Bleeding Africa.
July 16, 2000 9:45 PM   Subscribe

Bleeding Africa. I don't even understand exactly what the objective of the original mission was, other than risk your lives because we tell you to. Shouldn't we have goals when we send military units into action? (I say we because to me, the UN is all of us.) It reminds me of this article about how the Kosovo operation ignored the painful lessons America learned in Vietnam. I don't pretend to understand how we can solve these mammoth problems, but they still concern me. Is military force really the answer here?
posted by Ezrael (12 comments total)
It's unfortunate that U.N. 'peacekeepers' have no authority to act militarily in any way. They might as well paint bullseyes on their chests and helmets. If they're going to stand around while innocent people get butchered and not respond with any military force then there's absolutely no business for them to be there. This is why the U.N. has been is Kashmir for over 50 years, for example.Military objectives also need a clear endgame. It's hilarious that the U.S. News article bashes Clinton for Kosovo when George Bush completely bungled the end of the Gulf War (at a much higher cost in American lives) but that's what I'd expect from such a right wing biased publication.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 10:24 PM on July 16, 2000

What bungling are we talking about? If the Gulf War had continued - i.e., marched to Saddam's palace and put a round in his wretched noggin - the cost in American lives would have been much higher. Iran would have loved it, which made it out of the question. Turkey would have hated it, which made it out of the question. And so forth.

While I don't buy the notion that the Allies didn't topple Saddam b/c it exceeded the UN mandate, it's clear that the *left* wing would have shrieked to the skies if the Allies ignored the UN mandate. Just like the left didn't want to go there in the first place.

posted by lileks at 10:45 PM on July 16, 2000

American lives, American lives, American lives.
America's painful lessons in Vietnam? PLEASE!

America only engages in these things to pursue their own narrow national agenda often at the expense of the rest of the world. Please give a moments thought for NON-American lives, so often efficiently snuffed out by 'our' boys.

Case in point, Vietnam was a struggle for independence which was prolonged into a 40 year long disaster first by the selfish interests of an old colonial power (France) followed by the selfish interests of the new big powers, the United States, China and the Soviet Union.
Lest we forget the many many millions of Vietnamese who perished in Vietnam, they were victims of a global game of chess, they're interests were irrelevent.

The numbers of people who were wasted in that conflict included the millions dragged into the war in Laos and Cambodia. The tiny country of Laos with a population of 4 million had more bombs dropped on it than did Germany during WWII. The carpet bombing of neutral Cambodia was ordered by Henry Kissinger who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. The result was the distruction of that country's entire agricultural infrastructure.

The five years of secret bombing directly created the conditions for the rise of most inexperienced, amateurish and therfore dangerous Khmer Rouge to sieze power several months before the fall of Saigon. They took over a country which had been turned into the proverbial parking lot. Does the US feel any guilt for their part in the creation of the "Killing Fields"? Ofcourse not, they only go on and on about how it affected the Youth of America, America loss of confidence, how it made TV dinners unpalatable to Middle America etc. Fortunately Hollywood lead the way in the retelling of Vietnam with a spate of movies which helped make America feel good about its war of aggression against the Vietnamese people.

Now their smarter, they've learnt to control media coverage, limit the flow of information and only engage in "clean", "surgical" wars with great computer graphics. Did CNN show any of the photos of the hundreds of charred bodies of Iraqis still in their cars trying to flee American fire bombing?

How many Iraqi civilians died during Desert Storm? Do we care?

posted by lagado at 6:34 AM on July 17, 2000

posted by Nyarlathotep at 8:17 AM on July 17, 2000

Speak for yourself, Nyarlathotep.

I care a LOT about the civilians who died in the Gulf War and I care a lot about the Iraqi children who are still dying by the thousands because the U.S. has trade sanctions against Iraq, preventing medicine from getting through.

How about this corker: Kuwait was slant-drilling oil from Iraq. This means they started tunnels near the border, and angled their drilling so that they ended under Iraqi soil. Then Kuwait was slurping the oil from beneath Iraq's land. So maybe it wasn't just pure evil that motivated their invasion of Kuwait. But aside from all their tasty oil, the reason we really supported Kuwait? The Kuwaiti royal family owns assloads of stock in U.S. and U.K. corporations. Are you disgusted yet?

What's really embarrassing to me is how easy it is to learn these things. All it takes is a little reading. But Nyarlathotep is right: most of us just don't care.
posted by wiremommy at 9:24 AM on July 17, 2000

posted by Nyarlathotep at 9:53 AM on July 17, 2000

What's really embarrassing to me is how easy it is to learn these things. All it takes is a little reading.

wiremommy, I'm curious where I can read these things that I hadn't heard of about Kuwait until just now. I'm also curious about what you think should be done.

Disclaimer: I'm not trying to be antagonistic, just curious! Really!
posted by daveadams at 11:40 AM on July 17, 2000

I read about this stuff mostly through Noam Chomsky. He's written copiously on the Gulf War, plus he directs you to other reliable sources in his notes.

What do I think should be done? That depends on your goals. If the aim is to make the U.S. the ruling power of the world even if it means screwing over every other nation... we're on the right track. If the goal is to make the world a better place for everyone, we're in trouble.

I think there's a lot you can do to improve the world for everyone, from small things like supporting independent media sources like The Baffler, to giving money and time to the ACLU and Amnesty International... Educate yourself, don't buy an SUV, get 'green' electricity (join a MUD if you can), take public transportation... Being a good citizen can take some time and attention, and I admit, I don't always do everything I should, but every effort we make is a step in the right direction.

Here's one big thing you can do. Vote Nader!
posted by wiremommy at 12:33 PM on July 17, 2000

The way I see it someone or something is always going to be screwed. If we're not doing it to some other country they sure as shit would be doing it to us. Harsh as it may sound it's just the way of things. The world is ruled by nasty, lying, backstabbing bastards.

Now given the choice I think I'll be on the side of the nation doing the screwing.

posted by Nyarlathotep at 1:13 PM on July 17, 2000

Spoken like a true egyptian god, Gnarly. The universe is constantly screwing itself. Why should we not participate in the grand cycle of life? Be stupid. Beget stupidity! AHORA NEOISMUS! AHORA NEOISMUS!
posted by ZachsMind at 2:49 PM on July 17, 2000

Right on, wiremommy!

Nyarlathotep is correct to hide behind the "might is right" defense, because after all, it seems the only sensible one available to the powerless.

In answer to daveadams, read critically and widely. Read history.

For a fairly recent run down of the cynicism of western nations try:
"Hidden Agendas" by John Pilger, Random House UK

posted by lagado at 7:10 PM on July 17, 2000

Actually, invasion of Bagdad was never possible; it's a not-well-known fact that the coalition forces were near the end of their supplies at the point where hostilities ended. They could perhaps have continued for 12 hours more at most. A top-of-the-line high-tech division such as 1st Armored consumes thousands of tons of supplies per day in those kinds of conditions, a considerable proportion of which is simply water (which is bulky and extremely heavy), though that is by no means the only thing they were running short of.

BUT... in that 12 hours, they could have destroyed the Republican Guard. Instead, Bush pulled the cord, combat stopped, and several divisions of Republican Guards which had been surrounded and were in imminent danger of total destruction were instead allowed to get away with their weapons including their armored vehicles. These divisions figured highly in later action against the Kurds.

THAT is the mistake I criticize Bush for. Those divisions should have been destroyed while the opportunity presented itself.

But the political reason for permitting them to survive -- with their weapons -- was to not leave Iraq defenseless against Iran. Isn't that strange?

posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:46 PM on July 17, 2000

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