Street art by combo. Paris, France
In the biological world, a parasite lives at the expense of the host, sucking out its nutrients and life forces, and sometimes killing it. Analogies of course have their limits, but nonetheless they can be suggestive. And this is certainly so in the case of the rampant financial parasitism that has become the dominant feature of the American economy and, by extension, the world economy as a whole.
An article published in the Wall Street Journal this week details some of the impact of hedge funds on the operations of major US corporations, and the way in which their insatiable drive for profit through financial manipulations is sucking the lifeblood out of the economy and contributing to its deepening breakdown.
The article is based on a study conducted for the newspaper by S&P Capital IQ. It found that companies in the S&P 500 index had “sharply increased their spending on dividends and [share] buybacks to a median 36 percent of operating cash flow in 2013, from 18 percent in 2003.” The doubling of this rate was accompanied by a fall in spending by those companies on plant and equipment, from 33 percent to 29 percent over the same period.
The study found that in companies targeted by so-called “activist investors”—that is, hedge funds that hold hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of dollars on behalf of their wealthy investors—the figures were even higher. Targeted companies reduced capital spending from 42 per cent to 29 percent of operating cash flow and increased spending on dividends and share buybacks to 37 percent of operating cash flow from 22 percent.
One of the main factors facilitating these operations has been the provision of ultra-cheap money by the US Federal Reserve, which has kept official interest rates at almost zero, leading to historically low interest rates in financial markets. Hedge funds are able to use borrowed money to acquire major share holdings in corporations and then push for share buybacks and the payment of increased dividends. The buybacks, in turn, can be financed through borrowed funds at low interest rates.
The aim is to produce a rise in the share price of the company or generate an increased dividend flow returning large profits for the “activists,” often accompanied by job cuts or the outright closure of parts of the targeted company deemed not to be making a sufficient contribution to “shareholders’ funds.” At the end of the process, vast profits have been pocketed, without a single atom of new wealth being created, while productive capacity has been curtailed.
The consequences of these vampire-like operations are most prominent in major industries. The US energy giants, which have splurged billions on buybacks, dividends and mergers, have refused for decades to invest in infrastructure, leading to a situation where workers are subjected to 16-hour days and increasingly unsafe working conditions. Likewise, the auto industry firms and telecoms are notorious for their resistance to wage increases, while engaging in the same financial manipulation.
The deeper the economic crisis, the more frenzied the speculation. The article noted that since 2010 the number of activist campaigns directed at securing buybacks and increased dividends had risen by 60 percent. Last year there were 348 such campaigns, the most since 2008, and a further 108 in the first quarter of this year. Hedge funds now control $130 billion in assets, more than double the amount they held in 2011. This means that once they leverage these funds through borrowing at ultra-low rates, they can target virtually any corporation.
Would-be reformers of the capitalist economy will no doubt argue that these dangers can be overcome through the development of mechanisms or increased regulations to promote the “good” side of corporate activity—research and development and real investment—while taking action to control the “bad” side—parasitism. But the question remains: Why has it emerged now?
Underlying tendencies at the very center of the capitalist economy are at work. The long-term downward pressure on the rate of profit, which has led to the continuous restructuring of the American and global capitalist economy over the past four decades, is the driving force behind the rise of speculation and parasitism.
Well-known voracious hedge-fund investor Carl Icahn, cited in the Wall Street Journal article, pointed to these trends saying the economy was “being dragged down by too many mediocre CEOs, and it’s dangerous if profitability is going down despite interest rates being at zero.”
However, his resort to a “bad man” theory of economics does not pass even a preliminary examination. The same tendencies are also clearly visible in Europe and throughout the world’s major capitalist economies where, despite ultra-low interest rates, investment remains at historically depressed levels, reflecting a lack of profitable outlets.
Furthermore, any attempt to separate out the “good” and the “bad’ sides of corporations runs up against the fact, as Marx explained at the time of the emergence of joint stock companies in the middle of the 19th century, that the origin of parasitism is lodged in their very structure. The formation of such companies, he wrote, “reproduces a new financial aristocracy, a new kind of parasite in the guise of company promoters, speculators and merely nominal directors: an entire system of swindling and cheating with respect to the promotion of companies, issuing of shares and share dealing.”
