The %#% Military Budget

Reply Fri 13 Apr, 2018 10:41 pm
WikiLeaks Reveals How the US Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath
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Reply Sun 15 Apr, 2018 11:02 am

The lessons of history? Who needs them? Certainly not Washington’s present cast of characters, a crew in flight from history, the past, or knowledge of more or less any sort. Still, just for the hell of it, let’s take a few moments to think about what some of the lessons of the last years of the previous century and the first years of this one might be for the world’s most exceptional and indispensable nation, the planet’s sole superpower, the globe’s only sheriff. Those were, of course, commonplace descriptions from the pre-Trump era and yet, in the age of MAGA, already as moldy and cold as the dust in some pharaonic tomb.

Let’s start this way: you could think of the post-Cold War era, the years after the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, as the moment of America’s first opioid crisis. The country’s politicians and would-be politicians were, then, taking street drugs (K-Street and military-industrial-complex ones, to be exact) and having remarkable visions of a planet available for the taking, as well as the keeping, forever and ever, amen.

On a globe without another superpower — pre-Putin Russia was a shattered, impoverished shell of the former Soviet Union, while China was still entering the capitalist world, Communist party in tow — history’s ultimate opportunity had obviously presented itself. And about to ascend to the holodeck of the USS America (beam me up, Dick Cheney!) were history’s ultimate opportunists, the men (and woman) who would, in January 2001, occupy the top posts in the administration of President George W. Bush. That, of course, included Cheney who, after overseeing a wide-ranging search for the best candidate for vice president, had appointed himself to the job. As a group, they couldn’t have been more ready for America’s ultimate moment in the sun. They had been preparing for it for years and largely came out of the first think tank — the Project for the New American Century — ever to enter the Oval Office. They had long been in favor of ensuring this country’s “unchallenged supremacy” by building its already staggering military into a force beyond compare. In doing so, they had no doubt that they would achieve the previously inconceivable: an “American geopolitical preeminence,” as they politely put it, that would be like no other great power’s ever.

As it happened, their moment came with blinding, thoroughly unexpected speed on September 11, 2001. Their response would be captured perfectly only five hours after the attacks of that day. From the partially devastated Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, already certain that al-Qaeda was behind the strikes, ordered his aides (as one of them scribbled down) to “go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” And so they did. What followed would be not just the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, but of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a country completely unconnected to the attacks of 9/11. And not just Iraq either, not in their fevered imaginations anyway (as once again today in the fever dreams of newly appointed National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo), but Iran, too. Not far behind in the sweep-it-up category would come, they were convinced, the rest of the Greater Middle East (still being called in those days “the arc of instability” — little did they know!). In the end, they had no doubt that the rest of the planet would fall in line, too (or pay the price). It was to be a Pax Americana planet for the ages.


In the carnage that followed, it was easy to forget just how expansive those fever dreams were. But give them credit: whatever else they did (or didn’t do), geopolitically speaking, George W. Bush’s crew thought big. Just consider their seminal document of the post-9/11 moment, the 2002 National Security Strategy. Their goal, it stated, was to ensure that the U.S. would “build and maintain” the country’s “defenses” (that is, military power) “beyond challenge.” And keep in mind that they were already talking about a country in, as that document put it, “a position of unparalleled military strength.”

Let that roll around in your head for a second so many years later: on this planet a single, unparalleled military power “beyond challenge.” That was a dream of dominion that once would have been left to “Evil Empires” or madmen (or the truly, truly bad guys in Hollywood movies). But in the world as they imagined it then, the one in which only that “sole” superpower stood tall, how easy it proved to imagine a Great Game with just a single player and an eternal arms race of one.

The top officials of the Bush administration were, as I wrote back then, pure fundamentalists when it came to U.S. military power. As President Bush later put it, they considered that military “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.” Under such circumstances, why would anyone be shy about loosing it to “liberate” the rest of the planet? In that 2002 document, the Bush administration essentially called for a world in which no other great power or bloc of powers would ever again be allowed to challenge this country’s supremacy. As the president put it in an address at West Point that same year, “America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.”

The National Security Strategy put the same thought this way: “Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.” And the president and his men promptly began to hike the Pentagon budget to fit their oversized fantasies of what an American planetary “footprint” should look like (a process that, despite everything that followed, has never ended).

The Lessons of American War

So much of this has, of course, already been buried in the sands of history, but that’s no reason for it to be forgotten. Almost 17 years after 9/11, the parts of the planet that “the greatest force, etc., etc.” was loosed upon remain in remarkable upheaval and disarray, while failed states and terror groups multiply, producing more displaced people and refugees than at any time since the end of World War II. Another great power, China, is rising, and an economically less than great Russia continues to hang in there militarily and strategically by force of Putinian chutzpah. Not surprisingly, American decline has become a topic of the moment.

What conclusions, then, might be drawn from the era of folly that led us to this Trumpian moment? Here are my suggestions for five possible lessons from the American experience of war in the twenty-first century:

Lesson one: It should have been too obvious to say, but wasn’t: Earth can’t be conquered by a single power, no matter how strong. Try to do so and you’ll end up taking yourself down in some fashion.

Shakespeare would have been fascinated by the hubris of America’s leaders in these years (and that was before Mr. Hubris Himself even hit the White House). It couldn’t be clearer today that the military-first grab for an all-American planet proved strikingly too much for the U.S. to swallow by an Iraqi mile. It never even came close to happening. When the history of American decline is written, perhaps it will be said that never was there a great power whose leaders so effectively took it down themselves simply by wanting too much too badly and by woefully misunderstanding the nature of power on this planet. For Washington, the urge to make Earth into its imperium proved the equivalent of a submarine putting a torpedo into its own bow.

Lesson two: In the twenty-first century, military power, even that of the “finest fighting force in the history of the world” (another presidential descriptor of these years), isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It doesn’t matter how many hundreds of billions of dollars you put into building up and maintaining that military yearly or how many trillions of dollars you sink into its wars and the mayhem they produce.

In 2018, the greatest military on Earth turned out to be incapable of ultimately defeating forces that were producing roadside bombs for the cost of a pizza. If you want to measure the effectiveness of the U.S. military, note, for instance, that more than a decade and a half after its “Global War on Terror” was launched there are al-Qaeda affiliates in far more places than on September 12, 2001; the original al-Qaeda still exists; other al-Qaeda crews are fighting with reasonable success from Yemen to Syria to North Africa; ISIS, while destroyed as a state or “caliphate,” continues as a guerrilla movement in parts of Syria and Iraq and its branded affiliates have spread across that former “arc of instability” from Niger and Libya to Afghanistan and the Philippines. Washington’s war on terror, in other words, turned into a war for the spread of terror.

