Whose Blood, Whose Treasure?

America’s senior generals find no exits from endless war, writes William J. Astore for TomDispatch.

By William J. Astore
TomDispatch.com

“Veni, Vidi, Vici,” boasted Julius Caesar, one of history’s great military captains. “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed that famed saying when summing up the Obama administration’s military intervention in Libya in 2011 — with a small alteration. “We came, we saw, he died,” she said with a laugh about the killing of Muammar Gaddafi, that country’s autocratic leader. Note what she left out, though: the “vici” or victory part. And how right she was to do so, since Washington’s invasions, occupations, and interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere in this century have never produced anything faintly like a single decisive and lasting victory.

“Failure is not an option” was the stirring 1995 movie catchphrase for the dramatic 1970 rescue of the Apollo 13 moon mission and crew, but were such a movie to be made about America’s wars and their less-than-vici-esque results today, the phrase would have to be corrected in Clintonian fashion to read “We came, we saw, we failed.”

Wars are risky, destructive, unpredictable endeavors, so it would hardly be surprising if America’s military and civilian leaders failed occasionally in their endless martial endeavors, despite the overwhelming superiority in firepower of “the world’s greatest military.” Here’s the question, though: Why have all the American wars of this century gone down in flames and what in the world have those leaders learned from such repetitive failures?

The evidence before our eyes suggests that, when it comes to our senior military leaders at least, the answer would be: nothing at all.

Let’s begin with General David Petraeus, he of the surge fame in the Iraq War. Of course, he would briefly fall from grace in 2012, while director of the CIA, thanks to an affair with his biographer with whom he inappropriately shared highly classified information. When riding high in Iraq in 2007, however, “King David” (as he was then dubbed) was widely considered an example of America’s best and brightest. He was a soldier-scholar with a doctorate from Princeton, an insurgent general with the perfect way — a revival of Vietnam-era counterinsurgency techniques — to stabilize invaded and occupied Iraq. He was the man to snatch victory from the jaws of looming defeat. (Talk about a fable not worthy of Aesop!)

Petraeus evaluates an Afghan National Army soldier at Camp Dwyer in Southern Helmand province, May 2011. (Sgt. Jesse Stence)

Petraeus evaluates an Afghan National Army soldier at Camp Dwyer in southern Helmand Province, May 2011. (Sgt. Jesse Stence)

Though retired from the military since 2011, Petraeus somehow remains a bellwether for conventional thinking about America’s wars at the Pentagon, as well as inside the Washington Beltway. And despite the quagmire in Afghanistan (that he had a significant hand in deepening), despite the widespread destruction in Iraq (for which he would hold some responsibility), despite the failed-state chaos in Libya, he continues to relentlessly plug the idea of pursuing a “sustainable” forever war against global terrorism; in other words, yet more of the same.

Here’s how he typically put it in a recent interview:

“I would contend that the fight against Islamist extremists is not one that we’re going to see the end of in our lifetimes probably. I think this is a generational struggle, which requires you to have a sustained commitment. But of course you can only sustain it if it’s sustainable in terms of the expenditure of blood and treasure.”

His comment brings to mind a World War II quip about General George S. Patton, also known as “old blood and guts.” Some of his troops responded to that nickname this way: yes, his guts, but our blood. When men like Petraeus measure the supposed sustainability of their wars in terms of blood and treasure, the first question should be: Whose blood, whose treasure?

When it comes to Washington’s Afghan War, now in its 18th year and looking ever more like a demoralizing defeat, Petraeus admits that U.S. forces “never had an exit strategy.” What they did have, he claims, “was a strategy to allow us to continue to achieve our objectives… with the reduced expenditure in blood and treasure.”

Think of this formulation as an upside-down version of the notorious “body count” of the Vietnam War. Instead of attempting to maximize enemy dead, as General William Westmoreland sought to do from 1965 to 1968, Petraeus is suggesting that the U.S. seek to keep the American body count to a minimum (translating into minimal attention back home), while minimizing the “treasure” spent. By keeping American bucks and body bags down (Afghans be damned), the war, he insists, can be sustained not just for a few more years but generationally. (He cites 70-year troop commitments to NATO and South Korea as reasonable models.)

Talk about lacking an exit strategy! And he also speaks of a persistent “industrial-strength” Afghan insurgency without noting that U.S. military actions, including drone strikes and an increasing reliance on air power, result in ever more dead civilians, which only feed that same insurgency. For him, Afghanistan is little more than a “platform” for regional counterterror operations and so anything must be done to prevent the greatest horror of all: withdrawing American troops too quickly.

In fact, he suggests that American-trained and supplied Iraqi forces collapsed in 2014, when attacked by relatively small groups of ISIS militants, exactly because U.S. troops had been withdrawn too quickly. The same, he has no doubt, will happen if President Trump repeats this “mistake” in Afghanistan. (Poor showings by U.S.-trained forces are never, of course, evidence of a bankrupt approach in Washington, but of the need to “stay the course.”)

Petraeus’s critique is, in fact, a subtle version of the stab-in-the-back myth. Its underlying premise: that the U.S. military is always on the generational cusp of success, whether in Vietnam in 1971, Iraq in 2011, or Afghanistan in 2019, if only the rug weren’t pulled out from under the U.S. military by irresolute commanders-in-chief.

