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Good article on TAC:
How long will the people permit it?
There was an excellent article on Tom Dispatch on this very question.
What Does It Mean When War Hawks Say, “Never Trump”?
The Enemies of My Enemy May Be War Criminals
By Rebecca Gordon
…we just heard from 50 representatives of the national security apparatus, men — and a few women — who served under Republican presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. All of them are very worried about Donald Trump.
They think we should be alerted to the fact that the Republican standard-bearer “lacks the character, values, and experience to be president.”
That’s true of course, but it’s also pretty rich, coming from this bunch. The letter’s signers include, among others, the man who was Condoleezza Rice’s legal advisor when she ran the National Security Council (John Bellinger III); one of George W. Bush’s CIA directors who also ran the National Security Agency (Michael Hayden); a Bush administration ambassador to the United Nations and Iraq (John Negroponte); an architect of the neoconservative policy in the Middle East adopted by the Bush administration that led to the invasion of Iraq, who has since served as president of the World Bank (Robert Zoellick). In short, given the history of the “global war on terror,” this is your basic list of potential American war criminals.
Their letter continues, “He weakens U.S. moral authority as the leader of the free world.”
There’s a sentence that could use some unpacking.
What Is The “Free World”?
Let’s start with the last bit: “the leader of the free world.” That’s what journalists used to call the U.S. president, and occasionally the country as a whole, during the Cold War. Between the end of World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the “free world” included all the English-speaking countries outside Africa, along with western Europe, North America, some South American dictatorships, and nations like the Philippines that had a neocolonial relationship with the United States.
The U.S.S.R. led what, by this logic, was the un-free world, including the Warsaw Pact countries in eastern Europe, the “captive” Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, the People’s Republic of China (for part of the period), North Korea, and of course Cuba. Americans who grew up in these years knew that the people living behind the “Iron Curtain” were not free. We’d seen the bus ads and public service announcements on television requesting donations for Radio Free Europe, sometimes illustrated with footage of a pale adolescent man, his head crowned with chains.
I have absolutely no doubt that he and his eastern European countrymen were far from free. I do wonder, however, how free his counterparts in the American-backed Brazilian, Argentinian, Chilean, and Philippine dictatorships felt.
The two great adversaries, together with the countries in their spheres of influence, were often called the First and Second Worlds. Their rulers treated the rest of the planet — the Third World — as a chessboard across which they moved their proxy armies and onto which they sometimes targeted their missiles. Some countries in the Third World refused to be pawns in the superpower game, and created a non-aligned movement, which sought to thread a way between the Scylla and Charybdis of the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
Among its founders were some of the great Third World nationalists: Sukarno of Indonesia, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, along with Yugoslavia’s President Josip Broz Tito.
Other countries weren’t so lucky. When the United States took over from France the (unsuccessful) project of defeating Vietnam’s anti-colonial struggle, people in the U.S. were assured that the war that followed with its massive bombing, napalming, and Agent-Oranging of a peasant society represented the advance of freedom against the forces of communist enslavement. Central America also served as a Cold War battlefield, with Washington fighting proxy wars during the 1980s in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, where poor campesinos had insisted on being treated as human beings and were often brutally murdered for their trouble. In addition, the U.S. funded, trained, and armed a military dictatorship in Honduras, where John Negroponte — one of the anti-Trump letter signers — was the U.S. ambassador from 1981 to 1985.
The Soviet Union is, of course, long gone, but the “free world,” it seems, remains, and so American officials still sometimes refer to us as its leader — an expression that only makes sense, of course, in the context of dual (and dueling) worlds. On a post-Soviet planet, however, it’s hard to know just what national or geographic configuration constitutes today’s “un-free world.” Is it (as Donald Trump might have it) everyone living under Arab or Muslim rule? Or could it be that amorphous phenomenon we call “terrorism” or “Islamic terrorism” that can sometimes reach into the “free world” and slaughter innocents as in San Bernardino, California, Orlando, Florida, or Nice, France? Or could it be the old Soviet Union reincarnated in Vladimir Putin’s Russia or even a rising capitalist China still controlled by a Communist Party?
Faced with the loss of a primary antagonist and the confusion on our planet, George W. Bush was forced to downsize the perennial enemy of freedom from Reagan’s old “evil empire” (the Soviet Union) to three “rogue states,” Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, which in an address to Congress he so memorably labeled the “axis of evil.” The first of these lies in near ruins; the second we’ve recently signed a nuclear treaty with; and the third seems incapable of even feeding its own population. Fortunately for the free world, the Bush administration also had some second-string enemies to draw on. In 2002, John Bolton, then an undersecretary of state (and later ambassador to the U.N.), added another group “beyond the axis of evil” — Libya, Syria, and Cuba. Of the three, only Cuba is still a functioning nation.
And by the way, the 50 Republican national security stars who denounced Donald Trump in Cold War terms turn out to be in remarkably good company — that of Donald Trump himself (who recently gave a speech invoking American Cold War practices as the basis for his future foreign policy).
“He Weakens U.S. Moral Authority…”
After its twenty-first century wars, its “black sites,” and Guantánamo, among other developments of the age, it’s hard to imagine a much weaker “moral authority” than what’s presently left to the United States. First, we gave the world eight years of George W. Bush’s illegal invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as CIA torture sites, “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and a program of quite illegal global kidnappings of terror suspects (some of whom proved innocent of anything). Under President Obama, it seems we’ve traded enhanced interrogation techniques for an “enhanced” use of assassination by drone (again outside any “law” of war, other than the legal documents that the Justice Department has produced to justify such acts).
When Barack Obama took office in January 2009 his first executive order outlawed the CIA’s torture program and closed those black sites. It then looked as if the country’s moral fiber might be stiffening. But when it came to holding the torturers accountable, Obama insisted that the country should “look forward as opposed to looking backwards” and the Justice Department declined to prosecute any of them. It’s hard for a country to maintain its moral authority in the world when it refuses to exert that authority at home.
Two of the letter signers who are so concerned about Trump’s effect on U.S. moral authority themselves played special roles in “weakening” U.S. moral authority through their involvement with the CIA torture program: John Bellinger III and Michael Hayden.
June 26th is the U.N.’s International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. To mark that day in 2003, President Bush issued a statement declaring, “Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere. The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example.”
The Washington Post story on the president’s speech also carried a quote from Deputy White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan to the effect that all prisoners being held by the U.S. government were being treated “humanely.” John Rizzo, who was then the CIA’s deputy general counsel, called John Bellinger, Condoleezza Rice’s legal counsel at the National Security Council, to express his concern about what both the president and McClellan had said.
The problem was that — as Rizzo and his boss, CIA director George Tenet, well knew — many detainees then held by the CIA were not being treated humanely. They were being tortured or mistreated in various ways. The CIA wanted to be sure that they still had White House backing and approval for their “enhanced interrogation” program, because they didn’t want to be left holding the bag if the truth came out. They also wanted the White House to stop talking about the humane treatment of prisoners.
