Bill Van Auken writes: The “tide of war is receding” is a phrase President Barack Obama has employed ad nauseam—once in his State of the Union address, twice in the course of remarks last month at the unveiling of the Pentagon’s new military strategy document, once again during his speech at the United Nations, also in his announcement of troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, and in a Veteran’s Day address.
The constant repetition of this hackneyed metaphor is aimed at obscuring the obvious—that US militarism has escalated dramatically under the Democratic president and its tide threatens to engulf the entire planet.
Among the latest indications is a behind-the-scenes campaign by the chief of the US military’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for greater autonomy in dispatching elite killer squads to every corner of the globe.
Adm. William McRaven, who heads SOCOM, is, according to the New York Times, seeking “more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed.”
The admiral’s proposal, the Times notes, “would also allow the Special Operations forces to expand their presence in regions where they have not operated in large numbers for the past decade, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.”
McRaven argues that “[t]hickening the Special Operations deployments in these other regions would allow the United States to be ready to respond more rapidly to a broader range of threats.”
SOCOM includes as its key sub unit the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, which is made up of such outfits as the Navy Seals and the Army’s Green Berets, which carry out armed missions abroad. It is one area of the US military that is being spared even the minimal cuts that are being imposed on the Pentagon budget.
Its funding is being increased, a top officer in SOCOM reassured those attending last week’s annual conference of the National Defense Industries Association, the premier lobby for America’s vast military-industrial complex. “Because we will be continuing to engage in counter-terrorism operations around the globe, we are going to protect the investments in special operations forces,” Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, SOCOM’s vice commander, told the audience of war profiteers. He confided that Pentagon plans are to increase the command to “70,000 SOF [special operations forces] warriors.”
SOCOM’s personnel has doubled since 2001 to its current headcount of 66,000, while its budget has risen from $4.2 billion to $10.5 billion. JSOC’s growth has been even more meteoric, going from just 1,800 troops in 1980 to over 25,000 today.
Special operations forces have already been deployed in over 75 countries, ranging from the Dominican Republic and Peru to the Philippines, Yemen, Somalia and central Asia.
According to published reports, the US troop withdrawal from Iraq and the draw-down of tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines from Afghanistan is to be offset by more extensive use of special operations forces. In Iraq, some of these forces will be kept in the country covertly, operating out of uniform, while others will be just across the border in Kuwait. In Afghanistan, a force of some 9,000 special ops troops will remain even after the 2014 formal deadline for a NATO troop withdrawal.
In both countries, JSOC units have been involved in some of the worst atrocities. They carried out wholesale assassinations of opponents of the Iraqi occupation during the 2007 “surge” ordered by the Bush administration, and were implicated in systematic torture of detainees.