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Is America on the path to ‘permanent war’?

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were the Cana...

Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were the Canadian newsmakers for 2006.

By John Blake, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some scholars say U.S. is on an unsustainable path to “permanent war”
  • Author: “Fixing Detroit should take precedent over fixing Afghanistan”
  • America’s “global occupation force” betrays Founding Father’s vision, book says
  • Afghan war supporters says nation’s enemies have declared permanent war on us

CNN — When the president decided to send more troops to a distant country during an unpopular war, one powerful senator had enough.

He warned that the U.S. military could not create stability in a country “where there is chaos … democracy where there is no tradition of it, and honest government where corruption is almost a way of life.”

“It’s unnatural and unhealthy for a nation to be engaged in global crusades for some principle or idea while neglecting the needs of its own people,” said Sen. J. William Fulbright, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in 1966 as the Vietnam War escalated.

Fulbright’s warning is being applied by some to Afghanistan today. The U.S. is still fighting dubious wars abroad while ignoring needs at home, says Andrew J. Bacevich, who tells Fulbright’s story in his new book, “Washington Rules: America’s Path To Permanent War.”

As the Afghanistan war enters its ninth year, Bacevich and other commentators are asking: When does it end? They say the nation’s national security leaders have put the U.S. on an unsustainable path to perpetual war and that President Obama is doing little to stop them.

Bacevich has become a leading voice among anti-war critics. He is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, a former West Point instructor and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

He’s also a Boston University international relations professor who offers a historical perspective with his criticism. He says Obama has been ensnared by the “Washington Rules,” a set of assumptions that have guided presidents since Harry Truman.

The rules say that the U.S. should act as a global policeman. “Fixing Iraq or Afghanistan ends up taking precedence over fixing Cleveland or Detroit,” Bacevich writes.

His solution: The U.S. should stop deploying a “global occupation force” and focus on nation-building at home.

“The job is too big,” he says of the U.S. global military presence. “We don’t have enough money. We don’t have enough troops. There’s a growing recognition that the amount of red ink we’re spilling is unsustainable.”

Thomas Cushman, author of “A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Argument for War in Iraq,” says Bacevich is mimicking isolationists who argued before World War II that the U.S. couldn’t afford to get involved in other country’s affairs.

“No one wants a permanent war, and nobody would argue that our resources could be better spent at home,” Cushman says. “But the people we’re fighting against have already declared permanent war against us.”

Does Obama buy into the “Washington Rules”?

The questions about the Afghanistan War come at a pivotal moment. The Obama administration plans to review its Afghanistan strategy next month.

The president had pledged to start withdrawing some U.S. troops next July. Obama and NATO allies in Afghanistan recently announced that combat operations will now last until 2014.

Those dates matter little to Bacevich.

“Obama will not make a dent in the American penchant for permanent war,” he says. “After he made the 2009 decision to escalate and prolong the war, it indicated quite clearly that he was either unwilling or unable to attempt a large-scale change.”

Bacevich says the notion that the U.S. military has to stay in Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda a sanctuary doesn’t “pass the laugh test.”

“If you could assure me that staying in Afghanistan as long as it takes will deny al Qaeda a sanctuary anywhere in the world, then it might be worth our interests,” he says. “Pakistan can provide a sanctuary. Yemen can provide a sanctuary. Hamburg [Germany] can provide a sanctuary. ”

John Cioffi, a political science professor at University of California, Riverside, says the nation’s “increasingly unhinged ideological politics” makes it difficult for the country to extract itself from battles in Afghanistan, Iraq and Central Asia.

“The U.S. is not on the path to permanent war; it is in the midst of a permanent war,” Cioffi says.

Permanent war is made possible by massive defense spending that has been viewed as untouchable. But that may change with the recent financial crisis and the decline of the nation’s industry, Cioffi says.

More ordinary Americans might conclude that they can’t have a vibrant domestic economy and unquestioned military spending, Cioffi says.

“All this points to a time in the future when the government will no longer have the resources or popular support to maintain what amounts to an imperial military presence around the world,” he says.

Yet leaders in the nation’s largest political parties may still ignore popular will, says Michael Boyle, a political science professor at La Salle University in Pennsylvania.

“While the public tends to be much more concerned with domestic issues, both the Democratic and Republican foreign policy establishments tend to be more internationalist and outward-looking,” Boyle says. “This makes them far more willing to conclude that nation-building missions in Afghanistan are essential to national security.”

Birth of the ‘Washington Rules’

The debate over permanent war may sound academic, but it’s also personal for Bacevich.

