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March for Our Lives – ‘The fight for their lives’ – NationofChange

26 Mar

 

While President Trump golfed in Florida, 800,000 Americans descended on the nation’s Capitol to demand change in this county’s gun laws.

If you were watching from home, you likely saw the aerial shots of hundreds of thousands of people, not marching so much, but standing and listening to the words of students. The March for Our Lives stopped being a march even before the official starting time of noon – there were simply too many people to move.

Across the country and the world, millions marched in solidarity with the kids that survived the Parkland shooting. They were all united behind the premise that Emma Gonzalez spoke of in her incredible six minute and twenty second long speech that included the words: “Fight for your lives, before it’s someone else’s job.”

Samantha Fuentes spoke in memory of her friend, Nicholas Dworet, that couldn’t be there to speak as he was murdered in front of her at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School:

“Today is his birthday, I’d like to sing together Happy Birthday…” And after a countdown from Samantha much of the crowd started singing to him, many people holding each other and crying (personally I didn’t break down during this moment, but now I write this through a waterfall of tears). It was the moments like this that truthfully personalized it for a lot of people in the crowd, as they watched on jumbotrons, blocks away from the actual stage.

Gwenevere Abriel is the parent of one of the kids that were in the school on that fateful day. She was standing outside of the packed Pennsylvania Ave march route with her family, where it was a bit quieter. I asked her what she hoped would come out of this day.

She told me, “When they see this on television, they’ll say ok, me too. Now maybe I have the courage to go out, I can represent my core values, I won’t be alone, I have momentum with a large group of people… That’s my hope.”

 

 

The march was large enough that it stretched all the way past Trump’s Hotel, which is where I met up with Juliet and her mom who were holding signs in front of one of the gated entrances to the building.

Juliet’s sign simply read “2020 Voter.” If you’re a Republican or Democrat for that matter who takes money from the NRA, her sign was probably one of the ones that might give you shivers. As she was already decided that she was prepared “to be able to vote against people who want to vote for guns.”

Juliet’s simple message echoed that of the signs and voices of other people that I talked to: “Our right to live is more important than their right to have a gun.”

As an aside, no one that I spoke to at the march was calling for confiscation, and not only because it’s a ridiculous proposition when you consider the practicalities.

You never know what a single event like this one will do. Whether it will change the conversation or just be another big story that fizzles out as the reality and difficulty of actually making change beats down on you. For every Black Lives Matter or Women’s March there’s a hundred Impeachment March’s or even Science March’s, neither of which really has shown much organization outside of the actual event.

But the March For Our Lives has a different feel to me.

I’ve been covering the ‘protest’ movements in America for going on 20 years now (my God I’m old). To me, the March for Our Lives has all the pinnings of a lasting movement. If the adults just let the kids do their thing, then it just might succeed…

Now we all just need to figure out how to be good allies and not grumpy, cynical old people.

 

 

 

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Source: March for Our Lives – ‘The fight for their lives’ – NationofChange

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A Timeline of 1968: The Year That Shattered America;

9 Jan

                               January 15

The nation is still reckoning with the changes that came in that fateful year

Movements that had been building along the primary fault lines of the 1960s—the Vietnam War, the Cold War, civil rights, human rights, youth culture—exploded with force in 1968. The aftershocks registered both in America and abroad for decades afterward.
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At age 87, Jeannette Rankin, who as a congresswoman from Montana voted against U.S. participation in both world wars, leads some 5,000 women on a march in Washington, D.C. to protest the Vietnam War. The event highlights generational, political and class differences among the marchers but gives the growing women’s movement a motto: “Sisterhood Is Powerful.”

January 20

Game of the Century! Top-ranked UCLA, led by the future Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, faces second-ranked University of Houston, led by Elvin Hayes, at the Astrodome. Houston snaps UCLA’s 47-game winning streak, 71-69, in the first NCAA basketball game to be nationally televised in prime time—the granddaddy of March Madness.

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January 22

“Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” debuts as an NBC-TV series and, over six seasons, sets a standard for sketch comedy unmatched until NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” launches in 1975.

January 23

North Korea seizes the USS Pueblo, claiming the surveillance ship strayed into its waters. One U.S. crewman is killed and 82 others are imprisoned; an 11-month standoff with the United States follows.

January 30

 

January 30

 

North Vietnamese communists launch the Tet Offensive. The assault contradicts the Johnson administration’s claims that the communist forces are weak and the U.S.-backed south is winning the war.

 

 

Memphis sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker are crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck. Their deaths lead to a strike that becomes a civil rights movement.

February 7

After a battle for the Vietnamese village of Ben Tre, an American officer tells Associated Press reporter Peter Arnett, “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.”

The quotation, printed in newspapers nationwide, becomes a catchphrase for opponents of the Vietnam War.

