Not Knowing What The U.S. Military Does In The World

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

It hardly matters where you look. There are the nearly million-and-a-half weapons that the Pentagon shipped to war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan. As a recent study shows, it evidently lost complete track of hundreds of thousands of them, many of which seem to have simply gone on the open market in countries where buyers are unlikely to be the crew of our dreams. Or there's the $6.5 trillion (that is not a misprint) that the accountants for a single service, the U.S. Army, seem to have lost track of in 2015. Or there's the simple fact that the Pentagon is utterly incapable of conducting a successful audit of itself or, on a minor note, that its officials can't even keep track of which of their underlings go to strip clubs, "adult entertainment establishments," and casinos on the taxpayer dollar. You could say that, though it swallows up at least $600 billion-plus a year of our money, it's an organization that seems remarkably comfortable knowing remarkably little about itself (which means of course that you know next to nothing about it).

This should, of course, be unacceptable in a democracy. But coverage of the Pentagon and its stupendously wasteful ways, not to speak of oversight of its financial dealings, is in remarkably short supply in our world. That should be surprising, given this country's 800 military bases around the world, the planet it largely arms, and the fact that its special operations forces have been active in up to 135 countries a year. What it does, and where and how it does it, given its reach and its power, plays a not-insignificant role in determining what transpires on this conflicted planet of ours.

This is why I regularly find it amazing, even unnerving, that, in a world of monster media organizations, covering what the U.S. military does in Africa -- and it does more and more there -- has largely been left to Nick Turse of TomDispatch. He's been reporting on that military's "pivot" to Africa for years now and, with the rarest of exceptions, he's done so in a remarkably lonely fashion as today in his latest post, "Mission Impossible." How can this be? It obviously matters what our military is doing -- especially in a world where, it seems, the more it enters a region, the more terror outfits spread and flourish in that same region. Call it happenstance if you wish, but as for me, I would prefer that Americans knew regularly and in some detail what exactly was being done in our name in the world.