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:

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail