Wars, Secrecy, and Lies

W.J. Astore

You know an American war is going poorly when the lies come swiftly, as with the Afghan War, or when it’s hidden under a cloak of secrecy, which is also increasingly true of the Afghan War.

This is nothing new, of course.  Perhaps the best book I read in 2019 is H. Bruce Franklin’s Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War.  Franklin, who served in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s before becoming an English professor, cultural historian, and an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, is devastating in his critique of the military-industrial complex in this memoir.  I recommend it highly to all Americans who want to wrestle with tough truths.

Let’s consider one example: Franklin’s dismissal of the “stab-in-the-back” myth (or Rambo myth) that came out of the Vietnam War.  This was the idea the U.S. military could have won in Vietnam, and was indeed close to winning, only to be betrayed by weak-kneed politicians and the anti-war movement.

Franklin demolishes this argument in a paragraph that is worth reading again and again:

One widespread cultural fantasy about the Vietnam War blames the antiwar movement for forcing the military to “fight with one arm tied behind its back.”  But this belief stands reality on its head.  The American people, disgusted and angry about the Korean War, were in no mood to support a war in Vietnam.  Staunch domestic opposition kept Washington from going in overtly.  So it went covertly.  It thereby committed itself to a policy based on deception, sneaking around, and hiding its actions from the American people.  The U.S. government thus created the internal nemesis of its own war: the antiwar movement.  That movement was inspired and empowered not just by our outrage against the war [but] also by the lies about the war, lies necessitated by the war, coming from our government and propagated by the media.  Although it was the Vietnamese who defeated the United States, ultimately it was the antiwar movement, especially within the armed forces, that finally in 1973 forced Washington to accept, at long last, the terms of the 1954 Geneva Accords, and to sign a peace treaty that included, word for word, every major demand made by the National Liberation Front (the so-called Viet Cong) back in 1969…

The truth was that for three decades our nation had sponsored and then waged a genocidal war against a people and a nation that had never done anything to us except ask for our friendship and support [during and after World War II].

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This is well and strongly put.  The American people had no interest in intervening in Vietnam in the 1950s; the Korean debacle had been enough.  But the U.S. government intervened anyway, lying about its involvement until it could no longer lie.  Then a bigger lie was concocted, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, to justify a larger commitment of troops in the mid-1960s, which led to near-genocidal destruction in Vietnam.

Wars built on lies are rarely won, especially in a democracy.  But even as they are lost (Vietnam in the 1960s, and now Afghanistan), there are always “winners.”  Weapons contractors and other war profiteers.  The Pentagon, which from war gains more money and more power.  And authoritarian elements within society itself, which are reinforced by war.

If we wish to take our democracy back, a powerful first step is to end all American wars overseas.  This would not be isolationism; this would be sanity.

Wars, secrecy, and lies are three big enemies of democracy. Maybe the big three. War suppresses thought and supports authoritarianism. Secrecy prevents accountability. Lies mislead the people. And that’s what we have today. Constant warfare. Secrecy, e.g. reports on “progress” in the Afghan War are now classified and no longer shared. Lies are rampant; indeed, lies are policy. Just look at the Afghan Papers.

Yet wars, secrecy, and lies have been incredibly successful. The Pentagon budget is booming! Weapons sales are exploding! No one is being held accountable for failures or war crimes. Indeed, convicted war criminals are absolved and touted as heroes by the president.

The solution is as obvious as it will be painful. We need peace, transparency, and truth. End the wars, declassify all those “secrets” we the people should know about our military and wars, and reward truth-tellers instead of punishing them.

