As the new year begins, it is important for the U.S. to acknowledge its troubling history of global war-making, especially over the past two-decades, as Nicolas J.S. Davies delineates.
By Nicolas J.S. Davies
I met John Lennon and Yoko Ono on Christmas Eve in 1969. I joined them and a small group of local peace activists in a Christmas fast for world peace in front of Rochester Cathedral in England, a short walk from where I lived with my family in Chatham Dockyard. I was 15 years old, and my father was the dockyard medical officer, responsible for the health and safety of the dockyard workers who maintained the U.K.’s new fleet of nuclear submarines.
John and Yoko arrived before midnight mass. We were all introduced and went in for the service. By the time we came out, thousands of people had heard John was there. He was still a Beatle and he was mobbed by a huge crowd, so he and Yoko decided they couldn’t stay with us as planned. While most of our little group helped John back to their iconic white Rolls Royce, I and another boy not much older than me were left to shepherd a panicking Yoko back through the crowd to the car. They both made it, and we never saw them again. The next morning a florist came by with a huge box of white carnations, and we spent the rest of our Christmas and Boxing Day handing flowers to passers-by and getting to know each other – the birth of what became the Medway and Maidstone Peace Action Group.
While the U.K. was not openly involved in the Vietnam War, it was deeply involved in the Cold War and the nuclear arms race, and watching the U.K.’s closest ally destroy Vietnam led many of my generation to question the Cold War assumptions about “good guys” and “bad guys” that we’d been raised on. John and Yoko became the de facto leaders of the peace movement, and their song “Give Peace a Chance” was a simple unifying anthem.
After two world wars, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War, we all wanted peace, but it seemed to be the one thing our leaders were not willing to try, claiming that the Cold War justified an endless arms race, and wars and coups wherever U.S. and British leaders thought they’d spotted a Red under somebody’s bed. That included many countries whose experiments with socialism were less advanced than in the U.K., where I grew up with a cradle to grave healthcare system, free education through university, a comprehensive welfare state and state-owned utilities, railways and major industries.
The peace dividend vs the power dividend
Once the Cold War ended, the justification for 50 years of massive military spending, global warfare and coups was finally over. Like U.S. allies, enemies and neighbors around the world, Americans breathed a sigh of relief and welcomed the “peace dividend.” Robert McNamara and Lawrence Korb, former cold warriors of both parties, testified to the Senate Budget Committee that the U.S. military budget could be cut in half from its FY1990 level over the next 10 years. Committee chairman Senator Jim Sasser hailed “this unique moment in history” as “the dawn of the primacy of domestic economics.”
But the peace dividend was short-lived, trumped by what Carl Conetta of the Project for Defense Alternatives has dubbed the “power dividend,” the drive to exploit the end of the Cold War to consolidate and expand U.S. military power. Influential voices linked to military industrial interests had a new refrain, essentially “Give War a Chance.” But of course, they didn’t put it so plainly:
– After the First Gulf War in 1991, President Bush I celebrated “kick(ing) the Vietnam syndrome,” and deployed U.S. pilots directly from Kuwait to the Paris Air Show to cash in on the marketing value of a war that had just killed tens of thousands of people in Iraq. The next 3 years set a new record for U.S. arms sales. The Pentagon later admitted that only 7% of the bombs and missiles dropped on Iraq were the “precision-guided” ones they showcased to TV viewers, and only 41% to 60% of those “precision” weapons hit their targets anyway. Iraq was ruthlessly carpet bombed, but we were sold a high-tech dog and pony show.
– Despite surely being well aware of the reality behind the propaganda, Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz crowed to General Wesley Clark, “With the end of the Cold War, we can now use our military with impunity.”
– As the Clinton administration took over the reins of the U.S. war machine in 1992, Madeleine Albright challenged General Colin Powell on his “Powell Doctrine” of limited war, asking him, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”
– Albright was appointed Secretary of State in 1997, mainstreaming new political pretexts for otherwise illegal wars such as “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect.” But despite the steady diet of war propaganda, Albright was drowned out by protests from the audience when she threatened war on Iraq at a town hall meeting in Columbus in 1998.
– Clinton’s 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review declared, “When the interests at stake are vital… we should do whatever it takes to defend them, including, when necessary, the unilateral use of military power. U.S. vital national interests include, but are not limited to… preventing the emergence of a hostile regional coalition… (and) ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources.” But as the U.K. Foreign Office’s senior legal adviser told his government during the Suez crisis in 1956, “The plea of vital interest, which has been one of the main justifications for wars in the past, is indeed the very one which the UN Charter was intended to exclude as a basis for armed intervention in another country.”
– After a failed CIA coup in 1996 betrayed every CIA agent in Iraq to the Iraqi government, precluding a second coup attempt, the newly formed neoconservative Project for the New American Century began pushing for war on Iraq. The 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, threatening “regime change” through the use of military force, passed Congress with only 38 Nays in the House and unanimous consent in the Senate.
– When U.K. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Albright his government was having trouble “with our lawyers” over NATO’s illegal plan to attack Yugoslavia and annex Kosovo, she told him it should just “get new lawyers.”
– Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations a few weeks before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000, Hillary Clinton derided recent U.S. wars in Panama, Kuwait and Yugoslavia as “splendid little wars” and called for what a banking executive in the audience described as a “new imperialism.”
– Samantha Power popularized the idea that the use of U.S. military force could have prevented the genocide in Rwanda, an assumption challenged by experts on genocide (see “A Solution From Hell”) but which has served ever since as a powerful political argument for the U.S. uses of military force.
After pleading with the American people to “Give War a Chance” for a decade, U.S. political leaders seized on the crimes of September 11th, 2001 to justify an open-ended “global war on terror.”
Many Americans approved of attacking Afghanistan as an act of self defense, but of course it was not Afghanistan or the Taliban that committed the crimes of September 11th. As former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz told NPR at the time, “It is never a legitimate response to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done. If you simply retaliate en masse by bombing Afghanistan, let us say, or the Taliban, you will kill many people who don’t approve of what has happened.”
Sixteen years later, 16,500 U.S. troops soldier on through the graveyard of empires, while U.S. warplanes have dropped 3,852 bombs and missiles on Afghanistan since Mr. Trump took office. No serious study has been conducted to estimate how many hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been killed since 2001.
As Matthew Hoh wrote in his resignation letter as he quit his post as the U.S. Political Officer in Zabul Province in Afghanistan in 2009,
“The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. …I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.”
Or as an Afghan taxi driver in Vancouver told me, “We defeated the Persians in the 18th century, the British in the 19th century and the Russians in the 20th. Now, with NATO, we’re fighting 29 countries at once, but we’ll defeat them too.” Who would doubt it?
Today, after 16 years of occupation by up to 100,000 U.S. troops, thousands of deadly “kill or capture” night raids by U.S. special operations forces and over 60,000 bombs and missiles dropped on Afghanistan on the orders of 3 U.S. presidents, the corrupt U.S.-backed government in Kabul governs less territory today than at any time since before the U.S. invasion.
The U.S. war on Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history. There must be U.S. troops in Afghanistan today whose fathers were fighting there 16 years ago. This isn’t giving war a chance. It’s giving it a blank check, in blood and money.
When President Bush II unveiled a “national security strategy” based on a flagrantly illegal doctrine of preemptive war in 2002, Senator Edward Kennedy called it a “call for 21st century imperialism that no other country can or should accept.” The rest of the world rejected the U.S. case for war on Iraq in the UN Security Council and 30 million people took to the streets in the largest global demonstrations in history. But the U.S. and U.K. invaded Iraq anyway.
The U.K.’s role in the invasion was thrown into limbo when Admiral Michael Boyce, the Chief of the Defense Staff, told his government he could not give orders to invade Iraq without written confirmation that it would be legal. It took Tony Blair and his cronies five full days of grappling with their legal advisers before one of them, Attorney General Peter Goldsmith, who was not even an international lawyer, was willing to contradict what he and all the U.K.’s legal advisers had consistently and repeatedly told their government, that the invasion of Iraq would be a criminal act of aggression.
Four days later, the U.S. and U.K. committed the war crime of the new century, unleashing a war that has killed a million innocent people and left Iraq mired in bloody violence and chaos for 14 years and counting.
When the people of Iraq rose in resistance to the illegal invasion and occupation of their country, the U.S. launched a bloody “counterinsurgency” campaign. As U.S. forces destroyed Fallujah and Ramadi, U.S. officials in Baghdad recruited, trained and ran Interior Ministry death squads who tortured and assassinated tens of thousands of men and boys to ethnically cleanse Baghdad and other areas on a sectarian basis.
The most recent U.S. atrocity in Iraq was the massacre of an estimated 40,000 civilians in Mosul by U.S., Iraqi, French and other “coalition” forces. The U.S.-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria has dropped 104,000 bombs and missiles since 2014, making it the heaviest U.S. bombing campaign since the American War in Vietnam. Iraqi government death squads once again prowl through the ruins of Mosul, torturing and summarily executing anyone they identify as a suspected Islamic State fighter or sympathizer.