Of course, this is all nonsense. Commanded by none other than General David Petraeus, the Afghan surge of 2009-2010 proved a dismal failure as, in the end, had his Iraq surge of 2007. U.S. efforts to train reliable indigenous forces (no matter where in the embattled Greater Middle East and Africa) have also consistently failed. Yet Petraeus’s answer is always more of the same: more U.S. troops and advisers, training, bombing, and killing, all to be repeated at “sustainable” levels for generations to come.

The alternative, he suggests, is too awful to contemplate:

“You have to do something about [Islamic extremism] because otherwise they’re going to spew violence, extremism, instability, and a tsunami of refugees not just into neighboring countries but… into our western European allies, undermining their domestic political situations.”

No mention here of how the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq spread destruction and, in the end, a “tsunami of refugees” throughout the region. No mention of how U.S. interventions and bombing in Libya, Syria, Somalia, and elsewhere help “spew” violence and generate a series of failed states.

Refugees from Iraq at a Jordan administrative center, February 2012.) (ECHO/D.Cavini via Flickr)

Refugees from Iraq at a Jordan facility, February 2012. (ECHO/D.Cavini via Flickr)

And amazingly enough, despite his lack of “vici” moments, the American media still sees King David as the go-to guy for advice on how to fight and win the wars he’s had such a hand in losing. And just in case you want to start worrying a little, he’s now offering such advice on even more dangerous matters. He’s started to comment on the new “cold war” that now has Washington abuzz, a coming era — as he puts it — of “renewed great power rivalries” with China and Russia, an era, in fact, of “multi-domain warfare” that could prove far more challenging than “the asymmetric abilities of the terrorists and extremists and insurgents that we’ve countered in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan and a variety of other places, particularly since 9/11.”

For Petraeus, even if Islamic terrorism disappeared tomorrow and not generations from now, the U.S. military would still be engaged with the supercharged threat of China and Russia. I can already hear Pentagon cash registers going ka-ching!

And here, in the end, is what’s most striking about Petraeus’s war lessons: no concept of peace even exists in his version of the future. Instead, whether via Islamic terrorism or rival great powers, America faces intractable threats into a distant future. Give him credit for one thing: if adopted, his vision could keep the national security state funded in the staggering fashion it’s come to expect for generations, or at least until the money runs out and the U.S. empire collapses.

Two Senior Generals’ Lessons from Iraq War

David Petraeus remains America’s best-known general of this century. His thinking, though, is anything but unique. Take two other senior U.S. Army generals, Mark Milley and Ray Odierno, both of whom recently contributed forewords to the Army’s official history of the Iraq War that tell you what you need to know about Pentagon thinking these days.

Published this January, the Army’s history of Operation Iraqi Freedom is detailed and controversial. Completed in June 2016, its publication was pushed back due to internal disagreements. As the Wall Street Journal put it in October 2018: “Senior [Army] brass fretted over the impact the study’s criticisms might have on prominent officers’ reputations and on congressional support for the service.” With those worries apparently resolved, the study is now available at the Army War College website.

The Iraq War witnessed the overthrow of autocrat (and former U.S. ally) Saddam Hussein, a speedy declaration ofmission accomplished by President George W. Bush, and that country’s subsequent descent into occupation, insurgency, civil war, and chaos. What should the Army have learned from all this? General Milley, now Army chief of staff and President Trump’s nominee to serve as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is explicit on its lessons:

“OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] is a sober reminder that technological advantages and standoff weapons alone cannot render a decision; that the promise of short wars is often elusive; that the ends, ways, and means must be in balance; that our Army must understand the type of war we are engaged with in order to adapt as necessary; that decisions in war occur on the ground in the mud and dirt; and that timeless factors such as human agency, chance, and an enemy’s conviction, all shape a war’s outcome.”

These aren’t, in fact, lessons. They’re military banalities. The side with the best weapons doesn’t always win. Short wars can turn into long ones. The enemy has a say in how the war is fought. What they lack is any sense of Army responsibility for mismanaging the Iraq War so spectacularly. In other words, mission accomplished for General Milley.

General Odierno, who commissioned the study and served in Iraq for 55 months, spills yet more ink in arguing, like Milley, that the Army has learned from its mistakes and adapted, becoming even more agile and lethal. Here’s my summary of his “lessons”:

* Superior technology doesn’t guarantee victory. Skill and war craft remain vital.

* To win a war of occupation, soldiers need to know the environment, including “the local political and social consequences of our actions… When conditions on the ground change, we must be willing to reexamine the assumptions that underpin our strategy and plans and change course if necessary, no matter how painful it may be,” while developing better “strategic leaders.”

* The Army needs to be enlarged further because “land power” is so vital and America’s troops were “overtaxed by the commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the decision to limit our troop levels in both theaters had severe operational consequences.”

* The Iraq War showcased an Army with an “astonishing” capacity “to learn and adapt in the midst of a war that the United States was well on its way to losing.”

U.S. tanks patrolling Baghdad, April 14, 2003. (U.S. Marine Corps, via Wikimedia.)

U.S. tanks patrolling Baghdad, April 14, 2003. (U.S. Marine Corps, via Wikimedia.)

The gist of Odierno’s “lessons”: the Army learned, adapted, and overcame. Therefore, it deserves America’s thanks and yet more of everything, including the money and resources to pursue future wars even more successfully. There would, however, be another way to read those lessons of his: that the Army overvalued technology, that combat skills were lacking, that efforts to work with allies and Iraqi forces regularly failed, that Army leadership lacked the skills needed to win, and that it was folly to get into a global war on terror in the first place.

