James Mattis has been in the thick of a string of failed wars, but don’t look for any humility or regrets. From Danny Sjursen at truthdig.com:
Last week, in a well-received Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis delivered a critique of Donald Trump that was as hollow as it was self-righteous. Explaining his decision to resign from the administration, the retired Marine general known as “Mad Dog” eagerly declared himself “apolitical,” peppering his narrative with cheerful vignettes about his much beloved grunts. “We all know that we’re better than our current politics,” he observed solemnly. “Tribalism must not be allowed to destroy our experiment.”
Yet absent from this personal reflection, which has earned bipartisan adulation, was any kind of out-of-the-box thinking and, more disturbingly, anything resembling a mea culpa—either for his role in the Trump administration or his complicity in America’s failing forever wars in the greater Middle East. For a military man, much less a four-star general, this is a cardinal sin. What’s worse, no one in the mainstream media appears willing to challenge the worldview presented in his essay, concurrent interviews and forthcoming book.
This was disconcerting if unsurprising. In Trump’s America, reflexive hatred for the president has led many in the media to foolishly pin their political hopes on generals like Mattis, leaders of the only public institution the people still trust. Even purportedly liberal journalists like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who was once critical of U.S. militarism, have reversed course, defending engagements in Syria and Afghanistan seemingly because the president has expressed interest in winding them down. The fallacy that Mattis and other generals were the voice of reason in the Trump White House, the so-called “adults in the room,” has precluded any serious critique of their actual strategy and advice.
Nobody even remembers why we went into Afghanistan in the first place, but for some reason we can’t leave. From Danny Sjursen at antiwar.com:
The ‘Gated Communities’ of Afghanistan: An All-American Euphemism
When they saw Afghanistan, all they could think of was Iraq. Indeed, most military thinkers are perennially driven by the tunnel-vision of personal experience; rarely a good thing. Indeed, the generals and colonels managing the foolish, politically driven 2009-12 Obama “surge” into Afghanistan – what he’d absurdly labeled the “good war” – had few fresh ideas. Convinced, and feeling vindicated, by the myth that Baby Bush’s 2007-09 Iraq surge had “worked,” most commanders knew just what to do and sought to replicate these tactics in the utterly dissimilar war in Afghanistan. That meant the temporary infusion of some 30,000 extra troops, walling off warring neighborhoods, and plopping small American units among the populace.
Some of us, mostly captains who’d cut our teeth in the worst days of the Iraq maelstrom, were skeptical from the start. I, for one, had long sensed that the “gains” of that surge were highly temporary, that the U.S. military had simply bought the fleeting loyalty of Sunni insurgents, and that the whole point of the surge – to allow a political settlement between warring sects and ethnicities – had never occurred. The later rise of ISIS, breakdown of centralized governance, and rout of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Army in 2013-14 would prove my point. But that was in the future. From my viewpoint, the legacy of surge 1.0 had really only been another 1,000 or so American troop deaths – including three of my own men – and who knows how many Iraqi casualties.
Then again, no one cared what one lowly, if dreamy yet cynical, officer thought anyway. I was a tool, a pawn, a middle-managing “company man” expected to carry out surge 2.0 with discipline and enthusiasm. And so I tried. My team of cavalry scouts raised a dubiously loyal local militia, partnered with the often drug-addicted, criminal Afghan Army and police, and parsed out my squads to live within the local villages semi-permanently. That’s when things got weird.
If Osama bin Laden was trying to cast the US as an illegal, imperialist power, he did a pretty good job. From David M. Crane at thehill.com:
“Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Conventions] … says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It’s very vague. What does that mean, ‘outrages upon human dignity’?” — George W. Bush
The past week marked the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. This laudable treaty, signed by every country, codified centuries of custom, treaties and protocols to protect individuals found on the battlefield. There are four articles to the Geneva Conventions protecting the wounded and sick, prisoners of war and civilians. This is an attempt to bring law and order onto the battlefield. These conventions are part of a larger set of treaties, protocols and rules called international humanitarian law, or the “laws of armed conflict.”
By now the belief that the US can solve problems in foreign lands just be sending over the troops should be dead, but it’s not. From Maj. Danny Sjursen, who admits he’s not a miracle worker, at antiwar.com:
We aren’t miracle workers. We’re just soldiers after all – kids barely out of their teens and officers in their mid-20s do most of the fighting. Still, policymakers in Washington, and citizens on Main Street both seem convinced that the mere presence of a few hundred or thousand American troops can alter societies, vanquish the wicked, and remake the world.
A colleague of mine refers to this as the myth of the magic soldier: sprinkle US troops in some horrific mess of a country and voilà – problem solved!
