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Opinion | The United States’ ‘shadow’: Dirty wars leave us with blood stains on our hands

Milam's Musings

Online Editor

Published: Friday, October 18, 2013

Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013 03:10


Since 9/11, U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was bolstered with money and support from Congress and both former President Bush and President Obama in order to turn the world into a battlefield.

The weekend of Oct. 5 was a unique representation of this shift in military might and strategy: the United States conducted commando raids in Libya and Somalia. In Libya, they arrested Abu Anas al-Libi, a top al-Qaida operative, said to be behind the 1998 bombings of Kenya and Tanzania. The latter saw Navy Seals raid Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, said to be looking for senior al-Shabab leader, Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, alias Ikrima. It is still unclear whether Ikrima was killed, according to NPR.

Jeremy Scahill, war journalist and author of the book Dirty Wars, referred to these operations as f-cubed.

“You find your target, you fix their location, and then you finish them off…or in the case of Libya, by actually sending in Delta Forces to snatch someone off the streets of another nation,” Scahill said.

JSOC’s reach truly is global, as Scahill explained. Operation forces operate in the Horn of Africa targeting Somalia terrorists, in the Philippines working with their Special Operations to go after Islamic militant organizations and in Mexico and Columbia working with their Counter Narcotics units.

Peter Bergen, national security analyst for CNN, argued President Obama has grown comfortable with deploying special operation forces in countries the United States is not at war with.

“For the White House, part of the appeal of special operations and drones is that they do not, of course, consume anything like the blood and treasure that are expended on conventional military operations such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Bergen.

Propelled by Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal back in 2003, JSOC now has its own drones, air force, and intelligence operations; it has become, as Bergen said, a small army within the military.

While all four branches of government faced cuts during the shutdown, which ended this week, JSOC actually grew.

Even the CIA has not achieved the level of secrecy afforded to the JSOC. For instance, President Obama gave JSOC the rare authority to select individuals for its kill list — and then to kill, rather than capture them, according to The Washington Post.

JSOC now conducts covert operations in over 75 countries and numbers approximately 25,000, according to NBC News. While the raids in Libya and Somalia became known, much of JSOC’s actions are not subject to congressional review and most assuredly, the American people are not privy to their missions.

Shane Harris at Foreign Policy expanded upon this, saying, “The Obama administration has killed far more suspected terrorists and militants with drones and special operations strikes than it has brought back to face justice in the U.S. courts system.”

Certainly then, the capture of al-Libi is a welcome change to the assassination authority and the right path forward. Terrorism ought to be treated like the crime it is, rather than the impetus for a perpetual global war.

However, the secrecy, the questionable legality and the consequences of current operations and mandates, mostly in the form of the continuing drone war, are cause for much concern.

Some, such as American author and journalist Michael W. Lewis, have argued drones are the best option compared to either troops on the ground or inaction.

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