27 thoughts on “Wars, Secrecy, and Lies

  1. I don’t think Mr. Franklin has described the situation accurately. The pro-war atmosphere re: Vietnam was set up by the lies spread by Dr. Tom Dooley about “atrocities” committed by northern elements against Vietnamese who’d been converted to Catholicism under the French occupation. (See Christian Appy’s “American Reckoning.”) National Geographic magazine was a big cheerleader for US intervention to “stop the spreading Red Menace.” There was nothing “covert” about boosting the US personnel headcount to about 600,000 (I’m including Navy units in the immediate area, support personnel in Thailand, etc.) at the peak around 1969/70. The active anti-war movement in the US was always a pretty small minority of the populace. In the beginning, virtually no one questioned the need to “stop another domino from falling.” Korea would have been on very few minds (those of us presented the burden of fighting this war were babies during Korean affair), and to this day I don’t think academics on the whole have remarked on the similarities with Vietnam, i.e. they were both anti-communist crusade WARS OF CHOICE.

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    1. You evidently have not read “Crash Course,” which demonstrates beyond argument that Washington made its commitment to divide and invade Korea and to finance, arm, and transport the French invasion of Vietnam within ten days of V-J Day (August 14, 1945). Actually, I think you would like the book and learn a lot from it. Of course, that’s a prejudiced opinion.

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      1. Indeed, I have not read “Crash Course.” But thanks for reinforcing my main point that the US has engaged only in wars of choice, not necessity, since the end of WW II. * The doctrine of “American Exceptionalism,” embraced by every POTUS of recent vintage, regardless of party affiliation, is simply INSANE and INANE.

        * This statement is made from viewpoint of a hypothetical neutral, objective observer. If you’re in charge of running the machinery of global exploitation, of course, you are intolerant of the notion of “little countries” being independent. Of all the nerve, huh?!?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. But you make his points for him: 1) domino theory a lie, 2) ‘Red Menace’ a lie. A few other choice ones: 3) ‘spread of Chinese communism’, when the Vietnamese had been fighting China for 2000 years, and were back it only 4 years after the fall of Saigon; 4) ‘must save democracy in So. Vietnam’ when there was neither a So. Vietnam nor democracy; 5) ‘must keep our treaty obligations’, pure circular logic; 6) ‘peace with honor’ Really? US casualties had only reached the halfway mark when Nixon was elected.

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  2. Secrets mostly protect incompetence and stupidity. Of course there are secrets which preserve some sort of operational advantage or technical advantage but that is usually temporary. The “enemy” is seldom as stupid as the people who rely on secrecy to have a free hand at being cowboys, and getting their own people killed.

    My example comes out of my own squadron’s operations a year before I entered the Air Force and a year and a half before I was assigned to the squadron. This was geodetic’s part of the job for LS-85, a Combat Skyspot operation (the very name was a secret for years, now it is on Wiki).

    Two URL’s, on wikipedia, of all things, after being so secret.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lima_Site_85
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Lima_Site_85

    Here is a quote (copy and pasted) from the top of the first URL:
    “Lima Site 85 (LS-85 alphanumeric code of the phonetic 1st letter used to conceal this covert operation[3]) was a clandestine, military installation in the Royal Kingdom of Laos guarded by the Hmong “Secret Army”, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the United States Air Force used for Vietnam War covert operations against communist targets in ostensibly neutral Laos under attack by the Vietnam People’s Army. Initially created for a CIA command post to support a local stronghold, the site was expanded with a 1966 TACAN area excavated on the mountaintop where a 1967 command guidance radar was added for Commando Club bombing of northern areas of North Vietnam. The site ended operations with the Battle of Lima Site 85 when most of the U.S. technicians on the mountaintop were killed, including CMSgt Richard Etchberger. For his heroism and sacrifice, Etchberger received the Air Force Cross posthumously. The operation remained classified, however, and the existence of the award was not publicly acknowledged until 1998. After the declassification of LS 85 and a reevaluation of his actions, Etchberger was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010.”

    The site was started in November 1967, exactly on year before I joined. It was over when the NVA wiped out LS-85 March 11th 1968, killing almost everyone who was there.

    My tech training was from the Army in geodetics (Army, as topographics). Most of my 19 Air Force class members would be assigned to Skyspot operations. I was assigned as a computer to the 1st geodetic and initially worked on Skyspot calculations establishing positions (latitude, longitude, elevation and related azimuths and often gravimetric measurements, essentially mathematical gunsights). I would later crosstrain as a surveyor where I was always in the field.

