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Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Forever Wars’

Are the Forever Wars Really Ending? – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on September 15, 2020

George H. W. Bush’s New World Order is ancient history, as are the democracy crusades his son George W. Bush was persuaded to launch.

But what will Trump’s foreign policy legacy be, should he win?

Joe Biden has signaled where he is headed — straight back to Barack Obama:

“First thing I’m going to have to do, and I’m not joking: if elected I’m going to have to get on the phone with the heads of state and say America’s back,” Biden said, saying NATO has been “worried as hell about our failure to confront Russia.”

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/09/patrick-j-buchanan/are-the-forever-wars-really-ending/

By

“There is no… sound reason for the United States to continue sacrificing precious lives and treasure in a conflict not directly connected to our safety or other vital national interests.”

So said William Ruger about Afghanistan, our longest war.

What makes this statement significant is that President Donald Trump has ordered a drawdown by mid-October of half of the 8,600 troops still in the country. And Ruger was just named U.S. ambassador to Kabul.

The selection of Ruger to oversee the U.S. withdrawal came as Gen. Frank McKenzie of Central Command announced plans to cut the U.S. troop presence in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 by the end of September.

Is America, at long last, really coming home from the forever wars?

A foreign policy analyst at the libertarian Charles Koch Institute and a Naval officer decorated for his service in Afghanistan, Ruger has long championed a noninterventionist foreign policy.

His nomination tends to confirm that, should Trump win a second term, his often-declared goal of extracting America from the forever wars of the Middle East, unachieved in his first term, would become a priority.

Yet, we have been here before, bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, only to send thousands back when our enemies seemed to be gaining the upper hand at the expense of the allies we left behind.

Still, this time, Trump’s withdrawals look to be irreversible. And with the U.S. deal with the Taliban producing peace negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban, America seems to be saying to both sides of this endless civil war:

The destiny of Afghanistan is yours. The choice of war or peace is up to you. If talks collapse and a fight to the finish ensues, we Americans are not coming back, even to prevent a Taliban victory.

Speaking in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Trump made a remarkable declaration:

“We don’t have to be in the Middle East, other than we want to protect Israel. … There was a time we needed desperately oil, we don’t need that anymore.” If Trump means what he says, U.S. forces will be out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan early in his second term.

But how to explain the continued presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Diego Garcia?

Another indication of where a Trump second term is pointing is the naming of retired Col. Douglas Macgregor as ambassador to Germany.

The winner of a Bronze Star for valor in the 1991 Gulf War, Macgregor speaks German and is steeped in that country’s history. He has been highly visible on cable TV, calling for the transfer to our allies of the primary responsibility for their own defenses, and elevating the security of America’s Southern border to a far higher national imperative.

In 2019, Macgregor was quoted: “The only solution is martial law on the border, putting the United States Army in charge of it and closing it off would take about 30, 40,000 troops. We’re talking about the regular army. You need robust rules of engagement. That means that you can shoot people as required if your life is in danger.”

That Macgregor’s priorities may be Trump’s also became evident with the president’s announcement this summer of the withdrawal of 12,000 of the 35,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany.

Yet, at the same time, there is seemingly contradictory evidence to the notion that Donald Trump wants our troops home. Currently, some 2,800 U.S., British, and French troops are conducting “Noble Partner” exercises with Georgian troops in that country in the Caucasus bordering Russia.

In Trump’s first term, his commitment to extricate America from the forever wars went unrealized, due in part to the resistance of hawks Trump himself appointed to carry out his foreign policy agenda.

Clearly, with the cuts in troops in Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the appointments of Ruger and Macgregor, Trump has signaled a new resolve to reconfigure U.S. foreign policy in an “America First” direction, if he wins a second term. Will he follow through?

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has been in an extended argument with itself over America’s role, America’s mission in the world.

George H. W. Bush’s New World Order is ancient history, as are the democracy crusades his son George W. Bush was persuaded to launch.

But what will Trump’s foreign policy legacy be, should he win?

Joe Biden has signaled where he is headed — straight back to Barack Obama:

“First thing I’m going to have to do, and I’m not joking: if elected I’m going to have to get on the phone with the heads of state and say America’s back,” Biden said, saying NATO has been “worried as hell about our failure to confront Russia.”

