Memo to Senator John McCain: Senator, the other day I noticed that, as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, you threatened to subpoena the Trump administration for information about the recent attack in Niger that killed four American soldiers. "There's a mindset over there that they're a unicameral government," you said. "It was easier under Obama... We are coequal branches of government; we should be informed at all times. We're just not getting the information in the timely fashion that we need."
How true! But let me make one small suggestion. If you really want to know what led to those deaths in Niger, the first place you might consider looking -- no subpoena needed -- is this very website, TomDispatch. Or, to be more specific, Nick Turse's coverage of the way U.S. Africa Command and American Special Operations forces have, with a certain stealth but also without significant coverage in the mainstream media, extended the war on terror deep into Africa. He alone has covered this story and the secret bases, widespread "training missions" (like the one in Niger), and barely noticed wars being fought there since at least 2012, when I was already writing this of his work:
"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."
"while correlation doesn't equal causation, there is ample evidence to suggest the United States has facilitated a terror diaspora, imperiling nations and endangering peoples across Africa. In the wake of 9/11, Pentagon officials were hard-pressed to show evidence of a major African terror threat. Today, the continent is thick with militant groups that are increasingly crossing borders, sowing insecurity, and throwing the limits of U.S. power into broad relief. After 10 years of U.S. operations to promote stability by military means, the results have been the opposite. Africa has become blowback central."
Four years later, when the Niger events occurred, nothing had changed, except that the U.S. military had moved, again with little attention (except from Turse), even deeper into the heart of Africa, setting up a remarkable array of bases and outposts of every sort (including two drone bases in Niger).
So here's another tip for you, Senator McCain, when it comes to a completely different area of the world. Please understand. I'm just trying to save you the need for yet more subpoenas in, say, 2020. Instead, check out Turse's piece today on the way in which U.S. Special Operations forces have quietly moved not into Africa this time, but into Europe, in country after country in the former borderlands of the Soviet Union. It's a story that -- I give you my guarantee on this, Senator -- will make the news one of these days, just as the war on terror in Africa has done recently and, if you keep up with Turse, you'll be among the few in the know ahead of time. Tom
From America With Love
U.S. Commandos Are a "Persistent Presence" on Russia's Doorstep
By Nick Turse
"They are very concerned about their adversary next door," said General Raymond Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), at a national security conference in Aspen, Colorado, in July. "They make no bones about it."
The "they" in question were various Eastern European and Baltic nations. "Their adversary"? Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Thomas, the commander of America's most elite troops -- Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets among them -- went on to raise fears about an upcoming Russian military training event, a wargame, known as "Zapad" or "West," involving 10 Russian Navy ships, 70 jets and helicopters, and 250 tanks. "The point of concern for most of these eastern Europeans right now is they're about to do an exercise in Belarus... that's going to entail up to 100,000 Russian troops moving into that country." And he added, "The great concern is they're not going to leave, and... that's not paranoia..."
Over the last two decades, relations between the United States and Russia have increasingly soured, with Moscow casting blame on the United States for encouraging the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003 and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine a year later. Washington has, in turn, expressed its anger over the occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following the Russo-Georgian War of 2008; the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine after pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych was chased from power; and interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. There have been recriminations on both sides over the other nation's military adventurism in Syria, the sanctions Washington imposed on Moscow in reaction to Crimea, Ukraine, and human rights issues, and tit-for-tat diplomatic penalties that have repeatedly ramped up tensions.
While Zapad, which took place last month, is an annual strategic exercise that rotates among four regions, American officials nonetheless viewed this year's event as provocative. "People are worried this is a Trojan horse," Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who commands U.S. Army forces in Europe, told Reuters. "[The Russians] say, 'We're just doing an exercise,' and then all of a sudden they've moved all these people and capabilities somewhere."
Russia is not, however, the only military power with "people and capabilities" in the region. In passing, SOCOM's Thomas also mentioned the presence of other forces; troops that he readily admitted the public might not be aware of. Those soldiers were -- just as he feared of the Russian troops involved in Zapad -- not going anywhere. And it wasn't just a matter of speculation. After all, they wear the same uniform he does.
For the past two years, the U.S. has maintained a special operations contingent in almost every nation on Russia's western border. "[W]e've had persistent presence in every country -- every NATO country and others on the border with Russia doing phenomenal things with our allies, helping them prepare for their threats," said Thomas, mentioning the Baltics as well as Romania, Poland, Ukraine, and Georgia by name.
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