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article imageOp-Ed: The Quiet Wars That No One Ever Knows

By Brian LaSorsa     Mar 1, 2012 in Politics
The Nobel Prize is without purpose. In my previous column, "Bush's two wars, an Obama continuation," I deeply criticized Obama's handling of Iraq and Afghanistan as identical to Bush's handling of the wars.
Many people responded to the article saying the current president couldn't have handled these situations because, as his apologetics tend to declare, it's all Dubya's fault.
Let it be clear that I'm not standing up for the Bush administration. I equally dislike Republicans and Democrats. They do the same things but are both good at pretending otherwise.
So, for those who continue to see Obama as the peace candidate, we should seek a clear observation of his other aggressive military actions overseas.
Pakistan. The deaths of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein meant that the emotional base for military intervention in the Middle East was dwindling. As we moved into late 2011, though, the US government found few people to pinpoint as ‘enemies.’ US national security advisors have insisted that Pakistani leadership knew nothing about bin Laden’s years-long residency in Abbottabad, but the media’s opinion of the circumstance still seems to hint at the idea that ‘they couldn’t have magically missed him.’ I’m compelled to guess that the Obama administration felt the same way when it decided to cut military aid to Pakistan. I’ll never object to less military aid to foreign countries, but I’d love to see its reduction arise for better reasons than a weird punishment for their military not fighting strongly enough towards a US president’s interests.
I don’t even understand how the current administration really believes that Pakistan wants to help the United States in the first place. Drone strikes killed nearly 700 innocent Pakistanis in 2009 alone. From a skewed utilitarian viewpoint of ‘at least we killed a miniscule amount of high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders,’ the precision rate of these lethal machines is still sickening. Can you imagine how we’d feel were Pakistan’s government to kill two innocent Americans every single day for an entire year? Our nation would be outraged. Yet Pakistan is given no reciprocal consideration in the name of a war on terror.
Journalist Allan Nairn explained during a 2010 interview, “Brookings Institution last year estimated that for every one militant, as they put it, killed in Pakistan, the U.S. drones kill 10 civilians. And they said that was OK; they defended the U.S. policy.” If that isn’t bad enough, the military ultimately became free to kill 50 innocent civilians before approval papers were required from higher branches of government, and, since independent journalists and humanitarian organizations have no access to the region, it is nearly impossible to tell how much damage these strikes really do. The current administration has already gotten used to operating these drones in the United States, too, so it’s only a matter of time before collateral damage is an acceptable out come of the war on drugs.
And with the impeding claims that leaders in Pakistan have been using the Haqqani Network as a tool of proxy warfare against the US government, it can be easily suggested that the Obama administration is planning even more direct military action in the South Asian state’s near future.
Libya. The Libyan civil war is presumed to have started in February 2011 when Gaddafi’s military began to disband peaceful protestors with threats of violence, usually leading to real violence against the brave individuals fighting his regime. From a causality point of view, I’d ask why Obama hired Hillary Clinton to be in charge of US foreign affairs. Is it really appropriate to have in his Cabinet a woman who said only two years ago of the now-ousted Egyptian dictator, “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family,” and whose husband accepted $10 million from the royal family of Saudi Arabia—with whom the US government has an interestingly unethical relationship—for his presidential library? I can maybe say that she was a better choice than John McCain, who once tweeted, “Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his ‘ranch’ in Libya—interesting meeting with an interesting man.” These untrustworthy figures touting aggressive policies abroad have isolated the United States in the international sphere more than a total trading tariff would have done.
Hafiz Ghoga, Vice Chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), made it clear immediately after the fighting began, “We are completely against foreign intervention. The rest of Libya will be liberated by the people […] and Gaddafi's security forces will be eliminated by the people of Libya,” a sentiment followed by celebrations of a newly-sovereign population. Not even one month later, the US began enforcing the no-fly zone.
Ignoring the unconstitutionality of the Obama administration’s dictatorial military action without any Congressional approval—in addition to the transfer of 12,000 US troops—these missile strikes have hit civilian homes and killed hundreds of other innocent people in the city of Sirte alone; meanwhile the United Nations pretends to care about the same attacks it sanctioned in the first place. When Gaddafi died, we were hoping it’d be that even quicker before the US left; unfortunately, since the Libya rebel commander admitted months earlier that a few of his fighters have al-Qaeda links, we may be looking at another internationally-contested occupation. Like tweeted, “Remember when hanging Saddam turned Iraq into Sweden? That was awesome.”
[See Glenn Greenwald’s “The Human Rights ‘Success’ in Libya.”]
Somalia. Hillary Clinton promised the government of Somalia in August 2009 that the US would double its military aid in attempt to protect it from Islamic extremists. Seeing as the country escaped Siad Barre’s long and brutal military dictatorship only two decades ago, it’s psychologically understandable why the Somali people would want nothing to do with the American empire. Yet the Somali government accepts these American weapons and sells them to insurgents. In essence, as far as Somalis are concerned, the US government sells these weapons to the same insurgents from whom it professes to protect them. We heard in 2011 that US drone strikes had killed and wounded innocent people, and, only five days later, it was reported that the US government had been building secret drone bases in Africa. Now the UN is stating that tens of thousands of Somalis are dying due to famine.
