WASHINGTON – On a day marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I-Have-A-Dream" civil rights speech, the United States is poised to unleash another nightmare some 10,000km away in the Middle-East. Washington's war machine is geared up for limited strikes against Syria because Damascus ostensibly crossed a red line by using chemical weapons against its own population, never mind that many regimes worldwide inflict atrocities against their own people by other means.
Why a President who came to office on the strength of his anti-war credentials - especially on the phony war foisted on Iraq - is running with the war hounds, is something of a mystery. But the rest of the Washington establishment is champing at the bit to unleash missiles on the Syrian regime, promising a short punitive strike, in keeping with the well-worn belief that America cannot live without a war.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was among those who indicated that the US was "ready to go" the moment President Barack Obama gave the sign. "We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take," Hagel said on Tuesday.
"We are not good at anything else anymore... can't build a decent car or a television, can't give good education to the kids or health care to the old, but we can bomb the shit of out any country..."
– the late George Carlin
This, when a UN team is still investigating the reported use of chemical weapons in the conflict between the regime of Bashir al Assad and the rebels. The UN team has been asked to pack up and get out of the way. "We clearly value the UN's work - we've said that from the beginning - when it comes to investigating chemical weapons in Syria. But we've reached a point now where we believe too much time has passed for the investigation to be credible and that it's clear the security situation isn't safe for the team in Syria," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Tuesday, echoing the kind of impatience that characterized the descent into the Iraq war.
Despite the appalling intelligence failures during previous such conflicts, US officials placed immense faith in their own findings while scoffing at international efforts. "I think the intelligence will conclude that it wasn't the rebels who used it and there'll probably be pretty good intelligence to show that the Syria government was responsible," Hagel said in a BBC interview. The prospect of the war, even a limited strike, upsetting a range of friends and allies, from Israel to India, does not seem to be holding back Washington's war veterans (both Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel served in the military).
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If all this recalls the war against Iraq not too long ago, not many in Washington seem keen on remembering it. Instead, explanations are being proffered on how different this case is and how it will be a short, surgical strike, not really a war.
But America's discerning have long recognized that the country can never live without war. It is a country made for war. Small detail: Up until 1947, the Defense Department was called Department of War.
By one count, the United States has fought some 70 wars since its birth 234 years ago; at least 10 of them major conflicts. "We like war... we are good at it!" the great, insightful comedian George Carlin said some two decades ago, during the first Gulf War. "We are not good at anything else anymore... can't build a decent car or a television, can't give good education to the kids or health care to the old, but we can bomb the shit of out any country..."
Similar sentiments have been echoed more recently. "America's economy is a war economy. Not a manufacturing economy. Not an agricultural economy. Nor a service economy. Not even a consumer economy," business pundit Paul Farrell wrote during this Iraq War. "Deep inside we love war. We want war. Need it. Relish it. Thrive on war. War is in our genes, deep in our DNA. War excites our economic brain. War drives our entrepreneurial spirit. War thrills the American soul. Oh just admit it, we have a love affair with war."
And so, America will be off to another (limited) war shortly.