Eurasia Notes #5 - Great Game Over
Did The Investors just give Afghanistan to China?
The curtain comes down on another act in Afghanistan. Props and scenery are rejigged. A new storyline is being scripted but it’s less important than what’s happening on the ground.
Another country is being privatized. Troops may leave but Western military contractors will remain, while the massive commodity traders and mining companies owned by the elite investment vehicles delve into Afghanistan’s rich mineral earth.
The side show could be a war, to distract from the long march to biometric slavery through Covid and climate change.
Was the plan always for Taliban to win in Afghanistan, denying Iran everything, while agreeing to a pipeline through their territory?
Fire up your Movietone app. I provide a little historical context on the way.
Aug 17, 2021
Comparisons are being drawn between Kabul and the U.S. withdrawal from Saigon. Whenever the media offers up a uniform narrative your perspective deflector should activate.
This juxtaposition of supposed historical turning points, like the famous photo, simply doesn't ring true. As Reed Tucker wrote of the 1975 print from Saigon: "It isn’t a military helicopter, that’s not the US Embassy, those aren’t Americans and that wasn’t the last flight out."
If there is a common thread it's that scenes of chaotic evacuation spark a predictable response, group think, in which Americans, but not only they, reject the humanitarian impulse and turn their backs on the panicked hordes. A real tragedy could be about to transpire, just not the one you’re being told.
The helicopter image brings no more clarity to our understanding than a pile of leaves sucked into its vortex.
Western news mirrors (I don't call them outlets for what flows from them is not in any sense natural — a sewer is more organic) pick one of two starting points for their narrative: the Russian Afghan quagmire of 1979-89 and the "war on terror." The first was the intervention of Russian forces to prop up a failing communist government; the second a pretext after the events of September 11th, 2001.
Much of this worldview is shaped by the Brzezinski thesis that is reflected by academics and media in the Anglospherical mirror.
Some 20 years after the Saigon evacuation, Zbigniew Brzezinski was correcting the final drafts of his Grand Chessboard, the first of four books in which he would refocus U.S. geopolitical strategy around Central Asia, in his role as a Rockefeller adviser.
Their impact, through voluminous articles in Foreign Affairs followed by op-eds in the press, prompted Dick Cheney, then CEO of oil services conglomerate Halliburton, to declare that never before had a region as strategically significant as the Caspian emerged so suddenly.
This was a "new reality," in the phrase that would be attributed to President George W. Bush's adviser Karl Rove. Yet Cheney is wrong. The Caspian was not in any historical sense a new region, not even in terms of mineral resources or pipelines or logistics.
As with Iran, the deliberate obscuring of great power machination serves to reframe the more recent trajectory of geopolitics in countries such as Afghanistan.
It was in 1979 that political squabbling between Afghan factions was used as a pretext to heighten suspicion between geopolitical powers. Soviet objectives extended little further than the stability of its borders. The U.S. framed its own intentions as merely to defend the world from communism. Afghanistan's mineral riches had only been partly surveyed but the region's importance had been known for centuries. Declassified State Department documents show Brzezinski fully understood the Soviets had no global ambitions. In fact, they soon wanted out. It was Brzezinski's strategy to lock them in. The question that should attract our gaze is why — what was Mr B, working on behalf of Mr R, driving towards?
What happened on the ground is that rival groups of 1970s-era nationalists (think Nkrumah not Trump) sought to replace the royal sheikhdom, some leaning west, some seeking Soviet backing. Seen through this perspective, the U.S. strategy has succeeded, over 40 years, in delivering Afghanistan into the hands of fundamentalists far closer, in their conservatism, to the royals that the nationalists tried to replace.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11 we can neatly divide that 40 years into two phases. What’s just happened — withdrawal and handover to the Taliban — is the conclusion of the first phase, the one Brzezinski directed.
Speaking in 2002, the Mid-East scholar William O. Beeman, of Brown University, observed, “From the US standpoint,” the only way to deny Iran everything is for the anti-Iranian Taliban to win in Afghanistan and to agree to the pipeline through their territory.”
You might justly ask why we needed the second phase, from the post 9/11 invasion.
The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India (TAPI) Pipeline, also known as Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, was proposed in 1998 by Unocal. The oil company described its proposed pipeline as "a new Silk Road" adding, in Congressional testimony, that this would limit Iran's access to the markets.
