The American Cult of Bombing

William J. Astore analyzes the fallacies behind the U.S. drive to wage war from the air. 

By William J. Astore

From Syria to Yemen in the Middle East, Libya to Somalia in Africa, Afghanistan to Pakistan in South Asia, an American aerial curtain has descended across a huge swath of the planet. Its stated purpose: combatting terrorism. Its primary method: constant surveillance and bombing — and yet more bombing. Its political benefit: minimizing the number of U.S. “boots on the ground” and so American casualties in the never-ending war on terror, as well as any public outcry about Washington’s many conflicts. Its economic benefit: plenty of high-profit business for weapons makers for whom the president can now declare a national security emergency whenever he likes and so sell their warplanes and munitions to preferred dictatorships in the Middle East (no congressional approval required). Its reality for various foreign peoples: a steady diet of Made in USA bombs and missiles bursting here, there, and everywhere.

Think of all this as a cult of bombing on a global scale. America’s wars are increasingly waged from the air, not on the ground, a reality that makes the prospect of ending them ever more daunting. The question is: What’s driving this process? 

For many of America’s decision-makers, air power has clearly become something of an abstraction. After all, except for the 9/11 attacks by those four hijacked commercial airliners, Americans haven’t been the target of such strikes since World War II. On Washington’s battlefields across the Greater Middle East and northern Africa, air power is always almost literally a one-way affair. There are no enemy air forces or significant air defenses. The skies are the exclusive property of the U.S. Air Force (and allied air forces), which means that we’re no longer talking about “war” in the normal sense. No wonder Washington policymakers and military officials see it as our strong suit, our asymmetrical advantage, our way of settling scores with evildoers, real and imagined.

Bombs away!

Airman stands guard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, outside Tucson, Arizona, which stores aircraft worth more than $32 billion. (U.S. Air Force/ Melissa Copeland)

Replacing the Body Count

In a bizarre fashion, you might even say that, in the 21st century, the bomb and missile count replaced the Vietnam-era body count as a metric of (false) progress. Using data supplied by the U.S. military, the Council on Foreign Relations estimated that the U.S. dropped at least 26,172 bombs in seven countries in 2016, the bulk of them in Iraq and Syria. Against Raqqa alone, ISIS’s “capital,” the U.S. and its allies dropped more than 20,000 bombs in 2017, reducing that provincial Syrian city to literal rubble. Combined with artillery fire, the bombing of Raqqa killed more than 1,600 civilians, according to Amnesty International.

Meanwhile, since Donald Trump has become president, after claiming that he would get us out of our various never-ending wars, U.S. bombing has surged, not only against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq but in Afghanistan as well. It has driven up the civilian death toll there even as “friendly” Afghan forces are sometimes mistaken for the enemy and killed, too. Air strikes from Somalia to Yemen have also been on the rise under Trump, while civilian casualties due to U.S. bombing continue to be underreported in the American media and downplayed by the Trump administration.

U.S. air campaigns today, deadly as they are, pale in comparison to past ones such as the Tokyo firebombing of 1945, which killed more than 100,000 civilians; the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki later that year (roughly 250,000); the death toll against German civilians in World War II (at least 600,000); or civilians in the Vietnam War. (Estimates vary, but when napalm and the long-term effects of cluster munitions and defoliants like Agent Orange are added to conventional high-explosive bombs, the death toll in Southeast Asia may well have exceeded one million.) Today’s air strikes are more limited than in those past campaigns and may be more accurate, but never confuse a 500-pound bomb with a surgeon’s scalpel, even rhetorically. When surgical is applied to bombing in today’s age of lasers, GPS, and other precision-guidance technologies, it only obscures the very real human carnage being produced by all these American-made bombs and missiles.

Two U.S. Navy aircraft dropping (500 lbs) bombs over Vietnam, 1969, Operation Rolling Thunder. (U.S. Navy)

This country’s propensity for believing that its ability to rain hellfire from the sky provides a winning methodology for its wars has proven to be a fantasy of our age. Whether in Korea in the early 1950s, Vietnam in the 1960s, or more recently in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, the U.S. may control the air, but that dominance simply hasn’t led to ultimate success. In the case of Afghanistan, weapons like the Mother of All Bombs, or MOAB (the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. military’s arsenal), have been celebrated as game changers even when they change nothing. (Indeed, the Taliban only continues to grow stronger, as does the branch of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.) As is often the case when it comes to U.S. air power, such destruction leads neither to victory, nor closure of any sort; only to yet more destruction.

