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JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: AMERICA HAS JUST LOST TWO MORE WARS   Leave a comment

AMERICA HAS JUST LOST TWO MORE WARS

John Chuckman

For a country which takes excessive pride in flags, uniforms, and marching bands and spends more than the rest of the planet combined on its military, the record of America’s forces since World War II is depressing. In dozens of quickie invasions against weak opponents, Americans indeed have prevailed, but when faced with tough and determined enemies, they have remarkably often been defeated or stalemated.

The failure of America’s military could be explained by the notion that failure is only what happens when you seek the wrong success. A poorly-governed people, as Americans certainly are, keeps being sent to wars in which they have no vital interest or commitment. Whatever the reason, the record is unmistakable.

It includes Korea after MacArthur’s insane march to the Chinese border.

It includes Vietnam, where, despite the slaughter of millions, the US left in shame, abandoning desperate associates clinging to helicopter undercarriages.

It includes America’s smaller-scale but long and vicious war on Cuba. The US was embarrassed by failure time and again, shamefully resorted to the terror tactics it now claims to despise, and wasted immense resources supporting thousands of hangers-on. Fidel Castro outlived two generations of American presidents and over six hundred assassination plots.

The record of failures includes the American military’s confusing its humanitarian-assistance role in Somalia with Gary Cooper facing down the bad guys in High Noon, an error which gave it an ugly surprise and saw America turn and go home.

The record includes Reagan’s poorly-considered landing of Marines in Lebanon. A base blown up by resisting guerrilla forces, the Marines left with a battleship hurling sixteen-inch shells into the hills, killing who knows how many innocent civilians and having achieved nothing.

Of course, in battles or war generally, victory is not always easy to determine. There were many battles in history where victory was claimed or loss assumed in error.

Higher casualties don’t always mean losing a battle or even a war. The sacrifice of great numbers sometimes improves a strategic or tactical position, as General Grant in America’s Civil War well understood. Vietnam’s General Giap understood this also, for despite a horrific slaughter of his people, America suffered defeat.

It was an early sign of the coming defeat when body counts began to dominate American news. It is easy to kill large numbers of people, especially when you have complete air superiority and high-tech weapons, but constant killing may mean little progress against a serious opponent. Often, as in the Blitz, bombing people is completely counter-productive.

In recent weeks, body counts re-appeared in Afghanistan, much the same way opium poppies re-appeared after America’s claim to victory over the Taleban (who had suppressed opium). The bodies are supposed to be Taleban, but who can tell whether a dead villager is Taleban?

Even when the body is Taleban, how do we regard that as a victory? The Taleban is a loosely-knit organization, a kind of political party and anti-invader guerilla force, bound to conservative traditions in a hardscrabble land of tough mountain people. Death does not intimidate where people typically live to forty-seven.

Except in the bizarre mind of George Bush, the Taleban is not a terrorist organization,. So when one of them is killed, does it really represent a victory? Or is it viewed by many in Afghanistan as murder by unwelcome foreigners? Clearly, this is the view of many because the Taleban is becoming stronger, surprisingly so according to expert observers.

The recent refusal of NATO countries to commit more troops and resources to Afghanistan was telling. Pressure from the US must have been immense, but the response was virtual silence. Of course, most NATO countries are simply looking after their own best interests. Many of them understand terrorism far better than does the US, having lived with it for decades, and none of them are exhibiting death-wishes or dementia.

They know Al Qaeda has been scattered to the four winds – anything but an achievement from a security point of view – and they see little point in trying to occupy Afghanistan for years. They understand the impossibility of significantly changing so ancient and poor a land. They are not taken in by American Potemkin village projects for bettering life there, after having bombed the hell out of the place. NATO countries in general do not accept Bush’s tale about everyone’s security depending upon success in Afghanistan for the very good reason that it is false.

On the other hand, those supporting the US in Afghanistan are following Bush’s interests, whatever those are, for I’m not sure Bush ever has had a clear grasp of what he is doing himself.

The other lost war is, of course, Iraq. American efforts there have done little but kill civilians and destroy the economy and now threaten to destroy the country itself. Even in Washington, the reality of civil war is dawning. America’s real goals in the war are not going to be achieved, the major one of which was to establish a regime friendly to American policy, especially as that policy pertains to Israel. Instead, years of bloody chaos lie ahead. The outcome, who knows? Three separate warring rump states, each willing to do almost anything to gain an advantage, including taking assistance from those most hostile to American policy?

But the American loss in Iraq is far greater than this. The illegal and unjustified invasion has muddied America’s reputation, aroused suspicions of its intentions, and put new geopolitical forces into play only dimly perceived at this time.

When are we going to learn how stupidly unproductive war is? And when is the US going to learn how bad it is at war despite its monstrous expenditures preparing for it?

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: SOMETHING MONSTROUS THIS WAY COMES   Leave a comment

SOMETHING MONSTROUS THIS WAY COMES

John Chuckman

I won’t listen to, or read, the news of the war. The only news I want to hear is that the murder is over.

Murder? Yes, that word is carefully chosen.

I can easily imagine how the expression “shock and awe” was born. Remember, in America, marketing comes before anything. Everything from breast-cancer treatment to Jesus is loudly marketed in this bizarre society. That’s not even a slight exaggeration, although if you haven’t lived there, you’ll have to take my word for it. They are busy marketing terror, insecurity, and xenophobia right now, and that makes your chances of visiting to research questions of this kind not very good.