According to an internal CIA memo, George Tenet convened a July 29, 2003, meeting in Condoleezza Rice’s office to get the necessary reassurance that the CIA would be covered if the truth about torture came out. There, Bellinger reportedly apologized on behalf of the administration, explaining that the White House press secretary had “gone off script,” mistakenly reverting to “old talking points.” He also “undertook to [e]nsure that the White House press office ceases to make statements on the subject other than [to say] that the U.S. is complying with its obligations under U.S. law.”
At that same meeting, Tenet’s chief counsel, Scott Muller, passed out packets of printed PowerPoint slides detailing those enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, so that Bellinger and the others present, including Rice, would understand exactly what he was covering up.
So much for the “moral authority” of John Bellinger III.
As for Michael Hayden (who has held several offices in the national security apparatus), one of his signature acts as CIA Director was to approve in 2005 the destruction of videotapes of the agency’s waterboarding sessions. In a letter to CIA employees, he wrote that the tapes were destroyed “only after it was determined they were no longer of intelligence value and not relevant to any internal, legislative, or judicial inquiries.”
Of course destroying those tapes also meant that they’d never be available for any future legislative or judicial inquiry. The letter continued,
“Beyond their lack of intelligence value… the tapes posed a serious security risk. Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al-Qaeda and its sympathizers.”
One has to wonder whether Hayden was more concerned with his CIA colleagues’ “security” from al-Qaeda or from prosecution. In any case, he deprived the public — and any hypothetical future prosecutor — of crucial evidence of wrongdoing.
Hayden also perpetuated the lie that the Agency’s first waterboarding victim, Abu Zubaydah — waterboarded a staggering 83 times — was a crucial al-Qaeda operative and had provided a quarter of all the information that the CIA gathered from human subjects about al-Qaeda. He was, in fact, never a member of al-Qaeda at all. In the 1980s, he ran a training camp in Afghanistan for the mujahedin, the force the U.S. supported against the Soviet occupation of that country; he was, that is, one of Ronald Reagan’s “freedom fighters.”
Bellinger later chimed in, keeping the Abu Zubaydah lie alive by arguing in 2007 on behalf of his boss Condoleezza Rice that Guantánamo should remain open. That prison, he said, “serves a very important purpose, to hold and detain individuals who are extremely dangerous [like] Abu Zubaydah, people who have been planners of 9/11.”
“He Appears to Lack Basic Knowledge About and Belief in the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Laws, and U.S. Institutions…”
That’s the next line of the open letter, and it’s certainly a fair assessment of Donald Trump. But it’s more than a little ironic that it was signed by Michael Hayden who, in addition to supporting CIA’s torture project, oversaw the National Security Agency’s post-9/11 secret surveillance program. Under that program, the government recorded the phone, text, and Internet communications of an unknown number of people inside and outside of the United States — all without warrants.
Perhaps Hayden believes in the Constitution, but at best it’s a selective belief. There’s that pesky 4th Amendment, for example, which guarantees that
“[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Nor does Hayden appear to believe in U.S. laws and institutions, at least when it comes to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established the secret courts that are supposed to issue exactly the sort of warrant Hayden’s program never requested.
John Negroponte is another of the signers who has a history of skirting U.S. laws and the congress that passes them. While ambassador to Honduras, he helped develop a murderous “contra” army, which the United States armed and trained to overthrow the government of neighboring Nicaragua. During those years, however, aid to the contras was actually illegal under U.S. law. It was explicitly prohibited under the so-called Boland Amendments to various appropriations bills, but no matter. “National security” was at stake.
Speaking of the Constitution, it’s instructive to take a look at Article 6, which states in part that “all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.” Such treaties include, for example, the 1928 Kellogg-Briand non-aggression pact (whose violation was the first charge brought against the Nazi officials tried at Nuremberg) and Article 51 of the U.N. charter, which permits military action only “if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.”
In 1998, Robert Zoellick, another of those 50 Republicans openly denouncing Trump, signed a different letter, which advocated abrogating those treaties. As an associate of the Project for a New American Century, he was among those who urged then-President Bill Clinton to direct “a full complement of diplomatic, political, and military efforts” to “remove Saddam Hussein from power.” This was to be just the first step in a larger campaign to create a Pax Americana in the Middle East. The letter specifically urged Clinton not to worry about getting a Security Council resolution, arguing that “American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.”
“He Is Unable or Unwilling to Separate Truth From Falsehood…”
So says the letter, and that, too, offers a fair characterization of Trump, who has often contended that President Obama has never proved he was born in the U.S.A., and has more than once repeated the long-disproved legend that, during the 1899-1913 Morro Rebellion in the Philippines, General John J. Pershing used bullets dipped in pig’s blood to execute Muslim insurgents. (And that’s barely to scratch the surface of Donald Trump’s remarkable unwillingness to separate truth from falsehood.) What, then, about the truthfulness of the letter signers?
Clinton never bit on the PNAC proposal, but a few years later, George W. Bush did. And the officials of his administration began their campaign of lies about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, yellow cake uranium from Niger, and “smoking guns” that might turn out to be “mushroom clouds” (assumedly over American cities), all of which would provide the pretext for that administration’s illegal invasion of Iraq.
The Bush administration didn’t limit itself to lying to the American people. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte was dispatched to the Security Council to lie, too. Security Council Resolution 1441 was the last of several requiring Iraq to comply with weapons inspections by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Some members of the Council, especially Russia and France, were hesitant to approve 1441, fearing that the U.S. might interpret it as a license to invade. So, in the discussions before the vote, Negroponte assured the Security Council that “this resolution contains no ‘hidden triggers’ and no ‘automaticity’ with respect to the use of force. If there is a further Iraqi breach, reported to the Council by UNMOVIC, the IAEA or a Member State, the matter will return to the Council for discussions.” The British ambassador used almost identical words to reassure the Council that, before attacking Iraq, the United States and Britain would seek its blessing.
That, of course, is hardly what happened. On February 24, 2003, Washington and London did bring a resolution for war to the Security Council. When it became apparent that two of its permanent members, France and Russia, would veto that resolution if it came to a vote, Bush (in consultation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair) decided to withdraw it. “We all agreed,” he wrote in his memoir, that “the diplomatic track had reached its end.”
And so the U.S. was on its foreordained path to war and disaster in Iraq, the path that after much winding, much failure, and much destruction would lead to Donald Trump.
So much for keeping promises and separating “truth from falsehood.”
====end of excerpt====
Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes (Hot Books). Her previous books include Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States and Letters from Nicaragua.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
At least in terms of scale. Of course, in terms of widespread lack of character, it’s like all of the worse offenders in history, current and past.
Reuters: The United States Army’s finances are so jumbled it had to make trillions of dollars of improper accounting adjustments to create an illusion that its books are balanced.
The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up.
As a result, the Army’s financial statements for 2015 were “materially misstated,” the report concluded. The “forced” adjustments rendered the statements useless because “DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions.”
