• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

woensdag 29 maart 2017

De Balie Voedt uw Geest of Zoiets

Het Amsterdamse Centrum voor afgedankte Liberals De Balie presenteert de virtuele bullshit van Nederland:


wo 5 apr / 20:00

De Grote Formatieshow 

Edith Schippers is officieel als informateur gekozen en zij zal de komende weken met de partijen aan de onderhandeltafel zitten. Zal ze eruit komen en hebben we deze maand al een coalitie of zijn de verschillen toch onoverbrugbaar? Tijdens de tweede aflevering van De Grote Formatieshowspreken we o.a. met Sheila Sitalsing en Kees Vendrik, columnist en voormalig Tweede Kamerlid, over de voortzetting van de formatie.
 

ma 10 apr / 20:00

Libië, waar ligt de grens?

Elke dag vertrekken er rubberen bootjes met vluchtelingen vanuit Libië naar Italië, maar velen overleven het niet. Kunnen wij dit tegenhouden? Is het daarnaast moreel juist om gestrande vluchtelingen te helpen als daarmee de mensensmokkel in Libië in stand wordt gehouden? Wat zijn we eigenlijk verplicht aan “vreemden”? Met bijdragen van o.a. politiek filosoof Tamar de Waal, D66 Europarlementariër Sophie in 't Velden historicus Arend Jan Boekestijn.


Neem Rotte Eieren mee!!!


Sitalsing, Vendrik, In 't Veld, De Waal en Arend Jan Broekhoest, Rotte Eieren.


