have to start winning wars again,” said the new president at
the end of February.
so saying, he showed his lack of understanding of what has happened
in the world of military might during the past 70 years. If a war
could be said to have been “won,” World War II was the
last to have been won. However, if Donald Trump, the president,
could have witnessed the devastation of Europe at the end of the war
and the Nazi era, he would not think too much about winning wars
does not think too much about the duration or aftermath of war and he
stayed as far away from any combat zone that he could, especially
during his time, the Vietnam War. He applied for and was granted
several deferments, reportedly for student status and bone spurs.
Whatever the reasons, he was given a reprieve, although several
hundred thousand of his countrymen went to war and 58,000 of them
died there. He was and has not been exposed to the carnage of war.
so many of the privileged rich who made the same choices, Trump rode
out the war, making his millions as he went. There were some sons
(and a few daughters) of the wealthy who volunteered to go, but they
had a choice. Few among the working class had such a choice. As
always, though, it is interesting that some of the most fearsome
warmongers in the U.S. have been those who never served, but have
been quick to send the troops into the maelstrom, without a word of a
clear purpose for engaging in war.
Trump, like George W. Bush before him, appears to like the idea of
being a “war president” and all of the hoopla that
surrounds the ceremony of sending soldiers and sailors off to war, or
to welcome the battered and broken troops as they come home.
Although Barack Obama did not describe himself as a war president, he
was personally involved in all of the “wars,” including
the drone wars, in which the “enemy” could be killed
using computer screens thousands of miles away. Computers, guns, or
drones. It doesn’t matter. The enemy, the women, elderly, and
children are all just as dead, no matter what method is used.
may have been just musing to himself, when he said the U.S. needs to
start winning wars again, but he never seems to realize that words
uttered by a president of the U.S. have serious consequences, for
Americans and for people around the world. What he certainly does
not understand is what “winning” means. Did the U.S.
“win” in Vietnam? No. Did the U.S. “win” in
Afghanistan? No. Has the U.S. “won” in Iraq. No. Did
the U.S. win the “war” in Libya? No. How about Yemen?
Again, No. If the attack on a construction site in Grenada in the
1980s could be called a war, then the U.S. might chalk that up to a
“win,” but it would shameful to do so. That last was on
the watch of Ronald Reagan, political saint of the Right Wing.
new president also does not seem to realize that the wars that have
been fought since World War II have been wars against civilians, not
enemy combatants, in uniform and carrying weapons of various kinds.
Decades ago, military theorists described these “wars” as
“asymmetrical” wars, meaning that they would not be
fought on a plain, with tanks or cavalry lined up for the charge.
Rather, it would be much closer combat and often would involve
house-to-house fighting. And, that’s how it came to be and
that’s how the percentage of civilians killed in any war has
escalated beyond the ken of the theorists and strategists. Air wars,
including drones, have added their deadly effectiveness on civilian
populations in great numbers. After all, these asymmetrical wars are
“fought” where the people live and the enemy is there
only occasionally, but the war planners know to strike while they
believe the enemy is there. And, civilians in this kind of war are
“collateral damage,” a cleaned-up term that is used to
describe the human carnage. Also, that’s how wars are fought
without “boots on the ground.”
the most modern manifestations of U.S. war, both sides pay the price.
Just one example, in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military
used depleted uranium (it’s denser and armor piercing) for its
“conventional” weapons, such as rifle bullets and larger
shells. Researchers have found radioactivity in the soil of the war
zone, which was a large part of Iraq and now, the environment
wherever these weapons have been used is dangerous. In handling the
munitions and in breathing in the dust which itself became
radioactive, is causing disease in the civilian populations and the
troops. Researchers believe it is the cause of the sharp increase in
the incidence of serious birth defects. This type of munitions has
been used in many other war zones, as well. Who “wins” in
there are few victors in war has never crossed the minds of those who
have sent young men (and now, women) off to war, without having put
themselves in harm’s way by sending themselves or their
children off to war, and there have been many of them in the
presidential administrations of the past three decades or more. Now,
the White House occupant is musing, without a thought to the
consequences, “We have to start winning wars again.”
and all of the other chicken hawks in Washington should pay heed to
one of the nation’s founders, who could have been president.
Benjamin Franklin, who knew too well what war was about, said, in a
letter to Sir Joseph Banks July 27, 1783, “I hope…that
mankind will at length, as they call themselves reasonable creatures,
have reason and sense enough to settle their differences without
cutting throats: For in my opinion, there never was a good war, or a