And did you notice how this information was worded?
The United States Army’s finances are so jumbled…
Jumbled? The proper word is corrupt. To the core. And what would “materially misstated” really mean in ‘As a result, the Army’s financial statements for 2015 were “materially misstated,” the report concluded’? Perjury?
The abject failure that is this co-called democracy and its capitalist system.
I did a little venting yesterday on the NPR site, in the comment section of this article:
‘Sheer Terror’ As Attack Along French Riviera Kills At Least 84
regarding the Nice attack. (Am I the only person that, when reading headlines in English about the attack, mostly goes default on the pronunciation of the word Nice as it is pronounced in English? 🙂
In any case, the comment section was infested by American neocons and Muslim haters who were shrieking there fanaticism at the top of their typing lungs. The majority of people in the US, UK, and France are incredibly primitive and Nazi-like when it comes to geopolitics.
So I vented a bit – responding repeatedly by highlighting the ugly simple truth of the world we currently live in:
The US, UK, and France have killed and continue to kill millions of innocent people around the world, especially in the ME and Africa, in their endless corrupt wars to put their grubby hands on resources and to exploit other people. They are terrorist governments and military and do a lot more evil and damage in the world than any little so-called “terrorist” group. These “terrorist” attacks in the West are a blow-back from all the death and destruction the West is currently inflicting on other people.
the US, the UK and France have murdered or provided the weapons for
the murder of many more innocent people than the number killed by ISIS,
but please continue your nonsense. And most of ISIS’s weapons were all
provided from Western powers, which explains why they’re fighting Assad
and the US hates the idea of Russia killing them all.
As you can see, I was “on message” all the time. Very Nicely on message. 🙂 Oh, and speaking of Nicely, two more:
Toulouse your head or not to Toulouse your head is the question in such a situation.
That would be Brest but I don’t think I Cannes.
Idk99: More senseless truck violence.
Alessandra Reflections: There are no Seine people left, I tell you.
Back to serious issues, the problem with this ugly ugly propaganda from the US, UK, and France was also summarized in a few other comments at The Guardian:
The Nice attack reminds us that France is at war –
Did Iraq or Afghanistan invade France, Australia, Britain or the US?
The US and NATO attack country after country even while financing and arming terrorists to cause even more attacks, and then use attacks on Western citizens (mostly by deranged individuals) to justify what they have been doing all along. It’s totally criminal and the citizens of the West have been propagandized to believe that they are innocent and undeservingly attacked.
No one needs reminding the whole world is at war, not least the millions who have died due to the proxy crusades. The attacks from both sides have become more deadly and more frequent. And in what, the name of oil? Each attack desensitises the world to death further, to the point that people are now suggesting criminals be deported.. To where – labour camps? That mistake has been made before and it seems it could again. War is profitable and there are no winners apart from those financing it.
Genocide in Algeria
Pacific nuclear tests
Rainbow warrior bombing
Bombing in Iraq and Syria
The French aren’t the egalitarian, innocent victims they make themselves out to be. Then there’s Chad, Lybia, Mali, and all the Northern and Central African countries the French love to exploit and destroy…
The war against terrorism was invented by Ronald Reagan. Ironically the US is only country found guilty of terrorism in the International Court of Justice.
Thankfully many commenters commented on the idiocy of the article’s title repeating the same idiocy that Hollande proffered back in November: now France is at war!
Now! And when it was bombing and killing people in myriad wars and committing every kind of atrocity against innocent people around the world, it was what? Peace?
These people are such Nazis! The West is such a fraud, such a fraud!
It was interesting and awful to see how each political faction in the US tried to spin the Orlando attack to blame whatever group they hate.
Amusingly, liberals were on a roll with their gay victim media fest when the news came out that maybe Mateen had a homosexual problem himself. A little Mastercard moment, you have to admit. For a moment, the shouts of “We told you! We told you! Conservatives are all evil and homosexuals are all darlings” hushed down a bit and were replaced by “It doesn’t matter if he was a homosexual, snap, it matters that homos were killed, we must always ignore when homosexuals perpetrate violence and just scream about them being victims”.
Trump seized the attack to inflame the fears and racism of his supporters, “I told you we need a Muslim ban, I told you, I told you, we need to protect our borders, the wall, the wall, and the Mexicans, Afghans, Paraguayans, Kurds, whatever, ban, ban, ban” – completely overlooking the fact that the alleged shooter is American and was born in the US.
Trumpinites were yelling off their heads about the evil Muslims and ISIS and terrorists attacking innocent Americans on American soil – you know, the fatherland, I mean heartland – when all of a sudden the news came out that at least three of the homosexual victims were illegals. Oops – a little wrench right into the Mexicans and the wall and the terrorists.
Right-wingers were screaming hysterically “Ahhh! Terrorists! Terrorists! Be afraid, afraid, be very afraid! We need more bombings, more wars, more arms sales, more killings, more destruction of other countries so our corrupt political puppets can be instituted in a corrupt democratic system or we can put in place a nice old fashioned dictator that we control”. Well, they didn’t actually say the second part and just screamed “Terrorists! Terrorists!” hysterically – the rest will follow so naturally, why waste one’s breath telling the truth to the sheeple?
There was a lot more shouting and spun angles. Every political faction in the US though ignored what I found the most important thing Mateen declared to the media (if true): he did this shooting to avenge and to call attention to US’ mass killings of women and children in Afghanistan – apparently where his family came from.
So this isn’t just some evil person who is killing others because of no reason – he is very much protesting US warfare and the killing of thousands of innocent people and the protracted destruction of an entire country (just one of many).
But you wouldn’t know this from many of the comments to several news articles on the shooting. One that stood out to me was a guy asking: what makes an individual pick up a rifle and just go out and kill people? What sort of an deranged person would do that?
He was genuinely puzzled and asking the question.
One could also ask: what makes a group of Americans get on a plane and just go and kill and kill people? Thousands and thousand of men, women, and children. What makes the US, the UK, and France, among others, go terrorize millions of people abroad, to destroy their families, their homes, their countries, their lives, their psychological structure, their hopes and dreams?
Well, we know – evil greed and the desire to make a buck, in other words, savage capitalism, the US’, the UK’s, and France’s specialty. At this time, it’s the desire to rob other people of oil, gas, minerals, and other sought-after materials, control markets abroad, use international financial systems in the most corrupt ways, turn everyone into mindless consumers, in short, old neo-colonialism now covered with a high-tech face.
I had seen this movie before. I remember being speechless when I heard Pres. Hollande proclaim on national television after the November attacks that “France is now at war.”
Really? And what was France in before – when it took its military aircraft and all its other vicious weapons and joined the US and the UK in multiple killing sprees of thousands and thousands of innocent people – the poorest of the poor – in Africa and in the Middle East? Is now mass murder a form of peace for France, the UK, and the US?
