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A Brief History of US War Failures, Lies, and Brutalities

Dear PEERS subscribers,

In 2021, President Joe Biden declared that the United States was “not at war” for the first time in 20 years. However, this was far from the case. Even members of Congress are uninformed about the presence of US military forces in countries all over the world. US bombs and weapons sold to the Saudis in their war with Yemen, which weren't reported or authorized by Congress, led to at least 10,000 deaths of innocent civilians. This war was supported by both the Obama and Trump administrations.

A 2007 Defense Department study recently obtained by The Intercept reveals how top US government officials viewed America’s war in Africa as a "stalemate or worse, and has been especially ruinous for Somalis." Despite this grim reality, covert factions within the military-intelligence complex have supported at least nine coups in African countries since 2008, with a vast network of military bases scattered across the continent. Meanwhile, Somali families of innocent civilians killed by US drone strikes rarely receive compensation from the Pentagon.

Collective action against the violent atrocities happening in the Gaza strip and US arm sales to Israel are appropriately being questioned on a massive scale. However, the US has supported brutalities all over the world for decades, many of these seldom talked about on any mainstream level. Understanding the longstanding history of the US war machine is essential for those seeking justice in the wars that the US Military-Intelligence Complex is currently fueling.

Public support for war has always been built on media manipulation, misinformation and outright lies. Below, we provide a window into this reality with our War Failures and Lies section in our Military-Intelligence Corruption Information Center. We discuss the sobering reality that the wars we've started and helped fuel rarely achieved productive and peaceful outcomes. Yet going deeper, we explore how covert action within the US war machine often involved backing extremist and terrorist groups all over the world. The agency's latest covert action involves supporting Neo-Nazis in Ukraine since at least 2014.

We can't shift the chaos we're in until we name it. When we can recognize what's harming us — in our personal lives and as a society — we already have a degree of freedom from it. Challenging information like this can paradoxically remind us of the greater good. It is the courage of the people and the love for the common good that bring these injustices to light—fueling uncensored dialogue and constructive action.

With faith in a transforming world,
Amber Yang for PEERS and

War Failures and Lies

Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.
— Jim Morrison

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, a sophisticated public relations campaign was launched by Kuwait to secure support for US military intervention. This effort was spearheaded by PR firm Hill & Knowlton, which was paid $10.7 million to sway public opinion in favor of war. This firm swayed public opinion in part by telling and repeating a terrible lie. The American public was told that Iraqi soldiers had killed babies in incubators during the invasion of Kuwait. A congressional committee even heard testimony to that effect. Top tier newspapers like The Washington Post were fooled by the incubator baby hoax. Initially, everyone bought the lie, including politicians. Congress authorized military intervention in 1991. The war was over before anyone really understood that they'd been fooled.

George H.W. Bush and powerful US neoconservative allies had long been preparing carefully for this war. After supporting Iraq’s invasion of Iran, bleeding Iran’s energy, oil and military resources, the US turned its military machine against Iraq. Using Kuwait as a launchpad for invasion, the Bush administration relentlessly unleashed terrible weapons against Iraq such as cluster bombs, napalm, and white phosphorus. American weapons destroyed Iraq’s electrical, sewage, and water systems, leading to terrible and long term consequences for the Iraqi people. Economic sanctions strangled the devastated Iraqi economy. This was the Gulf War of 1990, in which the US would declare a victory.

Yet who were the winners? US oil companies, big banks like JPMorgan Chase and Citibank, military contractors, and neoconservative hardliners all profited immensely from the conflict. Through its bloody wars in the Middle East, the US effectively stymied technological advancement and economic growth throughout the region. Meanwhile, other places in the Middle East, like Israel, Egypt and Turkey, all bought billions of dollars worth of US arms and weapons.

The US war machine also has a well-documented history of backing extremist groups as part of its foreign policy agendas. In the 1980s, CIA director William Casey persuaded US Congress to provide radical Muslims like Osama Bin Laden and the militant Mujaheddin of Afghanistan with US warfare training and missiles to shoot down Soviet planes. Yet after defeating the Soviets over the course of a brutal decade, radical Islam would turn its attention to the US, seeking retaliation for their war crimes and bloodshed throughout the Middle East. This, in part, precipitated the horrific attacks on 9/11.

It’s also been proven that the CIA has supported the Contras in Nicaragua and Islamic extremist groups in war-torn Syria, with Pentagon-trained Kurdish militia group fighting with CIA-trained militia group Fursan al Haq (who fights alongside Al-Qaeda).

In light of the current Ukraine-Russia war, the agency’s latest covert action involves supporting Neo-Nazis in Ukraine since at least 2014, the year of the far-right coup that overthrew pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych and incorporated the Nazi group Azov Battalion into the country’s National Guard. Since then, declassified government documents show that Ukraine was systematically developed as a proxy for US war against Russia. A former CIA official reported that the US was training an insurgency of Ukrainians on how “to kill Russians” in a secret CIA training program that started in 2015 and operated for years. It also appears highly likely that the CIA has provided support to Azov Battalion. In 2016, Congress removed a ban on funding Ukrainian neo-fascist groups, effectively paving the way for American arms and weapons to fall in the hands of Ukraine’s Nazi organizations. A January 2018 report by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab confirmed that Azov Battalion was a recipient of American lethal weapons. This report appears to have disappeared from the internet.

In recent months, a wide spectrum of observers of the Ukrainian civil war have documented the transfer of heavy weapons made in the USA to the Azov Battalion, and right under the nose of the US State Department. As NATO’s de facto lobbyist in Washington, and one of the most fervent advocates in Washington for arming the Ukrainian military, the Atlantic Council was an extremely unlikely source for such a disclosure. While the think tank’s motives for exposing Azov’s use of American arms remains unclear, its researchers wound up highlighting a truly scandalous episode of semi-covert American support for neo-Nazis.

