Borders Are For Sissies

The news reports were uncertain at first. Did a US military unit attack a village in Syria? Did they kill eight people? Decisive words from military spokespeople did not come. Western news media was given time to report the attack as a US attack and then pull back from the certainty of their words. As it turns out, the October 26th helicopter raid into Syria from Iraq by US Special Forces was an intentional attack on a village within the sovereign borders of Syria. Naturally, Pentagon spokespeople say that only militants were killed. News outlets, meanwhile, show the faces of grieving parents and siblings of the family Syrian officials insist were killed. Either way, the fact remains that Washington has proven itself to be an international outlaw once again.

In a similar raid last month, US Special Forces landed in a village in Pakistan and killed several Pakistanis. When protests over this raid reached to Islamabad, the Pentagon decided it would only use predator drones to do their killing in Pakistan for the time being. Although the reason given is that the Pentagon wants to recognize Pakistani sensitivities to foreign troops killing people uninvited on their territory, one can assume that another, perhaps greater, reason is the Pentagon knows it could very well lose a few men if they land in that area again. As everyone knows, dead GIs never play well on the US television news no matter how they are spun.

The crassness of this calculation is as old as airpower if not older. Airborne missiles and bombs are somehow considered by those who launch them to be less immoral than raids involving soldiers on the ground–raids that often incorporate the killing of civilians. This is despite the fact that ground raids rarely kill as many civilians as air strikes, be they predator drones, carpet bombing or something in between.

Despite the clear disregard for civilian life inherent in these raids whether airborne or otherwise, the aspect of these raids that is potentially the most dangerous is the blatant disregard for national borders shown by the Pentagon. This isn’t a band of terrorists that is crossing national borders to kill and destroy. It is the largest military in the world–the military of a nation that considers its borders inviolable. Yet, it seems to have little regard for those of other nations, allies or foes. Indeed, an anonymous US official was quoted in a Washington Post article on October 28, 2008 “You have to clean up the global threat that is in your back yard, and if you won’t do that, we are left with no choice but to take these matters into our hands.” By global threat, the official obviously meant a threat to the designs of Washington for the globe, not a threat against the planet itself. As most readers are well aware, Washington often confuses its security with that of the world and, by doing so, places the entire planet at even greater risk every time it acts to preserve that security.

Another aspect of this raid is the use of Iraq as a launching pad for the operation. This flies in the face of the post-Saddam Iraq “constitution” and is one of the reasons so many Iraqis oppose the Status of Forces Agreement currently being negotiated in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Raids on neighboring countries that use Iraq as a base put Iraq in an untenable position with its neighbors and ties the government of Iraq irrevocably tot he United States, even if it does not know about the raids in advance. This is one more reason all US forces must leave Iraq. As long as US troops remain in the country, they will use Iraq as a base to plan and conduct operations outside of Iraq’s borders, no matter what the Green Zone government says.

This time around, the Green Zone government initially supported the attack, although later statements seem to have reversed that support. One can be reasonably certain, however, that if the US launched a raid on Iran, the Iraqis might not be so agreeable. Given their supine position to Washington, however, their words of protest would be without any power. Washington knows this and the Green Zone government accepts it, however begrudgingly. After all, what are they going to do? Bite the hand that put them in their fancy kennel?

Speaking of supine creatures, why does Congress let the Pentagon continue these raids into countries Washington is theoretically not at war with? Why is there no protest from the Democrats who were elected on the understanding that they would begin removing US troops from Iraq almost two years ago? To be succinct, let me put it this way. One reason is because the Bush administration has successfully linked the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan to their so-called “war on terror.” By doing so, they can do whatever they want. If one recalls, the wording of the resolution that began this deadly imperial episode states very clearly:

“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

The other reason is the failure of the American people to maintain a popular movement against the two occupations. Because of this failure, the occupations/wars continue and, as the aforementioned raids into Pakistani and Syrian territory make clear, there are still very few limits to their scope.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

19 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 2nd, 2008 at 10:18am #

    we live on planet US. world plutos welcome that. plutos were told; u r either w. the uncle or against him.
    to prove that people don’t listen to sound advice, just count missing limbs, heads. count also the dispersed or even replaced people.
    just 5 mn in iraq.
    they never learn. all they had to do is to be w. the uncle and to have fought own people. that’s all it takes. thnx

  2. corylus said on November 2nd, 2008 at 11:13am #

    Thank you for the mind-numbing, yet necessary, reminder of yet one more example of American pathos carried out by the military we all pay to do our dirty work. I think I share your outrage about American military aggression, allowing for your personal experiences that have likely been far more horrifying than mine. Yet I weep almost daily for the lost and ravaged lives of people who are just trying to survive, only to have their world torn apart by malicious greed defended on the sanctimonious ground of American righteousness. There are no such grounds, even as I live a life that has largely been easy because of American exploitation and imperialism.