The arrogance, the sheer Nazi arrogance that is needed to think that when Americans and Brits and the French kill other people, this is a non-event, and it’s not terrorism either – even though millions of innocent people are forever terrorized and traumatized by this – that is, those who survive the barbarity of war.
How many days have gone by when the US, the UK, and France killed 50 people in some
region of the world? We don’t even know, it’s so frequent in all these wars. But these are
nameless people because they are poor people. They are of color in many ways, not just regarding their skin. The most important is not having the current Nazi citizenship du jour – therefore their lives are completely dispensable and their killing is not to be even accounted for. Americans have no feelings when they murder people abroad. Neither do the French. Murder, especially mass murder, is a seen as a right.
LGBT pigs also didn’t waste a second to trot out the “Oh look, the terrorist is from one of those evil conservative countries where they throw off gays from buildings.” Yes, and the LGBT pigs are from countries where they use high-tech to commit mass murder, including of children. Glass houses and all that.
Who is the greater evil?
Then we had a large number of pols and pundits solemnly declaring, “Sheeple, the ignominy, this was an attack on America – what America stands for!” I would have paid money for someone to add, “Yes, an attack on sodomy – the cornerstone of America, what our forefathers fought and died for.” Alas, all I heard was, “The gays, the gays, stop the hatred, victims, victims, crying, crying, the evil terrorists, it’s all so awful.”
This site reports that “about 92,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan war since 2001. More than 26,000 of those killed have been civilians. Nearly 100,000 people have been injured since 2001.”
Almost a hundred thousand Afghan dead. Contrast that to 50 homos in Orlando.
And what are Americans wailing and grieving about?
Then, in total American mode of let’s hear all the measures we shall take after another horrible crisis, the corrupt US media invited all these “experts” to tell the public how terrorism can be prevented – which everybody knows in a country of 320 million is impossible. Never mind that. “Experts” were in overdrive telling us that we need more surveillance, more police, more spending, more intel, more this, more that. Not one suggested that maybe, just maybe if Americans didn’t go murder other people then other people might not want to murder Americans. Not that difficult.
And this is why, the most brilliant political phrase that I came across recently was Henry Adams’ “politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds”.
Et voilà, and here we have another grotesque episode of it, in overkill fashion.
WASHINGTON — A message from Hillary Clinton’s private email server reveals that France and the United Kingdom both sought to control Libya’s oil in the days after the U.S.-backed coup in 2011.
An email sent on Sept. 16, 2011 to Clinton, then the U.S. Secretary of State, from journalist and family friend Sidney Blumenthal, shows that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron each traveled to Tripoli about one month after Moammar Gadhafi’s government fell in order to assert their claim on Libya’s energy reserves.
They made these demands, Blumenthal wrote, during meetings with the country’s National Transitional Council, a de facto government which formed with Western support in the aftermath of the coup:
The United States, France, U.K. and other NATO allies backed rebel forces in Libya that ousted Gadhafi in August 2011, in what was widely reported to be a “humanitarian intervention” against a government with a history of severe human rights abuses.
So, if they all knew he was a monstrous dictator, why did they all support him for decades, do business with him, and then arm him to his teeth?
Mar. 11: Libya: lessons in controlling the arms trade – by Pieter D. Wezeman
In the current military air strikes against Libyan forces, nations that once supported Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime are now—based on sanction by the United Nations—attacking the forces they were marketing and delivering arms to only weeks before. As the violence escalates and the international community examines how to respond to internal conflict and human rights violations, arms supply should be analysed as it implicates the international community as complicit in the violence it is now trying to end.
UK approved £2.3bn in arms exports over 21 months
Successive governments ‘misjudged the risk’ [What baloney!]
Heavily armed: The British government approved £61.3million in arms exports to Gaddafi’s regime since 2009
Britain sold weapons to Libya and other dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East just four months before Colonel Gaddafi’s regime slaughtered hundreds of protesters, a damning report reveals today.
The British, you know, these people who claim to be for “freedom and democracy”, did they object ? Did they stop the arms sales and the terror they unleashed?
No, they continued doing their monstrous deeds, while most of the British population looked the other way and while all these dictators continue to terrorize and kill millions of children and adults. And with their bloody British hands, they pocketed the money. So did France and the US.
As long as the US, the UK, and France can rob a country of its resources by putting in place, supporting, and arming a dictator that will sell to them what they want, while keeping the population in a horrible state of poverty and oppression, they will do so. And they don’t even bother to do it very covertly, given how corrupt their populace is. Should any of these dictators outlast their use or start to make demands or not agree to be such a puppet, then it’s time to play the “Oh! We’ve just discovered so and so is a horrible dictator! Now we must topple him! And now our corporations must move in and directly control the natural resources that don’t belong to us! Three cheers fo freedom and democracy – Hitler-style!”
Either the US, the UK, and France rob poor countries through instituting and arming a monstrous dictator, or they do it through a sham of a corrupt “democratic” government, where their corporations move in and rob directly. Either way, the people of any such country remain in horrible poverty, suffering, and are robbed of their own country’s resources.
And after all of this, Americans, British, and French, all exclaim, “Isn’t the democratic governments you see in our own respective countries wonderful? Isn’t capitalism wonderful?”
Hitler died, but his ideology and tactics were fully taken up by the US, the UK, and France – not that it was new to the imperialist powers to continue to oppress millions and rob poor countries all over the world.
Kill, rob, kill, rob, kill, rob – corporations are the “legitimacy” wrapper that the Nazi-like military of the US-UK-France cover themselves with.
Just the tip of the iceberg of the Clintons’ bribe and war crimes machine: Hillary Clinton’s long relationship with Saudi Arabia.
On Christmas Eve in 2011, Hillary Clinton and her closest aides celebrated a $29.4 billion sale of over 80 F-15 fighter jets, manufactured by US-based Boeing Corporation, to Saudi Arabia. In a chain of enthusiastic emails, an aide exclaimed that it was “not a bad Christmas present.”
These are the very fighter jets the Saudis have been using to intervene in the internal affairs of Yemen since March 2015. A year later, at least 2,800 Yemeni civilians have been killed, mostly by airstrikes – and there is no end in sight. The indiscriminate Saudi strikes have killed journalists and ambulance drivers. They have hit the Chamber of Commerce, facilities supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders), a wedding hall, and a center for the blind. The attacks have also targeted ancient heritage sites in Yemen. International human rights organizations are saying that the Saudi-led strikes on Yemen may amount to war crimes.
During her tenure as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made weapons transfers to the Saudi government a “top priority,” according to a new report published in The Intercept. While Clinton’s State Department was deeply invested in getting weapons to Saudi Arabia, the Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars in donations from both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the weapons manufacturer Boeing. Christmas presents were being gifted all around.
Despite the brutal attacks on Yemen and egregious domestic human rights violations, Saudi Arabia remains the number one US ally in the Arab world.
