A short time ago, President Donald threatened to obliterate Afghanistan with nuclear weapons stating that, at the last moment, he thought killing millions of innocent people might well be “wrong” in some way. Here is exactly what he said:
“If we wanted to fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people.
I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth, it would be gone.”
According to legend, the Roman Emperor Caligula planned to name his favorite horse, Incitatus, a Consul of Rome. Historians generally agree, despite Caligula’s reputation as perhaps the most despotic and insane ruler in history, this story is unlikely.
With Trump, however, the tale is a different one. Trump “trumped” Caligula in the “lunatic” category and did it in front of live television audiences around the world.
In general, the media ignored Trump’s gaf and failed miserably to gauge responses around the world, running from incredulity to horror. After all, Trump told the audience, with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan at his side, that it wasn’t his idea in the first place.
America talks military power but fails miserably when it plays “strongman” in Asia and elsewhere, now moving to softer methods, propaganda, false flag terrorism, fake democratic movements, sanctions and now utterly insane threats.
Are America’s threats insane? As America wins battles now and again but invariably loses war after war after war, is nuclear annihilation of the defenseless now the “go to” expression of waning American power?
Is it insane to threaten wars America is simply militarily unprepared to fight, threatening nations that are utterly aware the threats that continually come from Trump, Bolton and Pompeo are not just vacuous but “goofy?”
Donald Trump, thus far, is “0 for 3” in his attempt to portray himself as a wartime president. First North Korea, then Venezuela and now Iran, all making a mockery of American invasion threats. Why is this, what is America’s real military capability and why is a nation that has bankrupted itself throwing money at its defense industry “neutered?”
It didn’t start with Vietnam. It’s true, 15 years there, stumbling up and down the peninsula once known as Cochin China, was a great military disaster.
After losing 20,000 men and controlling only 5% of the country, the then new American president, Richard Nixon, announced America’s surrender under the guise of what Henry Kissinger called “Vietnamization.”
Of course, the Vietnamese were never really taking part in the war, had never built a real army and hadn’t, as the US had done, instituted a program of military conscription. Those in Vietnam who wanted to fight for their country were doing so already.
They were called the Viet Cong and they fought against the United States.
Once the Nixon/Kissinger announcement was made, that the US would leave, it was no longer necessary for the Viet Cong to hold territory or defend anything. Thus, they turned to another tactic, that of slaughtering Americans wherever they found them, killing another 35,000 and wounding 20 times that number.
Few are aware the US lost 5000 combat aircraft, excluding helicopters, over Vietnam. From Veterans Today:
“Do remember, we lost 5000 combat aircraft in Vietnam including 31 B 52s. The rotting airframes of 500 Phantom II’s are still in the Vietnam jungle.
America doesn’t have 5000 aircraft anymore. Add to this 5200 helicopters lost by the Army alone, 10,000 aircraft. Hey, the US lost 95,000 aircraft in World War II, a figure we lie about also with deaths in that war twice what we report, well over 1 million.
Our losses in Vietnam, depending on stats used, 58k or 1.3 million. When you add the slower Agent Orange deaths, it hits 2.2 million.”
We can probably go back to the Korean Conflict, as it is called now. As with Vietnam, the rationale for US involvement was always misrepresented to the American people as “communist aggression.” In this case, the Korean people were resisting the continued rule by the remnants of their brutal Japanese occupiers and their “Quisling” leader, Syngman Rhee.
While Japan was being “de-militarized” under US occupation by General Mac Arthur, quite the opposite was going on in South Korea with the democratization movement brutally crushed by a CIA puppet government.
This, of course, was exactly what happened in Vietnam as well, all part of the Marshall Doctrine established in 1947 intended to surround the Soviet Union and China with “free democracies,” no matter how brutal or fascistic such “democracies” actually were.
Both wars, of course, were losses, where America’s military might, when placed on the ground in Asia, mistakes repeated in Iraq and Afghanistan as well in latter decades. From the American Conservative:
“On April 28, 1961—a decade after General Douglas MacArthur was fired for defying Harry Truman on Korea—the controversial commander hosted President John F. Kennedy at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where MacArthur and his wife lived in a suite on the 37th floor. The contrast between the two could not have been more obvious: MacArthur, then in his early eighties, was mottled, frail, and walked with a slight stoop, while the newly inaugurated Kennedy was young, fit, and vibrant. The two sequestered themselves in MacArthur’s suite, then posed for photographers, the young president obviously proud to appear with the aging legend.
The meeting itself was the subject of news stories and featured on national newscasts that same day. Later, the meeting provided grist for two generations of Kennedy-besotted commenters who debated whether the young president, had he not been assassinated in Dallas, might have recoiled from committing tens of thousands of U.S. troops to a winless war in Southeast Asia—a course of action taken by Lyndon Johnson, his successor.
It turns out that Kennedy’s memo of the Waldorf Astoria meeting (now at Boston’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum) is crucial for historians for a number of other reasons. It offers not only a glimpse of how the young president intended to navigate the treacherous waters of the Cold War, but suggests how one of America’s most celebrated military officers viewed what might be called the grand strategy of the American Republic: that is, whether and how the U.S. might win its dangerous struggle against the Soviet Union. Finally, the Waldorf Astoria meeting tells us how MacArthur’s most famous warning—to “never fight a land war in Asia”—has come down to us, what he meant by it, and whether, in an age of American troop deployments in at least 133 countries, it retains its meaning.”
