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General News    H3'ed 9/30/21

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, So Long, CENTCOM, and Good Riddance!

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Forget old hot wars or even new cold ones the weather's clearly changing. In fact, according to a new study, in my neck of the woods, the U.S. coastal northeast, it's already warmed up not just beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius warned of in the Paris Climate Accords, but by a staggering 2 degrees Celsius over the last century. In fact, it's late September and, in my little office, I'm still sweltering as I write this.

So, how useful to have already squandered at least $8 trillion of our taxpayer monies not on fighting the "war" that's truly at hand, the "invasion" of once unbelievable weather that's been burning, flooding, and storming through this country like so many invading armies (as is true in so much of the rest of the world as well), but on Washington's hopeless, failed "forever wars." Under the circumstances, what did the invasions of either Afghanistan or Iraq, no less the loosing of American air power on much of the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa really mean in terms of that classic phrase "national defense"? In retrospect, I would venture to say, all too little. In fact, as TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author of After the Apocalypse: America's Role in a World Transformed (a book that truly grasps the planet we're now on) suggests today, our forever wars of the last two decades were quite literally indefensible, even if they were run by an entity Americans still call "the Defense Department."

In terms of a military-industrial complex that has never flown higher, Bacevich offers what might be thought of as a "modest proposal" for beginning to deal with an all-too-immodestly militarized American world. Tom

"A Horrible Mistake"
Recovering from America's Imperial Delusions


The bad news stemming from the ill-planned and ill-managed U.S. evacuation of the Afghan capital just kept coming in. The Washington Post put it this way in blowing the whistle on the culminating disaster: "U.S. military admits 'horrible mistake' in Kabul drone strike that killed 10 Afghans."

Following the August 26th terrorist attack outside Hamid Karzai International Airport that took the lives of 13 American troops and dozens of Afghan bystanders, U.S. forces set out to preempt any repetition. Alas, efforts to prevent further U.S. casualties resulted in the killing of innocents, including seven Afghan children. "Horrible mistake" was Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's characterization of their deaths.

The result was not what General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., head of United States Central Command (CENTCOM), intended. To his credit, McKenzie did acknowledge that he was "fully responsible for this strike and its tragic outcome." The four-star Marine general went a step further. In a recorded video statement, he offered his "profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed."

It's easy enough to understand McKenzie's sense of remorse. Who wouldn't have felt dismayed bummed out, even that such a humiliating blunder should mark the conclusion of a failed twenty-year war? And just as Uncle Sam was limping toward the exit, hoping to leave with a modicum of dignity intact, Fortune itself seemingly let loose one last gratuitous kick, one final insult to the self-proclaimed greatest military on the planet.

But in this particular context, what does the phrase "fully responsible" even signify? Should McKenzie's acknowledgment prompt him to offer his resignation? Should he be fired? Would his ouster suffice to make amends for those seven dead children?

Given recent events in their country, it's hard to imagine Afghans even taking notice of the general's professed feelings or, for that matter, his fate. As for the American people, most of us have moved on. Afghanistan is already so yesterday.

And that, let me suggest, is a problem. Given our notoriously short national attention span, Americans are overlooking a "horrible mistake" of far greater consequence. I refer to the very existence of CENTCOM.

Created by Ronald Reagan in 1983, it's presently one of 11 Pentagon "combatant commands" that quite literally span the globe, even extending into the great beyond of outer space and cyberspace. CENTCOM'S earthly area of responsibility (AOR) encompasses 20 nations stretching across the Greater Middle East (and only recently came to include Israel as well). The command's website spells out the specifics: four million square miles inhabited by more than 560 million people from 25 ethnic groups adhering to myriad religious traditions and speaking 20 languages along with a host of local dialects. In itself, though only one of those 11 commands, it's already a realm of impressively imperial dimensions.

According to its mission statement, the command "directs and enables military operations and activities with allies and partners to increase regional security and stability in support of enduring U.S. interests" throughout that vast area. Yet while security and stability may describe CENTCOM's nominal aspirations, its true purpose is quite different. Indeed, the implicit purpose of the entire constellation of combatant commands is to affirm American primacy. CENTCOM exists to demonstrate the enduring necessity of American global "leadership," expressed in straightforwardly military terms via security commitments, a far-flung network of foreign bases, contingency plans and capabilities, muscle-flexing, and the ever-present possibility of what the Pentagon evasively refers to as a "kinetic action."

In recent decades, this particular combatant command has garnered more attention than any of the others and with good reason. Its AOR defines the arena in which American primacy has been most hotly contested. Within CENTCOM's capacious boundaries, the fate of the post-Cold War American imperium is being decided indeed, may already have been decided.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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