[pjw] INFO: No Strategy Behind Trump's Wars -- Only Brute Force (Bennis/FPIF 4/20)
Peace and Justice Works
pjw at pjw.info
Tue May 16 17:44:47 EDT 2017
Hi again IAG supporters
I was poking around to see whether Phyllis Bennis had written anything yet
about the US' dubious claims made yesterday about Syria building
crematoriums to dispose of the bodies of political dissidents, and found
the below piece from April 20. It talks about the bombings of Syria and
Afghanistan last month in a broader context, and calls for the peace
movement to be sure our message is part of the ongoing "intersectional"
work that's gained momentum since January. This was the exact discussion
we had at our last IAG meeting given that war has now become as big a
cudgel for the Trump administration as its anti-immigrant, anti-woman,
anti-LGBTQ, anti-healthcare, anti-science, and other such agendas that
have had people marching in the streets.
There yet may be someone who's noted that this latest anti-Syria
propaganda sounds a lot like: the Iraqis dashing babies in incubators to
the ground (1990), the Iraqis having centrifuges for nuclear weapons
(2002), the Afghan government "refusing" to turn over Osama bin Laden
(2001), the USS Maddox being "fired upon" in the Gulf of Tonkin (1964),
the questionable contents of Manuel Noriega's desk (1989), and any number
of other untrue stories told to whip up support for US militarism. But
now, I've made that point, so, think about it, won't you?
Meanwhile, I posted the TV news stories from KATU and KGW on the webpage
from Sunday's "Mother of All Protests":
(or you can jump to them at
peace and justice works iraq affinity group
There's No Strategy Behind Trump's Wars -- Only Brute Force
Trump's wars are now all over the map. The peace movement can fight
back by joining already thriving intersectional campaigns.
April 20, 2017 | Phyllis Bennis
Originally in Foreign Policy In Focus
These are awesome days for headline writers. So many global settings,
such an abundance of weapons, such a wealth of choices!
On the morning of April 14, the New York Times led with "A Giant U.S.
Bomb Strikes ISIS Caves in Afghanistan," matched by CNN's "US Drops
`Mother of All Bombs.'" The Washington Post chose Syria, where "Errant
U.S. Strike Kills 18: Victims in Syria Were Allied Forces." By
mid-afternoon that same day, the Associated Press had shifted to the
Horn of Africa, where the "U.S. Sends Dozens of Troops to Somalia, 1st
Time in Decades."
And as the Friday rush hour began in Washington, Fox News opted to head
to the north Pacific, leading with an aircraft carrier: "The `Powerful'
USS Carl Vinson Steams Towards North Korea."
A few days earlier the most popular choices were various versions of
CNN's "U.S. Launches Military Strike Against Syria." (That headline
described something new only because the strike officially targeted a
Syrian government military site, while ignoring the not-so-new reality
that the U.S. has been attacking alleged ISIS targets in Syria with
drones, bombing raids, and special forces for almost three years.)
A couple of weeks before that, coverage of the Trump wars focused on a
devastating U.S. airstrike on Mosul, which a Los Angeles Times headline
described as "One of the Deadliest Attacks on Civilians in Recent
Memory." And just before that, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism
highlighted "Nine Young Children Killed: The Full Details of Botched
U.S. Raid in Yemen." (No headlines, however, told the full story of the
U.S. role in Yemen. That one might've read "U.S.-Backed Saudi Bombing
Has Killed Thousands, Worsened Famine Facing Millions in Yemen.")
Around the globe, as these headlines testify, Donald Trump has been
cavalierly deploying troops and weapons, claiming such military actions
are designed to send political messages.
He's threatened a preemptive strike against North Korea, considered a
major escalation in Yemen, and turned loose his military commanders to
bomb wherever, however, and with whatever they choose, weakening even
further the already insufficient restrictions Obama had put in place to
try to minimize civilian casualties. Deaths of civilians under both
U.S. drones and conventional airstrikes have escalated.
For those who thought that military restraint was part of Trumpian
isolationism, think again.