February 8

At the South Carolina State campus, police open fire on students protesting segregation at Orangeburg’s only bowling alley. Three protesters die and 27 more are wounded. Nine officers are tried and acquitted of charges related to the use of force. A protest coordinator is convicted of inciting to riot, serves seven months in prison—and is pardoned 25 years later.

February 27

March 1-8

 

 

February 27

(Matthew Twombly)

Walter Cronkite, in a CBS-TV special on his recent tour of Vietnam, says the U.S. war effort is “mired in stalemate” and amplifies public skepticism of the war.

 

February 29

The report of the Kerner Commission, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to examine the causes of race riots in American cities in previous years, declares the nation is…“moving toward two societies, one black, one white–seperate and unequal.”

March 1-8

March 1-8

Some 15,000 Latino high school students in Los Angeles walk out of classes to press their demand for a better education.

March 5

The government of Czechoslovakia abolishes censorship, underscoring the expansion of freedom during the “Prague Spring” and angering its Communist overlords in the Soviet Union.

March 6

Some 500 New York University students picket a university-sponsored recruiting event for the Dow Chemical Company, the principal manufacturer of napalm.

March 12

Nixon wins 78 percent of the vote in New Hampshire’s GOP primary. Eugene McCarthy, Minnesota’s antiwar senator, takes a shocking 42 percent of the Democratic vote.

March 13

Atlantic Richfield and Humble Oil (now ExxonMobil)  announce the discovery of an oil field beneath Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the largest oil and natural-gas discovery in North American history.

March 16

New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy enters the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, saying McCarthy’s showing in New Hampshire “has proven how deep are the present divisions within our party and country.” It “is now unmistakably clear that we can change these disastrous, divisive policies only by changing the men who make them.”

 

March 19

 

March 19

(Getty Images)

Hundreds of students take over the administration building at Howard University in Washington, D.C., seeking a greater voice in student discipline and the curriculum.

March 31

As war pressures mount, President Lyndon B. Johnson—who in 1964 won 61 percent of the popular vote, to Barry Goldwater’s 39—announces he is not running for re-election.

April 3

Some 1,000 men return their draft cards to government offices all over the country.

April 4

 

April 4

(Getty Images)

Martin Luther King Jr., in Memphis for the sanitation workers’ strike, is fatally shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Gunman James Earl Ray, a white supremacist, flees the country. Over the next week, riots in more than 100 cities nationwide leave 39 people dead, more than 2,600 injured and 21,000 arrested.

April 6

After a 90-minute shootout between Black Panthers and police in Oakland, California, police shoot Bobby Hutton, 17, as he tries to surrender.

April 11

Johnson signs the Fair Housing Act, banning discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. It is the last of the landmark civil rights laws he signed.

April 23

Students take over five buildings on Columbia University’s campus and briefly hold a dean hostage, calling for the university to cut its ties to military research. Before dawn on April 30 administrators call in the police, who respond with about 1,000 officers. More than 700 people are arrested, and 132 students, four faculty and 12 officers are injured.

April 29

Hair opens on Broadway and runs for more than 1,700 performances, introducing mainstream theatergoers to sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll and draft resistance.

 

May 6

 

May 6

(AP)

A riot breaks out between police and more than 5,000 university students in Paris. Within a week workers throughout France are staging sympathy strikes, threatening the economy.

May 10

The United States and North Vietnam begin peace talks in Paris.

 

May 17

 

May 17

(Getty Images )

Nine antiwar activists enter a Selective Service office in Catonsville, Maryland, remove nearly 400 files and burn them in the parking lot with homemade napalm. The example of the Catonsville Nine (later convicted of destruction of government property and sentenced to jail terms between 24 and 42 months) spurs some 300 similar raids on draft boards over the next four years.

 

The Supreme Court rules 7-1 that burning a draft card is not an act of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

 

May 27

 

June 3

 

June 3

(Matthew Twombly)

Andy Warhol is shot and critically wounded in his New York City loft by Valerie Solanas, apparently for losing a copy of a play she’d written. She pleads guilty to assault and spends three years in prison.

 

June 4

 

June 4

(Getty Images)

Robert F. Kennedy, gaining momentum in his presidential campaign, wins the California primary—and is assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Gunman Sirhan Sirhan, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian descent, is captured at the scene. Now 73, he is serving life in prison.

 

June 8

James Earl Ray is arrested in London. Extradited to the United States, he pleads guilty to murdering King but later recants, saying he was an unwitting pawn in a conspiracy. He dies in prison of liver failure in 1998, age 70.

 

June 8

(Matthew Twombly)

 

June 19

 

June 19

(Getty Images)

The efforts of the Poor People’s Campaign climaxes in the Solidarity Day Rally for Jobs, Peace, and Freedom in Washington, D.C. Fifty thousand people join the 3,000 participants living at Resurrection City on the National Mall to rally around the demands of the Poor People’s Campaign on Solidarity Day.