In Iraq, “Give war a chance” does not mean, “It didn’t work here. Let’s try it somewhere else.” It means, “Keep bombarding Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul and massacring their people over and over again until there is nothing left but rubble and graveyards.” That is why 9,123 U.S. troops remain deployed in a land of rubble and graveyards in the 15th year of an illegal war.
Independent Somalia was formed from the former colonies of British and Italian Somaliland in 1970. After initially investing in literacy and infrastructure, Said Barre and his government built the largest army in Africa, supported first by the U.S.S.R. and then by the U.S., as it waged a long war with Ethiopia over the Ogaden, an ethnically Somali region of Ethiopia. In 1991, Barre was ousted in a civil war and the central government collapsed. UN and U.S. military interventions failed to restore any kind of order and foreign troops were withdrawn in 1995.
For the next 11 years, a dozen warlords ruled small fiefdoms while the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the internationally recognized government, hunkered down in Baidoa, the sixth largest city. But the country was not as violent as some other parts of Africa. Somalia is an ancient society and some order was preserved by traditional systems of law and government, including a unique system of customary law called Xeer, which has existed and evolved in Somalia since the 7th century.
In 2006, these various local authorities came together and formed the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). With the support of one of the strongest warlords, they defeated other warlords, including ones backed by the CIA, in fierce fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, and soon controlled the southern half of the country. People who knew Somalia well hailed the ICU as a hopeful development and tried to reassure the Bush administration that it was not a danger.
But the threat of peace breaking out in Somalia was too much for the “give war a chance” crowd to stomach. The U.S. backed an Ethiopian invasion, supported by U.S. air strikes and special operations forces, plunging Somalia back into violence and chaos that continues to this day. The Ethiopian invaders drove the ICU out of Mogadishu, and it split into factions, with some of its leaders going into exile and others forming new armed groups, not least Al-Shabaab [an offshoot of Al Qaeda], to resist the Ethiopian invasion.
After Ethiopia agreed to withdraw its forces in 2008, a coalition government was formed by TFG and ICU leaders but did not include Al-Shabaab, which by then controlled large areas of the country. The government has been fighting Al-Shabaab ever since, supported by an African Union force and currently at least 289 U.S. special operations forces and other U.S. troops. The government has made gains, but Al-Shabaab still controls some areas. As it has been pushed back militarily, Al-Shabaab has launched devastating terrorist attacks in Somalia and Kenya, where the U.S. now also has 212 troops deployed. Neighboring Djibouti hosts 4,715 U.S. troops at the largest U.S. base in Africa.
The U.S. is doggedly expanding its militarized counterterrorism strategy in Africa, with at least 7,271 U.S. troops in 47 countries as of September 30th. But a new body of research has confirmed what independent analysts have long believed, that it is precisely these kind of operations that drive civilians into armed resistance in the first place. A recent survey of 500 African militants by the UN Development Program found that the “tipping-point” that decided 71% of them to join a group like Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram or Al Qaeda was the killing or detention of a family member or friend in U.S.-led or U.S.-model “counterterrorism” operations.
So the circular logic of U.S. counterterrorism policy uses the emergence and growth of groups like Al-Shabaab as a pretext to expand the operations that are fueling their growth in the first place, turning more and more civilians into combatants and their homes and communities into new U.S. battlefields, to “give war a chance” in country after country.
On June 28th 2009, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was woken in the early hours of the morning by soldiers in combat gear bursting into his official residence. They hauled him away at gunpoint in his pajamas, bundled him into a car and onto a plane to Costa Rica. President Obama immediately called the coup a coup and reaffirmed that Zelaya was still the democratically-elected president of Honduras, appearing to adopt the same position as every government in Latin America, the European Union and the UN General Assembly.
But, in the coming days, as Hillary Clinton has since admitted, she went to work to push for a new election in Honduras that would, as she put it, “render the question of Zelaya moot,” by making the coup against him a fait accompli and allowing the coup regime of Roberto Micheletti to organize the new election.
Despite Obama’s statement and Wikileaks’ release of cables in which the U.S. Ambassador also called this an illegal coup, the U.S. never officially recognized that a coup had taken place, avoiding the cut-off of military aid to the post-coup government that was required under U.S. federal law and any further action to restore the democratically-elected president. In the coming years, Honduras, which was already the murder capital of the world, became even more dangerous as labor organizers and activists of all stripes were killed with impunity by the post-coup government’s death squads. Environmental activist Berta Cáceres’ murder caused worldwide outrage, but she is one of hundreds of activists and organizers killed.
The role of Secretary Clinton and the U.S. government in consolidating the results of the coup in Honduras should be seen in the context of the U.S.’s dominant historic role in Honduras, the original “banana republic,” 70% of whose exports are still sold to the United States. Honduras currently hosts 529 U.S. military personnel, far more than any other country in the Western hemisphere, and they are deeply embedded with the Honduran military which committed the coup.
In the 1980s, under Ambassador John Negroponte, who eventually became Director of National Intelligence, the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa reportedly hosted the largest CIA station in the world, from where the CIA ran its covert war against Nicaragua, death squads that killed even American nuns with impunity in El Salvador and an outright genocide in Guatemala. With this history of U.S. military and CIA involvement in Honduras, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the CIA was secretly involved in planning the coup against Zelaya.
The 2009 coup in Honduras has now come home to roost, as even the historically U.S.-controlled Organization of American States has demanded a rerun of the latest rigged election and Honduras’s feared Cobra paramilitary police have refused to repress pro-democracy protesters. The opposition party, the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship, which appears to have won the most votes in the election, is a coalition of left and right against the post-coup government. How far will Trump and the U.S. go to rescue Clinton’s 2009 campaign in Honduras? Will it ask us to “give war another chance?”
From 897 (not a typo) until 1962, most of Yemen was ruled by the Zaidi Imams. The Zaidis follow a branch of Shiite Islam, but in Yemen they coexist and worship in the same mosques as Sunnis. The Houthis, who rule most of Yemen today, are also Zaidis. The last Zaidi Imam was overthrown by a republican coup in 1962, but, with Saudi support, he fought a civil war until 1970. Yes, you read that right. In the 1960s, the Saudis backed the Zaidi royalists in the Yemeni civil war. Now they call the Zaidis apostates and Iranian stooges and are waging a genocidal war to bomb and starve them to death.
At the peak of the previous civil war, 70,000 Egyptian troops fought on the republican side in Yemen, but the 1967 Arab-Israeli War changed the priorities of Arab countries on both sides. In February 1968, royalist forces lifted their siege of Sana’a and the two sides began peace talks, which led to a peace agreement and international recognition of the Yemen Arab Republic in 1970.
Meanwhile, also in 1967, a popular armed rebellion forced the U.K. to withdraw from its colony in Aden, which formed the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, a Marxist state and Soviet ally. When the Cold War ended, the two Yemens merged to form a united Republic of Yemen in 1990. Ali Abdallah Saleh, the president of North Yemen since 1978, became president of the united Yemen and ruled until 2011.
Saleh’s repressive government alienated many sectors of Yemeni society, and the Zaidi Houthis launched an armed rebellion in their northern homeland in 2004. The Zaidis and other Shia Muslims make up about 45% of the population and Zaidis ruled the country for centuries, so they have always been a force to be reckoned with.
At the same time, the new Obama administration launched a campaign of cruise missile and drone strikes and special forces operations against the fledgling Al Qaeda faction in the country and increased military aid to Saleh’s government. A U.S. drone strike assassinated Yemeni-American preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, and another strike two weeks later murdered his American son, 16-year-old Abdulrahman. Like militarized U.S. counterterrorism campaigns in other countries, U.S. attacks have predictably killed hundreds of civilians, fueling the growth of Al Qaeda in Yemen.
Arab Spring protests and political turmoil forced Saleh to resign in November 2011. His deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, was elected in February 2012 to head a unity government that would draw up a new constitution and organize a new election in two years. After Hadi failed to hold an election or step down as president, the Houthis invaded the capital in September 2014, placed him under house arrest and demanded that he complete the political transition.
Hadi and his government rejected the Houthis’ demands and simply resigned in January 2015, so the Houthis formed a Revolutionary Council as an “interim authority.” Hadi fled to Aden, his hometown, and then to Saudi Arabia, which launched a savage bombing campaign and naval blockade against Yemen on Hadi’s behalf. The U.S. provides most of the weapons, munitions, satellite intelligence and in-air refueling and is a vital member of the Saudi-led coalition, but of course U.S. media and politicians downplay the U.S. role.
The Saudi-U.S. coalition’s bombing campaign has killed at least ten thousand civilians, probably many more, while a naval blockade and the bombing of ports have reduced the population to a state of near-starvation. Hadi’s forces have recaptured Aden and an area around it, but they have failed to defeat the Houthis in the rest of the country.
