Maj. Danny Sjursen USA160ret.



Tune in to Episode#46 of the SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) show, folks – at least those (few) who still care about America’s longest, ongoing, war. The latest installment just dropped, and I promise it’s a gem: replete with the all the dramatic suspense of “Homeland,” the dark comedy of a rebooted “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and the sappy tear-jerking of “This Is Us.” OK, maybe I’m overselling that; it’s a pretty abstruse government document, at root. Still, this particular segment from the congressionally-appointed organization charged with “independent and objective oversight of Afghanistan reconstruction projects and activities,” is pretty darn profound if anyone bothered to read it. But few will.

See, Americans will binge watch anything – no matter how banal – put in front of them by Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, especially if it means they can avoid (gasp) any of that messy face-to-face human interaction stuff. Sure, there are now 46 SIGAR installments, but what’s that compared to 201 episodes of the beloved “Office?” But read even the 1-2 page executive summaries of quarterly reports that increasingly, and vehemently, conclude that the nation’s longest war – which still kills American troops – is failing? Fat chance.


Part 1

“War is the health of the state.” So said the eerily prescient and uncompromising antiwar radical Randolph Bourne in the very midst of what Europeans called the Great War, a nihilistic conflict that eventually consumed the lives of at least 9 million soldiers, including some 50,000 Americans. He meant, ultimately, that wars – especially foreign wars – inevitably increase the punitive and regulatory power of government. He opposed what Americans commonly term the First World War on those principled grounds. Though he’d soon die a premature death, Bourne had correctly predicted the violations of civil liberties, deceptive propaganda, suppression of immigrants, vigilantism, and press restriction that would result on the home front, even as tens of thousands of American boys were slaughtered in the trenches of France.

This, the war on the free press, free speech, and dissent more generally, is the true legacy of the American war in Europe (1917–18). More disturbing, in the wake of 9/11 and Washington’s two-decade-old wars for the Greater Middle East, the dark, twisted, underbelly of World War I’s legacy has again reared its ugly head. Bipartisan, interventionist presidential administrations – unilaterally tyrannical in foreign affairs – from George W. Bush to


History is over. The world is flat.

These were the sort of self-congratulatory and wildly grandiose platitudes that passed for wisdom in first decade after the United States declared “victory” in the Cold War. Neither slim statement is true – at least not in the sense they meant them – naturally: literally (of course), or even figuratively. Then again, it isn’t strictly true that the U.S. “won” the Cold War, or “defeated” the Soviets, surely not militarily, either.

There’s reams of evidence that the collapse of the Soviet Empire, and the consequent America-piloted globalization crusade, didn’t usher in world peace or cover the world with Western-style, liberal governments. Yet, even in the face of such pesky facts, a staggeringly sizable core of establishment foreign policy elites, in that intellectual wasteland of Washington D.C., still cling to these comforting fictions. As if just a bit more effort, one last good old college-try, by their “indispensable nation” could get the job done. Thankfully, there are eloquent voices from outside the Beltway echo chamber doing their best to deep six these harmful myths.

For example, recently, I read – dissected really – my longtime muse Andrew Bacevich’s new book, The Age of Illusions:


This article originally appeared at TruthDig.

My Spotify workout playlist is a time warp. Growing up in a blue-collar neighborhood of New York City in the 1990s and early 2000s, listening to popular East Coast hip-hop was practically required. So on a recent morning in which I had planned to write a column about Israel/Palestine, I jammed out to the Jay-Z & Beyonce’s famous original power-couple-jam, “’03 Bonnie and Clyde.” The song revolves around a former street dude and his loyal girlfriend, ready to face off against the world like the title’s outlaw couple.

Ironically, this got me thinking about the U.S. and Israel, President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu.