Ending Syria’s Nightmare

Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 

Photo by Devin Smith | CC BY 2.0
Photo by Devin Smith | CC BY 2.0
Ominous developments in East Syria have drawn the United States and Russia into closer proximity increasing the likelihood of a violent confrontation.  The Trump administration has embarked on a dangerous plan to defeat the terrorist militia, ISIS, in Raqqa. But recent comments by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggest that Washington’s long-term strategy may conflict with Moscow’s goal of restoring Syria’s sovereign borders.  Something’s got to give. Either Russia ceases its clearing operations in east Syria or Washington agrees to withdraw its US-backed forces when the battle is over. If neither side gives ground, there’s going to be a collision between the two nuclear-armed adversaries.
On Wednesday, the US airlifted hundreds of mainly-Kurdish fighters to an area behind ISIS lines where they were dropped near the town of al-Tabqa. The troops– who are part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces or SDF– were accompanied by an undisclosed number of US Marines serving as advisors. Ostensibly, the deployment was intended to encircle ISIS positions and retake the area around the strategic Tabqa Dam. But the operation had the added effect of blocking the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) from advancing  along the main road towards Raqqa, the so called Capital of ISIS.  While the blocking move might have been coincidental, there’s a strong possibility that Washington is in the opening phase of a broader strategy to splinter the war-torn country and prevent the reemergence of a united secular Syria.
According to Almasdar News:
“The Coalition supported the offensive with air movement and logistical support, precision airstrikes, Apache helicopters in close air support, Marine artillery, and special operations advice and assistance to SDF leadership,” the US-led coalition said in a statement.” (AMN News)
In a matter of weeks, Washington’s approach to the war in Syria has changed dramatically. While the US has reportedly ended its support for the Sunni militias that have torn the country apart and killed over 400,000 people, the US has increased its aid to the SDF that is making impressive territorial gains across the eastern corridor. The ultimate goal for the SDF fighters is an autonomous Kurdish homeland carved out of West Iraq and East Syria, while US objectives focus primarily on the breakup of the Syrian state, the removal of the elected government, the control over critical pipelines routes, and the redrawing of national borders to better serve the interests of the US and Israel.
The idea of breaking up Syria is not new. The plan first appeared in an article by Oded Yinon in 1982 titled “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties”.  Yinon believed that– for Israel to survive– it must become an imperial regional power that “must effect the division of the whole area into small states by the dissolution of all existing Arab states.” (Israel Shahak)
The most recent adaptation of Yinon’s plan was articulated by Brookings Institute analyst Michael O’ Hanlon in a piece that appeared in the Wall Street Journal titled “A Trump Strategy to End Syria’s Nightmare”.  In the article, O’ Hanlon states bluntly:
“To achieve peace, Syria will need self-governance within a number of autonomous zones. One option is a confederal system by which the whole country is divided into such zones. A less desirable but minimally acceptable alternative could be several autonomous zones within an otherwise still-centralized state—similar to how Iraqi Kurdistan has functioned for a quarter-century….
Security in the Sunni Arab and Kurdish autonomous zones would be provided by local police and perhaps paramilitary forces raised, trained and equipped with the direct support of the international community. …(“A Trump Strategy to End Syria’s Nightmare”, Wall Street Journal)
In an earlier piece, O’ Hanlon referred to his scheme as “Deconstructing Syria” a plan that “would produce autonomous zones that would never again have to face the prospect of rule by either Assad or ISIL.”
Many of the details in O’ Hanlon’s piece are identical to those in Trump’s plan which was announced by Secretary of State Tillerson just last week. The Brookings strategy appears to be the script from which the administration is operating.
In his presentation, Tillerson announced that US troops would not leave Iraq after the siege of Mosul was concluded which has led many to speculate that the same policy will be used in Syria. Here’s an excerpt from an article at the WSWS that explains this point:
“US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared Washington’s intention to keep troops deployed more or less indefinitely in the territories now occupied by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in remarks delivered at the beginning of a two-day meeting of the US-organized anti-ISIS coalition in Washington.
“The military power of the coalition will remain where this fraudulent caliphate has existed in order to set the conditions for a full recovery from the tyranny of ISIS,” he told an audience that included Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He gave no indication of when, if ever, US troops could be withdrawn from a war zone extending across Iraq and Syria, where there has been fighting of greater or lesser intensity throughout the 14 years since the US first invaded Iraq.” (Tillerson pledges long-term US military role in Iraq and Syria, World Socialist web Site)
US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis reinforced Tillerson’s comments adding that the US plans a indefinite occupation of Iraq (and, possibly, Syria) stating that it was in America’s “national interest.”
“I believe it’s in our national interest that we keep Iraqi security forces in a position to keep our mutual enemies on their back foot,” he said, as quoted by the Military Times. The US “needs to remain decisively engaged in Iraq and in the region.”
In response to Mattis’s comments, Syrian President Bashar al Assad said:
“Any military operation in Syria without the approval of the Syrian government is illegal, and  any troops on the Syrian soil,  is an invasion, whether to liberate Raqqa or any other place. …The (US-led) coalition has never been serious about fighting ISIS or the terrorists.”
Clearly, Washington is using the fight against ISIS as a pretext for capturing and holding territory in a critical, energy-rich area of the world. The plan to seize parts of East Syria for military bases and pipeline corridors fits neatly within this same basic strategy.   But it also throws a wrench in Moscow’s plan to restore the country’s borders and put an end to the six year-long conflict.
And what does Tillerson mean when he talks about “interim zones of stability” a moniker that the Trump administration carefully crafted to avoid the more portentous-sounding “safe zones”. (Readers will recall that Hillary Clinton was the biggest proponent of safe zones in Syria, even though they would require a huge commitment of US troops as well as the costly imposition of a no-fly zone.)
Tillerson’s comments suggest that the Trump administration is deepening its involvement in Syria despite the risks of a catastrophic clash with Moscow. Ever since General Michael Flynn was forced to step down from his position as National Security Advisor, (Flynn wanted to “normalize” relations with Russia), Trump has filled his foreign policy team with Russophobic hawks who see Moscow as “hostile revisionist power” that “annex(es) territory, intimidates our allies, develops nuclear weapons, and uses proxies under the cover of modernized conventional militaries.” Those are the words of  the man who replaced Flynn as NSA,  Lt. General HR McMaster. While the media applauded the McMaster appointment as an “outstanding choice”, his critics think it signals a departure from Trump’s campaign promise:
“We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past…We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments…. Our goal is stability not chaos, because we want to rebuild our country [the United States] …In our dealings with other countries, we will seek shared interests wherever possible and pursue a new era of peace, understanding, and good will.”
There won’t be any peace under Mattis or McMaster, that’s for sure. Both men are anti-Moscow hardliners who think Russia is an emerging rival that must be confronted and defeated. Even more worrisome is the fact that uber-hawk John McCain recently stated that he talks with both men “almost daily” (even though he has avoided talking to Trump since he was elected in November.)
According to German Marshall Fund’s Derek Chollet, a former Obama Pentagon official. “(McCain) is trying to run U.S. defense policy through Mattis and effectively ignore Trump.” (Kimberly Dozier, Daily Beast contributing editor)  Chollet’s comments square with our belief that Trump has relinquished his control over foreign policy to placate his critics.
Washington’s Syria policy is now in the hands of a small group of right-wing extremists who think Russia is the biggest threat the nation has faced since WW2. That’s why there’s been a sharp uptick in the number of troops deployed to the region. This is from The Nation:
“On March 9, The New York Times reported that the United States is sending 400 troops to Syria…A week later, March 15, The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon has drawn up plans to send a 1,000 more troops within the coming weeks. Meanwhile, in anticipation of the coming … operation against the Islamic State, the administration has decided to send “an additional 2,500 ground combat troops to a staging base in Kuwait.” (“Congress Needs to Stop Trump’s Escalation of the War on Syria”, Nation)
Here’s more from Sputnik:
“Every two days the US deploys a large amount of weapons, primarily heavy armaments, to the region. They have sent tanks, armored vehicles, missiles, sniper rifles, mortar launchers and other types of weaponry…In addition, the United States has told us that a decision was made to send an additional 1,000 US troops to take part in the Raqqa operation,” he said, specifying that US troops will serve as military advisers during the operation and will not take part in the combat.” (Sputnik)
Washington is increasing its weapons stockpile to fend off any attempt by Russia and its allies to keep the battered nation together. A weaker, fragmented Syria governed by tribal leaders and local warlords will pose no  threat to Washington or Tel Aviv’s regional ambitions.  At least, that appears to be the thinking among US foreign policy elites.
But while Washington continues to pour gas on the fire,   Russia remains committed to preserving what Putin calls “the fair world order”. In a recent speech he said:
“Russia opposes attempts to destabilize and weaken international relations, as this could lead to a chaotic and ever less controllable slide towards greater tension in the world.
We support joint action to ensure a democratic and fair world order based on strict respect for the norms of international law, the United Nations Charter, recognition of the unquestionable value of cultural and civilizational diversity, national sovereignty, and the right of all countries to decide their futures freely, without external pressure.”
The Trump administration’s plan to splinter Syria and establish a permanent garrison in the eastern part of the country won’t be stopped unless the American people express their opposition en masse.  Investigative journalist, James Carden, recommends that Congress pass a “No Presidential Wars” resolution that “would prohibit the president from “initiating wars against state or non-state actors without prior congressional declarations under Article I, section 8, clause 11 (Declare War Clause).”  It’s a great idea, but it won’t happen without pressure from below.  People will have to get more involved if they want the bloodletting to end. There’s no other way.
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.
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The Surveillance State Behind Russia-gate