Trump came to office pledging to establish a new relationship with the Kremlin of President Vladimir Putin.

Is that still his goal, or have the Beltway Russophobes prevailed?

 

 

 

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The Vindication of Harry Browne… Again – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on August 25, 2020

That last sentence is where we get our Harry Browne moment. In nearly two decades we have not got our defense on track to oppose whatever ragtag band might strike us, or so Mr. Hanlon worries. To paraphrase the slogan from the XYZ affair, trillions for offense, not one cent for defense.

We have thrown sums beyond counting at the Military Industrial Complex and nothing has come up that keeps us safe except for keeping 5,000 troops there forever.

https://original.antiwar.com/?p=2012340801

On January 27, 2000 in an email during his 2000 campaign for the American presidency, the late Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne wrote,

“Today we have a strong national offense (the ability to blow any country to smithereens) and a weak national defense (the inability to defend against any two-bit dictator who gets his hands on a nuclear missile). We should have just the opposite. When we do, we will have a much more efficient defense-with a much smaller cost & a much less complex system.”

583 days later, Browne would be vindicated for the first time, sadly so. Despite all the billions (it was only billions back then) spent on the American military, 19 men came to America and hijacked planes to destroy the twin towers of the World Trade Center in the capital of finance. They also attacked the Pentagon and were foiled in one other action. True, it was not with a nuke, but horrible enough.

Browne did not predict the events, but they happened as could have been expected. We had been intervening in places in a way that was not to the liking of the people there and some actors noticed that there was an opportunity afforded due to the strong offense/weak defense situation.

Because Osama bin Laden supposedly launched the idea in Afghanistan, we invaded that land as he was not extradited. We did not go there because the Taliban struck NYC, they didn’t.

No matter, we have been there ever since and no one really gives a reason. Some give a mealy-mouthed rationale, but no one tells us why the Republic will fail if we leave. On February 2, 2019, Scott Simon gave a soulful little monologue on NPR about how women’s rights was a reason, well, rationale, sort of.

In essence, it seems we are there because we’re there.

Still, sometimes someone says something that makes sense in a way, even though it doesn’t. On Thursday, August 13, 2020, Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, specializing in defense and foreign policy issues, had an article at Brookings, with the title, Rightsizing the Afghanistan Mission.

Finally, we are going to get it right, or so he hopes. Some may remain skeptical, but the most interesting paragraph is this:

“Many will lament that the “forever wars” would continue under such a policy. But a mission focused on training Afghans and conducting counterterrorism operations, costing perhaps $10 to $15 billion and entailing 10 to 20 American fatalities a year (if the recent past is a guide), is a far cry from the clear, hold, and build operations conducted largely by U.S. ground forces a decade ago – with American fatalities reaching as high as 500 a year and costs exceeding $100 billion annually. Compared to the alternative of an American homeland again possibly at risk from extremist attack hatched in the land of the Hindu Kush, it is likely the least bad choice.”

That last sentence is where we get our Harry Browne moment. In nearly two decades we have not got our defense on track to oppose whatever ragtag band might strike us, or so Mr. Hanlon worries. To paraphrase the slogan from the XYZ affair, trillions for offense, not one cent for defense.

We have thrown sums beyond counting at the Military Industrial Complex and nothing has come up that keeps us safe except for keeping 5,000 troops there forever.

He means it, as the first sentence makes clear, but recently, the idea of “forever wars” has been getting a bad press, if only because they are forever, which does imply little purpose.

The man thinks it’s all a good bargain. “10 to 20 American fatalities” per annum, forever (it is after all a forever war) is a price he is willing to pay. One might guess they think that statistically insignificant at Brookings. Then again, nothing is really statistically insignificant if you are the statistic. Fortunately for Mr. O’Hanlon, he does not have much to worry about in that department though he has probably made field trips there.

The estimate of “perhaps $10 to $15 billion” a year may not seem too steep either, given inflation, but could not that money be better used by the sinecuricrats at the foundations? Could they not come up with a plan so that intelligence agencies could counter all those bad guys who feel offended at being helped by our internationalism without sending troops to poor mountainous countries? Kind of begs the question of why do they call them “think” tanks anyway?

