Sixteen Years A Disaster


From the dawn of George W. Bush’s administration through the final days of Barack Obama’s eight years in the White House, America’s relentless interventionism in the Middle East and elsewhere has resulted in no nation being built but at least three states being erased as violent chaos spreads everywhere. 

By Mark Cromer

Were it only a movie it might well be called The Empire Strikes Out, Again. Perhaps Double Calamity would give it a brooding cinema noir feel, but Pirates of the Mediterranean: Curse of the NeoCon Vortex has a nice ring to it as well.

Sixteen Years A Disaster would also work as a title for this epic non-fiction spectacular cluster F-bomb that is America’s runaway empire thinly disguised as ‘foreign policy,’ a terrible summer adventure flick now turned horror film in the Middle East.

But unfortunately, Americans are not facing a slick Hollywood production that ends with a feel good fade away sporting a tidy narrative bow on it before the credits roll and the empty popcorn buckets get left on the floor. Rather they are confronted by the prospect of a stream of ever more costly sequels and reboots that promise to be much more explosive than a series of box office bombs dropped by Tinsel Town.

This fall will mark the fifteenth anniversary of the deadliest act of warfare carried out by a foreign power on American soil since the 1800s. The attacks on September 11, 2001, were rightly declared to be terrorism, but they were perpetrated as an act of war unleashed by the Taliban government in Afghanistan, which dispensed with any warning or formal declaration.

Ever since that watershed moment in American history that saw a staggering blow landed on the homeland that was launched from a nation largely known for its fine carpets, its long-haired sheep and its sausage-making of a Soviet occupation, the United States has poured vast sums of its treasure and cycled millions of its troops into a fantastical scheme of democratic nation-building.

Once its field-tested failure was established in Afghanistan, this American ‘policy’ was quickly rolled out into Iraq amid a glitzy marketing campaign that proved science fiction remains a popular genre and subsequently expanded into Libya and Syria with the same result of dizzying catastrophe, unleashing a wild tide of violent chaos that consumed dictatorships and replaced them with sheer mob anarchy.

As Americans brace themselves for what promises to be the most turbulent presidential election since 1968, the nation’s long slog across bloody foreign shores continues much as it did nearly a half-century ago in Indochina; a grim landscape filled with coups, militias, satellite ‘allies’ serving as proxies in a war of empire and an American leadership once again pretending it has a plan to restore some semblance of an order that benefits its appetites.

And just as Americans in 1968 were treated to the spectacle of President Lyndon Johnson assuring them that the lid was securely on the communist threat menacing South Vietnam, even as the Tet Offensive laid bare that lie rather early that fateful year, once again Americans are treated to the absurdist theater of their political leadership declaring that the quagmire they unleashed in the Middle East is not as hopeless as it appears.

Enter John Kerry, a secretary of state that has nearly as solid a poker face when telling a lie as Henry Kissinger, just not nearly as smart and even less effective than the man who signed Salvador Allende’s death warrant in 1973.

In Vienna last week, Kerry announced that the United States is going to put its shoulder deeper into the grindstone of the North African desert formerly known as Libya that’s now a patchwork of tribal warlords overseeing more than 300 militia groups. Kerry unveiled a plan for the U.S., ostensibly with that ever hazy conglomerate of ‘the international community’ (which on closer inspection often amounts to little more than some tragic blue helmets from Denmark, Mongolia and East Timor), to pour guns and money (and undoubtedly American ‘advisors’) into the wasteland that was created after America bombed Muammar al-Gaddafi out of power in late 2011.

Sophisticated weaponry, advisors and cash are going to be poured into the hands of a grandly entitled ‘Government of National Accord,’ Kerry announced, declaring flatly that Libya was finally at a turning point in 2016. “Libya has an opportunity to be a safe country for its citizens, or it could be a safe haven for terrorists,” Kerry said. “Trapped in division and chaos, and beset by personal, international and tribal rivalries.”

