US Wars Come Home to Roost

Coleen Rowley spotlights the ever-growing list of domestic blowback incidents.

Trump supporters on Jan. 6 crowding the steps of the Capitol after displacing the police shield wall.(TapTheForwardAssist, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Coleen Rowley
Special to Consortium News
It’s been six months since the Jan. 6 insurrection. But long before the public saw that mob scene in the Capitol, it was easy to predict that the upcoming inauguration would, unfortunately, take place amid extreme electoral polarization and civil unrest. Ordinary Americans had been turned against each other, radicalizing some while leading to unprecedented firearm sales and significant spikes in deadly shootings and violence in U.S. cities.

Such discord was regularly punctuated — and/or provoked — by (equally panic-stricken) police wrongfully killing or using excessive force on citizens. Even if we managed to avoid outright civil war, it was likely we’d witness acts of domestic terrorism.

While the Democratic side of the country (and its mainstream media) still focus almost solely on white supremacy as the cause, and we’ve been told for years to blame Russian Facebook posts for “sowing discord,” it’s high time to also consider whether our perpetual wars abroad have finally and fully boomeranged back home.

The facts about such blowback from our decades-long cultivation of militarism speak for themselves. In a 2016 New York Times piece, an anthropology professor at George Washington University found that:

“…military veterans account for a disproportionate number of mass shooters. Veterans account for 13 percent of the adult population, but more than a third of the adult perpetrators of the 43 worst mass killings since 1984 had been in the United States military. It is clear that, in the etiology of mass killings, military service is an important risk factor.”

It may not be politically correct to also recall that Timothy McVeigh and John Muhammad both served as highly decorated Army sergeants in the first Gulf War. The former bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995, killing 168 men, women and children and injuring more than 680 others — the largest act of “domestic terrorism” ever committed.

The latter, better known as the “D.C. Sniper,” killed 10 random people (and wounded many others) in 2002 around the Washington, D.C., area. But many have long connected the dots.

Speaking of his experience in Kuwait in an interview before his execution, McVeigh said he’d decapitated an Iraqi soldier with a blast from his armored vehicle’s 25mm cannon, then celebrated.

‘Highway of Death’

His barracks roommate remembered McVeigh snapping many photographs of dead Iraqis during the war. The future domestic bomber claimed he’d been ordered to execute surrendering prisoners, and was shocked by the sight of carnage on the Iraqi Army’s retreat route out of the Kuwait — infamously dubbed the “Highway of Death” after U.S. air strikes devastated clogged convoys of fleeing enemy vehicles and soldiers.

April 18, 1991: Demolished vehicles line Highway 80, also known as the “Highway of Death,” the route of Iraqi forces retreating from Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. (Joe Coleman, Air Force Magazine, Wikimedia Commons)

More contemporary examples include Afghan War veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, who, in the deadliest single incident for U.S. law enforcement since the September 2001 attacks, ambushed and shot dead five police officers in Dallas in 2016, injuring nine others, as well as two civilians.

In the summer of 2020, Air Force police officer Steven Carillo was charged with the shooting deaths of a sheriff’s deputy and a federal security officer in Oakland, California. Additionally, former Marines were charged in separate plots to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer and to storm the Michigan Capitol and ignite a “civil war.”

Armed protesters, angry at the Covid-19 lockdown, in Michigan state capitol on May 1, 2020. (YouTube screenshot)

Finally, a couple of days after Christmas 2020, a U.S. Army special forces sergeant was charged with gunning down six people in a random attack at an Illinois bowling-alley bar, killing three and blasting a 14-year-old boy in the face.

Sadly, this partial listing of war blowback just continues to grow ever longer. In November last year, prosecutors charged a group of neo-Nazi, ex- and current Marines who wanted to create a “modern-day SS” with conspiracy to smuggle guns.

Most recently, numerous former military officers and veterans have been charged with crimes involving the Capitol takeover. The FBI even had to try to quickly vet National Guard members assigned to the presidential inauguration. Such incidents are finally setting off alarm bells within the Department of Defense.

Yet instead of recognizing the inherent problem of our war culture and military indoctrination techniques designed to create killers, the DOD report points only to the influence of domestic extremist and hate groups. 

‘Bring ’em Home’

There’s only so much psychologists and other experts can do after a person has been put into the stress of kill or be killed. To return to civilian life after that and have people who haven’t a clue, who don’t care a bit, give them the false “thank you for your service” is a kind of damage that transcends PTSD and “moral injury.”

The all-volunteer military is in effect a mercenary force, very different from the Second World War and earlier wars which “drafted” men like my friend’s father, a small Minnesota town grocer who landed on Normandy and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Military authorities found that most draftees didn’t ever, even try to shoot the enemy. The military revamped its “killology” training (and also spread it to police) to overcome such natural reluctance when they learned that most draftees never tried to kill someone else.