    Some of the people I worked with had been on that original mission in November 1967. They were there in civvies, with fake civilian ID’s because any military mission was not allowed within Laos. That means they were “not there,” where they were.

    But worse, LS-85 was way in northeast Laos in an area which pushed into North Vietnam, on a ridge. Essentially putting a radar targeting operation, there for the purpose of bombing NV on the “front porch” (so to speak) of North Vietnam. Kind of like putting a machine gun nest on the neighbor’s front porch and committing everyone else to secrecy to make sure the neighbor won’t figure it out.

    In other words, a truly stupid location in violation of diplomatic relations with Laos and assuming they had enough protection from the Hmong (NVA contacts there blew the op immediately). Had they followed the rules, had they been open, someone with sense might have stopped it or at least better fortified them from the start. Just arrogant.

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    1. Interesting tale of the covert ops in Laos. I had a friend on the sister ship of USS Pueblo, engaged in same espionage off “north” Korea. Part of the cover story for the ships’ mission entailed “gravimetric” and oceanographic studies, as I recall. I guess if you use alotta polysyllabic tech terms, no one will possibly guess you’re engaged in good old-fashioned spying! “Military Intelligence” remains an oxymoron, for my money.

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      1. I once got myself banned from the website of a retired U.S. Army colonel for quoting my mother to the effect that “Military intelligence is to intelligence as military music is to music.” He claimed that I had mocked him [ostensibly because of his prior military specialization]. I felt like asking him what he considered so offensive about military music, but thought better of it, since I doubt if he would have gotten the joke.

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        1. “Military Justice is to Justice As Military Music is to Music” was title of a book back in Vietnam days that I never bothered to read, having become something of an authority myself thru personal experience. Personally, I don’t hold all “military music” in disdain! When played properly, “The Marseillaise” is, to my sensibility, pretty darned martial and perhaps the most stirring of national anthems. Happy New Year!

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    2. I recall reading Chomsky stating that US government secrecy is more often used to hide information from US citizens as opposed to surprising the victims of the secrecy, because the victims unfortunately experience it…. ie; the Cambodian people under the bombs weren’t ‘in the dark’ about the ’secret’ bombing of Cambodia, it was just the US populace and its propagandaized allies who didn’t know about it for a long time.

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  3. For Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning: two victims of the despicable US and UK corporate “governments” who simply cannot tolerate truth-telling of any sort whatsoever, especially concerning Imperial Military Thuggery in service to a cabal of Global Corporate Oligarchs who acknowledge no allegiance to any quaint concept such as “the nation state.”

    Epistle to the Expendables

    To whom it may conform,

    Our algorithms tell us that you’ve sent
    Unorthodox transmissions of some thoughts
    Without seeking approval. Where they went
    And who received these innovative plots,
    We know. And now we claim: “The rules you’ve bent.”
    You thought that we could not connect the dots?

    Our facial-recognition software sees
    And our voice-recognition software hears
    Each look and tone of voice. Our apps now freeze
    Into a profile all your hopes and fears.
    Your DNA and fingerprints we seize.
    We know you and advise that you change gears.

    “Big Br’er Be Watchin’,” Barack told you plain,
    You dupes and tools; you clueless proles and clones.
    His Tuesday morning Kill List marks his reign
    As Murderer-in-Chief. His goons and drones
    Care not one bit for all the grief and pain
    That they dispense within his free-fire zones.

    Now Congress grants The Donald, with all speed,
    Vast powers to invade your private life,
    Bestowing on him all that he will need
    To blackmail you, your husband, or your wife.
    Who now will spare you from the dirty deed?
    No one. No courts. No laws. You’ll simply bleed.

    So thank you for the little you have left.
    You’ll soon lose that as well, just so you know.
    Accept your status, you of little heft.
    You’re nothing. Face it. Shut up and eat crow.
    You’ve no recourse against the thieving deft.
    You lose. We win. You’ve nowhere else to go.