July 1

 

July 1

(Getty Images)

Johnson signs the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which remains the world’s primary means of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear states and reducing nuclear weapons in the world.

July 18

Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce incorporate their microprocessor manufacturing firm. After rejecting the name “Moore Noyce” as too close to “more noise,” they eventually settle on Intel.

July 20

The first Special Olympics opens at Chicago’s Soldier Field, with more than a thousand athletes with intellectual disabilities competing in 200 events.

July 23

 

July 23

(The Cleveland Press Collection)

In Cleveland, the Glenville Shootout, between police and black militants, leaves three dead on each side, plus one bystander. Riots rock the city for five days. Mayor Carl Stokes, seven months into his term as the first black official to lead a major U.S. city, later writes, “That night was to haunt and color every aspect of my administration.”

 

July 25

 

July 25

(Matthew Twombly)

Pope Paul VI issues Humanae Vitae, reaffirming the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial contraception and rejecting recommendations made under his predecessor, Pope John XXIII.

 

August 5–8

The Republican National Convention formally nominates Nixon for president.

August 20

The Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia, halting the Prague Spring.

August 21

 

Pvt. First Class James Anderson Jr., who died covering an enemy grenade to protect fellow Marines during a firefight in Vietnam, becomes the first black recipient of the Medal of Honor.

 

August 21

 

August 26

“Hey Jude,” the first Beatles single issued on their Apple label, is released in the U.S. At more than seven minutes, it becomes the longest song to hit Number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

August 28

 

August 28

 

At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, police and Illinois National Guardsmen go on a rampage, clubbing and tear-gassing hundreds of antiwar demonstrators, news reporters and bystanders, with much of the violence broadcast on national TV. The next day, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, perceived as the heir of Johnson’s war policies, wins the Democratic nomination, mostly through delegates controlled by party bosses.

September 7

 

September 7

(AP)

Feminists protest the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

 

September 9

 

September 9

(Matthew Twombly)

Arthur Ashe wins the U.S. Open, becoming the first black man to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament.

 

September 16

 

September 16

(Wiki Commons)

Nixon, seeking to dispel his sourpuss image, appears on Laugh-In just long enough to proclaim, “Sock it to me” on-camera. It is a rare intersection of politics and entertainment—Humphrey declines a similar invitation.

September 24

 

CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes” debuts. It is now the longest continuously running prime-time program in history.

 

September 24

 

September 30

 

September 30

(Getty Images)

Boeing rolls out the 747 Jumbo Jet, the biggest passenger plane the world has seen to date—231 feet long, wings spanning 196 feet and seats for 490.

October 2

 

October 2

 

In Mexico City, police and troops fire on a student-led protest, killing or wounding thousands. The precise number is still unknown.

October 11-22

The Apollo 7 mission, which spends more time in space than all the Soviet flights to that time combined, makes the first live TV broadcast from up there.

October 16

 

October 16

(AP)

At the Olympic Games in Mexico City, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos receive the gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter dash, then raise gloved fists during the national anthem to protest violence toward and poverty among African-Americans. The next day, the International Olympic Committee strips their medals and sends them home.

October 31

Citing progress in the Paris peace talks, Johnson orders a halt to “all air, naval and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam,” effective the next day.

November 5

 

November 5

(Matthew Twombly)

Nixon wins the presidency, beating Humphrey by just 0.7 percent of the popular vote. Segregationist candidate George Wallace carries five Southern states.

 

November 5

 

November 5

(Matthew Twombly)

Shirley Chisholm of New York becomes the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

November 9

 

November 9

(AP)

Yale University, after 267 years, decides to admit female undergraduates, beginning  in 1969.

November 12

The Supreme Court unanimously rules that an Arkansas law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in public schools violates the First Amendment.

Novem​ber 20

Consolidation Coal’s No. 9 mine in Farmington, West Virginia, explodes, killing 78 miners and becoming a catalyst for new mine-safety laws.

November 26

O.J. Simpson of USC wins the Heisman Trophy. (In 1999, it is auctioned for $255,500, which goes toward the $33.5 million civil judgment against him in the killing of his ex-wife and a friend of hers.)

 

December 3

 

December 3

(Matthew Twombly)

Elvis Presley begins a comeback from years of torpor and schlock with a one-hour special on NBC-TV.

 

December 9

Douglas C. Engelbart’s 90-minute demonstration at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco includes the world’s first mouse and word processor.

 

December 9

(Matthew Twombly)

 

December 21-27

 

December 21-27

(NASA)

Apollo 8 becomes the first manned spacecraft to orbit the Moon and return safely to Earth. During the mission the “Earthrise” photograph is taken.

December 23

 

December 23

(Getty Images)

North Korea releases the Pueblo crew but keeps the ship. It is now an exhibit in the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang.