His son, a U.S. Army officer, was killed in Iraq, a war he opposes. And Bacevich has written several other books on the limits of American military power, including “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.”

Bacevich says the Washington Rules emerged when America was exceptional — right after World War II when a newly empowered U.S. deployed a global military presence to contain communism and spread democracy.

Communism’s threat has disappeared, but U.S. leaders continue to identify existential threats to justify the nation’s global military empire, Bacevich says.

The cost of that military empire is immense: The U.S. now spends $700 billion annually on its military, as much money as the defense budgets of rest of the world combined, he says.

Bacevich says the Founding Fathers would be aghast. They thought that “self-mastery should take precedence over mastering others.”

“It’s not that the Founding Fathers were isolationists or oblivious to the world beyond our shores,” Bacevich says. “Their reading of history led them to believe that empire was incompatible with republican forms of government and a large standing army posed a threat to liberty.”

What Bacevich’s critics say

William C. Martel, author of “Victory in War,” says the U.S. didn’t build a global military presence after World War II out of hubris but because of necessity. Much of the world had been destroyed in 1945.

“We had no option but to be engaged as a global leader,” he says. “If we did not stand up to totalitarianism, the world would have been a much worse place.”

Martel, an associate professor of international security studies at The Fletcher School at Tufts University in Massachusetts, says the U.S. must have a global military presence to confront radical groups that seek weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. military may fight in Afghanistan “for years.” But it’s also been in Germany and Japan for decades, Martel says.

“We have a $14 trillion a year economy,” Martel says. “We’re spending roughly 4 percent of our GDP on defense. That’s historically where we’ve been for decades. I don’t see that as unaffordable.”

Permanent war can, perversely, boost the nation’s economy, says Jerald Podair, a history professor at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.

After World War II, most observers predicted a return to the Depression, Podair says. But Cold War military spending drove the nation’s economy to its longest period of sustained economic expansion in history.

Transferring military money to domestic needs will not stimulate the American economy the same way war spending will, Podair says.

“It is sad to say that ‘war is the health of the state,’ but during the last 70 years, that has generally proved to be true,” Podair says. “Unfortunately, the United States may have to ‘fight’ its way out of recession, just as it did during World War II and the Cold War.”

Obama, though, might fight his way to a presidential defeat in the 2012 election if he doesn’t find a way to pull the U.S. off the path to permanent war, Bacevich says.

If Obama is still waging war in Afghanistan in 2012, he’ll be in trouble, he says.

“That’s going to pose difficulty for him in running for re-election because many of the people who voted for him in 2008 did so because they were convinced that he was going to bring about change in Washington,” Bacevich says. “But the perpetuation of war wouldn’t amount to change.”

Find this article at:
http://us.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/11/23/war.afghan/index.html?hpt=C2 

 

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Iraq war logs: Apache crew killed insurgents who tried to surrender

October 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Flickr - The U.S. Army - Promoting air-ground ...

Flickr - The U.S. Army - Promoting air-ground integration

Source article

US military legal adviser told helicopter crew that Iraqi men were valid targets as they could not surrender to aircraft.

A US gunship crew was cleared to attack two insurgents on the ground even though the pilots had reported that the men were trying to surrender, the leaked Iraq war logs reveal.

The Apache helicopter pilots killed both Iraqi men after being advised by a US military lawyer that they could not surrender to an aircraft and therefore remained valid targets. A leading military law expert consulted by the Guardian has questioned this legal advice.

The Guardian can also reveal that the helicopter involved in the incident in 2007 had the same call sign – Crazyhorse 18 – as the Apache whose crew later mistakenly killed two Reuters journalists and injured two children in a notorious shooting in urban Baghdad. The killings drew worldwide condemnation in April this year when WikiLeaks obtained video footage taken from the helicopter’s gun camera and released it on the internet.

It has not been possible to establish whether the same personnel were involved in both attacks.

According to the account of the earlier incident in the leaked logs, the insurgents had jumped out of their truck after it came under fire from the Apache. “They came out wanting to surrender,” Crazyhorse 18 signalled.

Clearance to kill came back from an unnamed lawyer at the nearby Taji airbase. “Lawyer states they can not surrender to aircraft and are still valid targets,” the log entry says.

After receiving the lawyer’s advice, the pilots reported that the men had by now got back into their truck and were attempting to drive on. The gunship made two attempts to kill the fleeing men, launching a Hellfire missile at the truck.

At first the fresh attack failed. “Individuals have run into another shack,” the crew signalled. As the Apache hovered high in the sky, a few miles north of Baghdad, the pilots viewed a zoomed-in image of the fleeing pair on their video screen.