On those failings, neither Milley nor Odierno has anything of value to say, since their focus is purely on how to make the Army prevail in future versions of just such wars. Their limited critique, in short, does little to prevent future disasters. Much like Petraeus’s reflections, they cannot envision an end point to the process — no victory to be celebrated, no return to America being “a normal country in a normal time.” There is only war and more war in their (and so our) future.

The Undiscovered Country

Talk of such future wars — of, that is, more of the same — reminded me of the sixth Star Trek movie, The Undiscovered Country.” In that space opera, which appeared in 1991 just as the Soviet Union was imploding, peace finally breaks out between the quasi-democratic Federation (think: the USA) and the warmongering Klingon Empire (think: the USSR). Even the Federation’s implacable warrior-captain, James T. Kirk, grudgingly learns to bury the phaser with the Klingon “bastards” who murdered his son.

Back then, I was a young captain in the U.S. Air Force and, with the apparent end of the Cold War, my colleagues and I dared talk about, if not eternal peace, at least “peace” as our own — and not just Star Trek’s— undiscovered country. Like many at the time, even we in the military were looking forward to what was then called a “peace dividend.”

But that unknown land, which Americans then glimpsed ever so briefly, remains unexplored to this day. The reason why is simple enough. As Andrew Bacevich put it in his book Breach of Trust,”“For the Pentagon [in 1991], peace posed a concrete and imminent threat” — which meant that new threats, “rogue states” of every sort, had to be found. And found they were.

It comes as no surprise, then, that America’s generals have learned so little of real value from their twenty-first-century losses. They continue to see a state of infinite war as necessary and are blind to the ways in which endless war and the ever-developing war state in Washington are the enemies of democracy.

The question isn’t why they think the way they do. The question is why so many Americans share their vision. The future is now. Isn’t it time that the U.S. sought to invade and occupy a different “land” entirely: an undiscovered country — a future — defined by peace?

A retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor of history, William J. Astore is a TomDispatch regular. His personal blog is Bracing Views.”

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69 comments for “Whose Blood, Whose Treasure?

  1. March 27, 2019 at 03:11

    Thank you Col. Astore,

    For pointing out the adeptness with which the American military has skillfully produced it’s own enemies in the process of making the world “safe for democracy”. What bureaucracy would have it otherwise in insuring its own future, so that the countries protector becomes the countries dictator and world manipulator. By skillfully creating our own enemies, however, we seem to fail to see just how self destructive to the whole enterprise is to the life of the country itself. In trading guns for butter, the parasite ends up killing off the host, just as so many empires have done in the past. Perhaps the only way to save what’s left of the hollowed out shell of our original country is to get the corporate boot off the necks of the legislative, judicial and executive branches of our once human enterprise called the US government. Perhaps this might require a quiet corporate revolution, or revulsion, if the voters could actually recapture control of the instruments of now so cynically used against them but for the parasitic corporate entities who long ago shed their sense of responsibility to the country that birthed them in the first place. Man, what a shambles.

  2. AelfredRex
    March 26, 2019 at 06:12

    “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

    “There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.”

    —- Sun Tzu, ” The Art of War”

  3. N Dalton
    March 24, 2019 at 04:36

    How can there ever be anything different with an obvious totally in control `Israel ueber alles `- administration the last 40 years ?

    For as long as the US is bought and controlled by Zionist – Jewish elected officials their `evil Zionist` – mindset will be the future for this country without a doubt,unless a younger class of `female officials in both houses` like Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar a first step.

    The mandatory required question one got to ask oneself must be `are we ruled by war criminals like Elliott Abrams` … a convicted liar and war criminal whose participation in any number of bloody, U.S.-backed coups, insurrections, and massacres would – in a just world – land him a spot at the Hague, not President Donald Trump’s inner circle.

    Time has come for some`brute violent`confrontation against any attempt against `Zionist – Israel`to use the US for their evil deets!

    • Please
      March 25, 2019 at 19:39

      Omar, the regime change cheerleader?

      Rep. Ilhan Omar Verified account @Ilhan – 1:31 utc – 16 Mar 2019
      The people of Syria revolted against Assad’s repressive dictatorship 8 years ago today, demanding a more just and free government. Peace loving people around the world stand in solidarity with them in this struggle!

      • Skip Scott
        March 26, 2019 at 06:59

        Yikes! Looks like even Omar drinks the kool-aid.

  4. Maxwell Quest
    March 23, 2019 at 16:46

    “Isn’t it time that the U.S. sought to invade and occupy a different “land” entirely: an undiscovered country — a future — defined by peace?”

    This article brought to mind Gen. Smedley Butler’s observation that “War is a Racket”, used to support the wealth extraction process by banks and other business interests. This, in a nutshell, would explain the “forever war” syndrome we seem to be trapped in, since forward operating bases are needed in all these occupied or vassal nations in order to project hard power in those regions of the world, and thus keep the money flowing into Wall Street and London. Consequently, “peace” would be considered a threat to profits.

    This lust for power and wealth is so strong, and with the system being currently unchecked and lacking all accountability, I don’t see our military adventurism being throttled back in any way until the empire collapses under the weight of its own corruption.

  5. March 23, 2019 at 07:52

    The gig is up. The Mueller Report is done. No new indictments. Trump walks. John Brennan the flim flam man and his scam has results:

    https://opensociet.org/2019/03/23/mueller-concludes-russia-probe-with-no-new-indictments/

  6. Eddie
    March 22, 2019 at 14:32

    Petraeus disgraced himself when he violated his oath because he had the hots for his biographer. Yet, the media still flock to “King David” because he has the lack of integrity that the corporate-propaganda class possesses. He serves the same purpose as the rest of the propaganda machine does: keep the wars from ever ending. The hoopla from the media serves as a tremendous boost to this weakling’s ego.