The Surveillance State Behind Russia-gate

 

Exclusive: Amid the frenzy over the Trump team’s talks with Russians, are we missing a darker story, how the Deep State’s surveillance powers control the nation’s leaders, ask U.S. intelligence veterans Ray McGovern and Bill Binney.


Although many details are still hazy because of secrecy – and further befogged by politics – it appears House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes was informed last week about invasive electronic surveillance of senior U.S. government officials and, in turn, passed that information onto President Trump.
The White House in Washington, D.C. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)
This news presents Trump with an unwelcome but unavoidable choice: confront those who have kept him in the dark about such rogue activities or live fearfully in their shadow. (The latter was the path chosen by President Obama. Will Trump choose the road less traveled?)
What President Trump decides will largely determine the freedom of action he enjoys as president on many key security and other issues. But even more so, his choice may decide whether there is a future for this constitutional republic. Either he can acquiesce to or fight against a Deep State of intelligence officials who have a myriad of ways to spy on politicians (and other citizens) and thus amass derogatory material that can be easily transformed into blackmail.
This crisis (yes, “crisis” is an overused word, but in this highly unusual set of circumstances we believe it is appropriate) came to light mostly by accident after President Trump tweeted on March 4 that his team in New York City’s Trump Towers had been “wiretapped” by President Obama.
Trump reportedly was relying on media reports regarding how conversations of aides, including his ill-starred National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, had been intercepted. Trump’s tweet led to a fresh offensive by Democrats and the mainstream press to disparage Trump’s “ridiculous” claims.
However, this concern about the dragnets that U.S. intelligence (or its foreign partners) can deploy to pick up communications by Trump’s advisers and then “unmask” the names before leaking them to the news media was also highlighted at the Nunes-led House Intelligence Committee hearing on March 20, where Nunes appealed for anyone who had related knowledge to come forward with it.
That apparently happened on the evening of March 21 when Nunes received a call while riding with a staffer. After the call, Nunes switched to another car and went to a secure room at the Old Executive Office Building, next to the White House, where he was shown highly classified information apparently about how the intelligence community picked up communications by Trump’s aides.
The next day, Nunes went to the White House to brief President Trump, who later said he felt “somewhat vindicated” by what Nunes had told him.

The ‘Wiretap’ Red Herring

But the corporate U.S. news media continued to heckle Trump over his use of the word “wiretap” and cite the insistence of FBI Director James Comey and other intelligence officials that President Obama had not issued a wiretap order aimed at Trump.
President Donald Trump being sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)
As those paying rudimentary attention to modern methods of surveillance know, “wiretapping” is passé. But Trump’s use of the word allowed FBI and Department of Justice officials and their counterparts at the National Security Agency to swear on a stack of bibles that the FBI, DOJ, and NSA have been unable to uncover any evidence within their particular institutions of such “wiretapping.”
At the House Intelligence Committee hearing on March 20, FBI Director Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers firmly denied that their agencies had wiretapped Trump Towers on the orders of President Obama.
So, were Trump and his associates “wiretapped?” Of course not. Wiretapping went out of vogue decades ago, having been rendered obsolete by leaps in surveillance technology.
The real question is: Were Trump and his associates surveilled? Wake up, America. Was no one paying attention to the disclosures from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 when he exposed Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as a liar for denying that the NSA engaged in bulk collection of communications inside the United States.
The reality is that EVERYONE, including the President, is surveilled. The technology enabling bulk collection would have made the late demented FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s mouth water.
Allegations about the intelligence community’s abuse of its powers also did not begin with Snowden. For instance, several years earlier, former NSA worker and whistleblower Russell Tice warned about these “special access programs,” citing first-hand knowledge, but his claims were brushed aside as coming from a disgruntled employee with psychological problems. His disclosures were soon forgotten.