“Tank,” however, makes sense as in “in the” tank. Who would donate all that moolah to such institutes unless an interest is served?

So, as the years roll on, we shall continue to have a garrison in the “graveyard of empires,” but as another 911 anniversary approaches we should remember the late Harry Brown; presidential candidate, author, economist, libertarian and, as it turns out, prophet.

We have to fight them over there so we don’t have to think about it too much over here.

Richard Morchoe is a columnist, book reviewer and article writer for a regional monthly magazine in Western Central Massachusetts. His email address is rmorchoe@ymail.com.

Be seeing you

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America’s Forever Wars Have Come Home – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on June 8, 2020

But let me be clear: my dad knew how to put out fires, but once a house was “fully involved,” he used to tell me, there’s little you can do but stand back and watch it burn while keeping the fire from spreading.

America’s forever wars in distant lands have now come home big time. Our house is lit up and on fire. Alarms are being sounded over and over again. If we fail to come together to fight the fire until our house is fully involved, we will find ourselves – and what’s left of our democracy – burning with it.

https://original.antiwar.com/William_Astore/2020/06/07/americas-forever-wars-have-come-home/

Originally posted at TomDispatch.

Here’s a little portrait of the United States in June 2020, a passage from a New York Times report on the National Guard’s treatment of a recent protest march of people chanting “We can’t breathe!” in Washington, D.C.:

“A Black Hawk helicopter, followed by a smaller medical evacuation helicopter, dropped to rooftop level with its searchlights aimed at the crowd. Tree limbs snapped, nearly hitting several people. Signs were torn from the sides of buildings. Some protesters looked up, while others ran into doorways. The downward force of air from the rotors was deafening. The helicopters were performing a ‘show of force’ – a standard tactic used by military aircraft in combat zones to scatter insurgents.”

Talk about America’s wars coming home! George Floyd’s recent killing is both a long way, and yet not far at all, from the police shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Many Americans felt shocked then on seeing that city’s police force respond to the ensuing protests togged out in Pentagon-supplied gear of every sort, including sniper rifles and Humvees, often directly off the battlefields of this country’s ongoing wars. As Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver put it then, referring to an Iraqi city largely destroyed by the U.S. military in 2004, “Ferguson resembles Fallujah.”

The question is: What does the US resemble six years later? You know, I’m talking about the place that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently referred to as a “battle space” (as in “dominate the battle space”) in a contentious discussion he and President Trump had with the nation’s governors. I’m talking about the country where that same president has been threatening to call out the troops as police forces. (When retired military brass screamed bloody murder, Esper began backing down.) I’m talking about the land into which Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton has the urge to send the 101st Airborne Division, or Screaming Eagles, whose assault troops have previously seen action in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. (“If local politicians will not do their most basic job to protect our citizens, let’s see how these anarchists respond when the 101st Airborne is on the other side of the street.”)

Could you ever doubt that America’s wars would sooner or later come home in a big way? I suspect retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and historian William Astore didn’t. After all, he’s been writing for years at TomDispatch about how our former citizens’ military has, in those very wars, become the equivalent of a foreign legion. Fully militarizing the police and bringing the legionnaires home, a subject he explores today, seems like just the next obvious step in this country’s precipitous decline. ~ Tom


‘Light ’em Up’: Warrior-Cops Are the Law – and Above the Law – As Violence Grips America

By William J. Astore

From their front porches, regular citizens watched a cordon of cops sweep down their peaceful street in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Rankled at being filmed, the cops exceeded their authority and demanded that people go inside their houses. When some of them didn’t obey quickly enough, the order – one heard so many times in the streets of Iraqi cities and in the villages of Afghanistan – was issued: “Light ’em up.” And so “disobedient” Americans found themselves on the receiving end of non-lethal rounds for the “crime” of watching the police from those porches.

It’s taken years from Ferguson to this moment, but America’s cops have now officially joined the military as “professional” warriors. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder on May 25th, those warrior-cops have taken to the streets across the country wearing combat gear and with attitudes to match. They see protesters, as well as the reporters covering them, as the enemy and themselves as the “thin blue line” of law and order.