But as Pete Seeger sings in “Bring ’em Home”, you’d find him (even the peaceniks) out on the front line if an enemy “invaded this land of mine.” But recruiting and making militarist killers kill people in foreign countries is something else.

The U.S. long ago gravitated to professional mercenary forces to fight illegal wars of aggression as part of its “glorious dream” establishing Pax America, or in other words, world domination.


Deeper Blowback 

The blowback from nearly 20 years of “wars of choice” goes even deeper than such sordid tallies of direct veteran-perpetrated, domestic violence. An entire generation of young kids, mostly boys – like the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooter — grew up playing “Call of Duty” first-person-shooter-style video games, which tend to desensitize them and teach them violence.

The dark irony is that the U.S. military capitalized on this violent “gaming” culture to facilitate recruitment for America’s “all volunteer” force.

Furthermore, Hollywood’s glamorization of war, nonstop media praise lavished upon “American Sniper” type heroes, plus “flyovers” and other ostentatious nationalistic sporting event spectacles exert a powerful force not only filling the ranks of uniformed recruits, but also triggering “wannabe warriors” to snap or to flock to paramilitary militias.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial on the former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, destroyed in the 1995 bombing; 168 empty chairs in the foreground represent those killed in the domestic terrorism attack. (Ken Lund, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Lionizing foreign and domestic wars contributed to the development and popularity of “warrior training” for police officers. Officers who reveled in driving their military-surplus tanks around town or who traveled to Israel to learn how the IDF handles domestic (Palestinian) “terrorism,” naturally came to equate their workplaces to war zones, and those they serve to foreign “enemies.”

Police thus gravitated to more use of excessive force and looser “law of war” standards for applying deadly force, which is almost always justified as “collateral damage” due to the “fog of war.” There’s just one problem: the “killology” often tolerated in war is not allowed under the Constitution.

This author warned just days before America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, in a piece published in The New York Times, that this very thing would transpire.

Although shocked news reporters will invariably claim that bewildered authorities are “seeking a motive” for the next horrible, senseless outbreaks of domestic killing, the terrible internal cost of our forever wars should by now be glaringly obvious to everyone.

Coleen Rowley is a retired special agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel of the FBI who taught constitutional law and law enforcement ethics to FBI agents and other law enforcement, then became a whistleblower about the FBI’s pre 9-11 failures and the folly of the Iraq invasion. She was named, along with two other corporate whistleblowers, as TIME Magazine’s 2002 Persons of the Year. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian and Huffington Post, along with other publications. Ms. Rowley is also a senior fellow at the Eisenhower Media Network (EMN), an organization of independent veteran military and national security experts.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


25 comments for “US Wars Come Home to Roost

  1. Mary J. Beaudoin
    July 12, 2021 at 12:29

    very important not to be blind to militarization and to realize what it results in!

  2. Richard Coleman
    July 10, 2021 at 16:02

    “Such discord was regularly punctuated — and/or provoked — by (equally panic-stricken) police wrongfully killing or using excessive force on citizens.”

    Excuse me. I don’t see any sign of panic in the police as they routinely lynch unarmed black citizens. Derek Chauvin had his hands in his pockets as he casually strangled George Floyd. Some panic!

  3. Mike Hastie
    July 10, 2021 at 15:30

    Internally, the U.S. is rapidly collapsing. This country is obsessed with violence. Our culture wallows in it like a pig wallows in mud. When I came back from Viet Nam as an Army medic, I was forced to comprehend that there was not one day during the Viet Nam War where the United States Government did not commit an atrocity against the Vietnamese people. Not one day. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has bombed over 30 countries. Martin Luther King Jr. made a profound statement in a speech on April 4, 1967: ” The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.” The U.S. economy cannot make a killing off of Peace. We are addicted to war, and we will kill anyone who interferes with that reality. Always keep in mind the average intelligence of the American people: Whenever the truth threatens one’s core belief system, there is an urgent need to deny its reality. The American people are extremely obedient, and that is why history repeats itself.
    Mike Hastie
    Army Medic Viet Nam

  4. Deborah Johnson
    July 9, 2021 at 19:27

    Thank you for giving a voice to so many of us who are against human aggression. Your words are important, and give some sensibility when there is nothing but madness in our governments, and in the military…..You give us hope, because you write truth…..

  5. July 9, 2021 at 17:21

    Thanks for all the music in this post. I am 76 yr old female who lost some good friends in VietNam and my cousin Joe. I have been against all war ever since. War is profitable for the rich, and the poorest are sent to war. The atrocities I saw in VietNam are still in my nightmares. The writer, Tim O’Brian, was best friends with my brothers. I have all his books. Thank you for this.

  6. Tony
    July 9, 2021 at 15:42

    “It may not be politically correct to also recall that Timothy McVeigh and John Muhammad both served as highly decorated Army sergeants in the first Gulf War.”

