The State of the Union and the Bogus, Endless, Horrifically Costly War on Terror
JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean, you know, what Obama was doing there—in his last major address that he gave, he—at the United Nations General Assembly, he laid out this sort of forceful defense of American empire, and even went so far as to say that the U.S. will use its military might to continue to secure energy resources. In this speech, it was a pretty forceful defense of a neoliberal economic agenda. And, you know, what Bob is saying about corporations resonates on a foreign policy level, as well.
What is widely being considered to be the most moving part of last night was when this U.S. Army Ranger was addressed in the crowd and who was severely wounded and had done 10 tours. Think about that for a moment—10 tours in these war zones. You know, this young American spent his entire adult life in these combat zones. And, you know, the issue of how veterans are treated in this country is one thing, but at the end of the day, did he benefit from these wars? Does the average American benefit from the continuation of these wars? No. Who benefits? That’s the most important question we all have to ask. It’s corporations.
(snip) War corporations, the Halliburtons of the world, the Boeings. John Kerry, yesterday it was announced, is giving these awards for corporate excellence around the world. He’s giving them to Citibank, to Apache, to Boeing, to Coca-Cola. And so you have this neoliberal economic agenda, which is sort of the hidden hand, in many ways, of the U.S. empire, and then you have this iron fist of U.S. militarism that is being sold to the American public, and increasingly to the world, as national security policy.
And so, you know, when I see that Army Ranger who’s wounded like that, the first thing that just occurs to me is: Who has benefited from all of this? When corporations control our political process in this country through a legalized form of corruption that’s called campaign finance, what does that say about the state of our democracy? In a way, there already has been a coup in this country, but it’s been a silent coup. And it reminds me of that famous line from the great movie The Usual Suspects. At the end of it, Kevin Spacey’s character says the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. In many ways, a coup has happened, and the brilliance of it is that it’s not sparking major uprisings because we’ve been pacified and taught to just accept this as how things work. We have two parties in this country, the minimum wage is going to be the minimum wage, and corporations are in control, and these wars are fought in our name, but without our consent.
BOB HERBERT: And the flipside of who benefits is the suffering that is so tremendous out there among the warriors who have been sent over to fight these wars since late 2001. And so, you just have hundreds of thousands of people who have—men and women, who have come back from the combat zones, who have terrible, disabling injuries, who are going to have to be cared for—we have an obligation to care for them—in many cases, for the rest of their lives. We have to pay, as a society, to care for these folks. You know, it’s probably—Joe Stiglitz has estimated that now these wars are probably going cost cumulatively $4 trillion or more. None of this has been really explored clearly or properly explained to the American public.
JEREMY SCAHILL: You know, just a small sort of side point on this, you know, when we talk about the U.S. withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, the conventional military, a story that very seldom gets attention is the connection between a paramilitarization of law enforcement inside of the United States and increasing use of what they call counterterrorism tactics on SWAT-style operations in the U.S. The military is donating a lot of its equipment to local police agencies and other so-called law enforcement agencies, and the communities that are most at risk here are communities of color and poor communities. Everything is about war—the war on drugs, the war on crime. (snip)
And war requires some kind of a militarized response. And that’s what we’re seeing. This is deeply connected to the wars abroad, the wars at home, as well.
BOB HERBERT: And this is actually going into our public schools, where you have that type of militarized behavior going on actually in public schools. That’s how you get the school-to-prison pipeline that people are talking about.
AMY GOODMAN: On Afghanistan, President Obama said, "If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies." But the latest news says the Pentagon has proposed up to 10,000 troops remaining behind, Jeremy.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, and if you look at what sort of various senior anonymous military officials have been saying for several years now, they’ve known that the withdrawal is not really going to be a withdrawal. Yes, we’re going to see the Marines pull out. We’re going to have this thing where journalists can ride on the tanks, like they did out of Iraq. But at the end of the day, this is an Afghanization of a U.S. policy. So, what’s going to happen is that you’re going to have these advise-and-assist squads of highly trained U.S. special ops and CIA personnel accompanying Afghan units, and they’re going to try to have the Afghans do the fighting and dying and killing on behalf of U.S. policy. But what I think should be of greater concern to the American public is that you are going to have these strike forces in place. It’s taken as conventional wisdom now that the U.S. is out of Iraq. Actually, the U.S. has a massive paramilitary presence inside of Iraq and is going to continue to have one inside of Afghanistan. So, these wars are going to continue on for at least another generation, albeit on a sort of covert, hidden-hand manner of doing it.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But what’s the justification, Jeremy, for keeping troops in Afghanistan?
JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean, there is no counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan anymore. I mean, no one wants to talk about this, because you’re going to be accused of being sympathetic to the Taliban. The Taliban is not a terrorist organization with global aspirations. The Taliban has a constituency, has a greater constituency than the U.S., arguably than Hamid Karzai, who the U.S. recognizes as the president. And I think the Taliban is a morally reprehensible group of individuals, but they do have indigenous support. And the reason that they’re fighting right now is because the U.S. and NATO are in their country. And so, to sort of imply that what we’re doing there is countering terrorists, when in the first months of the Obama administration his own national security adviser said there are less than a hundred al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, we should be asking that question that John Kerry asked in 1971: Who wants to be the last to die for this failed war? What do they tell the families of the soldiers who die from here until they pull out the conventional military?