Monday, March 04, 2013

Ten years later: suggestions of a shift toward sanity

Rooftop security

With the ten year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq looming, re-evaluations of that stupid and immoral adventure are dribbling out in the media. For the next few weeks, I'm going to highlight and comment on some of them.

Unlike some of the people writing this stuff, I am glad to have been part of a project, WarTimes/Tiempo de Guerras, that was doing its best to expose and oppose the phony, racist, and often vicious premises of the post 9/11 U.S. warfare state. You didn't have to have special information to know that crashing into Iraq wasn't going to be good for much of anyone except perhaps war contractors. You even didn't need special "intelligence" to know that Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction" were a symptom of Washington's threat inflation syndrome. And though there was slightly more excuse for the Afghanistan war, it didn't take any special knowledge to recognize how resistant that corner of Central Asia has long been to foreign invaders with big ideas.

The anniversary has many writers talking about this in various ways. For example, here's Steve Coll, head of the New America Foundation and the author of several books about spooks and Bin Laden in the post 9/11 era, writing in the New Yorker:

…[this] dark anniversary offers a reminder, if one is required, that in any conflict where a President claims war powers the Chief Executive’s analytical precision in describing the enemy is a grave responsibility. A franchise is a business that typically operates under strict rules laid down by a parent corporation; to apply that label to Al Qaeda’s derivative groups today is false. If Al Qaeda is not coherent enough to justify a formal state of war, the war should end; if the Administration wishes to argue that some derivative groups justify emergency measures, it should identify that enemy accurately.

Jihadist violence presents an enduring danger. Its proponents will rise and ebb; the amorphous threats that they pose will require adaptive security policies and, occasionally, military action. Yet the empirical case for a worldwide state of war against a corporeal thing called Al Qaeda looks increasingly threadbare. A war against a name is a war in name only. 

Yes indeed -- daring to state that Al Qaeda is done for would be the most truthful, hopeful thing a U.S. chief executive could possibly do for the country. I'm not holding my breath, but count me in for the citizen's movement to demand such an admission.

At his Atlantic magazine blog, James Fallows ran a series of posts by William R. Polk who has been honing his understanding of U.S. foreign relations since service in the Kennedy Administration. As the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, Polk is concerned with something "not necessarily understood by  Americans." He believes we must recognize and stop

a "blowback" [causing] the warping or degradation of [our] institutions, comity and laws caused by fear…

Stopping lurching about driven by fear is the prerequisite for moving this country away from its post 9/11 rogue behavior. It's a worthy goal. We need not forever allow our institutions to be deformed by barely rational and often inflated fears. We needn't live like a bunch of rabbits, scared stupid!

Nobody has a clearer view of what a putrid pile of nonsense the wars of the last decade have been than the military that has been tasked to fight them. Major Tom Mcilwaine, a British officer, writing at Thomas Ricks' Foreign Policy blog, is asking questions that have not been part of official discourse for over a decade:

Do we really want to be doing this? COIN, or whatever it is that we have been doing over the last decade, is tremendously difficult. The direction of some of these questions suggests that it might be a little bit more than that though. If what we are doing is fundamentally imperial, then it raises two extra questions. First, can we do this without using imperial methods? Second, do we want to use those methods?

… What is required, if we are not to make the same mistakes that we made this time, is a comprehensive examination of what it is we were trying to achieve, what we needed to do to achieve it, and whether we really wanted to travel down this path, or want to now or in the future. A place to advocate some truth and reconciliation rather than escalating the intellectual holy war within our profession might help too.

Maybe it takes someone whose country has already lost an empire to have the clarity to ask what many of us DFHs (dirty fucking hippies) have been wanting to know for years. We long ago repudiated the idea that unconstrained empire was anything we wanted. Nice to see someone in the military coming up with the right questions. The soldiers need a "truth and reconciliation commission" if they are to avoid just doing this again when some U.S. administration dares to flex its muscles.

Photo: U.S. Navy by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup. Caption: U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Wolfe, security force platoon leader for Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Farah, provides rooftop security during a key leader engagement in Farah City, [Afghanistan] Feb. 25.


Classof65 said...

This DFH knew all along that the war against Iraq was simply a money-making war exercise. Follow the money from our federal government to Halliburton to Cheney and Rumsfeld's pockets to put it in the most simplified terms. Poor Colin Powell's credibility was destroyed and the Patriot Act is still alive. Citizen's United lives on, too, and we are doomed.

Ken Hoop said...

Loook, it is mostly-not all-about Zionist domination of the media and Congress, the failure to push Israel off the West Bank and Samaria (as decisively as we pushed Saddam out of Kuwait) and give the Palestinians something back at least.
And the resentment (and worse) in the Arab and Muslim world for this-and the strategy involved with temporarily buying off puppets like Mubarek and the Shah to keep the problem from being addressed another way.

Ken Hoop said...

After all everyone from Pat Buchanan on the right to Ray McGovern to Kucinich and Scott Ritter on the left said who was pulling the phony strings for invasion of Iraq-before the war commenced.

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