The police take to bashing heads and thrashing bodies, using weaponry so generously funded by the American taxpayer: rubber bullets, pepper spray (as Congresswoman Joyce Beatty of Ohio experienced at a protest), tear gas (as Episcopal clergy experienced at a demonstration in Washington, DC), paint canisters, and similar “non-lethal” munitions, together with flash-bang grenades, standard-issue batons, and Tasers, even as they drive military-surplus equipment like Humvees and MRAPs. (Note that such munitions blinded an eye of one photo-journalist.) A Predator drone even hovered over at least one protest.

Who needs a military parade, President Trump? Americans are witnessing militarized “parades” across the U.S.A. Their theme: violent force. The result: plenty of wounded and otherwise damaged Americans left in their wake. The detritus of America’s foreign wars has finally well and truly found its place on Main Street, USA

Cops are to blame for much of this mayhem. Video clips show them wildly out of control, inciting violence and inflicting it, instead of defusing and preventing it. Far too often, “to serve and protect” has become “to shoot and smack down.” It suggests the character of Eric Cartman from the cartoon South Park, a boy inflamed by a badge and a chance to inflict physical violence without accountability. “Respect my authoritah!” cries Cartman as he beats an innocent man for no reason….

And so on

Be seeing you

 

 

 

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Tomgram: Danny Sjursen, Why No Retired Generals Oppose America’s Forever Wars | TomDispatch

Posted by M. C. on February 24, 2020

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176665/tomgram%3A_danny_sjursen%2C_why_no_retired_generals_oppose_america%27s_forever_wars/

Posted by Danny Sjursen

In early 2017, U.S. Army Major Danny Sjursen, who first stumbled upon TomDispatch while on duty in Afghanistan in 2011, wrote to the site wondering if he might do a piece for it. He got in touch, in part, because a former Army colonel, Andrew Bacevich, whom he admired, was already regularly featured here, as were other former U.S. military officers like retired Air Force lieutenant colonel William Astore. TomDispatch had, in fact, been one of the earliest places to highlight the work of former military officers critical of this country’s forever wars across the Greater Middle East and Africa. (After all, or so it then seemed to me, who could have grasped those disasters better?)

That February, when Sjursen wrote his first article for TomDispatch on the wars that had begun in 2001 and then (as now) had “no end in sight,” something struck me about the new administration of President Donald Trump. He had just filled key positions around him with generals from those very wars (all of whom are now gone from his administration). From James Mattis to John Kelly to H.R. McMaster, all of them were visibly wedded to those very never-ending conflicts. So, in introducing Sjursen’s inaugural piece, I wrote, “Under the circumstances, it’s good to know that, even if not at the highest ranks of the U.S. military, there are officers who have been able to take in what they experienced up close and personal in Iraq and Afghanistan and make some new — not desperately old — sense of it.”

Today, in his 26th piece for this site, Sjursen takes up that very subject: in a military that certainly has critics and dissidents in its lower ranks and its officer corps who have grasped the disastrous nature of almost 19 years of losing wars across large swaths of the planet, why are there no critical generals (or admirals) around? As he points out, the system that produces those flag officers is not set up to allow for the rise of anyone unwilling to buy in big time to the American way of war as it now exists across far too much of the planet. Tom

Where Have You Gone, Smedley Butler?
A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to (Someone Like) You…
By Danny Sjursen

There once lived an odd little man — five feet nine inches tall and barely 140 pounds sopping wet — who rocked the lecture circuit and the nation itself. For all but a few activist insiders and scholars, U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler is now lost to history. Yet more than a century ago, this strange contradiction of a man would become a national war hero, celebrated in pulp adventure novels, and then, 30 years later, as one of this country’s most prominent antiwar and anti-imperialist dissidents.

Raised in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and educated in Quaker (pacifist) schools, the son of an influential congressman, he would end up serving in nearly all of America’s “Banana Wars” from 1898 to 1931. Wounded in combat and a rare recipient of two Congressional Medals of Honor, he would retire as the youngest, most decorated major general in the Marines.