Lesson three: Military power is now a force for chaos. Historically, in the imperial ages that preceded this one, such power, while applied brutally and devastatingly, could also be a way of imposing order on conquered and colonized areas. (Hence, say, the British Raj in India or the French military hold on Indochina.) No longer, it seems, not in the wake of the twentieth century wars of liberation and independence in the formerly colonized world. We’re now on a planet that simply doesn’t accept military-first conquest and occupation, no matter under what guise it arrives (including the spread of “democracy”). So beware of unleashing modern military power. It turns out to contain within it striking disintegrative forces on a planet that can ill afford such chaos.

Lesson four: At least at the imperial level, victory turns out to be a concept from another century. In its wars of recent years, the American military has moved from dreams of victory to an acceptance that its conflicts might be “generational” in nature to, most recently, the idea of “infinite war” (that is, war without hope of end or ultimate success). In this way, its top commanders have admitted that, by their own definition, they now live in a victory-less world.

Lesson five: Imperial wars do come home, even if in ways often hard to spot or grasp. Indeed, America’s wars of the twenty-first century have been returning to the homeland not as victory but as a kind of defeat, however hard that may be to see.

Donald Trump is proof of that. His slogan “Make America Great Again” — implying, as no other politician of his moment dared do, that the country was no longer great — rang a bell in the heartland and helped win him the 2016 election. His America First campaign similarly embodied a declinist sensibility, even if not recognized as such.

In promoting a presidency that would (again) put American first, Trump reflected what, for so many Americans, was a distinctly twenty-first-century message. Despite those soaring Washington dreams of an all-American planet, this century has proved anything but an America First one in the white American heartland. While citizen tax dollars poured down the drain of those distant wars (and the scams linked to them), the country’s unparalleled global corporate power helped generate profits and wealth beyond compare — but mainly for a single gilded class of one percenters. And so the numbers of multimillionaires and billionaires multiplied impressively, creating an ever-widening inequality gap. In those same years, with a helping hand from the Supreme Court, the American political system was turned over, lock, stock, and barrel, to those very billionaires and multimillionaires and their super PACs. Meanwhile, actual investment in this country’s basic infrastructure, in everything that had once made it the most advanced of first world countries, went off a cliff.

All of this was felt particularly deeply by the inhabitants of the country’s white heartland, as the future seemed to close in on so many of them. In their own fashion, they had absorbed some intuitive version of the above “lessons” of recent history, as had Donald Trump. As a result, in election 2016, along with all his tweets, insults, and nicknames, which became the heart and soul of media coverage, he did something far more crucial. He reassured Americans who felt that their lives and those of their children (going into debt for their very educations in ways that once would have been unimaginable) were turning third world on them. This they blamed on both the “swamp” of Washington and people of color of every sort. In his own distinctive way, Trump reassured them that life in America didn’t have to be like this, repeatedly sending them messages of firstness and greatness, as well as anti-immigrant-ness, with convincing fire and fury.

Of course, upon entering the Oval Office, our first billionaire president promptly chose a cabinet of billionaires and multimillionaires, while the great achievement of his initial year as president would be to free both corporate America and that same gilded class of yet more financial responsibility for the nation, thanks to his tax “reform” bill. Meanwhile, he oversaw the expansion of America’s wars in distant lands.

None of this should have been slightly surprising. After all, whatever reassurance he may have offered, his campaign was always a The Donald First one. And whatever they thought they were doing, his voters were electing a man whose deepest expertise lay in how to emerge from bankruptcy proceedings smelling like a rose. Now, he seems intent on applying those special skills to peace, war, and the economy.

That means, in another year or two, you can count on lessons of American war six through 10 from me. In the meantime, hold on to your hats.
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Reply Sun 15 Apr, 2018 03:41 pm
Ideology of Death: Patriotism Sold by the 1% and Borne by the Rest of Us
You have to give it to them, the super rich are uber brilliant. On second thought, brilliance implies some sort of virtue that others should emulate. The 1% are actually wickedly cunning. If the devil works magic through duplicity and lies, he taught his minions on earth very well. For the oligarchy have managed throughout history to dupe the ever obsequious public to bow before them while they accumulate treasures by spreading pestilence throughout the world. Nowhere is this paradigm more evident than the issues of war and bloodshed.

Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, who was the most highly decorated leatherneck in the history of the Marines at the time of his death, noted that wars are rackets fought to enhance the fortunes of corporations and plutocrats. Neocon and neoliberal chicken hawks, whose closest encounters with war are the high definition graphics of drones and missiles they see while promoting genocides in their air conditioned TV studios, would have called Major General Butler a traitor to his country. Capital swindlers react violently to anyone who dares speak truths that threaten to expose their hustle.

Their hustle is pretty slick; plutocrats, politicians and media personalities—all working for their corporate masters and plutocrat benefactors—keep convincing the poor, working and middle class to fight wars while they count their opulence. With each bomb that explodes, every limb shredded off and each life that is snuffed out, the cause for peace and justice takes leaps and bounds backwards. However, these same bloodbaths are boons for moneyed interests; there is nothing that is more pleasing to Wall Street and the gentry than breaking news of death and carnage.

Lest you think what I write is hyperbole, just think back to September 11th, 2001. While most Americans were in shock and mourning, traders on Wall Street and traitors to humanity were licking their chops to make a killing from the killing of innocent lives. Not only were institutional holders trying to figure out how to profit from America’s mass causality, there were some who were betting on an incoming terror before the Twin Towers were reduced to rubble. In the days before 9/11, there was an abnormal spike in put options against airline companies. Put options are bets that are made in anticipation of sudden downturns which yield tremendous profits in the event of a market retrenchment. A report by the San Francisco Chronicle noted:

“There was an unusually large jump in purchases of put options on the stocks of UAL Corp. and AMR Corp. in the three business days before the attack on major options exchanges in the United States. On one day, UAL put option purchases were 25 times greater than the year-to-date average. In the month before the attacks, short sales jumped by 40 percent for UAL and 20 percent for American.”

What took place prior to September 11th was not an aberration as much as it was an accepted practice for those who see bad news for humanity as great news for business. This past Friday—in anticipation of Donald Trump following through on his promise to bomb Syria—the share prices of Raytheon, Boeing, and Northrup Grumman all jumped sharply before the markets closed for the weekend. The future is past tense for those who have enough money to dictate policy decisions and political discourse. For the billionaire class and their millionaire underlings, everything is about the Benjamins. If Russia ever launches a nuclear trident in the direction of Omaha, the last act of Jim Cramer will be yelling at viewers to buy! buy! buy! shares of Service Corporation International.

Patriotism is serving one’s nation not profiting from its destruction. Sadly, we are being led and bled by public serpents who care only about self-interest.
This is the corrosive nature of money and power; people who accumulate enough of both have their souls inverted and replaced by savagery. I often ponder where compliance ends and evil begins. I’ve reduced it to this: evil is contained to those who actively push suffering upon humanity—the rest of us are guilty through consent. Sadly, it is our acquiescence to those who purvey evil that has been the root of our collective woe throughout the ages. While the upper crust of society amass capital, the rest of us keep acquiring sorrows. Artificial constructs like race, ideology and the ever proliferating identities that are imposed upon us serve to shatter humanity and make us fight each other.