If you’re a full-blooded American, marketing murder, even mass murder, is just like marketing anything else. You can’t be squeamish about it. You need a good turn of phrase or slogan, an eye-catching logo, and perhaps some stirring theme music. You need what will convince jaded consumers that something new and exciting is about to appear on their television screens. The need is greater than ever now that entertainment and information have been fully merged on American broadcasting – broadcasting, by the way, owned by a remarkably small number of people, all of whom just happen to share the same interest in keeping the Pentagon’s furnaces stoked with four-hundred billion dollars a year.

I imagine platoons of Pentagon consultants, each earning hundreds of dollars an hour, coming and going for months before the war with their expensive laptops in designer leather cases, making presentations of their marketing proposals, each hoping to land the big contract. Then one day someone stunned the crowd with a super presentation of just the right concept, “shock and awe,” with plenty of special effects guaranteed to play well on television.

It can’t be that none of the creased-pants innocents in the Pentagon ever heard of the Western Front in the First World War where truly horrifying bombardments, with guns that could shatter your eardrums if you were too close, sometimes went on for days before the troops jumped the tops of their trenches and charged the barbed wire of the other side across fields raked with heavy machine guns and cratered by shell holes where mustard gas lingered like a poison fog ready to blind and burn out the lungs of anyone unfortunate enough to stumble in.

Of course, these bombardments were aimed at soldiers, not at a city like Baghdad, but perhaps I quibble.

Americans don’t fight that way anymore. Actually, since Vietnam – where they were sent running even after they managed to napalm a good portion of the nation’s villages – Americans don’t fight at all. There have been attempts to re-institute the practice here and there, as in Mogadishu, but the results weren’t happy – a few dead soldiers and America turned and ran. Of course, it didn’t have to be that way if they hadn’t muddled a humanitarian mission with the urge to mow down every local who looked at them the wrong way. Maybe they just hadn’t done enough focus groups and marketing surveys before that sour-smelling little mission.

Now, America simply commits mass murder with computer-controlled weapons from a safe distance and calls it fighting. When the explosions and screaming stop and the brave American lads set out on their mission of occupation from air-conditioned quarters (they don’t do trenches anymore) in their air-conditioned armored cars, dressed in bullet-proof kevlar suits and equipped with sun-tan lotion and freeze-dried linguini, there isn’t a lot for them to do but avoid slipping and falling in the human gore splattered everywhere by missiles and high-tech bombs. They also must remember to don their bubble-boy suits and respirators in areas saturated with tons of vaporized depleted uranium.

There’s very little risk to the “boyz” – all of whom, regardless of steroid-induced, bovine bulk and savage-looking buzzed-off hair, are affectionately regarded as awkward, young Ricky Nelsons (at least, before his cocaine phase), who always say things like “sir” and “aw, heck.”

I’ve written before about the approaching age of American high-tech Puritanism, but I didn’t expect it to be upon us so completely quite so quickly, reminding one of the sudden onset of a new ice age. America is able to destroy anyone or anyplace it finds displeasing or just suspicious – this is Sharon’s Israel occupying Palestine on a global scale.

No consultations with others are needed, or if Americans do briefly consult, it will be a marketing ploy taken in full confidence they are free to ignore everyone and push them aside, even when this happens to include, as it does in the case of Iraq, most of the world’s people.

In hopes of gaining some outward show of respectability, this time America conducted a very unpleasant behind-the-scenes campaign of threats and bribery. Again, that is not an exaggeration, that is how they obtained that pathetic list of thirty countries not one in ten Americans has ever heard of, but, even then, most of these places are not joined in the killing, just signaling support in some diffuse way as a response to pressure from the world’s economic pituitary giant.

When you really think about it, who else could join in the killing? Who else is equipped for long-distance computerized murder? But America always looks to others to occupy and police, relieving the “boyz” even of these tasks.

You might think that if there had been any true case for war, it would be obvious to more of the world’s leaders. Why would you need all the browbeating and threats? But the case was not obvious, because some very bright people in the UN Security Council, all in fact friends of the United States, thrashed it out and could not agree. Mostly, all they wanted was time and patience for inspections. But Mr. Bush, gifted intellect and learned scholar that he is, knew better than all of them, and besides, in the Texas he comes from, all that matters is that you have the biggest fists or are first out with your gun.

Maybe next time, America will feel it can dispense with respectability. It really got very little for its effort. That’s what America’s frighteningly rat-like neocons are telling us with their talk about a damaged UN and Atlantic Alliance. They just neglect to mention that it is the U.S. that did the damage.

We all know what Lord Acton said about power and absolute power. His words remain perhaps truer than anything ever uttered about human behavior, and they should serve as a warning, but I fear they provide only consolation. Just imagine a world where it has become possible to slaughter any number of people, virtually with impunity – a world where that kind of power is in the hands of a relatively small group of narrow, earnest, self-satisfied people possessing virtually limitless material resources and believing themselves somehow guided by God as no one else on the planet is privileged to be.

It’s a dismaying picture of the future, but if you are watching or listening to the news about Iraq from the Pentagon’s just-built, custom-designed, super-deluxe, press-conference studio, you’re getting a first hard look at that very future.