Such results are contrary to the rationale for air power that I absorbed in a career spent in the U.S. Air Force. (I retired in 2005.) The fundamental tenets of air power that I learned, which are still taught today, speak of decisiveness. They promise that air power, defined as “flexible and versatile,” will have “synergistic effects” with other military operations. When bombing is “concentrated,” “persistent,” and “executed” properly (meaning not micro-managed by know-nothing politicians), air power should be fundamental to ultimate victory. As we used to insist, putting bombs on target is really what it’s all about. End of story -— and of thought. 

Given the banality and vacuity of those official Air Force tenets, given the 21stcentury history of air power gone to hell and back, and based on my own experience teaching such history and strategy in and outside the military, I’d like to offer some air power tenets of my own. These are the ones the Air Force didn’t teach me, but that our leaders might consider before launching their next “decisive” air campaign.

Destroyed part of Raqqa. (Mahmoud Bali/VOA via Wikimedia Commons)

10 Cautionary Tenets About Air Power

No. 1: Just because U.S. warplanes and drones can strike almost anywhere on the globe with relative impunity doesn’t mean that they should. Given the history of air power since World War II, ease of access should never be mistaken for efficacious results.

No. 2: Bombing alone will never be the key to victory. If that were true, the U.S. would have easily won in Korea and Vietnam, as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq. American air power pulverized both North Korea and Vietnam (not to speak of neighboring Laos and Cambodia), yet the Korean War ended in a stalemate and the Vietnam War in defeat. (It tells you the world about such thinking that air power enthusiasts, reconsidering the Vietnam debacle, tend to argue the U.S. should have bombed even more — lots more.) Despite total air supremacy, the recent Iraq War was a disaster even as the Afghan War staggers on into its 18th catastrophic year. 

No. 3: No matter how much it’s advertised as “precise,” “discriminate,” and “measured,” bombing (or using missiles like the Tomahawk) rarely is. The deaths of innocents are guaranteed. Air power and those deaths are joined at the hip, while such killings only generate anger and blowback, thereby prolonging the wars they are meant to end.

Consider, for instance, the “decapitation” strikes launched against Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein and his top officials in the opening moments of the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of 2003. Despite the hype about that being the beginning of the most precise air campaign in all of history, 50 of those attacks, supposedly based on the best intelligence around, failed to take out Saddam or a single one of his targeted officials. They did, however, cause “dozens” of civilian deaths. Think of it as a monstrous repeat of the precision air attacks launched on Belgrade in 1999 against Slobodan Milosevic and his regime that hit the Chinese embassy instead, killing three journalists. 

Here, then, is the question of the day: Why is it that, despite all the “precision” talk about it, air power so regularly proves at best a blunt instrument of destruction? As a start, intelligence is often faulty. Then bombs and missiles, even “smart” ones, do go astray. And even when U.S. forces actually kill high-value targets (HVTs), there are always more HVTs out there. A paradox emerges from almost 18 years of the war on terror: the imprecision of air power only leads to repetitious cycles of violence and, even when air strikes prove precise, there always turn out to be fresh targets, fresh terrorists, fresh insurgents to strike.

White and red flags, representing Iraqi and American deaths, on the campus of Oregon State University as part of the traveling Iraq Body Count exhibit. (Parhamr – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

No. 4: Using air power to send political messages about resolve or seriousness rarely works. If it did, the U.S. would have swept to victory in Vietnam. In Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, for instance, Operation Rolling Thunder (1965-1968), a graduated campaign of bombing, was meant to, but didn’t, convince the North Vietnamese to give up their goal of expelling the foreign invaders — us — from South Vietnam. Fast-forward to our era and consider recent signals sent to North Korea and Iran by the Trump administration via B-52 bomber deployments, among other military “messages.” There’s no evidence that either country modified its behavior significantly in the face of the menace of those Baby-Boomer-era airplanes.