We become crabs in barrels snipping at each other instead of working together to escape our vessels. As we bicker, we don’t notice the water boiling around us as each day more and more of us are broiled by creeping insolvency or entombed by indigence. To distract us from the fact that our hardships can be traced to the few who reign atop of us, demagogues and shills are pushed by the establishment to continually antagonize us and keep us focused on our differences. The whole of our politics is centered on this axiom: as long as we view the world through left/right and black/white prisms, we will never be able to muster the unity that is needed to overcome injustice.

Carl von Clausewitz noted that war is politics by other means. He could not have been any more right, except few actually understand the profound depth of his statement. War is the natural extension of politics because ideological divides are the wombs that give birth to combat. The same way we are made to demonize each other domestically through tribalism is how the politico-media complex demonizes foreigners to gin up conflict and start warfare. The “us versus them” battles that take place internally is used by jingoists to drum up war and initiate strife globally.
Patriotism is sold by the 1% only to be borne by the rest of us—we are led by an ideology of death. CLICK TO TWEET

Our nation was founded on the principles of self-determination and limited governance. Some of the founders were wise enough to warn about the perils of becoming the police of the world. Proving that all revolutions devolve right back to the tyranny that gave birth to them, our government has now become the police, judge, jury and executioners of the planet. Samuel Johnson once said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, he was warning us about the current crop of political leaders on both sides of the aisle who are marching us down the path of destruction. They use euphemisms and nationalism to mask their malevolence; as they sign the death warrants of soldiers and foreign nationals, they turn around and collect checks from arms dealers and debt traders. King George was an altruistic angel compared to our governance.

I don’t know when we will wake up to this never ending hustle of war and lies. As warmongers get on TV to cheer on yet another bloodletting in Syria that can induce humanity’s nuclear extinction, the victims of perpetual war are stacking up in almost every city and town throughout America and throughout the world. On Friday, more than 100 missiles were launched into Damascus. Each missile costs roughly $1.5 million to manufacture. In a blink of an eye, more than $150 million was wasted to destroy another nation instead of building our breaking country. The water pipes in Flint could have been replaced and every homeless veteran in Michigan could have been given a house to live in with the money we frittered to bomb a nation that never attacked us.

It is our greatest shame that we waste billions building weapons that enrich defense contractors only to let veterans suffer in silence on sidewalks throughout America.
Alas, the wealthy don’t want to solve problems because profit is only found through wars and tribulations. So the beat goes on; children keep dying from Douma to Detroit and beyond for lack of water or through the shell shock of war and these developments just bleeds into the background. Human suffering has become a cost of doing business; we shrug our shoulders or take to social media to show hashtag outrage but in the end we accept injustice and move on to the next selfie laden protest. Soon enough, our turn on the line will arrive; injustice anywhere eventually becomes a noose that finds home upon our necks. I pray we rise from our collective coma before a stool kick becomes our culling wake.

Just remember, this war that politicians in DC and pundits in mainstream media are pushing is not the run of the mill wars we have been enmeshed in for the past 50 years. Parenthetically, wars which have taken the lives of millions around the world. Russia and China are not Iraq and Syria. The tensions that are being stoked by armchair generals—God forbid they boil over into open hostilities—will take the lives of billions if not usher in the age of Armageddon. The 1% have their bunkers built for this eventuality. If CNN leads with ICBMs heading for the nearest city, the gentility will be dinning on foie gras below ground as we are grazing on dry grass above them. Either we unite by choice or we will be united by a global holocaust. #IdeologyOfDeath

“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
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Reply Tue 17 Apr, 2018 08:07 am
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Reply Fri 20 Apr, 2018 06:42 am
Tantalizing. But can it happen?

North and South Korea open hotline between leaders: Seoul

The two Koreas opened a hotline between their leaders Friday, Seoul's presidential office said, a week before a summit between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and the South's President Moon Jae-in in the Demilitarized Zone.

The line links the presidential Blue House in Seoul with the Pyongyang office of the nuclear-armed North's State Affairs Commission, which Kim chairs - one of his most important titles.

"The historic connection of the hotline between the leaders of the two Koreas has just been established," said senior Blue House official Youn Kun-young, adding that a test conversation between officials lasted 4 minutes and 19 seconds.

It is the latest step in a whirlwind of diplomacy on and around the Korean peninsula, triggered by the Winter Olympics in the South.

Moon and Kim are due to meet on Friday on the southern side of the DMZ, in what will be only the third inter-Korean summit since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving them technically still in a state of conflict.

Seoul is pushing for a declaration that the war is over as a prelude to the signed of a treaty, with Moon declaring Thursday it was a goal that "must be pursued".

US President Donald Trump, who is expected to hold his own much-anticipated summit with Kim later, previously offered his "blessing" for the two Koreas to discuss a treaty.

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Reply Tue 24 Apr, 2018 08:59 am
Why they want war with Iran

APRIL 18, 2018 / 9:51 AM / 6 DAYS AGO
Iran switches from dollar to euro for official reporting currency
Reuters Staff


LONDON (Reuters) - Iran will start reporting foreign currency amounts in euros rather than U.S. dollars, state media said on Wednesday as part of the country’s effort to reduce its reliance on the U.S. currency due to political tension with Washington.
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Reply Tue 24 Apr, 2018 11:08 am
How the NYT partook in the plunder of Iraq
Who gave permission to the New York Times to remove thousands of ISIL files from Iraq?
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Reply Thu 26 Apr, 2018 04:37 pm

An alien visitor, or even a foreign observer, might find it peculiar that the United States military falls under the auspices of the Department of Defense. The army I was a part of never defended a damn thing. In hindsight, I fought for little that was tangible, except maybe deluded policymakers’ notions of American interests, or to ensure a steady flow of hydrocarbon resources or to distract an apathetic nation from the unrelenting assault on its civil liberties.

I mean, think about it: When was the last time our soldiers actually defended the homeland? The Civil War? The War of 1812? It’s hard to say, really. The populace at large, unlike our hypothetical extraterrestrial, fails to see this because offensive war, “away games” so to speak, is the new normal, and has been as long as most of us have been alive. Still, with American troops deployed to 70 percent of the world’s countries, and the U.S. bombing seven nations that we know of, now seems like the proper time to take stock of the role our military plays on this planet of ours.

And, for good measure, perhaps we should rename the agency responsible for that military: Department of Offense. Has a nice ring to it.

It is strange, our euphemistic naming convention. America used to be so much more direct and emphatic. At least until the passing of the National Security Act of 1947, we had a Department of War. “War.” A forceful word, precise language. What did our military exist to do? War. Still, one supposes we needed to jettison the term. It’d be so inaccurate today. Heck, the U.S. has not followed the Constitution and declared war since 1942. An American who last lived under an official, legal state of war is now 73 years old.


