Originally posted at TomDispatch.
Here’s my question of the week: When it comes to America’s twenty-first-century wars, does the word “end” have any meaning at all? Almost 20 years after George W. Bush and crew invaded Afghanistan, the war there is officially “ending” (as the Taliban takes large parts of the country) and all American troops are being withdrawn. Oops, except for the 650 being left behind to guard the American embassy in Kabul. It’s also true that, even as most U.S. military personnel are indeed leaving, the brutal US air war there, now being fought largely from bases in the Middle East, has yet to end. Indeed, among other places, American air power only recently blasted Taliban positions in parts of the city of Kandahar (undoubtedly killing civilians there, too). But rest assured, all of that will finally end on August 31st when the US withdrawal is complete. OOPS, except that Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the general running US Central Command, is now suggesting that the air war may continue into the unknown future.
In a similar fashion, the Iraq War, which started with that “Mission Accomplished” invasion in the spring of 2003, is now finally ending, too. After all, every last American combat soldier still there is finally going to be withdrawn before 2022 begins. We know this because the Iraqi prime minister met President Biden at the White House recently and received that very promise. OOPS, let me revise that just slightly. It turns out that Washington is really planning to withdraw at best only a few of the 2,500 US troops still in Iraq, while re-labeling all the rest “trainers” and “advisers.” Hence, no combat troops will be there and our war will, thank god, finally be over (though no one’s even considering touching, no less re-labeling, the 700 or so US troops stationed across the Iraqi border in Syria).
Oh, and remember when the last 700 US troops were withdrawn from Somalia during Donald Trump’s final days in office and the new Biden administration promptly shut down air attacks in that country? Well, that’s now so been-there-done-that, too. American military advisers, relocated to neighboring lands, are still working with the Somali troops they used to train in-country and air strikes against the al-Shabaab terror group there have once again been launched.
In the twenty-first century, in other words, war never truly seems to end for this country. As TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author most recently of After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed, points out today, the strange thing is that, as a subject of debate, protest, or discussion, war simply has no place on the American political agenda and hasn’t for years. Remember those giant antiwar demonstrations across the country before the invasion of Iraq began? Soon after, it seems, Americans simply withdrew from the very subject of our wars, leaving them (and all the endless taxpayer dollars that went with them) for a succession of administrations and the military-industrial complex to deal with. No point in bothering our pretty little heads about such matters, is there?
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