 

 

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From W to Obama to Trump, the Policy Has Been Endless War 

24 Dec

Obama wasn’t innocent either.

 

Obama wasn’t innocent either. I remember the day President Obama let me down. It was December 1, 2009, and as soon as the young president took the podium at West Point and — calm and cool as ever — announced a new troop surge in Afghanistan, I knew.  There wasn’t a doubt in my mind.  In that instant, George W. Bush’s wars had become Barack Obama’s.

But where Bush had seemed, however foolishly, to believe his own rhetoric about America’s glorious military mission in the world, you always sensed that Obama’s heart just wasn’t in it.  He’d been steamrolled by ambitious generals who pioneered generational warfare and hawkish cabinet members like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Bush-holdover Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  Then again, what choice did he have, given the way he’d run his presidential campaign on the idea that Afghanistan was a “war of necessity” and so the foil for Iraq, the “dumb war”?  Now he was stuck with that landlocked, inhospitable little war, come what may.  As we all know (and as I had little doubt then), it didn’t work out.  Not at all.

Like many other idealistic Americans, I’d bet big on Obama.  The madness and futility of my own 15 months in Iraq as a scout platoon leader — you know, one of those “warriors” you’re obligated to thank endlessly for his service — had forever soured me on nation-building crusades in faraway lands.  And the young, inspiring senator from Illinois seemed to have some authentic anti-war chops.  Unlike Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden, he was untarnished by the October 2002 Iraq War resolution vote that gave the Bush administration the right to shock and awe the hell out of Saddam Hussein.  Looking back, I suppose I should have known better.  Obama had only been a state senator with an essentially nonexistent record on foreign policy when he first criticized Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Still, after so many years of Bush’s messianic adventures, anyone seemed preferable.

That was more than eight years ago and somehow the United States military is still slogging along in Iraq and Afghanistan.  What’s more, Bush’s wars have only expanded in breadth, if not in depth, to Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Niger, among other places.  Yes, ISIS as a “caliphate” has been defeated.  As a now-global franchise, however, anything but, and victory — whatever that might mean at this point — couldn’t be further off as our next president, Donald Trump, approaches his one year mark in office and he and “his” military only ratchet up those wars further.

 

 

Good Instincts?

The Trump-Clinton election fiasco of 2016 was, to say the least, disturbing.  And while I was no fan of Mr. Trump’s language, demeanor, or (however vague) policies, when it came to our wars he did seem to demonstrate some redeeming qualities.  Running against Hillary the hawk presented him with genuine opportunities.  She, after all, had been wrong about every major foreign policy decision for more than a decade.  Iraq? She voted for it.  Afghanistan? She wanted another “surge.”  Libya?  She was all in and had a fine chuckle when autocrat Muammar Gaddafi was killed.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, while visibly ill informed and anything but polished on such subjects, occasionally sounded strangely rational and ready to topple more than a few sacred cows of the foreign policy establishment.  He called both the Iraq and Afghan wars “stupid,” criticized the poorly planned and executed Libyan operation that had indeed loosed chaos and weaponry from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals across North Africa, and had even questioned whether military escalation, supposedly to balance Russian moves in Eastern Europe, was necessary.  Whether he really believed any of that stuff or was just being an effective attack dog by pouncing on Hillary’s grim record we may never know.

What already seems clear, however, is that Trump’s version of global strategy — to the extent that he even has one — is turning out to be yet more of more of the same.  He did, of course, quickly surround himself with three generals from America’s losing wars clearly convinced that they could “surge” their way out of anything.  More troublesome yet, it seems to have registered on him that military escalation, air strikes of various sorts, special operations raids, and general bellicosity all look “presidential” and so play well with the American people.

In constant need of positive reinforcement, Trump has seemed to revel in the role of war president.  When he simply led a round of applause for a widow whose husband had died in a botched raid in Yemen early in his presidency, CNN commentator Van Jones typically gushed that he “just became president of the United States, period.”  After he ordered the launching of a few dozen cruise missiles targeting one of Bashar al-Assad’s air bases in Syria, even Washington Post columnist and CNN host Fareed Zakaria lauded him for acting “presidential.”  War sells, as does fear, especially in the America of 2017, a country filled with outsized fears of Islamic terrorism that no one knows how to stoke better than Donald Trump.  So expect more, much more, of each next year.

 

 

A Brief Tour of Trump’s Wars

Where exactly does that leave us?  Like Obama before him, and Bush before him, President Trump has opted for continuing, even escalating, America’s war for the Greater Middle East.  Long gone are the critiques of “stupid” interventions.  As he announced a new mini-surge in Afghanistan, he did admit that his instinct had been to end America’s longest war, but it wasn’t an instinct that stood tall in the face of his war-fighting generals.

Now, after nearly a year in office, those instincts of his seem limited to whatever his generals tell him.  An ever-so-brief tour of his wars suggests — to give you a little preview of what’s to come (should Americans even care) — two things: first, that on the horizon is more of more of the same; second, that the result is likely to be, as it has largely been in these last years, some version of stalemate verging on defeat.