Trump with cabinet members, lawmakers and defense industry leaders, 2018, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. (U.S. Air Force/ Ridge Shan)

No. 5: Air power is enormously expensive. Spending on aircraft, helicopters, and their munitions accounted for roughly half the cost of the Vietnam War. Similarly, in the present moment, making operational and then maintaining Lockheed Martin’s boondoggle of a jet fighter, the F-35, is expected to cost at least $1.45 trillion over its lifetime. The new B-21 stealth bomber will cost more than $100 billion simply to buy. Naval air wings on aircraft carriers cost billions each year to maintain and operate. These days, when the sky’s the limit for the Pentagon budget, such costs may be (barely) tolerable. When the money finally begins to run out, however, the military will likely suffer a serious hangover from its wildly extravagant spending on air power.

No. 6: Aerial surveillance (as with drones), while useful, can also be misleading. Command of the high ground is not synonymous with god-like “total situational awareness.” It can instead prove to be a kind of delusion, while war practiced in its spirit often becomes little more than an exercise in destruction. You simply can’t negotiate a truce or take prisoners or foster other options when you’re high above a potential battlefield and your main recourse is blowing up people and things.

No. 7: Air power is inherently offensive. That means it’s more consistent with imperial power projection than with national defense. As such, it fuels imperial ventures, while fostering the kind of global reach, global power thinking that has in these years had Air Force generals in its grip.

No. 8: Despite the fantasies of those sending out the planes, air power often lengthens wars rather than shortening them. Consider Vietnam again. In the early 1960s, the Air Force argued that it alone could resolve that conflict at the lowest cost (mainly in American bodies). With enough bombs, napalm, and defoliants, victory was a sure thing and U.S. ground troops a kind of afterthought. (Initially, they were sent in mainly to protect the airfields from which those planes took off.) But bombing solved nothing and then the Army and the Marines decided that, if the Air Force couldn’t win, they sure as hell could. The result was escalation and disaster that left in the dust the original vision of a war won quickly and on the cheap due to American air supremacy.

No. 9: Air power, even of the shock-and-awe variety, loses its impact over time. The enemy, lacking it, nonetheless learns to adapt by developing countermeasures — both active (like missiles) and passive (like camouflage and dispersion), even as those being bombed become more resilient and resolute. 

No. 10: Pounding peasants from two miles up is not exactly an ideal way to occupy the moral high ground in war. 

The Road to Perdition

If I had to reduce these tenets to a single maxim, it would be this: all the happy talk about the techno-wonders of modern air power obscures its darker facets, especially its ability to lock America into what are effectively one-way wars with dead-end results.

For this reason, precision warfare is truly an oxymoron. War isn’t precise. It’s nasty, bloody, and murderous. War’s inherent nature — its unpredictability, horrors, and tendency to outlast its original causes and goals —isn’t changed when the bombs and missiles are guided by GPS. Washington’s enemies in its war on terror, moreover, have learned to adapt to air power in a grimly Darwinian fashion and have the advantage of fighting on their own turf.

Who doesn’t know the old riddle: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Here’s a twenty-first-century air power variant on it: If foreign children die from American bombs but no U.S. media outlets report their deaths, will anyone grieve? Far too often, the answer here in the U.S. is no and so our wars go on into an endless future of global destruction.

In reality, this country might do better to simply ground its many fighter planes, bombers, and drones. Paradoxically, instead of gaining the high ground, they are keeping us on a low road to perdition.

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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32 comments for “The American Cult of Bombing

  1. John Drake
    June 11, 2019 at 12:02

    Excellent article, I have been thinking like this along time. I call it “immaculate conception warfare”, no boots(US casualties in waiting) on ground just blow em up. This tactic also shows American lack of concern for foreigners.

    • Clark M Shnahan
      June 11, 2019 at 14:55

      “This tactic also shows American lack of concern for foreigners.”
      No, it’s just our innocent confidence in Exceptionalism within HIS Dominion.. :-)
      The “Other” just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time..
      No hard feelings intended…

      • Anonymous
        June 13, 2019 at 08:28

        Can’t tell if that was a self aware, satirical slight or genuine dogma – but I certainly hope it wasn’t the latter.

  2. Theo
    June 11, 2019 at 11:23

    Carpet bombing of German cities and villages didn’t finish the war as it is well known.Mainly Soviet boots on the ground,the shortage of all kinds of resources (soldiers) brought Germany to its knees.Same thing with Montecasino in Italy.Allied forces bombed the monastery to rubble although no single German soldier nor any military equipment was in the monastery.It was agreed that the monastery was off limits to the German army.