U.S.-made bombs keep hitting markets, hospitals and other civilian targets in Yemen. Western military trainers regard the Saudi armed forces as more or less untrainable, due mainly to Saudi Arabia’s rigid class and tribal hierarchy. The officer corps, some of whom are members of the royal family, are beyond criticism, so there is no way to correct mistakes or enforce discipline. So Saudi pilots bomb indiscriminately from high altitude, and will keep doing so unless and until the U.S. stops selling them munitions and withdraws its military and diplomatic complicity in this genocidal war.
Aid agencies keep warning that millions of Yemenis are close to starvation, but neither Saudi nor U.S. officials seem to care. The normalization of war and the culture of apathy nurtured by 16 years of American wars that have killed millions of people in a dozen countries have left U.S. officials supremely cynical, but their cynicism will be tested in 2018 as the predictable results of this “made in the U.S.A.” humanitarian catastrophe unfold. The U.S. propaganda machine will also be tested as it keeps trying to pin all the blame on the Saudis.
Muammar Gaddafi was a favorite villain of the West and an ally of the U.S.S.R., Cuba, Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress, the PLO, the IRA and the Polisario Front in Western Sahara. Gaddafi created a unique form of direct democracy, and he used Libya’s oil wealth to provide free healthcare and education and to give Libya the 5th highest GDP per capita in Africa and the highest development rating in Africa on the UN’s HDI index, which measures health and education as well as income.
Gaddafi also used Libya’s wealth to fund projects to give African countries more control of their own natural resources, like a Libyan-funded factory in Liberia to manufacture and export tire grade rubber instead of raw rubber. He also co-founded the African Union in 2002, which he envisioned growing into a military alliance and a common market with a single currency.
Militant Islamists within the military tried but failed to assassinate Gaddafi in 1993. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), formed by Libyans who had fought with CIA- and Saudi-backed forces in Afghanistan, was paid by the U.K.’s MI6 intelligence agency and Osama Bin-Laden to also try to kill him in 1996. The U.K. gave asylum to some of LIFG’s members, most of whom settled among the large Libyan community in Manchester.
The U.K. banned LIFG in 2005 and confiscated its members’ passports due to its links with Al Qaeda. But that all changed again in 2011, their passports were returned, and MI6 helped many of them travel back to Libya to join the “NATO rebels.” One LIFG member, Ramadan Abedi, took his 16-year old son Salman with him to Libya. Six years later, Salman struck his own blow for his family’s Islamist ideology, carrying out a suicide bombing that killed 23 young music fans at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May 2017.
Western leaders’ eagerness to overthrow Gaddafi led France, the U.K., the U.S. and their NATO and Arab royalist allies to exploit a UN Security Council Resolution that authorized the use of force to protect civilians in Libya to overthrow the government, rejecting an African Union initiative to resolve the crisis peacefully.
The UN resolution called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Libya, but also authorized a “no-fly zone,” which became a pretext for bombing Libya’s military and civilian infrastructure with 7,700 bombs and missiles, and secretly deploying CIA officers and British, French and Qatari special operations forces to organize and lead Libyan rebel forces on the ground.
Qatar’s Chief of Staff, Major General Hamad bin Ali al-Atiya, told AFP, “We were among them and the numbers of Qataris on the ground were in the hundreds in every region. Training and communications had been in Qatari hands. Qatar… supervised the rebels’ plans because they are civilians and did not have enough military experience. We acted as the link between the rebels and NATO forces.” Qatari forces were even spotted leading the final assault on Libya’s Bab al-Aziziya military headquarters in Tripoli.
After taking Tripoli, NATO and its Libyan and Qatari allies cut off food, water and electricity to the people of Sirte and Bani Walid as they bombarded them for weeks. The combination of aerial, naval and artillery bombardment, starvation and thirst on these civilian populations made a final, savage mockery of UNSCR 1973’s mandate to protect civilians.
Once the U.S. and its allies had destroyed Libya’s government, they abandoned it to chaos and civil war that still rage on six years later. Two competing governments control different parts of the country, while local militias control many smaller areas. Since 2011, human rights groups have reported that thousands of black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans have suffered arbitrary detention and appalling abuse at the hands of the Libyan militias that the U.S. and its allies helped to take over the country. News reports of Africans being sold in slave markets in Libya are only the latest outrage.
As Libya struggles to dig its way out of the endless chaos the U.S. and its allies plunged it into, the U.S. has more or less washed its hands of the crisis in Libya. In 2016, U.S. foreign aid to Libya was only $27 million.
The U.S. role in the civil war in Syria is a case study in how a CIA covert operation can fuel a conflict and destabilize a country to create pretexts for U.S. military intervention. The CIA began organizing the transport of fighters and weapons from Libya to Turkey in late 2011, as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were militarizing an uprising in Syria that grew out of Arab Spring protests earlier in the year. British and French special operations forces provided military training in Turkey, and the CIA managed the infiltration of fighters and the distribution of weapons across the Syrian border.
The Syrian government’s repression contributed to the transition from peaceful protests to an armed uprising. But the primarily leftist groups that organized the political protests in 2011 were committed to opposing violence, sectarianism and foreign intervention. They have always blamed Syria’s descent into war mainly on the foreign powers who supported the small Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and funneled more extreme foreign-based Islamist forces and thousands of tons of weapons into the country to ignite a full-scale civil war.
In 2012, as Kofi Annan tried to negotiate a ceasefire and a political transition in Syria, the U.S. and its allies poured in foreign fighters and heavier weapons and pledged even greater support to rebel forces at three Orwellian “Friends of Syria” conferences. One of these was timed to coincide with the date when Annan’s ceasefire was to take effect, and their new pledges of weapons, money and support for the rebels were a flagrant move to undermine the ceasefire.
After Annan eventually got all sides to agree on a peace plan in Geneva on June 30th 2012, on the understanding that it would then be codified in a UN Security Council Resolution, the U.S. and its allies went back to New York and inserted new conditions and triggers for sanctions and military action in the resolution, leading to a Russian veto. Annan’s Geneva Communique has been eclipsed by 5 more years of war and equally fruitless Geneva II, Geneva III and Geneva IV peace conferences.
Annan quit a month later and was characteristically guarded in his public statements. But UN officials told the Atlantic in 2013 that Annan blamed the U.S. government for the failure of his mission. “The U.S. couldn’t even stand by an agreement that the Secretary of State had signed in Geneva,” said one of Annan’s closest aides. “He quit in frustration.”
After shipping at least 2,750 tons of weapons from Libya to Turkey in 2011 and 2012, including howitzers, RPGs and sniper rifles, the CIA began scouring the Balkans for weapons left over from the wars in the 1990s that the Saudis and Qataris could buy to flood into Syria through Turkey and Jordan. They shipped in up to 8,000 tons of weapons on flights from Croatia by March 2013.
Since then, the Saudis have bought more weapons from 8 different Balkan countries, as well as 15,000 TOW anti-tank missiles directly from the U.S. for $1.1 billion in December 2013. That was despite U.S. officials admitting as early as October 2012 that most of the weapons shipped into Syria had gone to “hardline Islamic jihadists.” Investigators in the Balkans report that the Saudis made their largest purchases ever in 2015, including brand new weapons straight off the production line. Only 60% of these weapons had been delivered by early 2017, meaning that the flood of weapons will continue as long as the CIA keeps facilitating it and U.S. allies like Turkey and Jordan keep acting as conduits.
The main innovation in U.S. war-making under the Obama administration was a doctrine of covert and proxy war that avoided heavy U.S. casualties at the expense of a reliance on aerial bombardment, drone killings, a huge expansion of deadly special forces operations and the use of foreign proxy forces. In every case, this fueled the global explosion of violence and chaos unleashed by Bush, and the main victims were millions of innocent civilians in country after country.
U.S. support for Al Qaeda splinter groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (now rebranded Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) and Islamic State turned the U.S. “war on terror” on its head. Only ten years after September 11th, the U.S. was ready to support these groups to destabilize Libya and Syria, where the CIA was looking for pretexts for war and regime change. The U.S. only reverted to its “war on terror” narrative after U.S. and allied support had built up these groups to the point that they could invade Iraq and take over its second largest city and a large swath of the country.
The U.S. covert proxy war in Syria led to the heaviest U.S. bombing campaign since Vietnam, which has reduced several cities in Iraq and Syria to rubble and killed tens of thousands of civilians; a civil war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians; and a refugee crisis that has overwhelmed U.S. allies in the Middle East and Europe. After 6 years of war, Syria remains fragmented and mired in chaos. The Syrian government has regained control of many areas, but the future remains very dangerous and uncertain for the people of Syria. The U.S. currently has at least 1,723 troops on the ground in Syria, without any legal basis to be there, as well as 2,730 in Jordan and 2,273 in Turkey.
President Yanukovych of Ukraine was overthrown in a violent coup in February 2014. Originally peaceful protests in the Maidan, or central square, in Kiev had gradually become dominated by the extreme right-wing Svoboda Party and, since November 2013, by a shadowy new group called Right Sector. These groups displayed Nazi symbols, fought with police and eventually invaded the Ukrainian parliament building, prompting Yanukovych to flee the country.