Afghanistan is a true mess.  Now entering its 17th year, the war in that infamous graveyard of empires has left the U.S. military short on answers.

Afghan Security Forces (ASF), the foundation of American “strategy” there, are being killed and wounded at an unsustainable rate.  And all that sacrifice — to the tune of perhaps 20,000 ASF casualties annually — has delivered precious little in the way of stability.  More Afghan provinces and districts are contested or under direct Taliban control today than at any time in these years of American intervention.  Corruption is still endemic in the government and the military and few rural Afghans seem to consider the regime in Kabul legitimate.

It’s all been so futile that it borders on the absurd.  Without an indefinite influx of Western money, training, and logistical support, the Afghan government simply cannot hold out.  Despite the efforts of hundreds of thousands of American troops and countless bureaucrats, Washington has never been able to deal with or alter the essential quandary that lies at the heart of the Afghan mission: the Taliban still counts on sanctuary in the tribal borderlands of Pakistan and so long as that’s available — and it seems it will be in perpetuity — there is no way to militarily defeat them.  Besides, the Taliban harbor no discernible transnational aspirations and most al-Qaeda operatives have long since left Afghanistan’s mountains for other locales throughout the Greater Middle East.

Mr. Trump’s generals and their troops on the ground have no answers to these confounding challenges.  One thing is guaranteed: 3,000, or even 50,000 more troops won’t break the stalemate, nor will loosing some of the last Vietnam-era B-52s to bomb the countryside.  When I last surged into Afghanistan myself in 2011-2012, I was joined by more than 100,000 fellow Americans.  It didn’t matter.  We achieved about as much as this current “strategy” will: stasis.

* Iraq is rarely in the headlines anymore, except maybe as an offshoot of America’s anti-ISIS campaign in Syria.  Nonetheless, with more than 5,200U.S. troops on the ground (and don’t forget the private contractors also in-country), you’ve not heard the last of Washington’s 14-year-old campaign there.  What exactly is the U.S. charter in Iraq these days anyway?  To defeat ISIS?  That’s (mostly) done, in a conventional sense anyway.  The so-called caliphate has fallen, though ISIS as a global brand is thriving.  To stabilize the country in order to avoid ISIS 2.0 or block the growth and spread of well-armed Shia militias?  Don’t count on a few thousand troops succeeding where 150,000 servicemen failed at similar tasks the last time around. 

Iraq remains divided and ultimately unstable.  In the north, the Kurds want autonomy, which the Shia-dominated Baghdad regime will have none of.  In the north and west, Sunnis, living in the rubble of their unreconstructed cities, remain distrustful of Baghdad.  (A year after its “liberation” from ISIS, for instance, significant parts of Fallujah still lack water or electricity.)  Unless they are somehow integrated more equitably into the Shia-controlled political heartland, they will predictably support the next iteration of Islamist extremists.

 

 

The only real winner in the Iraq War was Iran.  A mostly friendly, Shia-heavy government in Baghdad suits Tehran just fine.  In fact, by toppling Saddam Hussein, the United States all but ensured that Iran would gain increased regional influence.  The bottom line is that Iraq has many challenges ahead and Washington doesn’t have a hope in hell of meaningfully solving any of them.

How will Baghdad divide power between its various sects and factions?  How will it demobilize and/or integrate those Shia militia units that checked ISIS’s expansion in 2014-2015 into its military or will it?  How much autonomy will President Haider al-Abadi allow the Kurds?

The all but perpetual American military presence in that country seems unlikely to help with any of Iraq’s countless problems.  And given that, like just about anyone else on this planet, Arabs don’t take kindly to even the most minimalist of occupations, whatever they may officially be called, expect those U.S. troops to end up in someone’s line of fire sooner or later. (Recent history suggests that sooner is more likely.)

* When it comes to Syria, can anyone articulate a coherent strategy in the devastated ruins of that country amid a byzantine network of factions, terror groups, and the once again ascendant government and military of Bashar al-Assad?  It seems like another formula for certain disaster.  Somehow, Syria makes even the situation in Iraq seem simple.  Perhaps 2,000 U.S. troops are on the ground in north and southeast Syria.  Getting in was the easy part, getting out may be all but impossible.

U.S.-sponsored, mainly Kurdish forces, backed by American air power and artillery, seized ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, and helped turn the militants of the Islamic State back into a guerilla force. Now what?  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Syrian President Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Iranians all loathe the Kurds and are none-too-keen to allow them any form of long-term autonomy.  A tenuous stalemate has developed between Assad’s army and his foreign backers on one side and the small U.S. force with its allied Kurdish fighters on the other.  Sooner or later, however, it’s a recipe for disaster as the possibilities of “accidental” conflict abound.  The Trump team, like Obama’s before them, appears to have no consistent vision for Syria’s future.  Can Assad stay in power?  Does the U.S. even have a say in that question any longer?  Assad, Putin, and Hezbollah appear to hold a far stronger hand in that country’s six-year civil war.