For a whole period of capitalist development, notwithstanding swindling and cheating, the corporation or joint-stock company facilitated the development of the productive forces through the aggregation of capital to finance large-scale developments, which sustained the living standards of the mass of the population. Those days have long gone.
The elevation of parasitism to the basic mechanism of profit accumulation is bound up with the objective crisis of capitalism and, connected to this, the absolute stranglehold of the financial aristocracy over every aspect of economic and political life. Swindling, cheating and the destruction of the productive forces—above all through the impoverishment of the most important productive force of all, the working class—is a symptom of the rot and decay of the entire socioeconomic order.
It establishes the unanswerable case for the taking into public ownership of the major corporations, the banks and the entire finance industry as part of the socialist restructuring of economic life. This is the prerequisite for establishing a society where the productive forces, created by the labor of the working class, can be used for social advancement.
The naive belief that history is linear, that moral progress accompanies technical progress, is a form of collective self-delusion. It cripples our capacity for radical action and lulls us into a false sense of security. Those who cling to the myth of human progress, who believe that the world inevitably moves toward a higher material and moral state, are held captive by power. Only those who accept the very real possibility of dystopia, of the rise of a ruthless corporate totalitarianism, buttressed by the most terrifying security and surveillance apparatus in human history, are likely to carry out the self-sacrifice necessary for revolt.
The yearning for positivism that pervades our corporate culture ignores human nature and human history. But to challenge it, to state the obvious fact that things are getting worse, and may soon get much worse, is to be tossed out of the circle of magical thinking that defines American and much of Western culture. The left is as infected with this mania for hope as the right. It is a mania that obscures reality even as global capitalism disintegrates and the ecosystem unravels, potentially dooming us all.
The 19th century theorist Louis-Auguste Blanqui, unlike nearly all of his contemporaries, dismissed the belief, central to Karl Marx, that human history is a linear progression toward equality and greater morality. He warned that this absurd positivism is the lie perpetrated by oppressors: “All atrocities of the victor, the long series of his attacks are coldly transformed into constant, inevitable evolution, like that of nature. … But the sequence of human things is not inevitable like that of the universe. It can be changed at any moment.” He foresaw that scientific and technological advancement, rather than being a harbinger of progress, could be “a terrible weapon in the hands of Capital against Work and Thought.” And in a day when few others did so, he decried the despoiling of the natural world. “The axe fells, nobody replants. There is no concern for the future’s ill health.”
“Humanity,” Blanqui wrote, “is never stationary. It advances or goes backwards. Its progressive march leads it to equality. Its regressive march goes back through every stage of privilege to human slavery, the final word of the right to property.” Further, he wrote, “I am not amongst those who claim that progress can be taken for granted, that humanity cannot go backwards.”Blanqui understood that history has long periods of cultural barrenness and brutal repression. The fall of the Roman Empire, for example, led to misery throughout Europe during the Dark Ages, roughly from the sixth through the 13th centuries. There was a loss of technical knowledge (one prominent example being how to build and maintain aqueducts), and a cultural and intellectual impoverishment led to a vast historical amnesia that blotted out the greatest thinkers and artists of the classical world. None of this loss was regained until the 14th century when Europe saw the beginning of the Renaissance, a development made possible largely by the cultural flourishing of Islam, which through translating Aristotle into Arabic and other intellectual accomplishments kept alive the knowledge and wisdom of the past. The Dark Ages were marked by arbitrary rule, incessant wars, insecurity, anarchy and terror. And I see nothing to prevent the rise of a new Dark Age if we do not abolish the corporate state. Indeed, the longer the corporate state holds power the more likely a new Dark Age becomes. To trust in some mythical force called progress to save us is to become passive before corporate power. The people alone can defy these forces. And fate and history do not ensure our victory.
Blanqui tasted history’s tragic reverses. He took part in a series of French revolts, including an attempted armed insurrection in May 1839, the 1848 uprising and the Paris Commune—a socialist uprising that controlled France’s capital from March 18 until May 28 in 1871. Workers in cities such as Marseilles and Lyon attempted but failed to organize similar communes before the Paris Commune was militarily crushed.