    The article misses the main story behind the reasons for Petraeus’s celebrity and the corporate media’s fawning over this peacock. Petraeus and the rest of the generals and NSA, CIA hacks that occupy the television screens of corporate media have only one real function: keep the advertising dollars flowing into the media and the taxpayer dollars flowing into the Pentagon and the war profiteers’ bank accounts.

    • Bart Hansen
      March 24, 2019 at 18:44

      Readers should visit Petraeus’ Wiki page to see his medals. “Flair” that would make Jennifer Anniston’s boss in “Office Space” very happy.

  7. Pete
    March 22, 2019 at 13:43

    ““We came, we saw, we failed.”” Depends on whose point of view.
    On one side hundreds of thousands of people are blasted into shreds, as many more crippled for life, as many more homes and infrastructure destroyed, as many more lives and dreams shattered, as millions fled the body parts stench of their rubbled towns, young soldiers killed and crippled for life, resulting orphans and widows on both sides, psyches shell-shocked for life and generations indentured to repay the trillions spent on bully massacres. (Notice the “free and the brave” only pick on small burgs, dropping hundreds of thousand of bombs before ‘boots on the ground”.

    On the winning side? The filthy vermin who pocket the trillions. Since Bush jr massacred the first defenseless “backwater” the war mongers have increased the national debt by a trillion bucks a year. Twenty two trillion now plus interest for all the “brave and free” suckers to repay. And it ain’t over. Blood lust has no limits.

    • anon42
      March 22, 2019 at 14:59

      Yes, “bully massacres” are the foreign policy of the tyrant puppets of business scoundrels who control MSM and politics, and it works very well for them. As the US collapses none too soon for the world, the bullies will enslave and spy upon citizens all the more, imprison, and massacre domestic insurgents. “Too big to fail” in politics is “too big to reform” and too totalitarian to overturn without worldwide destruction. The first positive sign will be well-organized attacks on mass media, gated communities, and oligarchy parties. I would not convict such persons.

  8. March 22, 2019 at 13:27

    The three major Abrahamic religions all want Armageddon because they think that would somehow please God or incite him to come back and make things right, or some nonsense. Combine that primitive insanity with the real major religion, money and power worship, and we have the political/corporate representatives that actually do represent a large portion, if not the majority, still, a large portion of the population who have been brainwashed to believe they are consumers in an economy and not citizens in a society.

    The sociopaths have risen to the top because they are public relations psychobabble masters who have learned it’s easy to assuage peoples fears with contrived, scripted, religious, patriotic, freedom ringing bullshit.

    • Skip Scott
      March 23, 2019 at 07:41

      Very astute and succinct comment.

  9. alexandra moffat
    March 22, 2019 at 12:49

    The MSM is a stumbling block since it avoids publishing such fine and timely articles. How to get WJA and other similar POVs in to the minds of more Americans is a dilemma. And into the education institutions. The pentagon propaganda machine is close to invincible….there is promise in some new politicians, candidates. But anything that smacks of anything less than adoration of “our troops” is playing with fire. Here’s hoping for progress. Global warming, environmental chaos may make military thinking obsolete – or play in to its ideology.

  10. Mike Perry
    March 22, 2019 at 12:43

    …whatsamatterU…?

    Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Dig in deep to your your minimum wage, (minus your Employee Based Health Care & your Personal Pension Annuity Plan; of course), and take that two cents that you don’t have in order to double UP in joining in on the well constructed orgy. It’s the American way!

    My average trade is less than 22 seconds. What’s yours? Diversify now, bb! Use your upper intelligence, and pick up some that Lockheed, Boeing, Curtiss-Wright, Raytheon, Teledyne – you get the idea. .. Get paid, while you sleep sweet dreams tonight.

    Oh, the killing machine, is it a little too dormant today? No problem. Let me give you a hot tip. .. Central America, it’s misery is on the move. Read the tea leaves, and try a little GEO Group with some CCA. Get on board. Cash in – quick!

    …whatsamatterU…?

    … It’s the American way!

  11. March 22, 2019 at 12:26

    In many respects, the article is half baked.

    The author has failed to mention the Israeli occupation of Palestine is accountable for all wars in the Middle East in the past 70 years. There is no single word on Israel.

    The author has declined to cite the dreadful US/Britain alliance made the hideous mistake of instigating the overthrow of Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mossage. Not a single word is there on Iran.

    The author neglected to cite how the overthrow of an elected government led to the Islamic Republic of Iran that is the only major power in defending the fallen and unloved Palestinians.

    The author slipped to mention there two other reasons for wars in the Middle: Oil and feeding military-industrial complex with our blood and treasure.

    • March 22, 2019 at 13:18

      I believe your are correct on all counts. It’s quite often not what’s said, but what’s not said.

    • Sam F
      March 22, 2019 at 14:43

      Likely Mr. Astore is well aware of this, but has limited the article to a few major points, to persuade those unready to comprehend wider problems.

    • March 22, 2019 at 14:56

      I don`t think you understand what the article was getting at. It was an observation on the incompetance and vacuity of the leadership of the American Military. T drastic results of all of these wars is well understoop by the author. He was just telling us that the real reason for these disasters was the Military Leadership at the Pentagon.

