Op ed columnist Patra Taylor weighs in on…
As the clock struck midnight on December 31, many Americans tooted horns and tossed confetti as they wished family and friends a Happy New Year. Being of a certain age, I wiped the sleep from my eyes just long enough to pull the curtain back on 2019 for a little peek at what’s in store for our nation in the coming year. “What fresh hell is this?”
With “rage” the official “feeling” of the 21st century, it’s difficult for me to pick through the minefield of controversial topics for just one about which to rant. But off-loading a bit of the aggravation that’s turning my bottled-blond hair prematurely gray is a New Year’s resolution I intend to keep.
After tossing a few eligible topics into a paper party hat destined for the landfill, I pulled out the following question: “Should we stay or should we go?”
The answer to that gajillion-dollar question came in the closing days of December in the form of a presidential tweet. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria,” it read, “my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” According to the news media, the Commander-in-Chief had unilaterally decided it was time for our troops to go…to leave Syria. Period. End of sentence.
The Twitter-verse and news media went crazy; the spoke-models for the military industrial complex went berserk. Even our own esteemed Sen. Lindsey Graham took his Southern-fried indignation to the floor of the Senate to decry Trump’s move as a “disaster” and “a stain on the honor of the United States.” Syria was suddenly revealed as the designated cherry on top of our never-ending dessert bar of undeclared wars including Iraq (5,200 troops), Somalia (500 troops), Libya (the Pentagon remains tight-lipped on that one), and Afghanistan (14,000 troops), to name a few.
According to the Department of Defense, American troops who couldn’t make it home for Hanukkah, Christmas and/or Kwanzaa in 2018 also included those stationed in Japan (50,000 troops), Germany (40,000 troops) and South Korea (28,000 troops.) While we may understand why the U.S. remains in these nations (Chinese, Russians and Little Rocket Man, respectively) the delicate peace is but one stupid move away from all out war…a war in which our service personnel will be first in line to face the incoming artillery.
America’s inability to divorce itself from its “peacekeeping” roles around the world is a chronic condition. Author David Vine in “Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World” published in 2015, states: “According to the most recent publicized count, the U.S. military currently still occupies 686 ‘base sites’ outside the fifty states and Washington, DC. While 686 base sites is quite a figure in its own right, that tally strangely excludes many well-known U.S. bases, like those in Kosovo, Kuwait, and Qatar. Less surprisingly, the Pentagon’s count also excludes secret (or secretive) American bases, like those reported in Israel and Saudi Arabia. There are so many bases, the Pentagon itself doesn’t even know the true total.”
A perusal of author Vine’s résumé might lead one to assume (we all know what happens when we assume) that his views are left-leaning, so feel free to take his statement with a grain of salt. But a modicum of your own research will reveal American troops do indeed occupy nearly every hellhole on the planet, all in the name of “keeping the peace.”
President Trump’s intention to withdraw American troops–a measly 2,000 in all–from Syria created a veritable firestorm of punditry and pageantry, with a heaping serving of Carnac the Magnificent on the side, as the political elite picked sides. On one side was the aforementioned Sen. Graham, recently resuscitated from impending obscurity by his vigorous support of Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh.
The meager ranks of the “Atta-boy” faction of this debate drew the support of Kentucky Senator, Rand Paul, recently resuscitated from a hospital bed after a neighbor, incited by a “pile of lawn debris,” decided felonious assault trumped a neighborly conversation over the back fence and proceeded to beat the living crap out of him. Now that’s a lot of rage.
“I’m very proud of the President,” tweeted Sen. Paul. “This is exactly what he promised. And I think the people agree with him, actually. [I’m] happy to see a President who can declare victory and bring our troops out of a war. It’s been a long time since that has happened.”
Yes, 35 years is a long time.
The hawks in the Republican Party stood firmly behind Sen. Graham, decrying their President’s sudden and capricious actions…somehow overlooking the fact that President Trump has been telegraphing this intention since the 2016 campaign.
