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Andrea Mazzarino, Former Soldiers Without a Future

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It’s the military from hell — and, no, I don’t mean the Russian army, though, it certainly qualifies. Few now doubt that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal (and not just because of those Ukrainian children his forces exported to Russia for adoption). Launching a war of aggression is crime enough (for me at least). But here’s the strange thing: despite the recent 20th anniversary of President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq based on a total set of fabrications, including that Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, a war that would cause hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths and thousands of American ones, help launch the Islamic State, and create chaos in the region, you would be hard-pressed to find mainstream articles here referring to Bush and his top officials as war criminals.

Cartoonist Rob Rogers, however, managed to catch the essence of this moment recently by drawing a half-naked Vladimir Putin, standing amid bones and blood under a headline that reads: “20 years later: the legacy of the Iraq invasion.” Scrawled on a wall behind the Russian president is a bloody “Mission Accomplished” — the infamous line displayed on a banner behind Bush as, in May 2003, he gave a speech on an aircraft carrier declaring his war a raging success. Putin is saying, “Ukraine had WMD!”

Last year, however inadvertently, even Bush himself admitted to Putinesque behavior. Stumbling in a speech he was giving, he condemned “a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.” (He meant Ukraine, of course.)

Today, however, TomDispatch regular, co-founder of the invaluable Costs of War Project, and military spouse Andrea Mazzarino explores a rarely acknowledged aspect of that criminal war of ours. She focuses on how so many of the American military personnel dispatched to fight it and the rest of the disastrous Global War on Terror have suffered until this very day, while this country largely turned its back, leaving them in the lurch. It is, in truth, a tale from hell, but let her explain. Tom

To Hell and Back

America’s Remarkable Unwillingness to Support Its Veterans

Here's something we seldom focus on when it comes to war, American-style, even during the just-passed 20th anniversary of our disastrous invasion of Iraq: many more soldiers survive armed conflict than die from it. This has been especially so during this country's twenty-first-century War on Terror, which is still playing out in all too many lands globally.

And here's something to add to that reality: even though many more soldiers survive, they do so with ever more injuries of various sorts -- conditions that the Veterans Affairs (VA) and military doctors euphemistically call polytrauma. For some of this, you can thank ever-more-sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other gems of modern warfare like “smart” suicide bombs that can burn, blind, deafen, or mutilate soldier's bodies, while traumatizing their brains in myriad ways, some of which will not be evident until months or years later.

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Rajan Menon, A War for the Record Books

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Yes, as TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon points out today, the world was surprised first by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and then by his army’s failure to capture Kyiv and obliterate the government of Volodymyr Zelensky. In truth, though, we Americans probably shouldn’t have been. After all, it shouldn’t have been all that hard to recall a similar American-style scenario — say, the U.S. military’s disastrous attempt to defeat a rebel movement (and North Vietnamese forces) in South Vietnam in the last century or to do something similar in Afghanistan in this one. Either of those might, in retrospect, have been considered American Ukraines. In fact, it almost seems like an unnoticed truth of our moment that the more money a country puts into its military, the less striking the results from its use in the world.

Yes, until Ukraine, the Russian military, funded and upgraded by President Vladimir Putin, was thought to be a winner of a force. Today, pressed to the edge of who knows what and having thrown a private mercenary outfit (the Wagner Group) and tens of thousands of barely trained prison convicts into the front lines of death in Ukraine, it looks unimpressive as hell. Strangely enough, however, despite losses of every sort over the last three-quarters of a century, the world’s best-funded military (by a country mile) is still considered impressive as hell (and I don’t use that word lightly). Explain that as you will.

And by the way, the Russians never took the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, but in the American version of their war — the invasion of Iraq in 2003 — the U.S. military did indeed take Baghdad and little good it did them. Perhaps what we need on this increasingly odd planet of ours is a new assessment of the significance of traditional military power. If only. In that context, let Menon (who has seen the war in Ukraine firsthand) take you through the true strangeness of Vladimir Putin’s attempt to invade and conquer his neighbor. Tom

The War of Surprises in Ukraine

Could There Be One Surprise Too Many?

Some wars acquire names that stick. The Lancaster and York clans fought the War of the Roses from 1455-1485 to claim the British throne. The Hundred Years’ War pitted England against France from 1337-1453. In the Thirty Years’ War, 1618-1648, many European countries clashed, while Britain and France waged the Seven Years’ War, 1756-63, across significant parts of the globe. World War I (1914-1918) gained the lofty moniker, “The Great War,” even though World II (1939-1945) would prove far greater in death, destruction, and its grim global reach.  

Of the catchier conflict names, my own favorite -- though the Pig War of 1859 between the U.S. and Great Britain in Canada runs a close second -- is the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739-1748). It was named for Captain Robert Jenkins of the East India Company who, in 1738, told the British House of Commons that his ear, which he displayed for the onlooking parliamentarians, had been severed several years earlier by a Spanish coast guard sloop’s commander. He had boarded the ship off the Cuban coast and committed the outrage using Jenkins’s own cutlass. If ever there were cause for war, that was it! An ear for an ear, so to speak.

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William Hartung, The Pentagon’s Budget from Hell

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Somehow, when it comes to Congress and the mainstream media, the true strangeness of the Pentagon budget always is missing in action. Despite arguments about the small things, just about everyone accepts that the United States must have a monstrous, all-powerful military and a military budget beyond compare (beyond, in fact, all comprehension). And nothing seems to truly dent that sensibility. Somehow, the fact that the Pentagon has been utterly incapable of winning — yes, actually winning! — a war that matters (or even half matters) since World War II never fully seems to penetrate, not even on the 20th anniversary of the disastrous invasion of Iraq, America’s own Ukraine. (Only former president George W. Bush, who launched that invasion, gets it, however subliminally.)

The lesson is all too clear: the more that’s spent on our military and the more potentially destructive it gets, the less it’s actually able to accomplish. Despite all but obliterating North Korea from the air, it couldn’t beat that country’s military (aided by China’s) in the early 1950s; it lost disastrously to distinctly under-armed rebels in Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s; and did so again more recently to the half-baked forces of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The response of Congress to such disasters in this century: rewarding the Pentagon with yet more barrels of money.

Think of it this way: in a world where billionaires are running rampant and grabbing ever more wealth, the Pentagon is going to outdo them all and, if nothing changes in the coming years, as TomDispatch regular William Hartung notes today, become the world’s first trillionaire. Imagine that! Something that might once have seemed inconceivable is now almost unstoppable, a future trillion-dollar military budget. And with that in mind, let Pentagon expert Hartung introduce you to that imposing trillionaire-in-the-making that has had just one great success in the twenty-first century: taking Congress captive. Tom

Congress Has Been Captured by the Arms Industry

And We’re Paying the Price (and What a Price It Is!)

On March 13th, the Pentagon rolled out its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2024. The results were -- or at least should have been -- stunning, even by the standards of a department that's used to getting what it wants when it wants it.

The new Pentagon budget would come in at $842 billion. That's the highest level requested since World War II, except for the peak moment of the Afghan and Iraq wars, when the United States had nearly 200,000 troops deployed in those two countries.

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