  12. mike k
    March 22, 2019 at 12:13

    Warfare States like the US are sick, sick, sick. Only bad things come from such a massive misallocation of lives and resources. The so called military values are nothing more than dressed up fascism.

  13. Guy
    March 22, 2019 at 12:06

    All to come to a screeching halt very soon at the fall of the imperial US $ .

  14. March 22, 2019 at 11:54

    Actually, I have to disagree on one point. The author states, “It comes as no surprise, then, that America’s generals have learned so little of real value from their twenty-first-century losses.” In reality, I believe they have learned a lot. Specifically, they have learned how to enthrone the military and to keep it enthroned forever. This they have learned well at the expense of other people’s blood and treasure.

  15. March 22, 2019 at 11:20

    One cannot help but recall that the Joint Chief’s were constantly at odds with JFK because they wanted to “first strike” both Moscow and Havana with nuclear weapons likely destroying a habitable planet in the process. Things apparently have not really changed since that time in terms of the very twisted psyches of those who invariably rise to the top of America’s global mass killing machine.

  16. March 22, 2019 at 11:13

    We came, we saw and we fucked it up royally.

  17. March 22, 2019 at 09:21

    The article and the comments all hit the nail on the head. To that point, I think I read somewhere that the change of command in Afghanistan has occurred at the rate of one a year. It is reasonable to conclude that each general who was posted earned additional immediate and perpetual benefits. Best to share the perks and not stay so long that the colossal failure Afghanistan is doesn’t rub off on any of them.

    The Department of Defense has always been a well oiled machine, sharing its perks with our elected officials who are quick to learn of any spending, planned and actual that occur in the elected official’s bailiwick. Then there is assisting Hollywood make war movies and gaudy displays at all of our national events with our flag waving. Tough nut to crack even if anyone really wanted to.

    • March 22, 2019 at 11:43

      The USA violence in Afghanistan began in the mid 70’s when the USA armed Landlords and Fundamentalists opposing the socialist government instituting gender and land reform.

      • March 23, 2019 at 08:35

        James Clooney, a point seldom mentioned that we used Muslim extremists and warlords to destroy a country because we wanted to get at the USSR. It has never recovered. Bin Laden was a hero. Astore makes the point very well. We are the four horsemen of the apocalypse riding unchecked over the world.

    • March 22, 2019 at 12:25

      The USA initiated it’s violence in Afghanistan in the mid 70’s when the USA armed the Fundamentalists and Landlords attacking the socialist Afghan government instituting Land and Gender reforms.

  18. jdd
    March 22, 2019 at 08:42

    Regarding the renewed push for confrontation with Russia and China, I worry less about “Pentagon cash-registers going ka-ching!” and more about the “booms” that will begin the end of humanity.

  19. March 22, 2019 at 07:23

    His Imperial Majesty, by royal decree declares: I don’t have to tell you how many civilians I kill, I just kill them.

    HIM’s executive order makes official the Trump regime’s policy of using drones in stealth assassination missions hidden from the US public.

    http://opensociet.org/2019/03/22/trump-quietly-rewrote-the-rules-of-drone-warfare-which-means-the-us-can-now-kill-civilians-in-secret

  20. nick
    March 22, 2019 at 06:37

    “They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are but they’re never the ones to fight or to die”

    “Blood on the wire” – Jackson Browne

  21. Tom
    March 22, 2019 at 05:08

    If anything Trump has proved that the Deep state is in control and they just ignore and stifle anyone who tries to come between them and their agenda.
    Our democracy is a sham.
    No more pretending.

    • Without-A-Doubt
      March 22, 2019 at 23:34

      100% truth.

  22. Babyl-on
    March 22, 2019 at 00:31

    Every single day sense August 6, 1945 the US has slaughtered innocent people all over the globe. I am baffled when I hear commentators talk about perpetual war as if it just started last week, like history I guess.

    The historical record is quite clear 75 years of perpetual slaughter of innocent people.

    The Generals and the inelegance agencies have all the answers, not for stopping of course but for the continuation of daily slaughter now according to Sy Hersch 60 countries where the slaughter is current.Generals are there to order bombings, the more the better, the bigger the general’s salary at Boeing after retirement.

    The system is rotting from from the core I doubt if anyone Major or above is not in on the gravy train.

    Generals?…with thoughts of ending the perpetual imperial war for the profit and pleasure of the oligarchy while they collect their payoffs, why do you even ask.

    There is not the slightest interest on the part of the established oligarch powder to stop the slaughter – the Global Power Elite OWN AND OPERATE their property as they see fit – they own the US government lock stock and barrel.

  23. Agenda Driven Snow Job
    March 21, 2019 at 22:42

    It’s also a very big unknown as to how the US actually would fare against any enemy at or near parity. For example, if the US were to attack Iran, and it had a carrier group in the area, there could be thousands of sailors at the bottom of the sea within days due to minisubs and missile barrages.

    And since the US simple cannot perceive of ever backing down or showing weakness or god forbid, admit defeat (the bullying principle that keeps the Cuban embargo going for 60 years) the reaction to mass casualties could well mean a nuclear retaliation on Iran.

    It’s kind of a shame that the US has the quirky fortune to be surrounded by two allies and thousands of miles of oceans. It and its citizens perceive war and its consequence as a game, or entertainment. Seems impossible to really blunt the MIC if there’s never any comeuppance or REAL “blood and treasure” consequences that greatly affect US citizens.

