FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War Without Frontiers

We’re promised a new kind of war, but the first blows struck at Afghanistan last week had a decidedly familiar ring. The spectacle was wholly reminiscent of the Gulf War in its air strikes, levied without American casualties and accompanied by carefully chosen Pentagon films purporting to document the deadly efficiency of the cruise missiles and smart bombs in the American arsenal. Thanks to the example of Operation Desert Storm, “war” now seems a remote and bloodless game in the minds of most Americans. Just how distant and abstract was underscored by Saturday’s news that a bomb meant for a Taliban helicopter had instead blown up a civilian site a mile away-owing to a one-digit error in the programming of its satellite-guided payload. On Tuesday U.S. bombs decimated a Red Cross relief center. So what? It’s all collateral damage, and after all, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

Small wonder that such an overwhelming number of Americans support whatever Bush elects to do. Framed by the memory of the Gulf War and the horrific events of September 11, their sentiments involve no conception of any downside in lining up with Bush’s war on terrorism. And thus the administration is afforded a war mandate not quite like any other in American history, a license to name enemies and delineate targets with a profligacy that appears constrained only by its own appetites. At the moment the U.S.’s prerogatives are breathtaking. The enemies, and the consequent military commitments, are wherever Bush et al. choose to say they are, whenever they choose to designate them as such.

Granted, the field of possibilities is not really as open as the foregoing implies. American options for carrying the war to other fronts are hampered by the fragile state of U.S. alliances; precariously pro-U.S. Arab nations are not the only ones who wish to see a quick end to military action. On Sunday the array of dissenting voices included many from America’s staunchest ally, Tony Blair’s U.K, whose secretary of state for international development, Clare Short, called for a fast, “elegant” end to the bombing. The most important tactical question is how willing the Americans are to go it alone. If they want allies outside of Israel, they will confine themselves to Afghanistan; if they conclude international opinion is a secondary matter, the sky’s the limit.

Meantime, though, strikes against Iraq in the not too distant future seem almost inevitable. Day by day U.S. officials have taken care to gird the American public for an eventual offensive against Saddam’s hordes. In the past week the press has been seeded with reports of alleged meetings a year ago between suicide bomber Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi diplomat, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir Al-Ani. These tete-a-tetes may or not have been related to the September 11 attacks, and Al-Ani may or may not have been acting as an emissary of the Iraqi government. As regards any Iraqi connection to al-Qaida, bear in mind that Osama bin Laden hates Saddam and his regime for what he views as their heretical secularism. They are the unlikeliest of allies.

No matter. Press accounts likewise finger Saddam and Iraq for the anthrax attacks more recently visited on the U.S., but this is a dubious equation. There’s really no percentage in it for Saddam: Unlike the terror units that have attacked the U.S., which are diffuse and difficult to locate and would like nothing better than to draw the Americans into broad-scale war, the Iraqi state has everything to lose by provoking the U.S. into making war against it. More to the point, to suppose that Saddam must be the source of the anthrax currently being mailed round the U.S. is to ignore how easy the anthrax bacterium is to acquire. It is in ready supply in a number of American laboratories that have had almost no security up to now. Until a scant few years ago, you or I could have ordered a sample of it from a commercial laboratory in Maryland that is assumed to be the source of Iraq’s anthrax cache.

Iraq may be the likeliest of presumptive secondary targets, but it is hardly the only one. Southeast Asia remains an untapped goldmine of potential battlefields. The Americans have already indicated they will send military advisers to the Philippines to combat the Abu Sayyaf group implicated in a failed attempt to blow up numerous U.S. airliners in 1995. Indonesia, too, is a point of concern; with the world’s largest concentration of Muslims and a population in excess of 240 million, it has been the site of some of the most virulent post-September 11 anti-U.S. demonstrations. And Malaysia is on record as the source of a letter containing anthrax bacteria that was mailed to a Microsoft office in Reno, Nevada.

Closer to the main action, Israel is pushing hard for the inclusion of a number of additional targets in the Middle East. Beyond Iraq, they include Syria as well as Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, strongholds of the pro-Palestinian forces of Hamas and Hizbollah. By Bush’s definitions they certainly qualify as sponsors of terrorism, the views of dissenting allies be damned.

The administration approaches a decision point in Afghanistan. With winter coming on and little to show for its flashy hits upon Taliban and al-Qaida sites throughout the countryside, does it hunker down and prepare for ground war in the Afghan mountains, waged either by U.S. special forces or their surrogates in the Northern Alliance, or does it take its show on the road and begin targeting other antagonists in ostensibly easier settings?

Steve Perry writes frequently for CounterPunch and is a contributor to the excellent cursor.org website, which offers incisive coverage of the current crisis. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail