Unavoidably, lots of us have some awareness of what an ongoing horror show the US invasion of Iraq made of that unhappy country. That war was a bloody imperial lie from start to finish. And, painfully, we've gotten to the point that a majority of us think the Afghanistan adventure wasn't worth the blood and treasure (not to mention the dead Afghans.) But other escapades of empire, especially those in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, have gotten less notice. Scahill's been there.
I found the sections on Somalia informative; somehow I'd missed a lot of this. The CIA took the lead in our war in that nation and apparently replicated its practice from Afghanistan, buying up shady, vicious warlords to attack other factions it considered Islamist threats. In retrospect, it is hard to see any of them as "good guys." When many Somalis rallied around a faction that threw these warlords out, the US hired the Ethiopian state to invade. When Somalis rose up against the Ethiopian occupation, the US picked up a new set of warlords and the small al Shabab Somali set signed on with al Qaeda. Along the line, US special military forces (the Joint Special Operations Command [JSOC] -- the guys who finally offed bin Laden) took over the bulk of Somali operations, as they have also the better known US drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen.
President Obama seems to have become a great fan of using JSOC to do his dirty work. This military force seemed such a clean, safe alternative to George W.'s blunderbuss style of empire. He got his introduction to JSOC's value in 2009 when Somali pirates seized the merchant ship Alabama and carried its captain off in a small boat.
JSOC had given a politically dangerous made-for-TV movie episode a politically advantageous outcome -- and Obama apparently realized a President possessed a ready-made weapon controlled by him as Commander in Chief to replace George W.'s "dumb wars."
Scahill goes on to tell the story of our drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen and of the administration's embrace of targeted assassination, including of US citizens. The account is detailed and depressing and, like Mark Mazzetti's book on the CIA role, leaves me wondering how real a threat truly exists if so much energy can have been wasted on bureaucratic chest bumping over who got which piece of the action.
President Obama says "we don't torture." That's dubious; we certainly do still "render" prisoners to other countries to torture and hold others in uncharged military detention. There has been no accountability for the intellectual authors who ordered these crimes, even if we were to choose to let the actual perpetrators off the hook as dupes of authority. The stain lingers.