Intelligence Community’s Payback

However, earlier this year, there was a stark reminder of how much fear these surveillance capacities have struck in the hearts of senior U.S. government officials. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that President Trump was “being really dumb” to take on the intelligence community, since “They have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York.
Maddow shied away from asking the logical follow-up: “Senator Schumer, are you actually saying that Trump should be afraid of the CIA?” Perhaps she didn’t want to venture down a path that would raise more troubling questions about the surveillance of the Trump team than on their alleged contacts with the Russians.
Similarly, the U.S. corporate media is now focused on Nunes’s alleged failure to follow protocol by not sharing his information first with Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Democrats promptly demanded that Nunes recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
On Tuesday morning, reporters for CNN and other news outlets peppered Nunes with similar demands as he walked down a corridor on Capitol Hill, prompting him to suggest that they should be more concerned about what he had learned than the procedures followed.
That’s probably true because to quote Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Good Men” in a slightly different context, the mainstream media “cannot handle the truth” – even if it’s a no-brainer.
At his evening meeting on March 21 at the Old Executive Office Building, Nunes was likely informed that all telephones, emails, etc. – including his own and Trump’s – are being monitored by what the Soviets used to call “the organs of state security.”
By sharing that information with Trump the next day – rather than consulting with Schiff – Nunes may have sought to avoid the risk that Schiff or someone else would come up with a bureaucratic reason to keep the President in the dark.
A savvy politician, Nunes knew there would be high political cost in doing what he did. Inevitably, he would be called partisan; there would be more appeals to remove him from chairing the committee; and the character assassination of him already well under way – in The Washington Post, for example – might move him to the top of the unpopularity chart, displacing even bête noire Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But this episode was not the first time Nunes has shown some spine in the face of what the Establishment wants ignored. In a move setting this congressman apart from all his colleagues, Nunes had the courage to host an award ceremony for one of his constituents, retired sailor and member of the USS Liberty crew, Terry Halbardier.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California.
On June 8, 1967, by repairing an antennae and thus enabling the USS Liberty to issue an SOS, Halbardier prevented Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats from sinking that Navy intelligence ship and ensuring that there would be no survivors to describe how the Israeli “allies” had strafed and bombed the ship. Still, 34 American seamen died and 171 were wounded.
At the time of the award ceremony in 2009, Nunes said, “The government has kept this quiet I think for too long, and I felt as my constituent, he [Halbardier] needed to get recognized for the services he made to his country.” (Ray McGovern took part in the ceremony in Nunes’s Visalia, California office.)
Now, we suspect that much more may be learned about the special compartmented surveillance program targeted against top U.S. national leaders if Rep. Nunes doesn’t back down and if Trump doesn’t choose the road most traveled – acquiescence to America’s Deep State actors.

Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years and conducted one-on-one briefings of the President’s Daily Brief under Ronald Reagan from 1081 to 1985.
Bill Binney was former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA and co-founder of NSA’s SIGINT Automation Research Center before he retired after 9/11.

