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Imagine if George W. Bush had stood on the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center and declared, “We are going to continue our pursuit of world domination and environmental destruction until the oceans rise, the storms surge, and this spot and all the surrounding streets are drowned in routine floods, destroying the infrastructure, and collapsing the buildings of this great city, while you morons are distracted by my screams for vengeance and genocide against people who’ve never driven an SUV a block in their lives or ever heard of us.”
Imagine if Barack “Clean Coal” Obama had followed the same honest path, and not only competed with Mitt Romney in debates over who could drill more oil, but also stated plainly and openly that the Pentagon is still not ready for World War II to end.
On August 14, 1941, the military brought before the Senate plans to build a permanent building that would be the largest office building in the world and would be called the Pentagon. Senator Arthur Vandenberg asked for an explanation: “Unless the war is to be permanent, why must we have permanent accommodations for war facilities of such size?” Then he began to catch on: “Or is the war to be permanent?”
We weren’t supposed to have standing armies, much less armies standing in everyone else’s countries, much less armies fighting wars over the control of fuels that destroy the planet and armies that themselves consume the greatest quantity of those fuels, even though the armies lose all the wars. Before the Nobel Peace Prize was handed out to war makers, it was intended for those who had done the best work of removing standing armies from the world. World War II changed everything.
We never went back to pre-WWII taxes or pre-WWII military or pre-WWII restraint in foreign empire or pre-WWII respect for civil liberties or pre-WWII notions of who deserved a Nobel Peace Prize. We never saw another declaration of war from Congress, but we never stopped using those of 1941, never left Germany, never left Japan, never dismantled the Pentagon. Instead, as William Blum documents in his remarkable new book, “America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy,” since the supposed end of WWII, the United States has tried to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of them democratically elected; interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries; attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders; dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries; and attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 nations.
Oh, but we meant well, and we mean well. Absolutely not so. There’s no “we” involved here. The U.S. government meant and means global domination, nothing else. And yet, even foreigners buy the U.S. snake oil. Gaddafi thought he could please Washington and be spared. So did the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein. When Hugo Chavez heard about the coup planned against him in 2002, he sent a representative to Washington to plead his case. The coup went ahead just the same. Subcomandante Marcos believed Washington would support the Zapatistas once it understood who they were. Ho Chi Minh had seen behind the curtain when Woodrow Wilson was president; World War II didn’t change quite everything. Maurice Bishop of Grenada, Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana, and the foreign minister of Guatemala appealed to Washington for peace before the Pentagon overthrew their governments. “We” don’t mean well when we threaten war on Iran any more than we meant well when “we” overthrew Iran’s government in 1953. The U.S. government has the very same agenda it had in 1953 because it is still engaged in the very same war, the war without end.
At the very moment of supreme moral pretense in 1946, as the United States was leading the prosecution of Nazi war crimes and killing the Nazis found guilty, at the very moment when Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson was declaring that those who sat in judgment at Nuremberg would be subject to the same standard of law, the United States was giving Guatemalans syphilis to see what would happen to them, and importing Nazi scientists by the dozen to work for the Pentagon. The war to save 6 million Jews that in reality condemned them and 60 million others to death, the war of innocence that followed the arming of the Chinese and the British, and before that the arming of the Nazis and Japanese, the war against empire that in reality spread the largest empire the earth has known, the war against inhumanity that in reality developed and used the greatest weapons ever directed against humans: that war wasn’t a triumph; it IS a triumph. It has never ended. We’ve never stopped making our children pledge allegiance like little fascists. We’ve never stopped dumping our money into the complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned us would exert total influence over our society. We’ve never stopped to consider whether attacks on a finite planet must end someday. Truman showed Stalin a couple of bombs, and the goddamn flags haven’t stopped waving yet.
If you don’t believe me, read more William Blum. The Marshall Plan was a plan for domination — smarter and more skillful domination than some other attempts — but still domination. U.S. capitalist control was the highest purpose. Sabotage of leftist political gains was the primary approach. It’s never changed. Dictators that play along have “our” full support. Don’t go looking for “humanitarian” attacks by NATO in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or Jordan or UAE or Qatar or Kuwait or Yemen, any more than Obama was willing to turn against Ben Ali or Mubarak or Gadaffi or Assad until doing so appeared strategic for the pursuit of global domination. The United States does not intervene. It never intervenes. It is incapable of intervening. This is because it is already intervened everywhere. What it calls intervening is actually switching sides.