On February 4th, 2014, leaked audio of a conversation between U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland revealed U.S. plans for a coup to remove Yanukovych and install U.S. favorite Arseniy Yatsenyuk as Prime Minister. Nuland and Pyatt used language like, “glue this thing,” “midwife this thing” and “we could land jelly side up on this thing if we move fast,” as well as the more widely reported “Fuck the EU,” who they didn’t expect to support their plan.
On February 18th, Right Sector led 20,000 protesters on a march to the parliament building. They attacked police with Molotov cocktails, stormed and occupied government buildings and the police attacked the protest camp in the Maidan. As running battles with the police continued over the next few days, an estimated 75 people were killed, including 10 police and soldiers. Mysterious snipers were reported firing from Philharmonic Hall and a hotel overlooking the Maidan, shooting at police and protesters.
Yanukovych and his government held meetings with opposition leaders, and the EU sent the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland to mediate the crisis. On February 21st, Yanukovych agreed to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections before the end of the year.
But the protesters, now led by Svoboda and Right Sector, were not satisfied and took over the parliament building. Right Sector had broken into an armory in Lviv and seized assault rifles and pistols, and the police no longer resisted. On February 22nd, the parliament failed to make a quorum (338 of 447 members), but the 328 members present voted to remove Yanukovych from office and hold a new election in May. Yanukovych issued defiant statements and refused to resign, then fled to Russia.
Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine refused to accept the results of the coup. The Crimean parliament organized a referendum, in which 97% voted to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia, which Crimea had been part of since 1783. As an administrative matter, Kruschev had placed Crimea within the Ukrainian SSR in the 1950s, but when the USSR broke up, 94% of Crimeans voted to become an autonomous republic and 83% voted to keep dual Russian and Ukrainian citizenship.
Russia accepted the result of the referendum and now governs Crimea. The greatest dangers to Russia from the coup in Kiev were that Ukraine would join NATO and Russia would lose its most strategic naval base at Sevastopol on the Black Sea. NATO issued a declaration in 2008 that Ukraine and Georgia “will become members of NATO.” Also in 2008, Ukraine threatened not to renew the lease on the base at Sevastopol, which was due to expire in 2017, but it was eventually extended to 2042.
The UN has not recognized Russia’s reintegration of Crimea, and the U.S. has called it a violation of international law. But given the history and autonomous status of Crimea, and the importance of Sevastopol to Russia, it was an understandable and predictable response to the illegal U.S.-planned coup in Ukraine. It is the height of hypocrisy for U.S. officials to suddenly pose as champions of international law, which U.S. policy has systematically ignored, violated and undermined since the 1980s.
Russian-speaking majorities in Eastern Ukraine also declared independence from Ukraine as the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk and appealed for Russian support, which Russia has covertly provided, although the extent of it is hotly debated. There were also large protests against the coup in Odessa on the Black Sea, and 42 protesters were killed when a Right Sector mob attacked them and set fire to the Trades Union building where they took refuge.
With the Ukrainian military unable or unwilling to launch a civil war against its Russian-speaking compatriots in the East, the post-coup government recruited and trained a new “National Guard” to do so. It was soon reported that the Azov Battalion and other National Guard units were linked to Svoboda and Right Sector, and that they were still displaying Nazi symbols as they assaulted Russian-speaking areas in Eastern Ukraine. In 2015, the Azov Battalion was expanded to a 1,000-strong Special Operations Regiment.
The civil war in Ukraine has killed more than 10,000 people. The Minsk agreements between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in September 2014 and February 2015 established a tenuous ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons by both sides, but the political problems persist, fueling outbreaks of fighting. The U.S. has now agreed to send Ukraine Javelin anti-tank missiles and other heavier weapons, which are likely to reignite heavier fighting and complicate political negotiations.
Giving Peace a Chance?
Giving war a chance has not worked out well, to put it mildly, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Honduras, Yemen, Libya, Syria or Ukraine. All remain mired in violence and chaos caused by U.S. invasions, bombing campaigns, coups and covert operations. In every case, U.S. policy decisions have either made these countries’ problems worse or are entirely responsible for the incredible problems afflicting them. Many of those decisions were illegal or criminal under U.S. and/or international law. The human cost to millions of innocent people is a historic tragedy that shames us all. In every case, the U.S. could have made different decisions, and in every case, the U.S. can still make different decisions.
As an American general once observed, “When the only tool you’ve got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” The allocation of most of our federal budget to military spending both deprives the U.S. of other “tools” and creates political pressures to use the one we have already paid so much for, as implied in Albright’s question to Powell in 1992.
In Mr. Trump’s new national security strategy, he promised Americans that he will “preserve peace through strength.” But the U.S. is not at peace today. It is a nation at war across the world. The U.S. has 291,000 troops stationed in 183 foreign countries, amounting to a global military occupation. It has deployed special operations troops on secret combat and training missions to 149 countries in 2017 alone. It has dropped 39,000 bombs and missiles on Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan since Trump took office, and the U.S.- and Iraqi-led assault on Mosul alone killed an estimated 40,000 civilians. Pretending we are at peace and vowing to preserve it by diverting more of our resources to the military industrial complex is not a national security strategy. It is an Orwellian deception taken straight from the pages of 1984.
At the dawn of 2018, nobody could accuse the American public of not giving war a chance. We have let successive presidents talk us into war over each and every international crisis, most of which were caused or fueled by U.S. aggression and militarism in the first place, in the belief that they may have finally found an enemy they can defeat and a war that will somehow make life better for somebody somewhere. But they haven’t.
As we look forward to a new year, surely it is time to try something different and finally “Give Peace a Chance.” My 15-year old self was willing to spend Christmas fasting on the cold steps of a church to do that in 1969. What can you do to give peace a chance in 2018?
Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.
the peace dividend was short-lived
Very good article Mr. Davies. US Presidents, their Secretaries of State and Pentagon Generals are no doubt the most spectacular liars to ever set foot on the world stage. The main stream media will work in collaboration with these leaders to package the poop and make it somehow palatable to the American People. What a country. Question more.
I read this article thoroughly. It’s shoking to me how this is not more visible in the media.I am doing my part. Iwrote a book with theme related to the denial of war: the disembodiment of the culture and talking head quotes justifying war. The hurry-up rhythm/bottom line mentality that effects health, freedom, alienation, violence, war and potential for fascism/holocaust. Profit over the needs of people. see:christinacampbell.com.
(Campbell, 2003). Now it has happenwd, writing a second book now. Iwrite as a trauma psychologist, nurse and healing artist with 50 years on the front lines. So happy to read this comprehensive article on the history and context of war, want to make it more visible. Will cite in new book under the picture of Guernica.
This brilliant analysis deserves framing and mounting on every wall of every home and school in America. Unfortunately, a majority of those who would be in the position to read the framed article, would have difficulty comprehending the facts cited, and the central purpose and meaning of the author’s message – in my opinion. The American educational system has been severely crippled by liberal elitists, under the leaky umbrella of “helping the under-privilege”. The mandatory study of civics and World History has been replaced with “electives”, such as Anthropological Sociology, and Culteral Diversity. Good Luck to students seeking a courses in Logic and Critical Thinking and Writing. Mr. Davies displays skills garnered during his long-gone school-age years. Today’s absence of those skills explains why Americans are so easily deceived by politicians with severe narcissistic/sociopathic personality disorders. Those disorders define a higher than average percentage of inhabitants of Washington, D.C. Thus, “Giving More Wars a Chance” is their cover phrase for “Give Us More Wars For Chances to Worship Since We Are Money-Theists”. Deceased American General Smedlley Butler explains it in his International best-seller: WAR IS RACKET: I WAS A WHORE FOR WALL STREET.
If there’s one thing the world’s political leaders have had to learn over the last century — either the hard way or the easy — it’s that your country has no interests that trump America’s, and if you don’t suck enough, the US will hurt you. Remarkably, almost all of America’s allies (read “vassal states”) chose not to sign on to the illegal invasion of Iraq — i.e., they took a moment to stop sucking — and that moment turned out to make visible the decline of American hegemony. Apparently America never recovered from that moment, as it has been on an accelerating toboggan ride down the slippery slope of decline-and-fall ever since.
That is not necessarily something that the citizens of the vassal states should be celebrating, as hegemons are at their most dangerous when they’re in decline — and that is why those in the know are warning us of the growing possibility of nuclear war. War may not yet be nuclear, but as Davies has detailed at length, there will be war until America has bankrupted itself and can no longer secure loans to continue supporting its evermore voracious war machine.
Moreover, it behooves us to remember that the pain of decline starts at the bottom. The elite and the other billionaires won’t suffer from it until it has ruined virtually everybody else in America. We have been watching that process since the era of Reagan-Thatcher and the onset of neoliberal economics. Back then, one could choose to ignore it or not, but by 2008, there was finally no more ignoring it, as we watched millions of Americans lose their jobs, lose their homes, lose their 401(k)s and other retirement accounts. Recently, Russiagate and a stock market boom have pushed that sadness off the pages and broadcasts of the MSM — so we can go back to ignoring the wretched of America.
