A U.S. Soldier Died In Niger. What On Earth Are We Doing There?

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Note: The news that the US military has hundreds of troops active in Niger, news that became public after four soldiers recently died and the mother of one got into a public argument with President Trump, is a symptom of the reality that the US is an empire. Indeed, the US is the largest empire in world history using its military to work on behalf of corporations everywhere. The US has troops in 172 of the 192 countries in the world. US trade agreements are an arm of the economics of US empire, agreements designed to serve global corporations before they serve the people of the United States (or anywhere) or the planet. We urge our readers to share this article and to let people know that the secret is out — the US is the largest empire in world history. The more people know, the more quickly the empire, which is destructive of people and planet, will end. Spread the word, end the secret US empire. KZ and MF

When our soldiers kill and die in wars we don’t know about and can’t end, we’re not a democracy anymore.

In our military-revering culture, it’s a strange thing for a president to start a war of words with the grieving families of slain soldiers.

Strange, yes. But from Donald Trump’s campaign season feud with the parents of Humayun Khan, who died protecting fellow soldiers in Iraq, to his recent feud with the mourning widow of La David Johnson, who died on patrol in Niger, it’s no longer surprising.

At root in the latest spat is a comment Trump made to La David’s widow Myeshia Johnson: “He knew what he signed up for.” Myeshia thought that remark was disrespectful — she later said it “made me cry.”

Beyond insensitive, though, there’s a good chance it simply wasn’t true.

Why, after all, should La David have expected to die in a dusty corner of Niger — a Saharan country most Americans (and, one suspects, their president) couldn’t find on a map? And where the U.S. isn’t actually at war?

If you were surprised to learn the U.S. has nearly a thousand troops in Niger, you’re not alone. Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who serves on the Armed Forces Committee, told NBC he “had no idea.” Neither did Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat.

Well, the surprises may keep coming.

The New York Times notes that the U.S. now has “over 240,000 active-duty and reserve troops in at least 172 countries and territories.” Count it again: 172 countries, out of 193 UN member states.

Most of us remain at least dimly aware that we still have thousands of troops in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in Cold War outposts like Japan, South Korea, and Germany. But what about the 160-plus others? And where are the nearly 38,000 troops whose location the Pentagon lists as “unknown”?

We catch an occasional glimpse of this global footprint when a U.S. service member dies someplace surprising — as Ryan Owens did earlier this year in Yemen, and a Navy SEAL did several months later in Somalia. More rarely we catch darker reminders still, when our wars abroad come home in the form of terrorist attacks. But mostly the American people remain every bit as in the dark as Graham and Schumer.

Americans like to imagine ourselves as citizens of a democracy that rejects the colonial ambitions of Old World powers like France and the UK. And yet we’ve deployed troops to literally most of the planet, and our leading lawmakers — tasked by the Constitution with the exclusive right to declare war — don’t even know about it.

Worse still, Congress appears to be abetting its own irrelevance.

Earlier this year, House Speaker Paul Ryan quietly killed an amendment by Democrat Barbara Lee that would’ve revoked Congress’ post-9/11 Authorization of Military Force, which has been used as a fig leaf of legality for this global war making. And last month the Senate voted 2:1 to reject an amendment from Republican Rand Paul that would’ve done the same.

Odds are, the real victims from our post-9/11 wars live in countries we seldom see or hear about. But as veteran and Army strategist Danny Sjursen writes, “the potential, and all too pervasive, deaths of American service members demand a public hearing” too. Especially when 16-plus years of war doesn’t appear to have made the world any safer.

When our soldiers kill and die in fruitless wars we don’t know about and can’t end, we’re not a democracy anymore — we’re an empire. And perhaps a fading one at that.

  • Jon

    The time that the US ceased to be a nation and became an empire was 1898, when The Spanish empire imploded and the US seized Philippines, Guam, Cuba, and Puerto Rico from Spanish colonial rule. At the same time they grabbed control of Hawai’i–NOT part of the Spanish empire, facilitated by a coup (1893) against the friendly government of that country (for 50 years! )and which had friendship treaties with dozens of countries, including the USA). However, as recent research by Hawaiian activist-scholars has demonstrated, sovereignty was never transferred from Hawai’i to the US. The alleged “annexation” on which “statehood” is based did NOT happen. This is a matter of proven historical fact. See “Liberate Hawai’i” for the documentation. This is a matter widely known in Hawai’i, and a related case is currently at the International Court of Arbitration at The Hague.

  • Lonnie Lopez

    I really don’t feel much sympathy for soldiers who die in the service of empire. It’s a strange anti-imperialism that portrays the world’s most powerful imperialist army sympathetically.

  • Brilliant article – Tell it like it is.

    What is the US doing there?

    What we suspected all-along.

    Nothing less than attempting full spectrum dominance.

    The most successful public servants deliberately ab]use their time as a steppingstone into the far more lucrative corporate world.

    How and where they’ll end up – depends entirely on how well they served their corporate masters.

    When the policies and actions of a government do not serve the interests of the electorate they’re meant to represent – when comes the time that the general public demands an end to these proceedings not to mention accountability for dishonoring political and other oaths.

  • David Schultz

    Progressives and Liberal are far to entertained by the Donna Brazile “revelation” to care about money being squandered in Niger. Conservatives are far to worried about defending a tax increase on American home owners who itemize deductions. While the bloated foreign war budgets consume America, the media is silent as Republicans raise taxes on workers to fund wars abroad. American Liberals, Progressives, Conservatives and even Libertarians are all equally to blame as they today sat silently and allow themselves to be taxed to death. The world is equally to blame because they refuse to address the source which is Federal taxation in the US. Cry me a river about poor peoples of the world abused by the US military but will never ever stand with American workers to stop that flow of money. Again today the world has bought yet another year of woe and stood silent as they failed to condemn the US tax machine.