The crew then received a further specific top-level kill instruction from brigade HQ and made another strafing run, firing bursts from long distance at 300 rounds a minute from the Apache’s 30mm cannon. This time, the gunner succeeded in killing both men.

At 1.03pm on 22 February, just 24 minutes after receiving legal clearance, the crew filed a log entry: “Crazyhorse 18 reports engaged and destroyed shack with 2X AIF [anti-Iraq forces]. Battle damage assessment is shack/dump truck destroyed.”

Crazyhorse 18 was part of the US army‘s 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, normally based at Fort Hood, Texas. Five months after this incident, on 12 July 2007, the crew of an Apache with the same call sign mistakenly killed 22-year-old Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, after opening fire on a group of eight men they believed to be insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK47 rifles in a Baghdad suburb.

Two children were badly injured and their father killed when the Apache crew fired armour-piercing shells at a van which arrived on the scene.

The account of the February incident recorded in the classified log suggests the Crazyhorse 18 crew were not trigger-happy, but sought immediate advice from their superiors at all stages of the attack.

Under the 1907 Hague regulations, it is forbidden “to kill or wound an enemy who, having laid down his arms, or having no longer means of defence, has surrendered at discretion”.

Britain’s own official Ministry of Defence publication, the Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, says there are practical difficulties around surrenders to aircraft, but adds: “With the advent of close-support and ground-attack helicopter units, the surrender of ground troops … has become a more practical proposition.”

One of Britain’s foremost experts on the subject, Professor Sir Adam Roberts, cast doubt on the legal advice given to the Crazyhorse 18 crew. “Surrender is not always a simple matter,” Roberts, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University and joint editor of Documents on the Laws of War, told the Guardian. But the reasoning given by the US military lawyer was “dogmatic and wrong”.

“The issue is not that ground forces simply cannot surrender to aircraft,” he said. “The issue is that ground forces in such circumstances need to surrender in ways that are clear and unequivocal.”

However, he added: “If the insurgents did indeed get back into the truck and drove off in the same direction as previously, then they probably acted unwisely, in a way that called into question their act of surrender … The US airmen might legitimately reckon that the truck contained weapons and that the men could be intending to rejoin the fight sooner or later.”

The detailed account of events on that February morning begins with a common occurrence: insurgents near the huge Taji airbase start lobbing rockets and mortar shells, in the hope of killing Americans. US troops return the shelling, and Crazyhorse 18 is dispatched on a mission to see whether the retaliation has had any effect. At 11.34am, three minutes after takeoff, the crew spot the insurgents fleeing their launch site with a mortar and tripod on the back of a Bongo – a light truck manufactured by Kia.

The crew confirm a “positive identification” of the enemy. But it is 13 minutes before the pilots are officially “cleared to engage” with automatic cannonfire by their headquarters.

The Apache opens fire, and two Iraqis fling themselves out of the Bongo as the heavy shells blast the truck and cause its stock of mortar ammunition to “cook off”.

The enemy gunners try to make their escape in a dumper truck, driving northwards. At 12.33pm, the Apache reports that it has fired on the truck, “and then they came out wanting to surrender”.

Two minutes later, “Crazyhorse 18 reports they got back into truck and are heading north”. Four minutes after that: “Crazyhorse 18 cleared to engage dumptruck. 1/227 [1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment] lawyer states they cannot surrender to aircraft and are still valid targets.”

The two Iraqis try to take refuge in a shack. After a 13-minute delay, another instruction appears to come from a remarkably high level: the office of the commander [IH6] of the Ironhorse brigade at Camp Taji.

The signal reads: “IH6 approves Crazyhorse 18 to engage shack.”

After the killing, the helicopter pilots summarise what for them and their superiors has apparently been a successful chase: “Ix engagement with 30mm. 2x AIF killed in action. 1x mortar system destroyed. 1x Bongo truck destroyed with many secondary explosions. 1x dumptruck destroyed. 1x shack destroyed.”

At 1.25pm, their gunship heads home to Taji to refuel and reload with ammunition.

Submitted by dan fey


http://vidrebel.wordpress.com/

 

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Fort Hood soldier ordered to delete video of rampage

October 17, 2010 Leave a comment

 

U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, named as th...

U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, named as the shooter in the November 5, 2009 Fort Hood mass shoot...

 

By Sig Christenson (AFP)

FORT HOOD, Texas — A US soldier who captured a deadly 2009 rampage at Fort Hood with his cell phone camera testified Friday that he was ordered to erase the video by his commanders.

The video could have provided key evidence at the trial of Major Nidal Hasan, a US Army psychiatrist who faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.