It sounds great, but this sort of delusional thinking has led the United States into one failed quagmire after another, killing some 7,000 US troops and close to one million locals. After 17 years of fruitless, indecisive war, its quite incredible that a bipartisan coalition of mainstream Republicans (neocons, mostly) and Democrats (neo-liberal relics) still cling to the idea that American soldiers wield magic powers. It’s long past time to review the record of our over-adulated troopers and reframe the actual – limited – capabilities of military force.
You would be hard pressed to find even one thing the US has done right in Afghanistan the last 17 years. From David Swanson at antiwar.com:
The list of failed lessons from the US war on Afghanistan after seventeen years of incessant violence is a long one. Here are a few.
We expect 17-year-olds to have learned a great deal starting from infancy, and yet full-grown adults have proven incapable of knowing anything about Afghanistan during the course of 17 years of U.S.-NATO war. Despite war famously being the means of Americans learning geography, few can even identify Afghanistan on a map. What else have we failed to learn?
The war has not ended.
There are, as far as I know, no polls on the percentage of people in the United States who know that the war is still going on, but it seems to be pretty low. Polling Report lists no polls at all on Afghanistan in the past three years. For longer than most wars have lasted in total, this one has gone on with no public discussion of whether or not it should, just annual testimony before Congress that this next year is going to really be the charm. Things people don’t know are happening are not polled about, which contributes to nobody knowing they are happening.
There are plans to erect a Global War on Terror Memorial on the Washington Mall. From day one this war was a bad idea. There must be some other way to memorialize the Americans who have died in it…and who will die in the future in this unending war. From Lucy Steigerwald and Jerrod Laber at antiwar.com:
On August 8, The New York Times Magazine‘s C.J. Chivers published a lengthy pre-mortem of the failures of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, noting how“Aside from displacing tyrants and leading to the eventual killing of Osama bin Laden, none of this turned out as pitched. Prominent successes were short-lived.” This faint praise of the War on Terror comes as the Afghanistan War approaches its 17th birthday.
In June, it was announced that a monument for soldiers who fought in the first Gulf War was approved for construction on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial, by the US Commission of Fine Arts. Elizabeth K. Meyer, a professor at the University of Virginia and member of the commission, expressed concern over “the proliferation of war memorials on the National Mall,” according to the Washington Post. “The Mall is a public space that symbolizes our collective national identity, and we’re more than wars. We’re more than commemorating the dead…”
Her worry is due to plans for four other war memorials on or around the Mall in the near future: dedications to World War I, Native American Veterans, African-American Veterans in the Revolution, and the most off-putting, yet inevitable of all, a Global War on Terror Memorial, scheduled for construction in 2024.
A Global War on Terror Memorial is objectionable for many reasons, but the most obvious is that the war is not over – and in fact, by the letter of the law, can never be over. Given the war’s unending nature, a War on Terror Memorial prematurely closes the debate and will prevent a full reckoning of whether or not it has been worth it – and the evidence suggests it hasn’t. No one will want to point to the memorial and say this war is unjust and unwise, for fear of disrespecting those still fighting it.
The US has been the most warlike nation since World War II. From Antonius Acquinas at antoniusacquinas.com:
Two recent articles* have again demonstrated that the greatest “terrorist” entity on earth is not the bogymen – Russia, China, Iran, North Korea – so often portrayed by Western presstitudes and the American government, but the United States itself! Ever since World War II, the US has been the most militaristic, far surpassing all of the Communist and dictatorial regimes combined.
Some startling and rarely reported facts:
Currently, the US drops on someone or something a deadly explosive once every12 minutes
W. Bush’s military dropped 70,000 bombs on five different nations during his murderous regime
Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Barrack Obomber, launched 100,000 bombs on seven countries
Funding this mass murder is a reportedly $21 trillion (!) that is unaccounted for in the Pentagon’s coffers
Despite all of the “America First” bluster at the start of the Trump Administration, little has changed but, in fact, things have escalated. While G.W. Bush in his wicked eight years dropped over 24 bombs per day and his successor upped that total to 34 bombs per day, the current Bomber-in-Chief has, in his first year in office, averaged 121 bombs per day! For the initial year of his Presidency, 44,000 bombs were dropped on people and lands despite the fact that the US is not officially at war with a single country!
Despite these grisly statistics, which are hardly ever reported by the mainstream press, the military industrial complex and the controlled Western media outlets have propagated the lie of “precision bombing.” Precision bombing has been trumpeted to minimize the effect of US aggression to the public that only true belligerents are targeted and not innocents.
When US bombing is reported by the press, the actual casualties and property damage are never accurately given. The most notorious example of this mendacity was the coverage of Bush II’s Iraq war. “The US and its allies ruthlessly carpet-bombed Iraq,” a UN report acknowledged, “reducing it from ‘a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society’ to a ‘pre-industrial age nation.’”
Later accounts of what actually happened showed that “only seven percent of the 88,500 tons of bombs and missiles devastating Iraq were ‘precision weapons.’”
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