Unocal's position was so central that Henry Kissinger was reported to be helping it negotiate. Pakistan supported the Taliban, which supported Unocal's pipeline, which appeared to at the heart of U.S. policy.
No More S.O.B.s
It used to be the habit to overthrow governments and install a “business-friendly” dictator. No longer do U.S. intelligence and diplomats cultivate their "own S.O.B" in the language attributed to President F.D. Roosevelt describing Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua: “he’s a sonofabitch but he’s our sonofabitch.” From Iraq to Libya to parts of Syria international oil companies are able to extract and sell oil using military contractors to provide security without the expensive inconvenience of a middle man.
Tamburlaine, Tamerlane or Timur was one of the greatest S.O.B.s in history, up there with Genghis Khan, to whom he was linked, distantly, on his father’s side.
So bloody were the victories of Timur in the 1380s that his name is a respected choice in the region today and his empire, which stood until 1506, was well known to historians and playwrights — Christopher Marlowe famously making his reputation with Tamburlaine while simultaneously working as a spy for the Tudors.
Not even to an Elizabethan intelligence analyst was Afghanistan unnoticed nor the Caspian unknown. There were invasions and conquests from antiquity. Uzbeks observe that the Khanate of Bukhara included much of Afghanistan from the 1500s to the late 1700s, and the city of Balkh became the residence of its heirs. As an ancient centre of Zoroastrianism and Buddhism, the idea of lawless badlands is a fiction. It must suit someone’s purpose: there's nothing there, certainly no real owner, they don’t do anything with their assets, they’re savages, so let’s go and civilize them and, ahem, there’s gold in them thar hills.
From the satraps and viziers to the present day the region has seen a figurative battle between those who would trade and develop wealth organically and outsiders who would plunder and extract. Our business schools don't teach the difference but you can see it on the ground in many post-communist countries.
The first waves of foreign investors are those who, for the lack of academic terminology, seek to make a quick buck. More enlightened exploiters realize, like the Ottomans, that a productive farmer pays more tax.
The former type include the so called Harvard Boys during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin. Led by Larry Summers they moved in on Russia after the Soviet collapse, attracted by its riches. They sought to expropriate the most valuable raw materials and industries in quick order. Their technique made use of disparities in wealth, expertise and social and political power. This has greatest leverage when governments are weak or seeking to renegotiate debt with international financial institutions so that politically-connected investors are able to profit from the terms and timing of decisions by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank — decisions to which the most powerful investors are privy. See the recent scandal over U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen earning millions through her private hotline to investors.
A realist might observe that organic local businesses don't stand a chance and would inevitably be swamped by mafia or corrupt politicians. This is true but it must not obscure historical examples of just the opposite. In 1870s the Russian Tsar abolished the state monopoly on oil and welcomed private enterprise to the Caucasus. Some famous names were quickly on the spot.
The Nobels, brothers of their more famous sibling Alfred, became leading lights of the Russian oil industry. Unable to ship their oil they were at the mercy of a proto-Rockefeller. This provider of logistics (access at a price) was Alphonse Rothschild of the French branch of the banking family. He founded Bnito or the Caspian and Black Sea Oil Company in 1883. The academic Jennifer Siegel is researching how the Rothschild spurred Rockefeller to become a multinational company.
The whole region was opening up. In nearby Iran, Paul Julius Reuter (he changed his name from Israel Beer Josaphat shortly before founding the news agency) secured the first concession. Eighty years later it was the attempt by Iran to retain a greater share of its oil wealth that led to the ousting of the 35th prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh by Britain and the CIA.
This brief recapitulation serves to demolish the myth that modern-day U.S.-led intervention is the stork bearing the fortune of free markets. History being a more accurate guide than media myth making, it is a return to plunder and thus it should not surprise us that the swaddled baby of democracy is malnourished and rickety.
Slow road to China
The control of Afghanistan was a priority for Western corporations long before China. Now that the corporations have made China their manufacturing hub, Afghanistan is even more important.
If China is now their model for us all: then Great Game over. The Rockefeller and technocratic tendency will deliver Afghanistan into the hands of China.
The Western trade with China dates from the 1500s. That trade soon took on a political flavour as traders forced the Chinese to open up to foreign influence. In 1833 the East India Company was stripped of its monopoly and rival companies sought access to the world's most populous country. The first British opium war followed in the late 1830s and the historical trajectory of Western involvement in China has barely changed since then, with business conducted on a massive scale. Monopoly produces results that in western economies could scarcely be achieved.