So, the question about all these Hillary supporters is: Do they know this about her or don’t they read such news? And if they are unaware of how vile and corrupt she and Bill and their Foundation are, how many would still vote for her if they were well-informed?
Her main demographics are (low-info) blacks, women (who only care about discrimination against women), and corrupt affluent liberals. I think these people would still vote for Hillary if they knew about the extent and the gravity of how criminal she is. This underscores one of the main flaws with the American political system: most candidates who can manage to rise a bit in the only two corrupt political parties available are already such garbage of people – the good ones are not allowed to get anywhere.
Furthermore, look at the kind of world we have: one big mafia (the United States) sells horrendously lethal arms to another mafia (Saudi Arabia) that the latter uses to kill mostly destitute, innocent people who can’t escape the organized murder.
As it’s plain to see, the murder is clearly instrumentalized by the United States. However, the politicians enabling the deal and pocketing the money, and the corporation furnishing the means to murder innocent people remain in the eyes of most in American society as “upstanding”.
The people working in these corporations care about the mass murder committed with their arms as much as the corporations furnishing materials to the Nazis cared about what the latter did with it. These corporations are like a “normalcy wrapper” that envelops this enormous industry of mass murder.
It’s hard to exaggerate the enormity and high-tech nature of Saudi weapons purchases; the sales in the decade of 2010 constitute the most enormous military sales in history. According to a White House press release in 2014, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest US Foreign Military Sales customer, with active and open cases valued at approximately $97 billion, as Saudi forces build capabilities across the full spectrum of regional challenges.”
What will the Saudis do with all the weapons they buy? Oppress, torture, and kill their own people, especially those who challenge their corrupt and despotic ruling, and murder their neighbors – most notably the poorest of the poor.
Does anyone working at Boeing Corporation care?
But, but, but… I just had to buy my wide-screen TV, my shiny car, my condo at the beach… How could I think about which murders were being done to pay my salary?
Hitler died but his way of organizing society remains dominant.
And… isn’t this Yemeni population being terrorized by the Saudis? Isn’t it being murdered by an organization that is terrorizing them for political gain? In other words, in today’s world, we have little terrorist groups like the Islamic State, and big ones, like the US and Saudi Arabia.
I usually don’t like the articles by this Noah Millman over at TAC, but this one says so much of what needs to be said and that most Americans are too clueless or too corrupt or too fascist to admit: the US is a fascist state today. He nails why in a short writing space. You can read the whole article at TAC. Excerpt:
Fascism is a variety of right-wing populism; so is “Trumpism” to the extent that such a thing exists. Trump appeals to the core demographic that animates fascist movements: the less-educated cohorts of the majority demographic group. And his appeal has a fundamental irrationalism to it. Trump plainly plays on and stokes xenophobia in his followers. He invokes a glorious past, blames our current difficulties on presumptively unpatriotic groups, and promises a return to glory if he’s elected. He encourages a cult of personality, fetishizes action, and displays little regard for democratic and liberal norms. So yeah, I get it.
On the other hand:
It was President Bush who instituted torture as a regular practice by America’s military and intelligence agencies, who routinized indefinite detention without trial, who launched an aggressive war explicitly to reshape another part of the world according to American dictates, and whose deputies argued that through sheer force of will the President could alter reality itself.
Other members of the Republican Party, including major Presidential contenders and candidates, have threatened war with nuclear-armed Russia, have called for the indiscriminate use of force against civilian populations, and have forcefully advocated a return to torture and an expansion of detention without trial.
The point being, the official leadership of the GOP has for some time been exceedingly militaristic and aggressive in its approach to foreign policy, and had little use for democratic or liberal norms when it comes to fighting terrorism. And militarism, reflexive aggression, and a contempt for liberal and democratic norms in the face of emergency are pretty central to the fascist ethos.
Nor is it just the GOP. It was President Obama who argued that the President has the right to order the execution of American citizens on his own recognizances, who routinized the use of deadly force on a global basis against “targets” determined largely on the basis of metadata, and who twice (against Libya and against ISIS) initiated substantial hostilities without even a hint of Congressional authorization.
One can defend all of this, of course. But why are these not more important hallmarks of an incipient American fascism than the fact that Trump regularly sounds like a more obnoxious and egotistical version of Archie Bunker? And why is saying “no Muslims should be allowed onto American soil until we’ve got a process for monitoring them” more outrageous than a threat to “find out if sand can glow in the dark” (Ted Cruz’s threat to nuke ISIS)? Why is threatening mass-murder less horrifying than threatening discrimination in immigration on the basis of religion?
I’m not saying that having a President – or even a major candidate – who spouts xenophobic rants is a good thing. It’s a bad thing. I’m just suggesting that we’ve long since gotten used to things that are much worse, and perhaps we should pay a bit more attention to that fact.
And below was also a nice reminder, from a commenter on this article:
Veterans throw away their war medals in disgust at British air strikes in Syria
China 1949 to early 1960s
East Germany 1950s
Iran 1953 *
Guatemala 1954 *
Costa Rica mid-1950s
British Guiana 1953-64 *
Iraq 1963 *
North Vietnam 1945-73
Cambodia 1955-70 *
Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *
Ecuador 1960-63 *
Congo 1960 *
Brazil 1962-64 *
Dominican Republic 1963 *
Cuba 1959 to present
Bolivia 1964 *
Indonesia 1965 *
Ghana 1966 *
Chile 1964-73 *
Greece 1967 *
Costa Rica 1970-71
Bolivia 1971 *
Australia 1973-75 *
Angola 1975, 1980s
Portugal 1974-76 *
Jamaica 1976-80 *
Chad 1981-82 *
Grenada 1983 *
South Yemen 1982-84
Fiji 1987 *
Nicaragua 1981-90 *
Panama 1989 *
Bulgaria 1990 *
Albania 1991 *
Afghanistan 1980s *
Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *
Ecuador 2000 *
Afghanistan 2001 *
Venezuela 2002 *
Iraq 2003 *
Haiti 2004 *
Somalia 2007 to present
Libya 2011 *
Ukraine 2014 *
The world is going to pieces.
Has nothing really changed that much and was it just me that hadn’t noticed it before? Europe is on the fast-track to become an increasingly fascist bunker, corrupt and nasty to the core. They have no choice since they refuse to change course from their neo-colonialist/joint imperialism with the US. They’ve been nazis for the past 3,000 years at least – ask yourself, was there any time when Europe wasn’t Nazi? No. And apparently if there was a slight interlude in the post-WWII or post-Cold War era, it’s over. It’s back to their vivid hatred of everyone else, the xenophobia, and the scape-goating, along with their beloved ally across the pond. Also it’s about time we start counting Cold Wars. Number 1 ended and now we are in Cold War number 2. Sparks are flying all over the Middle East and some people seriously want it to catch fire and explode.
One facet of this Nazi culture is that I’ve noticed how little reporting there is in the West concerning the thousands and thousands of civilians that are being killed in Africa and the Middle East. All that is usually mentioned, when there is any mention at all, is a number. It’s as eery as the record-keeping of Jews being gassed in the camps. It’s another facet of the current Nazi attitude that other people (non-American/non-European) are expendable and irrelevant when killed.