It’s not that state-sanctioned violence ended. Oh, not by a longshot. Some 100,000 American troopers and several million foreigners have been killed in an array of U.S. conflicts of choice since 1950. Nowadays we just don’t bother calling it war. It’s a semantics game. When the truck in front of mine blew up in Baghdad, it sure felt like a war. Same when a propelled grenade vaulted me over a low rock wall in Kandahar. Silly me, I was mistaken. Turns out that my units were actually engaged in “counterinsurgency” “stabilization operations” or—in my favorite bit of DOD speak—“military operations other than war.” It’s been the same charade ever since President Truman labeled the war in Korea a “police action.” See how the game works?

It’s all rather appropriate, at least from a cynic’s point of view. I mean, call something a war and it sounds serious. That might require conscription, national mobilization and higher taxes. But, if you say the military is engaged in “security operations,” that doesn’t sound so bad.
Well, at least since September 2001—and one could argue, since the Spanish American War of 1898—the U.S. military has been plenty busy doing “operations other than war.” Funny thing: Millions of civilians and tens of thousands of American servicemen and women still seem to die in the darn things.

Leaving the sarcasm aside for a moment, the Department of Defense hasn’t acted as an agency charged with “defense” in any logical sense, but as the department for obediently killing and dying for whenever an imperial president—and a complacent Congress—deems necessary and proper. That’s the army, and the armed forces, I’ve served since before I was 18 years old.

And, frighteningly, it is the army my first crop of West Point students (cadets who graduate this May) and potentially one of my own sons (all born after 2001) will soon join.

Still unsure that the DOD no longer views itself as an agency charged with defense? Need more convincing? Allow me, then, to offer a peak behind the curtain, to give you an idea about what sorts of operations (in general terms) junior and mid-career officers prepare for.
Consider just one sort of common practical exercise: the staff work completed by middling staff officers at various military colleges and schools. For now, I’ll speak only for myself. Let me begin with what I’ve never trained or practiced: the defense of New York harbor, or of the U.S. Virgin Islands or even of an American military base in Germany. What I have done is practice the heck out of various away-game scenarios. Sometimes it’s a vaguely Iranian invasion of distant Azerbaijan (how many Americans could find that on a map?), or a separatist, seemingly Sudanese attack on eastern Congo or a hazily Chinese strike on a breakaway sect in Myanmar. For appearances sake, the names of the enemy entities are always changed, even if the remarkably accurate geography does not.

These exercises matter, even if they are mostly completed via PowerPoint. In the army you’re taught to “train and you fight.” Well, the point is, the U.S. military nearly always trains (and fights) in someone else’s neighborhood, usually many thousands of miles away from our Atlantic or Pacific shores. The presumption, from the lowliest lieutenant to the presidential commander in chief, is that we, the United States, have vital national interests everywhere.

But let’s step back a moment and slip into the proverbial shoes of our foreigner or extraterrestrial again. Isn’t it remarkable, America’s military posture, that is? Always outward, always forward, always assuming it has interests and passage rights anywhere on the globe (or space, or the cyberworld, by the way). Our alien friend might be so bold as to point one other thing out: The United States is the sole country that thinks this way.

Consider that the United States is just about the only country with the messianic gall to divide the entire planet into geographical military commands, each headed by a four-star general or admiral. We’ve got a command for Europe, for the Pacific, South America, Europe, the Mideast and Africa. The military leader of each is essentially an American proconsul presiding over a world divided into imperial fiefdoms.

This is instructive, if rather disturbing. Imagine, for a moment, how the U.S. would respond were Washington to learn that Russia had established a North America command headquartered in Toronto, or that a Chinese admiral based in Mexico City presided over—and based troops in—Central America? Well, seen from our “adversaries” shoes, that’s the sort of world these powers live in every day. U.S. troops are based everywhere, commanded by senior generals often stationed close to the borders of China, Russia, Iran, and so on.

Far be it from me to naively propose that the U.S. military should solely focus on the continental United States, or deny that sometimes foreign contingency or humanitarian operations might be necessary. That’s not my position at all. Rather, the point of this thought experiment is to point out what is clear to a distant observer, even if it’s undetected by the casual American citizen: The U.S. military is an away-game-only force. Its operations outpace vital American national interests. It has become unmoored from sober strategy, along with our entire society.

Sometimes when you find yourself alone—in everyday life or in geopolitics—and with everyone else gathered on some other side, you might be the problem. Either everyone else is wrong, or you are.

Maj. Danny Sjursen: Dissent Is Patriotic (Audio and Transcript)
Ron Kovic on the Continuing Struggle of Veterans (Audio and Transcript)
After Pat's Birthday
Unfortunately, across a broad swath of the planet—from West Africa to South Asia—I’ve come to suspect something rather disturbing: America, and its military, is part of the problem.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.
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Reply Wed 2 May, 2018 03:07 pm

What I’m trying to say is: It’s all about the banking.

So right now you’re thinking, “But Lee, then why is the U.S. so eager to turn Syria into a failed state if Syria never dropped the dollar? Your whole stupid theory falls apart right there.”

First, I don’t appreciate your tone. Second, in February 2006, Syria dropped the dollar as its primary hard currency.

I think I’m noticing a trend. In fact, on Jan. 4, it was reported that Pakistan was ditching the dollar in its trade with China, and that same day, the U.S. placed it on the watch list for religious freedom violations. The same day? Are we really supposed to believe that it just so happened that Pakistan stopped using the dollar with China on the same day it started punching Christians in the nose for no good reason? No, clearly Pakistan had violated our religion of cold hard cash.

This leaves only one question: Who will be next on the list of U.S. illegal invasions cloaked in bullshit justifications? Well, last week, Iran finally did it: It switched from the dollar to the euro. And sure enough, this week, the U.S. military industrial complex, the corporate media and Israel all got together to claim that Iran is lying about its nuclear weapons development. What are the odds that this news would break within days of Iran dropping the dollar? What. Are. The. Odds?

The one nice thing about our corporate state’s manufacturing of consent is how predictable it is. We will now see the mainstream media running an increasing number of reports pushing the idea that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism and is trying to develop nuclear weapons (which are WMDs, but for some strange reason, our media are shying away from saying, “They have WMDs”). Here’s a 2017 PBS article claiming that Iran is the top state sponsor of terrorism. One must assume this list of terror sponsors does not include the country that made the arms that significantly enhanced Islamic State’s military capabilities. (It’s the U.S.)

Or the country that drops hundreds of bombs per day on the Middle East. (It’s the U.S.) But those bombs don’t cause any terror. Those are the happy bombs, clearly. Apparently, we just drop 1995 Richard Simmons down on unsuspecting people.

Point is, as we watch our pathetic corporate media continue their manufacturing of consent for war with Iran, don’t fall for it. These wars are all about the banking. And millions of innocent people are killed in them. Millions more have their lives destroyed.