But it may not be necessary for prosecutors. They presented more than two dozen witnesses who identified Hasan as the shooter, in the first three days of what is expected to be a lengthy hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a court martial.

The November 5, 2009 rampage shocked the nation and military officials have faced intense criticism for missing an array of warning signs about the accused shooter.

Hasan, 40, has been tied to Islamic extremism, including contact with a radical cleric now in Yemen who blessed the killing spree.

While the US Army has not said whether it will seek the death penalty, lead defense attorney John Galligan has said he faces an uphill battle to save his client’s life.

Private Lance Aviles, who shot the video, described a scene of stupefaction, followed by the shocked realization that the crowded army deployment center in Texas was under attack.

“There was a loud shout, ‘Allahu akbar,’ and then gunshots,” Aviles said.

Like others who testified before him, Aviles said he initially thought the shooting was a training exercise. Then he saw friends and fellow soldiers lying on the floor in pools of blood.

One soon died of a bullet wound to the head, he said.

Aviles said he looked up from the floor and tried to tackle the shooter once he saw that the gun’s magazine had dropped to the ground.

“I’m trying to take a left turn to go toward the shooter, and when I took that left turn he had already reloaded,” Aviles testified.

The witness then ran out the front door, passing soldiers rushing in to help those who had been injured.

Defense attorney Galligan asked Aviles if he had taken a video of the shooting with his cell phone and if he deleted the footage at the instruction of his superiors.

“Yes, sir,” Aviles replied.

Neither Galligan nor prosecutors asked about what the video showed and Aviles did not describe what the two files contained.

It wasn’t immediately clear if military authorities had investigated the video deletion incident, or if they would. In US civilian courts, destruction of evidence can be a crime.

One of at least four people who tried to stop Hasan before he was finally brought down by base police was among the 10 witnesses who testified Friday.

Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Royal gave a chilling account of being hunted down by Hasan outside the deployment center.

Royal escaped out a door and then saw Hasan follow a badly wounded soldier outside and shoot him until he fell face down in the grass.

Royal went to a corner of the deployment center and looked for a way to pounce on the gunman.

But instead, he said, “as I’m going to the building he comes adjacent to the other side and sees me again, and he starts firing at me.”

Royal ran to a sport utility vehicle and took cover. Hasan bore down on him, squeezing off rounds.

“I felt something jump me in the back, but I wasn’t sure what it was,” he said.

Then he started bleeding.

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Taliban capture US base in Afghanistan

October 12, 2010 Leave a comment

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Taliban militants have claimed that they have driven US troops out of a military outpost in Afghanistan‘s northeastern Kunar Province.

They also said that the Americans fled the military outpost in Kunar’s Marawara district in helicopters on Monday.

A senior Taliban commander said the group is now in full control of the district where the outpost is located.

He added that the militants attacked the outpost with rockets and machine guns.

Taliban say the ensuing clashes forced the US forces stationed there to flee.

The militants say they have seized all weapons and munitions left behind in the outpost.

A Press TV correspondent says the US military has not yet commented on the attack.

HSH/HRF/JR/AKM/MMN

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The Sun Begins to Set on the American Empire; History Repeats Itself

October 1, 2010 1 comment

President Obama delivering his remarks

President Obama delivering his remarks

September 30, 2010


By michael payne

Empires come and then they go, they rise and then they fall; but not one of the many empires that existed in the history of the world has ever survived. And now the world watches the beginning of the end of the American empire. This empire, created and developed over many decades since World War II by the militaryindustrial complex and its many Washington facilitators, has seen its day and now will go the way of all past empires.

The world has witnessed numerous empires rise up and dominate the world. Here are some of the most powerful empires that once made their mark on this planet and then fell: The Macedonian Empire, founded under Alexander the Great, the Mongol Empire, the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Spanish Empire, and the British Empire, which was known as the “empire on which the sun never sets” however, it most certainly did.

America is just the latest empire to exert a massive control over a large portion of the world. The war-enabling powers that control our government and our military have the mistaken impression that this empire will go on forever, that no one and nothing can challenge its supremacy and domination. They know all other empires eventually ended but, in their misguided, power-hungry minds they fantasize that America is unique in all of history and its empire will exist infinitely.

However, they could not be more mistaken. It is utterly ludicrous, actually mind-boggling, to think that the more than 750 military installations around the world can be maintained when America is virtually bankrupt, the majority of states are approaching insolvency, and our infrastructure and our education system are badly in need of restoration. President Barack Obama and his advisers have to be delusionary to think that America can continue spending hundreds of billions and, yes, trillions, on this empire and two totally nonsensical wars.