I’ve also noticed we hardly ever see graphic pictures on television of the victims of the “allied (mafias’)” bombing, such as the few examples I linked to in the above paragraph. These are the kinds of pictures that show the horrors that children are going through in Syria and Africa – maimed, injured, and killed – but must of all, terrorized. Like all war pictures, they are unforgettable. But most people I know (Westerners) are never exposed to such pictures and never care to see what is happening. Although many support the bombings and war (of other people, of course). Remember how hysterical Europeans were when they were being bombed during WWII? How easily they have forgotten.
And then the nastiness doesn’t end there. All parties involved, including the “allies”, are bombing hospitals in these wars (here’s one example: Syrian Government Forces Are Targeting Doctors as a Weapon of War. Since this article is being reported by Newsweek, they don’t report when “allies” do the same). If it weren’t for Doctors Without Borders (who are Western as far as their top organization), we wouldn’t even hear about the West bombing hospitals in these wars, it’s obviously not news. They have also destroyed water treatment plants. People are not only being bombed but now they have no water.
When I spoke of this to a Belgian guy this week who works in the gas industry, his was the typical European retort – a snicker. He is planning to go to a beautiful vacation spot for Christmas. He doesn’t care about any war atrocity or the millions of people killed around the world. “We don’t have operations in Syria”. Therefore should all Syrians or Africans be killed, that would not concern me, he could have added. Together with his complete insensitivity to the rest of humanity, he likes to take pictures of nature. How quaint. His entire existence is dedicated only to himself and various forms of self-entertainment. Talk about clash of civilizations indeed. Monstrous inhumanity of the West versus any kind of sanity that exists anywhere.
As a small consolation, in this bleak and truly horrifying world, there will always be heroes. Like this one (“‘I Will Not Leave Syria’: One of Aleppo’s Few Remaining Doctors Is Defiant“). Most of the doctors have been killed in or have fled Aleppo. This one refuses to leave. He is one of a kind. Works 15-hour shifts day after day, underground, to save lives, putting his life at risk at every moment. While the rest of the world expends all its energy to kill and maim and injure. All in order to pay 50 cents less on filling up their precious little gas tanks that are also destroying the environment, as they have spent the last week bleating like sheep repeatedly telling us in the COP21. This is the real clash of civilizations that is going on. Between the Western nazi imperialists and all their wars and arms industry and robbery of natural resources and the rest of the world.
When one of the numerous Western-set-up dictators starts becoming a little too independent, a little less the Uncle-Tom they had agreed to be, then it’s time to label them no longer “one of our allies” in the Middle East, but a “brutal dictator”. The (brutal) friends and allies of yesterday are the “monstrous rulers” that must be toppled and bombed today, along with million of civilians. The war criminal and monster of yesterday that used chemical weapons his people (Assad) becomes a possible “partner” and not so bad after all if the West doesn’t like the Islamic State. And what, mind you, is the difference between Saudi Arabia and this Islamic State? There is nothing that the Islamic State does that Saudi Arabia doesn’t do at a much larger scale.
And, as we have been watching, should any civilian try to flee the horror inflicted on them by these wars, there’s a nice door ready to be slammed on their faces by most of the West, most notably France. And then they are surprised when the blood spatters on their faces through some “terrorist” attack. I just heard a news report that the number one reason given for the French who voted for the FN (hard right) in a post-voting poll in France was… “immigration”.
Nicely, there was also this: David Cameron reported to police as a ‘war criminal’ for bombing Syria | UK Politics | News | The Independent.
Some people are getting the full picture at Tomdispatch/The American Conservative. Below is a well-argued article by Andrew J. Bacevich, aimed to persuade Americans not to continue WWW IV (or III, as you might prefer to label the current World War we are experiencing in 2015). As it’s explained in the article, the IV is used since the Cold War is deemed to have already been WW III. The tone is serious but, as persuading articles must, it largely refrains from incisively attacking the US for all its past atrocious war activities everywhere post-Vietnam. Read the full article at Tomdispatch or TAC, various excerpts below. I especially liked that Bacevich highlighted the economics of war, something that most of the US news media (and elsewhere in the West) is too corrupt to engage with.
ISIS and the Folly of World War IV – Are we ready to commit millions of troops to decades of occupation?
Assume that the hawks get their way—that the United States does whatever it takes militarily to confront and destroy ISIS. Then what?
Answering that question requires taking seriously the outcomes of other recent U.S. interventions in the Greater Middle East. In 1991, when the first President Bush ejected Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait, Americans rejoiced, believing that they had won a decisive victory. A decade later, the younger Bush seemingly outdid his father by toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan and then making short work of Saddam himself—a liberation twofer achieved in less time than it takes Americans to choose a president. After the passage of another decade, Barack Obama got into the liberation act, overthrowing the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in what appeared to be a tidy air intervention with a clean outcome. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton memorably put it, “We came, we saw, he died.” End of story.
In fact, subsequent events in each case mocked early claims of success or outright victory. Unanticipated consequences and complications abounded. “Liberation” turned out to be a prelude to chronic violence and upheaval.
Indeed, the very existence of the Islamic State (ISIS) today renders a definitive verdict on the Iraq wars over which the Presidents Bush presided, each abetted by a Democratic successor. A de facto collaboration of four successive administrations succeeded in reducing Iraq to what it is today: a dysfunctional quasi-state unable to control its borders or territory while serving as a magnet and inspiration for terrorists.
The United States bears a profound moral responsibility for having made such a hash of things there. Were it not for the reckless American decision to invade and occupy a nation that, whatever its crimes, had nothing to do with 9/11, the Islamic State would not exist. Per the famous Pottery Barn Rule attributed to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, having smashed Iraq to bits a decade ago, we can now hardly deny owning ISIS.
In that regard, the glibly bellicose editor of the Weekly Standard, William Kristol, is surely correct in suggesting that a well-armed contingent of 50,000 U.S. troops, supported by ample quantities of air power, would make mincemeat of ISIS in a toe-to-toe contest. Liberation of the various ISIS strongholds like Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq and Palmyra and Raqqa, its “capital,” in Syria would undoubtedly follow in short order.
In the wake of the recent attacks in Paris, the American mood is strongly trending in favor of this sort of escalation. Just about anyone who is anyone—the current occupant of the Oval Office partially excepted—favors intensifying the U.S. military campaign against ISIS. And why not? What could possibly go wrong? As Kristol puts it, “I don’t think there’s much in the way of unanticipated side effects that are going to be bad there.”
It’s an alluring prospect. In the face of a sustained assault by the greatest military the world has ever seen, ISIS foolishly (and therefore improbably) chooses to make an Alamo-like stand. Whammo! We win. They lose. Mission accomplished.