If you don’t believe me, read a short new book by Nick Turse called “The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.” The “new” U.S. military is not a return to pre-WWII, not a reduction in financial expense, not a redirection away from global domination, not a shift toward somehow becoming defensive rather than offensive. The “new” military is a technological and tactical tweaking of the existing U.S. empire based on racist exploitation. Here’s what’s new:
The branches are blurring. The military, CIA, State Department, and Drug Enforcement Agency are becoming a team that operates in secret at the behest of the President. (Before you cheer, stop and consider that come January the president may belong to the Bad Team.) The Pentagon now has its own “intelligence” agency, while the State Department has its own office of proxy war making. U.S. Special Forces are active in 70 nations on any given day, on behalf of the President, without the authorization of Congress, and in the name of the uninformed people of the United States. The “special” forces, operating under the acronyms SOCOM and JSOC, are no longer special for being smaller. They’re special for having the power to operate in greater secrecy and without the apparent limitation of any laws whatsoever.
Remember that raid that killed Osama bin Laden? Yay! Hurray! Whooo Hooo! Murder is sooooooo cool. But did you know that soldiers working for you do at least a dozen such raids somewhere in the world on any given night? Are you confident that everyone killed in a dozen raids a night is also Pure Satanic Evil deserving of execution without charge or trial? Are you certain that this practice sets a good example? Would you support other nations adopting its use? “Our” “special” forces are now larger than most nations’ militaries, and we don’t have the slightest idea what those forces are doing. “Our access [to foreign countries],” says Eric Olson, former chief of Special Operations Command, “depends on our ability to not talk about it.” Got that? Your hero-murderers want you to keep quiet.
Here’s what’s new: the U.S. military has set up dozens of bases all over the world from which to fly killer robots known as drones. And there are dozens of bases all over the United States involved in the drone wars. Turse helpfully lists them; I guarantee there’s at least one near you. Here in Virginia at Langley Air Force Base our brave desk-murderers watch what they oh-so-comically call “Death TV” — the live video feeds from drones flying over people’s homes on the other side of the world. At Fort Benning in Georgia, where the annual protest of the School of the Americas torture school is coming up soon, they’re testing drones that can shoot to kill without human input. What could go wrong? Not only has the blowback begun, but it’s how we learn where some of the drone bases are. In 2009, a suicide attack killed CIA officers and mercenaries at Forward Operating Base Chapman in the Khost province of Afghanistan, and only then did we learn that the base was used for targeting drone murders in Pakistan.
This is of course apart from the usual blowback of greatly heightened hostility which is being produced by the U.S. military in nations all over the world. The 2010 attack on Libya, for example, resulted in well-armed Tuareg mercenaries, who had backed Gadaffi, heading back to Mali, destabilizing that country, and producing a military coup by a U.S.-trained officer, as well as parts of the country being seized by the latest al Qaeda affiliate. And that’s in Mali. Never mind what a paradise Libya has become post liberation!
Many of the bases the U.S. military uses abroad are in nations less heavily occupied than Afghanistan. They are permitted to operate where they do by the nasty governments of those nations, thanks to U.S. support for dictatorship. This explains why the Arab Spring produced so much footage of U.S.-made armored personnel carriers, tanks, helicopters, and tear gas. The Obama administration is eagerly increasing supplies of U.S.-made weaponry to the very regimes beating, jailing, and killing pro-democracy activists. Repeat after me: “But it’s a jobs program.”
In fact, it’s a major jobs program. The Pentagon/State Department markets U.S. weapons abroad, and the U.S. tripled its sales of weapons abroad last year, now accounting for 85% of international weapons sales.
But the weapons sales are the least of it. The United States now maintains its own troops in most nations on the earth and engages in joint training exercises with the local militaries. The biggest areas for base construction today are probably Afghanistan and Africa. Despite the supposed “winding down” of the war on Afghanistan over the next 2 or 12 years, base construction is moving ahead full steam, including new “secret” bases for “special” forces, new “secret” drone bases, and new prisons. The thinking — and I use the term generously — in Afghanistan and around the globe is that the United States should let the locals do more of the killing and dying. Of course, this hasn’t worked in Afghanistan or Iraq, any more than it worked in Vietnam. In Afghanistan, a proxy war in the 1980s produced notable blowback that can only be appreciated by fanatics for continued war, not by residents of New York City.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Countrywomen, let’s grow the fuck up. Stop blaming an imaginary being for a storm that you and your government produced. Stop thanking “God” for sparing one house while wiping out another. Put down the flags and the bullshit love of country. If you want to love this country you’ll have to love the planet it’s on. If you want to love this planet you’ll have to love all of its people, and all of its other life forms. The storms are our own creation. The rising ocean is our own knowing act. If we want to turn this trend around we will have to shut down the Department of Defense and create a new department aimed at defending us from dangers that actually exist.
David Swanson is author of War is a Lie. He lives in Virginia.