The blundering history of the human race is always given coherence by power elites and their courtiers in the press and academia who endow it with a meaning and coherence it lacks. They need to manufacture national myths to hide the greed, violence and stupidity that characterize the march of most human societies. For the United States, refusal to confront the crisis of climate change and our endless and costly wars in the Middle East are but two examples of the follies that propel us toward catastrophe.
Wisdom is not knowledge. Knowledge deals with the particular and the actual. Knowledge is the domain of science and technology. Wisdom is about transcendence. Wisdom allows us to see and accept reality, no matter how bleak that reality may be. It is only through wisdom that we are able to cope with the messiness and absurdity of life. Wisdom is about detachment. Once wisdom is achieved, the idea of moral progress is obliterated. Wisdom throughout the ages is a constant. Did Shakespeare supersede Sophocles? Is Homer inferior to Dante? Does the Book of Ecclesiastes not have the same deep powers of observation about life that Samuel Beckett offers? Systems of power fear and seek to silence those who achieve wisdom, which is what the war by corporate forces against the humanities and art is about. Wisdom, because it sees through the facade, is a threat to power. It exposes the lies and ideologies that power uses to maintain its privilege and its warped ideology of progress.
Knowledge does not lead to wisdom. Knowledge is more often a tool for repression. Knowledge, through the careful selection and manipulation of facts, gives a false unity to reality. It creates a fictitious collective memory and narrative. It manufactures abstract concepts of honor, glory, heroism, duty and destiny that buttress the power of the state, feed the disease of nationalism and call for blind obedience in the name of patriotism. It allows human beings to explain the advances and reverses in human achievement and morality, as well as the process of birth and decay in the natural world, as parts of a vast movement forward in time. The collective enthusiasm for manufactured national and personal narratives, which is a form of self-exaltation, blots out reality. The myths we create that foster a fictitious hope and false sense of superiority are celebrations of ourselves. They mock wisdom. And they keep us passive.
Wisdom connects us with forces that cannot be measured empirically and that are outside the confines of the rational world. To be wise is to pay homage to beauty, truth, grief, the brevity of life, our own mortality, love and the absurdity and mystery of existence. It is, in short, to honor the sacred. Those who remain trapped in the dogmas perpetuated by technology and knowledge, who believe in the inevitability of human progress, are idiot savants.
“Self-awareness is as much a disability as a power,” the philosopher John Gray writes. “The most accomplished pianist is not the one who is most aware of her movements when she plays. The best craftsman may not know how he works. Very often we are at our most skillful when we are least self-aware. That may be why many cultures have sought to disrupt or diminish self-conscious awareness. In Japan, archers are taught that they will hit the target only when they no longer think of it—or themselves.”
Artists and philosophers, who expose the mercurial undercurrents of the subconscious, allow us to face an unvarnished truth. Works of art and philosophy informed by the intuitive, unarticulated meanderings of the human psyche transcend those constructed by the plodding conscious mind. The freeing potency of visceral memories does not arrive through the intellect. These memories are impervious to rational control. And they alone lead to wisdom.
Those with power have always manipulated reality and created ideologies defined as progress to justify systems of exploitation. Monarchs and religious authorities did this in the Middle Ages. Today this is done by the high priests of modernity—the technocrats, scholars, scientists, politicians, journalists and economists. They deform reality. They foster the myth of preordained inevitability and pure rationality. But such knowledge—which dominates our universities—is anti-thought. It precludes all alternatives. It is used to end discussion. It is designed to give to the forces of science or the free market or globalization a veneer of rational discourse, to persuade us to place our faith in these forces and trust our fate to them. These forces, the experts assure us, are as unalterable as nature. They will lead us forward. To question them is heresy.
