The U.S. military is finally withdrawing (or not) from its base at al-Tanf. You know, the place that the Syrian government long claimed was a training ground for Islamic State (ISIS) fighters; the land corridor just inside Syria, near both the Iraqi and Jordanian borders, that Russia has called a terrorist hotbed (while floating the idea of jointly administering it with the United States); the location of a camp where hundreds of U.S. Marines joined Special Operations forces last year; an outpost that U.S. officials claimed was the key not only to defeating ISIS, but also, according to General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, to countering “the malign activities that Iran and their various proxies and surrogates would like to pursue.” You know, that al-Tanf.
Douglas Macgregor, a retired US Army Colonel and former Pentagon senior advisor, analyzes the US-Russia standoff in Ukraine; the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan; Trump’s failure to act on 2016 campaign anti-interventionist rhetoric, only to surround himself with neocons; and the ongoing, overlooked US military occupation of Syria after the decade-long CIA dirty war. “The Military Industrial Congressional Complex,” Macgregor says, “seems to be more powerful than anyone who occupies the office of the presidency.”ffice of the presidency.”
Imprisoned Wikileaks founder, journalist and free speech champion Julian Assange today faces life imprisonment for telling the truth about U.S. war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and at the U.S. torture base in Guantanamo Bay. Assange faces charges under the 1917 U.S. Espionage Act. Prosecution under that WWI anti-democratic law placed thousands of antiwar activists in prison for exercising their free speech right to protest WWI. Ironically, the Dec 19, 2021 New York Times front-page two-part series entitled, Hidden Pentagon Records Reveal Patterns of Failure in Deadly Airstrikes, follows in Assange’s footsteps in reporting U.S. war crimes, yet The Times staff writers remain free. Some 100 Times reporters evaluated Pentagon confidential document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
That’s what should have been the biggest news of 2021. Instead, the story, which broke on November 17, was largely ignored or buried. The nation’s two main newspapers, the Washington Post and the New York Times, have simply ignored it. Other news organizations stenographically quoted Pentagon officials as admitting that they “failed again” but saw “progress,” and as promising that they would achieve a “clean” audit by… get this … 2027. The Pentagon, with some $3 trillion (give or take a trillion but who’s counting?) in assets and a record current 2021 budget of $738 billion, has for the third year in a row failed its audit. An army of 1400 auditors hired by us taxpayers for $230 million and borrowed from some of the biggest auditing firms in the country, spent the past year poring through the books and visiting hundreds of operations of the government’s largest and geographically vastest single agency, and came back with word that they couldn’t give it a pass.
Of course, war is not a game. The stakes on the battlefield are infinitely higher than on the playing field. When wars go wrong, “We’ll show ’em next year — just you wait!” is seldom a satisfactory response. At least, it shouldn’t be. Yet somehow, the American people, our political establishment, and our military have all fallen into the habit of shrugging off or simply ignoring disappointing outcomes. A few years ago, a serving army officer of unusual courage published an essay — in Armed Forces Journal no less — in which he charged that “a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”
Despite a disagreement over some amendments in the Senate, the United States Congress is poised to pass a $778 billion military budget bill for 2022. As they have been doing year after year, our elected officials are preparing to hand the lion’s share - over 65% - of federal discretionary spending to the U.S. war machine, even as they wring their hands over spending a mere quarter of that amount on the Build Back Better Act. The U.S. military’s incredible record of systematic failure—most recently its final trouncing by the Taliban after twenty years of death, destruction and lies in Afghanistan—cries out for a top-to-bottom review of its dominant role in U.S. foreign policy and a radical reassessment of its proper place in Congress’s budget priorities.
Even as Congress moves to increase the Pentagon budget well beyond the astronomical levels proposed by the Biden administration, a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has outlined three different ways to cut $1 trillion in Department of Defense spending over the next decade. A rational defense policy could yield far more in the way of reductions, but resistance from the Pentagon, weapons contractors, and their many allies in Congress would be fierce. After all, in its consideration of the bill that authorizes such budget levels for next year, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives recently voted to add $25 billion to the already staggering $750 billion the Biden administration requested for the Pentagon and related work on nuclear weapons at the Department of Energy.
