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As a journalist, I became something of a body count expert. It started with the Vietnam War, where I soon learned to distrust the exaggerated counts of enemy dead made by our self-styled “intelligence” agencies.

Body Counts Rise

That didn’t mean that people, alas, weren’t dying in droves, but not quite the people they were claiming to have killed, even if the sheer number was desensitizing and hard to relate to.

It’s still like that, what with the daily drone victims, collateral damage estimates and killings on battlefields and villages from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq.

Now we can add Nigeria to the countries in pain with massacres by the Boko Harum, and their own military goons, and, with the collapse of a mega church in Lagos that looked like the ‘planned demolition’ fall of Building 7, claiming the lives of 67 visiting South Africans and we still don’t know how many Nigerians. That House of God, known as a Synagogue Church, could not protect praying parishioners from the slaughter.

All of this is grisly, and a sad advertisement for what we used to call “civilization,” but, it is still abstract, when it’s happening over there, to them, people you don’t know by name.

It soon becomes a bit surreal, even a form of war pornography. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and the bloody trail often takes you directly back into the heart of ”the homeland.”

I just saw a James Bond wannabe movie called November Man about a CIA killer, that, in addition to its non-stop car chases and shoot-em ups, suggested that the US worked with Russia to stage the atrocity that started the bloody second Chechen War. Possible? Who knows?

If you are looking for bad guys these days, you don’t have to look too far. Try moving your focus inside the Beltway where a long captured president scrambles to reassert his own power with a more muscular strategy of intervention designed to show he’s doing “something.”

The problem he’s having is not just personal, although his own indecisiveness and slavish fidelity to the “uniforms” has got him into what (we used to sing about in an earlier war ) called a “hometown jam.”

So far, in addition to the political problems of convincing the right and the left, the tactics so far, according to Jason Ditz of are backfiring: “US airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, far from “degrading” the organization, are actually giving ISIS a huge shot in the arm, according to FBI Director James Comey, who testified before Congress.

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ISIS “growing online support intensified following the commencement of US airstrikes in Iraq,” Comey confirmed, saying the group was likely to try to pick up its efforts to take more US hostages going forward to get more publicity.”

It seems like the people who are supposed to know what to do, don’t. Immanuel Wallerstein, the brilliant world systems scholar says they are stuck because of deeper systemic problems that most of the media misses.”

He writes, “The explanation is simple. The United States is in serious decline. Everything is going wrong. And in the panic, they are like a driver of a powerful automobile who has lost control of it, and doesn’t know how to slow it down. So instead it is speeding it up and heading towards a major crash. The car is turning in all directions and skidding. It is self-destructive for the driver but the crash can bring disaster to the rest of the world as well.

Its almost as if the US strategists have beheaded themselves when it comes to fashioning a sensible strategy that could work instead of the current one that is guaranteed not to.

A lot of attention is focused on what Obama has and hasn’t done. Even his closest defenders seem to doubt him. An Australian commentator, writing in the Financial Times, summed it up in one sentence: “In 2014 the world has grown suddenly weary of Barack Obama.” I wonder if Obama has not grown weary of Obama. But it’s a mistake to pin the blame just on him. Virtually no one among U.S. leaders has been making alternative proposals that are more sensible. Quite the contrary. There are the warmongers who want him to bomb everybody and right away. There are the politicians who really think it will make a lot of difference who will win the next elections in the United States.”

Is this a case of an empire in decline? Another scholar, James Petras, thinks so. Here’s his take: “the results of contemporary US military interventions and invasions stand in stark contrast with those of past imperial powers. The targets of military aggression are selected on the basis of ideological and political criteria. …Contemporary US intervention does not seek to secure and take over the existing military and civilian state apparatus; instead the invaders fragment the conquered state, decimate its cadres, professionals and experts at all levels, thus providing an entry for the most retrograde ethno-religious, regional, tribal and clan leaders to engage in intra-ethnic, sectarian wars against each other, in other words – chaos…..

The US claims to ‘world leadership’ is based exclusively on failed-state empire building. Nevertheless, the dynamic for continuing to expand into new regions, to militarily and politically intervene and establish new client entities continues. And, most importantly, this expansionist dynamic further undermines domestic economic interests, which, theoretically and historically, form the basis for empire. We, therefore, have imperialism without empire, a vampire state preying on the vulnerable and devouring its own in the process.”

Hmm, that’s a lot to digest, but assume for a moment, he’s on to something, on to recognizing that US military intervention cannot work, and that the only solution is political even if that flies in the face of the convictions and investments by the Saudis and Qataris and Islamomaniacs who only want Assad’s head on a stick, and do not want a settlement that strengthens Syria in any way.

My third favorite scholar who knows the region well, Vijay Prashad, told The Real News Network: “They're unwilling to recognize that a political solution is necessary. This political solution has been on the table for over a year. The previous UN and Arab League envoy, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, at several points said that there is sufficient ground to start working toward some kind of settlement. We cannot have a settlement, on the other hand, as long as the Saudis, the Qataris, and others continue to finance the militias inside Syria and you continue to see atrocities on both sides. So a political process is necessary. If the West is serious about tackling the Islamic State, it has to lessen the chaos in Syria.”

That is exactly what US policy is NOT doing. And, that is why the body counts will continue to climb even as we keep hearing terms like “surgical strikes,” and war on “evil.” Its almost as if the US strategists have beheaded themselves when it comes to fashioning a sensible strategy that could work instead of the current one that is guaranteed not to.


Danny Schechter