by Philip Giraldi
July 04, 2013

The Fourth of July used to be a pleasant holiday, families at the beach, barbecues, small town parades and fireworks. It was a genuine celebration of pride in country combined with an affirmation of the good life that most Americans enjoyed. But no longer. The bloom was definitely off the rose in the aftermath of the Vietnam fiasco, but it was still possible to think that Washington had blundered badly and learned its lesson, never to be repeated again. Subsequent wars in Latin America were quick and easily forgotten while Desert Storm benefited from an enemy who was plausibly the aggressor leading to a short conflict in which numerous nations lined up to follow the American lead. Washington wisely left Iraq to the Iraqis after the fighting was over, eschewing any attempt at nation building, though later participating in enforcing sanctions that devastated the Iraqi people.

But still, Americans were able to plausibly think that overall they were doing what they thought to be right, serving as the world’s policeman only reluctantly. That all changed with 9/11. President George W. Bush declared war on the entire world with his Global War on Terror and his you’re either “with us or against us rhetoric.” The Patriot Act was passed by an overwhelming majority almost immediately, without anyone in congress having actually read it, and it was followed by the Patriot Act 2, the Military Commissions Acts of 2006 and 2009, and, more recently, by the National Defense Authorization Acts of 2012 and 2013. Overseas, the United States first invaded Afghanistan and drove out the Taliban and al-Qaeda in short order. Inexplicably, it then decided to stick around and is still engaged in trying to turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse in that unhappy land. The war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in United States’ history and there is no certainty that it will end at any time soon.

The Afghan tour de force was followed by an attack on Iraq leading to the overthrow of its government, a conflict that was justified to the American people through deliberate falsification of intelligence to preposterously suggest that Baghdad was actually threatening the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction. The media and congress bought into the lies and no one has ever been held in any way accountable. Some leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney and John McCain, continue to regard the war as both necessary and a success and there are even unfathomable reports that George W. Bush now enjoys a favorable approval rating. The U.S. eventually got out of Iraq when forced to leave, but the destruction of the country’s government and infrastructure has never been remedied, with terror bombings currently taking scores of lives nearly every day. A major justification for the war was the elimination of “terrorism,” but the fact is that there were no terrorists in Iraq when the American army arrived and the country is now full of them.

With the wars came every conceivable abuse. Torture, renditions, extrajudicial killings, imprisonment of completely innocent people in overseas secret prisons, and the increased use of killing machines called drones which can and do wipe out entire wedding parties with a hellfire missile have become the enduring images of America that are broadcast to the rest of the world. It is often death without any rhyme or reason whatsoever, with signature strikes against targets in Pakistan meaning only that a man walking on the ground fits a general description of someone who might be hostile. Anyone who cannot prove ex post facto that he is not a terrorist, difficult to do if one is dead, is considered to be a legitimate kill. Having an American passport is also no defense against the final judgment by drone and the White House even has gone so far as to draw up a kill list, which it refers to as a “disposition matrix.” The war against terror also has expanded geographically as the terrorists began to increase in number, growth fueled in large part by the anger over the indiscriminate American actions worldwide. Yemen became a target, as did Somalia. Drone bases began to appear all over the Middle East and increasingly in Africa. Both the Pentagon and White House have acknowledged that the war against terror is a conflict that will never end.

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