Although President Donald Trump faces criticism for a recent botched raid on Yemen, it would be more accurate to blame the military-industrial complex and the Wall Street investors who support the endless profitable expansion of U.S. warfare.
The Jan. 28 raid, the first military action carried out under the Trump administration, left one Navy SEAL and 15 women and children dead, according to Yemeni sources. The Pentagon claims the attack, carried out with the help of Emirati military forces, killed 14 militants, but the soldiers failed to capture or kill their main target, al-Qaida leader Qassim al-Rimi.
Among the dead was 8-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki, the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen accused of working as an al-Qaida propagandist. The elder al-Awlaki had the dubious distinction of being the first U.S. citizen killed by a U.S. drone strike, back in September 2011. Anwar’s 16 year-old son, Abdulrahman, was also killed in a U.S. drone strike even though he apparently had nothing to do with terrorism.
The U.S. policy of using unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to carry out remote killings began under President George W. Bush, but saw a dramatic expansion under President Barack Obama. It was Obama who oversaw the killings of al-Awlaki and his son, along with at least 524 other drone strikes. That’s 10 times the number ordered by Bush. In fact over 26,000 bombs were dropped under Obama last year alone.
Although U.S. intelligence agencies claim only around 117 civilians were killed in Obama’s drone strikes, other estimates are far higher. Between 380 to 801 civilians died by drone strike under Obama, according to figures from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. And overall 90% of those killed by drone strikes are not the intended target.
Obama won the 2008 election, in part, based on promises to reign in U.S. empire building, but instead the war in Afghanistan quickly expanded under his watch. By the end of his presidency, the U.S. military was involved in dozens of local conflicts and stationed in virtually every country on earth.
Even as the Democrats debate what tactics to use to resist Donald Trump’s other cabinet picks, endless war has bipartisan support in Congress. Trump’s selection for defense secretary, Marine General James Mattis, popularly known in the military as “Mad Dog,” received almost unanimous support in Congress, sailing through his nomination with a 98-1 vote. Despite Mattis’ involvement in brutal war crimes in Fallujah, only Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand voted against him.
On Jan. 17, 1961, outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned the nation about the dangers of the military-industrial complex, a growing alliance between the military and Wall Street, which he believed posed an existential threat to democracy. Over a half century after that speech, it’s increasingly clear that the agenda of war takes precedence over anything else in America politics, regardless of which party controls the White House.