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Tue Dec 18, 2018, 11:36 AM

Guardian: A torrent of ghastly revelations: what military service taught me about America

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/dec/18/torrent-of-ghastly-revelations-what-military-service-taught-me-about-america-us-marine-corps-afghanistan

Excellent reflection on the author's changing attitudes.

My first and only war tour took place in Afghanistan in 2010. I was a US Marine lieutenant then, a signals intelligence officer tasked with leading a platoon-size element of 80 to 90 men, spread across an area of operations the size of my home state of Connecticut, in the interception and exploitation of enemy communications. That was the official job description, anyway. The year-long reality consisted of a tangle of rearguard management and frontline supervision.

f boot camp had given me a keen awareness of my country’s violence and the overcompensating sentiment that went with it, my experience in school at Twentynine Palms took longer to register. For a while, all I retained was unrelated impressions: a sulphuric stench that would come with the rain, something of which, years later, I would get a second whiff during the wet sand season in Afghanistan, or the sight of meth-heads and tweakers (that’s what we called them) on the public bus I’d take to Walmart where I’d buy items like cheap portable irons or rechargeable Bluetooth headphones. They were alive with death, and their deathliness had an aggression to it, one that burned with a spirited rage.

It is exhausting having to declaim the same talking points over and over again: that the majority of the US official adversaries were once clients and allies. That almost every intervention comes with an ex post facto assessment from the government acknowledging the failure of the mission. That investigative reporters and historians almost always unearth internal documents betraying motives that not only run counter to public rationales but undermine all claims to humanitarian intent. That the US supplies the world with a preponderance of its weapons and fuels a plurality of its animosities. That the US is the only power to have ever dropped the bomb, that it did so twice, and that it did so not to end a world war (a war that was about to end anyway) but to launch what became a half-century-long cold war on superior footing. While not alone as a global malefactor, the US is the world leader in conventional foreign invasions since 1945, with 12; has engineered at least 38 coups or regime changes since the Spanish-American war of 1898; and has offered direct military support and training to dozens of governments with no regard for human rights. The US incarcerates the most people today, both in absolute and relative terms. It has incarcerated the most people for at least 30-odd years, and it either led the world in its incarceration rate or trailed closely behind the Soviet Union and South Africa for the preceding decades. As early as 1976, one study described America’s rate as the “highest in the world and still rising”. By any standard, the US empire ranks among the world’s most formidable producers of violence, and one would be hard-pressed to defend such all-consuming production on liberal democratic grounds.

En route to Afghanistan, I read the American political theorist Michael Walzer. Back then, I was still a reluctant believer in the gospel of American righteousness, and when Walzer wrote that the global fight against terrorism was “not backward looking and retributive, but forward looking and preventive”, that was enough to keep me faithful. Walzer had come after a more vulgar procession of neoconservative evangelists like Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan. These were the men who had ushered me to the right as an idealistic high school student, and I became quite the campus missionary when, weeks into my freshman year of college, the two towers fell. I became an opinion columnist and an op-ed editor for the school newspaper, where I penned romantic paeans to the democratising missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of my final contributions was a sombre explanation of why I felt obligated to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps and don the uniform. But by the third month of my deployment, even the subtle apologetics of Walzer struck me as dangerously absurd. If only Walzer and others could see what I saw. If only those who saw it with me could really see it.

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Arrow 11 replies Author Time Post
Reply Guardian: A torrent of ghastly revelations: what military service taught me about America (Original post)
erronis Dec 2018 OP
BSdetect Dec 2018 #1
erronis Dec 2018 #4
BSdetect Dec 2018 #9
erronis Dec 2018 #10
BSdetect Dec 2018 #11
UpInArms Dec 2018 #2
watoos Dec 2018 #6
UpInArms Dec 2018 #7
jmbar2 Dec 2018 #8
cilla4progress Dec 2018 #3
erronis Dec 2018 #5

Response to erronis (Original post)

Tue Dec 18, 2018, 12:17 PM

1. If only you had read "The New Centurions" by Donald Duncan, or maybe The Pentagon Papers.

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Response to BSdetect (Reply #1)

Tue Dec 18, 2018, 12:42 PM

4. I have read both of them - Pentagon Papers when it first came out. Your point?

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Response to erronis (Reply #4)

Tue Dec 18, 2018, 02:20 PM

9. If you had read them before joining up perhaps you not have joined up?

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Response to BSdetect (Reply #9)

Tue Dec 18, 2018, 02:41 PM

10. Are you confusing my (the OP) with the author of the article?

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Response to erronis (Reply #10)

Tue Dec 18, 2018, 03:19 PM

11. Yes, meant to address the author. My bad.

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Response to erronis (Original post)

Tue Dec 18, 2018, 12:38 PM

2. Maybe he should have read John Perkins' book,

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

a partly autobiographical book written by John Perkins published in 2004. It provides Perkins' account of his career with engineering consulting firm Chas. T. Main in Boston. According to Perkins, his role at Main was to convince leaders of underdeveloped countries to accept substantial development loans for large construction and engineering projects that would primarily help the richest families and local elites, rather than the poor, while making sure that these projects were contracted to U.S. companies. Later these loans would give the U.S. political influence and access to natural resources for U.S. companies.[1] He refers to this as an "economic hit man." Although he states that throughout his career he has always worked for private companies, and suggests a system of corporatocracy and greed, rather than a single conspiracy, he claims the involvement of the National Security Agency (NSA), with whom he had interviewed for a job before joining Main. According to the author, this interview effectively constituted an independent screening which led to his subsequent hiring as an economic hit man by Einar Greve,[2] a vice president of the firm (and alleged NSA liaison).


edited to add ...

Or War Is a Racket

By Smedley Butler

It contains this summary:

"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."

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Response to UpInArms (Reply #2)

Tue Dec 18, 2018, 01:51 PM

6. Or the book that you have as an avatar

 

Oops I should have read the rest of your post.

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Response to watoos (Reply #6)

Tue Dec 18, 2018, 02:00 PM

7. War is a Racket

Is only 36 pages ....

And should be assigned reading in school

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Response to UpInArms (Reply #2)

Tue Dec 18, 2018, 02:10 PM

8. I think China is now trying the economic hitman strategy

Hope it backfires on them before they do even more damage than we have.

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Response to erronis (Original post)

Tue Dec 18, 2018, 12:40 PM

3. Or Zinn's

A People's History...

I had no idea how vicious and futile the Korean War was.

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Response to cilla4progress (Reply #3)

Tue Dec 18, 2018, 12:43 PM

5. Totally agree with Zinn and A People's History

I've asked all of my children (5) to read it --- not sure how many have.

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