WASHINGTON/GENEVA — Open any book on American history, and hardly can you find a long period of time when the country was not part of a conflict. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter simply referred to it as “the most warlike nation in the history of the world.”
There are historical, commercial, and geopolitical contexts behind the lust for wars, in which the United States has gained independence, interests, and influence. Over the past decades, the country has launched or engaged in wars all over the world in a never-ending endeavor to establish and retain hegemony.
The United States, according to diagnoses of historians and scholars, has morphed into a perpetual war machine that feeds on and profits from warfare, with the mighty military-industrial complex at the helm and media complicit in justifying government policies and whitewashing its actions, leaving the war mania beyond cure.
FEEDING ON WARS
“Our nation was born in genocide,” American civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his 1963 book Why We Can’t Wait. “We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population.”
The United States was founded on 13 British colonies in North America where the indigenous, some of who helped the first Europeans to settle down on the continent, had lived for thousands of years. However, instead of acknowledging the rights of the Native Americans or Indians after the Revolutionary War, the federal government embarked on a century-long campaign to eliminate them.
“We massacred them,” Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, an American-Swiss historian and former United Nations independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, told Xinhua during an interview in Geneva, Switzerland. “We demonized the Indians. We call them devils. We call them wolves … and it was a lot easier if you demonize your rival in order to kill them.”
In Westward Expansion under the so-called Manifest Destiny, a 19th-century doctrine that Americans were destined to expand across the continent, the United States extended its western border to the Pacific Ocean following a chain of land purchases and annexations, along with significant territorial gains after the Mexico-American War in the 1840s.
“U.S. territorial expansion from 1789 to 1854 — from sea to shining sea — was the most rapid and extensive in human history,” Paul Atwood, senior lecturer in American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, contended in a 2003 article titled War is the American way of life. “It was carried out by armed violence with genocidal results.”
In the 1890s, the United States began actively pursuing overseas expansion, decades after the Civil War put America’s foreign policy objectives on hold, as senior government officials came to believe that their country is entitled to compete for “naval and commercial supremacy of the Pacific Ocean and the Far East,” according to the late American historian Julius Pratt, who specialized in foreign relations and imperialism.
The United States became a Pacific power after the 1898 war with Spain, with new territorial claims stretching from the Caribbean to Southeast Asia, and was elevated to a superpower after World War II. “We tell ourselves that we have emerged from this war the most powerful nation in the world,” then U.S. President Harry Truman declared in a speech from the White House on Aug. 9, 1945.
Over the previous decades, the militarily powerful United States has intervened in or waged a succession of significant wars, including the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War, while initiating or being involved in numerous overt and covert operations.
The global “War on Terror,” which the United States launched in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, was extended to an astonishing number of 85 countries between 2018 and 2020, and the world’s sole superpower controls about 750 bases in at least 80 countries worldwide and spends more on its armed forces than the next 10 countries combined, studies have found.
“This state of war is the norm in U.S. history,” author and professor of political anthropology David Vine concluded in his 2020 book The United States of War: A Global History of America’s Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State.
According to the Congressional Research Service, a public policy research institute of the U.S. Congress, American troops have staged wars, engaged in combat, or otherwise invaded foreign lands in all but less than 20 years of its existence. “The people of the United States have arguably never been at peace,” commented Nikhil Pal Singh, professor of social and cultural analysis and history at New York University.
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” then U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower said in his farewell speech from the White House on Jan. 17, 1961. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
Despite Eisenhower’s warning, the formidable union of the military, private defense contractors, and the government has grown stronger and more entwined. Daniel Kovalik, adjunct professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh, told Xinhua during an interview via video link that the tremendous vested interest that the retired five-star Army general was talking about “was nothing compared to what it is today.”
According to Brown University data, the Pentagon has spent over 14 trillion U.S. dollars since the start of the Afghanistan War, with between one-third and half of that going to for-profit defense contractors. Meanwhile, over the last two decades, weapon manufacturers were estimated to have spent over 2.5 billion dollars on lobbying, employing hundreds of lobbyists per year.
