Tag Archives: Middle East

Welcome to the Post-American World, by Tom Engelhardt

America looks everywhere for the causes of its decline…except in the mirror. An excellent analysis from Tom Engelhardt at tomdispatch.com:

Pardon Me!
High Crimes and Demeanors in the Age of Trump

Let me try to get this straight: from the moment the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 until recently just about every politician and mainstream pundit in America assured us that we were the planet’s indispensable nation, the only truly exceptional one on this small orb of ours.

We were the sole superpower, Earth’s hyperpower, its designated global sheriff, the architect of our planetary future.  After five centuries of great power rivalries, in the wake of a two-superpower world that, amid the threat of nuclear annihilation, seemed to last forever and a day (even if it didn’t quite make it 50 years), the United States was the ultimate survivor, the victor of victors, the last of the last.  It stood triumphantly at the end of history.  In a lottery that had lasted since Europe’s wooden ships first broke out of a periphery of Eurasia and began to colonize much of the planet, the United States was the chosen one, the country that would leave every imperial world-maker from the Romans to the British in its shadow.

Who could doubt that this was now our world in a coming American century beyond compare?

And then, of course, came the attacks of 9/11.  A mere $400,000 and 19 suicidal hijackers (mostly Saudis) armed with box cutters and organized from Afghanistan, a country plunged into an Islamic version of the Middle Ages, had challenged the greatest power of all time.  In the process, they would bring down iconic structures in what would soon be known to Americans as “the homeland,” while killing almost 3,000 innocent civilians, acts so shocking that they really did change the world.

Yet even then, a fervor for world-organizing triumphalism only took firmer hold in Washington.  The top officials of President George W. Bush’s administration almost instantly saw the 9/11 attacks as their very own “Pearl Harbor,” the twenty-first-century equivalent of the moment that had launched the U.S. on the path to post-World War II superpowerdom.  As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld instantly told his aides in the rubble of the Pentagon, “Go massive.  Sweep it all up.  Things related and not.”  And indeed they would do just that, seizing the moment with alacrity and promptly launching the “Global War on Terror” — aka, among the cognoscenti, World War IV (the third, in their minds, having been the Cold War).

To continue reading: Welcome to the Post-American World

Advertisements

Bombing the Rubble, Empire of Destruction, by Tom Englehardt

In large part, the outcome of US policy in the Middle East and Northern Africa has been destruction and rubble, and nothing more. An excellent article from Tom Englehardt at antiwar.com:

You remember. It was supposed to be twenty-first-century war, American-style: precise beyond imagining; smart bombs; drones capable of taking out a carefully identified and tracked human being just about anywhere on Earth; special operations raids so pinpoint-accurate that they would represent a triumph of modern military science.  Everything “networked.”  It was to be a glorious dream of limited destruction combined with unlimited power and success.  In reality, it would prove to be a nightmare of the first order.

If you want a single word to summarize American war-making in this last decade and a half, I would suggest rubble. It’s been a painfully apt term since September 11, 2001. In addition, to catch the essence of such war in this century, two new words might be useful: rubblize and rubblization. Let me explain what I mean.

In recent weeks, another major city in Iraq has officially been “liberated” (almost) from the militants of the Islamic State.  However, the results of the U.S.-backed Iraqi military campaign to retake Mosul, that country’s second largest city, don’t fit any ordinary definition of triumph or victory.  It began in October 2016 and, at nine months and counting, has been longer than the World War II battle of Stalingrad.  Week after week, in street to street fighting, with U.S. airstrikes repeatedly called in on neighborhoods still filled with terrified Mosulites, unknown but potentially staggering numbers of civilians have died.  More than a million people – yes, you read that figure correctly – were uprooted from their homes and major portions of the Western half of the city they fled, including its ancient historic sections, have been turned into rubble.

This should be the definition of victory as defeat, success as disaster.  It’s also a pattern.  It’s been the essential story of the American war on terror since, in the month after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush loosed American air power on Afghanistan.  That first air campaign began what has increasingly come to look like the full-scale rubblization of significant parts of the Greater Middle East.

By not simply going after the crew who committed those attacks but deciding to take down the Taliban, occupy Afghanistan, and in 2003, invade Iraq, Bush’s administration opened the proverbial can of worms in that vast region. An imperial urge to overthrow Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, who had once been Washington’s guy in the Middle East only to become its mortal enemy (and who had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11), proved one of the fatal miscalculations of the imperial era.

To continue reading: Bombing the Rubble, Empire of Destruction

The US State of War – July 2017, by Nicolas J. S. Davies

Here’s a little run-down on the US’s many military commitments. From Nicolas J. S. Davies at antiwar.com:

This is the state of war in the United States in July 2017.