The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, in his 1942 novella “Chess Story,” chronicles the arcane specializations that have created technocrats unable to question the systems they serve, as well as a society that foolishly reveres them. Mirko Czentovic, the world chess champion, represents the technocrat. His mental energy is invested solely in the 64 squares of the chessboard. Apart from the game, he is a dolt, a monomaniac like all monomaniacs, who “burrow like termites into their own particular material to construct, in miniature, a strange and utterly individual image of the world.” When Czentovic “senses an educated person he crawls into his shell. That way no one will ever be able to boast of having heard him say something stupid or of having plumbed the depths of his seemingly boundless ignorance.”
An Austrian lawyer known as Dr. B, whom the Gestapo had held for many months in solitary confinement, challenges Czentovic to a game of chess. During his confinement, the lawyer’s only reading material was a chess manual, which he memorized. He reconstructed games in his head. Forced by his captivity to replicate the single-minded obsession of the technocrat Czentovic, Dr. B too became trapped inside a specialized world, and, unlike Czentovic, he became insane temporarily as he focused on a tiny, specialized piece of human activity. When he challenges the chess champion, his insanity returns.
Zweig, who mourned for the broad liberal culture of educated Europe swallowed up by fascism and modern bureaucracy, warns of the absurdity and danger of a planet run by technocrats. For him, the rise of the Industrial Age and the industrial man and woman is a terrifying metamorphosis in the relationship of human beings to the world. As specialists and bureaucrats, human beings become tools, able to make systems of exploitation and even terror function efficiently without the slightest sense of personal responsibility or understanding. They retreat into the arcane language of all specialists, to mask what they are doing and give to their work a sanitized, clinical veneer.
This is Hannah Arendt’s central point in “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” Technocratic human beings are spiritually dead. They are capable of anything, no matter how heinous, because they do not reflect upon or question the ultimate goal. “The longer one listened to him,” Arendt writes of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann on trial, “the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and presence of others, and hence against reality as such.”
Zweig, horrified by a world run by technocrats, committed suicide with his wife in 1942. He knew that from then on, the Czentovics would be exalted in the service of state and corporate monstrosities.
Resistance, as Alexander Berkman points out, is first about learning to speak differently and abandoning the vocabulary of the “rational” technocrats who rule. Once we discover new words and ideas through which to perceive and explain reality, we free ourselves from neoliberal capitalism, which functions, as Walter Benjamin knew, like a state religion. Resistance will take place outside the boundaries of popular culture and academia, where the deadening weight of the dominant ideology curtails creativity and independent thought.
As global capitalism disintegrates, the heresy our corporate masters fear is gaining currency. But that heresy will not be effective until it is divorced from the mania for hope that is an essential part of corporate indoctrination. The ridiculous positivism, the belief that we are headed toward some glorious future, defies reality. Hope, in this sense, is a form of disempowerment.
There is nothing inevitable about human existence except birth and death. There are no forces, whether divine or technical, that will guarantee us a better future. When we give up false hopes, when we see human nature and history for what they are, when we accept that progress is not preordained, then we can act with an urgency and passion that comprehends the grim possibilities ahead.
On Sunday, May 24, the two parties that have ruled Spain since the country’s transition to democracy in the late 1970s were dealt yet another substantial blow, this time in regional and municipal elections. Nationwide, the ruling Popular Party saw support fall from the nearly 11 million votes they received in 2011 to just under 6 million this year.
But while much has been written about the impact emerging parties like the anti-austerity Podemos or the right-wing Ciudadanos have had on the established parties, what makes Sunday’s results so remarkable is not what those parties did on their own, but what happened between several political actors at the municipal level.
In Barcelona, the prominent anti-evictions activist Ada Colau won the city’s mayoral race. In Madrid, once a stronghold of the Popular Party, the former judge Manuela Carmena also has a chance to govern, depending on whether her platform and the deteriorating Socialist party are willing to strike a deal.
In the four largest cities, it is quite possible that the mayor will belong to neither of the two major parties. The same is true in Galicia’s major cities, Santiago and A Corunha. In Cádiz, Spain’s unemployment capital, another new, anti-austerity platform finished a close second.
Much of the right-wing Spanish press is already attributing these spectacular results to a cult of personality around the people leading these platforms, accompanied by the typical references to populism and Venezuela, with an occasional shout-out to North Korea for extra flavor (as if the resort to these arguments weren’t the epitome of populist rhetoric).