Nicolas Davies – a superb article, so well done. Thank you. If it was required reading, maybe the insanity would stop. One great big killing machine digging perpetual graves.
You lucky dog for meeting John Lennon. Such a creative soul. Insanity took him too – an insane shooter.
Thank you, Nicolas.
As with the author I was also 15 in 1969. I was starting to listen to rock bands with a distinct slant towards peace. i.e. Jefferson Airplane. I was afraid I’d be drafted and sent to something I knew was immoral and reprehensible. Besides the terrors of the cold war we had the horrors of The ‘Nam. We enjoyed dinner every night along with a dose of death and gore on TV; they hadn’t learned to censor footage yet as they now do to keep the newer wars G rated child friendly versions for all to enjoy. It made me sick then and makes me sick today, nothing’s changed except the locale. The country has turned into a police-security-surveillance state with no respite from war. Great article detailing all the shenanigans of the last few decades. They won’t give peace a chance as long as war is so profitable. Sad.
Hey Ole’ Hippy when I read this article by Major Danny Sjursen I thought of you. Read what the war rattled Major has to say about all this endless war, and then light a candle for the good Major turned peacenik, and be glad for your natural evolved philosophy for a peaceful world. Joe
If Hitler were really still hiding out in some German enclave in the mountains of Bolivia or Columbia, he’d demand a serious revision of his treatment in the history books. For sure more than one American president will share some chapters with der Fuehrer.
that all but a tiny percentage of Americans, educated or not, believe that a moral and courageous USA made a great sacrifice and went to Europe and won a great war against antisemitism demonstrates the power of propaganda.
Excellent essay. I agree with other commentators that the amount of detail provides for convincing readers, If only they were exposed to it.
Regarding Ukraine, I think it important to explicitly point out that half the population has Russian as mother tongue, and half Ukrainian. There are also smaller groups with Hungarian, Romanian/Moldovan and other languages. Overall, the split corresponds with historical background as parts of Russia on the one hand, and Poland/Lithuania and Austria/Hungary on the other, and is therefore also cultural. The Russian speaking half of the country is in the east and also all along the Black Sea coast, including Odessa. The split is not sharp, rather there are gradual shifts as one travels from the north west eastwards and southwards.
This is in distinction from ethnicity, which here merely means that one of your parents has the same ethnicity. So, maybe 80% of the populations have Ukrainian “ethnicity”, but they are roughly evenly split on the two language-cultural
groups. A “Ukrainian” (ethnically) is therefore with almost the same likelihood a native Russian speaker or native Ukrainian speaker, with their respective history and culture, but as much Ukrainian in either case.
Sec of State Madeline Albright famously asked Gen. Colin Powell, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”
I think that is key to US behavior. They paid an awful lot of money for that asset of military power, and they didn’t want to “waste” it. They wanted to get their money’s worth, by using it.
It is a totally elitist, capitalist way to see it. It isn’t their blood, and they don’t care at all about who gets killed.
Trump upped the ante when he famously asked, “What’s the use of having nukes if you can’t use them?”
“Last June, for instance, Gallup’s pollsters found that public confidence in U.S. institutions generally had dropped to a dismal 32%, but a soaring 73% of Americans had the highest possible confidence in the military, which means that Donald Trump’s decision to surround himself with three generals as secretary of defense.”
From article in TomDispatch by Major Danny Sjursen – former West Point Instructor
What does that tells us about our foreign policy, about the enormous public relations budget of the military and what does it tell us about us. Of course as the author notes, what does it tell us about what drives our politicians and their corrosive symbiotic relationship with the military
The business of the US is war. We are a Militarist State – but the people don’t see it, or even acknowledge it as a problem. All the jingoistic propaganda works like a charm on the sleeping sheeple……….
Reagan papers revealed the US and Israel supplying CW components to Saddam and instructing him to commingle with conventional weapons. He killed 100,000 Iranians.
Reagan documented use of the media to cover up criminal use of CW and prevent being held accountable by a program of manipulating and controlling the worlds “media”, preventing the Iranian complaints of CW from being heard by the public.
Proverb- “While their hate may be disguised by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public”. This article is a good example of how to deal with the evil in our government today….exposing wrongdoing in public.
CW = chemical weapons
Quick comment to mention that the guerrilla polisario has always been on the algerian soil far from the Western Sahara territory. Thanks
In trying to understand and work to dismantle the Empire, we need to keep in mind who these people are that we are trying to defeat. These players are insatiable power addicts who have achieved their positions in the power hierarchy by every ruthless means they could employ. These are not normal or rational people; they have been taken over by their unrelenting drive for power. They are delusional and have none of the normal checks on their behavior that others have. To treat them as anything other than the heartless agents they are, will make you their gullible victim. See the reality of these demonically possessed beings for what they are, so that you can deal with them appropriately. Do not even in your mind cut them any slack whatever, because they will certainly not cut you any at all.
This is simply a great article by Nicolas J.S. Davies compiling important and unreported details of U.S.-led wars of aggression. Writings on war and peace meeting the qualifying aspects to deserve worldwide attention are unfortunately far too rare, but Mr. Davies hits the qualifying marks and then some with his timely,information-jammed “Giving War Too Many Chances”. This is a genuine “must share everywhere on planet Earth” journalistic effort if there ever was one. Outstanding.
Complete agreement. Superb article. Wish it could be translated into a hundred languages and disseminated to peoples around the world. Perhaps then the people of some countries, no matter how small, would demand the expulsion of U.S. Military bases and begin the economic/diplomatic isolation of “the Empire.”
Send it to editors of small local newspapers that struggle for copy.
An excellent and well researched and documented history of our obsession with regime change around the planet. Lots of money spent on defense contractors actually. They are like welfare queens living off our governments largess demanding entitlements in the form of lucrative contracts which are guaranteed income just like a welfare check. The conservatives have raised many spectacles of welfare cheats who lie about their circumstances in order to justify their payments from the government coffers. But not republicans or democrats have raised an eyebrow about the ever escalating cost of funding our military or complained about the corporate beneficiaries of that government largess and lavish expenditure on a global war machine that constantly seeks to devise new scams to justify its inheritance and God given right to the balance of the governments purse.
But how have “we” “let them” do this? from the article, “We have let successive presidents talk us into war over each and every international crisis, most of which were caused or fueled by U.S. aggression and militarism in the first place, in the belief that they may have finally found an enemy they can defeat and a war that will somehow make life better for somebody somewhere.”
So the prospective mechanism for allowing “us” to “do this” is “successive presidents”.
That is like blaming the babysitter who has been convinced that they need to take the night off and then the burglary of the house happens.
Presidents like misled babysitters do not profit when they are cajoled into taking the night off and abdicate their responsibility to manage the household or our nation. There are other players who do profit mightily. Those actors are the defense contractors and their lobbyists who prowl Congress and have the intelligence agencies ears. The cadre of well funded think tanks and war mongers urging evermore military spending need to constantly invent new threats to justify their plans to find a “solution” through military action which also means military spending.
We have entered the age of permawar. Endless ceaseless war for the sake of war. The records for the longest war and the most money spent on war are broken year after year as the defense industry gobbles up more tax dollars and the government doubles down on foreign military intervention as the primary go to lever to win a “peace” someplace in the World. But peace is never coming. Only more emerging threats will continue to fuel the rhetoric coming from right wing groups ever inventing evermore reasons to deploy evermore military apparatus to be deployed at great cost against “the new threat”.
Kudos to Nicholas S.J. Davies for a very well researched and documented article which is worthy of a scholars award for the details and the well researched background he provides which paints a picture of the many decades since the last great war where fabricated nonsense about domino theories and creeping communism took center stage in American Politics which enabled the Daddy War Bucks corporations to create a nuclear arms race, attack other nations based on the fight against communism and socialism and create a permanent cold war where the machinery of destruction could be ever advanced and ever honed into the lethal sword that could end life on the planet.
The history of the United States will one day be shown to have invented the Russian threat for nuclear war back in the 1950s just so it could continue to build up a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons. In fact, most of our history after WWII has been invented by the MIC and our hapless, spineless, afraid of their own shadows, government.
There is one other player that the article fails to indite. That is the handmaiden stenographers of the right wing we call our free press. At any time with one ounce of investigative integrity our free press could have at least occasionally pondered the possibility that all of the war mongering was perhaps self serving to the defense contractors just as they endlessly broadcast right wing allegations of welfare moms gaming the system and bankrupting the government.
Our media really are just stenographers for the right wing. They easily fall in line with the talking points like “Assad gassed his people” and there is absolutely no investigative journalism that is allowed to counter such absurdities. It simply does not happen. This is very sad because mass communication of the fictional fantasies of the military welfare state to the American public are the fading hopes of a democracy which is currently poised to become the next Terminator movie or as the defense contractors spin it, “Drone Wars preserve Western Freedom and Values”. I am not aligned with this rosy view. Robots are never friendly.
