The Distant Drums

Trump’s committing crimes against humanity on twitter, which – naturally – allows it. For any who have forgotten, threatening to use military force is the crime of War of Aggression.

The US has repeatedly crossed that line, since WWI, so many times that I suppose it hardly matters any more. Except to the victims. Americans forget who they bombed, and when, and move on because “we don’t look backwards, we look forward.” As every imperialist aggressor, ever, has done.

But I don’t believe Obama that we look forward; if he had looked forward enough to engage a bit of foresight he would have realized that military involvement in Libya and Syria was not going to fix anything. In fact, he would have realized that there was no possible successful outcome in sight. He would have looked at the US’ fruitless wars on Afghanistan and Iraq and maybe realized that you shouldn’t get into such wars unless you have an achievable objective, which means a practical plan with clear victory conditions and post-war reconstruction plans for dealing with the power vacuum. If you look at Afghanistan and Iraq, what the US did was create a power vacuum and then stand around throwing bombs into it, expecting a functioning political system to emerge phoenix-like from all that high explosive.

If that’s not the stupidest fucking thing, ever, it’s close. Trump – if he starts a war with Iran – will bigly exceed the standard of political stupidity set by George W Bush.

Bill Erhart, the speaker, is not ad-libbing that performance. It’s a carefully thought-through narrative that is chock full of arguments anticipating typical objections. In other words, it looks like a veteran smoking a cigarette to calm his nerves while telling a story, but in fact it’s a veteran who has prepared a brilliantly incisive monologue and who is using the cigarette as a prop to direct the listener. I’m not saying that the fact that this is a constructed performance makes it less good; knowing that it’s actually a talk that Erhart used to give all over the country makes it better. We desperately need people to hear the sort of thing he has to say.

Our rulers don’t need to hear that sort of thing, because they already have decided that they don’t give a shit. It’s important for the US to demonstrate its power, because its louche old golf-playing fart of a president needs a popular boost. In a non-bizarre world, his popularity would plummet, but instead he does what ISIS did and threatens cultural heritage sites as targets, while attacking people at will, respecting no sovereignty at all. His base and the sycophants on Fox News are cheering him for being what they hate, they’re just too fucking wrapped up in their evangelical delusions to think for a second.

To me, that’s the craziest part of this whole thing: the US has eventually lost every war since Vietnam where there was popular resistance. It’s rather obvious: popular resistance means you’re going to lose because the people can just wait you out – if the US had prolonged the war in Vietnam until today we’d still be not-winning, just racking up a body-count and making a bonfire of money. It’s completely weird – the force structure the US has in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan in no way points towards “winning”; there is no possible successful outcome. So, why do it? Why continue it? Why start more?

Americans are such disgustingly thoughtless and violent assholes that courage is found in questioning the actions of the government, not supporting them.

“War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
– The Nuremberg Military Tribunal

Erhart’s description of the divorce between US propaganda (Time Magazine and Stars and Stripes) and the reality on the ground is particularly apposite given the recent reporting about how the war in Afghanistan and Iraq were largely reported lies.

The war went on day after day after day, interminably, at the same pace no matter what we did.
– Bill Erhard

Erhard’s description of being caught up in the middle of the Tet Offensive matches what Sazz told me. It was the punch in the nose that made the US finally admit that it was never going to succeed. How is that even possible when you have a nation of millions of people who hate you so much that they are willing to die in large numbers to get rid of you? What is the point? What does “winning” mean when all you’re doing is maintaining a toehold? “You have not beaten me yet” is not the sound of winning.


  1. says

    The only places where occupation resulted in “winning” was enough genocide to decimate or eradicate the population (e.g. North America, Australia, especially Tasmania). If the US had annilihilated 90% of the Vietnamese it might have “won” but at the same price that Afghanistan cost the Soviets.

    As you said, when people are fighting for their homeland and existence, they’ll endure any amount of losses to stay alive (re: Palestine, Somalia). The difference with the US is the hubris, worse than any other empire, that it “has all the answers” when most times the US doesn’t even have a clue.

  2. says

    His base and the sycophants on Fox News are cheering him for being what they hate, they’re just too fucking wrapped up in their evangelical delusions to think for a second.

    I think the more proper conclusion is that they never hated it in the first place. It was just a convenient excuse at the time and now they don’t need it anymore.

  3. Dunc says

    I think it’s a mistake to consider what America is doing in the Middle East as “war” in any conventional military sense. It’s part endless election campaign, part Keynesian economic stimulus, part bribery (on an epic scale), and part entertainment. The closest thing there is to a military objective is “continue shovelling vast oceans of cash to the military-industrial complex”. There are no achievable objectives or identifiable victory conditions because that’s not the point. The point is to spend money and keep the proles suitably excited / distracted. If, by some miracle, “victory” were to be achieved, it would immediately be necessary to start a new psuedo-war with somebody else. A “successful outcome” is that there is no successful outcome. That’s the point.

    We have always been at war with Eastasia.

  4. says

    It’s part endless election campaign, part Keynesian economic stimulus, part bribery (on an epic scale), and part entertainment

    “War is a continuation of daytime television by other means”
    -Von Duncwitz

  5. brucegee1962 says

    I’d say the problem is the sunk cost fallacy writ large. All of the money and lives already spent in Iraq and Afghanistan are already sunk costs–they’re never going to get a payoff, and Obama knew that. But a pullout would mean admitting that, which would be political death for him or any other politician — the one who “lost us the Middle East.”

    It’s as if you’re standing at a slot machine at a casino, losing steadily. As long as you’re still standing there feeding it money, you can pretend to yourself that there is still a big payoff down the road. If you turn around a walk away, though, then you have to admit to everyone that all that money you lost is gone for good. No politician, even a good one, is going to have the guts for that.

    I believe, however, that the recent resolution of the Iraqi parliament that we leave may be the best possible case for this showdown. If we can just get out of the Middle East for good, that we be ideal — at least, if we can manage to do it without killing even more people first.

Leave a Reply