What they ignore is why those faces became famous enough to put on a ballot in the first place: their roots in prominent local struggles, their independence with respect to the established parties and their willingness to spearhead bottom-up processes seeking a confluence between new or smaller parties, community organizations and political independents around a set of common objectives determined through radical democratic participation.
The Spanish hub of the Doc Next Network’s Radical Democracy: Reclaiming the Commons project has been documenting this process since it began, through video and other media. Below, you can see a helpful infographic that shows just some of the ingredients with which the new municipalist candidacies Ahora Madrid (Now Madrid) and Barcelona En Comù (Barcelona in Common) cooked up their municipal recipes. They include more obvious reference points like the indignados movement, but also feminist struggles, the copyleft movement or the Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico, among many others.
Radical municipal politics is not an altogether new concept, especially not in Spain. In Catalonia, the Popular Unity Candidacies of the left-wing independence movement have had a notable presence in smaller towns for several years (they also quadrupled their 2011 results on Sunday, for what it’s worth). At the southern end of the country, the Andalusian village of Marinaledais a well-documented experiment in utopian communism that has been going on for over three decades now.
In fact, the so-called father of libertarian municipalism, social ecologist Murray Bookchin, was strongly inspired by the Spanish municipal politics of the 19th and early twentieth century, as well as the Swiss Grey Leagues and the New England townships, when he wrote his influential “New Municipal Agenda”.
While he hardly intended to prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution—especially not in large urban belts and port cities—in the text, Bookchin outlined four main coordinates: a revival of the citizens’ assembly, the need for confederation with other municipalities, grassroots politics as a school of genuine citizenship and the municipalization of the economy. Underlying all of these coordinates is “a recovery of a new participatory politics structured around free, self-empowered and active citizens”.
All of these coordinates chime with the program and praxis of the new municipalist candidacies. In the newspaper they handed out as part of their campaign, Barcelona En Comù used almost as much space describing their process (30,000 signatures asking them to run for election, 1,000 campaign volunteers, 200 events organized by self-organized neighbourhood assemblies, 100 meetings with various community organizations in just 10 months of existence) and their vision (“a standard-bearer of social justice and democracy”) as they did outlining their program. The program itself includes 600 measures, ranging from modest but much-needed reforms (e.g., opening up more bike lanes, more social housing), to more radical ones (a guaranteed municipal income, coining a municipal currency).
Several questions remain about the conflict between the ambitions of the new municipalist candidacies and the daunting, path-dependent inertia of an institutional reality that threatens to swallow them whole. Many of those questions are addressed by some of the candidates themselves in the film Municipal Recipes, which you can watch below.
In it, they discuss the thought process that led them to make the jump into the electoral arena, how they hope to care for the city, how to make it liveable, the relationship between citizens, social movements and institutions, and the pitfalls of representative democracy, among other key issues.
It’s a fascinating glimpse into a remarkable process. Tellingly, one of the most frequently used words in the film is “tension”. As Pablo Carmona of Ahora Madrid puts it, regardless of whether they achieve something like Bookchin’s New Municipal Agenda, they have opened up “a new model of social conflict” in Spain.
Recetas municipales. Una conversación sobre el cuidado de las ciudades fromZEMOS98 on Vimeo. (Click CC for English subtitles)
Carlos Delclos is a sociologist, researcher and editor for ROAR Magazine. Currently he collaborates with the Health Inequalities Research Group at Pompeu Fabra University and the Barcelona Institute of Metropolitan and Regional Studies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. This article was originally published on Open Democracy.
Municipal Recipes is a campaign carried out by Lucas Tello, Nuria Campabadal, Mario Munera and Guillermo Zapata, coordinated by Sofía Coca.
The fall of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has provoked a series of charges and counter-charges over who is responsible.
The debacle reprised the collapse of Iraqi security forces in the fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, nearly a year ago. Nearly 10 months of US air strikes, stepped-up aid to the Iraqi military, and the deployment of over 3,000 US troops in support of Baghdad have apparently done little to contain, much less defeat, ISIS.