    • Paul G.
      March 22, 2019 at 13:12

      That is the difference between the US and Russia. Over twenty million Russians died in WWII, that means virtually every family lost someone(maybe even the whole family). The casualties were split between soldiers and civilians. They know war; the US lost under six hundred thousand soldiers and, except for one minor balloon bombing, there was no damage on the mainland. Americans live in a bubble.

    • Eddie S
      March 25, 2019 at 20:42

      Good point. Two times in the 20th century that I know-of when the US was RELATIVELY ‘anti-war’ (politically, if not morally) was right after the horrors of WWI were freshly experienced, and then during the later years of the Vietnam ‘War’ (undeclared) when enough middle class parents got tired of seeing their sons “come home in a box”. I suspect that the US populace is basically at heart no more or less peace-loving than most other countries, but our geography has skewed things significantly, protected us from having experienced the horrors of war (bombs destroying infrastructure as well as bodies, water/electricity/food/shelter hard or impossible to find, people— including children—- dead in the streets, bodies being burned or buried in mass graves to avoid disease, etc,etc) first-hand. Instead it’s all a romantic adventure ‘over there’, where brave strong men kill only evil enemy soldiers and their patient adoring wives wait lovingly at home for their man.

  24. March 21, 2019 at 21:43

    Excellent article. Still why ask: Why don’t they ever learn?

    On the contrary! They, the power elite, has learned only too well from its ‘mistakes’. They remain ever so determined to repeat them. These ‘mistakes’ feed their heady hubris and float their depraved delusions while amply providing notoriety, power, profits, careers, ribbons & pensions.

    The elite, steeped in iniquity, cannot be much bothered with the dire consequences to others at home or abroad.
    (But then how many of us in humbler settings can, in our modest daily pursuits, be similarly bothered either?)

    Since way long before Gibbon
    humans swung like gibbons
    off to war, way quickly gone
    seeking shiny ribbons.

    Since our species’ dawn
    we’ve pounded chests
    with taunt, flexing brawn:
    “Who’s the bravest?”

    The elite gets people excited
    about a War Resolution
    controls propaganda benighted:
    “Peace is No Peaceful Solution!”

    Sure, we may indeed look crisply smart
    medals dangling on manly chests.
    But as rewarding as showing heart?
    Wondrous as women’s brimming breasts?

    Overdue to take heart and learn
    Time to live what we deeply yearn.

  25. Dan
    March 21, 2019 at 20:43

    Epic article Mr Astore! So many people that I know are more interested in sports like the current NCAA and tribal politics to see the destruction of the very ideals of the once great America.

  26. Smedley Butler
    March 21, 2019 at 20:27

    It will stop when the rest of the world hits back and bloodies our nose.
    Coming sooner than later.

  27. Michael
    March 21, 2019 at 20:14

    As Skip Scott points out, the objective is not to win, but to continue the business of war. The MIC is a self sustaining business and will always find some “threat” to justify it’s ever increasing part of the GDP. Untreated this will lead us all to the same point in all empires, economic collapse with no friends left on the planet, as happened to other empires, such as the Romans.

    Given the planetary crisis of climate chaos that will beset us in about 10-20 years, given IPCC recommendations of reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050, and the UN’s report that the Arctic is locked into a 3-5 degree Celsius increase, different types of band-aides, such a geo-engineering and CO2 recapture and sequestration will be required at increasingly higher costs as a deadly runaway climate ensues. If we are to survive, this will probably become our largest and longest economic liability.

    One crazy idea I’ve had to solve both problems would be to give the military the primary job of a “War on Climate Chaos” to give them something useful to do, and allow them to keep the hierarchy that they so cherish. Given, they are probably one of the few governmental agencies that understands the dangers of a runaway climate, they are probably also one of the most qualified to act. It might also teach them to play well with others, (cross my fingers).

    I just hope to God they can improve their accounting procedures.

    • Clive
      March 21, 2019 at 23:29

      I once saw a statistic that said something like – ‘ a litre of petrol costs about 40 times more, by the time it reaches the front line in Afghanistan, than it does in the US, because of all of the other resources that are wasted in getting it there’. If we give the military the job of ‘war on climate change, we’ll get more climate change, just as we get more terrorism, after they have have been given the job of ‘war on terrorism’, and more drugs after ‘war on drugs’ etc. The Pentagon is already the biggest institutional polluter on the planet.

      • evelync
        March 22, 2019 at 14:26

        Clive:
        Re: “If we give the military the job of ‘war on climate change, we’ll get more climate change, just as we get more terrorism, after they have have been given the job of ‘war on terrorism’, and more drugs after ‘war on drugs’ etc. ”
        – Ain’t that the truth! The whole machinery of using the military to solve problems that cannot be solved militarily – an observation by some very thoughtful retired generals, one of whom I heard on public radio recently calling on Trump to back off and use preventive medicine like diplomacy.
        Re: “The Pentagon is already the biggest institutional polluter on the planet.”
        sad, tragic really.. depleted plutonium, agent orange – ughhhhhh

        our leaders are sadly not the best and the brightest – and they come from ivy league schools that take no responsibility for producing these shallow thinkers …..just think Ted Cruz…and go from there…
        whew

      • Skip Scott
        March 22, 2019 at 15:47

        I was perhaps a bit unclear in my reply. I meant a reallocation of resources and manpower. Not the actual military leadership. You can’t expect good results from evil people. The average soldier is just a kid, they can be led to do something useful as opposed to murdering innocents. I don’t think we can trust the “invisible hand of the free market” to solve the climate crisis. It’s going to take a large-scale national and international program almost on the order of size of our present military. 80% of our military could easily be done away with and we’d have more security because we wouldn’t be threatening anyone. Those kids will need jobs, and retooling for the fight against climate change will take a lot of manpower.