The US bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria is now the heaviest since the bombing of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the 1960s-70s, with 84,000 bombs and missiles dropped between 2014 and the end of May 2017 That is nearly triple the 29,200 bombs and missiles dropped on Iraq in the “Shock and Awe” campaign of 2003.

The Obama administration escalated the bombing campaign last October, as the U.S.-Iraqi assault on Mosul began, dropping 12,290 bombs and missiles between October and the end of January when President Obama left office. The Trump administration has further escalated the campaign, dropping another 14,965 bombs and missiles since February 1st. May saw the heaviest bombing yet, with 4,374 bombs and missiles dropped.

The U.K.-based Airwars.org monitoring group has compiled reports of between 12,000 and 18,000 civilians killed by nearly three years of U.S.-led bombing in Iraq and Syria. These reports can only be the tip of the iceberg, and the true number of civilians killed could well be more than 100,000, based on typical ratios between reported deaths and actual deaths in previous war-zones.

As the US and its allies closed in on Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, and as US forces now occupy eight military bases in Syria, Islamic State and its allies have struck back in Manchester and London; occupied Marawi, a city of 200,000 in the Philippines; and exploded a huge truck bomb inside the fortifications of the “Green Zone” in Kabul, Afghanistan.

What began in 2001 as a misdirected use of military force to punish a group of formerly U.S.-backed jihadis in Afghanistan for the crimes of September 11th has escalated into a global asymmetric war. Every country destroyed or destabilized by US military action is now a breeding ground for terrorism. It would be foolish to believe that this cannot get much, much worse, as long as both sides continue to justify their own escalations of violence as responses to the violence of their enemies, instead of trying to de-escalate the now global violence and chaos.

There are once again 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan, up from 8,500 in April, with reports that four thousand more may be deployed soon. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been killed in 15 years of war, but the Taliban now control more of the country than at any time since the US invasion in 2001.

To continue reading: The US State of War – July 2017

Washington Has Been At War For 16 Years: Why? by Paul Craig Roberts

There are answers to the title question, but none that a rational person would find satisfactory. From Paul Craig Roberts at paulcraigroberts.org:

For sixteen years the US has been at war in the Middle East and North Africa, running up trillions of dollars in expenses, committing untold war crimes, and sending millions of war refugees to burden Europe, while simultaneously claiming that Washington cannot afford its Social Security and Medicare obligations or to fund a national health service like every civilized country has.

Considering the enormous social needs that cannot be met because of the massive cost of these orchestrated wars, one would think that the American people would be asking questions about the purpose of these wars. What is being achieved at such enormous costs? Domestic needs are neglected so that the military/security complex can grow fat on war profits.

The lack of curiousity on the part of the American people, the media, and Congress about the purpose of these wars, which have been proven to be based entirely on lies, is extraordinary. What explains this conspiracy of silence, this amazing disinterest in the squandering of money and lives?

Most Americans seem to vaguely accept these orchestrated wars as the government’s response to 9/11. This adds to the mystery as it is a fact that Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Iran (Iran not yet attacked except with threats and sanctions) had nothing to do with 9/11. But these countries have Muslim populations, and the Bush regime and presstitute media succeeded in associating 9/11 with Muslims in general.

Perhaps if Americans and their “representatives” in Congress understood what the wars are about, they would rouse themselves to make objections. So, I will tell you what Washington’s war on Syria and Washington’s intended war on Iran are about. Ready?

There are three reasons for Washington’s war, not America’s war as Washington is not America, on Syria. The first reason has to do with the profits of the military/security complex.

The military/security complex is a combination of powerful private and governmental interests that need a threat to justify an annual budget that exceeds the GDP of many countries. War gives this combination of private and governmental interests a justification for its massive budget, a budget whose burden falls on American taxpayers whose real median family income has not risen for a couple of decades while their debt burden to support their living standard has risen.

To continue reading: Washington Has Been At War For 16 Years: Why?

The Real Danger From Trump Is Ignored, by Sheldon Richman

Trump’s evolving polices in the Middle East pose more danger than anything he might have done with the Russians. From Sheldon Richman at antiwar.com:

While the chattering classes spend all their time rehashing Donald Trump’s alleged – there’s a word you don’t much see in the media anymore – coordination with Russians over their alleged – there it is again – hacking of the Democrats’ email, a story with far more ominous implications is being ignored. I refer to Trump’s trip, beginning today, to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Whatever Trump might have done with the Russians, if he did anything at all, it has none of the potential for death and destruction that his meddling in the Middle East has. He is doing far more than doubling down on what his predecessor, Barack Obama, did. For a guy who promised to concentrate on domestic matters, he’s sure engaging in a lot of empire preservation. But, then, some of us are not surprised. His words were never to be trusted.