A teenage officer and a certified hero during an international intervention in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of 1900, he would later become a constabulary leader of the Haitian gendarme, the police chief of Philadelphia (while on an approved absence from the military), and a proponent of Marine Corps football. In more standard fashion, he would serve in battle as well as in what might today be labeled peacekeeping, counterinsurgency, and advise-and-assist missions in Cuba, China, the Philippines, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti, France, and China (again). While he showed early signs of skepticism about some of those imperial campaigns or, as they were sardonically called by critics at the time, “Dollar Diplomacy” operations — that is, military campaigns waged on behalf of U.S. corporate business interests — until he retired he remained the prototypical loyal Marine.

But after retirement, Smedley Butler changed his tune. He began to blast the imperialist foreign policy and interventionist bullying in which he’d only recently played such a prominent part. Eventually, in 1935 during the Great Depression, in what became a classic passage in his memoir, which he titled “War Is a Racket,” he wrote: “I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service… And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the Bankers.”

Seemingly overnight, the famous war hero transformed himself into an equally acclaimed antiwar speaker and activist in a politically turbulent era. Those were, admittedly, uncommonly anti-interventionist years, in which veterans and politicians alike promoted what (for America, at least) had been fringe ideas. This was, after all, the height of what later pro-war interventionists would pejoratively label American “isolationism.”

Nonetheless, Butler was unique (for that moment and certainly for our own) in his unapologetic amenability to left-wing domestic politics and materialist critiques of American militarism. In the last years of his life, he would face increasing criticism from his former admirer, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the military establishment, and the interventionist press. This was particularly true after Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany invaded Poland and later France. Given the severity of the Nazi threat to mankind, hindsight undoubtedly proved Butler’s virulent opposition to U.S. intervention in World War II wrong.

Nevertheless, the long-term erasure of his decade of antiwar and anti-imperialist activism and the assumption that all his assertions were irrelevant has proven historically deeply misguided. In the wake of America’s brief but bloody entry into the First World War, the skepticism of Butler (and a significant part of an entire generation of veterans) about intervention in a new European bloodbath should have been understandable. Above all, however, his critique of American militarism of an earlier imperial era in the Pacific and in Latin America remains prescient and all too timely today, especially coming as it did from one of the most decorated and high-ranking general officers of his time. (In the era of the never-ending war on terror, such a phenomenon is quite literally inconceivable.)

Smedley Butler’s Marine Corps and the military of his day was, in certain ways, a different sort of organization than today’s highly professionalized armed forces. History rarely repeats itself, not in a literal sense anyway. Still, there are some disturbing similarities between the careers of Butler and today’s generation of forever-war fighters. All of them served repeated tours of duty in (mostly) unsanctioned wars around the world. Butler’s conflicts may have stretched west from Haiti across the oceans to China, whereas today’s generals mostly lead missions from West Africa east to Central Asia, but both sets of conflicts seemed perpetual in their day and were motivated by barely concealed economic and imperial interests.

Nonetheless, whereas this country’s imperial campaigns of the first third of the twentieth century generated a Smedley Butler, the hyper-interventionism of the first decades of this century hasn’t produced a single even faintly comparable figure. Not one. Zero. Zilch. Why that is matters and illustrates much about the U.S. military establishment and contemporary national culture, none of it particularly encouraging.

Why No Antiwar Generals

When Smedley Butler retired in 1931, he was one of three Marine Corps major generals holding a rank just below that of only the Marine commandant and the Army chief of staff. Today, with about 900 generals and admirals currently serving on active duty, including 24 major generals in the Marine Corps alone, and with scores of flag officers retiring annually, not a single one has offered genuine public opposition to almost 19 years worth of ill-advised, remarkably unsuccessful American wars. As for the most senior officers, the 40 four-star generals and admirals whose vocal antimilitarism might make the biggest splash, there are more of them today than there were even at the height of the Vietnam War, although the active military is now about half the size it was then. Adulated as many of them may be, however, not one qualifies as a public critic of today’s failing wars.