You and I are just pawns in this game, and the last thing the ruling elite want are pawns who question the official narrative.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it, and check out Lee Camp’s free weekly podcast, “Common Censored.”
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Reply Mon 7 May, 2018 08:49 pm
Prisoners of Was: from Boots on the Ground to Statistics on the Sidewalk
This weekend, I drove by a US Army veteran on the streets of Washington, DC who driven to panhandle in the same country he swore an oath to protect and uphold. Once his days in the military expired, he joined another army where the enlisted are the millions of homeless men and women stacking up in towns and cities throughout America. The sacrifices he gave—stories few of us will ever comprehend—were met with indifference by a government too busy making money from wars and a public to preoccupied by sensationalism to see true injustices that happen on a daily basis.

We are the richest nation in the world, yet we can’t muster the will to eradicate poverty and homelessness. It’s not for the lack of money or resources; for every homeless person in America, there are six vacant houses that are foreclosed and boarded up. Bankers would rather let homes collect dust than help out the very veterans they use as billboards to sell their financial services. They do so in order to inflate the demand for new homes. Scarcity requires a certain level of poverty; the dearth of hope and opportunity that is becoming all to rare these days is not by chance but by design. Instead of addressing the disease, we are treated to a political and social class who shine a light on the symptoms as they exacerbate the root causes that lead to insufficiency and hopelessness.

The military-financial complex keeps coming up with shiny new toys with the sole purpose of destroying lives while we ignore the lives that languish on our shores.
I admit, these things are personal to me. After shuffling in and out of homeless shelters for nearly two years and seeing the plight of the homeless on an intimate basis, I have a hard time closing my eyes to the suffering of the invisible citizens who have become a cost of doing business and a norm. It took a Jobian tribulation and getting swallowed up by the whale of indigence to shed blinders from my eyes. Our fraudulent politics, identity driven ideologies and faux-patriotism are the curtains that give cover to the a system of capital greed that is snuffing out hope for millions in America and billions around the globe.

Every day, twenty veterans commit suicide. Think about this for a minute; on a yearly basis, twice as many veterans die by their own hands than the number of people who were murdered on September 11th. Every year, we commemorate 9/11 yet we overlook of two brigades worth of suicides on an annual basis. Millions of veterans who survive have to navigate life battling the horrors of PTSD and trying desperately to make ends meet. Meanwhile, while those who put on the uniform suffer, those who sell wars from the comforts of air conditioned conference rooms donning expensive suits make fortunes each time a bomb explodes overseas.

Every year, our government wastes over $600 billion on and endless array of weapons programs and defense contractors. We spend more money on the military-financial complex than the next ten countries combined. Last month, over $150 million dollars were flushed down the drain bombing Syria with 120 high-tech missiles.
War is a cash cow that fattens many pigs and leaves those who served famished. $150 million could buy a house for every homeless veteran, alas greed demands that we keep declaring wars overseas and neglecting injustice. CLICK TO TWEET

It is up to us, the people, to stop being medicated by the sensationalism of corporate news and the salaciousness of our politics and demand a government that works for us. Or else, one by one, we too will be enlisted the army of homeless and the join the company of the distressed. Stop letting demagogues in corporate media and the courtiers in politics distract us from the injustices that are happening right at our doors. More important, I hope each one of us can commit to helping the less fortunate.

Letting someone who is struggling in the shadows that they matter is infinitely more valuable than giving a dollar and walking away. I too was once there; the only thing that led me out of the darkness was the light of friendly strangers who imbued my heart with hope when I had none of it. Be the hope to someone in your vicinity—let them know that they are not alone. These small gestures of kindness will one day lead to the change we all keep waiting for. The issues many on the street face is thinking that their life is past tense; given hope, what was barren can one day flourish. Let us be the hope to each other and refuse to let others live in what was and show them that there is a future ahead. #PrisonersOfWas
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Reply Mon 14 May, 2018 05:22 pm
Twenty-one trillion dollars.

The Pentagon’s own numbers show that it can’t account for $21 trillion. Yes, I mean trillion with a “T.” And this could change everything.

But I’ll get back to that in a moment.

There are certain things the human mind is not meant to do. Our complex brains cannot view the world in infrared, cannot spell words backward during orgasm and cannot really grasp numbers over a few thousand. A few thousand, we can feel and conceptualize. We’ve all been in stadiums with several thousand people. We have an idea of what that looks like (and how sticky the floor gets).

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But when we get into the millions, we lose it. It becomes a fog of nonsense. Visualizing it feels like trying to hug a memory. We may know what $1 million can buy (and we may want that thing), but you probably don’t know how tall a stack of a million $1 bills is. You probably don’t know how long it takes a minimum-wage employee to make $1 million.

That’s why trying to understand—truly understand—that the Pentagon spent 21 trillion unaccounted-for dollars between 1998 and 2015 washes over us like your mother telling you that your third cousin you met twice is getting divorced. It seems vaguely upsetting, but you forget about it 15 seconds later because … what else is there to do?

Twenty-one trillion.

But let’s get back to the beginning. A couple of years ago, Mark Skidmore, an economics professor, heard Catherine Austin Fitts, former assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, say that the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General had found $6.5 trillion worth of unaccounted-for spending in 2015. Skidmore, being an economics professor, thought something like, “She means $6.5 billion. Not trillion. Because trillion would mean the Pentagon couldn’t account for more money than the gross domestic product of the whole United Kingdom. But still, $6.5 billion of unaccounted-for money is a crazy amount.”

So he went and looked at the inspector general’s report, and he found something interesting: It was trillion! It was ******* $6.5 trillion in 2015 of unaccounted-for spending! And I’m sorry for the cursing, but the word “trillion” is legally obligated to be prefaced with “*******.” It is indeed way more than the U.K.’s GDP.

Skidmore did a little more digging. As Forbes reported in December 2017, “[He] and Catherine Austin Fitts … conducted a search of government websites and found similar reports dating back to 1998. While the documents are incomplete, original government sources indicate $21 trillion in unsupported adjustments have been reported for the Department of Defense and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the years 1998-2015.”

Let’s stop and take a second to conceive how much $21 trillion is (which you can’t because our brains short-circuit, but we’ll try anyway).

1. The amount of money supposedly in the stock market is $30 trillion.

2. The GDP of the United States is $18.6 trillion.

3. Picture a stack of money. Now imagine that that stack of dollars is all $1,000 bills. Each bill says “$1,000” on it. How high do you imagine that stack of dollars would be if it were $1 trillion. It would be 63 miles high.

4. Imagine you make $40,000 a year. How long would it take you to make $1 trillion? Well, don’t sign up for this task, because it would take you 25 million years (which sounds like a long time, but I hear that the last 10 million really fly by because you already know your way around the office, where the coffee machine is, etc.).

The human brain is not meant to think about a trillion dollars.