In addition to yet more destruction, division, and chaos, it’s unclear what the U.S. stands to achieve in Syria.  Nevertheless, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the Pentagon recently announced that, just as in Iraq, U.S. troops would stay in Syria after the final defeat of ISIS.  On the subject, a Pentagon spokesperson was quite emphatic: “We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.”  In other words, the U.S. military will remain there until when exactly?  Long enough for the civil war to end and liberal democracy to burst forth in the Syrian countryside?

That country is hardly a vital national security interest of the United States and the Trump team’s plans seem as vague as they are foolish.  Nonetheless, on the intervention goes and where it ends nobody knows.  It’s not, however, likely to end well.

 

 

Yemen, Niger, Somalia, Libya, and various other smaller conflicts round out the exhausting list of what are now Trump’s wars.  U.S. troops still occasionally die in those places, which few Americans could find on a map.  Even hawkish wonks like Senator Lindsey Graham seem unclear about how many troops the U.S. has in Africa.  Fear not, however, Senator Graham assures us that Americans should expect “more, not less” intervention on that continent in the years to come and, given what we’re learning about the Pentagon’s latest plans for places like Somalia suggests that he couldn’t be more accurate and that the American version of what retired general and ex-CIA Director David Petraeus has termed (in relation to Afghanistan) “generational” warfare is now spreading from the Greater Middle East to Africa.

Washington’s efforts in Yemen and North Africa have been and continue to be nothing if not counterproductive.  In Yemen, the United States is complicitin the Saudi blockading and terror bombing of the poorest Arab state and a resultant famine and cholera outbreak that could affect millions, especially children.  This campaign isn’t winning America any friends on the “Arab street” and only seems to have empowered al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In Africa, from Nigeria to Somalia, infusions of U.S. troops have not measurably improved regional stability.  Quite the opposite, despite the protestations of U.S. Africa Command.  In fact, there are now more radical Islamist groups than ever before and terrorist attacks have all but exploded on that continent.

All these wars, once Obama’s, are now Trump’s.  The only differences, it seems, are of form rather than substance.  Unlike Obama, Trump delegatestroop-level decisions to his secretary of defense and the generals.  Furthermore, when it comes to what the public can know, there appears to be even less transparency about the exact number of soldiers being deployed across the Middle East and North Africa than had previously been the case.  And that seems to suit most Americans just fine.  A warrior caste of professionals fights the country’s various undeclared wars, taxes remain low, and little is asked of the populace.

Call me a pessimist but I have no doubt that the United States is in for at least three more years of perpetual war — and it probably won’t end there either.  There’s no silver bullet for such conflicts, so the military won’t be able to end them in any reasonably easy way or it would have done so years ago.  And that’s assuming that far worse in the way of war isn’t in store for us in the Koreas or Iran.

Trump will not be impeached.  He may even win a second term.  Crazier things have happened, like, well, his election in 2016.  And even if he were gone, America’s wars like the Pentagon’s budget have proven remarkably bipartisan affairs.  As the Obama years make clear, don’t count on a Democratic president to end them.

Children born after 9/11 will vote in 2020.  In that sense, at least, General Petraeus is right.  These wars truly are generational.

Major Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a U.S. Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas.  Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

[Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]

 

 

st, disturbing.  And while I was no fan of Mr. Trump’s language, demeanor, or (however vague) policies, when it came to our wars he did seem to demonstrate some redeeming qualities.  Running against Hillary the hawk presented him with genuine opportunities.  She, after all, had been wrong about every major foreign policy decision for more than a decade.  Iraq? She voted for it.  Afghanistan? She wanted another “surge.”  Libya?  She was all in and had a fine chuckle when autocrat Muammar Gaddafi was killed.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, while visibly ill informed and anything but polished on such subjects, occasionally sounded strangely rational and ready to topple more than a few sacred cows of the foreign policy establishment.  He called both the Iraq and Afghan wars “stupid,” criticized the poorly planned and executed Libyan operation that had indeed loosed chaos and weaponry from Gaddafi’s looted arsenals across North Africa, and had even questioned whether military escalation, supposedly to balance Russian moves in Eastern Europe, was necessary.  Whether he really believed any of that stuff or was just being an effective attack dog by pouncing on Hillary’s grim record we may never know.

What already seems clear, however, is that Trump’s version of global strategy — to the extent that he even has one — is turning out to be yet more of more of the same.  He did, of course, quickly surround himself with three generals from America’s losing wars clearly convinced that they could “surge” their way out of anything.  More troublesome yet, it seems to have registered on him that military escalation, air strikes of various sorts, special operations raids, and general bellicosity all look “presidential” and so play well with the American people.