By harnessing the Chinese labourer to the Western consumer, the supra-national corporations today is able to raise its margin to unprecedented levels. The heirs of the East India Company practice a form of neo-mercantilism in which it is no longer the state that directs commerce but the corporation that uses the state to its end.
The Rockefeller syndicate has been active in China since the 1860s. For over 100 years, the family reportedly invested hundreds of millions dollars in China, extending its focus from medicine-related subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics to a broader version of studies in archaeology, genetics, agriculture and economics. Its strategy was no quick path to profits. It was to own technocratic hearts and minds.
Patrick Wood edited, with the late Antony C. Sutton, the book Trilaterals over Washington (1978). Early on, Wood identified the pursuit of globalization yet there was no sign this would take the form of technocracy. It was hidden.
“When the Trilateral Commission was founded in 1973, they said they would create a new international economic order (note economic, not political). The Rockefellers who started the Trilateral Commission had a great relationship with the UN and they fed the idea to the UN which adopted it the next year...
“The had in mind technocracy. This is the system they were after. It is the only economic system in the whole of history that is an alternative to free enterprise. Technocracy is new. It’s other worldly. One of the first things Zbigniew Brzezinski, co-founder of the Trilateral Commission did, was to call Chairman Deng in China, and said we’re bringing you back into the global economic stage. (Deng Xiaoping didn’t actually visit the U.S. until 1979).
“They taught China not capitalism, not free enterprise, they taught China technocracy. That is why China is where it is today. It’s not me saying that. The global elite themselves have said that. Now Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum says it’s time for the global economic reset."
Politics as business
Absent from our business schools, so far as I am aware, is any study of the qualitative difference that sets the Rockefeller style of wealth-through-geopolitics apart from the families like the Delanos that made their fortunes in China. These heirs of the monopolist chartered companies operate differently, not merely by dint of scale and political connection, not even through their control of banking, but through their penetration of governance and policy making at the highest levels. This spans the international financial institutions, the non-governmental organisations and the think tanks that populate government committees. Through banking and finance capital they control the public private partnerships that presume to dispose taxpayer investment in utilities and public assets that are then operated at a profit by private equity.
In short, they are better resourced, have more time and talent and can shape public policy to their heart's content while governments, military and foreign ministries, due to shortage of the same, turn to these banking-private equity-investment houses for policy advice and, frequently, the free loan of advisers.
A final and key point is that great wealth is no longer sunk into one, or even several corporations. It does not live or die like the rest of us by one sector or field of endeavor. It is only tangentially a shareholder, for such wealth operates through trillion-dollar investment funds that can bet entire sectors or regions against each other.
The withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan, having previously burned Russia, leaves the field clear for China.
A decade ago, U.S. sanctions against Russia prompted the country to look East. From a U.S. standpoint the sanctions made sense to Congress. Russia accounts for a couple percent of American trade. But if the U.S. wanted to drive Russia into the arms of China it couldn't have chosen a better way.
Russia has already signed one particular long-term gas supply deal on terms that hugely benefit China, which paid up front to lock in low prices. The observant person need only pause momentarily before a second thought arises: punishing Russia is one thing. Driving it into the arms of our rival is another. If you wanted to help China secure Russian energy at a knock-down price, there was no better way to do it.
In contrast the Nordstream pipelines from Vyborg, Russia to Europe across the Baltic Sea to Lubmin near Greifswald, Germany have faced relentless opposition from the U.S. and NATO.
This is where you need to wake up to the media's modus operandi. News mirrors tend to isolate topics, removing them from their context so that they can be explained more easily, but isolated and framed so they can be made to illustrate a quite different story.
If you portray Europe buying gas from Russia as a threat, that's one picture. But show how the same policy redirects energy to Western interests allied to China and that is an entirely different reality.
Pipelines are solid, physical objects and thus tend to be presented as immovable. This view suits the NATO narrative of eternal enemies. Yet pipelines are simply business propositions, albeit hugely expensive, and they fit former British Prime Minister Palmerston's dictum: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”
The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline project outlived Unocal, which was acquired by Chevron (Standard Oil) in 2005. Construction is underway. There are are many successful regional projects: for example the Baku, Azerbaijan - Tbilisi, Georgia - Ceyhan, Turkey pipeline. China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), China Petrochemical Corp. (Sinopec) and China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) are looking at rival projects.
