In his classic novel 1984, the 20th century British writer George Orwell depicted a repressive, single-party state that sought to justify and expand its total domination through perpetual war against distant foes, employing the tactic of rallying the masses “around the flag.” It was never entirely clear why the wars were happening, and the identities of allies and enemies were switched back and forth according to the situational requirements of the Party. Moreover, it was entirely unclear how real the war was beyond the official state propaganda.
While his dystopia was supposedly fiction, Orwell was documenting essential practices among the ruling elites of modern nation states. And although the book is not intended as a manual, one could rightfully suspect America’s foreign policy elites of using 1984 in just such a way, particularly in relation to the Middle East.
Last week President Barack Obama announced a “strategy” to counter the establishment and expansion of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in parts of Iraq and Syria. This news had been preceded by several weeks of media hysteria, which insisted that the Islamic militants of ISIS were going to set off bombs in major American cities. ISIS by this time had already gained notoriety for its vicious massacres of Christians, Yazidis, and Iraqi policemen. The appearance of dubious videos allegedly showing the beheading of two American journalists was the final nail in the coffin needed to mobilize enough popular outrage to urge Obama to “take action” against ISIS.
Lost in all the war hype, and perhaps quite deliberately, was any serious discussion of the terror group’s origin. Instead, we were left to assume that ISIS spontaneously emerged from the dusty deserts of Mesopotamia, much like Athena springing from the head of Zeus. In actuality America’s newest terrorist bogeyman was armed, trained, and funded through the combined efforts of Gulf Arab states and the CIA, just as Al-Qaeda is the outgrowth of a decades-long US covert action program to control Eurasia and its energy pipelines.
That ISIS is the direct product of America’s ongoing efforts to destabilize and ultimately oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by arming various militant Muslim factions is left unacknowledged by the American war party. Indeed, oddly enough, Obama’s strategy seeks to continue this policy of arming and empowering the rebels in Syria, provided they claim they are “moderate.”
Of course, the White House’s entire strategy leaves us to wonder if there will be any real confrontation at all. The noble, liberty-loving rebel factions that he seeks to further arm have declared a truce with ISIS and insisted they will not fight their more infamous counterparts. America’s other major Muslim ally, Turkey, refuses use of its territory to stage an air campaign against ISIS. Indeed, Obama’s response consists of little more than piecemeal airstrikes for TV news and more vacuous rhetoric.
The driving element of this phony crusade is the continuing push to topple Assad and take Damascus. One would think that if the US was actually serious about ending the “threat” on ISIS they would want to come to terms with Assad, but Obama insists he will not cooperate with the Syrian leader. Others go even further, with Zionist-backed Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham seeing in ISIS an opportunity to strike their desired target, Assad himself, thereby facilitating a “moderate” jihadist takeover of Syria and the doubtless slaughter of ever more Christians, Alawites and other minorities.
Obama’s “war” against ISIS is yet another case of what the late French philosopher Jean Baudrillard identified as simulacrum, a copy without an original in the grand tradition of Disneyland. In the same way, Orwell observed that it did not matter if the war was real or if it was not. The war itself might, objectively speaking, not even exist; all that mattered is that the masses believed it did and derived some sort of emotional comfort and distraction from this perception. With ISIS and imbecilic pop stars alternately featuring as the lead topics of the news cycle, we are already submerged in the hyperreality described by Baudrillard.
More will undoubtedly die in the Brave New War, especially if (or more likely when) Obama and the neocons launch an air campaign against Syria. But even this is merely a side show. Bashar al-Assad currently fills an assigned role previously held by other international luminaries, from Saddam Hussein to Slobodan Milosevic to Osama bin Laden to Mohamar Gaddafi. The music changes, but the song remains the same, and so another dastardly neo-Hitlerian dictator/terrorist must be stopped to save our McCivilization.
Though not necessarily physical victims of the simulacrum war, the greatest spiritual victims of the elites’ manufactured “reality” are Americans themselves, the ultimate test subjects of a dark experiment upon the collective psyche. Their existence and “way of life” are ever in need of foreign conflicts and enemies to justify consumption as identity and resulting spiritual impoverishment. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s great testament to the West, “Live Not By Lies,” is ignored at great peril. A decadent and self-satisfied people would rather be lied into aggressive war than face harsh realities: that they are willfully relinquishing their freedom and passively accepting enslavement.