    With all the sincerest cynicism in the world,

    Your Selected Corporate Management

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2018

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  4. This US-government lying shit has gone on forever, it seems. Or, at least for most, if not all, of my insignificant little 72 years of life on this planet. So, something on the subject of Manufactured Mendacity and Managed Mystification — from going-on-fourteen years ago beginning tomorrow. How time flies …

    Lies, Damned Eyes, and Statistics

    I cannot speak your name for I despise
    Those noises that a caring mind decries

    You’ve told as many contradicted lies
    As any tiny man of greater size

    Your Congressmen begrudge the French their fries
    And think a cheap word truth and honor buys

    They dine like fatted porkers in their sties
    With “freedom” grease upon their shirts and ties

    They stain their fingers purple to reprise
    The vote in lands your army occupies

    About the world you’d rather fantasize
    Than entertain a fact when it replies

    You try to talk just like the other guys
    And pose with flags and moms and apple pies

    Yet through transparent glass the truth descries
    The tawdry, tacky trade your crony plies

    To nurse your pride the Pentagon supplies
    Another squad of young and brave GIs

    So once again today a soldier dies
    The blood that soaks his clothes congeals and dries

    Above his fallen form his spirit flies
    At home his mother sits alone and cries

    Amid the rubble piles of bodies rise
    Yet still your moving mouth the truth denies

    So this I say to you, sir: Damn Your Eyes!

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006

    Liked by 2 people

  5. So Hot Damn, Iraqi’s have stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad. From the little I have found the protestors penetrated the “Green Zone” as Iraqi guards looked the other way. US President Donald Trump and other US officials have blamed Iran for attacks on US forces and the embassy.

    “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat,” Trump wrote on Twitter. Saddle up you Warriors, hell fire is on the way.

    The US Corporate Mega-Media FOX, CNN and MSDNC, have not yet received their talking points on the incident. CNN and MSDNC must be conflicted, they have as in the “Warrior Code of Broadcasting” a must support retaliation clause. The conflict CNN and MSDNC will have, will be supporting President Agent Orange if and when he orders some military action. Some how, some way President Agent Orange will need to be blamed for the incident by a team of “experts” brought in by CNN and MSDNC.

    We know through at least from secondary observation, the situation in Iraq cannot be safe, as Wolf Blitzkrieg, Anderson Cooper, Tucker Carlson or Chris Matthews have not been dispatched to cover the incident on the ground in Baghdad.

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      1. According to a report on CNN, I think it was, the taxpayers are also footing the bill for Trump to pretend he can golf 20% of the time he’s been in office thus far. Boy, we’re really getting our money’s worth, huh?!?

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    1. Good post ML, and Happy New Year! Though it may be a happier ‘New Year’ for the destroyed ME causing so much misery: The “Green Zone” has been violated. This wasn’t supposed to happen, according to the idiots I fought against in err, “Desert Storm”. They’ll be back of course: Doesn’t matter if it’s ‘Hezbollah’ or fellow Iraqis – the game’s over. US, UK, lost big time, France, Germany, under better management lost too: They changed their minds for the worse.
      Now they’re all stuck in a sewer they themselves created. Economies dying, stuck with HUGE expenses for wars that should never have happened.
      I’ve traveled to Lebanon, supposedly the birth of Hezbollah. Formed in 1982, they had nothing to do with US Marines murdered, but a lot to do with Israeli invasion of their country. Since then, they threw out Israel twice – not an easy task. I’m not a “Freedom Fighter”, but as anyone thought: Maybe their successful tactics can easily be copied. It’s happening! But they’re cheap, compared to MIC.
      Gandi: “First they laugh at you, then they avoid you, then you win”. America’s problem in Iraq today.

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      1. I was immediately reminded of the penetration of the US Embassy in Saigon during Tet 1968! Frankly, I’m surprised US personnel have (apparently, at least) not employed lethal force against the demonstrators. Latest report (afternoon of Jan. 1, Eastern US Time) is demonstrators are dispersing.