    Gulf War I may be even more disturbing than I had previously realised.

    Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, I thought, as the result of botched US diplomacy.
    I remember that President Bush seemed genuinely surprised at the news of the invasion and uncertain as to how to respond.
    Margaret Thatcher was in the USA at the time and persuaded him to act decisively.

    But I am now forced to re-assess that view in favour of an even worse interpretation.
    What if the diplomacy had been deliberately botched?

    Ambassador April Glaspie might well have deliberately encouraged Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait when they met in July 1990.
    In his book, Defrauding America, Rodney Stich claims an association with Gunther Russbacher whom he describes as a CIA operative.

    Stich claims that Russbacher informed him of a flight to Moscow by 4 CIA SR-71 planes carrying onboard an agreement for signing by President Gorbachev. In return for financial aid, the USSR would agree not to cause any problems if the USA attacked Iraq. This, he claims, took place on 26 July 1990, just a few days before Iraq invaded Kuwait.

    Utterly cynical and disgusting behaviour such as this does happen and so the allegations do need to be taken very seriously. That Bush’s surprise and uncertainty were faked is a possibility.

    If Bush had already decided to attack Iraq before its invasion of Kuwait in order to destroy its military power, taking down much of its civilian infrastructure with it, then that may well explain his obvious determination to avoid a diplomatic settlement.

    The one consolation is that the war helped to defeat him the following year. He repeatedly wanted to talk about his alleged success in this matter but the American people had moved on and were not interested.

    We may never know the truth but our suspicions are far from unreasonable.

  7. July 9, 2021 at 14:55

    Interesting tip of an iceberg article but it fails to address the deliberate polarization at all levels and strata and segment of the American population for political purposes, the deliberate deceit that keeps making promises designed to be broken, the short sighted live for today strategy of the Deep State, the disdain for journalistic accuracy that characterizes the corporate media, all of which have made George Orwell’s nightmares our realities. Our foreign sins are a symptom, rather than a cause.

    • July 12, 2021 at 09:51

      You hit the nail squarely on its head. Still, Ms. Rowley does a good job, and as you point out, as far as it goes. That, of course, is not a criticism of her commentary.

  8. Robert Anderson
    July 9, 2021 at 14:55

    Lee Harvey Oswald was a Marine sharpshooter.

    • John Trott
      July 10, 2021 at 11:51

      Hush Robert. You know not of what you speak.

  9. Jeff Harrison
    July 9, 2021 at 11:18

    I would strongly recommend Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror” which is a history of the 13th century. For those of you who didn’t do history, this was a time frame when the crusaders were returning from the Middle East and their ill conceived foray into the “holy land”. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the returning crusaders did the same thing that our returning mercenaries are doing.

  10. Georges Olivier Daudelin
    July 9, 2021 at 11:12

    Ce qui s’est passé à la Maison Blanche n’était que du “SHOW BUSINESS”, du théatre, de l’illusion, du spectacle, du cinéma: HOLLYWOOD ÉTAIT À WASHINGTON.

    Une insurrection ou une rébellion, ce n’est pas ça du tout.

  11. July 9, 2021 at 09:00

    Excellent points Coleen. A large proportion of homeless people are also military veterans. Suicides are proportionately much higher among veterans. So the blowback is manifold. Higher taxes, a destabilized world, massive loss of life and destruction can also be added to the list. This is why consent must be manufactured by the corporate owned news. If voters really understood what resulted from the war machine, they would not consent. They would much rather have that money spent on healthcare, education and infrastructure.

  12. michael888
    July 9, 2021 at 08:20

    Excellent article. Politicians feel that those who have served in danger can flip a switch and turn off their intense training. They cannot. Moreover, killing becomes easier after the first, due to rationalizations and acceptance of what they have done. Between 10 and 20 percent of veterans return with PTSD. Their treatment is minimal and ineffective. Many of these veterans are “broken”, and never fit in society again.
    The “economic draft” collects a lower quality soldier who has no other opportunities, and at best tries to make a life in a military career.
    The DRAFT, which most countries have reverted back to, makes sure everyone “has skin in the game” (except of course the Elites, whose sons are kept in safe positions), but would soon have America questioning all their Forever Wars. We are seeing the “acceptable” alternative; a major part of domestic shootings by psychologically disturbed veterans.

    • Coleen Rowley
      July 9, 2021 at 10:43

      Exactly! There’s only so much psychologists and other experts can do after a person has been subjected to horrible “war porn” carnage and the stress of kill or be killed. There’s a reason why the suicide AND homicide rates of veterans are so high. To return to civilian life after such life-changing trauma, and then have most of one’s fellow American people spared that horrible experience, people who haven’t a clue, who don’t care or comprehend such trauma, offer their standard, insincere “thank you for your service” flip-off can actually add to damage that transcends PTSD and “moral injury.”