While it’s unclear whether any members of the press corps in front of him passed out from the halitosis of Kerry’s reeking estimation of the facts on the ground, the sulfuric mouth-flatulence that billowed from his pie hole was potent enough to flatten an honest metro newsroom.

The so-called Government of National Accord that Obama gave Kerry the green light to herald was until last month based in Tunisia, arriving in Tripoli this April apparently amid all the popular support that American guns could round up for it—which is why its officials are now hiding in yet another ‘Green Zone’ bunker issuing decrees that mean nothing. The reality is that among the hundreds of militias that roam their own fiefdoms in the former nation-state of Libya, there are indeed other self-declared ‘governments’ operating their own microstates as well, such as the heavily armed National Congress as well as the National Salvation Government, which is bastioned in gun-bristling Tobruk.

If it all sounded vaguely familiar to the American people, it’s because they’ve heard it all before and rather repeatedly over the past two decades; from Iyad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki that were installed in Iraq to Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, an American-installed El Presidente that had all the popular appeal of South Vietnam’s Ngô Dinh Diêm—who served Washington with inglorious distinction until JFK and the CIA decided to whack him in 1963. And only by the rapidity of events that swept Cairo in early 2011 amid the chaos-turned-romance novel entitled by the Western media as the ‘Arab Spring’ did Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak escape the same fate as Diêm: a friend of America that Washington clipped without so much as a courtesy notice.

In Syria, where Bashar al-Assad has managed to hang on in Damascus thanks to Russia’s sober resolve to draw a line in the sand in front of Washington & Co.’s happy-drunk game of ‘Let’s Make A Nation! (Or Erase One!),’ the Islamic State has still managed to raise its black banners over much of the once prosperous police state that offered a middle-class life, albeit one of political compliance, to its citizens. Assad is still there, but the Syria the world had known since his father rose to power in the late 1960s is gone forever, with Russia only able to ensure a functioning rump-state run by the Alawites mostly along the Mediterranean coast.

Along with the Islamic State, there are now several hundred much smaller but heavily armed factions declaring various loyalties and agendas in Syria. And America’s version of democracy is not too high on their to-do list.

Yet in Vienna last week, it was Libya where Kerry focused the Obama administration’s new plan for peace, stability and prosperity—backed by American money, guns and, without question, eventually troops and their blood.

“It means helping to ensure that such key institutions as the central bank and the national oil company receive the oversight and the direction they need,” Kerry said. “It means doing more to address urgent humanitarian requirements. It means laying the groundwork for sustained support in the fields of security, finance, counter-terrorism and overall governance.”

Consider for a moment Kerry’s words, and the order in which he spoke them.

“It means helping to ensure that such key institutions as the central bank and the national oil company receive the oversight and the direction they need.”

And there it is.

The central bank and the national oil company “need” the “oversight” and “direction” Washington is ready to give it. Evidently Gaddafi didn’t peel off the oil barrels fast enough for Uncle Sam when he was standing at the teller window of the Tripoli branch of Banco de Libya. Hey, customer service is a bitch, but when it comes to Washington, well you better believe the customer is always right. And as for the millions of Libyans now living under the arbitrary brutality of whatever warlord in whatever patch of desert they find themselves trapped in, well evidently the Government of National Accord will be on its way soon to ‘free’ them, just as fast as American air-support and ground troops called ‘advisors’ can get them there.

The Doorman
Welcome to Banco de Libya, Uncle Sam, how may I provide you with excellent customer service today?

Just how many Americans heard Kerry’s words from Vienna last week or paid attention long enough to understand what they meant is unclear, what with all the reruns of Sister Wives and other freak programming pumped into American households like so much Black Tar mass-programming smack, but the hearing aid of one old man picked it up loud and clear.

And it brought a gleeful, drooling grin to his face.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Sen. John McCain, the man who once proudly declared that America should be prepared to spend 50 years occupying Iraq, no matter what the cost. Fifty years, said the Senate Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, a half century of more spent blood and treasure from the American people for a country that was once our ally in the region until it invaded Kuwait in 1990 without our explicit permission.