Because, if we’re honest with ourselves, the ditty could just as easily describe the still-fresh political romance of “B and D,” as well as the 70-year relationship between the US and Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has recently, and probably accurately from his perspective, called Donald Trump “the best friend that Israel has ever had in the White House.” Netanyahu has proven himself all too willing to exchange political loyalty for gifts, and perhaps no one has offered him more than the 45th president of the United


Israel is America’s veritable little brother. For decades, now, Tel Aviv has set the gold standard for nutty foreign policy decisions. Almost nothing they’ve done since the Six day War of 1967 has made a bit of sense. Founded, as they were, in the midst of a multinational Arab invasion, Israel has remained attached – obsessed even – with the long-outdated fear that conventional national armies will be their undoing. Of course, since their near-run victory in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, that hasn’t been their problem at all. By then, Israel’s technological, professional advantage was obvious to anyone paying cursory attention. Still, well into the 1980s, maybe even up until today, the Jewish Apartheid State seemed to believe their own myth: and behave accordingly.

At the very outset of my budding, aspirational writing career, I was firmly warned that Israel/Palestine issue – particularly sympathy for Palestinian social justice – constituted a bona fide “third rail” issue many centrist-liberal, “respectable” publications choose not to touch. It seems my well-intentioned, caution-counseling confidant was right. Even my status as a then-active, and now retired, veteran combat soldier wouldn’t save me from the pejorative vitriol and character assassination from the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd in the social media Wild West. No matter. Ever the masochist – I still root for West Point football – and lifelong glutton for punishment, I decided immediately upon receipt of the friendly warning, that I would tackle Palestine even more. It hasn’t been an easy road. The potential pitfalls were on full display last Spring in New York’s Greenwich Village, when, despite handily defeating the avidly pro-Israel scholar, Elan Journo, in an Oxford-style debate, members (mostly women, interestingly) of the crowd repeatedly, and viciously, heckled me like some third-rate comic at a local open mic.

I got to thinking about this recently, when President Donald Trump, and his nepotist-in-chief Jared Kushner, unveiled their Israel-Palestine “peace plan” the supposed “Deal of the Century.” Sure, the proposal amounted to little more than an ultimatum for Palestinian acquiescence to surrender. Nevertheless, the plan makes perfect sense for an Israeli-American alliance that for half a century has defied world opinion and international law and norms as a matter of course. In their reflexive flouting of widely accepted legal criterion, Israel and their belligerent, bellicose, big brothers, must count as genuine international sociopaths.

Personal experience, mostly within the U.S. Army bureaucratic mega-establishment, has driven my own, (admittedly) non-clinical, analysis that both sociopaths and psychopaths – who are legion within the military leadership – possess a remarkable ability to convince themselves that immense opposition to their plans and ideals only reinforces their “rightness.” So, if according to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, corporations are fully persons, then, most certainly countries have long taken on human characteristics, frailties, and mental maladies. Thus, in a world where, especially since Israel launched its full-throated occupation of Palestinian land, the Washington and Tel Aviv elites have stood – almost literally – alone in their positions regarding possession of the Holy Land, these governments must count as somewhat sociopathic. Consider it the old, bumptious sin of American exceptionalism gone wild.

US blind support for Israel is understandable since, America, alone among settler-colonial states hasn’t apologized for its original sin of native genocide. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, heck even South Africa, have officially apologized for, and even sought to financially account for their past crimes. Not so the United States. White America is intransigent about guilt admission. And so is Israel: America’s little brother. For now, the Washington-Tel Aviv nexus is strong; but not forever. The growing generational schism in the evangelical – Christian Zionist – community bodes badly for the Jewish state, and, particularly for the let’s help catalyze a war in the Holy Land to speed-up The Rapture, crowd.

Here’s where it gets crazy: back in the 1980s, Israeli national security elites wrote a memo, arguing that the best way to ensure their security was to encourage inter-Arab warfare and intra-Arab state chaos and insecurity. The idea was that, if the neighboring Arab Muslim states were torn apart, Israel would be safe. This, of course, represented an outdated fear. The least of Israel’s worries, by then, was conventional military invasion. Truth is, by then, and still today, the only real threat to the Jewish state was Islamist terrorism (which Israeli policy fuels, by the way). Which is why, even today, Israeli policymakers have a strange, symbiotic relationship with ISIS. See, these counterproductive lunatics would rather Syria be torn apart, indefinitely, by civil war then see ISIS permanently defeated. Israeli generals and national security official have even claimed that if if the choice is between Iran having influence in Syria, or ISIS having the same, they “choose ISIS.”

