It Never Works Yet Trump is Once Again to “Bomb Toward Peace”

Image result for christmas bombing 1972George Carlin said: “Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.” Given the timing I assume he was referring to how the Nixon Administration ramped up bombing in order to strengthen its hand against the North Vietnamese at the upcoming 1972 Paris peace talks. Thousands of residents of Hanoi were killed with no practical effect at the negotiating table. “The wording of the [final peace] agreement was almost exactly the same as it had been at the beginning of December—before the Christmas bombing campaign, Rebecca Cesby wrote for the BBC.
Henry Kissinger, the chief U.S. negotiator in Paris, admitted as much. “We bombed the North Vietnamese into accepting our concessions,” said Nixon’s secretary of state, never missing a chance to be droll while bathing in the blood of innocents.
Here Donald Trump goes again.

U.S. Heightens Attacks on Taliban in Push Toward Peace in Afghanistan,” read the headline in the New York Times on February 8th. One wag on my Facebook page commented: “It’s like the headline writers aren’t even trying anymore.”

“The Pentagon has stepped up airstrikes and special operations raids in Afghanistan to the highest levels since 2014 in what Defense Department officials described as a coordinated series of attacks on Taliban leaders and fighters,” began the Times piece. “The surge, which began during the fall, is intended to give American negotiators leverage in peace talks with the Taliban after President Trump said he would begin withdrawing troops and wind down the nearly 18-year war.”

Bombing a military target has obvious benefits: troops, equipment, materiel and infrastructure are destroyed or damaged that otherwise might have been deployed against you and your forces.

Military planners tout a more subtle theory in favor of the strategic bombing of civilians. Military planners assume as an evidence-free article of faith that blowing up urban areas accomplishes more than killing people and destroying their homes. They believe it “softens them up,” lowers their morale and undermines support for the government, perhaps even culminating in a popular uprising bringing the conflict to an earlier conclusion and the installation of a friendly new regime. The thing is, it only seems to have worked once—when Japan surrendered following the nukings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There is no evidence that non-nuclear bombing campaigns, no matter how ferocious or sustained, have ever accomplished more than leaving craters where people once lived. “Although more than 40,000 people died during the eight months of the Blitz and in London about 1,000,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, there were no riots and war production increased steadily,” notes an Economist review of the book “The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945” by Richard Overy. “People suffered, but the majority got used to it… Even when the Royal Air Force in 1942, closely followed by the U.S. Army Air Force, began to put together the famous ‘1000 bomber’ raids that were supposed to ‘knock Germany out of the war,’ German war production continued to ramp up and the Nazi regime never came remotely close to losing political control.”

Like the North Vietnamese in 1972, the Taliban in 2019 read newspapers. They know they’ve won. They know that the U.S. knows it has lost. They know U.S. voters have turned against the war against Afghanistan. Bombing or no bombing, all the Taliban have to do is hang tight before the U.S. leaves and tosses them the keys to the country on the way out.

Ramping up the violence now looks like what it is: a bitter, desperate, last-ditch effort to act even more like the monsters Afghans have become convinced that we are.

Aside from its pointlessness and total waste of life and treasure, what’s shocking about the Trump Administration’s “killing toward peace” campaign is its utter cluelessness about human nature. Trump won the presidency by accurately reading the mood of the electorate, particularly the long-neglected Rust Belt Midwest, when Democrats and the media could not. Why can’t his Defense Department see that an escalated bombing campaign against Afghanistan won’t improve our bargaining position and could make things worse?

For thousands of years in both the Western and Eastern worlds, the peace negotiations that ended the overwhelming majority of wars were concluded during ceasefires. Winding down armed conflict allowed the parties to mourn their dead, revel in their victory or wallow in loss. Most importantly, a ceasefire gives warring sides breathing space to begin to reframe their image of their soon-to-be former adversaries. Enemies become neighbors, eventually trading parties and perhaps even friends. Monstrous Others transform into who they were all along—people just like you and me.

We see now that the senseless slaughter of the 1972 Christmas bombings delayed the true peace of rapprochement between unified Vietnam the United States by years. If the U.S. is ever fortunate enough to reach a similar accommodation with Taliban-run Afghanistan, it will have been pointlessly delayed by America’s latest attempt to “bomb toward peace.”

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

12 thoughts on “It Never Works Yet Trump is Once Again to “Bomb Toward Peace”

  1. “BEIRUT, Lebanon, Feb. 8 [1984] – The United States battleship New Jersey bombarded Druse and Syrian gun batteries in Lebanon for more than nine hours today in the heaviest and most sustained American military action since the marines arrived here 16 months ago.”

    This bombardment was delivered after Reagan announced withdrawal from Lebanon.

    One of the administration’s spokespersons mistakenly, or out of habit, announced that the withdrawal was from “Vietnam” instead of Lebanon, another failure to achieve a military end by attacking civilians.

    The New Jersey’s huge 16-inch guns could be clearly seen spewing long yellow flames as they blasted away from the ship’s position south of Beirut. Each round fired by its gunners shook the entire city. Windows rattled, and the terrifying roar sent the few people on the streets scattering for cover.

    The battleship carries nine 16-inch guns in three turrets. One official said he thought much of the firing had been done by a single gun at a time.Each gun can fire two shells a minute. The New Jersey carries armor-piercing shells that weigh 2,700 pounds each and are mainly designed for surface naval warfare against armored ships. It also carries what are known as high-capacity or high-explosive shells weighing 1,900 pounds each.

    Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror among masses of people; or fear to achieve a religious or political aim. It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence during peacetime or in war against non-combatants.

  2. “The thing is, it only seems to have worked once—when Japan surrendered following the nukings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

    A commonly held misconception.

    Japan’s surrender was not accepted by the US until the bombs were tested on two Japanese cities that had remained untouched by the war BECAUSE THEY WERE OF NO MILITARY VALUE AT ALL.

    The problem was that there were no good cities to bomb, because to hit previously leveled cities again would merely bounce rubble without giving a clear before and after pictures to the world of the consequences of an atomic bomb attack.

    The Japanese held out against unconditional surrender until Russia declared war on Japan a very short time after the bombing, after which the US accepted the previously offered and rejected terms of Japan’s surrender.

    The Japanese feared the Russians at the time of their unconditional surrender and had not yet made any distinction between conventional and nuclear war.

    • Yes, that has been my impression also–weren’t the Russians already moving massively into Manchuria when the bombs were dropped? I cannot recall the source, but I know I’ve read somewhere that there are indications the Japanese may not even have known about Nagasaki until after they decided to surrender.

  3. “During World War II the United States dropped over two million tons of bombs and other munitions from aircraft. From 1965 through 1973, the United States dropped at minimum over eight million tons of munitions from aircraft onto Southeast Asia.”

    “Eight million tons is equivalent in explosive force to 640 atomic bombs of the size used at Hiroshima.”

    Operation Linebacker II was conducted from 18 to 29 December 1972, during which 15 B-52s were lost in the Vietnam conflict.

    See how it all ends in the PBS documentary, “Last Days in Vietnam”.

  4. => perhaps even culminating in a popular uprising …

    ay’yup. 9/11 would be an example of a popular uprising. Funny thing, even those stupid ragheads know the difference between the guy next door and the foreigner bombing their country. Who’da thunk it? Maybe we should put someone else’s marques on our drones? We could paint the Royal Seal of Bangladesh on the side. They’d believe that, right?

    => The thing is, it only seems to have worked once—when Japan surrendered following the nukings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Beg to differ. We’d already whupped their collective ass. It was all over but the shouting. However, we did have these shiny new bombs we wanted to try out. Even if we accept that Hiroshima was strategically necessary (we don’t) there was no justification whatsoever for Nagasaki.

    • The only thing I want to add about the nukes …
      One thing that everyone keeps getting wrong is the notion that Germany was, like, literally, 30 seconds away from developing a working A-bomb.
      The Germans were completely off in the weeds. Because they chased away (or killed) all the Jewish physicists, the Nazi scientists had no idea what they were doing. But (according to Samuel Goudsmit’s “Alsos”) the big problem was that:
      1. The Nazis, figuring they were the master race, and that they had a two-year lead on the Allies, couldn’t possibly accept that anyone was ahead of them in the race for the A-bomb.
      2. The Allies, figuring that the Nazis had a two-year head start, couldn’t possibly accept that the Nazis weren’t miles and miles ahead of them.
      3. The Nazis totally had their kopfs up their asses. (Very short explanation of how you make an A-bomb: you need to seed a pile of uranium ore with heavy water. The heavy water slows the neutrons emitted during uranium decay. This allows for the formation of Plutonium-239. You can then harvest the Pu-239 and use it to make an A-bomb. The Germans got about as far as “Maybe we drop the whole multi-ton pile of uranium ore on the target? That might work. If we had a few Jews around, they could explain it to us, but no, Hitler, Himmler and Similar got rid of all the Jews and now we’re going to lose the bloody war to Gary Cooper and John Wayne.)
      4. And now you know … the rest of the story.

      • Silly Nazis, don’t they know that Ammuricans are the Master Race?

        One of my fav lyrics comes from “American Dad”

        The sun in the sky
        has a smile on his face
        And he’s shining a salute
        to the American race.
        Oh boy it’s swell to say,
        Good morning USA!

        PS Ya’ fergot the part about slamming two chunks of fissionable material together to achieve something greater than critical mass. And didja know a college student was once arrested for publishing just about that much data about how Bombs were made?

    • By the time the US nuked Japan, Germany had been defeated.

      A few hundred thousand Japanese were vaporized solely in an attempt to intimidate the USSR, not to mention the American populace itself.

  5. The thing that strikes me most strongly about the New York Times article to which Ted links above is the use of the term «Taliban» to contrast with the term «Afghan» which permeates it – and all other articles in the corporate media I’ve read on the ongoing war in Afghanistan. It would seem that Taliban are not Afghanis, and Afghanis are not Taliban. Edward Bernays would no doubt be proud….


  6. I remember during the Kosovo crises / war on Serbia one of the British military officials admitting that they had shipped all those bombs out to the bases and had no plans to ship them back to the UK in case peace broke out inadvertently. No, they had to quickly use all those ordinances by finding remaining unflat spots of countryside to flatten or else pay for warehousing.

    As an interesting corollary on a smaller scale, it also became known and caused a small scandal that it was actually unsafe for the fighter planes to land with their bombs still attached. As they were running out of obvious targets – as usual – the fighter/bombers often had to drop their ammunition into the Mediterranean ocean on their way back. The Adriatic fishermen were not amused.

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