Tom Engelhardt: An American Century of Carnage

Tomgram: John Dower, Body Count for the American Century
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: With some pride, I’m announcing today the newest Dispatch Book. It’s also the capstone on eminent historian John Dower’s work on America’s wars, including his National Book Critics Circle Award-winning War Without Mercy and his Pulitzer Prize-winning Embracing Defeat. His new book, The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two, is about to be published.  Given the deluge of “news” that is the Trump era and everyone’s sudden lack of reading time, it’s a mercifully short, sharp, timely, and definitive look at what “the American Century” has really meant in terms of violence. I consider it a true must-read for our moment. And I’m not alone.  
Among a crowd of people who have praised the book, Noam Chomsky says: “John Dower ends this grim recounting of 75 years of constant war, intervention, assassination, and other crimes by calling for ‘serious consideration’ of why the most powerful nation in world history is so dedicated to these practices while ignoring the nature of its actions and their consequences -- an injunction that could hardly be more timely or necessary as the Pentagon’s ‘arc of instability’ expands to an ‘ocean of instability’ and even an 'atomic arc of instability' in Dower’s perceptive reflections on today’s frightening world." Andrew Bacevich adds: “A timely, compact, and utterly compelling exposé of the myriad contradictions besetting U.S. national security policy... a powerful book.” And Seymour Hersh writes: “No historian understands the human cost of war, with its paranoia, madness, and violence, as does John Dower, and in this deeply researched volume he tells how America, since the end of World War II, has turned away from its ideals and goodness to become a match setting the world on fire.”
I hope all TomDispatch readers will pick-up a copy. You can go to Amazon.com and pre-order one now (and make TD a few cents at no cost to you) by clicking on this link or you can order a copy directly from Haymarket Books at an exclusive discount for TD readers of 50%, simply by clicking on this link and following the checkout instructions you’ll see there.  However you do it, buy The Violent American Century and support our new book publishing program! Tom]
Recently, the historian Marilyn Young, an old friend, died.  She spent her life writing about America’s wars and a country at war.  Her New York Times obituary quoted this telling passage from a speech she gave to the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations:
“I find that I have spent most of my life as a teacher and scholar thinking and writing about war. I moved from war to war, from the War of 1898 and U.S. participation in the Boxer Expedition and the Chinese civil war, to the Vietnam War, back to the Korean War, then further back to World War II and forward to the wars of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Initially, I wrote about all these as if war and peace were discrete: prewar, war, peace, or postwar. Over time, this progression of wars has looked to me less like a progression than a continuation: as if between one war and the next, the country was on hold.”
Curiously enough, with the exception of World War II and Vietnam (for quite different reasons), Americans have lived through our many wars of the last century, years drenched in blood and suffering when this country became the most dominant power on the planet, in a state of relative obliviousness.  Nonetheless, peaceable as the United States seemed in those decades domestically, its wars did come home in all sorts of ways or you would have a hard time explaining the militarization of this country, the growth of the Pentagon budget to staggering proportions, and the rise of the national security state (and its surveillance systems). 
That’s why John Dower’s new book, The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two, arrives at such an opportune moment, just as the era of Donald Trump begins with a visible ramping up (yet again) of America’s wars across the Greater Middle East. It offers a rare assessment of what that century’s human toll actually looks like and of our country’s involvement in it.  In his article today, adapted from that book’s first chapter, Dower offers some striking thoughts on how to begin to measure the toll of the last 75 years of global war and conflict.  And I must admit that, under the circumstances, it seems particularly fitting to me that Marilyn Young gave what must have been the last blurb of her life to his book, writing, “In The Violent American Century, John Dower has produced a sharply eloquent account of the use of U.S. military power since World War II. From ‘hot’ Cold War conflicts to drone strikes, Dower examines the machinery of American violence and its staggering toll. This is an indispensable book.” Tom
An American Century of Carnage 
Measuring Violence in a Single Superpower World 
By John W. Dower
[This essay is adapted from “Measuring Violence,” the first chapter of John Dower’s new book, The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two.]
On February 17, 1941, almost 10 months before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Life magazine carried a lengthy essay by its publisher, Henry Luce, entitled “The American Century.” The son of Presbyterian missionaries, born in China in 1898 and raised there until the age of 15, Luce essentially transposed the certainty of religious dogma into the certainty of a nationalistic mission couched in the name of internationalism.
Luce acknowledged that the United States could not police the whole world or attempt to impose democratic institutions on all of mankind. Nonetheless, “the world of the 20th Century,” he wrote, “if it is to come to life in any nobility of health and vigor, must be to a significant degree an American Century.” The essay called on all Americans “to accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world and in consequence to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such measures as we see fit.”
Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor propelled the United States wholeheartedly onto the international stage Luce believed it was destined to dominate, and the ringing title of his cri de coeur became a staple of patriotic Cold War and post-Cold War rhetoric. Central to this appeal was the affirmation of a virtuous calling. Luce’s essay singled out almost every professed ideal that would become a staple of wartime and Cold War propaganda: freedom, democracy, equality of opportunity, self-reliance and independence, cooperation, justice, charity -- all coupled with a vision of economic abundance inspired by “our magnificent industrial products, our technical skills.” In present-day patriotic incantations, this is referred to as “American exceptionalism.”
The other, harder side of America’s manifest destiny was, of course, muscularity. Power. Possessing absolute and never-ending superiority in developing and deploying the world’s most advanced and destructive arsenal of war. Luce did not dwell on this dimension of “internationalism” in his famous essay, but once the world war had been entered and won, he became its fervent apostle -- an outspoken advocate of “liberating” China from its new communist rulers, taking over from the beleaguered French colonial military in Vietnam, turning both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts from “limited wars” into opportunities for a wider virtuous war against and in China, and pursuing the rollback of the Iron Curtain with “tactical atomic weapons.” As Luce’s incisive biographer Alan Brinkley documents, at one point Luce even mulled the possibility of “plastering Russia with 500 (or 1,000) A bombs” -- a terrifying scenario, but one that the keepers of the U.S. nuclear arsenal actually mapped out in expansive and appalling detail in the 1950s and 1960s, before Luce’s death in 1967.