    I’m at a loss for what more to do to stop the madness. I take to heart your admonition that these war crimes [my characterization] stem from the “failure of the American people to maintain a popular movement” against military actions in the Middle East, as well as elsewhere, for over 200 years. I have written, called, marched, picketed, occupied, voted, and recently, quit my job in government in protest of America’s foreign (and domestic) policies. I am reminded, daily, of my depression, a deep lasting pain that is not in the least relieved with the daily news of another act of American murder, torture, or destruction. I am horrified and saddened as I hear my friends and associates explain their means and justifications to ignore the immense suffering our comfortable lives extract, even as I continue to live my own sheltered and privileged existence. I’ve even given thought to the most drastic of personal actions against American militaristic belligerence, but I’m still sane enough to know that my deed would amount to nothing.

    I have no military experience, but I absolutely detest all that is military for all that it does to create misery and to promote hatred. I have almost no respect for anyone who chooses to live a military life, even as I know that the pressures to participate can be overwhelming for some young people: choice is always available. I respect those who’ve joined the National Guard in earnest desire to help others, and wish no one with a conscience any harm. But I hate the killing, I hate the training to kill, I hate the machines that kill, and the twisted thinking that justifies killing. I hate those in power who dismiss killing as standard practice, to protect “our interests, our democracy” — there is no bloody excuse whatsoever that can possibly justify murder, rape, and pillage. I do believe that the only justice that can truly end the madness must be administered by the people, for people everywhere, against the relatively small group of insane individuals who’ve outlived their right to speak or to act for me and anyone who retains any sense of humanity or compassion. These people are the ones who really should die, not some innocent villager pleading for the lives of his children.

  3. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 2nd, 2008 at 2:42pm #

    corylus; we are educating; that may turn out to be enough. young generations coming along may refuse to be serfs to ther ruling class.tnnx

  4. Erroll said on November 2nd, 2008 at 5:53pm #

    What is important to note is that the major [alleged] antiwar candidate named Barack Obama has, as far as I can determine, refrained from condemning this latest example of US aggression. But this should not surprise anyone given the fact that Obama has also advocated what Bush has done vis a vis Pakistan proving, apparently, what little difference there is between Obama and the more overt war hawk John McCain. All the more reason for Americans and progressives to vote for a third party or independent or socialist presidential candidate in 2008.

  5. UNK said on November 2nd, 2008 at 6:12pm #

    You should do a little fact-checking on what modern U.S. military raids consist of. The reason commanders put U.S. lives at risk in these raids, instead of aerial bombing, is to prevent civilian casualties. Having participated in these actions directly, I can tell you that any killing, including hostiles, is investigated thoroughly. Rules of engagement are very specific and violations are not tolerated. Despite the opinions of Corylus, service members are not murderers, and do not gleefully mow down civilians. The “victim” of military actions such as this one is not “some innocent villager pleading for the lives of his children.” Do not speak of things that you have no experience of, or for that matter, done any research into.

  6. Danny Ray said on November 2nd, 2008 at 6:48pm #

    you use the term Rape murder and Pillage, These were American Warriors not a bunch of Vikings. This was not a spur of the moment fling ala William Quantrell. This was a very well set up and superbly led special op that took out its targets and went home. If we did not care we could have patterned bombed the whole place and they would have had to send in people to bury the dead there would be no one left.
    This group had been sending bomb making materials to kill women and children on n almost daily basis. If they had of been in your back yard or on top of the Effel Tower we could have hit them there . The Syrians havent been doing jack to close their side of the border so we have to.
    heck half the time you guys on the left say there should not be a border there anyway. It is just an arbitary line drawn by the French and the English while they owned the place. As far as the village being filled with peaceful farmers I have to give you a large BS on that the place is a damn sand box, you could not grow Tomatoes in a pot there. Everyne in this village were making their living off the war.

  7. Danny Ray said on November 2nd, 2008 at 6:49pm #

    I love your name. Is it due to your liking of Filberts or are you hard like a Korus?

  8. denk said on November 3rd, 2008 at 7:41am #

    dng , danny ray,

    i bet when uncle sham violated the sovereignty of somalia [], it was just another run of the mill, meticulously planned and executed “war on terror” eh ?

  9. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 3rd, 2008 at 8:22am #

    what u have just said may be true. if so, wldn’t US military love to show to UN observers that it is done so?
    and not to mention the fact that pashtuns r legally and morally obligated to defend their turf regardless how bad/evil they r in ur eyes.
    so US raid on syria (by now numbering mnsof such raids over the globe) is both illegal and immoral.
    i do not care an ioata how it may have been executed. thnx

  10. Danny Ray said on November 3rd, 2008 at 8:45am #

    Denk; Which Time?

  11. Zainab said on November 4th, 2008 at 3:18am #

    This article is proof enough that America is still a place where a dissident voice can be heard loud and clear. But it also shows how the military establishment, other government agencies, and critical national decisions are off-limit to any public (by the people) investigation just like other undemocratic countries all over the world. Thank you for a very illuminating website.