On October 21, the Biden administration released a suite of reports aimed at showing how climate change poses a “national security” threat, and how institutions like the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security plan to respond. The analyses are meant to demonstrate a commitment to action: A statement from the White House proclaims that the reports will “serve as a foundation for our critical work on climate and security moving forward.” As the president’s own civilian climate change provisions in the Build Back Better package were being gutted, the report sent the message that national security institutions can still move a climate agenda forward — a message timed for just 10 days before the United Nations climate negotiations known as COP26.
The dog days of summer are upon us —and the record high temperatures killing hundreds in the Pacific Northwest and bringing 118 degree heat to Siberia serve as a harbinger of even hotter, more dangerous days unless we address the elephant in the room. The Pentagon. As the largest institutional consumer of oil and, therefore, the largest single U.S. emitter of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG’s), the Pentagon must reduce its carbon footprint of wars and weapons production as well as its bootprint—including tens of thousands of troops deployed worldwide at 800 overseas military bases and one under construction on Okinawa. To avoid the worst of the climate crisis, President Biden, Congress and the public can reject an interventionist foreign policy fueled by the drive for full-spectrum dominance of the air, land, sea and space.
The Pentagon has started closing military bases and pulling troops out of Afghanistan but confusion over what this means for the United States' longest war exists. For clarification, Clearing the FOG speaks with retired US army major, author and activist, Danny Sjursen. He calls the Afghanistan War a disaster and says the United States would have been better off if it had buried all of the trillions spent to invade and occupy Afghanistan in the ground instead. Sjursen discusses what the withdrawal means for the people of Afghanistan and the countries in that region. He also advises us on what to watch out for as the war hawks push Biden to continue to have a presence there. We also talk about his newest book on US history and empire through the lens of American exceptionalism.
President Biden took office promising a new era of American international leadership and diplomacy. But with a few exceptions, he has so far allowed self-serving foreign allies, hawkish U.S. interest groups and his own imperial delusions to undermine diplomacy and stoke the fires of war. Biden’s failure to quickly recommit to the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, as Senator Sanders promised to do on his first day as president, provided a critical delay that has been used by opponents to undermine the difficult shuttle diplomacy taking place in Vienna to restore the agreement. The attempts to derail talks range from the introduction of the Maximum Pressure Act on April 21 to codify the Trump administration’s sanctions against Iran to Israel’s cyberattack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.
On April 14, President Joe Biden announced that he would end the U.S.’s longest war and withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. Over 6,000 NATO troops will also be withdrawn by that time. “War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking,” Biden said during his remarks from the White House Treaty Room, the same location from which President George W. Bush had announced the war was beginning in October 2001. “We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives. Bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is degraded in Afghanistan and it’s time to end the forever war.” Biden’s claim that he is ending the forever war is misleading.
You may have noticed: the Blob is back. Beneath a veneer of gender and racial diversity, the Biden national security team consists of seasoned operatives who earned their spurs in Washington long before Donald Trump showed up to spoil the party. So, if you’re looking for fresh faces at the departments of state or defense, the National Security Council or the various intelligence agencies, you’ll have to search pretty hard. Ditto, if you’re looking for fresh insights. In Washington, members of the foreign policy establishment recite stale bromides, even as they divert attention from a dead past to which they remain devoted. The boss shows them how it’s done. Just two weeks into his presidency, Joe Biden visited the State Department to give American diplomats their marching orders.
America’s first black presumptive secretary of defense grew up in the same town — Thomasville, GA — as the first black West Point graduate, Henry O. Flipper. I actually took select cadets from my civil rights history class to visit the southwest Georgia city on an academic trip in the summer of 2016. In fact, I vaguely remember the owner and namesake of the local Jack Hadley Black History Museum mentioning that President-elect Biden’s somewhat surprising nominee for Pentagon chief, retired General Lloyd Austin, also hailed from Thomasville. But whereas Flipper was unfairly cashiered out of the U.S. Army in the 1880s — his name finally cleared by Bill Clinton’s 1999 pardon — his fellow West Pointer, Austin, rose to nearly the highest of military heights.
Jeh Johnson, formerly homeland security secretary under President Obama, showed how a typical Democratic official approaches the Pentagon and war as he spoke on ABC’s This Week on Sunday (11/15). For Johnson, the Pentagon “is typically an island of stability” in the U.S. government, but President Trump was destabilizing that island because of recent changes to Pentagon personnel. Trump’s changes could be driven by his desire to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, speculated Johnson, which was not a good thing: