Washington Gets Explicit: Its "War on terror" is Permanent

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Washington Gets Explicit: Its "War on terror" is Permanent

Postby admin » Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:54 am

WASHINGTON GETS EXPLICIT: ITS "WAR ON TERROR" IS PERMANENT
by Glenn Greenwald
May 17, 2013

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Senior Obama Officials Tell the U.S. Senate: The "War," in Limitless Form, Will Continue for "At Least" Another Decade -- or Two

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Assistant Defense Secretary Michael Sheehan, right, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee's May 16, 2013, hearing on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. Photo: AP/Carolyn Kaster AP

Last October, senior Obama officials anonymously unveiled to the Washington Post their newly minted "disposition matrix", a complex computer system that will be used to determine how a terrorist suspect will be "disposed of": indefinite detention, prosecution in a real court, assassination-by-CIA-drones, etc. Their rationale for why this was needed now, a full 12 years after the 9/11 attack:

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaida continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. . . . That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism."


On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether the statutory basis for this "war" -- the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) -- should be revised (meaning: expanded). This is how Wired's Spencer Ackerman (soon to be the Guardian US's national security editor) described the most significant exchange:

"Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, 'At least 10 to 20 years.' . . . A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today -- atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America's Thirty Years War."


That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the "war on terror" will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week's big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of "endless war". Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war -- justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism -- that is the single greatest cause of that threat.

In January, former Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson delivered a highly-touted speech suggesting that the war on terror will eventually end; he advocated that outcome, arguing:

'War' must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. We must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the 'new normal.'"


In response, I wrote that the "war on terror" cannot and will not end on its own for two reasons: (1) it is designed by its very terms to be permanent, incapable of ending, since the war itself ironically ensures that there will never come a time when people stop wanting to bring violence back to the US (the operational definition of "terrorism"), and (2) the nation's most powerful political and economic factions reap a bonanza of benefits from its continuation. Whatever else is true, it is now beyond doubt that ending this war is the last thing on the mind of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner and those who work at the highest levels of his administration. Is there any way they can make that clearer beyond declaring that it will continue for "at least" another 10-20 years?

The genius of America's endless war machine is that, learning from the unpleasantness of the Vietnam war protests, it has rendered the costs of war largely invisible. That is accomplished by heaping all of the fighting burden on a tiny and mostly economically marginalized faction of the population, by using sterile, mechanized instruments to deliver the violence, and by suppressing any real discussion in establishment media circles of America's innocent victims and the worldwide anti-American rage that generates.

Though rarely visible, the costs are nonetheless gargantuan. Just in financial terms, as Americans are told they must sacrifice Social Security and Medicare benefits and place their children in a crumbling educational system, the Pentagon remains the world's largest employer and continues to militarily outspend the rest of the world by a significant margin. The mythology of the Reagan presidency is that he induced the collapse of the Soviet Union by luring it into unsustainable military spending and wars: should there come a point when we think about applying that lesson to ourselves?

Then there are the threats to Americans' security. Having their government spend decades proudly touting itself as "A Nation at War" and bringing horrific violence to the world is certain to prompt more and more people to want to attack Americans, as the US government itself claims took place just recently in Boston (and as clearly took place multiple other times over the last several years).

And then there's the most intangible yet most significant cost: each year of endless war that passes further normalizes the endless rights erosions justified in its name. The second term of the Bush administration and first five years of the Obama presidency have been devoted to codifying and institutionalizing the vast and unchecked powers that are typically vested in leaders in the name of war. Those powers of secrecy, indefinite detention, mass surveillance, and due-process-free assassination are not going anywhere. They are now permanent fixtures not only in the US political system but, worse, in American political culture.

Each year that passes, millions of young Americans come of age having spent their entire lives, literally, with these powers and this climate fixed in place: to them, there is nothing radical or aberrational about any of it. The post-9/11 era is all they have been trained to know. That is how a state of permanent war not only devastates its foreign targets but also degrades the population of the nation that prosecutes it.

This war will end only once Americans realize the vast and multi-faceted costs they are bearing so that the nation's political elites can be empowered and its oligarchs can further prosper. But Washington clearly has no fear that such realizations are imminent. They are moving in the other direction: aggressively planning how to further entrench and expand this war.

One might think that if there is to be a debate over the 12-year-old AUMF, it would be about repealing it. Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who heroically cast the only vote against it when it was originally enacted by presciently warning of how abused it would be, has been advocating its repeal for some time now in favor of using reasonable security measures to defend against such threats and standard law enforcement measures to punish them (which have proven far more effective than military solutions). But just as happened in 2001, neither she nor her warnings are deemed sufficiently serious even to consider, let alone embrace.