In constant need of positive reinforcement, Trump has seemed to revel in the role of war president.  When he simply led a round of applause for a widow whose husband had died in a botched raid in Yemen early in his presidency, CNN commentator Van Jones typically gushed that he “just became president of the United States, period.”  After he ordered the launching of a few dozen cruise missiles targeting one of Bashar al-Assad’s air bases in Syria, even Washington Post columnist and CNN host Fareed Zakaria lauded him for acting “presidential.”  War sells, as does fear, especially in the America of 2017, a country filled with outsized fears of Islamic terrorism that no one knows how to stoke better than Donald Trump.  So expect more, much more, of each next year.

A Brief Tour of Trump’s Wars

Where exactly does that leave us?  Like Obama before him, and Bush before him, President Trump has opted for continuing, even escalating, America’s war for the Greater Middle East.  Long gone are the critiques of “stupid” interventions.  As he announced a new mini-surge in Afghanistan, he did admit that his instinct had been to end America’s longest war, but it wasn’t an instinct that stood tall in the face of his war-fighting generals.

Now, after nearly a year in office, those instincts of his seem limited to whatever his generals tell him.  An ever-so-brief tour of his wars suggests — to give you a little preview of what’s to come (should Americans even care) — two things: first, that on the horizon is more of more of the same; second, that the result is likely to be, as it has largely been in these last years, some version of stalemate verging on defeat.

Afghan Security Forces (ASF), the foundation of American “strategy” there, are being killed and wounded at an unsustainable rate.  And all that sacrifice — to the tune of perhaps 20,000 ASF casualties annually — has delivered precious little in the way of stability.  More Afghan provinces and districts are contested or under direct Taliban control today than at any time in these years of American intervention.  Corruption is still endemic in the government and the military and few rural Afghans seem to consider the regime in Kabul legitimate.

It’s all been so futile that it borders on the absurd.  Without an indefinite influx of Western money, training, and logistical support, the Afghan government simply cannot hold out.  Despite the efforts of hundreds of thousands of American troops and countless bureaucrats, Washington has never been able to deal with or alter the essential quandary that lies at the heart of the Afghan mission: the Taliban still counts on sanctuary in the tribal borderlands of Pakistan and so long as that’s available — and it seems it will be in perpetuity — there is no way to militarily defeat them.  Besides, the Taliban harbor no discernible transnational aspirations and most al-Qaeda operatives have long since left Afghanistan’s mountains for other locales throughout the Greater Middle East.

Mr. Trump’s generals and their troops on the ground have no answers to these confounding challenges.  One thing is guaranteed: 3,000, or even 50,000 more troops won’t break the stalemate, nor will loosing some of the last Vietnam-era B-52s to bomb the countryside.  When I last surged into Afghanistan myself in 2011-2012, I was joined by more than 100,000 fellow Americans.  It didn’t matter.  We achieved about as much as this current “strategy” will: stasis.

* Iraq is rarely in the headlines anymore, except maybe as an offshoot of America’s anti-ISIS campaign in Syria.  Nonetheless, with more than 5,200U.S. troops on the ground (and don’t forget the private contractors also in-country), you’ve not heard the last of Washington’s 14-year-old campaign there.  What exactly is the U.S. charter in Iraq these days anyway?  To defeat ISIS?  That’s (mostly) done, in a conventional sense anyway.  The so-called caliphate has fallen, though ISIS as a global brand is thriving.  To stabilize the country in order to avoid ISIS 2.0 or block the growth and spread of well-armed Shia militias?  Don’t count on a few thousand troops succeeding where 150,000 servicemen failed at similar tasks the last time around. 

Iraq remains divided and ultimately unstable.  In the north, the Kurds want autonomy, which the Shia-dominated Baghdad regime will have none of.  In the north and west, Sunnis, living in the rubble of their unreconstructed cities, remain distrustful of Baghdad.  (A year after its “liberation” from ISIS, for instance, significant parts of Fallujah still lack water or electricity.)  Unless they are somehow integrated more equitably into the Shia-controlled political heartland, they will predictably support the next iteration of Islamist extremists.

The only real winner in the Iraq War was Iran.  A mostly friendly, Shia-heavy government in Baghdad suits Tehran just fine.  In fact, by toppling Saddam Hussein, the United States all but ensured that Iran would gain increased regional influence.  The bottom line is that Iraq has many challenges ahead and Washington doesn’t have a hope in hell of meaningfully solving any of them.

How will Baghdad divide power between its various sects and factions?  How will it demobilize and/or integrate those Shia militia units that checked ISIS’s expansion in 2014-2015 into its military or will it?  How much autonomy will President Haider al-Abadi allow the Kurds?