    • John Drake
      June 12, 2019 at 11:44

      Good point but there is more. The Army Air Force did a study on the effectiveness of the European bombing after the war. They found that hitting civilian or residential areas did not diminish the German public’s resolve as was expected. It did the opposite, it strengthened their support for the regime and desire to win. So it was actually counterproductive.

  3. Clark M Shanahan
    June 11, 2019 at 10:37

    I remember WJC’s childish fascination with smart bombs, making military excursions “painless” as there was no skin in the game; no caskets returning.
    We need a military that is 51% conscripts, with affirmative action for our more fortunate, if we want to constrain the MIC. (and raise the minimum age to 21 and require an associate’s degree)

  4. Anon
    June 11, 2019 at 09:59

    No. 5: Air power is enormously expensive! And very good for profits. Major reason why we bomb, bomb, bomb!

  5. June 11, 2019 at 08:54

    I realize that we can’t completely ignore establishment media and NGOs like AI. Still, When a number of them are tapped for an article, my antennae go up. (And I’ve found TomDispatch to be fake enough. Michael Klare, for example, is a tremendous source for intormation and he goes along with the establishment line on Syria.) William Astore’s list is, in places, alarming. His first item concludes with “Given the history of air power since World War II, ease of access should never be mistaken for efficacious results.” We wouldn’t want the murderous uncle Sam to not be “efficacious,” now, Would we? He adopts a similar tone as he concludes, when he notes that “In reality, this country might do better to simply ground its many fighter planes, bombers, and drones.” Again, We only want uncle Sam to be successful? His second item states, unequivocally, that the US lost the Vietnam war. Yes and no. As Chomsky (who may be missing in action today, but wasn’t always) notes, the US accomplished much with its destruction of Vietnam, making it an example of the inability of a communist nation to advance. Of course, You have to be mental to not see that that’s not exactly what the US destruction of Vietnam proves. Still, Mention it. And if you’re really concerned about the war having the moral high ground (?), When you talk about the Vietnam war, mention the utterly obscene Phoenix Program which targetted politicians and civilians, relied on terror and torture, and ended up being a gangster shakedown of the entire country.

  6. bardamu
    June 11, 2019 at 03:04

    There is another factor that ought to enter this sort of analysis. A few generations ago, the main generator of wealth was and had pretty much always been arable land. While that might in some sense remain true, it has been considerably obscured by hydrocarbon economy, currency manipulation, medical monopolies, and other relatively short-term and artificial but otherwise terribly effective roads to wealth.

    Given the constant overuse of the military and black ops apparatus by the US in the face of its nearly universal success in destroying things and its nearly universal failure to hold things in any really effective way, we ought to confront the near-certain possibility that a large part of the MIC has no desire to microgovern or often to occupy invaded territory in anything much like the sense that was done routinely by the British Imperial forces.

    Apparently it is regarded as more effective or efficient for some reason to simply destroy places and make no direct attempt to administer them, perhaps beyond some short list of commands.

  7. June 11, 2019 at 01:23

    I read this article with a sense of dread, a deepening depression that we have totally lost our way. If that tax revenue had been put into infrastructure and education the country would be richer by far; and if we had not destroyed so many countries and killed so many foreigners we would still have a reputation for fairness and justice. Its just as well the money’s running out now.

    What we must do is ensure history remembers – we have to get the whole matter out there, not a fairy story from state historians but the real events. It it results in the word ‘America’ becoming a synonym for foolishness, so be it. At least future generations will get the message.

  8. Eddie S
    June 10, 2019 at 22:06

    WJA writes excellent anti-militarism articles. Thank you CN for carrying this stellar example.

  9. old geezer
    June 10, 2019 at 21:35

    Colin Powell stated something to the effect ; you break it, you own it.

    with regards to iran ; what if we don’t ? own it after we break it ?
    these days it would take remarkably less tonnage to go full Curtis LeMay.
    then after we we’re done, do absolutely nothing. it could be a worthwhile experiment.

    your analysis of korea and viet nam omits the blatantly obvious political component. as was pointed out by general giap, his military loses were irrelevant to the result of his war.