The “American Century” catchphrase is hyperbole, the slogan never more than a myth, a fantasy, a delusion. Military victory in any traditional sense was largely a chimera after World War II. The so-called Pax Americana itself was riddled with conflict and oppression and egregious betrayals of the professed catechism of American values. At the same time, postwar U.S. hegemony obviously never extended to more than a portion of the globe. Much that took place in the world, including disorder and mayhem, was beyond America’s control.
Yet, not unreasonably, Luce’s catchphrase persists. The twenty-first-century world may be chaotic, with violence erupting from innumerable sources and causes, but the United States does remain the planet’s “sole superpower.” The myth of exceptionalism still holds most Americans in its thrall. U.S. hegemony, however frayed at the edges, continues to be taken for granted in ruling circles, and not only in Washington. And Pentagon planners still emphatically define their mission as “full-spectrum dominance” globally.
Washington’s commitment to modernizing its nuclear arsenal rather than focusing on achieving the thoroughgoing abolition of nuclear weapons has proven unshakable. So has the country’s almost religious devotion to leading the way in developing and deploying ever more “smart” and sophisticated conventional weapons of mass destruction.
Welcome to Henry Luce’s -- and America’s -- violent century, even if thus far it’s lasted only 75 years.  The question is just what to make of it these days.
Counting the Dead
We live in times of bewildering violence. In 2013, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a Senate committee that the world is “more dangerous than it has ever been.” Statisticians, however, tell a different story: that war and lethal conflict have declined steadily, significantly, even precipitously since World War II.
Much mainstream scholarship now endorses the declinists. In his influential 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker adopted the labels “the Long Peace” for the four-plus decades of the Cold War (1945-1991), and “the New Peace” for the post-Cold War years to the present. In that book, as well as in post-publication articles, postings, and interviews, he has taken the doomsayers to task. The statistics suggest, he declares, that “today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’s existence.”
Clearly, the number and deadliness of global conflicts have indeed declined since World War II. This so-called postwar peace was, and still is, however, saturated in blood and wracked with suffering.
It is reasonable to argue that total war-related fatalities during the Cold War decades were lower than in the six years of World War II (1939–1945) and certainly far less than the toll for the twentieth century’s two world wars combined. It is also undeniable that overall death tolls have declined further since then. The five most devastating intrastate or interstate conflicts of the postwar decades -- in China, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and between Iran and Iraq -- took place during the Cold War. So did a majority of the most deadly politicides, or political mass killings, and genocides: in the Soviet Union, China (again), Yugoslavia, North Korea, North Vietnam, Sudan, Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan/Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, and Cambodia, among other countries. The end of the Cold War certainly did not signal the end of such atrocities (as witness Rwanda, the Congo, and the implosion of Syria). As with major wars, however, the trajectory has been downward.
Unsurprisingly, the declinist argument celebrates the Cold War as less violent than the global conflicts that preceded it, and the decades that followed as statistically less violent than the Cold War. But what motivates the sanitizing of these years, now amounting to three-quarters of a century, with the label “peace”? The answer lies largely in a fixation on major powers. The great Cold War antagonists, the United States and the Soviet Union, bristling with their nuclear arsenals, never came to blows. Indeed, wars between major powers or developed states have become (in Pinker’s words) “all but obsolete.” There has been no World War III, nor is there likely to be.
Such upbeat quantification invites complacent forms of self-congratulation. (How comparatively virtuous we mortals have become!) In the United States, where we-won-the-Cold-War sentiment still runs strong, the relative decline in global violence after 1945 is commonly attributed to the wisdom, virtue, and firepower of U.S. “peacekeeping.” In hawkish circles, nuclear deterrence -- the Cold War’s MAD (mutually assured destruction) doctrine that was described early on as a “delicate balance of terror” -- is still canonized as an enlightened policy that prevented catastrophic global conflict.
What Doesn’t Get Counted
Branding the long postwar era as an epoch of relative peace is disingenuous, and not just because it deflects attention from the significant death and agony that actually did occur and still does. It also obscures the degree to which the United States bears responsibility for contributing to, rather than impeding, militarization and mayhem after 1945. Ceaseless U.S.-led transformations of the instruments of mass destruction -- and the provocative global impact of this technological obsession -- are by and large ignored.
Continuities in American-style “warfighting” (a popular Pentagon word) such as heavy reliance on airpower and other forms of brute force are downplayed. So is U.S. support for repressive foreign regimes, as well as the destabilizing impact of many of the nation’s overt and covert overseas interventions. The more subtle and insidious dimension of postwar U.S. militarization -- namely, the violence done to civil society by funneling resources into a gargantuan, intrusive, and ever-expanding national security state -- goes largely unaddressed in arguments fixated on numerical declines in violence since World War II.
Beyond this, trying to quantify war, conflict, and devastation poses daunting methodological challenges. Data advanced in support of the decline-of-violence argument is dense and often compelling, and derives from a range of respectable sources. Still, it must be kept in mind that the precise quantification of death and violence is almost always impossible. When a source offers fairly exact estimates of something like “war-related excess deaths,” you usually are dealing with investigators deficient in humility and imagination.
Take, for example, World War II, about which countless tens of thousands of studies have been written. Estimates of total “war-related” deaths from that global conflict range from roughly 50 million to more than 80 million. One explanation for such variation is the sheer chaos of armed violence. Another is what the counters choose to count and how they count it. Battle deaths of uniformed combatants are easiest to determine, especially on the winning side. Military bureaucrats can be relied upon to keep careful records of their own killed-in-action -- but not, of course, of the enemy they kill. War-related civilian fatalities are even more difficult to assess, although -- as in World War II -- they commonly are far greater than deaths in combat.