And it’s definitely not meant to think about the $21 trillion our Department of Defense can’t account for. These numbers sound bananas. They sound like something Alex Jones found tattooed on his backside by extraterrestrials.

But the 21 trillion number comes from the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General—the OIG. Although, as Forbes pointed out, “after Mark Skidmore began inquiring about OIG-reported unsubstantiated adjustments, the OIG’s webpage, which documented, albeit in a highly incomplete manner, these unsupported “accounting adjustments,” was mysteriously taken down.”

Luckily, people had already grabbed copies of the report, which—for now—you can view here.

Here’s something else important from that Forbes article—which is one of the only mainstream media articles you can find on the largest theft in American history:

Given that the entire Army budget in fiscal year 2015 was $120 billion, unsupported adjustments were 54 times the level of spending authorized by Congress.

That’s right. The expenses with no explanation were 54 times the actual budget allotted by Congress. Well, it’s good to see Congress is doing 1/54th of its job of overseeing military spending (that’s actually more than I thought Congress was doing). This would seem to mean that 98 percent of every dollar spent by the Army in 2015 was unconstitutional.

So, pray tell, what did the OIG say caused all this unaccounted-for spending that makes Jeff Bezos’ net worth look like that of a guy jingling a tin can on the street corner?

“[The July 2016 inspector general] report indicates that unsupported adjustments are the result of the Defense Department’s ‘failure to correct system deficiencies.’ ”

They blame trillions of dollars of mysterious spending on a “failure to correct system deficiencies”? That’s like me saying I had sex with 100,000 wild hairless aardvarks because I wasn’t looking where I was walking.

Twenty-one trillion.

Say it slowly to yourself.

At the end of the day, there are no justifiable explanations for this amount of unaccounted-for, unconstitutional spending. Right now, the Pentagon is being audited for the first time ever, and it’s taking 2,400 auditors to do it. I’m not holding my breath that they’ll actually be allowed to get to the bottom of this.

But if the American people truly understood this number, it would change both the country and the world. It means that the dollar is sprinting down a path toward worthless. If the Pentagon is hiding spending that dwarfs the amount of tax dollars coming in to the federal government, then it’s clear the government is printing however much it wants and thinking there are no consequences. Once these trillions are considered, our fiat currency has even less meaning than it already does, and it’s only a matter of time before inflation runs wild.

It also means that any time our government says it “doesn’t have money” for a project, it’s laughable. It can clearly “create” as much as it wants for bombing and death. This would explain how Donald Trump’s military can drop well over 100 bombs a day that cost well north of $1 million each.

So why can’t our government also “create” endless money for health care, education, the homeless, veterans benefits and the elderly, to make all parking free and to pay the Rolling Stones to play stoop-front shows in my neighborhood? (I’m sure the Rolling Stones are expensive, but surely a trillion dollars could cover a couple of songs.)

Obviously, our government could do those things, but it chooses not to. Earlier this month, Louisiana sent eviction notices to 30,000 elderly people on Medicaid to kick them out of their nursing homes. Yes, a country that can vomit trillions of dollars down a black hole marked “Military” can’t find the money to take care of our poor elderly. It’s a repulsive joke.

Twenty-one trillion.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke about how no one knows where the money is flying in the Pentagon. In a barely reported speech in 2011, he said, “My staff and I learned that it was nearly impossible to get accurate information and answers to questions such as, ‘How much money did you spend?’ and ‘How many people do you have?’ ”

They can’t even find out how many people work for a specific department?

Note for anyone looking for a job: Just show up at the Pentagon and tell them you work there. It doesn’t seem like they’d have much luck proving you don’t.

For more on this story, check out David DeGraw’s excellent reporting at ChangeMaker.media, because the mainstream corporate media are mouthpieces for the weapons industry. They are friends with benefits of the military-industrial complex. I have seen basically nothing from the mainstream corporate media concerning this mysterious $21 trillion. I missed the time when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said that the money we dump into war and death—either the accounted-for money or the secretive trillions—could end world hunger and poverty many times over. There’s no reason anybody needs to be starving or hungry or unsheltered on this planet, but our government seems hellbent on proving that it stands for nothing but profiting off death and misery. And our media desperately want to show they stand for nothing but propping up our morally bankrupt empire.

When the media aren’t actively promoting war, they’re filling the airwaves with ****, so the entire country can’t even hear itself think. Our whole mindscape is filled to the brim with nonsense and vacant celebrity idiocy. Then, while no one is looking, the largest theft humankind has ever seen is going on behind our backs—covered up under the guise of “national security.”

Twenty-one trillion.

Don’t forget.

If you think this column is important, please share it. And check out Lee Camp’s weekly TV show, “Redacted Tonight.”
0 Replies
Reply Tue 15 May, 2018 09:48 am
D.L. Hughley
5 dozen protesters killed in Gaza! #Trump truly doesn’t give a **** about brown people and neither do his supporters
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Reply Tue 15 May, 2018 12:18 pm
WASHINGTON—The United States designated the head of Iran’s central bank as a terrorist on Tuesday and barred anyone around the world from doing business with him, escalating financial pressure on Iran in the wake of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

Valiollah Seif, the governor of the Iranian central bank, was named a “specially designated global terrorist” along with another senior official, Ali Tarzali, who works in the central bank’s international division. The Treasury Department accused the men of secretly funneling millions of dollars through an Iraqi bank to help Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant network that the U.S. considers a terrorist group.

The moves come as Trump’s administration, after deeming the 2015 nuclear deal insufficiently tough on Iran, seeks to construct a global coalition to place enough pressure on Tehran that it comes back to the negotiating table to strike a “better deal.” The sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank executives are some of the first actions by Trump’s administration since pulling out of the deal to start ramping up that economic pressure.

“The United States will not permit Iran’s increasingly brazen abuse of the international financial system,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. “The global community must remain vigilant against Iran’s deceptive efforts to provide financial support to its terrorist proxies.”

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The exact ramifications of the sanctions for Iran’s economy were not immediately clear. The U.S. said that the sanctions did not extend to Iran’s central bank itself. Still, the U.S. said it was imposing so-called secondary sanctions on the Iranian bank officials, which could significantly increase Iran’s isolation from the global financial system.

Typically, when the U.S. punished individuals with sanctions, it prohibits Americans or U.S. companies from doing business with them. Secondary sanctions also apply to non-Americans and non-U.S. companies. That means that anyone, in any country, who does business with Seif or Tarzali could themselves be punished with sanctions, cutting them off from the U.S. financial system.

There was no immediate comment Tuesday night from Iranian officials. Iranian media initially reported the decision based on reports in the foreign media.

The U.S. actions send an ominous warning to European capitals, still reeling from Trump’s withdrawal from the deal the U.S., Iran and world powers struck in 2015.

