Your Wish Is My Commando

W.J. Astore

Privatization of war is making it far easier for America’s imperial state to wage endless war throughout the world.  Consider the case of Afghanistan.  The U.S. military is allegedly leaving that country, turning the fight over to the Afghan military, trained and equipped largely by America.

Ashton Carter, Ready to Send in the Mercs
Ashton Carter, ready and willing to send in the Mercs — there ought to be Mercs — don’t bother, they’re here

But the truth is different: the U.S. has simply privatized the Afghan War, turning it over to military contractors, secretive Special Forces, and the CIA, as reported in this article by Tim Shorrock, in which you’ll find the following quote:

“If you define combat mission as only having large numbers of US combat troops in the field, doing patrols, and engaging the Taliban, then, yes, it [the Afghan War] is coming to an end,” says David Isenberg, a Navy veteran and author who has been researching private security and military contractors since the early 1990s. But if you define it as continuing to attack and degrade those you consider hostile, via drone or Special Forces or CIA paramilitaries, all of which are supported by contractors, then not so much.”

Not so much, indeed.  The future is indeed bright for privatized military contractors.  So much so that I have a slogan to offer the next Blackwater/Xe/Academi, the next DynCorp, the next Triple Canopy, the next global mercenary outfit:

My Slogan: Your Wish Is My Commando

Your imperial wish is also my profit, but we won’t mention that fact too loudly.

America was not supposed to go to war like this.  Remember our Founders and their ideas on war?  War was supposed to be a terrible decision, hotly contested among the people by their duly elected representatives in Congress.  It wasn’t supposed to be an easy choice made by presidents, with no real input or debate by that Congress.  It was supposed to involve citizen-soldiers motivated to defend the Constitution and sacred freedoms, not pay-for-hire mercenaries motivated by profit and spoils.

But our imperial state knows that it can’t fool all of the people all of the time on the need for endless wars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, hence the recourse to wars fought largely in secret by hired guns and CIA/paramilitaries.  The mainstream media, of course, is owned by some of the same corporations that profit from weapons sales overseas, so don’t expect push-back from them.  No — the push-back will have to come from us.  We will have to use all the tools at our disposal to fight for enduring peace.

One thing I know: Without our push-back, enduring (as in endless) war is a certainty for America’s future.

Bonus Lesson: Isn’t it nice to know that this is Ashton Carter’s first day on the job as Secretary of Defense?  And that he’s open to sending more American troops to Afghanistan?  Just the man we needed at the Pentagon.  No wonder he was confirmed 93-5 by the Senate.

In Iraq, That Dog Don’t Hunt

That President Don't Hunt?
That President Don’t Hunt?

W.J. Astore

News that President Obama has doubled the number of American troops (whoops — I mean advisers) in Iraq to 3100 is already a tacit admission of defeat in that troubled region.  Let’s recall that the Iraqi security forces the U.S. trained and equipped to the tune of $25 billion simply melted away when faced with serious combat this summer.  Their performance put me to mind of the National Rifle Association’s slogan against John Kerry in the presidential campaign of 2004.  Kerry had gone bird shooting, mainly it seems to be photographed with a gun in his hand, a necessity for any red-blooded American male (just ask Obama).  But the NRA wasn’t fooled (or so they claimed).  “That dog don’t hunt,” the NRA said about Kerry.  And something about that slogan stuck.

You could say the same of that Iraqi army that the U.S. created and funded and trained and equipped: That dog don’t hunt. Or, it won’t hunt for us.  Because that’s not its purpose.  That’s not how or even why we trained it.  But that’s OK.  We’ll just send more American troops to Iraq, and waste more money, further destabilizing the region, making it even easier for radical jihadists to recruit more followers, whether to the ISIS banner or some other Islamist flag (Khorasan, perhaps?).

It’s just incredible how inept U.S. foreign policy is today.  If George C. Marshall had been like this during World War II, we’d be speaking German today at the Pentagon, instead of simply misinterpreting Clausewitz.

Of course, Congress will have to authorize funding for the latest U.S. military misadventure.  Anyone want to offer odds on Congress actually exercising oversight on our foreign entanglements?  A long shot, indeed.

Even as Congress seeks to cut funding to the poor, there’s always plenty of money for military adventurism overseas, no matter how often those adventures fail.  When it comes to exercising real oversight, Congress is always a lame duck — so lame that even a dog that don’t hunt (that Iraqi military again) succeeds in bagging billions of dollars from the American taxpayer.

The moral to the story?  America doesn’t lack for guns; we lack for brains.

Update: Iraq has “shook up” its military, relieving 26 officers of their commands and forcibly retiring 10 others, even as 18 new commanders were appointed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi among promises of greater professionalism and less graft and corruption.  Progress?  Time will tell.  But what does it say about a military that, in spite of prolonged training and massive infusions of cash from the U.S., was so ridden with corruption that it collapsed when facing its first challenge?  Sadly, the need for ever more U.S. advisers and money suggests this is yet another case of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Update 2 (written by b. traven)

What is truly tragic is how the back story to the total failure of the Bush-Cheney wars is not reviewed by Obama, the Senate, or the House as this tragedy for Iraq unfolds. Obama just continues to follow the Bush lies by one week saying no “boots on the ground” while his top military people say “yes, more boots” and the next week Obama announces doubling the number of troops with no sense of embarrassment. And the American people stay entranced with baseball, football, and basketball scores.

