Here’s an odd question: Is it possible that the U.S. military is present in more countries and more places now than at the height of the Cold War? It’s true that the U.S. is reducing its forces and giant bases in Europe and that its troops are out of Iraq (except for that huge, militarized embassy in Baghdad). On the other hand, there’s that massive ground, air, and naval build-up in the Persian Gulf, the Obama administration’s widely publicized “pivot” to Asia (including troops and ships), those new drone bases in the eastern Indian Ocean region, some movement back into Latin America (including a new base in Chile), and don’t forget Africa, where less than a decade ago, the U.S. had almost no military presence at all. Now, as TomDispatch Associate Editor Nick Turse writes in the latest in his “changing face of empire” series, U.S. special operations forces, regular troops, private contractors, and drones are spreading across the continent with remarkable (if little noticed) rapidity.
Putting together the pieces on Africa isn’t easy. For instance, only the other day it was revealed that three U.S. Army commandos in a Toyota Land Cruiser had skidded off a bridge in Mali in April. They died, all three, along with three women identified as “Moroccan prostitutes.” This is how we know that U.S. special operations forces were operating in chaotic, previously democratic Mali after a coup by a U.S.-trained captain accelerated the unraveling of the country, leading more recently to its virtual dismemberment by Tuareg rebels and Islamist insurgents. Consider this a sample of what Nick Turse calls the U.S. military’s “scramble for Africa” in a seamy, secretive nutshell.
So here’s another question: Who decided in 2007 that a U.S. Africa Command should be set up to begin a process of turning that continent into a web of U.S. bases and other operations? Who decided that every Islamist rebel group in Africa, no matter how local or locally focused, was a threat to the U.S., calling for a military response? Certainly not the American people, who know nothing about this, who were never asked if expanding the U.S. global military mission to Africa was something they favored, who never heard the slightest debate, or even a single peep from Washington on the subject.
This is inexplicable–if you assume you live in a functioning democracy. If you assume you live in a state governed by a nearly unaccountable class of Caesaroligarchs–a fusion of corporate and state power whose incestuous relationship is devoted to amassing more power and wealth for themselves and who increasingly regard the rest of us (us=humans, not merely American citizens) as prey, it’s not too hard to understand how something like this has happened. It’s not like they want us to know or understand what they are up to. Hence, the bipartisan support for giving the Prez power to murder and indefinitely detain anybody he likes. Hence, embrace and expansion of the worst of Bush era contempt for the Constitution by Obama. Hence, the declaration that “everywhere is the battlefield” and the expansion of police state powers here at home.
Partisans on both sides need to figure out that Your Guy doesn’t care about you. He cares about Mammon and Power. And those are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller elite who see you as, at best, useful, at worst, disposable, and always, as edible.