KABUL, Afghanistan--After eight years western forces don’t have the military intelligence on the ground that can distinguish between a convoy of Taliban and a wedding party, but a new low may have been reached Friday night in Wardak province when NATO troops got into firefight with the Afghan army and called in air strikes, a blunder that killed four Afghan soldiers and wounded six, according to Reuters.
Military analysts use the term “fog of war” to remind themselves that once the hostilities start, the chaos unleashed is unpredictable, even for best and the brightest. Well after the fact, the truth of what “happened” may be never known, or will be obscured, or intentionally buried. Non-combatants are appalled when we read that one of our side was killed by “friendly fire,” a death accidentally inflicted by one’s allies or fellow soldiers. War deaths by friendly fire are not uncommon, but that is not information the military wants to share.
No one believes war can be fought without awful mistakes, but the incompetence of the U.S.-led western forces is inexcusable and should be a major concern to supporters and opponents. Yet that isn’t examined because both supporters and opponents accept the hogwash that the United States operates a finely tuned military machine, the best in the world. Yes, the States has the most sophisticated weapons systems in the world and spends more money on defense than the next 25 nations combined, but those huge advantages are of scant value if you can’t even determine your target and know next to nothing about the society in which you are fighting, which incidentally was the recent conclusion of a private research group on behalf of the U.S. military.
Most U.S. domestic and foreign intelligence capabilities are regularly compromised for propaganda purposes by the presidency. Chalmers Johnson likens the Central Intelligence Agency to the Praetorian Guard, the elite army loyal only to the Roman emperor. The guard didn’t answer to its Senate, the public or any republic; it swore allegiance to Caesar. Similarly, CIA intelligence, psychological operations, elite military strength, researchers, boatloads of contractors, bag men, and weapons, and black-budgeting authority are increasingly at the disposal of an imperial presidency, not the republic, but its “unitary executive.” Former director George Tenet cooked CIA intelligence in support of the Bush-Cheney claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. In 2004, Bush accepted his resignation in a move widely seen as effort to blame Tenet for the bogus information.
So for all its resources, the U.S. national security apparatus performs poorly. What undergirds these disturbing failures is a culture of imperial arrogance. That’s the ugly face of American exceptionalism, the childish notion that United States is providentially blessed, divinely favored to rule the world. Arrogant is the belief that every non-American in the world,, if given the chance, would scramble to become an U.S. citizen. Most people want their own systems, families, neighborhoods, and economies to work better. They don’t want ours, or anyone else’s. Arrogant is the belief that the American way of doing just about everything is superior to any other approach. Yet U.S. banking and finance industries are rotten, the regulatory agencies are complicit in fleecing the commons, unemployment and poverty are widespread, healthcare costs as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product are the most expensive in the world, defense budgets are off the table, bleeding the economy, and pouring money to private contractors, which have an unambiguous self interest in more mayhem, war, and social disintegration throughout the world. Your disaster is their opportunity for success. This is blind, barbaric self-destruction.
Photo: Shafts of light reflected in glass over crucifixion at the Bode-Museum in Berlin.