And Everyone Else’s
Growing old is accompanied by well-known symptoms of decadence and decay, senility and death. But there’s a bright side. Old age is also a period–for many the first period–that permits us to neglect destroyer distractions and offers us the time, tranquility, and the perspective to try to make sense of what’s been going on around us during our entire lives. At least it permits us to turn our back on the terrible humdrum of post-modern civilization and “pop culture.” At best it helps us to insert ourselves into what remains of the human tradition, and concentrate less on reality television and other irrelevant dross, and more on important realities and aspirations. At times their similarity can be both shocking and revealing. Two facts are undisputable from former decades to our own times: To adapt a quote from The Leopard, “Everything had to change so everything could stay the same.” (Source: Il Gattopardo, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa)
To that I would add, “or get worse.” Just consider the nefarious novelties that George W. Bush and Donald Trump introduced into American government and the vital agencies Trump virtually eliminated. And that’s not the worst of it. They dragged along the least scrupulous elements–practically everybody–in the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, along with them. Jesus weeps. One of those novelties was the massive, senseless expansion of America’s tradition of forever-war.
Hell Can Actually Be Quite Heavenly
The wonderful American propaganda industry–this is what they´re good at–tried to convince the world that they were spreading democracy, but they didn’t have much success, except with that critical sector made up of allies with their snouts in the American trough. Not incidentally, this so-called democratization of small countries rich in natural resources took a terrible toll in lives of American young people, and even more horrifying among the youth of the countries being democratized. America and their accomplices slashed a wide swath through generations of third-world citizens, both military and civilian, then swept the evidence under the rug or buried it under a dung heap of euphemisms: “enemy combatants” (soldiers stripped by American bureaucrats of their Geneva convention rights), “friendly fire,” “the Free World,” “collateral damage,” “enhanced interrogation tecnhiques,” “extraordinary rendition…” And anyone who defends their country is a “terrorist” and is droned as such.
The lists of countries participating in the American running-dog coalitions read like crude parodies of comic-book adventures. Do you remember the “Coalition of the Willing,” put together by Geoge W. Bush’s State Department (on Colin Powell’s watch) in March, 2003? That was the recruitment of allies to play mainly testimonial roles in the Iraq war. There were 48, 47 or 46 countries; they kept backing out. The ridiculous-to-the-sublime factor was provided by a bevy of South Pacific micro-island nations, actually US possessions. The three major countries that contributed troops to the invasion force were the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland. One wonders how the citizens of those countries look back on that episode today.
The Man Who Lived Through the Whole Mess and Wrote It Up
Daniel A. Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army officer, a West Point graduate, a historian, contributing editor at Antiwar.com, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy (CIP), and director of the Eisenhower Media Network (EMN). He served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at West Point. His most recent work is A True History of the United States (2021), a critical look at his country from the beginning. His first book, and the one that brought him to the country’s attention–some would say notoriety–was a critical analysis of the Iraq War in the form of a memoir: Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge (2016). Next came Patriotic Dissent, America in the Age of Endless War (2020), which Amazon.com describes as:
“… a personal cry from the heart by a once model U.S. Army officer and West Point graduate who became a military dissenter while still on active duty. Set against the backdrop of the terror wars of the last two decades, Sjursen asks whether there is a proper space for patriotism that renounces entitled exceptionalism and narcissistic jingoism.”Amazon.com
Danny is angry, and he has the intelligence and integrity to express that anger in writing. It is a formidable gift to the American people, though many of them might not consider it that. His recent first-person account of his past 20 years in and out of the US military was published on the LA Progressive in an article entitled “Twenty Years on From West Point’s Gates and the War on Terror.” The thread that runs throughout the article is the human toll that America’s endless wars have taken on the nation’s soldiers. The bottom line of his account of the last 20 years of carnage is this:
“… at the macro level, the strategic ineptitude and imperial delusions of our generals, admirals, and senior civilian leaders got no less than 7,057 American sons and daughters killed and 53,750 wounded in post-9/11 forever wars.”LA Progressive
Nor does this laudable soldier/protestor forget the numbers of victims in the countries being so generously democritized by American firepower:
In 2019 alone, US and allied airstrikes killed at least 700, and according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), such aerial attacks killed some 4,390 Afghan civilians from 2006 to September 2020. Furthermore, the US conceded that 1,398 noncombatants were killed in coalition air and artillery strikes during the 2015-20 anti-ISIS campaigns in Iraq and Syria. Overall, estimates of the number of civilian killed in the direct, proxy, and communal-chaos induced violence of America’s post-9/11 adventures range from a conservative 335,000 to a couple of million dead men, women, and children.LA Progressive
Sjursen cites other seldom-quoted statistics, such as the chilling number of US soldiers who committed suicide. By 2020, despite falling casualty rates in wars, largely thanks to the recruitment of proxy armies, US military suicides were rising alarmingly. In 2020 alone 301 US soldiers committed suicide – a 43 percent increase from 2007, and almost double the number that took their own lives in 2001. What changed so radically in these young people’s lives?
Other Concerns Over 20 Years
Sjursen is a well-rounded critic, as evidenced in other issues he addresses briefly in his LA Progressive article. He disapproves of both of the post- September-11 mideast troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which he participated in on the ground. He was equally critical of the Pentagon’s switch to warlord proxy wars, and the thousands of American soldiers serving on bases abroad. We don’t even know how many military personnel are involved. That number is classified. Sjursen says, “One wonders if America’s statistical shift towards worldwide militarism is the biggest open secret in history.”
Nor is he happy with the cloaking and undercounting of civilians killed in US drone and piloted-aircraft strikess in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. He finds the torture of enemy prisoners untenable, saying, “…systemic prisoner abuse and downright torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base, countless CIA “black sites,” and America’s still-open, in-house purgatory of Guantanamo Bay.” His opposition to America’s astronomical defense budgets and obscene cost overruns is absolute, declaring,”All told, Washington has spent a minimum of $6.4 trillion and counting in taxpayer dollars on a 20-year crusade as doomed as the original medieval march of European knights to the Holy Land.”
In all, Danny Sjursen will be an interesting person to follow in coming years. You can follow him on Antiwar.com, where he is known as Maj. Danny Sjursen, USA (ret.)