An American blindness

We're ten years from 9/11 and still in the Long War. Can we open our eyes in time?

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The military occupation of our minds will continue until we become familiar with the strategies and doctrines of the Long War.

After the first jetliner crashed into the Twin Towers on that September 11 morning, a friend of mine and his 11-year old daughter climbed up to the roof of their Manhattan home to look around. Just then the second plane struck, the young girl fell backward, and went blind from shock.

It took more than a year of examinations and therapies before this girl came out of her blindness to look around.

That's what happened to America itself ten years ago this Sunday on 9/11, though it might be claimed many of us were blinded by privilege and hubris long before. But 9/11 produced a spasm of blind rage, arising from a pre-existing blindness as to the way much of the world sees us. That in turn led to the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Afghanistan again, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and, in all, a dozen "shadow wars" according to The New York Times.

Bob Woodward's crucial book, Obama's Wars, points out that there were already secret and lethal counterterrorism operations active in more than 60 countries as of 2009. From Pentagon think tanks came a new military doctrine of the "Long War," a counter-insurgency vision arising from the failed Phoenix program of the Vietnam era, projecting U.S. open combat and secret wars over a span of 50 to 80 years, or 20 future presidential terms. The taxpayer costs of this Long War, also shadowy, would be in the many trillions of dollars — and paid for not from current budgets, but by generations born after the 2000 election of George W. Bush. The deficit spending on the Long War would invisibly force the budgetary crisis now squeezing our states, cities and most Americans.

Besides the future being mortgaged, civil liberties were thought to require a shrinking proper to a state of permanent and secretive war, so the Patriot Act was promulgated. All this happened after 9/11 through Democratic default and denial. Who knows what future might have followed if Al Gore, with a half-million popular vote margin over George Bush, had prevailed in the U.S. Supreme Court instead of losing by the vote of a single justice? In any event, only a single member of Congress, Barbara Lee of Berkeley-Oakland, voted against the war authorization, and only a single senator, Russ Feingold, voted against the Patriot Act.

Were we not blinded by what happened on 9/11? Are we still? Let's look at the numbers we almost never see.

 

CASUALTIES OF WAR

As to American casualties, the figure now is beyond twice those who died in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. on 9/11. The casualties are rarely totaled, but are broken down into three categories by the Pentagon and Congressional Research Service. There is Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan but, in keeping with the Long War definition, also covers Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Second, there is Operation Iraqi Freedom and its successor Operation New Dawn, the name adopted after September 2010 for the 47,000 US advisers, trainers and counterterrorism units still in Iraq. The scope of these latter operations includes Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. These territories include not only Muslim majorities but, according to former Centcom commander Tommy Franks, 68 percent of the world's proven oil reserves and the passageway for 43 percent of petroleum exports, another American geo-interest which was heavily denied in official explanations.

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