It began, of course, with the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the second Afghan war of our era. In November 2002, in Yemen, the CIA conducted its first drone assassination strike outside of Afghanistan, killing six al-Qaeda suspects in a car. (More strikes would follow there years later, along with Special Operations raids of various sorts, and finally in 2015, the devastating U.S.-backed Saudi war.) In March 2003, there was the invasion of Iraq, the second Iraq war of our era. Then, in 2004, there would be the first drone strike in Pakistan. (At least another 429 were to follow.) In 2011, the U.S. and its NATO allies intervened in Libya, taking down that country’s autocratic ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, and causing chaos, the rise of a branch of ISIS, the disintegration of the country into a failed state, and the spreading of Gaddafi’s looted arsenals of weapons to terror groups from Africa to Syria. In 2014, after ISIS militants swept into major cities in Iraq and the American-backed Iraqi military collapsed and fled, abandoning vast stores of U.S.-supplied equipment, Iraq War 3.0 was launched with what would develop into a vast air campaign beginning that August and also extending the American wars of this era to Syria. And I haven’t even included Somalia in this list, a country where, in a sense, American intervention and conflict have been intermittent since the Black Hawk Down era of the early 1990s and where U.S. air strikes have doubled and U.S. special ops missions have similarly increased in the Trump era.
And don’t forget Niger, the West African country where even key American senators had no idea the U.S. was fighting until four Green Berets died in action against a local terror outfit last October. The U.S. military is now finishing the construction there of a $110 million airbase, from which armed drones will, according to the New York Times, “be used to stalk or strike extremists deep into West and North Africa.” So America’s conflicts in Africa are essentially guaranteed to spread as the Trump administration, which recently launched a barrage of more than 100 missiles against three Syrian targets, threatens to add one more country to its Middle Eastern list as well: Iran.
In other words, from Pakistan to Niger, across thousands of miles over the last 16-plus years, the U.S. has conducted what was initially known as the “Global War on Terror” (or GWOT), then the lower-cased “war on terror,” and now a no-name set of conflicts that have been uprooting millions, turning major cities into rubble, and spreading terror outfits in its wake. And as TomDispatch regular U.S. Army Major Danny Sjursen, author of Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge, writes today, in not a single one of these conflicts, whether against a country (as in Afghanistan and Iraq) or insurgents, or both (as in Syria), has Congress declared war. Yes, “authorizations” or “resolutions” have passed, but an actual declaration of war? No way. Think of it as the abdication of the power of the people through their elected representatives when it comes to perhaps the most devastating decision a country can make. But let Sjursen explain.