The European members of the deal — France, the U.K. and Germany — are trying to keep it alive without the U.S. Yet it’s unclear that will be workable, because Trump has vowed to punish European companies that continue doing business with Iran despite re-imposed U.S. sanctions. On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was meeting in Brussels with the top French, British and German diplomats as the Europeans seek to keep Iran from bailing on the deal.

Seif, as the central bank’s governor, has helped guide Iran’s economy through the web of sanctions in place on that country. In the aftermath of the 2015 deal, in which nuclear sanctions on Iran were lifted, Seid was a prominent voice complaining that Iran was still being kept out of the global financial system and not receiving the economic benefits it was promised in exchange for curtailing its nuclear program.

I Know Which Country the U.S. Will Invade Next
The Treasury said that Seif undermined the central bank’s credibility by routing millions of dollars from the Quds Force, the expeditionary unit of Iran’s hard-line Revolutionary Guards, to al-Bilad Islamic Bank, which is based in Iraq. Those funds were then used to “enrich and support the violent and radical agenda of Hezbollah,” Treasury said.

Al-Bilad Islamic Bank and its CEO and chairman, Aras Habib, were also hit with U.S. sanctions, as was Muhammad Qasir, who the Treasury said is a Hezbollah official who has been a “critical conduit” for transferring funds to Hezbollah from the Revolutionary Guards.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite guerrilla force that is also a prominent political player in Lebanon, has long helped carry out Iran’s foreign policy objectives in the Arabic-speaking world. Most recently, the U.S. has been concerned about the role that Hezbollah fighters are playing in Syria to help prop up President Bashar Assad. Hezbollah fought a war with Israel in 2006, and Israeli officials have been deeply concerned about the prospect of another confrontation.

Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.
0 Replies
Reply Sun 20 May, 2018 06:36 am
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Reply Mon 21 May, 2018 04:57 pm
The Real News Network

Arms trade expert Andrew Feinstein tells Ben Norton that "Saudi Arabia is a part of the national security problem that our political leaders are arguing we need to keep defense budgets at seven hundred billion dollars plus a year in order to thwart."
0 Replies
Reply Thu 24 May, 2018 10:58 am
House easily approves defense bill with new nukes, cuts to Pentagon bureaucracy
By CONNOR O’BRIEN 05/24/2018 10:56 AM EDT

The House overwhelmingly passed a $717 billion defense policy bill on Thursday, despite concerns from some lawmakers over provisions that would endorse a new class of tactical nuclear weapons and seek cuts to a slew of Pentagon support agencies.

The vote was 351 to 66.
Senate has not set a date to vote.
0 Replies
Reply Mon 11 Jun, 2018 07:46 am
Infinite War: The Gravy Train Rolls On

APTV / AP Photo
“The United States of Amnesia.” That’s what Gore Vidal once called us. We remember what we find it convenient to remember and forget everything else. That forgetfulness especially applies to the history of others. How could their past, way back when, have any meaning for us today? Well, it just might. Take the European conflagration of 1914-1918, for example.

You may not have noticed. There’s no reason why you should have, fixated as we all are on the daily torrent of presidential tweets and the flood of mindless rejoinders they elicit. But let me note for the record that the centenary of the conflict once known as The Great War is well underway and before the present year ends will have concluded.

Indeed, a hundred years ago this month, the 1918 German Spring Offensive — codenamed Operation Michael — was sputtering to an unsuccessful conclusion. A last desperate German gamble, aimed at shattering Allied defenses and gaining a decisive victory, had fallen short. In early August of that year, with large numbers of our own doughboys now on the front lines, a massive Allied counteroffensive was to commence, continuing until the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when an armistice finally took effect and the guns fell silent.

In the years that followed, Americans demoted The Great War. It became World War I, vaguely related to but overshadowed by the debacle next in line, known as World War II. Today, the average citizen knows little about that earlier conflict other than that it preceded and somehow paved the way for an even more brutal bloodletting. Also, on both occasions, the bad guys spoke German.

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So, among Americans, the war of 1914-1918 became a neglected stepsister of sorts, perhaps in part because the United States only got around to suiting up for that conflict about halfway through the fourth quarter. With the war of 1939-1945 having been sacralized as the moment when the Greatest Generation saved humankind, the war-formerly-known-as-The-Great-War collects dust in the bottom drawer of American collective consciousness.

From time to time, some politician or newspaper columnist will resurrect the file labeled “August 1914,” the grim opening weeks of that war, and sound off about the dangers of sleepwalking into a devastating conflict that nobody wants or understands. Indeed, with Washington today having become a carnival of buncombe so sublimely preposterous that even that great journalistic iconoclast H.L. Mencken might have been struck dumb, ours is perhaps an apt moment for just such a reminder.

Yet a different aspect of World War I may possess even greater relevance to the American present. I’m thinking of its duration: the longer it lasted, the less sense it made. But on it went, impervious to human control like the sequence of Biblical plagues that God had inflicted on the ancient Egyptians.

So the relevant question for our present American moment is this: once it becomes apparent that a war is a mistake, why would those in power insist on its perpetuation, regardless of costs and consequences? In short, when getting in turns out to have been a bad idea, why is getting out so difficult, even (or especially) for powerful nations that presumably should be capable of exercising choice on such matters? Or more bluntly, how did the people in charge during The Great War get away with inflicting such extraordinary damage on the nations and peoples for which they were responsible?

For those countries that endured World War I from start to finish — especially Great Britain, France, and Germany — specific circumstances provided their leaders with an excuse for suppressing second thoughts about the cataclysm they had touched off.

Among them were:

* mostly compliant civilian populations deeply loyal to some version of King and Country, further kept in line by unremitting propaganda that minimized dissent;

* draconian discipline — deserters and malingerers faced firing squads — that maintained order in the ranks (most of the time) despite the unprecedented scope of the slaughter;

* the comprehensive industrialization of war, which ensured a seemingly endless supply of the weaponry, munitions, and other equipment necessary for outfitting mass conscript armies and replenishing losses as they occurred.

Economists would no doubt add sunk costs to the mix. With so much treasure already squandered and so many lives already lost, the urge to press on a bit longer in hopes of salvaging at least some meager benefit in return for what (and who) had been done in was difficult to resist.

Even so, none of these, nor any combination of them, can adequately explain why, in the midst of an unspeakable orgy of self-destruction, with staggering losses and nations in ruin, not one monarch or president or premier had the wit or gumption to declare: Enough! Stop this madness!

Instead, the politicians sat on their hands while actual authority devolved onto the likes of British Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, French Marshals Ferdinand Foch and Philippe Petain, and German commanders Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff. In other words, to solve a conundrum they themselves had created, the politicians of the warring states all deferred to their warrior chieftains. For their part, the opposing warriors jointly subscribed to a perverted inversion of strategy best summarized by Ludendorff as “punch a hole [in the front] and let the rest follow.” And so the conflict dragged on and on.

