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Dumb and Dumber
Posted on Feb 13, 2013
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch
And here’s where we go from dumb luck to just plain dumb. Lusting for revenge, dreaming of a Middle Eastern (or even global) Pax Americana, and eager to loose a military that they believed could eternally dominate any situation, the Bush administration declared a “global war” on terrorism. Only six days after the World Trade Center towers went down, George W. Bush granted the CIA an unprecedented license to wage planet-wide war. By then, it had already presented a plan with a title worthy of a sci-fi film: the “Worldwide Attack Matrix.” According to journalist Ron Suskind in his book The One Percent Doctrine, the plan “detailed operations [to come] against terrorists in 80 countries.”
This was, of course, a kind of madness. After all, al-Qaeda wasn’t a state or even much of an organization; in real terms, it barely existed. So declaring “war” on its scattered minions globally was little short of a bizarre and fantastical act. And yet any other approach to what had happened was promptly laughed out of the American room. And before you could blink, the U.S. was invading… nuts, you already knew the answer: Afghanistan.
After another dazzlingly brief and triumphant campaign, using tiny numbers of American military personnel and CIA operatives (as well as U.S. air power), the first of Washington’s you-can’t-go-home-again crew marched into downtown Kabul and began hunkering down, building bases, and preparing to stay. One Afghan war, it turned out, hadn’t been faintly enough for Washington. And soon, it would be clear that one Iraq war wasn’t either. By now, we were in the express lane in the Möbius loop of history.
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So in early April 2003, invading American troops entered a chaotic Baghdad, a city being looted. (“Stuff happens,” commented Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in response.) On April 29th, Rumsfeld held a news conference with Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, broadcast on Saudi TV, announcing that the U.S. would pull all its combat troops out of that country. No more garrisons in Saudi Arabia. Ever. U.S. air operations were to move to al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. As for the rest, there was no need even to mention Iraq. This was just two days before President Bush landed a jet, Top Gun-style, on an aircraft carrier off San Diego and—under a White House-produced banner reading “Mission Accomplished”—declared “the end of major combat operations in Iraq.” And all’s well that ends well, no?
You know the rest, the various predictable disasters that followed (as well as the predictably unpredictable ones). But don’t think that, as America’s leaders repeat their mistakes endlessly—using varying tactics, ranging from surges to counterinsurgency to special operations raids to drones, all to similar purposes—everything remains repetitively the same. Not at all. The repeated invasions, occupations, interventions, drone wars, and the like have played a major role in the unraveling of the Greater Middle East and increasingly of northern Africa as well.
Here, in fact, is a rule of thumb for you: keep your eye on the latest drone bases the CIA and the U.S. military are setting up abroad—in Niger, near its border with Mali, for example—and you have a reasonable set of markers for tracing the further destabilization of the planet. Each eerily familiar tactical course change (always treated as a brilliant strategic coup) each next application of force, and more things “metastasize.”
And so we reach this moment and the news of that two-year-old secret Saudi drone base. You might ask yourself, given the previous history of U.S. bases in that country, why the CIA or any administration would entertain the idea of opening a new U.S. outpost there. Evidently, it’s the equivalent of catnip for cats; they just couldn’t help themselves.
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