      The current, all-volunteer military is in effect a mercenary force preying on the vulnerable and the poor, very different from those forced into the Second World War and earlier wars which “drafted” men like my friend’s father, a small town, 30 some year old Minnesota grocer with a young family who survived landing on Normandy Beach and fought their way through Europe to the Battle of the Bulge. Military authorities back then were surprised to learn afterward that somewhere between 75% and 85% of draftees in these earlier wars didn’t ever, even try to shoot the enemy. It was learned that without more inculcation and conditioning, most humans are naturally reluctant to kill their fellow human beings. (Of course for the good of human civilization, that reluctance is normally beneficial!)

      So the military revamped its “killology” training (and also spread it to police) to overcome such natural human reluctance to kill other people. They found it becomes easier to kill when training and propaganda dehumanizes the “others” being targeted, also known as foreigners (and a variety of other slurs). The problem is that once the military overcomes this natural human reluctance and turns more of their recruits into killers, it can prove even harder to turn it off.

      The opposite end of this human nature condition is exemplified, as Pete Seeger sings in “Bring ’em Home”, that you’d find him (and other solidly committed, life-long peaceniks) “out on the firing line if an army invaded this land of mine.” This extreme paradox brings up the huge difference between legitimate self-defense and of one’s own family and homeland and the current U.S.-NATO wars of aggression and pre-emption, founded for instance, on the lying of young people into the illegal war on Iraq and what the U.S. now calls its “perpetual wars” waged nonstop in the last couple of decades.

      The U.S. long ago gravitated to professional mercenary forces to fight illegal wars of aggression as part of its “glorious dream” of establishing Pax America, or in other words, world domination. But as historian scholars like Chalmers Johnson long predicted, the blowback of this fool’s errand, the “sorrows of empire” are now manifest among us.


      • Jon Adams
        July 9, 2021 at 13:10

        I have long agreed with what Coleen Rowley has written about war and blowback.

        I know there is a connection between America’s violent foreign policy and the new phenomenon of routine mass shootings.

  13. July 9, 2021 at 04:37

    Facebook has just informed me that this article by professor Chomsky is fraudulent and goes against the Facebook community standards:

    If the Nuremberg Laws were Applied…

    Noam Chomsky

    Delivered around 1990


    • Jon Adams
      July 9, 2021 at 13:07

      Facebook informed me yesterday that my link to something by Max Blumenthal was blocked because it was “spam.”

      People just don’t get it. As long as Trump and and Alex Jones are banned they are happy. And they couldcare less about all the other people who are censored on Twitter and Facebook.

      • James Simpson
        July 10, 2021 at 03:32

        Yes. Corporate media denies the Left and Right equally. Anything that disturbs the centrist, liberal, pro-capitalist consensus of Rep/Dem and here Tory/Labour is denied access. I’ve had many conversations with soft liberals who celebrate the banning of Trump and refuse to understand that denying free speech to their enemies always means denying it to anyone else the media doesn’t like.

  14. Walter
    July 9, 2021 at 01:53

    Fine argument, so, if the junta were to re-introduce the draft there would not be any shooting. Great idea.

    • Bob
      July 9, 2021 at 06:44

      Junta? There is the war criminal US Senate to handle that. Why would the capitalists and “middle class” lackeys want to change the system they have now?

    • torture this
      July 9, 2021 at 09:30

      Good news! You misinterpreted the piece.
      “The military revamped its “killology” training (and also spread it to police) to overcome such natural reluctance when they learned that most draftees never tried to kill someone else.”
      I always thought bringing back the draft would help civilize the military but in light of Coleen’s statement, I think it probably would just militarize the public even more.

  15. bardamu
    July 8, 2021 at 20:01


    Another aspect of blowback, it strikes me, is the turn of military methods of so-called “population control” towards the domestic population.

    These are part of the ongoing desensitization of the ruling class towards its “flock,” as chillingly reflected in calls by the current administration to invoke military might against the so-called “domestic terror” that usually takes the form of verbal dissent.

    The devils will preen and dress themselves in every sweet term they can imagine. They will claim that it is “White nationalism” that they fight.

    Ask yourself where you were when you last saw that.

    • Frank
      July 9, 2021 at 11:01

      McVeigh was an avowed White supremacist. Many of the most heavily armed, veteran militias are. Their numbers and their militancy are clearly increasing, possibly exponentially in the wake of the George Floyd uprisings of last year.

      • Coleen Rowley
        July 9, 2021 at 20:27

        Actually there seems to be quite a bit of diversity. For instance this latest armed “Rise of the Moors” group is clearly none of the above. It’s not clear how many veterans are involved but news articles claim there could be several such groups: hXXps:// Here’s one who taped himself during the stand-off: hXXps://

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