As we hurl toward a police state where every citizen is a suspect and every non US citizen is an enemy of the state worthy of a sidewinder we really need to ask ourselves why we are going down this path. Is is because the World is truly a dangerous place for us and we need to arm ourselves and prepare for nuclear destruction to save ourselves from the barbarians like the Japanese who threw children over the cliffs? Just who is our supposed enemy? Are they just like us watching in horror as we prepare to commit suicide in order to preserve some notion of freedom?
War is a terrible monster. We should not be feeding it at an alarmingly increasing rate. Time to change the channel.
I always like reading your comments Citizen One, because they start out at one pace and then you start firing away in such rapid order, that it’s fun to read what you have so much to go on about.
While reading this, I could not help but picture America as being as much of a country with a large MIC tucked inside of it’s borders, as America being one big weapons manufacturer who has a country buried inside ot it corporate business plan. Your commented words Citizen brings this American predicament more to light, than most, and I thought I should say to you ‘well done’.
Thank you CitizenOne and Joe Tedesky. The best thing about CN is The choice of important articles and the wise commentary that follows so thanks to all for that. I’ve been noticing as I read this excellent essay by Mr. Nicholas Davies that there is a broad category that is absent from the conversation and that is the troops personal experience.
It’s not unusual to never hear a word about the necessary sacrifice of life by the Neocons because it has become ridiculously obvious over time that they never consider human sacrifice in their warring, and never participate. This important aspect is largely absent in this conversation as well, so I would like to relate a personal thought about an early revelation I had going back to Operation Restore Hope better known as “Black Hawk Down”. I recall early in that fight a soldier tasked with crossing a road under fire and as he leaves his cover and starts running across the urban road his hand is blown completely off by a bullet, he reaches the other side alive but I quit watching at that point. My thoughts were that if he survives this battle his life will never again be the same. No glory, no great recognition or public honor, just major trouble navigating a veteran’s system that largely will mistreat him. That is the reality of these operations beyond the politics and theoretical and it is vitally important that any conversation about considering war include the sacrifice and death. And an even more important and never discussed aspect of War is, of course, the Civilian Death…
I’ll include a pertinent link for those inclined to look…
Bob, I read that article, and I’ll will admit it’s a bugger being hated for what your leaders do.
Once when our ship was in Barcelona during the time of Franco, I got off the ship late and told my shipmates I would catch up with them at a place called ‘Big Ben’s’. The traffic was heavy, so I told my cabdriver that I would get out of the cab and walk the 6 blocks to get to BB’s. As I was walking down the street in my dress blues I was suddenly confronted by six Spanish youths around my age (I was 20) and they started yelling in my face, ‘Nixon Assasin’ and ‘Yankee Go Home, you Baby Killer’….just then a Barcelona cop appeared and my Spanish youth agitators split. Funny thing was though, my rebellious agitators would never know how much I agreed with them.
It’s for reasons like this I particularly enjoy when people living outside of the U.S. make comments on this site. It’s better than killing someone who’s a lot like you. If only the ‘People’ of the world could ban together. Joe
Joe thanks for following up on this, you know that I appreciate your practical experience and advice.
Yes, I completely agree that one of the best things, and most difficult, is being held accountable as a citizen for “acts” well beyond our control. That is precisely why I chose the examples that I did. I pointed out the soldier’s loss of a hand that I knew would be trivial to the grand schemers but for the average “grunt” it would be life changing. It is in a way more tragic than the loss of life, because for an indifferent society, the wounded soldier is a greater problem to deal with.
If we hope to come out the other side of our long suffering of poor leadership, and lack of justice, we will also have to endure severe world criticism…
Bob read the link below I left Ole’ Hippy. It’s an article written by Major Danny Sjursen, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then through his experiences came to be a great advocate for peace. Sjursen describes many of wars terrible consequences, and of how he is disgusted with how our country has responded to these ongoing tragic events, and all done at the detriment to the average soldier. Joe
Wonderful Joe and Danny! Thanks…
“That is the handmaiden stenographers of the right wing we call our free press.” Does the media bird only have one wing or two right wings?. I’m sorry, but this penchant to create sides and then pillory one or the other is the kind of factionalism that impedes any movement toward sensible solutions. The point that the media is lock-step with our leaders is certainly true. If the bird does have a right and a left wing, I would say they both act like “handmaiden” stenographers.
Same team different jersey.
Citizen, I like yiur term handmaiden, in “…the handmaiden stenographers of the right wing we call our free press.” It’s more leftist now, which just shows overall its the Deep State. And one can’t help but notice how neocons and neoliberal are so alike.
If someone like Trump does not trigger a powerful peace movement, then we are truly cooked.
This is a great article, but if only the American public were to read it. I swear that a lot of my fellow Americans don’t get it, that the U.S. is involved in so many wars globally. In fact, it would be a clever study to if a focus group of average Americans were to read this fine detailed essay, and then to find out from the study group to just how much they knew of these conflicts worldwide, and to how much they knew as American citizens to how much the U.S. is constantly warring. Just something I ponder over, as from day to day it appears that not much arouses the American public when it comes to the subject of war, and America’s role in those wars.
Also, pulling these warmongers out of the box for when we believe we need them, and then putting the warmonger back in their cage, is a tricky business indeed. Since the winning of WWII America has kept the warmongering crowd front and center, and with this evolvement the world lives in fear of an American invasion and subsequent occupation. I would just like to know to what ever happen to diplomacy? Instead the war crowd only gets more powerful, as the unaware American public loses all it ever worked for, and then some. It’s business, and it’s a nasty business at that.
John & Yoko had it right, ‘Give Peace A Chance’. Just remember this one thing, ‘All You Need is Love’.
Amen Joe. John and Yoko really had it right, and most of us haven’t woken up to it yet. When will we ever learn?
mike, I want to hear more about that Hawaiian weed. Joe
Joe I lived on weed in the 60’s in Hawaii. I was part of the counterculture for sure. We made a lot of mistakes, but most of our hearts were in the right place, and we knew our culture desperately needed to change. Of course the dominant culture was afraid of us, and did everything to sabotage our movement, including passing drastic laws criminalizing MJ and LSD. Kent State told all you need to know about how threatened the MIC felt about our war protests and “draft dodging.” If a new movement to effect drastic change ever happens, there is a lot to be learned from the 60’s on what to do, what not to, etc. The apathy and confusion of today’s youth is a big obstacle to any would be movement builders today……
I kind of missed out on that movement, as I was then confused at 18 on what to do. You see I was still under the spell that we were the good guys, always. I enlisted into the Navy, but as time went by, and I matured from 18 to 22 my views became much more aligned to the radical 60’s counterculture themes.
Although, I did party one weekend with some radical leftist, who’s dad’s were all like my brass working for the Joint Chiefs, or something big like that. When I asked how they come to this political lifestyle, as I was stunned, these young military brats said, ‘we hear some awful stuff our dad’s talk about to each other in our living rooms, and back patios, and it scares us to death to what they have planned’. And yes this little bunch of radicals, god love them, had some really dynamite weed. Joe
My brass…big brass
Maui Wowie! One week in the summer of ’79 vacationing in the Ozarks with a great friend, great music, and sunsets on the lake. Clear-bell sativa with “body buzz”. We were so idealistic then…just beginning the journey. Now disappointed in myself and what became of our generation. Obama is from that class of ’79….all sold out.
I’m hoping the ‘statute of limitations’ is up on this conversation. You never know that great humanitarian good ole boy Jeff Sessions may be on to this past practice stuff regarding retired hippies, and their ancient habits.
What I can never quite get, is where did the 60’s peace movement go, after 1972? I was hoping our Baby Boomer Generation was going to be the generation that righted all the wrong, and reaching down and pulled up all the boats. I mean WTF happened?
In any case to be made about our generations greatness, we helped the rehab business grow, didn’t we? Joe
People who are not old enough to be my parents yet came of age a good 8-16 years before I did I think of as the Vietnam generation. This age group really gives CN its special flavor and perspective–having lived through and fought for so much during the turmoil of the Sixties and on through Watergate. My set of experiences as a young adult were removed from that turmoil–so though I can technically be call a “baby boomer”, when I think of “my generation” it tends to be those who came of age post-Vietnam and perhaps prior to Reagan’s second term. It’s just my personal arbitrary way of defining blurry generational lines–tighter time frames fit better with the pace of change in the modern world.
So anyway, I’m not disappointed in my older “brothers and sisters”…you gave us “kids” a good foundation to learn from. We didn’t have to deal with the draft or war or Kent Sate or a spate of assassinations. In my simple youth I thought that as my age group gradually came to be a political force, just “being” the change we wanted in the world would come and come naturally. When Clinton was elected we thought now we have “our President”. How naive was that!
Anyway…it’s more that age group from around the class of ’79 that I thought would reject crass commercialism and stay true to the opportunity we were given…but we dropped the ball.
