Tue Aug 31st, 2021 at 12:17:19 PM EST
How the US created a world of endless war | The Guardian |
In 2008, many of Barack Obama's supporters hoped he would bring the global war on terror to a close. Instead, he expanded it - and his successors have done nothing to change course.
On 23 May 2013, the peace activist Medea Benjamin attended a speech by President Barack Obama at Fort McNair in Washington DC, where he defended his administration's use of armed drones in counter-terrorism. During his speech, Benjamin interrupted the president to criticise him for not having closed Guantánamo Bay and for pursuing military solutions over diplomatic ones. She was swiftly ejected by military police and the Secret Service. The Washington Post later dismissed her as a "heckler".
For all its routine violence, the American way of war is more and more defined by a near complete immunity from harm for the American side and unprecedented care when it comes to killing people on the other. [Quite ridiculous statement and not based on facts nor legal framework for hostilities or warfare - Oui] Today, there are more and more legal obligations to make war more humane - meaning, above all, the aim of minimising collateral harm. Countries like the US have agreed to obey those obligations, however permissively they interpret them and inadequately apply them in the field. Absolutely and relatively, fewer captives are mistreated and fewer civilians die than in the past. Yet, at the same time, the US's military operations have become more expansive in scope and perpetual in time by virtue of these very facts.
The very idea of more humane war may seem a contradiction in terms. The US's conflicts abroad remain brutal and deadly, but what's frightening about them is not just the violence they inflict. This new kind of American war is revealing that the most elemental face of war is not death. Instead, it is control by domination and surveillance.
Obama had run as a kind of anti-war candidate in his fairytale 2008 campaign, and when it turned out that he was a hard-bitten pragmatist, in this and other areas, many of his supporters were surprised. Obama expanded the "war on terror" to an awesome extent, while making it sustainable for a domestic audience in a way his predecessor never did - in part because Obama understood the political uses of transforming American warfare in a humane direction.
In just the first few months of 2009, after Obama took the oath of office, the initial metamorphosis of American war into humane form was achieved. As the worst sins of the prior administration were disowned, Obama's lawyers claimed authority to continue war indefinitely across space and time, devising formal legal frameworks for targeted killings. The rise of the armed drone empire under Obama's watch was merely the symbol of the extension and expansion of endless war.
Speech Barack Obama
Remarks by the President at the National Defense University | Fort McNair - Washington, D.C. |
Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They've not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.
Instead, what we've seen is the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates. From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with Al Qaeda's affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula -- AQAP -- the most active in plotting against our homeland. And while none of AQAP's efforts approach the scale of 9/11, they have continued to plot acts of terror, like the attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.
Unrest in the Arab world has also allowed extremists to gain a foothold in countries like Libya and Syria. But here, too, there are differences from 9/11. In some cases, we continue to confront state-sponsored networks like Hezbollah that engage in acts of terror to achieve political goals. Other of these groups are simply collections of local militias or extremists interested in seizing territory. And while we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based. And that means we'll face more localized threats like what we saw in Benghazi, or the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives -- perhaps in loose affiliation with regional networks -- launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their operations.
And finally, we face a real threat from radicalized individuals here in the United States. Whether it's a shooter at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, a plane flying into a building in Texas, or the extremists who killed 168 people at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, America has confronted many forms of violent extremism in our history. Deranged or alienated individuals -- often U.S. citizens or legal residents -- can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad. And that pull towards extremism appears to have led to the shooting at Fort Hood and the bombing of the Boston Marathon.
So that's the current threat -- lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates; threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad; homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We have to take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.
In the 1980s, we lost Americans to terrorism at our Embassy in Beirut; at our Marine Barracks in Lebanon; on a cruise ship at sea; at a disco in Berlin; and on a Pan Am flight -- Flight 103 -- over Lockerbie. In the 1990s, we lost Americans to terrorism at the World Trade Center; at our military facilities in Saudi Arabia; and at our Embassy in Kenya. These attacks were all brutal; they were all deadly; and we learned that left unchecked, these threats can grow. But if dealt with smartly and proportionally, these threats need not rise to the level that we saw on the eve of 9/11.
Presidents find a place in history by excellence of speechwriters. Courage and leadership can only be judged decades later by history ... has the world become a better place. Unequivocally the answer is negative ... war is in the least a major distraction and investment in a war machine that wastes trillions of government monies. Trillions that should have been spend and invested in human endeavors and make Planet Earth more sustainable to provide resources for people.
On December 1, 2009, Obama somberly addressed the nation at the West Point Academy to announce a significant surge of troops to Afghanistan. The objective of the surge was to, “pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months.” His senior military advisors had, in part, convinced him the mission could be accomplished in that timeframe.
Jonathan Alter, in his book “The Promise,” explained on the day Obama finally made the decision to surge, he pointedly asked his senior commanders and advisors if the mission could be accomplished by his withdrawal date of June 2011. According to Alter, General David Petraeus promised that the U.S. could be out and hand over operations to the Afghan army within 18 months.
Though it was clear to Obama by the summer of 2014 that Petraeus and Mullen’s assurances of success in 18 months had been completely wrong, he hid the truth from them and continued prosecuting a war he knew he could never win, allowing American blood to be spilled with no benefit to our country. As it would turn out, June 2014 proved to have been the best time to withdraw when almost all the advantages were on our side.
Terror and deaths increased a hundredfold since the war on terror was envisioned by the George Bush administration ... the American neocon wet dream. The world has suffered from American hegemonic power ever since ... more technology, more advanced methods to kill from behind the laptop ... and economic sanctions suffocating nations and its people.
Democratic and moral principles laid out by a single nation and enforced unilaterally will not attain a peaceful world.
The major defeat of the United States in the graveyard of empires in Afghanistan is proof that terror cannot be rooted out the American way.
Kabul - August 31, 2021
Afghanistan: Last US military flight departs ending America's longest war
Taliban fighters have declared victory at Kabul airport after the final withdrawal of US troops
Earlier diaries ...