    Colonel Bacevich said, among other things, we have tried to do middle eastern wars on the cheap. though he never did quite recommend we should truly mobilize to do it on the expensive, as i recall.

    for now, it would seem the iranians are too smart to provoke djt. i hope they remain so. for their sake. their strategy, as is the rest of this country’s optimists without a cause is to wait until the next president. jf kerry says it’s the way to go, good enough for me.

    what, me worry ?

    i mentioned awhile back the post modernists and the frankfurt school. William, you are much more in the loop than someone like me. it would be interesting to read an analysis from you of the current evolution where that world outlook has presently arrived.

    perhaps a few observations of mass migrations. cloward piven , modern monetary theory, the green new deal, transgender 11 year olds. failed nation states, cock roach infested drug cartel run governments, apocalyptic middle eastern religions, never letting a crises go to waste. maybe even the objective. is it still the marxian utopia where government fades away since it is no longer required in that nearby utopia ?

    fwiw, if 1984 does turn out to be a how to manual, we better get with the program quick. my guess is O’Brien’s admission is much closer than marx’s con job.

    or is there any hope at all for a government of consenting citizens based on the liberty of individuals. admittedly i have never been much of an optimist. but having a ring side seat here in silly con valley, it looks like huxley won the debate … for now. they have freeways full of programmers perfecting the surveillance state just around a few corners from here. and from the way they drive, they better get those self driving central state controllable cars in production pdq.

    ( with the pictures of the buffs, it just looks to people like me, you are fighting the last war )

    so consortium news took my view of the B-52 picture as valid.
    less my confession from my comment when originally published at William’s web site

    • old geezer
      June 13, 2019 at 10:31

      perhaps i was too optimistic about iranian iq

  10. Tom Kath
    June 10, 2019 at 20:19

    The article and all the commentaries, seem to take for granted that the aim is to win or “end” these wars ? There is plenty of evidence that this has NOT been the policy since Vietnam.

    I agree of course that IF ending war was the aim, then dropping bombs would make no sense.

  11. hetro
    June 10, 2019 at 19:31

    Much appreciate William Astore’s commentary here, especially as one with specific experience inside the military/industrial complex evaluating it first hand.

    Same with reports from Ray McGovern, Philip Giraldi, William Binney, et al who come forward to offer their professional experience in the credibility wars we are now up against.

    The “credibility wars” concept is key to their efforts, as here with this site and others, to counter the insistent wall of propaganda put out to a dumbed-down a populace through various arms of a corrupt Establishment Machine. (And as richly stated here at CN over the years THOROUGHLY corrupt.)

    Apologies if the following is too far off-topic.

    There are three factors I would like to see more development of, and urge on (including writers taking on these topics) in further discussion.

    *One is possible developments the Establishment Machine will move toward to shut up a growing tumult of discontent that is obviously global and includes the writers just mentioned.

    For example, is it likely the internet itself can become policed so that a site like this one could be officially shut down. This might be proceeded by a campaign that the site is peopled by a nest of those who “facilitate” and “aid the enemies of the State, such as Assange.”

    *The second is an effort to estimate how large and significant that “growing tumult” is.

    For example, on this second matter, MofA just the other day released figures that since its inception in 2006 it has passed 40 million page views. It currently receives something like 7 thousand page views on the day of that posting. It would be interesting to know how many page views CN receives per day.

    Against the US population as largely brainwashed and uninformed, we also have live Jimmy Dore shows indicating a somewhat rabid and enthusiastic following of Jimmy Dore, who recently explained himself as “a regular person,” meaning not someone with professional expertise.

    We’ve had, suddenly, a clatch of leftist rad women developing who are now getting the full screaming treatment as dopey radical know-nothings full of socialist ravings.

    Surely, too, Trump was swept into office at least in part because he appeared to challenge The Establishment Machine, and still falsely poses as such.

    We’ve had Brexit; yellow vests protests; the failed Greek experiment in rebellion before that.

    *A third concern is how to encourage more information, understanding, historical disclosure, and ways of non-violent resistance to the increasingly authoritarian pressures from Establishment Madness.

    A false flag website could be a valuable addition, tracing these pretexts back to the creation of the CIA in 1949 to the present.

    A historical false flag discussion plus a watchdog application of developing and ongoing false flag ops could be helpful in the credibility wars struggle.

  12. ranney
    June 10, 2019 at 18:30

    A dynamite article that should have wide readership, especially by our representatives in the House and Senate. But naturally that won’t happen.
    Thanks for including the photo of the red and white flags at Oregon U. That was an incredible eyeopener – I’m assuming the white represents Vietnamese. All those white dots not only lining the walkways but also filling in the lawn with no red dots showing. That should be posted everywhere.
    Thank you Consortium for including Astore in your pantheon.