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      2. Gandhi on the four stages of revolutionary change: “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” — just a note of clarification on the quote.

        The Imperial American attitude and practice in regard to any conceivable agent of progressive reform makes a mockery of Gandhi’s dictum: “First they ignore you. Then they smear you as a ‘Russian asset.’ Then they have you imprisoned on trumped-up charges. Then they ignore you (while overthrowing the government of some third world country that has Oil or other exploitable natural resources.”

        As the sadistic warden of the infamous Chateau D’If said to Edmond Dantes on his arrival at the hellish facility: “Of course you are innocent. Why else would you be here? If you were truly guilty, there are a hundred prisons in France where they would lock you away. Chateau D’If is where they put the ones they’re ashamed of.” (Like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, et al)

        Meanwhile, Wikileaks comes through again with a document dump detailing the official lies about alleged “gas” attacks by the Syrian Government that never happened but which the US, UK, and France swore gave them the “authority” to bomb Syria anyway, despite the proximity of Russian military forces in-country. See: Wikileaks releases OPCW e-mail exchange exposing Syria false flag cover-up (Video), The Duran Quick Take: Episode 418 (December 30, 2019). An important conversation. My transcript follows:

        [begin transcript]

        [10:20] Alexander Mercouris: “… So, we have a situation where the inspection team is saying one thing and the officials at the OPCW headquarters in Vienna are publishing completely contrary findings, contary to those that the inspectors provided and that the officials, apparently, are trying to suppress: the information that was coming from the inspectors. So I’m afraid [we have] a manipulation, or total distortion of the actual findings and a cover-up — there is no other word for it — to conceal the fact. A cover-up that goes to the extent of destroying the information from the inspectors which contradicts the official story. It can’t ge more serious than this. One wonders what we are going to discover, but already it seems to me, it looks like we are seeing an organization in deep crisis.”

        [11:22] Alex Christoforou: “You took the words right out of my mouth. This is the definition of a cover-up. Remove this information from the documents so the picture presented to the people, to the world, to be pushed out by the mainstream media was to go to war in Syria. To attack Syria because Assad, once again [allegedly] “gassed his own people.” That was the narrative they were trying to push and the OPCW tried to push us to all-out war. You cannot describe it any other way.”

        [11:43] Alex Christoforou: You have, once again, Wikileaks doing great work. Assange is rotting in prison in the UK right now. But Wikileaks once again shows us the truth. The OPCW was also involved in the Skrypal case, amongst many other investigations that they did.So I think the Skrypal case is completely called into question, as well. And there is another part of this release from Wikileaks:

        [shows report sourced to Al Masdar News]

        [24:00] Alexander Mercouris: “… that will expose the story which, at the moment is being suppressed. The British are not going to apologize. The French are not going to apologize. The OPCW itself, the Secretariat, isn’t going to apologize either. None of those people are going to apologize. And maybe apologies is not what we should be looking for. What we should be looking for is a final admission that this war in Syria has been an utter disaster. It has been massively manipulated in propaganda terms. You can’t assume that any reporting you get on Syria, on any subject, is true. I mean you simply can’t. We repeatedly see this in Syria and the war there, that when you drill down to the bottom, things do not correspond to what we can see ourselves in the facts and the information we are being provided access to. But perhaps, even beyond Syriawhere things are said about Syria this does bring back the subject of arms control treaties and the international organizations which administer them. If the OPCW is now being taken control of in this way, and is being used in this fashion, that is an incredibly serious thing.

        And I think there needs to be a full investigation done of what is going on with the OPCW. People like Mr Arias, who is its Secretary General; Mr Braha, who is this French diplomat, the Chef de Cabinet who essentially runs it. Mr Fairweather who is the previous Chef de Cabinet who also previously ran it. All of these people need to be asked very severe questions. And we really need to clean this organization out so that it can work properly and transparently. [26:15] All this secrecy is unnecessary. We need to have full reports. When we have reports, we need to have all the dissident opinions. We need to have all the information provided so that people can form their views. We can’t have a situation where only one side of a story is being presented.

