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Opinion

Fleeting moments

September 9, 2017

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Fleeting moments: Why the US needs war

US President Donald Trump has warned Pakistan to either stop harbouring and abetting terrorists or be prepared to face the consequences. In other words, Trump has placed us in a probationary period to either conduct ourselves to his satisfaction or suffer. He expects us to follow his dictates on the pattern that a village tough expects his inferiors to suck up to him. Toughs are always hard to please.

Trump’s warning has alarmed many Pakistanis. Despite our full support – by providing routes for Nato supplies and air strips to launch drone flights – the US accuses us of supporting terrorists. In fact, the so-called war on terror has cost us thousands of precious lives and triggered losses worth billions to our economy. Yet, we are being blamed for not doing enough and for playing a double game.

Owing to this war, our way of life has changed forever. Ours was a free country. People could freely move about in military garrisons. But all that has changed. Security checkpoints put up on main roads and thoroughfares cause hardships and miseries. All large government buildings, schools, colleges and universities have put up high walls with barbed wire running on them. And yet, the imperial power thinks we have not done enough.

However, before Trump came to power, he showed no inclination for wars or launching military aggression against any country. Before his election, he said, “Syria is not our issue” or “we should stay out of Syria”. But after moving into the White House, he stepped up the intensity of war in Syria and ordered 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to be launched in the war-torn country. Trump’s turnaround from pacifism to jingoism is phenomenal. What compelled him to change his mind?

When he made anti-war statements, he was a novice in politics. He had never occupied any key political position in the government. After moving into the White House, he found himself surrounded by retired military generals in some of the most important decision-making positions. With John Kelly as the White House chief of staff, Jim Mattis as the defence secretary and H R McMaster working as his national security adviser, Trump had to acquire jingoistic views. Generals are combative by deportment.

Even though the US president is considered the most powerful man on earth, he is only a spokesperson of the influential military-industrial-corporate complex that plays a dominant role in formulating a country’s foreign and defence policies. Let us remember that the US economy is primarily based on wars. Its powerful military machine, laced with state-of- the-art equipment, is not meant to sit home and yawn. It must be launched to occupy weaker states on one pretext or the other. Consider Libya and Iraq.

After Trump’s warning to Pakistan, a debate ensued among the official circles and on TV and print media that the new American policy of sending more troops to Afghanistan is doomed to fail. Some have quoted examples of Vietnam and Iraq to prove their point.

Success and defeat don’t matter much to the US. What matters is that wars must go on. Wars justify spending the taxpayers’ money to pay weapon manufacturers. Wars rejuvenate the war-based economy. In return, the weapon manufacturers donate to the election campaigns of congressmen and the ruling oligarchy. If in the process, the ordinary American Joe and Jane are deprived of their hard-earned money and the world loses it peace, it’s just tough luck.

It’s also cited that Obama wanted to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Yes he wanted to, but only at the fag end of his second tenure in the White House when he had nothing to lose. On the other hand, Donald Trump has just occupied the White House. He would surely need a whipping horse to sail through his stay in power. And what better choice than the land of the poor Afghans, a tried-and-tested ground for weapon testing.

To understand the American psyche of wars, Marines Major Gen Smedley Butler’s speech in 1933 should be examined: “War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses”. He added: “There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket”. Are the present American wars mere rackets? This is a question for the American public to answer.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. Email: [email protected]

 

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