  12. AJ Nasreddin said on November 4th, 2008 at 8:26am #

    UNK is BSing you all. It looks as though the US is not investigating anything at all – at least there is no communication about it with the Syrian government about the attack in Syria. The lack of response has led the Syrian government to close the American Cultural Center in Damascus and word is that they’re very close to asking the embassy to pack up and leave as well. From inside the embassy, the word is that there is no word from the State Department – not even a “We’re looking into it” kind of statement. I’m pretty sure they’re just hoping that all this will blow away and everyone will forget about it.

  13. corylus said on November 4th, 2008 at 10:32am #

    Danny Ray,
    got your warped mind in a wedgie, did I?

  14. UNK said on November 4th, 2008 at 10:23pm #

    To clarify: I spoke of investigations done on a case by case basis by the military when lives are taken. I never meant to imply the military would work with the Syrian government to do a CSI-like investigation. And I’m pretty sure they don’t want anyone to forget about the attack; it was meant to be a deterrent.
    Also, last I checked, Syria is a predominantly Arab country, not Pashtun. There are an equal number of sources saying that Damascus was secretly complicit in the attack as well. It would be necessary for them to appear outraged to keep their population complacent.

    “I have almost no respect for anyone who chooses to live a military life, even as I know that the pressures to participate can be overwhelming for some young people: choice is always available.” – Corylus
    I completely respect your right and opinion to disagree with the war in Iraq, but to say you don’t respect those in the military is shallow and short sighted. Why do you think you even have the choice of whether or not to serve? Plenty of people world-wide do not have that luxury.

  15. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 5th, 2008 at 9:17am #

    ur right, pashtuns live in afgh’n and p’kstan and not in syria.
    the point i’m making is that US war planners have no right (legal or moral) to be in syria, p’kstan, iraq, or afgh’n.
    if US was not in iraq causing all kinds of trouble, syrian sortie wldn’t have occurred.
    iraq, afgh’n, india, p’kstan, r evil empires; wrought by other evil empires in order to keep enemies bound together so that the evil euro empires can rule over them.
    the reason i spoke of pashtuns, is beacuse it clarifies what US does: murder, destroy, torture, etcetc.
    whether such killings/maimings r correctly investigated is of no import to me. thnx

  16. corylus said on November 5th, 2008 at 9:28pm #

    My “choice” has never been predicated on the U. S. military and its actions, and thus you haven’t at all explained how my opinion is “shallow and short-sighted.” A response to differences that entail violence is always a choice made, whether by the individual or by a nation. Your weak argument sounds familiar: we fought those wars so that you have the right to say what you will. BULLSHIT! The American military has always operated as the enforcement power to imperialism and greed, not to democracy and individual liberty.

  17. UNK said on November 6th, 2008 at 11:33am #

    So lets disband our military and open our borders. Obviously the world is such a friendly hugs-and-kisses place, we would have nothing to fear. Whether or not you believe that there are things worth fighting for, the military is a necessity, any sane person can tell you that. Everything you do (if you are a US citizen, or citizen of the many countries we have sponsored or freed from Nazis/Nippon/colonial powers/dictators/etc.) has been predicated by actions of the US military. Its simple existence guarantees that you can sleep soundly without fear. Like I said before, disagreeing with a war or war in general is one thing, but to disrespect people who chose to serve their countries is another. Sometimes people who themselves serve disagree with a policy or war, but endure it, knowing that their country needs them, even in a time of folly.
    As for our right to be in Afghanistan, the taliban harbored the men who killed thousands of our citizens; that seems clear cut to me. I’m pretty sure chanting and guitar playing wouldn’t persuade them to stop killing us. Please don’t reply with “how many of them have we killed with our imperialism, fascism, etc.” Its tiresome. We as a nation have been reaching out to the mid-east for over 200 hundred years. We founded their first modern universities and hospitals. You can say what you want about our support of Israel, but in the end, we have the right to defend our nation and its citizens.

  18. Elijah Roberts said on November 11th, 2008 at 12:14am #

    The disrespect to soldiers is out of bounds. Soldiers act on orders and execute those orders accordingly. After reading tons on Vietnam, Korea, the Gulf…..hmmmm, what exactly are we doing there? It is time to bring the troops home…..but that won’t happen. Halliburton is earning tons…..and if O gets sideways of his handlers he may go the way of others who tried to stand up to the military industrial establishment. No one dares mess with the “self licking ice cream cone”. I am still not sure this whole thing hasn’t been engineered. The establishment needs a war, any war, and having been there I believed in what I did and did well…..and there are those who are oppressed who could use a little help. O will not get us out of the war…..I predict that it will spread.

  19. Danny Ray said on November 11th, 2008 at 7:17am #


    Sorry, I have not been following this. Number 1 why do you say I have a warped mind?

    Denk, yes somilia was a well planned operation until slick willie started to call the shots and it went to hell ,fast. and that was the first incursion, we got out of there with a win , that is we killed about 15000 people and only lost 18. Some say that the 15k figure is a little high but the intel teams counted 9000 fresh graves and we figure that the rest crawled off, like dogs to die.

    the second incursion into the armpit of the world we sold the stinking pest hole to Ethopia and they are sorting the bastards out.