Instead, the Washington AUMF "debate" recognizes only two positions: (1) Congress should codify expanded powers for the administration to fight a wider war beyond what the 2001 AUMF provides (that's the argument recently made by the supreme war-cheerleaders-from-a-safe-distance at the Washington Post editorial page and their favorite war-justifying think tank theorists, and the one being made by many Senators from both parties), or (2) the administration does not need any expanded authority because it is already free to wage a global war with very few limits under the warped "interpretation" of the AUMF which both the Bush and Obama DOJs have successfully persuaded courts to accept (that's the Obama administration's position). In other words, the shared premise is that the US government must continue to wage unlimited, permanent war, and the only debate is whether that should happen under a new law or the old one.

Just to convey a sense for how degraded is this Washington "debate": Obama officials at yesterday's Senate hearing repeatedly insisted that this "war" is already one without geographical limits and without any real conceptual constraints. The AUMF's war power, they said, "stretches from Boston to the [tribal areas of Pakistan]" and can be used "anywhere around the world, including inside Syria, where the rebel Nusra Front recently allied itself with al-Qaida's Iraq affiliate, or even what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called 'boots on the ground in Congo'". The acting general counsel of the Pentagon said it even "authorized war against al-Qaida's associated forces in Mali, Libya and Syria". Newly elected independent Sen. Angus King of Maine said after listening to how the Obama administration interprets its war powers under the AUMF:

This is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I've been to since I've been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution today."


Former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith, who testified at the hearing, summarized what was said after it was over: Obama officials argued that "they had domestic authority to use force in Mali, Syria, Libya, and Congo, against Islamist terrorist threats there"; that "they were actively considering emerging threats and stated that it was possible they would need to return to Congress for new authorities against those threats but did not at present need new authorities"; that "the conflict authorized by the AUMF was not nearly over"; and that "several members of the Committee were surprised by the breadth of DOD's interpretation of the AUMF." Conveying the dark irony of America's war machine, seemingly lifted right out of the Cold War era film Dr. Strangelove, Goldsmith added:

Amazingly, there is a very large question even in the Armed Services Committee about who the United States is at war against and where, and how those determinations are made."


Nobody really even knows with whom the US is at war, or where. Everyone just knows that it is vital that it continue in unlimited form indefinitely.

In response to that, the only real movement in Congress is to think about how to enact a new law to expand the authorization even further. But it's a worthless and illusory debate, affecting nothing other than the pretexts and symbols used to justify what will, in all cases, be a permanent and limitless war. The Washington AUMF debate is about nothing other than whether more fig leafs are needed to make it all pretty and legal.

The Obama administration already claims the power to wage endless and boundless war, in virtually total secrecy, and without a single meaningful check or constraint. No institution with any power disputes this. To the contrary, the only ones which exert real influence -- Congress, the courts, the establishment media, the plutocratic class -- clearly favor its continuation and only think about how further to enable it. That will continue unless and until Americans begin to realize just what a mammoth price they're paying for this ongoing splurge of war spending and endless aggression.

Related matters

Although I'm no fan of mindless partisan hackery, one must acknowledge, if one is to be honest, that sometimes it produces high comedy of the type few other afflictions are capable of producing.

On a related note: when Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about the DOJ's subpoeans for AP's phone records -- purportedly issued in order to find the source for AP's story about a successfully thwarted terror attack from Yemen -- he made this claim about the leak they were investigating: "if not the most serious, it is within the top two or three most serious leaks that I have ever seen." But yesterday, the Washington Post reported that CIA officials gave the go-ahead to AP to report the story, based in part on the fact that the administration itself planned to make a formal announcement boasting of their success in thwarting the plot. Meanwhile, the invaluable Marcy Wheeler today makes a strong case that the Obama administration engaged in a fear-mongering campaign over this plot that they knew at the time was false -- all for the purpose of justifying the president's newly announced "signature drone strikes" in Yemen.

The key lesson from all of this should have been learned long ago: nothing is less reliable than unchecked claims from political officials that their secret conduct is justified by National Security Threats and the desire to Keep Us Safe.
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Re: Washington Gets Explicit: Its "War on terror" is Permane

Postby admin » Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:55 am

Endless War
by Gary J. Bass

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Image
An Air Force B-52 Stratofortress over South Vietnam in 1965; Gen. Curtis LeMay in 1963; and Allen Dulles in the 1950s.

September 3, 2010
New York Times

In 1947, Hanson W. Baldwin, the hawkish military correspondent of this newspaper, warned that the demands of preparing America for a possible war would “wrench and distort and twist the body politic and the body economic . . . prior to war.” He wondered whether America could confront the Soviet Union “without becoming a ‘garrison state’ and destroying the very qualities and virtues and principles we originally set about to save.”

WASHINGTON RULES
America’s Path to Permanent War
By Andrew J. Bacevich
286 pp. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company. $25


It is that same dread of a martial America that drives Andrew J. Bacevich today. Bacevich forcefully denounces the militarization that he says has already become a routine, unremarked-upon part of our daily lives — and will only get worse as America fights on in Afghanistan and beyond. He rips into what he calls a postwar American dogma “so deeply embedded in the American collective consciousness as to have all but disappeared from view.” “Washington Rules” is a tough-minded, bracing and intelligent polemic against some 60 years of American militarism.

This outrage at a warlike America has special bite coming from Bacevich. No critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could have brighter conservative credentials. He is a blunt-talking Midwesterner, a West Point graduate who served for 23 years in the United States Army, a Vietnam veteran who retired as a colonel, and a sometime contributor to National Review. “By temperament and upbringing, I had always taken comfort in orthodoxy,” he writes. But George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, Bacevich says, “pushed me fully into opposition. Claims that once seemed elementary — above all, claims relating to the essentially benign purposes of American power — now appeared preposterous.”

From Harry S. Truman’s presidency to today, Bacevich argues, Americans have trumpeted the credo that they alone must “lead, save, liberate and ultimately transform the world.” That crusading mission is implemented by what Bacevich caustically calls “the sacred trinity”: “U.S. military power, the Pentagon’s global footprint and an American penchant for intervention.” This threatening posture might have made some sense in 1945, he says, but it is catastrophic today. It relegates America to “a condition of permanent national security crisis.”

Bacevich has two main targets in his sights. The first are the commissars of the national security establishment, who perpetuate these “Washington rules” of global dominance. By Washington, he means not just the federal government, but also a host of satraps who gain power, cash or prestige from this perpetual state of emergency: defense contractors, corporations, big banks, interest groups, think tanks, universities, television networks and The New York Times. He complains that an unthinking Washington consensus on global belligerence is just as strong among mainstream Democrats as among mainstream Republicans. Those who step outside this monolithic view, like Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul, are quickly dismissed as crackpots, Bacevich says. This leaves no serious checks or balances against the overweening national security state.

Bacevich’s second target is the sleepwalking American public. He says that they notice foreign policy only in the depths of a disaster that, like Vietnam or Iraq, is too colossal to ignore. As he puts it, “The citizens of the United States have essentially forfeited any capacity to ask first-order questions about the fundamentals of national security policy.”

Bacevich is singularly withering on American public willingness to ignore those who do their fighting for them. He warns of “the evisceration of civic culture that results when a small praetorian guard shoulders the burden of waging perpetual war, while the great majority of citizens purport to revere its members, even as they ignore or profit from their service.” Here he has a particular right to be heard: on May 13, 2007, his son Andrew J. Bacevich Jr., an Army first lieutenant, was killed on combat patrol in Iraq. Bacevich does not discuss his tragic loss here, but wrote devastatingly about it at the time in The Washington Post: “Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.’s life is priceless. Don’t believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier’s life: I’ve been handed the check.”

Bacevich is less interested in foreign policy here (he offers only cursory remarks about the objectives and capabilities of countries like China, Russia, North Korea and Iran) than in the way he thinks militarism has corrupted America. In his acid account of the inexorable growth of the national security state, he emphasizes not presidents, who come and go, but the architects of the system that envelops them: Allen W. Dulles, who built up the C.I.A., and Curtis E. LeMay, who did the same for the Strategic Air Command. Both of them, Bacevich says, would get memorials on the Mall in Washington if we were honest about how the capital really works.

The mandarins thrived under John F. Kennedy, whose administration “was fixating on Fidel Castro with the same feverish intensity as the Bush administration exactly 40 years later was to fixate on Saddam Hussein — and with as little strategic logic.” The Washington consensualists were thrown badly off balance by defeat in Vietnam but, Bacevich says, soon regained their stride under Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — setting the stage for George W. Bush. Barack Obama campaigned on change and getting out of Iraq, but when it comes to the war in Afghanistan or military budgets, he is, Bacevich insists, just another cat’s-paw for the Washington establishment: “Obama would not challenge the tradition that Curtis LeMay and Allen Dulles had done so much to erect.”

