned their lesson after 70 misery filled years; do we have that kind of time?

OBJ said that any observer, who claims to have witnessed instances of rigging and other election-day shenanigans, must have been dreaming; but I guess one would say that having just won 93% of the total votes cast in a riverine state that had a voter "turn-out" of 96%. Only in Nigeria, but then again, Saddam's Iraq had similar "voter turn-outs" also. It is a wonder that all the political parties did not adopt OBJ as their "consensus" candidate. But of course, the people's choice ultimately prevailed so is it important how he achieved that victory? Obviously, the people's wishes in Iraq prevailed also, what does it matter that international law was shoved aside in actualizing the American "mandate" in Iraq? In any endeavor, pragmatists and realists will argue that the ends do actually justify the means; fantasists and idealists will argue for the preeminence of due process. However, I am a hybrid; a realistic-idealist; I know, I know, warped logic yes, but what does it matter if a revolution in Nigeria (bloody or not) effects a transformation from the currently inept and morally bankrupt Status Quo? To revolt or not to revolt? Now this is real-life Shakespeare, to hell with the trepidations of confronting the unknown, the known is not feasible going forward, so why should we stick with the familiar just because we fear the unknown? Let the unknown come to us, lest the known (after years of experimentation and mindless perambulation) comes to naught. If the mountain will not come to Africana, Africana will go to the mountain. Should we get to the mountain top and discover the ultimate mirage of paradise; then we will create one in our own image and likeness, one that guarantees our existence on this sordid planet.

Blowback refers to the unintended consequences of any action or policy undertaken by a person or group of persons. It was coined by the CIA to describe the inadvertent effects of carrying out clandestine and other sundry actions around the world on American interests and concerns. It is predicated on the third Newtonian law of motion which states simply that, "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." As an admonition of America's arrogance today, it is interesting to note that like I learned in school back in those days in Nigeria, no condition is permanent. Today's "hyperpower" will eventually become tomorrow's historical specimen. No empire can flourish and consolidate its power indefinitely, there is such a thing (Chalmers Johnson argues) as Imperial Overstretch/Overreach. There is a limit to elasticity; in the 17th century, British physicist Robert Hooke (1635-1703) defined elasticity as the measure of an object's ability to deform in proportion to the amount of an applied force and then return to its original state when the force is removed; stated formally in The True Theory of Elasticity or Springiness (1676). Written in Latin as "ut tensio, sic vis", which translates to "as is the extension, so is the force" or in contemporary language "extension is directly proportional to force". But it has also been determined that there is a point at which the object looses its elasticity, i.e. it reaches its elastic limit and any further extension causes it to arrive at its breaking point. The elastic limit is defined as the maximum value of stress up to which the body shows elastic behavior, and the breaking point is defined as the point on the stress-strain curve at which the object breaks. America has a stress-strain curve, so does every nation, Nigeria included; and at some point, both will arrive at their breaking points and disintegrate if they are not pulled back from the precipice. The limits for the tolerance of stupidity and callousness in Nigeria have been tested continuously for the past four decades and some. There has been a progressive decline in the quality of leadership and followership within Nigerian society, physics cannot be wrong, there is definitely a point at which Nigeria will implode into a cataclysm of nothingness along with the innocent loss of life. The question is this, is there such a thing as "innocent" bystanders? Hear me out; are the Nigerian masses who have passively tolerated the machinations of their elite, innocents or collaborators? Are the American people who by and large unflinchingly support their President's war-mongering and uncouth prancing (because once the war commenced, they had to unite behind their leader, even though he may be leading them into the debacle of pre-emptive strikes) really innocent? How do they justify sky-high ratings for Dubya and his policies, and then cry blue murder when the seeds that he is sowing today comes back to haunt them in the future?

The fog of war is an unintended consequence of our present reality, in America and in Nigeria, citizens searching for answers to their problems are quick to point the finger, forgetting that in most cases at least, there are four others pointing right back at them. Blowback is inevitable; it is the nature of the blowback that is variable, it is the one thing that can be influenced either positively or negatively, the missing ingredient is the will to do the one thing that will guarantee survival in the long-term. The parallels between American arrogance and Nigerian myopia are a hard sell, I can concede that, but a coup d'oeil is insufficient in determining intersecting failures in followership regardless of context. Ours is worse than the situation of the Americans, we are still striving to have some semblance of order amid the chaos of our environment, and they are trying to maintain an empire. The prerogatives are the same for both though, because whatever either group decides will affect their ultimate survival or non-survival. Blowback is a bitch; the unintended consequences of America's projection of power and disregard for international law today, will haunt the peace and security that she so cherishes for her children tomorrow. Yes I said it, blowback is a bitch; the unintended consequences of Nigeria's flirtation and ultimate love affair with mediocrity and infamy today, has sounded a death knell for any semblance of revitalization and will expunge her progeny from the future. As a corollary of our docile "suffering and smiling" mentality, and our naïve submission to the ravages of our elite, we have become collaborators in the biggest scam in recent history. The Nigerian masses have become agents of the failed state which they desperately want to change, but cowardly acquiesce to. Just like the "mgbadas" of 419 fame, we are blinded by our greed for easy wealth (and compunctions for ethnic jingoism), and are making steady progress in our quest to exceed our breaking point; perhaps our breaking point will usher in a qualitative improvement in our reality. Perhaps we are better off returning to our natural state, which may very well be death. This will explain our intrinsic inclinations for disequilibrium and our addiction to the perverted.


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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.