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Est. April 5, 2002
March 09, 2017 - Issue 689

The New President Shows
Lack of Military Savvy


"Trump 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."

We have to start winning wars again,” said the new president at the end of February.

In 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 again.

Trump 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.

Like 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.

So, 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.

Trump 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.

The 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.”

In 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 these places?

That 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.”

Trump 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 bad peace.” Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
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