Tomgram: "Special" Forces not so special . . .

I personally know a Navy Seal. He was a sweet, bright, upright young lad while growing up and his mom and I remain good friends. Now that we’ve both moved elsewhere, she and I phone each other once a year or so. I’m afraid of asking if her son was one of the Seals who supposedly took out OBL. But she probably wouldn’t know.

The two of us are peace-mongers. In fact, it was she who knocked me for a loop with her persistent remark, to me, back in the early ’80s, that there would be no nuclear war.

I remember being stunned by the serene assurance with which she said that. And it made me look at the situation again. I had been terrified of the Bomb all my life. But what if she was right? I pondered this idea over the next few days, until a realization slowly dawned within me. It was this: something — what? — had to have already prevented nuclear war. There were, at that time, 50,000 nuclear missiles ( I can’t remember if that’s just ours, or combined with those of the USSR). Surely, with that many thousands of missiles, we would have already had accidental nuclear missile launches, had it not been for something preventing them!

At the time I ascribed this seeming miracle of no accidental missile launches to divine intervention. Then, about a decade ago, I changed it to UFOs.

Today, I discovered that the odds of her son being one of the chosen ones to enter the OBL compound are pretty low. Here I had thought that special forces were just that, special. That there were only a few, very elite, teams to do various sorts of dirty work.

Well, that may have been true in the past. But now there are at least 13,000 of them, employed in 75 different countries all over the world. And probably 20,000 more, ready to go. Imagine that! Stealth war, continuous, invisible, growing, lethal as hell, for who knows what purposes; soul-killing, very very expensive, and carried out right under our noses.

I’m glad I don’t know if her son was among them.

A New Age of “Enlightened War”

William Astore

In case you hadn’t noticed, they are — no kidding around — absolutely the niftiest non-humans on Earth. I’m speaking about the special operations force of Navy SEALs that took out Osama bin Laden. They and their special ops colleagues are “supermen” (ABC News), “X-men” (Jon Stewart), “America’s Jedi Knights” (the New York Times), and that’s just to pick the odd example in a sea of churning hyperbole. For the last week, while the bin Laden operation swallowed almost 69% of all news space according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, they have been the most reported upon Xtra Special Soldiers anywhere, possibly of all time — from the “square-jawed admiral from Texas” who commanded them right down to the dog (oops… “possible war hero”) they reportedly took along.

In an era when U.S. troops have become little short of American idols, seldom have the media gone quite so nuts as over those SEALs and the other military and CIA “teams” that make up our counterterrorism forces. You couldn’t pay for this sort of publicity. It would, in fact, hardly be an exaggeration to say that all of American society has, for the last 10 days, been “embedded” with them. But here’s the strange thing (or perhaps I mean the strangest thing of all): if you read most of the over-the-top press about America’s special ops troops, you probably think that they are tiny crews of elite forces divided into even tinier teams trained to dispel global darkness and take out the bin Ladens of the world.

No such thing. Almost a year ago, the Washington Post reportedthat there were at least 13,000 U.S. special operations troops deployed overseas in (no, this is not a typo) 75 countries, a significant expansion of these forces in the Obama era. Since thousands of them remain in the U.S. at any moment, Washington may now have up to 20,000 special operations troops on hand and the odds are that there will be even more after the bin Laden publicity blitz has had a chance to work its charms. In the latest Pentagon budget, the Obama administration had already asked for$10.5 billion to pay for special forces, a tripling of their budget since 2001 — and that figure is sure to rise in the years to come, as media slavering turns into congressional slavering.

Keep in mind that this growing set of secret forces cocooned inside the U.S. military, along with the missile-armed pilotless drones fighting the CIA’s semi-secret war in Pakistan (which also got amodest publicity boost from the bin Laden operation), add up to the newly dominant form of American conflict: presidential war fought on the sly and beyond any serious kind of accountability to the American people. In return for ponying up the necessary dough, for instance, Congress is now practically begging just to be updatedon the executive’s counterterror operations four times a year.

As TomDispatch regular and retired Lieutenant Colonel William Astore makes clear, “remote war” on the imperial peripheries of the planet is a direct danger to this country, to us, and it’s growing by the day. Tom

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