Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Checking in on the Forever War as Obama's term winds down

The Tampa Tribune, located where the U.S. Central Command makes its headquarters, treats as a local beat the doings of the force charged with carrying on U.S. military activity in the Middle East. President Obama is bringing in three new commanders this year, all of whom come out of the tight-lipped domain of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Reporter Howard Altman offers insight about the probable direction of the ongoing campaign.

The most significant change leading to this JSOC Trifecta is the choice of Army Gen. Joseph Votel as head of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, which oversees U.S. military operations in Iraq, Syria and 18 other nations in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

Votel lives next door to the current Centcom commander, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III at MacDill Air Force Base, where both commands are headquartered. He will become the first Centcom commander to have come from the ranks of Special Operations Forces.

Army Lt. Gen Anthony “Tony” Thomas is likely to follow the route of JSOC commanders stepping up to take over Socom. Votel and his predecessor, retired Adm. William McRaven, were both JSOC commanders before taking over Socom.

And Maj. Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, current commander of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, will likely get his third star and take over JSOC.

... Clearly, Obama’s preference, in Iraq, Syria and in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa as well (and Yemen before we got kicked out) has been JSOC raids and drone strikes.

So Obama is putting the burden of the Forever War squarely in the lap of this secretive elite force, not the regular branches. Journalist Jeremy Scahill reported the exact moment when Obama discovered these operatives were his best bet for dialing down the visibility of the Forever War (which we don't like when we can see its carnage as in Iraq) while beating back the U.S. panic about terrorism. Remember when merchant ship Captain Richard Phillips was rescued by JSOC snipers from Somali pirates? Those shooters that day handed Obama a public relations triumph (and a live captain) and seems to have made him a believer in using such forces to lead our military adventures.

Obama knows perfectly well the tightrope he's trying to walk. He laid it out in the State of the Union speech.

“Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped,” he allowed. “But they do not threaten our national existence. That’s the story [the Islamic State] wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit.”

... And then came an appeal to the carpet-bombing constituency. Calling the Islamic State “killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed,” Obama boasted: “With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons. We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.”

Peter Certo, Common Dreams

The people of this country get from our rulers as much war-making as we want. JSOC gives any President a means to keep much of our military force projection hidden domestically. Meanwhile our war is certainly not hidden from the people involuntarily on the wrong end of those airstrikes.

The Forever War will go on as long as we demand unrealistic "security" and it can be kept secret from us as long as we refuse to look at what we are doing. We do still need a peace movement.

2 comments:

Hattie said...

Alas. As Media Benjamin says, after 9-11 the peace movement was dead.

Brandon said...

I think war in faraway lands is an abstract concept for most people, and that's been the case for the decade and a half of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. As you know, there were massive protests against the Iraq War in 2003, but lots of quiet support (people thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction), and apathy. In Hilo there's still Friday-afternoon vigils in front of the downtown Hilo post office.

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