The Trump “deal,” as such, is irrelevant. Partly, of course, because it’s going nowhere: not in the international community (not that the chummy sociopath-states give a damn about that), with the much-maligned, Palestinian leadership (though they’re increasingly invisible to the “deal-makers”), or the less despotic nations of the Arab-Muslim World. The Trump-Kushner plan is showmanship, mainly; but, it shouldn’t be dismissed – the deal may be the “launch point” from the intransigent (but, for now, most formidable) now officially-unified Amero-Israeli side.

The United States, whatever else it is, is no longer (even on the surface), an honest broker in the Holy Land. America is naught but an Israeli proxy…and, for that, we should all be ashamed…I know I am.

Danny Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army officer and regular contributor to His work has appeared in the LA Times, The Nation, Huff Post, The Hill, Salon, Truthdig, Tom Dispatch, among other publications. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet. Check out his professional website for contact info, scheduling speeches, and/or access to the full corpus of his writing and media appearances.

Copyright 2020 Danny Sjursen


Academic historians reject anything smacking of inevitably. Instead they emphasize the contingency of events as manifested through the inherent agency of human beings and the countless decisions they make. On the merits, such scholars are basically correct. That said, there was something – if not inevitable – highly probable, almost (forgive me) deterministic about the two cataclysmic world wars of the 20th century. Both, in retrospect, were driven, in large part, by collective – particularly Western – nations’ adherence to a series of geopolitical philosophies.

The first war – which killed perhaps nine million soldiers in the sodden trench lines (among other long forgotten places) of Europe – began, in part, due to the continental, and especially maritime, competition between Imperial Great Britain, and a new, rising, and highly populous, land power, Imperial Germany. Both had pretensions to global leadership; Britain’s old and long-standing, Germany’s recent and aspirational – tinged with a sense of long-denied deservedness. Political and military leaders on both sides – along with other European (and the Japanese) nations – then pledged philosophical fealty to the theories of an American Navy man, Alfred Thayer Mahan. To simplify, Mahan’s core postulation – published from a series of lectures


Apathy and misplaced priorities: the twin diseases of this generation. I spent this past Saturday afternoon speaking through a bullhorn in opposition to war – or at least opposition to escalating the existing state of war – with Iran, during a local rally as part of the International Day of Action on the subject. Street protests, to me, are always equal parts inspirational and disappointing. Even here in the “People’s Republic of Lawrence,” Kansas, a progressive island in a sea of reactionary, militarist red, only about forty folks showed up. Most were older hippie-types, though a sprinkling of twenty-something socialists and intersectional justice activists were visible in the crowd. The one notably absent demographic – in the largest university town in the state – was students! It was, frankly, and embarrassment to the storied University of Kansas (KU) as an institution.

What a far cry, a shameful fall from grace,


Originally posted at TomDispatch.

What’s the value of an American life in the age of Donald Trump? If you were judging by the death of Nawres Hamid, an Iraqi-American contractor killed in late December after an American base in Iraq was mortared by a Shiite militia believed to have ties to Iran, the answer would be obvious: enough to risk war. After all, the president cited Hamid’s death in going after that militia and then drone-assassinating Iranian Major General Qassem Suleimani. In response to the mortar attack, U.S. air strikes in Iraq and Syria killed at least 25 Iraqi militia fighters and then, as January began, that drone strike near Baghdad International Airport took out a figure who was often considered the number-two man in Iran, as well as its possible future leader. In addition, it killed an Iraqi militia commander and eight other people.

So you might say that


I’ve had it out for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army General Mark Milley, of late. My dislike for the man might even constitute an intellectual blind spot. Count me guilty as charged. I’ve mistrusted this character – who brilliantly weaves both plainspoken soldier’s bluster with a veneer of intellectualism – ever since he addressed the West Point faculty, of which I was then a member, back in 2014.

His basic thesis: the cadets, the army as a whole, needed to get back to the basics of war-fighting, and avoid the distraction of “too much” scholarly diversion. Milley, unlike most army chiefs, didn’t attend West Point himself. No doubt some combination of the standard insecurity associated with that, and typical resentment of “ring-knocking” academy elitists, drove this not-too-subtle dig at we professors. Only I sensed there was more to his postulation, something grander and more disturbing: a conscious pivot back