08.23.17

Tom Friedman’s Cream Pie Moments

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, War On Terror at 2:37 pm by George Smith

Last week Tom Friedman was bowled over by American servicemen and their multi-billion dollar war network infrastructure at Al Udeid airbase in Qatar. It’s in service to what Friedman loves, traveling the world to bring back what he thinks are teachable examples of how things are done with excellence for the rest of us.

First up was national unity And Charlottesville. In this the US military was held up, as it has been by by many, as the shining example of integration, unity and how to treat others with respect.

Friedman:

Just one glance at our traveling party and the crews at this base and you realize immediately why we are the most powerful country in the world … In the control center I’m introduced to the two Russian-speaking U.S. servicemen who 10 to 12 times a day get on the local “hotline” with the Russian command post in Syria to make sure Russian planes don’t collide with ours. One of the servicemen was born in Russia and the other left Kiev, Ukraine, just five years ago, in part, he told me, because he dreamed of joining the U.S. Air Force: “This is the country of opportunity.” [Keep in mind how the -opportunity- arose, pip squeak. The US military destabilized Iraq and, subsequently, Syria.]

Then we get a briefing from the combat innovation team, which is designing a new algorithm for dynamic targeting with colleagues in Silicon Valley.I ask their commander about his last name — Ito — and he explains, “My dad is from Cuba and my mother is from Mexico.” The intelligence briefing was delivered by “Captain Yang.”

The very reason America is the supreme power in this region is that the U.S. military can take all of those different people and make them into a fist.

“Pluralism is our true source of strength at home and abroad,” Friedman concludes. You knew this was coming.

You also know he could have just gone to the supermarket in Pasadena and interviewed the day staff to find the same thing. The US military is not magical or special. Neither is its military. You find the same things in it, much of the time, as you do anywhere else.

Coincidentally, a colleague reprinted an article on the nature of domestic terrorism, taken from the archives of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in 2014:

The military and the far right. Throughout the history of US far-right extremism, many of its most influential and infamous members have had ties to the military. A small sampling includes the former Confederate soldiers who founded the Ku Klux Klan in 1866; its first leader was a former Confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forest. The highly influential Willis Carto served in World War II before a 50 year career with far-right extremism that encompassed, according to the Anti-Defamation League, “nearly every significant far-right movement in the country, from neo-Nazism to militias, segregationism to Holocaust denial.” An aide to General McArthur, William Potter Gale, oversaw guerilla resistance in the Philippines during World War II before helping establish the racist, anti-Semitic, and apocalyptic Christian Identity movement and the virulently anti-federal government umbrella organization Posse Comitatus. The North Dakota Posse leader Gordon Kahl, who died in a 1983 shootout with federal agents, and whom many far-right extremists consider to be the Posse’s greatest martyr, earned two purple hearts as an aircraft gunner in World War II. Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler served in World War II.

The trend has continued in more recent years: Neo-Nazi Louis Beam was a Vietnam veteran. The founder of one of the leading racist groups of its time, White Aryan Resistance, Tom Metzger, spent the early 1960s in the US Army. Metzger is often credited with being the “godfather” of the racist skinhead scene. Timothy McVeigh, whose actions during Operation Desert Storm merited him the Bronze Star, later killed 168 people, including 19 children in the 1995 Oklahoma City truck bombing; his accomplice, Terry Nichols, was also a veteran. Army of God adherent and Centennial Olympic Park and abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolf was an Army veteran. In August 2012, Army veteran Wade Michael Page killed six people in a racially motived shooting rampage at a Wisconsin Sikh temple. Radicalized during his time at Ft. Bragg, Page told an interviewer, “If you don’t go in the military a racist, you’re sure to leave as one.”

To be clear, the homeland security department’s 2009 report on far-right extremism did not denigrate US military personnel or exaggerate their past or potential for terrorism. Many studies and reports demonstrate that veteran and active-duty US military personnel account for only a miniscule part of far-right extremist plots and attacks. But the percentage of individuals and members in far-right groups with military experience is larger than the corresponding percentage of those with military experience in the population at large. And in a 2008 study, the FBI reported that veteran and active duty military personnel “frequently occupy leadership roles within extremist groups …

However, Friedman can’t get over the alleged perfectly synchronized pluralism of the US command at Al Udied. (Or maybe it’s just its mind-numbing infrastructure of war.)

We toured the command center here with its wall-size screens that take the data from satellites, drones, manned aircraft, cyber, sensors, human intelligence and aerial refueling tankers and meld them into a series of strategic targeting decisions. Watching the choreography of all this is both chilling and mesmerizing.

We are moving “from wars of attrition to wars of cognition,” explained General Goldfein. These new integrated systems are simultaneously “state of the art, unparalleled — and too slow for the future.”


What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?

And this is where it’s at its most intelligence-insulting. The idea, that we get again and again in the culture of lickspittle, that if the magnificent US military were just repositioned to point our way, if they came home, they could work magic.

Reality makes a hash of it. What is the accomplishment from Al Udeid?

The Middle East’s versions of Stalingrad in Mosul and Raqqa. And today, a Times front page story on a plague caused by cholera in Yemen where we’ve assisted Saudi Arabia in bombing the country’s water sanitation facilities into rubble.

“The world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” reads part of the headline. It’a quite a notch on the belt. What doesn’t follow is how people who bring about humanitarian crises, who break things globally, could fix things domestically.

“We need to have a national discussion about this,” writes Friedman. No we don’t. Surely not with him as impresario. Get the cream pies.

Tom Friedman, hit by pie.

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