The American way of war; how Bush’s wars became Obama’s

On September 11, 2001, America froze in shock and the shock was followed by a mix of fear, anger and bewilderment.

Yet for some, the first response was also the enduring response: a knowing dread that what followed would be far worse than what just happened; that America’s reaction would be wildly disproportionate and vastly more destructive than the events of that day.

Some of us had the luxury of holding that dispassionate wide-angle perspective from the comfort of distance — I lived on the West Coast at that time. But there were others who saw what was coming even while still breathing the dust from the collapsed Twin Towers. Tom Engelhardt was such an observer and has been chronicling the 9/11 fallout ever since.

Dan Froomkin reviews a distillation of those observations captured in Tom’s new book, The American Way of War; How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s.

Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan could possibly be mistaken for successes, and yet the neocons have succeeded in creating a political climate in which, as Engelhardt explains, war and security are somehow seen as being synonymous. As a result, any alternative to war has become tantamount to diminishing our security — and is therefore politically untenable. Alternatives to war get no serious hearing in modern Washington. And while the mainstream media apparently doesn’t find this the least bit strange, Engelhardt does.

He asks good questions about it. “What does it mean,” he writes, “when the most military-obsessed administration in our history, which, year after year, submitted ever more bloated Pentagon budgets to Congress, is succeeded by one headed by a president who ran, at least partially, on an antiwar platform, and who then submitted an even larger Pentagon budget?”

Indeed, it would appear that unless things change dramatically, we are condemned to enduring war, in the form of a Global War on Terror (GWOT) that never ends. At least now you know why.

Engelhardt devotes some time to chronicling the nation’s massive, insatiable war machine — and our country’s role as arms supplier to the world. (When’s the last time you saw anything in the news about that?)

He exposes what he calls the “garrisoning of the planet” by literally countless U.S. military bases around the globe — bases that drain our treasury while angering our allies and energizing our enemies.

“Basing is generally considered here either a topic not worth writing about or an arcane policy matter best left to the inside pages for the policy wonks and news junkies,” Engelhardt writes. “This is in part because we Americans — and by extension our journalists — don’t imagine us as garrisoning or occupying the world; and certainly not as having anything faintly approaching a military empire.”

He chronicles the extraordinary barbarity of the air war and the “collateral damage” it wreaks; an enterprise now made even more soulless as death is unleashed from drones operated by pilots hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Rather than look away as most of us do, Engelhardt faces right up to the greatest, most horrible irony of the post 9/11 period: that we did to ourselves “what al-Qaeda’s crew never could have done. Blinding ourselves via the GWOT, we released American hubris and fear upon the world, in the process making almost every situation we touched progressively worse for this country.”

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  1. Ian Arbuckle says

    In this article has pointed out Tom Engelhardt’s book The American Way of War as reviewed by Dan Froomkin he points out:

    “He exposes what he calls the “garrisoning of the planet” by literally countless U.S. military bases around the globe — bases that drain our treasury while angering our allies and energizing our enemies.”

    In another item on William Astore’s “wars don’t make heroes” below you point out the lies unmasked involved in military spinning tails in terms of Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman, etc..

    What I would like to know though, and I think it is relevant, is who authorized the false flag sinking of the South Korean war ship Cheonan?

    We are being bombarded with lies and scenarios that make no sense other than to support the delusional madness that is taken as normality by sociopaths in the Pentagon and it seems also in Clinton’s Department of Imperial Affairs.

    If we cannot trust Israel to investigate its own piracy on the high seas, we certainly cannot trust the US and its yes-men cronies (Canada, UK, Australia, and Sweden) to investigate this incident. Apparently the odd man out was Sweden who eventually under American pressure withdrew its reservations, never the less the findings of the investigation did not pass muster at the UN Security Council, which deprived the US of its hope for a clear condemnation of North Korea and for consequent sanctions, this after the Russians sent their own investigators who were not at all convinced that “The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine.” as stated by the American approved report. Nor has China been convinced of DPRK’s culpability despite the overriding pressure of the US with less than convincing evidence.

    Some of the salient points of the suspicious sinking are enumerated in an article by Stephen Lendman in his Blog: who quotes investigative journalist Wayne Madsen ( ) .

    “Madsen said the incident occurred near Baengnyeong Island opposite North Korea, “heavily militarized and within artillery fire range….across a narrow channel.”

    “The Cheonan, an ASW corvette, was decked out with state-of-the-art sonar, (and) was operating in waters with extensive hydrophone sonar arrays and acoustic underwater sensors.” Yet it detected no evidence of a submarine, mini-sub or torpedo in the area. Everything was quiet at the time.

    However, Baengnyeong “hosts a joint US-South Korea military intelligence base,” US Navy SEALS, and four US ships were in the area for a joint exercise. Further, the suspect torpedo’s “metallic and chemical fingerprints” were German, not North Korean as claimed. Germany sells no torpedos to Pyongyang. It does to Israel and the Pentagon.

    Other red flags further arouse suspicions, including the “presence of the USNS Salvor,” a Navy salvage ship, earlier involved “in mine laying activities.” Former Japan Times editor Yoichi Shimatsu reported them at lower depths, able to explode with enough force to sink the Cheonan. He also said Pyongyang has no underwater vessels stealthy enough to slip past Byeongnyeong Island’s advanced sonar and audio detectors.