Instead, the principal patriotic dissent against those terror wars has come from retired colonels, lieutenant colonels, and occasionally more junior officers (like me), as well as enlisted service members. Not that there are many of us to speak of either. I consider it disturbing (and so should you) that I personally know just about every one of the retired military figures who has spoken out against America’s forever wars.

The big three are Secretary of State Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson; Vietnam veteran and onetime West Point history instructor, retired Colonel Andrew Bacevich; and Iraq veteran and Afghan War whistleblower, retired Lieutenant Colonel Danny Davis. All three have proven to be genuine public servants, poignant voices, and — on some level — cherished personal mentors. For better or worse, however, none carry the potential clout of a retired senior theater commander or prominent four-star general offering the same critiques.

Something must account for veteran dissenters topping out at the level of colonel. Obviously, there are personal reasons why individual officers chose early retirement or didn’t make general or admiral. Still, the system for selecting flag officers should raise at least a few questions when it comes to the lack of antiwar voices among retired commanders. In fact, a selection committee of top generals and admirals is appointed each year to choose the next colonels to earn their first star. And perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that, according to numerous reports, “the members of this board are inclined, if not explicitly motivated, to seek candidates in their own image — officers whose careers look like theirs.” At a minimal level, such a system is hardly built to foster free thinkers, no less breed potential dissidents.

Consider it an irony of sorts that this system first received criticism in our era of forever wars when General David Petraeus, then commanding the highly publicized “surge” in Iraq, had to leave that theater of war in 2007 to serve as the chair of that selection committee. The reason: he wanted to ensure that a twice passed-over colonel, a protégé of his — future Trump National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster — earned his star.

Mainstream national security analysts reported on this affair at the time as if it were a major scandal, since most of them were convinced that Petraeus and his vaunted counterinsurgency or “COINdinista” protégés and their “new” war-fighting doctrine had the magic touch that would turn around the failing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, Petraeus tried to apply those very tactics twice — once in each country — as did acolytes of his later, and you know the results of that.

But here’s the point: it took an eleventh-hour intervention by America’s most acclaimed general of that moment to get new stars handed out to prominent colonels who had, until then, been stonewalled by Cold War-bred flag officers because they were promoting different (but also strangely familiar) tactics in this country’s wars. Imagine, then, how likely it would be for such a leadership system to produce genuine dissenters with stars of any serious sort, no less a crew of future Smedley Butlers.

At the roots of this system lay the obsession of the American officer corps with “professionalization” after the Vietnam War debacle. This first manifested itself in a decision to ditch the citizen-soldier tradition, end the draft, and create an “all-volunteer force.” The elimination of conscription, as predicted by critics at the time, created an ever-growing civil-military divide, even as it increased public apathy regarding America’s wars by erasing whatever “skin in the game” most citizens had.

More than just helping to squelch civilian antiwar activism, though, the professionalization of the military, and of the officer corps in particular, ensured that any future Smedley Butlers would be left in the dust (or in retirement at the level of lieutenant colonel or colonel) by a system geared to producing faux warrior-monks. Typical of such figures is current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley. He may speak gruffly and look like a man with a head of his own, but typically he’s turned out to be just another yes-man for another war-power-hungry president.

One group of generals, however, reportedly now does have it out for President Trump — but not because they’re opposed to endless war. Rather, they reportedly think that The Donald doesn’t “listen enough to military advice” on, you know, how to wage war forever and a day.

What Would Smedley Butler Think Today?

In his years of retirement, Smedley Butler regularly focused on the economic component of America’s imperial war policies. He saw clearly that the conflicts he had fought in, the elections he had helped rig, the coups he had supported, and the constabularies he had formed and empowered in faraway lands had all served the interests of U.S. corporate investors. Though less overtly the case today, this still remains a reality in America’s post-9/11 conflicts, even on occasion embarrassingly so (as when the Iraqi ministry of oil was essentially the only public building protected by American troops as looters tore apart the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in the post-invasion chaos of April 2003). Mostly, however, such influence plays out far more subtly than that, both abroad and here at home where those wars help maintain the record profits of the top weapons makers of the military-industrial complex.