Of course, that phrase recalls the euphoric early reactions to Operations Desert Storm in 1991, Enduring Freedom in 2001, Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and Odyssey Dawn, the Libyan intervention of 2011. Time and again the unanticipated side effects of U.S. military action turned out to be very bad indeed. In Kabul, Baghdad, or Tripoli, the Alamo fell, but the enemy dispersed or reinvented itself and the conflict continued. Assurances offered by Kristol that this time things will surely be different deserve to be taken with more than a grain of salt. Pass the whole shaker.
Embracing Generational War
Why this repeated disparity between perceived and actual outcomes? Why have apparent battlefield successes led so regularly to more violence and disorder? Before following Kristol’s counsel, Americans would do well to reflect on these questions.
Cue Professor Eliot A. Cohen. Shortly after 9/11, Cohen, one of this country’s preeminent military thinkers, characterized the conflict on which the United States was then embarking as “World War IV.” (In this formulation, the Cold War becomes World War III.) … “It was World War IV in 2001,” Cohen insists. “It is World War IV today.”
In the United States today, confusion about what war itself signifies is widespread. Through misuse, misapplication, and above all misremembering, we have distorted the term almost beyond recognition. As one consequence, talk of war comes too easily off the tongues of the unknowing.
What will distinguish the war that Cohen deems essential? “Begin with endurance,” he writes. “This war will probably go on for the rest of my life, and well into my children’s.” Although American political leaders seem reluctant “to explain just how high the stakes are,” Cohen lays them out in direct, unvarnished language. At issue, he insists, is the American way of life itself, not simply “in the sense of rock concerts and alcohol in restaurants, but the more fundamental rights of freedom of speech and religion, the equality of women, and, most essentially, the freedom from fear and freedom to think.”
With so much on the line, Cohen derides the Obama administration’s tendency to rely on “therapeutic bombing, which will temporarily relieve the itch, but leave the wounds suppurating.” The time for such half-measures has long since passed. Defeating the Islamic State and “kindred movements” will require the U.S. to “kill a great many people.” To that end Washington needs “a long-range plan not to ‘contain’ but to crush” the enemy. Even with such a plan, victory will be a long way off and will require “a long, bloody, and costly process.”
Cohen’s candor and specificity, as bracing as they are rare, should command our respect. If World War IV describes what we are in for, then eliminating ISIS might figure as a near-term imperative, but it can hardly define the endgame. Beyond ISIS loom all those continually evolving “kindred movements” to which the United States will have to attend before it can declare the war itself well and truly won.
To send just tens of thousands of U.S. troops to clean up Syria and Iraq, as William Kristol and others propose, offers at best a recipe for winning a single campaign. Winning the larger war would involve far more arduous exertions. This Cohen understands, accepts, and urges others to acknowledge.
And here we come to the heart of the matter. For at least the past 35 years—that is, since well before 9/11—the United States has been “at war” in various quarters of the Islamic world. At no point has it demonstrated the will or the ability to finish the job. Washington’s approach has been akin to treating cancer with a little bit of chemo one year and a one-shot course of radiation the next. Such gross malpractice aptly describes U.S. military policy throughout the Greater Middle East across several decades.
Yes, we killed many tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans, but if winning World War IV requires, as Cohen writes, that we “break the back” of the enemy, then we obviously didn’t kill nearly enough.
Nor were Americans sufficiently willing to die for the cause. In South Vietnam, 58,000 G.I.s died in a futile effort to enable that country to survive. In Iraq and Afghanistan, where the stakes were presumably much higher, we pulled the plug after fewer than 7,000 deaths.
Americans would be foolish to listen to those like William Kristol who, even today, peddle illusions about war being neat and easy. They would do well instead to heed Cohen, who knows that war is hard and ugly.
What Would World War IV Look Like?
Yet when specifying the practical implications of generational war, Cohen is less forthcoming. From his perspective, this fourth iteration of existential armed conflict in a single century is not going well. But apart from greater resolve and bloody-mindedness, what will it take to get things on the right track?
As a thought experiment, let’s answer that question by treating it with the urgency that Cohen believes it deserves. After 9/11, certain U.S. officials thundered about “taking the gloves off.” In practice, however, with the notable exception of policies permitting torture and imprisonment without due process, the gloves stayed on. Take Cohen’s conception of World War IV at face value and that will have to change.
For starters, the country would have to move to something like a war footing, enabling Washington to raise a lot more troops and spend a lot more money over a very long period of time. Although long since banished from the nation’s political lexicon, the M-word—mobilization—would make a comeback. Prosecuting a generational war, after all, is going to require the commitment of generations.
Furthermore, if winning World War IV means crushing the enemy, as Cohen emphasizes, then ensuring that the enemy, once crushed, cannot recover would be hardly less important. And that requirement would prohibit U.S. forces from simply walking away from a particular fight even—or especially—when it might appear won.
At the present moment, defeating the Islamic State ranks as Washington’s number one priority. With the Pentagon already claiming a body count of 20,000 ISIS fighters without notable effect, this campaign won’t end anytime soon. But even assuming an eventually positive outcome, the task of maintaining order and stability in areas that ISIS now controls will remain. Indeed, that task will persist until the conditions giving rise to entities like ISIS are eliminated. Don’t expect French President François Hollande or British Prime Minister David Cameron to sign up for that thankless job. U.S. forces will own it. Packing up and leaving the scene won’t be an option.
How long would those forces have to stay? Extrapolating from recent U.S. occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, something on the order of a quarter-century seems like a plausible approximation. So should our 45th president opt for a boots-on-the-ground solution to ISIS, as might well be the case, the privilege of welcoming the troops home could belong to the 48th or 49th occupant of the White House.
In the meantime, U.S. forces would have to deal with the various and sundry “kindred movements” that are already cropping up like crabgrass in country after country. Afghanistan–still? again?—would head the list of places requiring U.S. military attention. But other prospective locales would include such hotbeds of Islamist activity as Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Somalia, and Yemen, along with several West African countries increasingly beset with insurgencies. Unless Egyptian, Pakistani, and Saudi security forces demonstrate the ability (not to mention the will) to suppress the violent radicals in their midst, one or more of those countries could also become the scene of significant U.S. military action.
Effective prosecution of World War IV, in other words, would require the Pentagon to plan for each of these contingencies, while mustering the assets needed for implementation. Allies might kick in token assistance—tokenism is all they have to offer—but the United States will necessarily carry most of the load.
What Would World War IV Cost?
During World War III (aka the Cold War), the Pentagon maintained a force structure ostensibly adequate to the simultaneous prosecution of two and a half wars. This meant having the wherewithal to defend Europe and the Pacific from communist aggression while still leaving something for the unexpected. World War IV campaigns are unlikely to entail anything on the scale of the Warsaw Pact attacking Western Europe or North Korea invading the South. Still, the range of plausible scenarios will require that U.S. forces be able to take on militant organizations C and D even while guarding against the resurgence of organizations A and B in altogether different geographic locations.
