Happy 4th of July! And a Global War on Something

sunset july 2014 061
Author’s photo.

W.J. Astore

I live in a fairly posh area of America.  A place where people have vacation “cottages” with pools, a “destination” place for some, especially in July and August.  July 4th is hopping in these parts, with parties and parades and fireworks and trips to the beach and barbecues.  It’s summer, it’s warm and sunny, it’s time to relax with family and friends and enjoy life.

And then I read headlines like this today (from FP: Foreign Policy): “U.S. Troops in the Thick of it in Mosul and Raqqa.”  And this story about U.S. Marines deploying yet again to Helmand Province in Afghanistan:

Helmand. The commander of 300 Marines newly deployed to Helmand province recently told FP’s Paul McLeary he already has the full authority to get his troops out and about with Afghan troops in the fight. “So far we really haven’t seen much of a need to do it,” said U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Roger Turner, “but if there’s a need to be somewhere we have the authority and capability and capacity to be where we need to be.” 

He also advocated for a larger American footprint, in keeping with reported Pentagon plans to add 3,000 to 5,000 more troops in the coming months. “With a little bit larger force over here we would be in a position to have more flexibility” to do some of the advising he believes would help the Afghan forces push back against two years of Taliban offensives. 

And I think of that “Groundhog Day” movie with Bill Murray in which he repeats the same day, again and again, with only minor changes.  If you’ve seen the movie, Murray finally breaks out of what appears to be an infinite loop only when he changes his ways, his approach to life, his mentality.  He becomes a better person and even gets the girl.

When is the USA going to break out of its infinite loop of war?  Only when we change our culture, our mentality.

A “war on terror” is a forever war, an infinite loop, in which the same place names and similar actions crop up again and again.  Names like Mosul and Helmand province. Actions like reprisals and war crimes and the deaths of innocents, because that is the face of war.

Speaking of war crimes, another report today from FP: Foreign Policy:

[A] new Human Rights Watch report signals trouble ahead: witnesses in Mosul say that “Iraqi forces beat unarmed men and boys fleeing the fighting within the last seven days, and said they also obtained information about Iraqi forces executing unarmed men during this time period.”

When will it end?  Freedom includes freedom from forever war.  Yet Americans continue to be told that the price of freedom is having U.S. troops deployed everywhere — the projection of power in 100+ countries.  And some consider it patriotic to support those commitments without question, since to question it is seen as not supporting the troops. Which is nonsense, since our troops fight, at least in theory, to support and defend the U.S. Constitution, which, among other rights, enshrines freedom of speech and the right to dissent.

Can we contemplate a future Fourth of July in which American troops are no longer stuck in an infinite loop, fighting yet again in the blasted streets of Mosul or on the dusty plains of Helmand province?  A day of independence from war?

That would truly be a day to celebrate with parades, parties, and fireworks.

12 thoughts on “Happy 4th of July! And a Global War on Something

  1. Succinctly stated, with the next-to-last paragraph’s questions key to our future quality of life. But with all the powerful interests invested in the perpetuation of forever war-making, what are the chances of an about face?

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    1. Right now, I’d say slim. Slimmer than ever, perhaps, with military men in command, with Trump in over his head, with Congress muzzling itself, and with society thoroughly inculcated with an increasingly militarized form of patriotism.

      So many people simply see no problem with how our society has changed, especially in the aftermath of 9/11. Incessant fear and repetitive warfare is the new par for the course.

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  2. Leaving America’s debilitating, permanent Groundhog Wars aside for the moment, something to think about on the 4th of July [emphasis added]:

    IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
    The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

    When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

    As the village sheriff said in the movie Young Frankenstein: “A riot is an ugly thing. And I think it is about time that we had one.” In other words, the time has come for Vietnam-era teach-ins should begin across the country on the subject of a new Constitutional Convention. The present Constitution no longer works for the great majority of the people and those who have taken oaths to defend it spend most of their lives defiling it for institutional and personal advantage. Time to think of how much better we might do this “governing” thing.

    Just a few thoughts on the Fourth of July.

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    1. Defend, not defile, is well put. But it seems the objective of far too many people is wealth transfer, as in from the poor to the rich. As Bernie Sanders put it:

      “Meanwhile, at the exact same time and within the exact same legislation as Trump makes massive cuts to life-and-death programs for millions and millions of children, working people, the elderly, the sick and the poor—at the same exact time, he proposes a budget that, over a 10-year period, would provide $3 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent. Trump’s budget is the most massive transfer of wealth from working people to the billionaire class that we have ever seen in this country. If you can believe it, he wants to repeal the estate tax, which applies only to the top two-tenths of 1 percent. And that means that while children will go hungry, people will die because they don’t have access to healthcare, the Walton family, a family worth $130 billion, could get up to a $52 billion tax break. What kind of morality is that, when you take from the most vulnerable people in this country to give to the very, very richest? And, Mr. Trump, we say to you tonight, you are not going to get away with that absurd set of priorities.”

