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The Utter Insanity of America's Military Policy

How the "secret" Saudi base fosters blowback, and repeats the CIA's pattern of stupidity.

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So how about moving on to a shining moment a decade later: our triumph in the “100 Hour War” in which Washington ignominiously ejected its  former ally (and later  Hitler-substitute) Saddam Hussein and his invading Iraqi army from oil-rich Kuwait?  Those first 100 hours were, in every sense, a blast. The problems only began to multiply with all the 100-hour periods that followed for the next decade, the 80,000th, all of which were ever less fun, what with eternal no-fly zones to patrol and an Iraqi dictator who wouldn’t leave the scene.

The Worldwide Attack Matrix and a Global War on Terror

Maybe, like Washington, we do best to skip that episode, too.  Let's focus instead on the moment when, in preparation for that war, U.S. troops  first landed in Saudi Arabia, that fabulously fundamentalist giant oil reserve; when those 100 hours were over (and Saddam wasn’t), they never left. Instead, they moved into bases and hunkered down for the long haul.

By now, I’m sure some of this is coming back to you:  how disturbed, for instance, the rich young Saudi royal and Afghan war veteran Osama bin Laden and his young organization al-Qaeda were on seeing those “infidels” based in (or, as they saw it,  occupying) the country that held Islam’s holiest shrines and pilgrimage sites.  I’m sure you can trace al-Qaeda’s brief grim history from there: its major operations every couple of years against U.S. targets to back up its demand that those troops depart the kingdom, including the  Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. airmen in 1996, the destruction of  two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, and the blowing up of the  USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000.  Finally, of course, there was al-Qaeda’s extraordinary stroke of dumb luck (and good planning), those attacks of September 11, 2001, which managed -- to the reported  shock of at least one al-Qaeda figure -- to create an  apocalyptic-looking landscape of destruction in downtown New York City.

And here’s where we go from dumb luck to just plain dumb. Lusting for revenge,  dreaming of a Middle Eastern (or even global) Pax Americana, and eager to loose a military that they believed could eternally dominate any situation, the Bush administration declared a “global war” on terrorism. Only six days after the World Trade Center towers went down, George W. Bush granted the CIA an unprecedented license to wage planet-wide war. By then, it had already presented a plan with a title worthy of a sci-fi film: the “Worldwide Attack Matrix.” According to journalist Ron Suskind in his book  The One Percent Doctrine, the plan “detailed operations [to come] against terrorists in 80 countries.”

This was, of course, a kind of madness. After all, al-Qaeda wasn’t a state or even much of an organization; in real terms, it barely existed.  So  declaring “war” on its scattered minions globally was little short of a bizarre and fantastical act. And yet any other approach to what had happened was promptly laughed out of the American room. And before you could blink, the U.S. was invading... nuts, you already knew the answer: Afghanistan.

After another dazzlingly brief and triumphant campaign, using tiny numbers of American military personnel and CIA operatives (as well as U.S. air power), the first of Washington’s you-can’t-go-home-again crew marched into downtown Kabul and began hunkering down, building bases, and preparing to stay. One Afghan war, it turned out, hadn’t been faintly enough for Washington. And soon, it would be clear that one Iraq war wasn’t either. By now, we were in the express lane in the Möbius loop of history.