The all but perpetual American military presence in that country seems unlikely to help with any of Iraq’s countless problems.  And given that, like just about anyone else on this planet, Arabs don’t take kindly to even the most minimalist of occupations, whatever they may officially be called, expect those U.S. troops to end up in someone’s line of fire sooner or later. (Recent history suggests that sooner is more likely.)

* When it comes to Syria, can anyone articulate a coherent strategy in the devastated ruins of that country amid a byzantine network of factions, terror groups, and the once again ascendant government and military of Bashar al-Assad?  It seems like another formula for certain disaster.  Somehow, Syria makes even the situation in Iraq seem simple.  Perhaps 2,000 U.S. troops are on the ground in north and southeast Syria.  Getting in was the easy part, getting out may be all but impossible.

 

 

U.S.-sponsored, mainly Kurdish forces, backed by American air power and artillery, seized ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, and helped turn the militants of the Islamic State back into a guerilla force. Now what?  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Syrian President Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Iranians all loathe the Kurds and are none-too-keen to allow them any form of long-term autonomy.  A tenuous stalemate has developed between Assad’s army and his foreign backers on one side and the small U.S. force with its allied Kurdish fighters on the other.  Sooner or later, however, it’s a recipe for disaster as the possibilities of “accidental” conflict abound.  The Trump team, like Obama’s before them, appears to have no consistent vision for Syria’s future.  Can Assad stay in power?  Does the U.S. even have a say in that question any longer?  Assad, Putin, and Hezbollah appear to hold a far stronger hand in that country’s six-year civil war.

In addition to yet more destruction, division, and chaos, it’s unclear what the U.S. stands to achieve in Syria.  Nevertheless, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the Pentagon recently announced that, just as in Iraq, U.S. troops would stay in Syria after the final defeat of ISIS.  On the subject, a Pentagon spokesperson was quite emphatic: “We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups.”  In other words, the U.S. military will remain there until when exactly?  Long enough for the civil war to end and liberal democracy to burst forth in the Syrian countryside?

That country is hardly a vital national security interest of the United States and the Trump team’s plans seem as vague as they are foolish.  Nonetheless, on the intervention goes and where it ends nobody knows.  It’s not, however, likely to end well.

* Yemen, Niger, Somalia, Libya, and various other smaller conflicts round out the exhausting list of what are now Trump’s wars.  U.S. troops still occasionally die in those places, which few Americans could find on a map.  Even hawkish wonks like Senator Lindsey Graham seem unclear about how many troops the U.S. has in Africa.  Fear not, however, Senator Graham assures us that Americans should expect “more, not less” intervention on that continent in the years to come and, given what we’re learning about the Pentagon’s latest plans for places like Somalia suggests that he couldn’t be more accurate and that the American version of what retired general and ex-CIA Director David Petraeus has termed (in relation to Afghanistan) “generational” warfare is now spreading from the Greater Middle East to Africa.

Washington’s efforts in Yemen and North Africa have been and continue to be nothing if not counterproductive.  In Yemen, the United States is complicitin the Saudi blockading and terror bombing of the poorest Arab state and a resultant famine and cholera outbreak that could affect millions, especially children.  This campaign isn’t winning America any friends on the “Arab street” and only seems to have empowered al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In Africa, from Nigeria to Somalia, infusions of U.S. troops have not measurably improved regional stability.  Quite the opposite, despite the protestations of U.S. Africa Command.  In fact, there are now more radical Islamist groups than ever before and terrorist attacks have all but exploded on that continent.

All these wars, once Obama’s, are now Trump’s.  The only differences, it seems, are of form rather than substance.  Unlike Obama, Trump delegatestroop-level decisions to his secretary of defense and the generals.  Furthermore, when it comes to what the public can know, there appears to be even less transparency about the exact number of soldiers being deployed across the Middle East and North Africa than had previously been the case.  And that seems to suit most Americans just fine.  A warrior caste of professionals fights the country’s various undeclared wars, taxes remain low, and little is asked of the populace.

Call me a pessimist but I have no doubt that the United States is in for at least three more years of perpetual war — and it probably won’t end there either.  There’s no silver bullet for such conflicts, so the military won’t be able to end them in any reasonably easy way or it would have done so years ago.  And that’s assuming that far worse in the way of war isn’t in store for us in the Koreas or Iran.

Trump will not be impeached.  He may even win a second term.  Crazier things have happened, like, well, his election in 2016.  And even if he were gone, America’s wars like the Pentagon’s budget have proven remarkably bipartisan affairs.  As the Obama years make clear, don’t count on a Democratic president to end them.

Children born after 9/11 will vote in 2020.  In that sense, at least, General Petraeus is right.  These wars truly are generational.

Major Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a U.S. Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas.  Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

[Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]

 

Major Danny Sjursen, a TomDispatch regular, is a U.S. Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He lives with his wife and four sons in Lawrence, Kansas.  Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World 

 

 

Source: From W to Obama to Trump, the Policy Has Been Endless War @alternet

 

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