— Excerpt from Real News Network, “The US Is Arming And Assisting Neo-Nazis In Ukraine, While Congress Debates Prohibition

Meanwhile, the Russia-Ukraine war has led to half a million war casualties and the Pentagon is unable to account for the billions of US weaponry and financial aid flowing into Ukraine. One source briefed on US intelligence even reported that weapons and equipment to Ukraine “drop into a big black hole.” Recently, The Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General issued a scathing report on the US military-industrial complex, asserting that financial aid to foreign militaries has “failed to solve long-standing issues that result in extreme levels of taxpayer waste.”

Looking back at history, public support for war has always been built on media manipulation, misinformation and outright lies. Futhermore, wars rarely achieve productive and peaceful outcomes. Whistleblower documents have brought this to light time and time again.

The Pentagon Papers released by former US military analyst Daniel Ellsburg uncovered the long history of government lies about the Vietnam War. What the American public heard was that we were winning the war, yet classified reports from top military officials show that they knew that American victory wouldn’t be possible. A stalemate was found to be the most likely outcome–a stalemate that would lead to over 50,000 American deaths and millions of Vietnamese casualties. The impacts of this brutal war continue to reverberate, as illustrated by the US military use of 20 million gallons of the toxic herbicide Agent Orange on 4.5 million acres of Vietnam to destroy forest cover and food crops. Now, half a million Vietnamese children are born with serious birth defects and millions of Vietnamese continue to suffer from cancer and illnesses caused by Agent Orange. Inquiring deeper, the whole justification for war with Vietnam was based on a lie: the Tonkin Gulf incident in 1964. Support for war with Vietnam grew after the public was told that North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an “unprovoked attack” against a U.S. destroyer in the Tonkin Gulf. The torpedo attack never happened, yet was reported as having taken place by the US government.

The Afghan War Papers revealed a series of confidential interviews with key military insiders regarding the Afghanistan war, in which high-ranking military officials knew the war was unwinnable while keeping that view hidden from the public. What was exposed were deliberate attempts to manipulate statistics so that the American public perceived military success in Afghanistan. “Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” said Bob Crowley, an army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to US military commanders in 2013 and 2014. Worst off, an interview with one official estimated that 40% of US aid to Afghanistan had been pocketed by officials, gangsters, warlords, drug lords and insurgents.

Although US efforts in Afghanistan did pave the way for successes in health, education, and women’s rights, billions of dollars haven’t improved safety or the economy in Afghanistan. In fact, Afghanistan costed the US more than the Marshall Plan. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) was an independent effort created to provide oversight to the $147.23 billion used for reconstruction programs in Afghanistan. SIGAR’s reports uncovered staggering waste of taxpayer dollars: an $85 million hotel next to the US Embassy in Kabul that never opened. A $36 million Marines Headquarters in the Helmand desert that was never used or even wanted. A $549 million fleet of cargo planes that flew for only a year and were sold for scrap for $40,257 six years later. A $249 million road construction project that only completed 15% of the road. A third of the 510 projects for the construction of hospital facilities in Afghanistan did not exist in the locations that SIGAR was given coordinates to. One of the hospitals was even reported to be in the Mediterranean Sea.

“Did we actually consider sustainability?” Why build something if we know from the beginning that the Afghans will never be able to sustain or maintain it. That’s the cruelest joke we have played on these poor Afghan citizens in some of these communities. We give them a brand new hospital, school or clinic and there’s no doctors, no medicine or no electricity.

— John Sopko, Special Inspector General for SIGAR

Iraq’s Pentagon Papers published by Wikileaks indicated more lies and deliberate downplaying of countless civilian deaths and horrific instances of torture. The Wikileaks publication was a collection of 2,325,961 diplomatic cables and other US State Department records that disclosed shocking details about US forces misconduct, and the blatant denial of these abuses by the Pentagon. In the two years following 9/11, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that Bush and top officials “uttered at least 935 lies” about the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. The possible presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq dominated the airwaves to justify going to war with Iraq, which gave rise to these war atrocities. Yet now, we know that no WMD’s were ever found. Meanwhile, estimates reveal that U.S. taxpayers each spent more than $8,000 on the Iraq War, for a total of $2 trillion.

We’ve grown acclimated to the implicit assumptions wrapped in daily news, punditry, and pronouncements from government officials. What happens at the other end of American weaponry has remained almost entirely a mystery, with only occasional brief glimpses before the curtain falls back into its usual place. Meanwhile, the results at home fester in shadows. Overall, America has been conditioned to accept ongoing wars without ever really knowing what they’re doing to people we’ll never see.

— Longtime peace activist and media critic Norman Soloman

An excellent video (including a transcript) by geopolitical independent journalist James Corbett exposes a century of blatant dishonesty, starting from World War I. Harmful lies to justify war are exacerbated by the Pentagon’s close relationship with corporate media. Corporate platforms like ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS all skewed their coverage of the 2003 invasion of Iraq to solidify public support for war:

A 2003 report by the media watchdog Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) found that in the two weeks leading up to the invasion, ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, and the PBS Newshour featured a total of 267 American experts, analysts, and commentators on camera to supposedly help make sense of the march to war. Of these 267 guests, an astounding 75% were current or former government or military officials, and a grand total of one expressed any skepticism. The bedrock democratic principle of an independent, adversarial press was simply tossed out the window.

— Excerpt from LA Progressive, “Who Controls How We Remember the Iraq War?

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