    • Skip Scott
      March 22, 2019 at 08:13

      I don’t think it’s a crazy idea at all. I also believe that we are at a point where geo-engineering will have to be part of the solution, and that we could do ourselves much good by reallocating our current efforts towards empire to efforts to make our planet more livable in the years to come. The Industrial Revolution was an inadvertent exercise in geo-engineering that now needs to be countered. Parts of the New Green Deal will need to be implemented. It is time for great minds to come together and plot a course, and for all of us to seek peace and cooperation rather than competition and war.

      • Bob Van Noy
        March 22, 2019 at 11:01

        Excellent idea Skip Scott and here is a way to finance it.

        https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-secret-to-funding-a-green-new-deal/

      • Skip Scott
        March 22, 2019 at 15:53

        Thanks Bob. Interesting link. I don’t know a lot about economics, but I’m sure it could be done. The military just spends money with no oversight, and 21 trillion is unaccounted for between 1998 and 2015. Yet my money still works when I go to the supermarket. If they can use imaginary money for war, they can use it for peace instead. I think someday the world will be like the “Startrek” series, and money will be obsolete.

      • March 22, 2019 at 12:28

        Please not the geo-engineering that involves “fixes” akin to toxic chemtrails.

      • Skip Scott
        March 22, 2019 at 15:54

        I think more trees and less cows would be a good start.

    • Sam F
      March 22, 2019 at 10:11

      Certainly the US military should be re-purposed to a “moral equivalent of war” such as the building of infrastructure in developing nations. This does not happen because elections and mass media are controlled by economic oligarchy, so those tools of democracy are unavailable to restore democracy.

      Fear of slow climate change while ignoring mass murder for profit around the world is a right-wing propaganda campaign that has debilitated the left. The major cause of climate change is consumption as the middle class enlarges worldwide, and the mere setting of a good example by the US will have little effect. Supporting international regulations, technology development, and infrastructure, agricultural, and economic improvements to move affected populations and industries, is the path to dealing with climate changes.

      No domestic or international policy changes can happen until we destroy oligarchy control of US elections and mass media and restore democracy, the pre-requisite for all other improvements.

      • Skip Scott
        March 22, 2019 at 16:32

        Amen Sam. Destroying Oligarchy control is by necessity the first step. Nothing else can be accomplished before that.

      • Bob Van Noy
        March 22, 2019 at 19:16

        I’ll second that, thanks Sam F.

    • Charles Browning
      March 22, 2019 at 16:44

      Good thoughts, Michael!

  28. March 21, 2019 at 19:59

    His Imperial Majesty ain’t got no clothes on. That’s right, HIM is nekked so the American empire’s hanging out there dangling like a toadstool for all to see. The Empire Strikes Out…

    https://opensociet.org/2019/03/21/the-american-emperor-has-no-clothes/

  29. robert e williamson jr
    March 21, 2019 at 19:48

    “We have become Nazi monsters in the eyes of the whole world – bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are whores of power and oil with hate and fear in our hearts.”

    Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century

    For the entire quote (2 short paragraphs ) see https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/1301824-we-have-bercome-a-nazi-monster-inthe-eyes-of

    Like the man or not he had this correct.

    We have met the enemy and they are U.S.

    We can write until we have nubs for fingers but until we get control of our government we all will remain valueless whores.

    The leaders of this country have reduced themselves to the lowest common denominator. The POTUS is owned by DEEP STATE who controls the congress, military and court system. Mainstream media has become the mouth piece for Deep Sate lies spewing the party line non-stop.

    The poor black or yellow or red, white or brown youth gets executed in the street not by rule of law but the cop-warrior-executioner and the rich man gets his videos and court documents sealed, as he buys himself out of everything that makes him a “little uncomfortable”.

    Stephen J. we are not ruled by “professional” war criminals. We are ruled by the “Super Wealthy Elitists”, the SWETS who own CIA & NSA. The Dogdamned Deep State. The “professional war criminals” are hired by the “SWETS” as hired killers, just as with any “gang” or “organized crime group” when steeling on the global scale they need enforcers.

    So Mr. Astore we have an all volunteer army , made up of mostly “have-nots” from society who seem to be more than willing to give their blood for the pontificating SWETS while the remaining portion of society that thinks it is well heeled parties and buys their kids prestigious educations . The entire time espousing unbridled hate to hide their fear.

    “Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism”. HST

    So what do we do now?

    In memory of Bob Parry.

  30. Dean Sickler
    March 21, 2019 at 18:57

    God Bless William J. Astore. America just elected two Presidents in a row who promised to get us out of these stupid “military actions”. They aren’t wars because only Congress can declare war and they haven’t done that in over 80 years. Our armies are designed for symmetrical battles using overwhelming force. Not this asymmetric guerilla warfare they keep getting tangled up in. I am just a house painter but even I can see that. What a stupid waste of young men and national treasure!

    • March 22, 2019 at 12:32

      The number of USA mercenaries that die are negligible when compared the the millions of non-threatening foreigners murdered, financed by USA taxpayers.