Does the data source go beyond so-called battle-related collateral damage to include deaths caused by war-related famine and disease? Does it take into account deaths that may have occurred long after the conflict itself was over (as from radiation poisoning after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or from the U.S. use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War)? The difficulty of assessing the toll of civil, tribal, ethnic, and religious conflicts with any exactitude is obvious.
Concentrating on fatalities and their averred downward trajectory also draws attention away from broader humanitarian catastrophes. In mid-2015, for instance, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that the number of individuals “forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations” had surpassed 60 million and was the highest level recorded since World War II and its immediate aftermath. Roughly two-thirds of these men, women, and children were displaced inside their own countries. The remainder were refugees, and over half of these refugees were children.
Here, then, is a trend line intimately connected to global violence that is not heading downward. In 1996, the U.N.’s estimate was that there were 37.3 million forcibly displaced individuals on the planet. Twenty years later, as 2015 ended, this had risen to 65.3 million -- a 75% increase over the last two post-Cold War decades that the declinist literature refers to as the “new peace.”
Other disasters inflicted on civilians are less visible than uprooted populations. Harsh conflict-related economic sanctions, which often cripple hygiene and health-care systems and may precipitate a sharp spike in infant mortality, usually do not find a place in itemizations of military violence. U.S.-led U.N. sanctions imposed against Iraq for 13 years beginning in 1990 in conjunction with the first Gulf War are a stark example of this. An account published in the New York Times Magazine in July 2003 accepted the fact that “at least several hundred thousand children who could reasonably have been expected to live died before their fifth birthday.” And after all-out wars, who counts the maimed, or the orphans and widows, or those the Japanese in the wake of World War II referred to as the “elderly orphaned” -- parents bereft of their children?
Figures and tables, moreover, can only hint at the psychological and social violence suffered by combatants and noncombatants alike. It has been suggested, for instance, that one in six people in areas afflicted by war may suffer from mental disorder (as opposed to one in ten in normal times). Even where American military personnel are concerned, trauma did not become a serious focus of concern until 1980, seven years after the U.S. retreat from Vietnam, when post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was officially recognized as a mental-health issue.
In 2008, a massive sampling study of 1.64 million U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq between October 2001 and October 2007 estimated “that approximately 300,000 individuals currently suffer from PTSD or major depression and that 320,000 individuals experienced a probable TBI [traumatic brain injury] during deployment.” As these wars dragged on, the numbers naturally increased. To extend the ramifications of such data to wider circles of family and community -- or, indeed, to populations traumatized by violence worldwide -- defies statistical enumeration.
Terror Counts and Terror Fears
Largely unmeasurable, too, is violence in a different register: the damage that war, conflict, militarization, and plain existential fear inflict upon civil society and democratic practice. This is true everywhere but has been especially conspicuous in the United States since Washington launched its “global war on terror” in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Here, numbers are perversely provocative, for the lives claimed in twenty-first-century terrorist incidents can be interpreted as confirming the decline-in-violence argument. From 2000 through 2014, according to the widely cited Global Terrorism Index, “more than 61,000 incidents of terrorism claiming over 140,000 lives have been recorded.” Including September 11th, countries in the West experienced less than 5% of these incidents and 3% of the deaths. The Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, another minutely documented tabulation based on combing global media reports in many languages, puts the number of suicide bombings from 2000 through 2015 at 4,787 attacks in more than 40 countries, resulting in 47,274 deaths.
These atrocities are incontestably horrendous and alarming. Grim as they are, however, the numbers themselves are comparatively low when set against earlier conflicts. For specialists in World War II, the “140,000 lives” estimate carries an almost eerie resonance, since this is the rough figure usually accepted for the death toll from a single act of terror bombing, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The tally is also low compared to contemporary deaths from other causes. Globally, for example, more than 400,000 people are murdered annually. In the United States, the danger of being killed by falling objects or lightning is at least as great as the threat from Islamist militants.
This leaves us with a perplexing question: If the overall incidence of violence, including twenty-first-century terrorism, is relatively low compared to earlier global threats and conflicts, why has the United States responded by becoming an increasingly militarized, secretive, unaccountable, and intrusive “national security state”? Is it really possible that a patchwork of non-state adversaries that do not possess massive firepower or follow traditional rules of engagement has, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared in 2013, made the world more threatening than ever?
For those who do not believe this to be the case, possible explanations for the accelerating militarization of the United States come from many directions. Paranoia may be part of the American DNA -- or, indeed, hardwired into the human species. Or perhaps the anticommunist hysteria of the Cold War simply metastasized into a post-9/11 pathological fear of terrorism. Machiavellian fear-mongering certainly enters the picture, led by conservative and neoconservative civilian and military officials of the national security state, along with opportunistic politicians and war profiteers of the usual sort. Cultural critics predictably point an accusing finger as well at the mass media’s addiction to sensationalism and catastrophe, now intensified by the proliferation of digital social media.
To all this must be added the peculiar psychological burden of being a “superpower” and, from the 1990s on, the planet’s “sole superpower” -- a situation in which “credibility” is measured mainly in terms of massive cutting-edge military might. It might be argued that this mindset helped “contain Communism” during the Cold War and provides a sense of security to U.S. allies. What it has not done is ensure victory in actual war, although not for want of trying. With some exceptions (Grenada, Panama, the brief 1991 Gulf War, and the Balkans), the U.S. military has not tasted victory since World War II -- Korea, Vietnam, and recent and current conflicts in the Greater Middle East being boldface examples of this failure. This, however, has had no impact on the hubris attached to superpower status. Brute force remains the ultimate measure of credibility.
