Tinkering with Terror

As the Global War of Terror (GWOT) winds down, desultory firing continues on both sides without significant impact. Rockets drop near U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria, but no one is hit. In return, the U.S. briefly fires back, as if neither side wants to do too much damage. It might be called tinkering with terror if any in fact still exists.

Colonel Douglas Macgregor. Photo by Wikipedia

It’s time to go, says top U.S. military strategist Colonel Douglas Macgregor. The exit doesn’t have to be as calamitous as the departure from Afghanistan. Have a clear plan, leave at night without telling anybody and don’t worry about being called defeatist. Close to two decades under arms is long enough when the cause is murky and the outcome uncertain. We won’t be missed, says the colonel. Life will carry on as before, the same groups in contention but without our participation.

There’s one grievance that a continued U.S. presence will not alleviate, the rather unheroic assassination by drone of the leading Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Thousands recently gathered in the streets of Baghdad to mark the second anniversary of that event. The neocons had been urging his elimination for many years until President Trump finally gave his approval, doubtless under the pressure of his neocon Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Col. Macgregor, who was a senior adviser to the secretary of defense under Trump, says the President had a lot of good ideas but appointed people of the opposite view to carry them out, a failing he didn’t recognize until late in his administration.

Deputy Director Alan Heil. Photo by Public Diplomacy Council

The U.S. doesn’t have much to show for its prolonged military intervention in the Middle East, a region now in greater turmoil than before with vast numbers of civilian casualties and refugees pouring into Europe. Neocons argue that these wars have destroyed enemies of Israel, but the resulting violence and instability can hardly benefit Israel or any other country in the region. It all began with the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 in response to the 9/11 attack. Instead of targeting the actual culprits, the Bush Administration launched its war on terror -” You’re either with us or against us” – that would be boundless and endless.

The American media rallied behind the attack on Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein on the grounds he harbored weapons of mass destruction and was also involved in 9/11, neither of which was true. But in the clamor of the times, dissenters were hard to find. One notably was the U.S. Government radio, the Voice of America. Under the wise guidance of Deputy Director Alan Heil, his editors – I was one – reported both sides of the contentious issue, allowing listeners to make up their own minds instead of telling them what to think. It shows that at its best a government media can serve as a corrective to private news organizations increasingly and powerfully combining in viewpoint and even language.

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