It could be any week on that great U.S. military base we know as Planet Earth and here’s the remarkable thing: there’s always news. Something’s always happening somewhere, usually on more than one continent, as befits the largest, most destructive, most technologically advanced (and in many ways least successful) military on the planet. In our time, the U.S. military has been sent into numerous wars, failed to win a single one, and created plenty of blowback. But hey, who has to win a specific war when it’s “wartime” all the time?
These last weeks were the American military equivalent of a no-news period. Nothing really happened. I mean, yes, there was the war in Afghanistan, the usual round of night raids, dead civilians, and insider attacks. Nothing worth spending much time on, other than whether the U.S. might, in frustration over Afghan President Hamid Karzai, exercise the “zero option” after 2014 and leave -- or not. And yes, there was that drone attack last week in the tribal borderlands of Pakistan that killed three “militants” (or so we’re told), despite the complaints of the country’s new government. (I mean, what say should it have in the matter?)
And there was the news that Washington was seeking an “expanded role” for its military in the Philippines, where the question of the month was: Could the Pentagon “position military equipment and rotate more personnel” there, “while avoiding the contentious issue of reestablishing American bases in the country” -- so said “officials from both countries,” according to the New York Times. After all, if we call the places where our troops are stationed “Philippine bases,” what’s the problem? And, believe me, no one wants to hear a lot of whining about it from a bunch of Filipinos either!
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And don’t forget about those American drones now flying over Mali from a base recently established in Niger, part of a blowback-generating set of Pentagon operations on the African continent. They got a little attention last week. And one more thing, conveniently on the same continent: since Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey put in calls to their Egyptian counterparts as they were launching a military coup in an ongoing pre-revolutionary situation, the Pentagon has, it seems, never been less than in touch with its Egyptian military pals, a crew significantly trained, advised, and paid for by Washington.
And that’s just what made it into the news in the most humdrum military week of 2013. On the other hand, in “Iraq Invades the United States,” Eduardo Galeano, one of the great global writers, offers a little upside-down tour of U.S. military history -- from 1916 to late tomorrow night -- via eight little excerpts from his new book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History, reminding us of what some really newsworthy moments were like. Think of it as a kind of highlight reel from almost a century of the American way of war.