The Forfeiture of Policy

Put simply, in Europe, a hundred years ago, war had become politically purposeless. Yet the leaders of the world’s principal powers — including, by 1917, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson — could conceive of no alternative but to try harder, even as the seat of Western civilization became a charnel house.

Only one leader bucked the trend: Vladimir Lenin. In March 1918, soon after seizing power in Russia, Lenin took that country out of the war. In doing so, he reasserted the primacy of politics and restored the possibility of strategy. Lenin had his priorities straight. Nothing in his estimation took precedence over ensuring the survival of the Bolshevik Revolution. Liquidating the war against Germany therefore became an imperative.

Allow me to suggest that the United States should consider taking a page out of Lenin’s playbook. Granted, prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, such a suggestion might have smacked of treason. Today, however, in the midst of our never-ending efforts to expunge terrorism, we might look to Lenin for guidance on how to get our priorities straight.

As was the case with Great Britain, France, and Germany a century ago, the United States now finds itself mired in a senseless war. Back then, political leaders in London, Paris, and Berlin had abrogated control of basic policy to warrior chieftains. Today, ostensibly responsible political leaders in Washington have done likewise. Some of those latter-day American warrior chieftains who gather in the White House or testify on Capitol Hill may wear suits rather than uniforms, but all remain enamored with the twenty-first-century equivalent of Ludendorff’s notorious dictum.

Of course, our post-9/11 military enterprise — the undertaking once known as the Global War on Terrorism — differs from The Great War in myriad ways. The ongoing hostilities in which U.S. forces are involved in various parts of the Islamic world do not qualify, even metaphorically, as “great.” Nor will there be anything great about an armed conflict with Iran, should members of the current administration get their apparent wish to provoke one.

Today, Washington need not even bother to propagandize the public into supporting its war. By and large, members of the public are indifferent to its very existence. And given our reliance on a professional military, shooting citizen-soldiers who want to opt out of the fight is no longer required.

There are also obvious differences in scale, particularly when it comes to the total number of casualties involved. Cumulative deaths from the various U.S. interventions, large and small, undertaken since 9/11, number in the hundreds of thousands. The precise tally of those lost during the European debacle of 1914-1918 will never be known, but the total probably surpassed 13 million.

Even so, similarities between the Great War as it unspooled and our own not-in-the-least-great war(s) deserve consideration. Today, as then, strategy — that is, the principled use of power to achieve the larger interests of the state — has ceased to exist. Indeed, war has become an excuse for ignoring the absence of strategy.

For years now, U.S. military officers and at least some national security aficionados have referred to ongoing military hostilities as “the Long War.” To describe our conglomeration of spreading conflicts as “long” obviates any need to suggest when or under what circumstances (if any) they might actually end. It’s like the meteorologist forecasting a “long winter” or the betrothed telling his or her beloved that theirs will be a “long engagement.” The implicit vagueness is not especially encouraging.

Some high-ranking officers of late have offered a more forthright explanation of what “long” may really mean. In the Washington Post, the journalist Greg Jaffe recently reported that “winning for much of the U.S. military’s top brass has come to be synonymous with staying put.” Winning, according to Air Force General Mike Holmes, is simply “not losing. It’s staying in the game.”

Not so long ago, America’s armed forces adhered to a concept called victory, which implied conclusive, expeditious, and economical mission accomplished. No more. Victory, it turns out, is too tough to achieve, too restrictive, or, in the words of Army Lieutenant General Michael Lundy, “too absolute.” The United States military now grades itself instead on a curve. As Lundy puts it, “winning is more of a continuum,” an approach that allows you to claim mission accomplishment without, you know, actually accomplishing anything.

It’s like soccer for six-year-olds. Everyone tries hard so everyone gets a trophy. Regardless of outcomes, no one goes home feeling bad. In the U.S. military’s case, every general gets a medal (or, more likely, a chest full of them).

“These days,” in the Pentagon, Jaffe writes, “senior officers talk about ‘infinite war.’”

I would like to believe that Jaffe is pulling our leg. But given that he’s a conscientious reporter with excellent sources, I fear he knows what he’s talking about. If he’s right, as far as the top brass are concerned, the Long War has now officially gone beyond long. It has been deemed endless and is accepted as such by those who preside over its conduct.

Strategic Abomination

In truth, infinite war is a strategic abomination, an admission of professional military bankruptcy. Erster General-Quartiermeister Ludendorff might have endorsed the term, but Ludendorff was a military fanatic.

Check that. Infinite war is a strategic abomination except for arms merchants, so-called defense contractors, and the “emergency men” (and women) devoted to climbing the greasy pole of what we choose to call the national security establishment. In other words, candor obliges us to acknowledge that, in some quarters, infinite war is a pure positive, carrying with it a promise of yet more profits, promotions, and opportunities to come. War keeps the gravy train rolling. And, of course, that’s part of the problem.

Who should we hold accountable for this abomination? Not the generals, in my view. If they come across as a dutiful yet unimaginative lot, remember that a lifetime of military service rarely nurtures imagination or creativity. And let us at least credit our generals with this: in their efforts to liberate or democratize or pacify or dominate the Greater Middle East they have tried every military tactic and technique imaginable. Short of nuclear annihilation, they’ve played just about every card in the Pentagon’s deck — without coming up with a winning hand. So they come and go at regular intervals, each new commander promising success and departing after a couple years to make way for someone else to give it a try.

It tells us something about our prevailing standards of generalship that, by resurrecting an old idea — counterinsurgency — and applying it with temporary success to one particular theater of war, General David Petraeus acquired a reputation as a military genius. If Petraeus is a military genius, so, too, is General George McClellan. After he won the Battle of Rich Mountain in 1861, newspapers dubbed McClellan “the Napoleon of the Present War.” But the action at Rich Mountain decided nothing and McClellan didn’t win the Civil War any more than Petraeus won the Iraq War.

No, it’s not the generals who have let us down, but the politicians to whom they supposedly report and from whom they nominally take their orders. Of course, under the heading of politician, we quickly come to our current commander-in-chief. Yet it would be manifestly unfair to blame President Trump for the mess he inherited, even if he is presently engaged in making matters worse.

The failure is a collective one, to which several presidents and both political parties have contributed over the years. Although the carnage may not be as horrific today as it was on the European battlefields on the Western and Eastern Fronts, members of our political class are failing us as strikingly and repeatedly as the political leaders of Great Britain, France, and Germany failed their peoples back then. They have abdicated responsibility for policy to our own homegrown equivalents of Haig, Foch, Petain, Hindenburg, and Ludendorff. Their failure is unforgivable.

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate.

Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity. No doubt Saudi and Israeli leaders will cheer, Europeans who remember their Great War will scratch their heads in wonder, and the Chinese will laugh themselves silly. Meanwhile, issues of genuinely strategic importance — climate change offers one obvious example — will continue to be treated like an afterthought. As for the gravy train, it will roll on.

0 Replies
Reply Fri 30 Nov, 2018 08:40 pm
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