  13. jmg
    June 10, 2019 at 17:36

    Carpet bombing of Cambodia:

    “[Nixon] doesn’t want to hear anything,” says Dr Kissinger, stressing the need for secrecy. “It’s an order, it’s to be done. Anything that flies on everything that moves. You got that?”

    Kissinger’s tapes put Nixon lies in spotlight – Telegraph

  14. Realist
    June 10, 2019 at 15:27

    What does the American military expect to happen when civilian populations are carpet bombed? I suppose some few survivors will flee the country as refugees, but most will simply hunker down and try to survive. They have no real alternative. They are not in a position to impose policy on their government, even if they wanted to do so. They are not about to do the enemy’s job and overthrow their own leadership. Neither are they about to roll over and commit mass suicide to facilitate Uncle Sam’s deluded dreams of conquest. They simply continue to live and procreate as best they can, often in hiding, living off resources smuggled in, while their offspring become guaranteed recruits in the forever war versus the Great Satan.

    Every kid should have learned the principles involved in such asymmetric warfare by the time he was 7 or 8 years old. He would have learned them simply by watching ants and how they respond to having their colonies stomped on by feisty little human feet. At first it looks like an easy peasy victory over the dirt-dwelling arthropods. Then their replacements arrive on the surface. So, the kid kicks up yet more dust, creating yet more ant carnage. And so it may go until the sun goes down and he’s called home for supper. But what does he find the very next day at the site of his extensive war crimes against antkind? Even his most dedicated attempts at genocide fails to exterminate his chosen foes.

    They regroup, rebuild, and never cede the aggressor title to their land, unless he is willing to live permanently in the dirt in their place. Such permanent colonisation rarely succeeds. Its most notable successes have been in the United States and Argentina were the natives were driven to near extinction and replaced by Europeans. This is being copied in Palestine right now. But lest you assume too much, there looks to be an ongoing reconquista taking place over the course of very few generations right now in North America. And in “Israel?” History never seems to finish evolving there. It’s a geographic maelstrom that cannot tolerate stability. If the Jews are not at odds with someone else, they are very adept at dividing into factions and fighting one another over trivialities like diets, dress and rabbinical directives.

    One lucky thing for the kid, though… ants don’t have a written history and a sense of justice like the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Cambodians, the Laotians, the Mexicans, most of Central and South America and most islands in the Caribbean, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Mossadegh’s Iran, Khomeini’s Iran, Villain du jour in Iran, Japan, Red China, the German Reich, the Bolshevik government following the Russian Revolution, King George IV’s British Empire… well you get the point. A list of countries the USA has NOT attacked with military force would be a much shorter one.

  15. nondimenticare
    June 10, 2019 at 15:19

    An excellent condemnation that, in an only slightly better world, would be read by every citizen of the United States.

    • Anonymous
      June 11, 2019 at 19:04

      I hope you were turning a phrase there. We’re lightyears from being this way in at least America (and I’d posit likely anywhere in the world), even if the sugar coating makes the gap seem smaller.

  16. jmg
    June 10, 2019 at 14:23


    How Many Millions Have Been Killed in America’s Post-9/11 Wars? Part 3: Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen – Consortiumnews

  17. Sam F
    June 10, 2019 at 12:59

    Excellent observations by William Astore, and superbly written, showing that the foolish use of superior force merely creates more enemies, increases their anger and determination, turns factional conflicts into entrenched insurgencies that can never be resolved by means of force, increases US security problems, and achieves none of its falsely-declared purposes.

    It was primarily the US that aided Islamic militancy in the Mideast (1953-present), fully intending to subvert democratic, socialist, and secular governments there due to fear of “communism” (never found there) and to smooth the way for Israel. It was the US that grew AlQaeda from 6 Saudi terrorists to thousands in AfPak by shipping arms thru Pakistan for Brzezinki’s “Vietnam for the USSR” ignoring the fact that it had no significance to the US, and whether we liked them or not, their ideology was probably the best modern path to secular democracy for the “graveyard of empires.” Then we walked into our own trap by invading on the known-false pretense of “WMDs” again on the absurd pretense that extreme violence would solve rather than perpetuate intractable factional strife.