      Sadly, Trump and his fellow travelers (many high-level Democrats) probably will get away with the absurd. Hence the need for a new American revolution …

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      1. Happy 4th of July to you all also, but where’s Sanders -who I voted for – with saying nothing about 3.9Billion$ in aid to Israel each year?
        Obamacare/Trumpcare are a joke compared to Israeli care in health. All compliments of US taxpayers – some broke because of the above.

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  3. Interesting article from the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/04/us-still-has-no-path-to-peace-in-afghanistan-bipartisan-senators-say
    >>>
    In Kabul, the Republican senator John McCain excoriated 15 years of US efforts in Afghanistan, which, he said, pursued a goal amounting to “don’t lose”, rather than winning.

    “The strongest nation on Earth should be able to win this conflict,” McCain said. “And we are frustrated that this strategy hadn’t been articulated yet, to be honest with you.” (Side bar, it has taken the McCainic this long to come to this conclusion. If only we could articulate.)

    When asked what winning in Afghanistan would look like, McCain stopped short of demanding a military defeat of the Taliban, settling for “an advantage on the battlefield”.

    Graham said American soldiers were in Afghanistan to protect the US.
    “Leaving radical Islam alone will not make us safe at home,” he said. “I want every American to know that we will win this thing because the Afghan people do not want to go back to the darkness. They want to pursue the light.”
    ==================================================================
    WOW, change a few place names and substitute VC for Taliban and it sounds like Vietnam. Graham even talks about the “light”. You remember the light at the end of tunnel. Bipartisan means we get screwed by both parties. As usual the Senators have no plan, just blabber and blame someone else.

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  4. WOW & blabber indeed! Wonder whether this bunch of lawmakers arrived unannounced in the middle of the night via Bagram air base as such VIPs tend to do, as they are too bloody scared to publicly announce their ‘state visit’. One is informed about it only after they already left the country, while locals usually smell a rat as roadblocks and low-circling helicopters suddendly intensify.
    And with all due respect for Ms Warren in other matters, she supposedly came to get “the view on the ground about what is happening” in Afghanistan. She must be kidding.
    One or two days in the heavily fortified US embassy compound, to which they presumably were flown by helicopter from Bagram, meeting a few cherry-picked (by the US embassy) Afghan officials who will say whatever keeps the embassy happy and suits their personal careers, to supply anything even vaguely resembling ‘a view on the ground’? They might as well have stayed in DC and met their generals there. They won’t even have inhaled the local dust or other ‘couleur locale’, as their comfortable quarters will have had airco and all the food will have been flown in from the US.

    I don’t suppose Ms Warren asked while there, why six Afghan teenage girls who were to attend a global robotics contest in DC were refused one week visa? Visa for which they had to apply in person in Kabul, while they live in Herat. That means flying to Kabul (road travel too dangerous since at least 10 years), paying for the visa application and paying for the consular interview(s), none of which is refunded if the visa is refused. All six of them went through that ordeal twice, to no avail. Kids from some 150 countries will be there, except these girls.
    Great way to ‘improve the situation of those poor oppressed women in Afghanistan’ …

    But why do I get worked up about this? After all those senators went there – as said Ms Warren – to (miraculously in two days?) generate a direly needed “strategy in the United States that defines our role in Afghanistan, defines OUR objective and explains how WE can get from here to there” [capitals are mine], not to find out what Afghanistan wants or expects from the US and the rest of the world – let alone what it really needs. And to think that that is a relatively insightful & progressive view from a probably genuinely well-meaning person. The Taliban will never seriously negotiate, as long as foreign armies occupy the country and the Afghan army is used as cannon fodder to carry out the dirty work, which turns it into a collaborator-with-the-enemy and target of terrorist attacks. By now no one even knows anymore who exactly’the Taliban’ are, which of them still have reliable influence on the ground, with whom to effectively negotiate. And no talk anymore of the narcotics trade as a major element of the quagmire? Poor Afghanistan, eternally at the receiving end of mindless lack of basic understanding or even simple common sense, with dramatic consequences.

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    1. I just forwarded your excellent comment to Senator Warren’s office. She is my senator, and she (or at least a staffer) needs to see it. Thanks.

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