Not one of these actions was necessary. Not one will make people in
this country -- let alone the Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis,
Somalis, or others -- any safer. Neither was any of these actions
sanctioned by Congress: All violated the War Powers Act, and indeed the
Constitution itself, which puts the power to declare war in the hands
of the people's representatives.
Furthermore, not one of them fulfilled the minimal United Nations
Charter requirements for the legal use of military force -- either
Security Council authorization or immediate self-defense. Thus they all
violated international law.
And even beyond the illegality, not one could claim a strategic,
legitimate, or moral justification.
Of course, the U.S. has been at war in various combinations of
Afghanistan and Iraq, Libya and Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and beyond since
George W. Bush declared the global war on terror just after the 9/11
attacks of 2001. In some of these countries, the U.S. was at war even
before that. But Trump's actions represent major escalations in every
one of those devastated nations. According to the British human rights
monitor AirWars, well over 1,000 civilians may have been killed by
U.S.-led forces just in Iraq and Syria in March alone, the highest
monthly total they've ever tracked.
What we see in these attacks is not a strategy, but a new way of
communicating raw power.
How does it work? Instead of sending diplomats to help get all warring
parties involved in negotiations, you drop the largest non-nuclear bomb
ever used in combat on one of the world's poorest countries. Instead of
supporting UN efforts to create incremental ceasefires, you send
special forces. Instead of investing money, time, and high-level
attention to help shift regional conflicts from the battlefield to the
negotiating table, you send armed drones to drop more bombs.
And, of course, instead of increasing funding for diplomacy, you strip
29 percent of the State Department budget, and nearly zero out
humanitarian aid, and hand it all over to the Pentagon as part of a $54
billion increase in military spending.
None of this is in service of any actual policy, just a unifying theme:
War trumps diplomacy. Bullies rule. It's a shock-and-awe attack -- many
shock-and-awe attacks, actually -- to drive home a message aimed not
only at troops on the ground or militants holed up in a cave, but also
at the populations as a whole, across Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia,
Iraq, Yemen, and beyond. The goal seems to be ensuring that no question
remains as to where and with whom the ultimate power resides.
It's also a message to a domestic audience here in the United States,
designed to shock if not surprise: The bully in the White House is
calling the shots.
Invigorating the Peace Movement
The question now isn't what Trump -- or the generals and billionaires
filling his cabinet -- will do next. It's what will we do next, as
opponents of these wars?
In short, we need to integrate opposition to these wars into the very
core of the movements already rising so powerfully against racism, for
women's and LGBTQ rights, for climate and economic justice, for Native
rights, for immigrant rights and refugee protections, for Palestinian
rights, and much more.
We know that some approaches from earlier efforts are needed once
again. Building ties with and privileging the voices of people facing
the consequences of U.S. actions, dying under the bombs or reeling
under brutal sanctions, remain crucial. Lifting up anti-war veterans
provides entry to important new audiences. Reminding people of how U.S.
wars are too often fought for resources -- as well as for the expansion
of power, for military bases, for regional and global domination, and
how racism informs all of Washington's wars -- are all key to popular
What we do know is that everyone -- from Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans,
Somalis, and Yemenis to those of us in this country -- needs diplomacy
to win out over war. We've faced wars for decades now, but we've also
had some victories where negotiations triumphed over force -- in Cuba,
in Paris at the climate talks, and most especially in the Iran nuclear
We know what diplomacy looks like, and we know how to fight for it.
We'll need new strategies, new tactics -- but we continue to stand on
the shoulders of those who have gone before us. Our country is waging
war against peoples across the globe, indeed waging war against the
earth itself. But we are still here, challenging those wars alongside
those who guard the earth, who protect the water, who defend the rights
of those most at risk.
The great historian Howard Zinn reminds us of it all: Our country's
history began in the genocide of indigenous nations and the enslavement
of Africans brought here in chains. But from that beginning it also
became a country of people's movements against genocide and slavery,
against racism and misogyny and Islamophobia, of movements for justice,
for internationalism, and yes, for peace.
Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the
Institute for Policy Studies.
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