Gregory don’t beat yourself up to bad, because I have younger men in my family who because of their age missed out on the draft and all of the fun (not) that transpired over those Vietnam war years. Personally I’m thrilled my younger relatives missed out on that terrible phase of our American experience, and if you were like my younger relatives, well then good for you. Besides that you didn’t miss much worth not missing.
When I was 12 I played drums in a wedding band. Most of the brides were straight out of high school and the grooms were all 20 years old, just about to turn 21. Now, back in the early 60’s a guy could get out of the draft, if he were married before the age of 21, that meant these new grooms were avoiding the draft by getting married before turning of draft age. I’ve often wondered to if these young marriages were part of the high divorce rate, but who knows?
That was all well and good up until 1968, my graduating year, and not only was the draft strictly in place, but so were the college deferments canceled. For me this just meant I would enlist in the Navy, because as a kid I always wanted to be a sailor. Don’t ask me why, but that was me then, and I appreciated the experience. Although, I would not recommend military life to anyone, that is unless you are hell bent on being in the military, and with that I say just go knock yourself out, why don’t ya and have a pleasant time of it while your at it. It’s a fine life for those up for the experience of living it, plus as the saying goes, ‘somebody got to do it’.
So Gregory it’s better you didn’t have to serve, because American politicians just abuse you for all it’s worth to their careers. Then while they stand tall publicly to thank you for your service, as for the sake of a tax break for a billionaire, they go behind your back to cut spending for military benefits that are vital to the service members self and family. These gutter rat politicians, who love to wear their flag pins on their lapels to announce to the world what patriots they are, are the worst of the worst hypocrites to when it comes to being there for the troops. These scum bucket politicos literally go out of their way to avoid facing the many obstacles a military person maybe presented with, and quite honestly leave the poor soldier/sailor/airman (this includes women service members as well) high and dry when it comes to attending to the service persons needs.
Gregory I hope what I’m saying is in the vein of what you are referring to with your comment. Joe
Joe, I just think “we” were in an advantageous position to further the causes of peace and social justice that many before us had so struggled for. As a “generation” we had much given to us and I think ended up taking a lot for granted. These generalizations probably stem in part from a personal sense of not having lived with enough direction or purpose.
“When will we ever learn?” Peter, Paul and Mary were asking that in song even before John and Yoko.
“Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?”
And Pete Seeger (just to keep it in my lifetime) preceded them in an endless line of sentient minds questioning needless carnage of fellow beings.
The “official” end of the cold war in 1990 was supposed to finally represent “full stop” to the madness but that was as ephemeral as sweet thoughts delivered by a toke of Panama Red whilst grooving on “The Road to Shambala” by Three Dog Night. Some times you think you, and all humans, can actually get there, but not yet in my experience.
You are right Realist, long before John & Yoko good musicians were singing songs for peace. Peter, Paul, & Mary, along with quit a few other folk musicians, like Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan, were a part of a boycott of the ABC show “Hootenanny”. The show ‘black listed’ musicians with Leftist backgrounds. I don’t think any musician has a claim to the title of being the first to promote peace. Joe
God what a great tune!
Indeed. I just hope when my journey here is ended that my next conscious experience is not being born in some third world hell-hole repeatedly bombed into the stone age by American troops. But, what are the odds?
Gregory Herr – yes, it was a great tune! So much great music was created back then. My favorite nights are when I just get lost in music. Thanks for sharing.
Below in another comment you mentioned being under the American spell. An apt description of the indoctrination we all go through in our education, media watching, ‘official’ versions in the news, etc. I scream at the TV all the time to QUIT LYING!! Most wouldn’t know what I mean.
I have been lucky Ole’ Hippy. I requested in Navy Bootcamp 1968 as my first duty stationed desired on my ‘Dream Sheet’ Vietnam. The next day my commanding officer scratched it out with an eraser, and said ‘give me another duty station’. He then went on to say of how he had had two tours of duty in that hell far sacking place Vietnam, and we weren’t fighting to win, and there was nothing there worth dying for. Just for the record my commanding officer was Black, remember at that time Muhammad Ali was starting to speak out against the war. Also Martin Luther King in 1967 gave his ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech, and I do believe the Black Americans were on to that war’s wastefulness much sooner than most whites. So, this good guy saved my little over fed John Wayne patriotic butt, and because of his honesty I am here to tell you about it.
If you remember growing up in the 50’s & 60’s we all had surplus army helmets, and played the Battle of Iwo Jima when we weren’t fighting Germans at the Bulge. Remember the tv shows, like ‘Combat’? Why didn’t we kids question to why our side was always the good side? We kids savored our parents generations win over WWII too much. I mean it just wasn’t healthy, but back then we rejected seat belts when Ford put them OEM on 1956 Fairlanes. We smoked everywhere, and anywhere. We spent millions campaigning against our littering. Women wore heels to work, and men were required to wear a suit and tie.
Sorry I got carried away, but I enjoyed the walk down memory lane, and with that suddenly in someways it’s not so bad to be here. Take care Ole’ Hippy. Joe
That’s a good story Joe. It’s funny how fate intervenes sometimes. I’m sure glad that guy saved you from ‘nam. It’s good having you around.
Thank you Skip, it’s good to be here among great people such as yourself. Joe
You know Joe, I was browsing Netflix and iTunes today looking at the new or newer movies and I was thinking what a miracle it would be if for one whole year not a single war movie were made. It seemed to me that almost every 4th or 5th movie was something related to war and largely in its glorification. Things need to change.
Joe L don’t get me wrong there are plenty of good movies portraying war, and except for screenwriter enhancements and time constraining editing, the war stories with a fairly decent adherence to fact can be good.
The kind of tv & movie war story I am referring to are like where there was always a hero, and as always our war hero carried a picture of his wife and baby kid, and he was all about doing the right thing. If it was about Iwo Jima, these movies I’m talking about, had a overly heavy racist slant on the Japanese (the Jap’) and when they died our enemy died a humiliating death or a villainous one at that. There was always a mention about the larger battle, but the story had nothing to do with historical facts being told. These old war movies were all about us being the good guys, and our enemy being really, really bad guys. The WWII movies were played in theaters alongside ad’s for buying ‘War Bonds’ or they may have been called ‘Liberty Bonds’…always with the money.
Movies like ‘Red October’ and ‘the Dirty Dozen’ are better in the category of fictional war. Neither movie was centered on any real military engagement facts, and the anti-hero that Hollywood loves so much (so do I) came out the hero, a little battered and rattled but still someone survived to be the hard one, or is it won winner. These movies are somewhere between ‘Action Flicks’ or somekind of ‘Drama Pic’. To those who like Action, which means lots of violence, I have no qualms. I knew a mild mannered pediatrician who loved Dirty Harry because he released his inner rage while seeing Clint shoot up the screen…but this Doctor was anything but violent.
Truth would be nice, and exposing youth to the right values of life is always important. I’ll also bet a lot of people have allowed their kids to watch Action war flcks, and the young kid grew up to be fine. Although, when some of what I’m talking about gets too ingrained into the culture, well then that’s not good, or healthy mentally either.
I’m not trying to sound contradictory Joe L, but I just want to make known the point I’m trying to make. Here’s a thought, with all of this honoring our military are we possibly encouraging some kids to grow up to want and fight wars? I don’t think so, but still the truth about war is nothing to present as something that will make you a hero, or that by the god up above war is the right thing to do. If for no other reason we should teach the children this; that, that guy you are killing on the battle field is you. Joe
Joe Tedesky… I somewhat have to disagree. While I do believe in a military to defend our borders I wholeheartedly don’t believe in these overseas adventures. We know that much of the wars are based on lies to ultimately help thievery. Many dictators or terrorists that we so love to hate, and used as justification to start wars, were often trained, in the pocket of, or supported by the US, Britain and many other western countries. The movies being made distort the actual facts and do glorify war. To me, I view a movie like American Sniper as Red Dawn turned upside down. Where the invader is the hero – how messed up is that? Look at the hand of the CIA in Hollywood and their close relationship as read in the Guardian and probably this site as well. When America and the West are constantly being told that we are the good guys through movies, the news, and television is it any wonder that there is no uproar when we break international law and invade countries that did absolutely nothing to us. To me, the US acts like Chicken Little telling the rest of the world that the sky is falling (Iraq, Libya, Syria, and now Iran) and yet movies made of all of these conflicts receive little ridicule and are even awarded such as I believe about the White Helmets. All of these sources, including Hollywood, help perpetuate the myth and it really would be a true miracle if ever there was a year free of war movies.
Joe L putting it the way you just did I cannot disagree. All I was saying was how some war flicks maybe better than some others. I would also add that to glorify violence could desensitize a persons values, and that’s not good.
You Joe L expanded this conversation by connecting the dots between what America does in regard to war and it’s reality, to how we Americans are entertained with propagandized versions of the truth. In that respect Joseph Goebbels would be proud with how today’s American media can twist the truth in order to make enemies, and create support domestically at home. That’s entertainment!