Even though Washington may try whenever possible to avoid large-scale ground combat, relying on air power (including drones) and elite Special Operations forces to do the actual killing, post-conflict pacification promises to be a manpower intensive activity. Certainly, this ranks as one of the most obvious lessons to emerge from World War IV’s preliminary phases: when the initial fight ends, the real work begins.
U.S. forces committed to asserting control over Iraq after the invasion of 2003 topped out at roughly 180,000. In Afghanistan, during the Obama presidency, the presence peaked at 110,000. In a historical context, these are not especially large numbers. At the height of the Vietnam War, for example, U.S. troop strength in Southeast Asia exceeded 500,000.
In hindsight, the Army general who, before the invasion of 2003, publicly suggested that pacifying postwar Iraq would require “several hundred thousand troops” had it right. A similar estimate applies to Afghanistan. In other words, those two occupations together could easily have absorbed 600,000 to 800,000 troops on an ongoing basis. Given the Pentagon’s standard three-to-one rotation policy, which assumes that for every unit in-country, a second is just back, and a third is preparing to deploy, you’re talking about a minimum requirement of between 1.8 and 2.4 million troops to sustain just two medium-sized campaigns—a figure that wouldn’t include some number of additional troops kept in reserve for the unexpected.
In other words, waging World War IV would require at least a five-fold increase in the current size of the U.S. Army—and not as an emergency measure but a permanent one. Such numbers may appear large, but as Cohen would be the first to point out, they are actually modest when compared to previous world wars. In 1968, in the middle of World War III, the Army had more than 1.5 million active duty soldiers on its rolls—this at a time when the total American population was less than two-thirds what it is today and when gender discrimination largely excluded women from military service. If it chose to do so, the United States today could easily field an army of two million or more soldiers.
Whether it could also retain the current model of an all-volunteer force is another matter. Recruiters would certainly face considerable challenges, even if Congress enhanced the material inducements for service, which since 9/11 have already included a succession of generous increases in military pay. A loosening of immigration policy, granting a few hundred thousand foreigners citizenship in return for successfully completing a term of enlistment might help. In all likelihood, however, as with all three previous world wars, waging World War IV would oblige the United States to revive the draft, a prospect as likely to be well-received as a flood of brown and black immigrant enlistees. In short, going all out to create the forces needed to win World War IV would confront Americans with uncomfortable choices.
The budgetary implications of expanding U.S. forces while conducting a perpetual round of what the Pentagon calls “overseas contingency operations” would also loom large. Precisely how much money an essentially global conflict projected to extend well into the latter half of the century would require is difficult to gauge. As a starting point, given the increased number of active duty forces, tripling the present Defense Department budget of more than $600 billion might serve as a reasonable guess.
At first glance, $1.8 trillion annually is a stupefyingly large figure. To make it somewhat more palatable, a proponent of World War IV might put that number in historical perspective. During the first phases of World War III, for example, the United States routinely allocated 10% or more of total gross domestic product (GDP) for national security. With that GDP today exceeding $17 trillion, apportioning 10% to the Pentagon would give those charged with managing World War IV a nice sum to work with and no doubt to build upon.
Of course, that money would have to come from somewhere. For several years during the last decade, sustaining wars in Iraq and Afghanistan pushed the federal deficit above a trillion dollars. As one consequence, the total national debt now exceeds annual GDP, having tripled since 9/11. How much additional debt the United States can accrue without doing permanent damage to the economy is a question of more than academic interest.
To avoid having World War IV produce an endless string of unacceptably large deficits, ratcheting up military spending would undoubtedly require either substantial tax increases or significant cuts in non-military spending, including big-ticket programs like Medicare and social security—precisely those, that is, which members of the middle class hold most dear.
In other words, funding World War IV while maintaining a semblance of fiscal responsibility would entail the kind of trade-offs that political leaders are loathe to make. Today, neither party appears up to taking on such challenges. That the demands of waging protracted war will persuade them to rise above their partisan differences seems unlikely. It sure hasn’t so far.
The Folly of World War IV
As the United States enters a presidential election year, plain talk about the prospects of our ongoing military engagement in the Islamic world should be the order of the day. The pretense that either dropping a few more bombs or invading one or two more countries will yield a conclusive outcome amounts to more than an evasion. It is an outright lie.
As Cohen knows, winning World War IV would require dropping many, many more bombs and invading, and then occupying for years to come, many more countries. After all, it’s not just ISIS that Washington will have to deal with, but also its affiliates, offshoots, wannabes, and the successors almost surely waiting in the wings. And don’t forget al-Qaeda.
Cohen believes that we have no alternative. Either we get serious about fighting World War IV the way it needs to be fought or darkness will envelop the land. He is undeterred by the evidence that the more deeply we insert our soldiers into the Greater Middle East the more concerted the resistance they face; that the more militants we kill the more we seem to create; that the inevitable, if unintended, killing of innocents only serves to strengthen the hand of the extremists. As he sees it, with everything we believe in riding on the outcome, we have no choice but to press on.
While listening carefully to Cohen’s call to arms, Americans should reflect on its implications. Wars change countries and people. Embracing his prescription for World War IV would change the United States in fundamental ways. It would radically expand the scope and reach of the national security state, which, of course, includes agencies beyond the military itself. It would divert vast quantities of wealth to nonproductive purposes. It would make the militarization of the American way of life, a legacy of prior world wars, irreversible. By sowing fear and fostering impossible expectations of perfect security, it would also compromise American freedom in the name of protecting it. The nation that decades from now might celebrate VT Day—victory over terrorism—will have become a different place, materially, politically, culturally, and morally.
In my view, Cohen’s World War IV is an invitation to collective suicide.
Arguing that no alternative exists to open-ended war represents not hard-nosed realism, but the abdication of statecraft. Yet here’s the ultimate irony: even without the name, the United States has already embarked upon something akin to a world war, which now extends into the far reaches of the Islamic world and spreads further year by year.
Incrementally, bit by bit, this nameless war has already expanded the scope and reach of the national security apparatus. It is diverting vast quantities of wealth to nonproductive purposes even as it normalizes the continuing militarization of the American way of life. By sowing fear and fostering impossible expectations of perfect security, it is undermining American freedom in the name of protecting it, and doing so right before our eyes.
Cohen rightly decries the rudderless character of the policies that have guided the (mis)conduct of that war thus far. For that critique we owe him a considerable debt. But the real problem is the war itself and the conviction that only through war can America remain America.
For a rich and powerful nation to conclude that it has no choice but to engage in quasi-permanent armed conflict in the far reaches of the planet represents the height of folly. Power confers choice. As citizens, we must resist with all our might arguments that deny the existence of choice. Whether advanced forthrightly by Cohen or fecklessly by the militarily ignorant, such claims will only perpetuate the folly that has already lasted far too long.
Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. He is the author of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, among other works. His new book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East (Random House), is due out in April 2016.
Sounds like it will be a very needed and interesting book!