That beast, first identified by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is now on steroids as American commanders in retirement regularly move directly from the military onto the boards of the giant defense contractors, a reality which only contributes to the dearth of Butlers in the military retiree community. For all the corruption of his time, the Pentagon didn’t yet exist and the path from the military to, say, United Fruit Company, Standard Oil, or other typical corporate giants of that moment had yet to be normalized for retiring generals and admirals. Imagine what Butler would have had to say about the modern phenomenon of the “revolving door” in Washington.

Of course, he served in a very different moment, one in which military funding and troop levels were still contested in Congress. As a longtime critic of capitalist excesses who wrote for leftist publications and supported the Socialist Party candidate in the 1936 presidential elections, Butler would have found today’s nearly trillion-dollar annual defense budgets beyond belief. What the grizzled former Marine long ago identified as a treacherous nexus between warfare and capital “in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives” seems to have reached its natural end point in the twenty-first century. Case in point: the record (and still rising) “defense” spending of the present moment, including — to please a president — the creation of a whole new military service aimed at the full-scale militarization of space.

Sadly enough, in the age of Trump, as numerous polls demonstrate, the U.S. military is the only public institution Americans still truly trust. Under the circumstances, how useful it would be to have a high-ranking, highly decorated, charismatic retired general in the Butler mold galvanize an apathetic public around those forever wars of ours. Unfortunately, the likelihood of that is practically nil, given the military system of our moment.

Of course, Butler didn’t exactly end his life triumphantly. In late May 1940, having lost 25 pounds due to illness and exhaustion — and demonized as a leftist, isolationist crank but still maintaining a whirlwind speaking schedule — he checked himself into the Philadelphia Navy Yard Hospital for a “rest.” He died there, probably of some sort of cancer, four weeks later. Working himself to death in his 10-year retirement and second career as a born-again antiwar activist, however, might just have constituted the very best service that the two-time Medal of Honor winner could have given the nation he loved to the very end.

Someone of his credibility, character, and candor is needed more than ever today. Unfortunately, this military generation is unlikely to produce such a figure. In retirement, Butler himself boldly confessed that, “like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical…”

Today, generals don’t seem to have a thought of their own even in retirement. And more’s the pity…

Be seeing you

War_Is_a_Racket_(cover)

 

 

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The US Has Been Fighting “Forever Wars” Against Muslims for 120 Years

Posted by M. C. on December 30, 2019

“I want no prisoners,” ordered General Jacob Smith on Samar Island during the war in 1902. “I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better you will please me.”

Fast forward over 100 years later and it is difficult to see how U.S. military doctrine has changed for the better. A video came to light in 2010 of then-General James Mattis saying that it was “a hell of a lot of fun to shoot” people in Afghanistan. Mattis was later rewarded for his heroism and bravery by being crowned Donald Trump’s secretary of defense for a short while.

https://themindunleashed.com/2019/12/us-forever-wars-muslims.html

(TMU Op-Ed) — U.S.-led wars in the Middle East have killed some four million Muslims since 1990. The recently published Afghanistan papers, provided an insight into the longest war in U.S. history and revealed how U.S. officials continuously lied about the progress being made in Afghanistan, lacked a basic understanding of the country, were hiding evidence that the war was unwinnable, and had wasted as much as $1 trillion in the process.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon is nothing new. While most people accept that the United States has been interfering with Muslim populations quite heavily since World War II, the truth is that the U.S. has been fighting “forever wars” against Muslim populations for well over 100 years. (If you want to really go back into history, Thomas Jefferson was also fighting Muslims in the oft-forgotten Barbary Wars in the early 1800s).

The average American school curriculum likely doesn’t feature the fact that the U.S. waged a war from 1899 to 1913 in the southernmost island of the Philippines. Known as the Moro War, it was the longest sustained military campaign in American history until the war in Afghanistan surpassed it a few years ago. As a result, the U.S. and the Philippine governments are still embroiled in a battle with Islamist insurgents in the southern Philippines, which takes the meaning of “forever war” to a whole new level.

Despite over a century passing since the U.S. led a counterinsurgency war against the Islamic Moros, its similarities with the Afghanistan war are incredibly noteworthy, to say the least.

