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Issue #1763      February 1, 2017

Culture & Life

Oh what a lovely war!

One of the defining characteristics of our era is the way the USA stomps around the world daring anyone to get in its way. Its people are saddled with a truly huge “defence” budget that consumes a hideous amount of their production and resources, but which is justified to them with assurances that because their military is so huge, no one dares even to defy them, let alone threaten them.

Marine Corps General James Mattis.

This comforting fiction is assiduously promoted by all forms of the capitalist media and the US political establishment. It even survived the shock of failing to prevent the terrorist attacks of 9/11 on significant icons in New York and Washington.

Since the end of WW2, the US has used its bloated military to wage wars almost non-stop all around the world, some declared, as well as some undeclared but overt nonetheless, and some (quite a few, in fact) covert but just as destructive and deadly.

This blatant exerting of military might has invariably been on behalf of US corporate interests and the noble goal of maintaining or hopefully increasing their profits. It has, however, been sold to the American people incredibly as maintaining peace!

With successive US administrations confident that they were secure behind the shield of their military might, the US has also been emboldened to overthrow governments, organise coups, and carry out assassinations and murderous drone attacks.

Thousands of US troops are stationed abroad, from Europe to Africa, the Pacific, even Australia. The United States has been openly engaged in fighting an ongoing war in Afghanistan and Iraq and more covertly – with its “special forces” – in Syria. Using its allies and clients as surrogates, it has also attacked Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Ukraine as well as other places in Africa and South America.

On a US TV panel discussion organised by Democracy Now, professor Andrew Bacevich, a retired colonel and Vietnam War veteran, considering that the US has been waging all these costly wars for so many years, asked the rhetorical question: “How is it that we haven’t won? We haven’t won anywhere, ‘winning’ in the sense of conclusively achieving our political objectives; however you might want to define those objectives. And given that we haven’t won, what should we be doing differently ... to compensate for this record in which the greatest military in the world, as we are constantly told, doesn’t get the job done?”

Professor Bacevich’s latest book is America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History. He doesn’t have a very sanguine view of US military might in action. On the panel program he said: “I think, broadly speaking, the US military’s role – US military activism in various parts of the Islamic world over the past several decades – has been counterproductive.”

Referring to the recent confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s new department heads, Professor Bacevich said: “ I find it disturbing that no member of the Senate Armed Services Committee is willing to acknowledge [the US military’s] record of failure and to ask our next secretary of defence what he proposes to do to amend that sorry record.”

For his part, during the confirmation hearings, Trump’s nominee as the USA’s next Secretary of Defence, Marine Corps General James Mattis, repeatedly called for the US military to be “more lethal”! Mattis’s 41-year career included stints in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. During the 2004 battle of Fallujah he earned himself the nickname “Mad Dog” Mattis and in May of the same year, he notoriously ordered an attack on a small Iraqi village that ended up killing about 42 people attending a wedding ceremony.

A “mad dog” indeed, and he wants the US military to be “more lethal”?

Mattis’ nomination says much about Donald Trump and his projected administration. Aaron Glantz, a senior reporter from the Centre for Investigative Reporting has raised the question of whether Mattis is in fact a war criminal. “Since 9/11, we’ve been engaged in wars around the world, and General Mattis has been a leading battlefield commander in many of those theatres, including in the April 2004 siege of Fallujah, where the US Marines killed so many people that the municipal soccer stadium in the city had to be turned into a graveyard for the dead.

“There’s documented cases of US marines shooting at ambulances, shooting at aid workers, destroying shopping centres – raising huge issues not only of violations of the Geneva Convention over targeting protected groups, but also of proportionality, because the entire battle was launched to get the people who killed four Blackwater Security contractors, and a city of 300,000 people was levelled in response, under the command of General Mattis.”

Fallujah is not the only blot on Mattis’ record. Glantz again: “He played not only a critical role as a battlefield commander in Fallujah, but also, afterwards, when he was promoted to various other higher-ranking positions, he served as a convening authority in court-martial proceedings against various marines who had been accused of atrocities – for example, in the Haditha massacre, where a group of marines went on a killing spree after one in their unit was killed.

“And they killed, according to a Time magazine investigation, dozens of Iraqi civilians in their homes and also in a car and up on a ridge. And General Mattis dismissed the charges against many of the marines accused, personally intervening to clear their names before the justice system had run its course. And in the end, nobody connected to that massacre served a day in prison.”

And this is now to be the politician in charge of the world’s most powerful military machine! But still, there is no way he could start a war without the prior knowledge and approval of the President, is there? So we’re OK? Donald Trump wouldn’t, would he ... ?

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