Mad Policies for a Mad World
by Danny Sjursen
What’s the value of an American life in the age of Donald Trump? If you were judging by the death of Nawres Hamid, an Iraqi-American contractor killed in late December after an American base in Iraq was mortared by a Shiite militia believed to have ties to Iran, the answer would be obvious: enough to risk war. After all, the president cited Hamid’s death in going after that militia and then drone-assassinating Iranian Major General Qassem Suleimani. In response to the mortar attack, U.S. air strikes in Iraq and Syria killed at least 25 Iraqi militia fighters and then, as January began, that drone strike near Baghdad International Airport took out a figure who was often considered the number-two man in Iran, as well as its possible future leader. In addition, it killed an Iraqi militia commander and eight other people.
So you might say that the president considers any American death under such circumstances worth not just 35 Iraqis and Iranians, but the possibility of adding in a significant way to America’s forever wars (that he’s long denounced). Of course, you would have to reach a different conclusion if you considered the deaths in early January of an American soldier and two American contractors at an airport in Kenya after an attack by the Somali terror group al-Shabaab. In that case, there was no obvious response at all, not even a comment from the president. And the same would be true of the two dead and two wounded U.S. soldiers whose vehicle recently ran over a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan (deaths immediately claimed by the Taliban). Again, neither a comment nor a response from you-know-who.
In other words, as TomDispatch regular and retired U.S. Army Major Danny Sjursen points out today, who can be surprised that, in the age of Trump, this country’s forever wars are also a chaos machine? If you’re looking at the non-American dead, of course, that’s been so since the beginning. After all, the U.S. military has taken out one wedding after another across the Greater Middle East since it invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and it’s counted for nothing, mattered not at all. And the slaughter of civilians never ends. Only recently, for instance, in an attack in Afghanistan that killed a Taliban commander and some of the militants under his command, U.S. air strikes also reportedly killed at least 60 civilians, including women and children. And in the Trump era, although we know that civilian casualties have been rising in Washington’s ever-spreading war zones, a penumbra of secrecy has fallen over such deaths. American air strikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia, for instance, rose dramatically in 2019, but we have almost no idea how many civilians died in the process. (Rest assured that they did, though.)
Now, take a moment, with Sjursen, to consider just what it’s meant for a “true stable genius” to inherit such an unstable killing machine. Tom