Licit and illicit are one
Afghanistan looms large in imagery of Central Asia though it is by no means the largest country: about the size of Turkey, while Kazakhstan is more than four times as large. Yet Afghanistan has always held an enigmatic place above the mundane logistics of business and war. Maybe it's the mountains or the trader's affinity for tribes and the opportunities they present for barter and a profitable double cross. Or it's the soldier who perceives the value of the unobserved approach, the hidden pass to approach the soft underbelly.
The country's mineral and chemical riches have always been a draw but never more than today, when the demands of electrical-based surveillance and navigation systems demand rare earth minerals.
Proposals to abandon petroleum-fueled cars make Afghan deposits of copper, neodymium and lithium important. They have been valued at more than $1 trillion. If the G7 or World Trade Organization were serious in their promotion of "free trade", Afghanistan could be a wealth and independent country.
We've already discussed how that went for Mosaddegh because in 1953 they were not prepared to let Iran sell its oil for its own profit. We've just seen how that went for Evo Morales and Bolivia's Lithium deposits because, as Elon Musk said, "We will coup whoever we want."
I wrote in Mar 2021 Afghanistan makes so much money from opium that hydrocarbons can't compete (see below). Perhaps that's about to change
Cheap fentanyl is putting opium cultivation in Afghanistan out of business. New technology is leading to a geographic shift. In The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, the academic Alfred McCoy has described how the Central Intelligence Agency used opium to fund U.S. black operations and how this moved geographically with its strategic objectives from Laos to Afghanistan. This makes more sense when you remember that the CIA’s covert objectives parallel those of the most powerful families and their investment vehicles.
The architect of the U.S. strategy in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Pakistan was the late Richard Holbrooke. More than anyone he knew the whys, wherefores and wherebys that led Congress to put its support behind a policy built around the expansion of the opium sector.
Here you can see the intersection of tax-exempt foundations, investment vehicles, State Department policy and forever wars and the covert activity of U.S. three-letter agencies.
Fascinatingly, Holbrooke wore another hat in the legal drugs sector, as a mover and shaker in the world of HIV relief, which channels billions of dollars of taxpayers money through private, tax-exempt foundations like those of the Clintons and Bill Gates. The research site Corey's Digs estimates the value of cash flows under the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) at $90 Billion.
At the center of this, until his untimely death in 2010, stood the architect of the Afghan policy. In 2006, the Wall Street Journal wrote:
“I think what you’re seeing is the beginning of what you might call the first super NGO…with overlapping interests and a great deal of resources,” said former UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke, now president and CEO of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS in New York City.”
Where is the center of China’s fentanyl precursor production? Wuhan. To understand this nexus of licit and illicit industries you need to read my article: Afghanistan's Rare Earths and Opium lock in U.S. Troops
And so Afghanistan enters a new era. Will the Taliban once again try to end opium production. If so, can the country find a new role, stripped of the scourge of heroin?
The Western press relishes the threat of the Taliban bringing “chaos." It bundles the Sunni Pashtun with Shia Iranians, while simultaneously tying a domestic Afghan government — Taliban provide a network of social services in the face of Kabul’s incompetence — to the petrodollar-financed chaos machine called Al Qaeda-ISIS.
This ludicrous and deliberate muddying of the waters clearly makes no sense. There must be a motive for this deceit to be found somewhere. Perhaps in the vicinity of the State Department, which is closely allied to the the tax-exempt foundations and their investment vehicles.
To frame Taliban as ISIS is ludicrous and ignorant. If anything, ISIS should be firmly placed on the teeter-totter (seesaw) opposite the U.S. military.
It is not paranoid or "theorist" to suspect malice afoot. The curtain comes down in Afghanistan only temporarily while the props and scenery are prepared for the next act.
It seems that Afghanistan is about to be privatized, its territories split among the massive commodity traders and mining companies owned by the elite investment vehicles.
There could be a war as a sideshow to Covid and climate change. We can’t have people thinking Rockefeller, Rothschild & Regina are blatantly looting the ’stans while they build up China.
And so we raise the kaleidoscope to our eye once again. Our perceptions shift. A composite image is chosen. It is mirrored to our dumbphone screens, like colourized Movietone and British Pathé newsreels with a new narrative.