When Number 2 Acts Like Number 1

In late November, NATO (heavily U.S.) forces whacked 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border. As of November 30, Pentagon and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had not yet accepted blame; but they were “investigating” and “regretting.”

However, the next day, Iranian demonstrators invaded and destroyed property at the British Embassy complex in Teheran and briefly grabbed some embassy staff. London and Washington expressed outrage.

Obama, however, expressed no sentiments over police behavior in New York and other cities and campuses where police officials (not low-level ones) beat and pepper sprayed unarmed and non-violent U.S. citizens exercising their rights to free speech and assembly. Nor did he or the British ever apologize for staging their joint 1953 coup in Iran, which ousted Iran’s elected ruler and replaced him with a pro-U.S. Shah; coincidentally, a boon for U.S. and British oil companies.

In those days the U.S. economy grew, and what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Bi-partisanship prevailed in Congress! U.S. steel mills belched smoke, and auto assembly lines poured out cars – pre rust belt days, before globalization.

After decades of change, however, neither U.S. rhetoric nor policy kept pace with material reality.

The U.S. military remains the strongest in the world, but it has not protected the country from serious economic and political dysfunction. Bi-partisanship has evaporated with the ozone layers. Recession – now four plus years old – has meant devastation for tens of millions without jobs, homes, health care or hope. But not for the military budget – well, not yet.

The President continues to expand the nation’s imperial commitments. We hear Obama warn about the lack of money to make needed repairs in the infrastructure while we see him simultaneously stride boldly forward to undertake new and costly international obligations. Weeks before the deadly mistake in Pakistan, Obama committed the country to station more troops in a base in Australia to counter the “Chinese threat” (as if!). The anti-missile defense pact to counter presumably Iranian (distant future) threats to Europe brought forth a Russian promise to station its missiles near Poland. The new U.S. Middle East Security arrangement involves the most undemocratic nation – Saudi Arabia.

Congress doesn’t notice this asymmetry between its largesse in military appropriations and its abstemious allocations for desperately needed national infrastructure. Congress agreed with the President that previous levels of government spending could no longer continue for schools, clinics, hospitals and social services. Many Members want to cut Social Security and Medicare. They find no funds to shore up levees and bridges; some cities even declared bankruptcy.

What’s wrong with the thinking of the Washington policy crowd? The Cold War is long dead, the world is reeling from recession, but U.S. “strategic” thinking ignores these elements. “We’re still number one,” remains the axiom of official rhetoric. The statistics, however, reveal the dramatic decline of U.S. predominance in education, health and social welfare and a dramatic increase in poverty, and an unequal distribution of wealth.

Similarly, the rise of the Indian and Chinese economies seems to have bypassed the strategic consciousness of U.S. policy makers and Members of Congress.

W Bush started – with Congressional approval – two wars based on the notion of overwhelming U.S. power. The cost in human life and money has yet to be estimated. But Obama couldn’t just walk away – “weakness,” his opponents would scream. And so the conflicts drag on, and naturally in war “shit happens” like “friendly fire” killing 24 Pakis.

Hey, Pakistan was disobedient. It didn’t toe the line against the Taliban. Its intelligence service even cooperated with our enemy in Afghanistan. Shape up or else, ordered Joint Chiefs of Staff boss Admiral Mullen. Did no one notice that China has begun to assist Pakistan?

Do Washington analysts think the U.S. can continue killing Pakistanis, sending in lethal drones and invading its turf with Seals to execute our enemies (Osama bin Laden)? Tens of millions of Pakistanis, including high military officials, began to scream “enough.” A leading Pakistani army general, Ashfaq Nadeem, accused NATO of staging a “deliberate act of aggression.”

On November 29, Pakistan withdrew in protest from a scheduled meeting in Germany to discus Afghanistan’s future. It closed the supply routes the U.S. and NATO uses for troops and operations in land-locked Afghanistan.

The meeting’s goal was to forge a joint effort to stabilize Afghanistan as NATO combat forces begin to leave in 2014. Indeed, Pakistan’s government raised questions about future cooperation with the U.S. and NATO on Afghanistan. (Aif Shahzad and Sebastian Abbot, AP Nov 29)

U.S. policy rests on false assumptions. Pakistan, Washington decided, has no choice but to obey its aid-giving ally. The Chinese, however, understand the possibilities that will open to them as Washington marches to the beat of imperial ignorance.

China has moved resources and advisers to Pakistan, including nuclear experts. Washington can’t seem to grasp a decline, that the rest of the world sees, in their once undisputed world power. It cannot keep its home in good repair, but it still acts as if it can make other nations bend to its will. The 24 dead Pakistani soldiers might become the symbol for the beginning of the end of U.S. empire

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP is on dvd from cinemalibrestore@gmail.com. Counterpunch published his BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD. He is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow.


More articles by:

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It