The traditional American way of war has tended to emphasize the “three Ds” (defeat, destroy, devastate). Since 1996, the Pentagon’s proclaimed mission is to maintain “full-spectrum dominance” in every domain (land, sea, air, space, and information) and, in practice, in every accessible part of the world. The Air Force Global Strike Command, activated in 2009 and responsible for managing two-thirds of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, typically publicizes its readiness for “Global Strike... Any Target, Any Time.”
In 2015, the Department of Defense acknowledged maintaining 4,855 physical “sites” -- meaning bases ranging in size from huge contained communities to tiny installations -- of which 587 were located overseas in 42 foreign countries. An unofficial investigation that includes small and sometimes impermanent facilities puts the number at around 800 in 80 countries. Over the course of 2015, to cite yet another example of the overwhelming nature of America’s global presence, elite U.S. special operations forces were deployed to around 150 countries, and Washington provided assistance in arming and training security forces in an even larger number of nations.
America’s overseas bases reflect, in part, an enduring inheritance from World War II and the Korean War. The majority of these sites are located in Germany (181), Japan (122), and South Korea (83) and were retained after their original mission of containing communism disappeared with the end of the Cold War. Deployment of elite special operations forces is also a Cold War legacy (exemplified most famously by the Army’s “Green Berets” in Vietnam) that expanded after the demise of the Soviet Union. Dispatching covert missions to three-quarters of the world’s nations, however, is largely a product of the war on terror.
Many of these present-day undertakings require maintaining overseas “lily pad” facilities that are small, temporary, and unpublicized. And many, moreover, are integrated with covert CIA “black operations.” Combating terror involves practicing terror -- including, since 2002, an expanding campaign of targeted assassinations by unmanned drones. For the moment, this latest mode of killing remains dominated by the CIA and the U.S. military (with the United Kingdom and Israel following some distance behind).
Counting Nukes
The “delicate balance of terror” that characterized nuclear strategy during the Cold War has not disappeared. Rather, it has been reconfigured. The U.S. and Soviet arsenals that reached a peak of insanity in the 1980s have been reduced by about two-thirds -- a praiseworthy accomplishment but one that still leaves the world with around 15,400 nuclear weapons as of January 2016, 93% of them in U.S. and Russian hands. Close to two thousand of the latter on each side are still actively deployed on missiles or at bases with operational forces.
This downsizing, in other words, has not removed the wherewithal to destroy the Earth as we know it many times over. Such destruction could come about indirectly as well as directly, with even a relatively “modest” nuclear exchange between, say, India and Pakistan triggering a cataclysmic climate shift -- a “nuclear winter” -- that could result in massive global starvation and death. Nor does the fact that seven additional nations now possess nuclear weapons (and more than 40 others are deemed “nuclear weapons capable”) mean that “deterrence” has been enhanced. The future use of nuclear weapons, whether by deliberate decision or by accident, remains an ominous possibility. That threat is intensified by the possibility that nonstate terrorists may somehow obtain and use nuclear devices.
What is striking at this moment in history is that paranoia couched as strategic realism continues to guide U.S. nuclear policy and, following America’s lead, that of the other nuclear powers. As announced by the Obama administration in 2014, the potential for nuclear violence is to be “modernized.” In concrete terms, this translates as a 30-year project that will cost the United States an estimated $1 trillion (not including the usual future cost overruns for producing such weapons), perfect a new arsenal of “smart” and smaller nuclear weapons, and extensively refurbish the existing delivery “triad” of long-range manned bombers, nuclear-armed submarines, and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads.
Nuclear modernization, of course, is but a small portion of the full spectrum of American might -- a military machine so massive that it inspired President Obama to speak with unusual emphasis in his State of the Union address in January 2016. “The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth,” he declared. “Period. Period. It’s not even close. It’s not even close. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.”
Official budgetary expenditures and projections provide a snapshot of this enormous military machine, but here again numbers can be misleading. Thus, the “base budget” for defense announced in early 2016 for fiscal year 2017 amounts to roughly $600 billion, but this falls far short of what the actual outlay will be. When all other discretionary military- and defense-related costs are taken into account -- nuclear maintenance and modernization, the “war budget” that pays for so-called overseas contingency operations like military engagements in the Greater Middle East, “black budgets” that fund intelligence operations by agencies including the CIA and the National Security Agency, appropriations for secret high-tech military activities, “veterans affairs” costs (including disability payments), military aid to other countries, huge interest costs on the military-related part of the national debt, and so on -- the actual total annual expenditure is close to $1 trillion.
Such stratospheric numbers defy easy comprehension, but one does not need training in statistics to bring them closer to home. Simple arithmetic suffices. The projected bill for just the 30-year nuclear modernization agenda comes to over $90 million a day, or almost $4 million an hour. The $1 trillion price tag for maintaining the nation’s status as “the most powerful nation on Earth” for a single year amounts to roughly $2.74 billion a day, over $114 million an hour.
Creating a capacity for violence greater than the world has ever seen is costly -- and remunerative.
So an era of a “new peace”? Think again. We’re only three quarters of the way through America’s violent century and there’s more to come. 
John W. Dower is professor emeritus of history at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He is the author of the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning War Without Mercy and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Embracing Defeat. His new book, The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two (Dispatch Books), has just been published. This essay is adapted from chapter one of that densely annotated book. (Sources for the information above appear in the footnotes in that book.)
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Copyright 2017 John W. Dower
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