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The American Way of War: Evolution Stops Here

America does what it wants.

This is obvious, except it’s also monstrously unnerving. Let’s at least add some quote marks: “America” does what it wants — this secretly defined, self-obsessed, unelected entity that purports to be the United States of America, all 325 million of us, but is, in fact, a narrowly focused amalgam of generals, politicians and corporate elites who value only one thing: global dominance, from now to eternity.

Indeed, they’re capable of imagining nothing else, which is the truly scary part. Until this changes, “peace” is a feel-good delusion and “disarmament” (nuclear and otherwise) is the butt of a joke. The American empire may be collapsing, but the war games continue.

So I realized with a sudden start as I read Nick Turse’s analysis of a collection of U.S. military documents, which the TomDispatch website got hold of via the Freedom of Information Act. The documents contained a detailed description of the 33rd annual Joint Land, Air, and Sea Strategic Special Program, “an elaborate war game,” Turse explains, “carried out in 2016 by students and faculty from the U.S. military’s war colleges, the training grounds for its future generals and admirals.”

The war game was wrapped around a fantasy future of “dystopian dangers,” set in 2020, in which, “as the script for the war game put it, ‘lingering jealousy and distrust of American power and national interests have made it politically and culturally difficult for the United States to act unilaterally.’”

In other words, as Turse explains, quoting the war game’s summary, the threat to America’s near-future security is completely a matter of maintaining its global hegemony in the face of scientific and military advances “by both state and non-state actors” that “have increasingly constricted U.S. freedom of action.”

There’s nothing particularly surprising here, yet something jolted me into a new level of shock and awe, you might say, about the deep state apparatus that controls the national direction. There’s nothing in this controlling consciousness devoted to creating — or imagining — a world without nuclear weapons or a world free of war and poverty. That’s just not part of the future “America” has any interest in envisioning. The next war is utterly unquestioned. “Us vs. them” is utterly unquestioned. There will always be enemies. What would we do without them?

While the invisible state may fear losing its global dominance, it seems to be completely in control of its domestic dominance.

And peace is out of the picture, at least the evolving concept of that word: peace that transcends militarism and is not based on armed enforcement. As long as the generals and war profiteers have it their way, peace is merely the lull between wars or, even more cynically, that brief pause while the combatants reload.

In other words, we are moving into the future committed — financially, politically, ideologically — to continuing to do what has failed in the past: wage war, dominate, win.

And in countless ways, we are losing. The empire is collapsing. The consequences of armed dominance are eating us alive and destroying Planet Earth. But no matter. As long as we’re not aware that we’re causing our own destruction, we (I mean “we”) can continue to do so, in the process reaping not merely profit but a sense of purpose.

“Two years after the war game was conducted,” Turse writes, “in a time of almost metronomic domestic mass killings, President Trump continues to spotlight the supposedly singular danger posed by ‘inadequately vetted people’ in the U.S., although stovetops and ovens, hot air balloons, and burning pajamas are far more deadly to Americans.”

Apparently our national sense of identity would collapse without an enemy, and the enemy du jour is the terrorist (no longer the communist, no longer the “savage”). So we’re not only fighting endless wars across Africa and the Middle East, we’re intensifying our deportation of “illegals” and amping up “border security,” all in order to keep America safe.

One reason the nation’s leaders are able to keep waging wars that do not, in fact, keep America safe is because the harm they cause is almost totally borne by the other. And as long as the messy details are seldom in the news, Americans need not let their awareness of government policy stray beyond the clichés of patriotism.

Regarding Mexican border security, for instance, the Trump administration has implemented a policy of separating children from parents seeking asylum in order to send a Keep Out message to other would-be immigrants. The cruelty of such a policy has been magnified by a recent ACLU report, based on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, showing widespread abuse of children in U.S. custody.

And in point of fact, the abuses are pre-Trump. The documents cover 2009-2014, during the Obama years. Dominance and racism may be more blatant under the current president than they’ve been for a while, but they have always been part of national policy.

According to the report: “The documents show numerous cases involving federal officials’ verbal, physical and sexual abuse of migrant children; the denial of clean drinking water and adequate food; failure to provide necessary medical care; detention in freezing, unsanitary facilities; and other violations of federal law and policy and international law. The documents provide evidence that U.S. officials were aware of these abuses as they occurred, but failed to properly investigate, much less to remedy, these abuses.”

Abuses listed in the report include children kicked in the ribs, punched in the head, shot with a stun gun (causing a boy “to fall to the ground, shaking, with his eyes rolling back in his head”) and run over with a patrol vehicle. A pregnant minor “was denied medical attention when she reported pain, which preceded a stillbirth.” A 16-year-old girl was subjected to a search in which they “forcefully spread her legs and touched her private parts so hard that she screamed.”

My God, it was like they placed these children in Gitmo!

These are the war games we play that aren’t games, but real-world actions. From cruelty at the border to nuclear testing, a philosophy of dominance over the enemy creates nothing but a poisoned planet and endless war. Paradoxically, a primary qualification for being a national leader is not knowing this.

More articles by:

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

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