        And I come back to what I said: Based on the information which has been provided up to now, that story which has been provided, the official one is a false one. The United States, Britain, and France launched a missile attack on a sovereign country. The Russian military was there. It was an extremely dangerous situation. It could have gone horribly and disastrously wrong. And you talk about a cover-up, of course there is a cover-up within the OPCW, because what the OPCW is trying to do, is cover up for the fact that the Americans, the British, and the French did by launching that missile attack was an act of aggression. Unwarranted. Illegal. And contrary to international law, and based on a story of a chemical attack which was untrue.”

        [27:51] Alex Christoforou: “They need to go to prison, these people who almost got us into a massive world war. We would have seen hundreds of thousands of people dying if conflict broke out between Russia and the United States. And that’s how close we were. ”

        [end transcript]

        Well and truly stated.

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        1. There is a definite Orwellian fog hanging over truth in the Syrian conflicts. One hates to think that people would make fake videos of little kids suffering from a chemical attack to post on social media (I mean, how cynical can ya get, right?), but a few years ago I had to admit the Syrian situation had become unfathomable to this observer. Are there ANY good guys in this cast of characters? And one imagines things will only get worse going forward, in future conflicts anywhere. I agree one’s initial reaction needs to be disbelief of all claims. Show us INCONTROVERTIBLE evidence for your claims! “The Post-Truth Age” indeed!!

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        2. Thanks MM; I wrote it down this time! Still love Gandhi’s quote.
          Also saw the Duran interviews; well done.
          Of personal interest to me were newsreels of the US Baghdad Embassy. The flags flying around it are NOT the “official” Hezbollah flags, based in Lebanon. Supposedly partially funded by Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, it is yellow, green & black. They are very strict about it’s usage: the ones flying around the Embassy are either (CIA) fakes, or perhaps an Iraqi branch, which I doubt. MSM is trying to confuse the public, zeroing in on the raised machine gun, also on the “official” flag, ie “Iran’s behind the Embassy burning!”

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          1. “This just in” (afternoon of Jan. 2): US making explicit threats to launch “pre-emptive” strikes directly against Iran, because US supposedly has “intel” (!) that Persian troublemakers are planning new actions on Iraqi soil. Will be a nice diversion from impeachment proceedings, eh?

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          2. Clarification of my earlier comment: For what it’s worth, given the entity we’re dealing with, it appears US threat was to attack alleged Iranian assets on IRAQI soil, not to directly attack Iran. But, like I just said, “Who can you trust?”

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    2. The “Warrior Code of Broadcasting”! Good one! Anderson Cooper was too busy getting tipsy in Times Square last night to be dispatched anywhere. Though a flight to Iraq would allow time to sober up! Lucky Iran, they temporarily rise to #1 position on US Enemies List, but fear not, Russia and China remain contenders to regain top rung.

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  6. Here’s the thing and my sense of US imperialism and its use of the MIC. Job #1 of all US presidents, every last one of them, as well as the raison d’etre of the US itself is in making the world safe for corrupt, crony, predatory capitalism while destroying all alternatives at every opportunity. As such, wars based on lies, assassinations, death squads, torture, installation and support of brutal right-wing regimes, etc. are all justified in facilitating this. It’s the system. The US was the most violent and terrorist nation in the world before Trump, it remains so with Trump, and it will continue to be so regardless of who replaces Trump. Until the system is changed, who is elected/appointed POTUS matters little…

    For those in the military and or those who support any US president or the government writ large, at which point along the continuum does a person become responsible for their actions in facilitating and or being complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity in wars based on lies? Following orders does not take away the blame. It was thus for me in 71′, and it remains so today…

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    1. Unfortunately, there is no power on Earth that can haul the US evil behemoth into a Nuremberg type court and see that justice is executed (pardon the expression!). As long as there are enuf young men and women who can be duped, tricked, deceived, coerced or forcibly placed in uniform to feed the Military Madness Machinery, the world will continue to be dragged further into the muck.

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