If you are like me, Scahill "had me at Blackwater." This is Blackwater on steroids. Even more disturbing, especially the information on Obama's acceptance of "the world is a battlefield" doctrine.
Below is my extended review and commentary on DIRTY WARS.
This is an excellent book that contains an incredible amount of good information on our “war on terror.” The book leaves me deeply disturbed, however, for three reasons.
First, Scahill makes it clear that part of the war on terror is the cold war redux. The cold war put us in bed with bin Laden, Somoza, Thieu, Noriega, etc; it was a modern example of the ancient doctrine that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The last decades should have disabused us of our belief in that notion. Noriega takes over almost a third of a million dollar from the US, while he is on the payroll of the cartels. We gave about three billion dollars to Islamic groups who wanted to oust the Soviet forces, and now many of these same groups oppose us today. The weapons sent to our allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan too often find their way into our enemies’ hands. In this day and age, friends and enemies are tremendously illusive terms, which can with a change in circumstances or the processing of more information, be reversed. Scahill’s discussion on Somalia is a case in point.
Second, President Obama has, like a hungry fish, swallowed the Cheney-esque “the world is a battlefield” doctrine—hook, line, and sinker. When that means we must go into Pakistan in secret to take bin Laden, we all think it reasonable. Almost everything is called a “slippery slope;” this truly is one. When our drone kills an entire family at a family gathering in order to hit a single individual, we call their blood collateral damage. This is nothing new; the Allies may have killed as many as a million citizens with their strategic bombing. Some sources indicate that our invasion of Iraq resulted in over half a million civilian deaths. So, what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that we are not at war with the countries in which these deaths occurred and are occurring. In the war on terror, the US truly sees the world as a battlefield, and we have the right, nay the duty, to kill whomever we decide is dangerous—however we can and wherever they might be. We kill an American citizen on foreign soil for what he said, not what he did. What Scahill makes clear with well-chosen examples is that our hubris is astounding, and this strategy may make more enemies than it exterminates.
Finally, this was not part of Scahill’s argument, but it is a related conclusion. Over 3,000 Americans were kill on 9-11-01. Those deaths have twisted the face of American democracy into a deadly grimace. Because those deaths shattered the myth of our safety from the consequences of foreign conflicts, we have become a country that tortures and abuses prisoners; we have spent something close to one and one-half billion dollars; we have killed tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of civilians who simply got in the way of our vengeance or our paranoia. Roughly 7,000 US soldiers have lost their lives. We have also become a society teetering on the edge of an “Orwellian 1984.” No habeas corpus for some; no privacy for almost everyone. All because of those deaths and our own national psychosis, helped along by political entrepreneurs who clang the bell loudly and corporate whores who feast off conflict.
How does all this happen? Auto accidents kill roughly 6,000 Americans a month; firearms kill roughly 3,000 US citizens a month. But, those 3,000 deaths over a decade ago on 9/11, horrible as they were, have been made into the fuel that has helped drive this nation to accept and defend policies that are fundamentally insane. Scahill documents some of that insanity for us, and he does it very well.