Bacevich sometimes overdoes the high dudgeon. He writes, “The folly and hubris of the policy makers who heedlessly thrust the nation into an ill-defined and open-ended ‘global war on terror’ without the foggiest notion of what victory would look like, how it would be won and what it might cost approached standards hitherto achieved only by slightly mad German warlords.” Which slightly mad German warlords exactly? Bacevich, an erudite historian, could mean some princelings or perhaps Kaiser Wilhelm II, but the standard reading will be Hitler.

And he underplays some of the ways in which Americans have resisted militarism. The all-volunteer force, for all its deep inequities, is a testament to American horror at conscription. He never mentions Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the great New York senator who fought government secrecy and quixotically tried to abolish the C.I.A. after the end of the cold war. Although Bacevich admires Dwight D. Eisenhower for his farewell address warning against the forces of the “military-industrial complex,” he slams Eisenhower for enabling those same forces as president. Yet the political scientist Aaron L. Friedberg and other scholars credit Eisenhower for resisting demands for huge boosts in defense spending.

Bacevich, in his own populist way, sees himself as updating a tradition — from George Washington and John Quincy Adams to J. William Fulbright and Martin Luther King Jr. — that calls on America to exemplify freedom but not actively to spread it. It isn’t every American’s tradition (and it offers pretty cold comfort to Poles, Rwandans and Congolese), but it’s one that’s necessary to keep the country from going off the rails. As foreign policy debates in the run-up to the November elections degenerate into Muslim-bashing bombast, the country is lucky to have a fierce, smart peacemonger like ­- Bacevich.

Gary J. Bass, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, is the author of “Freedom’s Battle” and “Stay the Hand of Vengeance.”

A version of this review appeared in print on September 5, 2010, on page BR21 of the Sunday Book Review.
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Re: Washington Gets Explicit: Its "War on terror" is Permane

Postby admin » Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:56 am

Endless Wars Have Cost Americans $1.6 Trillion, Report Finds
Post-9/11 military operations are second only to World War II in terms of financial cost—and 'the costs go on.'
by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

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December 23, 2014

Image
The Human Cost of War Exhibition at a downtown mall in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo: Bob Mical/flickr/cc)

The United States has spent $1.6 trillion on post-9/11 military operations, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, weapons procurement and maintenance, and base support, according to a report (pdf) issued earlier this month by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

As some analysts point out, that's more money than the U.S. spent on the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991 all rolled into one.

According to International Business Times, "the $1.6 trillion estimate, which comes to $14 million per hour since 9/11...is up roughly half a trillion dollars from its 2010 estimate, which found that the post-9/11 military operations are second only to World War II in terms of financial cost."

Of the $1.6 trillion total, CRS specialist Amy Belasco estimates that the funding breaks down as such:

• $686 billion (43%) for Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan);
• $815 billion (51%) for Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (Iraq);
• $27 billion (2%) for Operation Noble Eagle (providing enhanced security at military bases and military operations related to homeland security);
• $81 billion (5%) for war-designated funding not considered directly related to the Afghanistan or Iraq wars.

The report, dated December 8, states that about 92 percent of the funds went to the Department of Defense, with the remainder split between the State Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other agencies. The key factor determining the cost of war during a given period over the last 13 years has been the number of U.S. troops deployed, according to the report.

To that end, the document says that predicting "future costs of the new U.S. role in countering the Islamic State is difficult because of the nature of the air campaign and uncertainties about whether the U.S. mission may expand."

To curtail costs moving forward, the CRS analysis recommends: "Congress may wish to consider ways to restrict war-funding to exclude activities marginally related to war operations and support, and to limit the use of ground troops in Operation Inherent Resolve," referring to the U.S. military intervention against the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Writing at the Federation of American Scientists blog—where the report was first posted—Steven Aftergood says: "Ideally, the record compiled in the 100-page CRS report would serve as the basis for a comprehensive assessment of U.S. military spending since 9/11: To what extent was the expenditure of $1.6 trillion in this way justified? How much of it actually achieved its intended purpose? How much could have been better spent in other ways?"

Mother Jones notes that "[o]ther reports have estimated the cost of U.S. wars since 9/11 to be far higher than $1.6 trillion. A report by Neta Crawford, a political science professor at Boston University, estimated the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as well as post-2001 assistance to Pakistan—to be roughly $4.4 trillion. The CRS estimate is lower because it does not include additional costs including the lifetime price of health care for disabled veterans and interest on the national debt."

Speaking to The Fiscal Times, American University professor of international relations and military history Gordon Adams argues that the costs of war are much higher than any report could show.

"All of these figures do not take into account the long-term consequences, in terms of post-traumatic stress disorder or long-term veterans' bills," he said. "The costs go on. Iraq and Afghanistan will end up being the gift that keeps on giving because—as we did with Vietnam—we will be living with the consequences for many, many years."
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