I don’t think you and I disagree on much here. I think on the other hand we are both kind of saying the same thing, but just in different ways. Joe
Article of interest below. The Nukin Nuts Compare Nukes?
‘Mine is bigger’: Trump dares Kim Jong-un to compare nuclear buttons
Published time: 3 Jan, 2018 00:58Edited time: 3 Jan, 2018 08:25
Could anyone on the face of the planet imagine HRC saying something like that? Or Angela Merkel? or even Theresa May? You trump people got your guy. His is bigger than everyone else’s. No wonder you hated HRC. Who is the war monger today? The man with the biggest nuclear weapons and the biggest penis. Wow, thank you , MAGA, we are THE GREATEST EVER .Thanks to Trump’s penis size, that is worth exchanging nuclear fire power.
I don’t care for Trump’s policies which is an understatement, nor do I care for his rhetoric, and no Clinton wouldn’t say that since she doesn’t have a penis. However she did support the Iraq war, and their death toll no doubt tops a million. She also initiated the war in Libya, and so far the death toll is around 30,000. While in Libya she gave a thumbs up and called for Gaddafi’s ouster, even his death. She laughed when she heard he was dead, and no doubt you know he was sodomized by a sword, No she wouldn’t say what Trump said, but nonetheless she is a prick.
I’d put it behind ‘we came we saw he died, with a gleeful cackle’ on the fubar meter.
The entire nuclear arsenal is phallic in the extreme, as anyone who has seen
pictures of the ‘warheads’ rising out of their underground silos knows. Trump
has basically just pointed that out. And I agree with the posters below, the
Queen’s gleeful cackling over death by bayonet up the butt is another level
of fubar altogether. Inhuman. (Penis size comparisons are very human . . .)
I have posted this before but for anyone who has missed it, the excellent book
“By the Bomb’s Early LIght”, written by eminent historian Paul Boyer, should
be required reading for all those interested in how we got to where we are today.
Affordably available through used book seller services. Order a copy for yourself,
and one for your local library or university ! I’ve donated several to various venues.
Get over it please. That is how the man talks. Is it common for politicians to talk that way? Perhaps not, but that does not make it wrong. In fact I find it refreshing when I think back to the gibberish I heard from Obama and particularly Hillary. The guy is extremely feisty and argumentative. So what? I have a feeling North Korea understands his point exactly. The button that Kim claimed was on his desk is in reality non-existent as is Trump’s. Trump simply made it clear that indeed we have big time nuclear capability and theirs is teenie. True story. Sounds like a major building block for where we’re going to start the discussions. Much better than us giving them money not to develop their nuclear program wishing fact is what we did. Talk about wishful thinking, us paying them… The fact that they lied to us and took our money suggest to me that they owe us back pay. We had a deal and they were totally working behind the curtain. Thank God Hillary is out of the picture. Murderous villainous witch may be an overly polite description of her. That’s how much of a 180 I have done, 5 years ago I liked her and in fact I voted for Obama both times. I still think Obama may have been better than Romney, but I think Hillary was far worse than any of us knew. I would start with her appointment of Nuland at the top US position in Europe and for the coup in Ukraine as the real reason for the Cold War startup. And then also point at the destruction of Libya. Not to mention all the money that leaves little doubt there was a pay-for-play game going. 85 out of 150 people she had met with our calendar being donators to the Clinton Foundation? Unacceptable. She should be jailed for the bad judgment on that alone.
We in the USA live under a military dictatorship. As Chris Hedges and others have pointed out, this fact which is so obvious is so, so carefully concealed from the ignorant masses, who are complicit by their refusal to look at it. Will the madmen behind our endless war culture be removed from power? This question hangs fatefully over all of us. Their hair trigger death machines could go off at any moment.
When I lived in Hawaii, I visited a U. of Hawaii professor’s home, which he had turned into a refuge and crash pad for “hippies.” I was smoking some pot in a small group in the basement of this outfit, when I casually said that the big one (atomic) could hit at any moment without warning. A young lady began to scream and became totally hysterical, and beside herself, so much so that I had to hastily depart. Reflecting on that event now, I realize that this young lady was not insane, but rather too much in touch with the horror we were living exposed to. She was a true realist among us, and her reaction was entirely sane and appropriate. It was the rest of us who were numbed to and accepting of this unacceptable nightmare that were truly living in delusion.
That sensation rests on the fringes of many minds, but does not incur enough to break our complacency. Previously, entertainment could only preoccupy so much time, so much attention. Now, it has planted its flags in so many minds that they can only wither and rot as the mad maelstrom swirls about us. The realization comes to me at times, on the edge of sleep and thought when I no longer allow the dancing images of Life and Facade to keep me dazzled. The Horror…the Horror. Conrad understood it, Vonnegut understood it, and Hedges will perhaps be the final prophet on the road side as we all dance ourselves off the Cliff. The delusion is reality, as far as people care to test the edges, and so many are limited by our Systems of Governance and Economy to have the chance to even question it. Cicero was not taught in to me in High School, I found him more by chance than I would ever like to admit. Cicero was not taught to the masses, and thus we stand on at the crossroads of Time and Collapse, watching as behind us stretches the totality of our actions, rushing forward as a wave beyond control and measure, and about us the rhymes that have played out there cadence across Civilization. Unless people are truly brave and willing to destroy their lives as they have lived them, there is no chance.
Thanks for sharing Kevin. Awakening to reality is not all a bowl of cherries, there is some pain and fear that are inevitable concomitants of letting go of toxic supports that nevertheless provided some illusion of security. The title of a book says it: My Name is Chellis, and I Am In Recovery From Western Civilization. This cultural mold that we are unconsciously embedded in is killing us. Wakening to this uncomfortable truth takes time, and the right kind of help. It is almost impossible to do this alone. It is incumbent on those wishing to go deeper into this liberating experience to seek out sources of help, and especially others who are struggling to awake from the cultural trance. Keep coming back to this site and sharing your experience, it will help all of us. Most who come here are seeking something, let’s share our searches together.
Really awesome idea! In therapy, first I had to recover from what my family had done to me; then I had to recover from what evangelical fundamentalism did to my mind; and then I began recovering from Americanism and Western Civilization. I came to understand the umbrella that hid all the crimes from my child-mind is called psychopathy.
The Final War Could Be in 2018.
December 31, 2017
Will The Final War Begin During 2018?
“War is madness” – Pope Francis
Will the final war begin during 2018?
Will the maniacs of militarism die at the scene?
Will the planet be a raging nuclear fire; and a pyre of death?
Will any still living be drawing their last breath?
Will the crazed war “leaders” hiding in their bunkers
Will they cry and scream as the earth is torn asunder?
Will they regret their plans for more and more war?
Will they eventually be gone forever more?
Will the war criminals finally get their due?
Will they ultimately be eliminated too?
Will all the financiers of death and destruction
Will all their fortunes go into extinction?
Will the elites wealth in offshore tax-havens?
Will it be destroyed in the war culmination?
Will all their monies go up in fire and smoke?
Will they be in terrible despair as they croak?
Will the makers and buyers of hellish weapons
Will they wish they were not present?
Will they realise what they didn’t know
Will they understand now; that, “you reap what you sow”?
Will all the armies of the earth perish too?
Will “peace” at last, be here, if only they knew?
Will all the generals and their medals now be gone?
Will a nuclear holocaust bring Armageddon?
Will the brainwashed “warriors” refuse orders to obey?
Will it dawn on them there will be no medals today?
Will they realize their killing and bombing days are over?
Will they understand they have nowhere left to run for cover?
Will “global warming” have finally arrived?
Will “nuclear winter” descend from the skies?
Will “climate change” be here at last?
Will it be ushered in with a great big final blast?
Will the ‘Great Satan’ finally get his “reward”?
Will he be defeated by Jesus Our Lord?
Will the innocent and good be taken to Heaven?
Will the evil doers into Hell be driven?
Will the satanic warmongering mad rulers of this world
Will all of them be extinguished and killed?
Will this planet be a desolate horrific scene?
Will the final war begin during 2018?
“May God in His mercy lead us through these times; but above all, may He lead us to Himself” Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
[more info at link below]
Tremendous article! Excellent historical summation of our global mayhem machine in action 24/7 and 365 days a year.
Here is an article that looks at the five American companies that will benefit the most from any war declared by the United States:
These five companies have a great deal of political power in the hallowed halls of Washington.
Sally, the expression “hallowed” suggest a place or person of great honour, dignity, trust and gravitas. The halls of Washington are a cesspit for gangsters, thieves, murderers and liars and there’s nothing hallowed about them.
john wilson – “hollow” or “shallow” halls would be more appropriate.
Oh, we’ve ignored international law long before the 1980s. Got a whole century of Caribbean meddling in our history.
You are right SocraticGadfly when it comes to war sadly America has it in it’s DNA. Or as some Americans would say, Hoorah!
America has been at war 93% of it’s existence.
The War Prayer
By Mark Twain
“A society gone mad on war.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. – Beyond Vietnam