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was the most blunt, declaring that the Iraqi forces who melted away in the face of the ISIS offensive lacked the “will to fight.” Similarly, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey commented that the Iraqi security forces were “not driven out of Ramadi. They drove out of Ramadi.”
From within the Iraqi government and security forces as well as from Iran, there has been another explanation for the failure of the US intervention launched in August of last year to defeat ISIS: Washington has no real desire to annihilate the Islamist forces, its “war on terror” rhetoric notwithstanding.
The widespread acceptance of this explanation was indicated last week in a speech given by the senior commander of US Special Operations forces in Iraq, Army Brig. Gen. Kurt Crytzer. Speaking before the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, a forum for the military industrial complex held in Tampa, Florida, he reported that it is widely believed in Iraq, including within its security forces, that the Pentagon is “re-supplying” ISIS.
“Without an effective counter-narrative, this quickly took traction, resonating with many throughout Iraq,” Crytzer said. “It’s not just the poor and uneducated that believe it.” The result, he added, was that US forces were at risk of attack from Iraqis fighting ISIS. He cited an attempt to shoot down a US helicopter believed to be ferrying arms to the Islamists and friction between American troops and their Iraqi counterparts.
Crytzer gave no indication why such a “narrative” would resonate so broadly among the people of Iraq, while the media covering his address referred to the charge of US support for ISIS as an Iraqi “conspiracy theory.”
There are no doubt “conspiracy theories”—which explain history as merely the working out of plots hatched by cabals at the pinnacle of society—but there also exist well-documented conspiracies by US imperialism in the Middle East. These conspiracies, which have not always produced the desired results, have decimated entire societies over the last decade.
As if to substantiate the Iraqi suspicions cited by General Crytzer, the US government has—in response to a Freedom of Information Act filing by the right-wing Judicial Watch group—declassified a series of documents, including one secret report produced by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) dated August 12, 2012.
While Judicial Watch has focused entirely on the documents’ supposed substantiation of Republican claims that the Obama administration—and Hillary Clinton, in particular—“lied” about the armed attack on the Benghazi consulate and CIA facility in 2012, it and similar right-wing outfits studiously ignore the far deeper implications of the August 2012 report.
The heavily redacted seven-page DIA document states that “the Salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” while noting that “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey” support the opposition; while Russia, China and Iran “support the [Assad] regime.”
The document accurately predicts that “If the situation unravels, there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria… And this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime…”
As for Iraq, the secret report continues: “This creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi… ISI [Islamic State of Iraq] could also declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”
It should be recalled that this document was issued amid steadily escalating US support for the so-called “rebels” in Syria, with the CIA setting up a secret station in Turkey near the Syrian border to coordinate the funneling of arms, money and supplies to these forces, which, as was clearly known at the time, were dominated by Islamist elements such as Al Qaeda.
The report indicates that Washington and its allies were supportive of these forces carving out an Islamic state in Syria. And, while they saw the spread of such a state to neighboring Iraq as a likely danger, they considered this a chance worth taking in order to prosecute their proxy war for regime-change directed against Damascus and Syria’s backers—Iran, Russia and China.
It also should be recalled that this document was issued precisely at the moment that the entire international coterie of middle-class pseudo-left organizations—from the International Socialist Organization in the US, to the New Anti-capitalist Party in France, the Socialist Workers Party in Britain and the Left Party in Germany—was hailing the US proxy war in Syria as a “revolution,” and even crafting justifications for the US arming of the Islamists.
If Washington is pulling its punches in its supposed war on ISIS, it is not, as the New York Times absurdly suggested this week, out of concern for killing civilians. The US has butchered hundreds of thousands over the course of the last dozen years. Rather, it wants to preserve the Islamist gunmen, who constitute the principal fighting force in its proxy war to topple Assad, just as it employed similar forces to overthrow and murder Libya’s Gaddafi.
The US military/intelligence complex, along with its front-man, Barack Obama, is indifferent to the immense human suffering such polices inflict upon the peoples of the region. They are making their decisions based on strategic calculations in which elements such as Al Qaeda and ISIS are merely pawns in a far wider drive to assert US hegemony by means of aggression and war.
Bill Van Auken