Furthermore, because of the revolving door, high-ranking Pentagon officials frequently leave their government jobs to work for defense contractors as lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants.
Kovalik said it explains why the U.S. war in Afghanistan, which ended after a hasty pullout in late August, lasted nearly 20 years.
“Because the defense industry companies that make the bombs, that make the planes, that make the vehicles, and also the private military contractors that now are fighting the wars in lieu of public military personnel, they made trillions of dollars as long as the war continued,” he expounded. “So they didn’t care if the war was ever won, the goal was for the war to simply continue forever.”
De Zayas also chastised U.S. intelligence operatives and the media for spreading fabricated information and fake news to name and shame its targets and stoke public discontent before and during the intervention. National security, democracy, freedom, human rights, and humanitarianism are the themes of narratives they have sought to create and promote.
“The idea is to anesthetize the population so that they accept regime change so that they accept a military intervention to achieve regime change,” he said.
In an article published by The Washington Post in September, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editorial director and publisher of U.S. magazine The Nation, suggested that “the military-industrial complex’s sheer breadth of influence — to the point where it might more accurately be called the military-industrial-congressional-media complex — can make dismantling the system seem hopeless.”
DAMAGE TO WORLD
The New York Times published in November an investigative report, disclosing that the U.S. military covered up the 2019 airstrikes that killed up to 64 women and children in Syria. The revelation came less than two months after the Pentagon acknowledged the last U.S. drone strike before American troops exited from Afghanistan mistakenly killed 10 civilians, including seven children.
Unfortunately, such possible war crimes would likely be forgotten quickly because no one appears to be able to hold the United States accountable. When the International Criminal Court (ICC) was seeking to investigate American personnel for alleged crimes in Afghanistan years ago, the U.S. government responded by imposing sanctions on ICC officials and threatening more actions against The Hague, Netherlands-based tribunal.
The civilian deaths, however, were only a drop in the bucket of tragic consequences from America’s unchecked drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen, and only a speck of the human toll inflicted by Washington’s addiction to violence and war in pursuit of resources, geopolitical clout, and hegemony. The post-9/11 wars alone were reported to have killed more than 900,000 people.
Meanwhile, the “endless wars” have wreaked havoc on many countries and cities, resulting in a tangle of political, economic, and social complexities that have obstructed the rebuilding and revival of economies and civilizations. “If we can’t just overthrow you, we will destroy you,” Kovalik said. “That’s what the U.S. has done time and again.”
When the U.S. troops fled from the Vietnam War, they left a devastated land riddled with millions of land mines and unexploded ordnances, which had also been defoliated by millions of gallons of Agent Orange, a deadly herbicide that causes cancer, neurological damage, and birth defects. Since 1975, over 40,000 Vietnamese have died from the deadly remnants of war, and over 60,000 have been injured.
In Afghanistan, decades of war have not only shattered the country but also traumatized its people. The International Psychosocial Organisation, a non-profit agency, reported in 2019 that 70 percent of the country’s population needs psychological support.
“Numbers certainly can tell us only so much. Quickly they can become numbing. Ultimately, there’s no adequate way to measure the immensity of the damage these wars have inflicted on all the people in all the countries affected,” Vine, also an assistant professor at American University, stressed in his book.
“International polls showed that world opinion regarded the U.S. as the greatest threat to world peace, no other country even close,” renowned American linguist and foreign policy critic Noam Chomsky said during an interview with U.S. magazine CounterPunch in August.
What Chomsky was referring to appeared to be a global survey conducted by the World Independent Network and Gallup in 2013, in which the United States had been voted by respondents from over 60 countries as the most significant threat to world peace, and a Pew poll in 2017 that showed 39 percent of respondents across 38 countries consider American influence and power a major threat to their countries.
“America has never cared to help those we have pretended to ‘save’ by these wars. For that reason alone, America has never had the broad support of local populations that would have been essential for any kind of success in these misguided wars,” Jeffrey Sachs, American economist and public policy analyst, wrote in an article published by The Boston Globe in September.
“Our nation has been at war for centuries,” Sachs continued. “Will the United States adopt a new foreign policy based on peace and problem-solving? That’s the real question.”