Even reading accounts of the terrain in which both conflicts were fought suggest they were equally as treacherous. As detailed in the memoir of Captain John Pershing, fighting the Moro Wars “entailed guerrilla warfare in a country unknown to us, with its swamps and rivers and its hills and mountains, every foot of which was familiar to the inhabitants and their insurrecto troops.”

While the U.S. often boasts about fighting for freedom, many Americans may be wondering how it is that their freedom came to be located in the Philippines in the first place. Was it worth sending 75,000 American troops in just 1900 alone to the Philippines to fight and die? And was the operation even remotely successful?

More importantly seems to be the indication that the U.S. military was not welcome in the Philippines, much as it is not welcomed by Afghanistan or any other Muslim-majority nation which has to duel with the U.S. Empire. After the U.S. defeated the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay and annexed the Philippines under the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the Moro population were not even consulted. The U.S. then sought to “pacify” them using brute force.

“I want no prisoners,” ordered General Jacob Smith on Samar Island during the war in 1902. “I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better you will please me.”

Fast forward over 100 years later and it is difficult to see how U.S. military doctrine has changed for the better. A video came to light in 2010 of then-General James Mattis saying that it was “a hell of a lot of fun to shoot” people in Afghanistan. Mattis was later rewarded for his heroism and bravery by being crowned Donald Trump’s secretary of defense for a short while.

As you can imagine, General Smith received his wish just as Mattis after him, with perhaps half a million locals dying as a result of the U.S. invasion. At Bud Dajo, some 1,000 Moro separatists, including their families had fled to the crest of a volcano to escape the American invasion. Allegedly, American troops reached the top of the volcano and fired down into the crater until they killed 99 percent of the inhabitants. The colonizers then took the time and effort to pose for a photograph with the hundreds of dead bodies (no, seriously).

It is also worth noting that some 4,000 U.S. soldiers lost their lives during this particular war. This closely mirrors the number of coalition deaths since 2001 in Afghanistan—and for good reason. To minimize U.S. personnel deaths in the Philippines’ war, the U.S. military deployed Filipinos led by U.S. officers into battle. (Sound familiar?)

At one stage, Filipinos ended up doing almost all of the dying as U.S. soldiers slowly left the battle theatre. In fact, the final year of conflict was the bloodiest year of the Moro war. This seems to be the trend in a number of U.S. wars. This is certainly true with respect to Afghanistan, with the U.S. military and its Afghan lackeys on the ground killing more civilians than the Taliban in recent times.

But what is all this senseless violence for? To put it simply, whether in the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere, this rampage is all borne out of the belief that America’s subordinates are not capable of ruling themselves and will ultimately profit from American occupation. This was actually the firm thinking of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, who saw it as the duty of the United States to maintain the Philippines as a protectorate. This idea was famously (or infamously) termed the “White Man’s Burden” in a poem written by Rudyard Kipling, who sent the poem to Teddy prior to his decision to engage in the Philippine-American war.  A 1902 Life Magazine cover even depicted an apparent waterboarding of a Filipino POW by U.S. personnel (the supporters in the background seem to be watching with glee).

When not much has changed, it seems it never will. We can also expect this type of activity to continue for the foreseeable future, given the geopolitical stakes at hand. In the case of the Philippines, it was recently reported that Chinese and Philippine foreign ministers have sealed an agreement for the two nations to pursue joint oil and gas exploration in the hotly contested South China Sea.

As it turns out, the South China Sea could contain anywhere between 125 billion barrels of crude oil and 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The idea that a foreign adversary, especially one rising to prowess on the world stage such as China, could control the majority of these resources unchecked is a major blow to the U.S. Empire.

Whether it is lithium, opium, and geostrategic chess moves in Afghanistan; or natural gas and oil in the South China Sea, Muslim populations will continue to suffer in a colonial terror campaign which has been unfolding for over 100 years.

Think of it this way: if another century passes and your great grandchildren had never heard of the “forever war” that took place in Afghanistan in the early 2000s, all the while watching a new war unfold in the Indo-Pacific region for similar reasons, you would rightfully be fuming in your grave.

By Darius Shahtahmasebi | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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