“None of this would have been necessary if we hadn’t just walked away from Libya after Gaddafi had been eliminated, which we did,” McCain said. “We completely walked away from Libya. And the results were predictable.”

The only thing that was predictable was John McCain calling for 50 more years of young American men dying in Iraq for little more than the sake of young American men dying in a Babylonian dung dump, perhaps as proxies to atone in their blood for the sin of his own capture and capitulation at the hands of the NVA in October 1967, when he wasn’t man enough of a patriot to draw his sidearm and fire at the enemy until he had a last bullet for himself. He chose the Hanoi Hilton instead and now wants to be considered a ‘hero’ because he survived.

McCain has literally never—as his voting record attests—opposed a single conflict that America faced being involved in on foreign shores since Vietnam. Not one. McCain has advocated for American troops in virtually every single conflict that Wall Street has called for, and even a few more they were less interested in. His service in Vietnam as his calling card of alleged valor, McCain has used his position in the Senate to cheerlead America into at least a dozen regional conflicts around the globe over the past 30 years, and called for a nuclear showdown with the Russians as soon as possible.

War taught McCain nothing but an invigorated lust for more of it. In a sick projection of his own failure, in the deaths of American soldiers McCain sees his own redemption.

Which brings it all home to Kerry in Vienna last week talking about America’s new play in Libya, which again is now Libya divided by three hundred.

Kerry’s announcement, to anyone paying attention, was in actuality what passes for a declaration of disastrous war in this American era when its Constitution is so recklessly waved righteously about by both Republicans and Democrats while its requirements are ignored altogether. Bush and Obama channeled sixteen consecutive years of American hubris like a pair of mad scientists convinced that with but a few more potions brewed up in the geopolitical beaker the result would somehow be different than all the previous explosions in the lab.

But another explosion is what America faces, yet again.

Kerry’s announcement, buried as it was by an obedient press, heralds simply more of the same: more guns, more money and more men sent to warlords we don’t know let alone like that rose in the vacuum of the devils we once did. Since the war that was declared on America in 2001 and the bloody ‘spring’ that bloomed across the Middle East a decade later, the United States and the usual suspects she always has in tow have managed to turn the entire region into a morass of death with a gravitational pull that draws the West ever deeper into it.

The facts are indisputable: in Afghanistan and Iraq—the ‘democracies’ America ‘built’ since 2001, upwards of 50 car bombs explode throughout each of those nations everyday. After investing more than $50 billion in troop training alone in Afghanistan over the past 15 years, the Taliban last September rolled over the major city of Kunduz without much of a fight. Anyone old enough to remember Hué in South Vietnam in 1968 should understand what the loss and eventual recapture of Kunduz by American-led forces represents in 2015.

In Iraq in 2014, when the Islamic State’s forces launched their offensive from its Syrian bases, more than half of the 50 brigades of Iraqi soldiers trained and equipped by America dropped their weapons and fled, or changed sides, resulting in a massive sweep of territory by the growing Caliphate of Hate. Again, for Americans of a certain age this sounds oddly like our allied fighters we once knew as ARVN, who carried American-supplied M-14s that were infamously “never fired and only dropped once.”

Jack Kennedy, LBJ and then Richard Nixon all insisted that the war in Vietnam, which was waged for nearly sixteen years across their administrations and spread into Cambodia and Laos as well, was a conflict that had to be ultimately fought and settled by the people in those lands whatever the outcome may be. By the time it was over, nearly 60,000 American soldiers were dead, more than 200,000 of her allied soldiers were dead and somewhere between 500,000 and 1.2 million North Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were killed.

And we lost.

And right up to the end of it in April 1975, the American position was eerily familiar to what it remains today in respect to the Middle East, where millions of civilians die on the ground as millions more run for their lives, as corrupt and ruthless leaders give way to blood-thirsty, blank-eyed militias in for the thrill of it, and as ‘world leaders’ jet into European capitals to announce ever new solutions.

Sixteen years a disaster.

And Hillary Clinton is waiting in the wings, ready to make it an even twenty four.