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Why Don't They Ever Just Quit?

As a fellow alumnus of The City College of New York, I feel obligated to pass on a few thoughts about Colin Powell for whom I had nothing but admiration until he did something he should never have done, namely, getting up in front of the entire world in 2003 and lying about why we needed to go into Iraq.

Remember all those weapons of mass destruction? There weren’t any. Oh, what the hell, we only lost something just south of 5,000 troops in an invasion that started in 2002 and is still going on. That’s right. Joe pulled our military out of Afghanistan last month, but we still have 2,500 soldiers encamped in various ‘strategic’ locations in Iraq.

For all the talk about how we need to re-think our mission as global peacekeepers, the last time I checked, we are still the only country in the entire world which deploys armed forces in other countries which aren’t part of a United Nations peacekeeping force. Currently the Pentagon admits to having 516,273 troops stationed in 150 countries, more or less, a number which happens to represent more than three-quarters of all the countries in the U.N.

What are we doing in these places? Does anyone even know? And by the way, the number of troops is not the whole American overseas military presence by any means. There are civilian ‘advisers’ from the CIA, there are all kinds of so-called civilian ‘contractors’ who just happen to be walking around with guns, then there are all those so-called ‘aid’ programs which is usually military equipment dressed up to look like medical supplies and food.

What kinds of deals are we making with the 150 governments which allow us to use their sovereign landscapes as bivouacs for our troops? And who knows whether the way we use the word ‘government’ applies to those places at all? The World Population Review says that at least half the 167 counties they surveyed are authoritarian regimes. Another fifty or so are what they call ‘hybrid’ regimes. How can we have troops in 150 countries and not be propping up all kinds of governments that don’t remotely qualify as democracies?

In 1970 I was driving through a village in the La Mancha region of Spain and at the edge of the tiny town I drove past a very modern, two-story structure which had three American cars parked out front. But what caught my eye was that all three cars also had American license plates. And as I drove past, a guy who was clearly an American came out of the building, so I stopped, and we had a brief chat.

Turned out that he was in the U.S. Air Force and he and his buddies were operating a radio station that was a forward communications point for the American air base at Torrejon. This airbase, which was outside of Madrid, was where the Strategic Air Command kept the B-52 fleet armed with nuclear weapon that was poised to attack the Soviet Union if they received the command. We also had a base for our nuclear subs at Rota, which is a coastal village near Seville.

Why were we in Spain? Because we didn’t have to discuss the ins and outs of our nuclear strategy with a democratic government like Italy or France which might actually want to know whether it was in their country’s best interest to grant the United States a presence in order to develop a first-strike capability against the Reds.

What did we have to give Francisco Franco, the Fascist dictator in Spain, to get him to agree to sit on nuclear munitions and thus turn his country into an immediate target when or if we directed the SAC bomber wing to drop the ‘big one’ over Moscow or some other Soviet target? Who the hell knows what we gave him, okay?

Back to Colin Powell. He had a brilliant career which ended in total disgrace. Why? Because in this country, with vey few exceptions, they never quit. They never resign. Enough is never enough.

Powell knew that when he got up at the U.N. and blabbed on about WMD’s that he was lying like hell. Why didn’t he just call Bush up the night before his speech and say, hey George, I’m leaving town.

I have to believe that there’s a connection between the arrogance of Colin Powell in defending the Iraq invasion and the arrogance of stationing fighting troops all over the globe.

We’ve been doing it since 1945, it hasn’t made us any more secure, and no matter what Colin Powell said, I think it should stop.

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