I don’t see how these bombing campaigns alleviate it.
Training and equipping East African militaries is toted as the ‘inexpensive’ conflict, but it has still cost taxpayers over $500 million since 2007 and has done little except further destabilize Somali life, not to mention the potential blowback that may be brewing in the country’s population in thought of the CIA’s secret sites.
It’s really not the time to be messing around in Somalia anyway. In the words of the CIA Factbook, “Despite the seeming anarchy, Somalia’s service sector has managed to survive and grow. Telecommunication firms provide wireless services in most major cities and offer the lowest international call rates on the continent. In the absence of a formal banking sector, money exchange services have sprouted throughout the country, handling between $500 million and $1 billion in remittances annually. Mogadishu’s main market offers a variety of goods from food to the newest electronic gadgets. Hotels continue to operate, and militias provide security.” The World Bank agrees.
This military intervention will severely damage Somalia’s economic and societal progression, especially in its fragile—yet increasingly stable—state, and it doesn’t give one single ounce of extra national security to the United States.
Yemen. Located immediately south of Saudi Arabia and north of Somalia (across the Gulf of Aden), Yemen has always been seen by the US government as a haven for terrorists. This viewpoint exists despite the fact that Yemen continues to dismiss the al-Qaeda threat as an exaggerated fear. Nonetheless, foreign entry into Yemen makes it extremely easy for the few al-Qaeda structures—funded by unprepared tribal leaders—to attack US troops. Opinions of local residents mostly originate from first-hand experiences since only a few sources of information head to these underdeveloped areas. For example, 50 people were killed during a US drone strike on a Yemeni police station only three months ago, and these attacks have been dramatically increased by the Obama administration, a phenomenon that can be seen in charts created by the Long War Journal.
The other side of the coin in Yemen is that the US government has broken many legal statutes through its targeting of terrorists, specifically the due process clause of the fifth amendment of the US Constitution. The CIA and JSOC teamed together in September 2011 in order to assassinate cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and editor Samir Khan; it is no dispute that these two individuals were radicals, but they were also US citizens and therefore were supposed to have been guaranteed due process. Glenn Greenwald of Salon has extensively covered these legal breaches in our justice system. If people still aren’t convinced that the US government operates outside of the law, maybe the illegality of US missiles killing multiple teenage boys, one of whom was al-Awlaki’s son, and will do the trick. In the words of the boy’s grandfather, “To kill a teenager is just unbelievable, really, and they claim that he is an al-Qaeda militant. It’s nonsense.”
Uganda. “Where the hell is Uganda?” is what most people asked themselves when the Obama administration announced it’d be invading the East African country—a reasonable question in context. At least Somalia is well-known for its pirates and ‘libertarian utopia’ jokes. The reason for the invasion, according to the US government, is that our country has the responsibility to get rid of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader, Joseph Kony. The LRA is a terrorist group attempting to establish a Ugandan theocracy based on the Ten Commandments. It wasn’t until I heard its actions defined as ‘Christian terrorism’ that I really understood how frustrated Muslims must be when al-Qaeda and the Taliban are defined as ‘Islamic terrorists’. The LRA certainly qualifies to be deemed a terrorist group, but it poses no more a threat to the United States than does the world’s biggest grain of sand—to say otherwise is a farce.
The Obama administration unconstitutionally sent 100 troops to counter the LRA’s aggression, but, like Libya, we’re still wondering what makes Uganda so special that it’s been chosen over the other violent organizations currently ignored. One theory about the intervention is that Uganda was chosen as a local ally to have during the US government’s campaign in Somalia even though the two countries aren’t tangent. This isn’t the LRA’s first experience with foreign militaries either; Guatemalan soldiers, trained by the US government, were viciously murdered by Kony’s men. Who’s to say that the same thing won’t happen to the 100 troops sent by Obama? We can only hope that such a tragedy isn’t born out of the ashes of this dangerous foreign policy.
United States. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates once stated, “In my opinion, any future Defense Secretary who advises the President to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”
Policymakers will never listen to this advice. And now that a US drone has mysteriously fallen into the grasp of the Iranian government—despite the Pentagon’s insistence that the foreign military is used purely as a deterrent—it is one more reason to believe the end of our involvement in the Middle East is nowhere to be seen. With the extension of the Patriot Act and the signing of the new NDAA provisions, nobody knows what will come of this country. The current president’s career boils down to a recent tweet by Jeremy Sapienza: “Obama mostly ends the war on Iraq so he can start the war on America.”
[See my column "Iran, the Story of Our Future War" for a further critique of a war against Iran.]
Many people keep referring to Obama as the ‘peace candidate’ in thought of his selection as the laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, but it is essential to our republic that we reflect upon how pro-war and pro-intervention he really is.
Where is the holding and promotion of peace congresses?
Where is the abolition or reduction of standing armies?
Where is the fraternity between nations?
Where is the peace, Mr. President?
“The sky is falling, and no one cares as long as it lands overseas.” – Thrice
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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