And you can say you saw it here first. No sooner had General Dempsey said he wanted more troops in Iraq then Obama complied by doubling the force. Now Dempsey has told Obama what he wants even more troops so you can count on Obama complying in a couple of weeks. There’s nothing like doubling down on a failed policy in hopes that the result will come out differently than the last failure. Here’s Dempsey’s new demand as reported in the Guardian of London newspaper:

“The top-ranking officer in the American military said on Thursday that the US is actively considering the direct use of troops in the toughest upcoming fights against the Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq, less than a week after Barack Obama doubled troop levels there.

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, indicated to the House of Representatives armed services committee that the strength of Isis relative to the Iraqi army may be such that he would recommend abandoning Obama’s oft-repeated pledge against returning US ground troops to combat in Iraq.”

President Truman fired the most renowned five star General of his day, Douglas MacArthur for voicing a policy contradicting Truman’s in regard to China. If we had a real president he would do the same with Dempsey, who is certainly no MacArthur.

The Millionaires in Congress Don’t Care About Sending Your Son or Daughter to War

Please save us from flag lapel pins
Please save us from flag lapel pins

W.J. Astore

Yes, I know it’s a harsh claim that Members of Congress don’t care about sending your son or daughter off to war. Partly that’s because more than half of them are millionaires. And if they’re not millionaires now, they will be when they leave office and cash in as lobbyists and similar Beltway bandit jobs.  After all, it’s hard to sympathize with working-class families with sons and daughters in the military when 1) You’re rich (or at least comfortably well-off); and 2) You have no sons or daughters in the military, and never will.

I wrote to one of my senators in PA, Bob Casey, about the need to end our wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere — about the need to bring our troops home rather than continuing to place them in harm’s way for no reason that’s in our national interest. When I wrote, I asked him if he would send any of his four daughters to Afghanistan, or even if he’d urge any of them to serve our country in any capacity in the military. I never heard back from him or his staff, not that I was surprised.

Senator Bob Casey is a Catholic who went to Holy Cross in Massachusetts in the early 1980s. I’m a Catholic who did my ROTC service at Holy Cross in the early 1980s. We may have even crossed paths on campus. But Bob Casey is from a well-connected political family. I’m the son of a firefighter and a homemaker who joined ROTC to help pay for college. Bob Casey and his daughters have never had to think about military service except in the most abstract terms. They might applaud it, but they won’t do it.

The same was true for Mitt Romney and his five sons. Eager to salute the military; not eager to join and serve. Fortunate sons (and daughters), all.

You could say the same for virtually all Members of Congress today.  Almost no military service.  Few sons or daughters in the military, and certainly none in the front lines in combat branches.  Certainly, they’ll praise our troops.  They’ll salute the flag with vigor.  But what they won’t do is to send their loved ones into harm’s way.

Each and every time our Congress or our President sends troops into harm’s way, they should think whether they’d risk their own.  For example, it’s conceivable that President Obama’s oldest daughter, Malia, could join the military in 2015 at the age of seventeen.  (You can join the military at seventeen with parental permission.)  After basic and advanced training, many American teenagers have been sent into combat only to die before they’re out of their teen years.

Can we imagine such a tragic fate befalling the son or daughter of any prominent politician in the United States?  Of course not.  The burden of military service has perhaps never been shared equally in our history, but its inequality has never been more slanted than it is now.  The rich and privileged exempt their offspring from service (or at least from dangerous service), which only emboldens them when they cast their votes for more war.  In doing so, they risk nothing near and dear to them.  Heck, they may even pose as being “tough” and “uncompromising.”

Save me the flag lapel pins of our millionaire politicians and all their posing.  Want to support our troops?  If you’re young enough, quit Congress and enlist in the military.  Or be sure to encourage your own sons and daughters to join and serve in harm’s way.  At least then you can say you’ve made a sacrifice commensurate with those made by so many working-class families across the USA.

Washington Priorities Exposed

BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME DVD
W.J. Astore

A juxtaposition of two stories is revealing of our sad American moment. The first involves Iraq. Fallujah, the city for which Americans fought and died (and largely destroyed) in the Iraq War is now in the hands of Al Qaeda. Let’s recall that before the US invaded Iraq in 2003, Al Qaeda didn’t exist in Iraq.

The second story involves the desperate struggle for unemployment benefits by ordinary Americans–benefits that Congress allowed to expire in the name of fiscal austerity.

Naturally, the Pentagon has been rewarded for its failed policies with a huge budget in 2014. Meanwhile, Congress continues to dither about renewing unemployment benefits to workers desperate for help.

Congress can’t spare a dime for ordinary people even as they empty our national purse for the Pentagon and defense contractors.

Isn’t this an illustration of the American moment? For shame, America.

The Day the Congress Stood Still

Klaatu: Please unleash Gort
Klaatu: Please unleash Gort

W.J. Astore

With the odds increasing that Congress will shut down the government this coming Tuesday, I couldn’t help but think of the classic Sci-Fi film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (the original version, of course).

Remember Klaatu?  He comes to earth in peace, only to be hassled, harassed, and ultimately shot by the authorities in Washington, D.C.

What angered Klaatu were the “childish jealousies” and “petty squabbles” he witnessed among earth’s leaders.  “I’m impatient with stupidity,” he declared.  And when it comes to this Congress, so should we all.

So-called Obamacare is an expansion of medical care based on free-market models supported previously by Republicans like Mitt Romney.  But the usual childish jealousies and petty squabbles are intruding as the Republicans in the House do their best to torpedo a plan that mostly favors the status quo.

The stupid — it burns.  Where is Gort when you need him?