You would have to be mathematically illiterate not to understand that these policies and actions are leading to a financial collapse; that this fragile house of cards is going to fall apart. Too bad President Obama is a constitutional scholar rather than a math major because if he uses simple math in this scenario he will arrive at this answer: we do not have the money, our national bank is nearing receivership, and we continue to be the largest debtor nation in the world. Soon the overheated printing presses in the Treasury Department will grind to a halt as the value of the dollar completely collapses. To think that this massive empire can continue, and even be expanded, is pure folly.

When enlightened, knowledgeable writers and analysts continually warn of the impending end of the empire, their words largely fall on deaf ears. This president continues to defer to the military leaders who give no credence to such negative assessments; they remain steadfastly committed to expanding the military reach ever further (it’s called riding a dead horse) even with the great risks involved.

Once the world respected and stood in awe of America, its creativity, its supposed ideals and principles, its economic power and leadership in world affairs. Even when it took on the responsibility of being the world’s policeman, it was acceptable because the world felt safer. But then as this nation became more aggressive and militant, that view turned to one of apprehension about its real intentions. In these stressful times the nations of the world are becoming very uneasy and concerned, actually very fearful, about the further expansion of the U.S. military empire.

President Obama’s popularity and job performance have been steadily dropping in polls; so what’s primarily behind it? Of course, the continued economic crisis has a lot to do with it because people are suffering and millions needs jobs that are not materializing. But, in the face of these staggering domestic problems, I believe that he is making a monumental mistake in continuing and even expanding the current raging wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In a recent poll his approval rating was around 40%, meaning that about 60% of Americans are not happy with his policies and actions.

Now, when polls are taken that ask questions about America’s wars, fully 60% think that we should end the war in Afghanistan and that it is a mistake. If 60% of Americans are now becoming disillusioned with this president and 60% also are now against our military directions, then I think that indicates a direct connection. People are beginning to awaken to the fact that Mr. Obama’s emphasis and concentration on these wars, at the expense of our domestic crises, is having a detrimental effect on the stability of our nation and our economy. They have done the math.

President Obama seems to be completely ignoring these apparent trends and opinions of the people, to his own detriment. He continues to try to make a faulted case that the Afghan war is a critical mission against the insurgents, i.e., the Taliban, that want us out of their country. As many expert analysts have said numerous times, the terrorist threat in that region and others can be addressed with strategic Special Forces operations rather than with a massive, costly army. He must reconsider the direction he has taken because it is out of step with the majority of Americans who want it reversed. He is attempting to maintain an empire that has severe cracks in its foundation and has become an economic albatross around the neck of America.

But the most disturbing element of this issue is that the president, the military, the Congress, and the corporate-controlled media know exactly what this bloated empire is doing to the financial foundation of our nation; and yet there is no serious discussion or debate about it. There is constant talk about reducing our massive deficits, to scale back Social Security, Medicare and other services; states are cutting out essential programs but no one dares to talk about cutting military spending, the area that contains the greatest potential for reducing our deficits.

The generals, admirals and military advisers around him have no intention whatsoever of scaling back the military outreach of America. In numerous media appearances, General Patraeus gives every impression that his intentions relative to the Afghan/Pakistan war versus that of the president are quite different. Far more ominous than that is the statement that Defense Secretary Gates was said to have made during a dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Afghan President Hamid Karzai in May, He was quoted as saying, “We’re not leaving Afghanistan prematurely,” Gates said. “In fact, we’re not ever leaving at all.”

This is a highly troubling situation in which the control of our military by the executive branch of our government is being directly challenged. The president says one thing and the military leaders countermand it. Who exactly is now in charge of America’s military policy? If this authority is usurped by the military, then America will enter an era like no other in our history.

Every empire eventually comes to an end and this American empire will be no exception. Exactly when it will happen and how it will happen is open to speculation; but happen it will in order to preserve this democracy and ensure a stable future for generations to come. There is a body of opinion that says that the Afghan/Pakistan War will be the turning point at which the American empire will begin its descent; and that just might prove to be the case since Afghanistan is famous for being the “graveyard of empires.” This is more than just a mere coincidence, it is history repeating itself.

And this is for certain; if this massive, incredibly costly empire remains intact and is not significantly scaled back to reasonable, but still effective, strategically sound levels it will, without a doubt, take down America as it falls.

Michael Payne

Author’s Bio: Michael Payne concentrates his writings on domestic social and political matters,American foreign policy and climate change. His articles have appeared on Online Journal, Information Clearing House, Peak Oil, Google News and many others.

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