    Indeed the US would have done (and would now do) far better to re-purpose 80% of its military to construction of infrastructure in developing nations. If we had done this since WWII, we would have built most of the roads, schools, and hospitals there, would have saved half of humanity from abject poverty, would have no enemies anywhere, and would have had a true American Century. Instead we have murdered nearly 20 million innocents with preposterous and unconstitutional excuses for taking sides in intractable factional disputes around the world, so as to bomb someone and pretend that we are advancing democracy just by waving its flag.

    The motive and mechanism for all of this is money fed to US political parties from US factions and foreign powers, including the MIC, the anti-socialists, and Israel/KSA in the Mideast. The US failed to protect the institutions of democracy (mass media, elections, and judiciary) from the growing power of economic concentrations (1870-1920) so that we may no longer have those tools to restore democracy.

    • Realist
      June 11, 2019 at 01:48

      Who would have thought that those big-brained, mostly-hairless bipedal apes with the opposable thumbs would be such exasperatingly slow learners, and nearly devoid of empathy for their conspecifics to boot. About time for the Ancient Aliens to shut down the experiment.

      • Sam F
        June 11, 2019 at 06:54

        It is remarkable that such slow historical progress toward the flowering of Enlightenment would regress as soon as the unregulated market economy allowed oligarchy to control mass media. I remind myself that historical progress has been very slow indeed and fraught with reverses, that our fallen tree in the forest of democracies may at last decay and emerge anew. But as we no longer have the tools to reform it deliberately, other than to keep the truth alive, we must inquire into the longer-term processes of decay and renewal.

  18. DW Bartoo
    June 10, 2019 at 12:51

    Suppose that every bomb dropped by the U$ was required to carry a minimum of three U$ passengers, a military officer, a politician, and a CEO or board member of the corporation that manufactured the bomb?

    Suppose the really Big Mothers were required to carry additional passengers, a member of the Executive branch, a member of the Judicial branch, a media talking head, say for example a pundit who becomes ecstatic at the “beauty” of such weapons”, as well as a “scientist” who helped design the weapon, and a “neutral” academic whose job it would be to record, very unemotionally, without prejudice, the journey to “ground zero” and the clinical “impact” that such a bomb might have on local flora and fauna, including the “targeted” badly behaving featherless bipeds who brought the bombs on themselves for posing a threat, even if only potentially, to the wondrous, lovable, always fair and balanced, indispensable, and clearly exceptional greatest nation that ever there was or ever will be.

    I realize that there will be those who will say, “That is crazy!!”

    The question then becomes, which part of dropping bombs is crazy?

    If the argument is that killing others, rather indiscriminately is sanity, then being willing to die in that very sane and healthy process must be the very least thatnought be expected of those who advocate bombing as solution, either as “little” solutions, to take out a few bad apples, or droning some uppity journalist, photographer, publisher, or funeral goer, or “big” and “final” solutions to take out uppity nations such as Russia or China, or even Iran or Venezuela.

    The expectation that bombs may be used with impunity and with no consequence for the (reverential solemnity, please) Great Homeland, is frankly, an insane assumption and premised on the notion of “acceptable loss”, meaning X-number of “little, unimportant people”, if the really Big Mothers, the nukes, are used.

    If those doing all the calculating, counting capits (heads) and lucrative future contracts or trips through revolving doors have no “skin” in the “game”, then perhaps it be time to have a wee chat about what really is sane, peace, and what really is insane, war.

    Now, should there be exceptions?

    If a personage is so very critically important that they must not “go”, then should we permit substitutions?


    A husband, a wife, a child.

    Yep. Those would do. No others.

    Again, scrptics will shriek, “You are making this personal, this is nuts!”

    No, I am merely suggesting that bu$ine$$ as usual pretends that it is not personal, let’s just keep up the pretense and add in the notion of “equality” before the law of unintended consequence.

    At this point, bombing seems bereft of any actual thinking, there is plotting and calculation, but little in the way of considered doubt, of pondered ramification, of weighing actual alternatives like moving away from domination, devastation, and destruction, ALL of which are cultural assumptions of hubris, arrogance, and superiority which smack, more than a little bit, of pathological inhumanity and ruthless imperial aggrandizement.

    Well and good for the previous few, but hellacious damnation for most everyone else. Not to mention most of life on the planet if nukes are duked.

