This piece originally appeared at TomDispatch. Click here to watch a video interview with the author on US "stimulus" spending abroad.
You must have had a moment when you thought to yourself: It really isn’t going to end, is it? Not ever. Rationally, you know perfectly well that whatever your "it" might be will indeed end, because everything does, but your gut tells you something different.
I had that moment recently when it came to the American way of war. In the past couple of weeks, it could have been triggered by an endless string of ill-attended news reports like the Christian Science Monitor piece headlined "US involvement in Yemen edging toward ‘clandestine war.’ " Or by the millions of dollars in US payments reportedly missing in Afghanistan, thanks to under-the-table or unrecorded handouts in unknown amounts to Afghan civilian government employees (as well as Afghan security forces, private-security contractors, and even the Taliban). Or how about the news that the F-35 "Joint Strike Fighter," the cost-overrun poster weapon of the century, already long overdue, will cost yet more money and be produced even less quickly?
Or what about word that our Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has officially declared the Obama administration "open" to keeping US troops in Iraq after the announced 2011 deadline for their withdrawal? Or how about the news from McClatchy’s reliable reporter Nancy Youssef that Washington is planning to start "publicly walking away from what it once touted as key deadlines in the war in Afghanistan in an effort to de-emphasize President Barack Obama’s pledge that he’d begin withdrawing US forces in July 2011"?
Or that bottomless feeling could have been triggered by the recent request from the military man in charge of training Afghan security forces, Lieutenant General William Caldwell, for another 900 US and NATO trainers in the coming months, lest the improbable "transition" date of 2014 for Afghan forces to "take the lead" in protecting their own country be pushed back yet again. ("No trainers, no transition," wrote the general in a "report card" on his mission.)
Or it could have been the accounts of how a trained Afghan soldier turned his gun on US troops in southern Afghanistan, killing two of them, and then fled to the Taliban for protection (one of a string of similar incidents over the last year). Or, speaking of things that could have set me off, consider this passage from the final paragraphs of an Elisabeth Bumiller article tucked away inside the New York Times on whether Afghan War commander General David Petraeus was (or was not) on the road to success: "’It is certainly true that Petraeus is attempting to shape public opinion ahead of the December [Obama administration] review [of Afghan war policy],’ said an administration official who is supportive of the general. ‘He is the most skilled public relations official in the business, and he’s trying to narrow the president’s options.’ "