  31. Bob Van Noy
    March 21, 2019 at 18:52

    Our Wars are marketed and fought under false pretenses and that’s why they cannot be won. The American People most likely never had much interest in the concept of Empire, they’ve never been asked, “shall we invade Indonesia, South America, Cuba, Korea, Vietnam?” I expect that if our legislators had the credibility to actually frame the supposed need and then ask for a referendum, they would have been rejected and replaced. That’s why they never ask, and why they go to such extraordinary lengths to obfuscate and hide what their desires actually are.

    Too, these wars are fought by the most needy class recruiters can find, led by another class of well educated and indoctrinated leadership whose motives are as varied as their numbers. If the military had a real feedback loop they could avoid these failures probably by not getting involved in the first place.

    • Sam F
      March 24, 2019 at 21:52

      Yes, the party operatives keep politicians in line with campaign money. In Florida, where I am investigating political corruption privately, government committee memberships go for about $2000 in campaign money (from other donors) and chairmanships for about $32,000. That is passed through two or more layers of fake “shell corporations” to discourage tracing.

      A military with a “real feedback loop” would be a conscripted military, to avoid the standing army problem foreseen by the founders and Eisenhower.

      • Bob Van Noy
        March 25, 2019 at 13:57

        Many Thanks Sam F. I wish you the very best in your investigation… And, yes a conscripted army but backed by a stated system of protest. Possibly like an Athenian Ideal?

  32. jared
    March 21, 2019 at 18:02

    The problem is:
    War is a racket.

    Patreaus is simply speaking the company line.

    The US is beyond bankrupt and without strong fundamentals and low morale. Empires become increasingly violent as they see the end approaching fighting over remaining scraps.

  33. Joe Tedesky
    March 21, 2019 at 17:29

    Many on this comment board has said of how the USA doesn’t bargain to win any war over profits made on a prolonged adventure of death. Amazingly everybody seems to acknowledge Ike’s MIC warning and, yet the Pentagon marches on spending god knows what on more war. At the rate the USA is going this can’t end well. While billionaires dream of the profits made from war they also pay no never mind to the fatal consequences that await us all. It’s time we Americans protest loudly… like going after the sponsors of these wars which means going after the whole American corporatists complex which supports these wars of no end. Hit them in their wallets. Boycott their merchandise and for God’s sake quit re-electing their minions of death to power.

    • March 22, 2019 at 12:37

      Correct Joe, USA-ans need to find the courage to start voting third party. No R or D will buck these Banker wars; including BS who may again be a Judas Goat leading the left into the soulless D party.

  34. KiwiAntz
    March 21, 2019 at 16:57

    America should have the big letter “L” for Losers stamped onto every Flag & Federal Building? Failure & incompetence is the Nations calling card in Foreign Policy? And George Orwells 1984, obviously provides the manifesto for these stupid, idiotic American Generals & its US Empire of Chaos? The US Military mission statement could be exactly what Orwell said, “That the War was not meant to be won, but to be continuous” (& never ending?)? “The War is waged by the ruling group (MIC & corrupt Govt) against its own subjects & its object is not victory over Eurasia or East Asia(or add your own enemy State?) but to keep the very structure of society intact”?? What a insightful man George Orwell was in this prophetic statement? Notice that he states that the endless War narrative is necessary to keep the society intact? America, as a War mongering, War profiteering Nation is totally dependent on fighting endless Wars as its major economic tool which props up its Economy? In a massive perversion of International Laws & affront to Human decency, they slyly imply that War is Peace & Peace can’t be allowed to breakout in the World? The US can’t profit from peace? This is the sick, twisted mentality of this United States of Chaos & Death, so the Endless Wars of mass murder must continue until either the Empire & it’s bloated incompetent Military goes bankrupt or is destroyed by other rising powers!

  35. Charles Misfeldt
    March 21, 2019 at 16:06

    Americas wars are not fought on behalf of decisive defensive victories, our wars are based on profit, wealth redistribution, weapons testing, support for economic policy, strategic geographical positioning, supporting conservative ideologies and the despots and dictators who use those ideologies to rape and plunder the earths people and resources, racism and last but not least to eliminate resistance to the Jewish theft of Palestine.

  36. March 21, 2019 at 16:01

    It’s how the filthy rich folks like Donald Trump, Dick Cheney, and Erik Prince launder money. Just throw trillions of dollars into the black hole known as “The Pentagon budget” and watch it get lost. When all this loot comes out the worm hole on the other side, you’re rich. All you have to do in the interim is say some mumbo jumbo magic words, such as “Support our troops,” “War on Terror,” and “Secure our borders,” and no one will question you or bother to lookit where all the funds go.

    No, they won’t. Yes, that’s how the scam works.

    http://opensociet.org/2019/03/18/the-pentagons-bottomless-money-pit

  37. Skip Scott
    March 21, 2019 at 14:53

    Left unmentioned in this piece was the need for a “new pearl harbor” first written about in the PNAC. The answer to that prayer was 9/11, and now RussiaGate’s cold war 2.0, which both act as the foundation for the Forever War and the endless feeding of the beast known as the MIC. Victory is not part of the formula, as that would lead to less profits for the war machine.

    Imagine the advances we could make at home and around the world without the tremendous waste of the Forever War. Until we learn to wage PEACE, and lose our addiction to seeking conquest and empire, our path will continue to be towards extinction.

  38. March 21, 2019 at 14:33

    This constant march to war makes me ask:
    “Are We Ruled By War Criminals?”
    https://graysinfo.blogspot.com/2019/03/are-we-ruled-by-war-criminals.html

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