    Navy SEALS may have attached “horizontally fired anti-submarine mines on the sea floor of the channel (or perhaps) a magnetic mine to the Cheonan, as part of a covert program aimed at influencing public opinion,” stoking tensions enough to get Japan and South Korea to want our forces in the region – Washington’s aim by whatever means, including perhaps sinking an ally’s ship and killing 46 members of its crew, a minor externality to tighten its imperial grip, even at the risk of all out war.”

    I don’t believe this incident is even being questioned in the US and given the history of false flag events and the orchestration of other events in the region to highten tension such as the recent visit to Japan this week of a redeemed North Korean spy who blew up a Japanese airliner in 1987 to talk to the families of Japanese abductees, all this to get the Japanese people afraid, no very afraid, and remind them that those crazy North Koreans are only kept at bay by the 90 U.S. military facilities and bases throughout Japan including the 38 in Okinawa. This massive presence can no longer be seen as strictly “defensive” of Japan which is its constitutional reason for being there, especially when US attack marine forces are despatched from Japan to Iraq and Afghanistan, or even bombing raids fly out directly from Japan. So it seems the supposed Korean threat is the slightly obvious yet quite disgustingly construct to justify continued hegemony.

    I suppose what bothers me most is that the boldest of lies are being used to justify empire and are not even being questioned by any main stream journalism in the US. It seems to be just accepted that the North did this just because America said so. The fact is that this is a dangerous power game being played at the cost of Asian stability, but the lies are so transparent. Only the US is appearing to be the one fooling itself.

  2. Until the American public stand up & say; “enough is enough”, either vote out the present Congress, or else have another Revolution, be it peaceful or otherwise, then nothing will change for the better. When we have our Government officials running around the World telling other Countries what to do, how to behave the way we want them to, then we can only expect more animosity towards our once great Country. It doesn’t help that the education system in the United States of America has gone down hill as much as it has. In other words, dumbing down, especially this first decade of the 21st Century. It show when one looks at the response towards the “Bogyman” today is loud. The scare mongers are so entrenched in & out of the Government, that it’s questionable as to whether or not the road back to intelligent thinking on the part of the public, will return.

  3. estebanfolsom says

    there is something about the truth
    it has a certain ring to it
    sort of like crystal

    it is easily heard
    impossible to deny
    once it makes that sound

    so much better
    than speaking a lie
    and knowing it

    for the teller

    for the recipients

    ‘always tell the truth
    it’s so much easier
    than remembering
    a lie”

    “and not one more war
    sold on a pack of lies”

  4. Ian Arbuckle says

    Correction: …sinking of the South Korean war ship Cheonan;
    (Canada, UK, Australia, and Sweden) to investigate this incident. Apparently the odd man out was Sweden who eventually under American pressure withdrew its reservations…

    Apparently Sweden did not concur on the conclusion that North Korea was responsible. Nor did the “internationals” seem to have as much to do with the preparation of reports as is suggested by Hilary Clintons words, which seem to have been carefully chosen to mislead. For those interested in the devil and the detail:

    So to summarise, Russia and Sweden who sent their own investigators to look into the evidence don’t believe North Korea can be singled out as the culprit, while news media in China, after urgent talks between that Government and the ailing Kim Jong Il, and Russia are outright suggesting the US were most likely responsible.

    Certainly the idea that the investigation and reports made by South Korea and its war allies on this matter are conclusive or transparent must be rejected. The matter is as clear as mud. But what is worse than the deed itself, which killed 46 Korean sailors and injured 70, is the callousness of motive behind it, if it were to be shown that the sinking was deliberate and orchestrated.

    What a world, what a foreign policy, where lies and decipt are the rule and plausable deniability sufices for cover!

  5. Tom Engelhardt-

    After finally obtaining a copy of Tom’s latest work, reading and being grateful for the facts presented so clearly; I must say that followers of Tom dispatch are re- acquainted with much of what he has written on this issue already. What does stand out is the obvious long hours of work and fine writing that went into compiling this book which surely exemplifies what has made Tom so valued and respected in editing and journalism circles for so many years. An outstanding and timely read don’t miss it.

  6. Estaban, there is nothing particularly appealing about the truth. The opposite is true. The truth doesn’t serve anyone, doesn’t stand to enrich, doesn’t lobby itself and carries no special appeal. The truth has few seekers, fewer advocates and it’s not malleable. There is nothing about the truth that is good for those who run our systems.

  7. Ten minutes after the news of 911 hit the TV channels a friend called and asked…..what do you think’?

    I replied that it would be used as an excuse to launch the US into large and small wars just because we could, and would bankrupt the US financially, diplomatically and morally.

    It’s now all history….. ‘Principiis obsta and Finem respice’.

  8. estebanfolsom says

    no scatt
    i would not have to agree
    i love the lie
    that’s fleecing me
    how ’bout you
    is it hard to see ?
    check your coat
    watch out for your knee
    oh yeah
    WW III
    watch out for that