Such background material begs for historical vignettes. In our first, Mac Arthur was US co-commander against the Japanese in World War II. His “other half,” as it were, was Admiral Chester Nimitz.
Mac Arthur, a 5-star Army general, commanded “ground forces” in the larger land campaigns, New Guinea, Burma, the Philippines and others while Nimitz commanded the “island hopping” campaign. Mac Arthur fell under criticism for moving slowly and holding down casualties while Nimitz ran up massive casualties targeting heavily defended islands that well should have been bypassed like Iwo Jima among many others.
When we look at that period, America’s primary ally in Cochin or Indo-China was the Viet Minh under Ho Chi Minh. In China, the US negotiated cooperation between Chiang kai Shek’s Kuomintang and Mao’s People’s Liberation Army. Suffice it to say, Mao’s forces did 90% of the fighting against the Japanese while Chiang took his massive US financial aid and bribed dozens of right-wing US politicians, all of whom were big fans of Adolf Hitler before the war and, to an extent “during.”
In Vietnam, we had a different story, but not so different. Rather than supporting Ho Chi Minh as the US had promised, as leader of a United Vietnam, the US financed the return of France as a colonial power, gifting France the military hardware, then stored on Formosa, intended to be used for a land invasion of Japan that never transpired.
France chose to use largely foreign mercenaries for this conflict including thousands of former German SS who had joined the French Foreign Legion in order to avoid war crimes tribunals.
Germans were always popular for their military prowess as Chiang had, during his “encirclement” campaigns during the Chinese Civil War (1927-35) used German generals who commanded during World War I, to command his forces.
The real story, of course, is why American threats against Iran, Korea and Venezuela, not “Asian” we admit but the lesson applies there as well, are “nuts.”
Let’s add to the group Afghanistan. In a White House conference with Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Trump announced he could “win the war in Afghanistan in ten days.” He said he wouldn’t do it but, according to news reports, Pentagon commanders had presented Trump with a plan to do exactly that.
What wasn’t reported is that the plan presented involved the use of 3 dozen thermonuclear weapons used on the civilian population, something Trump confirmed to Khan, when he stated that the Pentagon’s plan would involve millions of civilian deaths.
The Pentagon recommended a nuclear war on Iran because the Taliban has handily defeated the US for 19 years. The reason for that?
America went into Afghanistan in 2001 supported by drug lord tribal leaders from Tajik and Uzbek minorities seen by Afghanistan’s Pashtun majority as foreigners.
Sadly, the Taliban, most former Mujahideen once allied with the US, never hated the US but simply refused to be ruled by what they call “puppets” and “dancing boys” imposed on them against their will.
Do remember, General Mac Arthur was fired by Truman in April 1951 when he told the President that Korea could not be held against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army without the use of nuclear weapons.
That story was just repeated in Washington under Trump though the lunatic or lunatics at the Pentagon, possibly General Joseph Dunford himself, are managing to hide from public scorn.
Why are Trump’s threats not just rhetoric but empty rhetoric?
Simply put, the US lacks the resources to invade Iran, something the US promises continually. America’s regional allies, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, have been fought to a virtual standstill by poorly armed rebels in Yemen. Additionally, those nations though their military is well financed, have no experience in real combat operations whatsoever and are subject to massive retaliation from Iran that would be, minimally, devastating.
Moreover, any war on Iran would spread to an attack on Israel, one Israel is incapable of enduring without very heavy losses, and the virtual erasure of America’s military in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar along with any naval vessels in the region.
Similarly, America’s threats against Venezuela are past “empty.” Here it isn’t the powerful military that Iran possesses but rather that Venezuela is simply “unreachable.” You can’t land on their coast, you can’t approach from land, you can’t drop paratroopers on a nation that has modern air defenses, and this is the real story behind Venezuela.
In North Korea, America’s attempts first to threaten and then to “talk to death” have led to rather than disarmament, a military buildup. Here, worst of all, America chooses to ignore what goes on rather than openly admit humiliation. Admitted or not, the humiliation is noted around the world, same as with Iran, same as with Venezuela.
This leaves the US with its policy of economic war and starvation, one that led the US to have Britain seize an Iranian oil tanker believed to be heading for Syria, a nation that needed oil to warm its homes last winter. You see, Syria’s domestic oil supplies are currently being stolen by US backed Kurds and sold through Turkey with money supporting the oligarchs of Erbil and their “bankster” allies.
Similarly, America’s embargo on Iranian oil has pushed oil prices up $20 per barrel, enriching America’s own breed of oligarch, long partnered with military contractors and the hedge fund billionaires who make up much of Trump’s cabinet heads.
There are endless secondary issues as well, some going back to the beginning of time, that seem to deem all institutions as corruptible.
Throughout the Middle Ages, religious persecution, “crusades” and frenzies of mass murder driven by religious hysteria killed millions.
The industrial revolution, combined with the spread of central banking and debt-based currencies led to centuries of war for profit that continue to this day.
These concepts have survived while those predicting the ascendance of mankind toward betterment through democracy and individual initiative have fallen to the wayside, under the merciless regime of fractional reserve banking and the elimination of sovereign money.
What we address here is the role military power plays when said power has, through advances in technology, become “improbable.”
Once generals led armies from the front. Now generals are nameless bureaucrats and “grocery clerks” who lead nothing.
Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He’s a senior editor and chairman of the board of Veterans Today, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”