The two most destabilizing countries in the Middle East are Saudi Arabia and Israel. Both want to reduce Iran to insignificance, and that starts with getting rid of Iran’s ally, Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad. Trump says he wants to concentrate on ISIS and not Assad, but his actions belie his words. Witness his launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase after unproved and seriously challenged assertions that Assad used chemical weapons against Syrians. U.S. forces have also hit pro-Assad forces twice in recent months, including on Thursday.

The “radical Islamic” Saudi antipathy to Assad and its sympathy for the various stripes of bin Ladenites are well-known. So is that fact that Israeli leaders have more than once said they prefer militant Sunni Muslims (like al-Qaeda) to Shiites, that is, Iran. For nearly three years the Saudis have been committing genocide against the people of Yemen – indispensably facilitated by the US government – in the name of fighting al-Qaeda’s adversary, the Houthis, who practice a form of Shia Islam but who are not Iranian proxies. Obama signed on to the Saudis’ war to ease their discomfort over the Iran nuclear deal.

All this is apparently fine with Trump. After all, he demonizes Iran every chance he gets. He would agree with Barack Obama, who told an interviewer some years ago that removing Assad would have the benefit of harming Iran. Hillary Clinton agreed.

To continue reading: The Real Danger From Trump Is Ignored

 

Ready for War With Iran? by William J. Astore

Iran, and before Iran, Persia, has been an important part of the Middle East for 2500 years. The US has only been a nation for less than a tenth of that time. Yet it is the US which blusters into the Middle East and accuses Iran of destablizing the area. Who is truly the destablizing force? From William J. Astore at antiwar.com:

General Joseph Votel, U.S. Centcom commander, testified to the House Armed Services Committee this week that the greatest destabilizing force in the Middle East is Iran, and that the US must be prepared to use “military means” to confront and defeat the Iranian threat to the region.

No doubt Iran is a pest to US designs in the Middle East. No doubt Iran has its own agenda. No doubt Iran is no friend to Israel. But the greatest destabilizing force in the Greater Middle East? That’s the USA. We’re the ones who toppled Iraq in 2003, along with the legitimate government of Iran 50 years earlier.

Iran/Persia has lived in, and sometimes dominated, the Greater Middle East for 2500 years. By comparison, the USA is a newcomer on the block. Yet it’s the Iranians who are the destabilizers, the ones operating in a nefarious “grey zone” between peace and war, at least according to US generals.

Besides the disastrous US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which accidentally helped Iran, the US continues to sell massive amounts of weaponry to Iran’s rivals, most especially Saudi Arabia. US military operations in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East have both destabilized the region and created marketplaces for US weaponry and opportunities for economic exploitation by multinational corporations.

I’m no fan of Iran and its leaders, but can one blame them for resisting US military and economic incursions into their sphere of influence? Recall how we reacted when the Russians put missiles into Cuba. Look at all the hostile rhetoric directed today against Mexico and its allegedly unfair trade practices vis-à-vis the US.

To continue reading: Ready for War With Iran?

 

How Many Civilians Can We Kill? by Robert Koehler

When collateral damage—deaths of innocent civilians—becomes just another war metric. From Robert Koehler at antiwar.com:

“The wooden carts that residents use to carry vegetables and other wares in the once busy market area instead ferried out cadavers recovered from the rubble last week.”

And so . . . another “precision” bomb strike in America’s war against terror. This was the scene in Mosul earlier this month, as reported by the Washington Post. Possibly more than 200 civilians died, buried in the rubble of several buildings, which had been jammed with terrified residents of Iraq’s second largest city who were seeking shelter from the war. Many of them – including women, children – may have died slowly, buried beneath the rubble, as rescue operations took a week to mobilize.

Words fail me. So I borrow some from Air Force Brigadier Gen. Matthew Isler, who told U.S. News and World Report in the wake of the Mosul strike: “The density of the local fighting for those ground forces has changed. What has not changed is our support, our diligence in making sure we are taking the appropriate levels to make sure we are avoiding any harm to innocent civilians.”

The article, which addresses the controversy that President Trump has “relaxed” the rules of engagement in the war against ISIS, causing an increase in civilian casualties, goes on to note: “Isler specifically said the risk calculus – the number of civilian casualties acceptable to war planners, at times including the president, when considering missions – has not changed.”

The tremor I feel in these words goes deeper than another Trump controversy: “the number of civilian casualties acceptable to war planners . . .”

Even if these words were more than just PR blather and had a core of moral integrity, they stop me in my tracks. Of course, there’s nothing surprising here. This is how war works, especially today, when battlefields are coterminous with civilian living and working space. Innocent people are unavoidably taken out along with the “enemy.” This is the collateral damage that comes with every decision to wage war.

To continue reading: How Many Civilians Can We Kill?