Farewell, the American Century

Andrew J. Bacevich Rewriting the Past by Adding In What’s Been Left Out. (via TomDispatch)

In a recent column, the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen wrote, “What Henry Luce called ‘the American Century’ is over.” Cohen is right. All that remains is to drive a stake through the heart of Luce’s pernicious creation, lest it come back to life. This promises to take some doing.

When the Time-Life publisher coined his famous phrase, his intent was to prod his fellow citizens into action. Appearing in the February 7, 1941 issue of Life, his essay, “The American Century,” hit the newsstands at a moment when the world was in the throes of a vast crisis. A war in Europe had gone disastrously awry. A second almost equally dangerous conflict was unfolding in the Far East. Aggressors were on the march.

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Torture? It probably killed more Americans than 9/11

A US major reveals the inside story of military interrogation in Iraq in this report by Patrick Cockburn, winner of the 2009 Orwell Prize for journalism

The use of torture by the US has proved so counter-productive that it may have led to the death of as many US soldiers as civilians killed in 9/11, says the leader of a crack US interrogation team in Iraq.

“The reason why foreign fighters joined al-Qa’ida in Iraq was overwhelmingly because of abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and not Islamic ideology,” says Major Matthew Alexander, who personally conducted 300 interrogations of prisoners in Iraq. It was the team led by Major Alexander [a named assumed for security reasons] that obtained the information that led to the US military being able to locate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa’ida in Iraq. Zarqawi was then killed by bombs dropped by two US aircraft on the farm where he was hiding outside Baghdad on 7 June 2006. Major Alexander said that he learnt where Zarqawi was during a six-hour interrogation of a prisoner with whom he established relations of trust.

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The warfare of inequality management

In this excellent article, Jimmy Johnson explains how the IDF’s long-standing experience with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to quell Palestinian resistance is becoming a central technology of state violence designed to monitor, supress and, if necessary, destroy those social forces around the world which oppose “institutions of hegemony and power that seek to keep systems of inequality more or less sustainable.” With the increasing concentration of the dispossessed majority in urban slums, “the pacification laboratory in Gaza, Nablus and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory will continue to be of use for the forces occupying Kabul and Baghdad today, and those who might aim for Karachi, Lagos, Caracas and other centers of ‘desperation and anger’ tomorrow.”

Aeronautics Defense Systems, based in the Israeli city of Yavne, was recently awarded a contract by the Dutch Ministry of Defense “to supply unmanned air vehicle capacity to Dutch troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.” [1] The Netherlands is not the only nation to employ Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in foreign occupation. They are also utilized by Canadian, US, UK and Australian forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their foreign sale has developed largely because of significant use in the wars against and occupations of Lebanon and Palestine. A variety of Israeli firms are developing new unmanned aerial, terrestrial and nautical vehicles. As these are proven in combat, here it can be expected that they too will be exported to foreign forces.

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‘Intense, focused and targeted’

Rahimullah Yusufzai on developments in Swat and the delusions of the armchair militarists.

Unlike the earlier two phases of the military operations in Swat in 2007 and 2008, the latest one initiated in late January is being praised by the ANP-PPP government in the NWFP and sections of the population opposed to the militants. The more discerning elements of the civil society, who tend to criticise almost anything that doesn’t conform to their political and intellectual orientation, are also backing the intensified military action. The main reason for the support to the armed forces this time is due to the belief that the latest military operation is intense, focused and targeted.

This reminds one of a statement made by Gen Pervez Musharraf on the eve of the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. In a bid to win public support for his unpopular decision to ally Pakistan with the US at the time, he had argued that the American military action in the neighbouring, Taliban-ruled country would be quick, focused and targeted. Obviously, the General was trying to reassure Pakistanis that this was going to be over soon as he calculated the Taliban regime would collapse and the US troops would go home after installing a pro-West government in Kabul. Though President George W Bush contradicted his Pakistani counterpart, Gen Musharraf didn’t correct his flawed assessment. Supremely confident of his military knowledge and intellectual prowess, he even claimed at the time that the Taliban could not fight a guerrilla war and, therefore, would soon become irrelevant.

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The first Gulf War was recently descibed by Robert Fisk as a turning point, where Western society seemed indifferent to war and civilian casualties, he discerned that part of the problem was due to journalism saying “our television lads and lasses played it [the war] for all it was worth – it was the first war that had ‘theme’ music to go with the pictures”.

Militainment is a documentary on this phenomena where journalism blends with entertainment and the military establishment.

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