    It should be recalled that rarely were leaders, kings and such, ever punished for causing Europe’s internecine wars, until after WWII, primarily because the kings and queens were all related …

    Those leaders now planning “First Strike” nuclear “solution” have no sense of relation to the citizens of their own nations, viewing the many as being as much enemy as the media conjured monsters the citizenry is instructed to hate, be it Putin, Assange, or entire nations and societies.

    Those making decisions and money around weapons and war are utterly indifferent to who is harmed by their behavior.

    Would it not be wise for the rest of us to place personal consequence to the fore for those who expect to be unscathed and made more wealthy and powerful if their hostile and deadly ambitions are realized?

    Are our true tormentors “over there”?

    Or right here?

    Are the real terrorists hatching nefarious little plots, or pitching endless war on the air waves?

    • Sam F
      June 10, 2019 at 19:41

      Yes, “the real terrorists” are the purveyors of the “Terror Dream” (Susan Faluti) which made the US the greatest terrorist.

      As to the forced war involvement of chickenhawks,
      1. A military draft should take first those who vote for any war, and their descendants, and such vote should be required;
      2. Aggressive foreign war is prohibited as the Constitution permits only repelling invasions, and this should be clarified by Amendment, to eliminate MIC/Israel/KSA/WallSt bribes for wars.

      We also much need an Amendment to make Treason any act of (in)direct payment to politicians other than a limited individual donation.

    • Anonymous
      June 11, 2019 at 19:01

      While mainstream media is the carrot on a stick, psychiatry is a second stick ready for a swift whack on the backside. There is a common notion in this country that its political use is/was only a thing under the rule of communist [tyrants], completely ignorant of things like “oppositional defiant disorder” and the ever growing implication that deviation from the mainstream is, in and of itself, psychopathy.

      Heck, there are quite a few people out there that will consider you mad for your suggestion (and/or the bit about “nefarious little plots”) alone.

      Think. Think deeply while you still can, for the sake of the rest of us that sort of can but not entirely any more thanks to this particular system.

  19. Jeff Harrison
    June 10, 2019 at 11:11

    You fail to mention that the strategies you outline above were also largely the strategies of Hermann Goring. It didn’t do the Germans much good against Britain and, as you point out, isn’t doing us much good now.

    • Historicvs
      June 11, 2019 at 08:33

      Perhaps you’ve seen the newsreel of a very animated Hitler screaming, “We will drop ten million kilograms of bombs on England!” at which the members of the Reichstag savagely roar their approval. Well, there you have the perfect snapshot of the evil insane tyrant and his demented followers, right?

      Or maybe the film you saw has been edited, so you didn’t hear the first part of Hitler’s sentence, which was, “for every million kilograms of bombs Britain drops on us…” Or maybe you don’t know that the RAF staged nightly bombing attacks on German cities for months before Germany retaliated in kind with the Blitz on London. Or that the British bombing campaign killed ten times more Germans than their return sorties killed Britons. Or that in that same speech Hitler told the British that he would call off the Luftwaffe if they would stop the RAF raids, which were the deliberate mass murder of civilians on a scale unprecedented in the annals of warfare. This policy was personally initiated by Winston Churchill. He ordered the first bombing run on a German city, a sneak night-time attack on Hamburg, the very day after he became Prime Minister.

      Or maybe you’ve never heard of Britain’s Lindemann plan, whereby civilian targeting became official. Frederick Lindemann, Churchill’s friend and scientific advisor, submitted a plan urging that German working-class houses be targeted in preference to military objectives. The war cabinet approved the plan and it first went into action on March 28, 1942, when 234 aircraft attacked the old port city of Lubeck. It had no military or industrial importance but was chosen because, as Air Marshall “Bomber” Harris remarked, the city was “built more like a firelighter than a human habitation.” Its old medieval houses and cathedral were obliterated, by what Harris termed “a first class success” of the RAF. Two months later a thousand aircraft dropped high explosive and incendiaries on the medieval town of Cologne, burning it from end to end. The devastation was total, as has been the misrepresentation of what happened there ever since.

      As a state’s ability to defend itself rests on its industrial and agricultural productivity and the morale of its servicemen, in the relentless logic of modern total war, a winning strategy must including killing industrial and agricultural workers, and demoralizing front line soldiers by slaughtering their families and destroying their homes.

      This is the truly horrific -but always unspoken- legacy of “the good war.”

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