All the dovish Democrats who have long supported slashing defense spending (preferring to spend our money on other more important endeavors such as the War on Poverty which is entering its 55th year with no end in sight) are lining up behind the renegade Republican from Kentucky…oh, wait…no, it can’t be…that crowd of leftists has actually joined the go-fight-win chorus in the Graham camp. Here’s what Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said recently on the Senate floor to an enthusiastic crowd of one–no worries, the media picked up his statement and, through the wonders of television, rammed it down our throats for a number of days thereafter– regarding President Trump’s impending withdrawal from Syria: “…the United State is pulling out of Syria, and likely Afghanistan, abandoning our coalitions, allies and the Kurds; and surrendering the field to Putin, Iran, Hezbollah, ISIS, the Taliban and Bashar al Assad.” Blah, blah, blah. Talk about predictable. Did anyone expect the disingenuous Sen. Schumer to take up his position in front of the cameras spouting anything other than anti-Trump rhetoric? Nope.
If you’ll allow me one tiny rant…in a town where there’s no shortage of superciliousness, Sen. Schumer is undoubtedly the most supercilious of them all…an officious politician who doesn’t even try to hide his hypocrisy. I’m amazed there’s not one brave soul inside the Beltway with enough guts to suggest to the senator that before he mugs for the camera he might do the public the favor of removing those ridiculous glasses…the one’s he buys in a multipack from CVS because the self-important Senator would never consider rubbing elbows with the hoi polloi down yonder at Walmart where he could get the same multipack for half the price. (Would someone at least slip a brochure for LASIK eye surgery onto his desk when he’s not looking.) With those glasses perched on the tip of his beak, Sen. Schumer reminds me of Miss Prissy being chased around the barnyard by the lusty Foghorn Leghorn, although in the Schumer model of this scenario, the Senator is actually the one feigning his undying adoration for the widowed hen, but in reality is only after her money. (If the shoe fits…)
Phew! I feel better.
Thirty-five years ago on October 23, 1983, a suicide bomber drove a truck loaded with 2,000 pounds of explosives into a barracks at the Beirut airport killing 220 of our noble U.S. Marines, along with 21 other service personnel. At the time, 1,800 Marines “peacekeeping” in the civil war-torn Lebanon. The terrorist group, Syrian-backed Hezbollah, got its measure of horror that day.
On our way out the door, the United States retaliated. On February 8, 1984 the USS New Jersey, an Iowa-class battleship, supported by the USS Caron, a Spruance-class destroyer, rained hellfire down upon the Syrian-controlled Lebanon in a nine-hours-long see-ya-wouldn’t-want-to-be-ya extravaganza of the grandest proportions. Putting America’s treasure on the ground in the Middle East wasn’t a mistake President Ronald Reagan ever repeated. Good for him.
And since Sen. Schumer brought up the topic of Afghanistan…on May 1, 2018, The Guardian published this on-line: “After 16 years of conflict [in Afghanistan], critics say, the US is in a triple bind: it cannot win the war, it cannot halt the war, and it cannot leave. As civilian casualties rise, and with no sign that recent American and NATO reinforcements are making a difference, an already dire security situation is growing more complex.” Not even the ruthless Russians could win a war in Afghanistan. So I have to ask: What are we doing there?
As to the aforementioned question regarding Syria, Should we stay or should we go? Here’s my answer: I’m out. Of the 101 adorable reasons to stay in Syria, isn’t Victory the one good reason to go? In my opinion, this wash-rinse-repeat cycle of war in and around the Middle East we’ve been engaged in for decades is insanity incarnate. Clearly, there’s a difference between providing military support to help stare down those evil empires with world domination on their minds, and the perpetual quagmires and lost causes in the Middle East. It’s a difference even Sen. Paul might appreciate…or not.
This column first appeared in the January 2019 issue of The Charleston Mercury.
Copyright © 2019 by Patra Taylor