U.S. Military


Nov. 2012Juan Cole on Petraeus and Iraq and Afghanistan offers an illuminating look at U.S. strategy in the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the political calculations/visions (of grandeur) behind said invasions.

Chalmers Johnson Any discussion of the U.S. military should probably begin with the works of Chalmer Johnson, with his writings on the effects of empire and militarism on the U.S.

Use of private military contractors, the outsourcing of U.S. military actors, may have existed farther back than the  W. administration but I first became aware of the practice when the Bush administration made extensive use of Cheney’s Halliburton.  There are as many private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan as there are troops. Private military contractors occupy a murky legal zone where responsibility for their actions is unclear. Blackwater and their ilk are in effect uncontrolled  violence. Blackwater at least was tightly connected to the Bush administration and the (extreme?) right wing. Jeremy Scahill has authored illuminating reports on Blackwater in particular. Look at his rebel reports rebel reports. Very good reports on Blackwater and its chief, Erik Prince and drone attacks and assassinations are particularly interesting.

LSW update

The drones are coming, the drones are coming

It appears that the U.S. use of drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, to attack and kill Al Qaida and Taliban members is increasing, as evidenced by a sampling of news reports on drone attacks:

“Despite warnings the military’s use of drones is on the rise in Afghanistan” Washington Post – Joshua Partlow. Read the article.

“Since taking over as the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal has cautioned his troops against relying on aircraft to bomb targets unless there is a clear insurgent threat, as such bombings have previously killed civilians and inflamed anti-American sentiment among Afghans. Still, the use of Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles to fire missiles, while not as frequent as in Pakistan, is increasingly common in Afghanistan, according to U.S. military officials.” Reuters

Suspected US drone strike kills 4 in Pakistan
Xinhua – Fang Yang – ‎Jan 10, 2010‎

“But the drone attacks are fueling anti-American sentiments in Pakistan and Pakistani government seeks drone technology from the US authorities. …”

“US drone war delivers results, but at what price?
Pakistan renews call for end to US drone strikes”

Drone attacks raise troubling questions:

Do civilians like being killed, do they wish to cooperate with the invaders of their country who are killing their families?
How are the targets picked out? Can the guy sitting in Arizona, having said goodbye to his children as they go merrily off to school, see who exactly he is pinpointing on his video game monitor before he kills them and returns home for his dinner with his wife and kids?

Are the sources on the ground, both the inhabitants and military, reliable? Might the fingering of a target be a revenge action, a settling of a clan dispute, a means to take over the neighbours property?

No one is responsible for the death of civilians. The killing inherent in war becomes too riskless and too easy. Both moral and practical barriers disappear, increasing the likelihood that the use of these instruments of destruction will increase, increasing in turn the likelihood that the recipients of these death delivering missiles will further resistance efforts and plans for revenge.

Winning hearts and minds has never been farther away. Blowback becomes an ever more operative concept. And we wonder why ‘they’ hate us. No, they wonder why we hate them.

How many of us would appreciate being participants in someone else’s video game and losing our parents and children to yet another guy sitting in the home country of the occupiers of our country?

Drones are morally and practically reprehensible.
Stop using drones. You want to fight, go out and do it in person.

Targeted Assassinations

Pratap Chatterjee has an informative
article on Tomdispatch.com and an illuminating interview on Letters to Washington, at around the 21 minute mark, on KPFA radio.

“The 9/11 killers were mass assassins who gave up their own lives to murder thousands. It’s now clear that, in response, the U.S. went into the global assassination business”

Task 373, a capture/kill team, (Chatterjee delves into the history of this team made up of Navy Seals, army Rangers assigned to hunt supposed terrorists and either capture them or kill them. There is secret hit list called the “Joint Prioritized Effects List” (JPEL) of 2,058 people which form the targets for these capture/kill teams (according to data from the Wikileaks document dump.

Capture/kill activities would seem to diverge from the notion that one is innocent until proven guilty. Targeted assassination of who exactly? Who has judged the victims to be guilty? No courts are involved here, just a continuation of the wild west violence initiated in the so-called war on terror.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal who won praise for his counter-insurgency strategy in ‘Afghanistan and his order to stay away from calling in artillery or air strikes which might injure civilians, nevertheless

“General Stanley McChrystal, emerged from a world of counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency. He made his reputation in the shadows as a “manhunter,” overseeing the Pentagon’s super-secret Joint Special Operations Command which, among other things, ran what journalist Seymour Hersh has described as an “executive assassination wing” out of Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.”

Targeted assassinations and counter-terror activities are in direct conflict with the winning of hearts and minds proclaimed in the counter-insurgency strategy. The wild west, the U.S. is outside the reach of the laws of civilized nations is winning the battle of the hearts and minds in the U.S. military.

A stumbling decaying former international power, unable to provide decent schools or health care to its citizens, let alone municipal services after being looted by the economic elite (the financial crisis is the reason that states and municipalities have no money, right?), nonetheless attempts to spread its military power to all corners of the world, thus bankrupting itself.

When will this demented manner of thinking and acting cease? It does not seem that Obama will be a change agent in matters military. And if not him, then probably no other single person will put an end to the reign of destruction and killing which the U.S. employs across the globe.

The end will no doubt arrive after further economic deterioration resulting in an inability to fund the military. Such a pity when the U.S. has the potential to affect positive life affirming changes for itself and as a model for others. That vision seems destined to remain just that, a vision.