In the first century A.D. the Roman historian Tacitus wrote "Solitudinem fecerunt, pacem appelunt," translated as "they have created a wasteland and call it peace." He was describing the devastating Roman campaigns against the German tribes under the first emperor Augustus in which all the men capable of carrying weapons were slaughtered and the remainder of the population was sold into slavery. It was the Roman way of waging war, complete destruction of a foreign enemy to serve as a warning against challenging the might of the Caesars.
We Americans have inherited the imperial mantle and are the new Romans. For the policymakers in Washington, nearly all of whom have never served in the military, war is an abstraction, like moving chess pieces around or looking at graphs in a power point presentation. But for the thousands of American soldiers who will die because of the bad decisions made on Capitol Hill and in the White House it is deadly serious. America’s high tech generals have developed a way of waging videogame-like war using drones and hellfire missiles, but taking and holding the ground below is a job for the infantry, and they are the ones facing death from roadside bombs and suicide bombers. On Tuesday alone seven more Americans died. In light of the recent celebration of Memorial Day, it is right that we should remember those who die every day because of the lies and deceits of our leaders in Washington. Rest assured, one day soon the US will be out of both Iraq and Afghanistan and will be hated and reviled by the Iraqi and Afghan people. The Americans who have died will have truly died for nothing.
The imperial hubris of the policymakers allows no challenge to the world’s only super power and no check on its behavior. To those who still expect a better America to come out of the Barack Obama Administration I would note that the only change has been for the worse. There should have been alarms going off nationwide back in January when the Administration announced that it had authorized the CIA to kill selected American citizens overseas who are suspected of being involved with terrorism. Emphasis on suspected, with no due process. Instead of screams of outrage over the trampling of the Constitution there was only silence from Congress, the media and the public.
A handful of news stories two weeks ago illustrate very well the new imperialism practiced in Washington and plumb the depths to which we have sunk as a nation. The proposition that the United States has a mandate to strike anywhere and at anytime where it perceives a challenge to its interests is unquestioned in the media and within the government and it is a right that is pursued with complete recklessness and virtually no accountability. The first story involves the first Obama Administration National Security Strategy Assessment. The assessment has a lot of good touchy feely language about how the US will no longer be the school bully, but it stresses that the White House will do whatever is necessary to make America secure, whatever that means. It includes "We are now moving beyond traditional distinctions between homeland and national security. This includes a determination to prevent terrorist attacks against the American people by coordinating the actions that we take abroad with the actions that we take at home." In other words, the war on terror (which is an expression that the wordsmithing Obamas are careful not use) is to become a seamless operation that will be everywhere and at all times and forever. It is George W. Bush’s long war wrapped in different language.
The second story, in The Washington Post, describes how the White House and National Security Council are drawing up plans to attack Pakistan if a significant terrorist incident occurs in the US and can be traced back to militants in that country. "The US military is reviewing options for a unilateral strike in Pakistan in the event that a successful attack on American soil is traced to the country’s tribal areas…" is the way it’s described in the Post and it would only be carried out if it is determined that "the ongoing campaign of CIA drone strikes is insufficient." This response is reported to the one of the "severe consequences" that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned about in the wake of the aborted Times Square bombing. The article concedes that the Pakistanis might not exactly be pleased and it would "risk an irreparable rupture in the US relationship with Pakistan." It would also likely kill a large number of civilians as US intelligence on Pakistani tribes is not exactly well developed. If the objective is to make more terrorists rather than less it would, however, work just fine. It would also be yet another military assault on a country with which the US is not at war. The Post report came out on May 29th and there has hardly been a squeak elsewhere in the mainstream media, which suggests that everyone thinks it to be a nifty.
A similar story in the New York Times a few days earlier detailed how the US Central Command is expanding clandestine operations "to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region." The new directive also permits "reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran." While Washington has regarded Iran as hostile for some time, it was most recently seen trying to prop up the Somali government, even giving arms to its supporting militias. Arms that were frequently then sold to the Islamists. And Saudi Arabia is a close ally. It must be reassuring to know that being a friend to the Americans does not necessarily cut you any slack. And, again, nary a peep of complaint about the Times story. Business as usual for the American Empire to have its special ops warriors dropping in at various places at various times to wreak havoc.
The final story from two weeks ago is about accountability, or lack of it. It described how twenty-three Afghan civilians riding in three vehicles were killed in error due to "inaccurate and unprofessional" reporting by a team of drone operators. The drone operators were located in Nevada. The story recounts how "Two children were spotted near the vehicles, but the drone operators reported that the convoy contained only military age men." Bear in mind that the people in the vehicles were not seen doing anything threatening, which leads to the presumption that in Afghanistan you can apparently be shot on sight if you are a military age male riding in a vehicle. In this attack, both women and children were also killed. And to those expecting that those who carried out the devastating and completely unwarranted attack might be severely punished, think again. Four officers were reprimanded and two others disciplined. In the age of empire carrying out orders, whatever the consequences for some poor bastard on the ground, is a good enough defense.
Four stories I would rather have not read. How did we get into this nightmare? I wish I knew and if it were only a nightmare someday we might wake up. There is no longer any hope that Obama will reverse course on any of this. Perhaps, like the Roman Empire and the British Empire more recently, the United States will just run out of money and manpower and will retire from the international stage. I have to believe that the world will be a better place when that finally occurs.