[News] The American Way of War Quiz

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Fri Sep 17 11:02:10 EDT 2010

The American Way of War Quiz

This Was the War Month That Was (Believe It or Not)

Engelhardt and <http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/nickturse>Nick Turse

Source: <http://www.tomdispatch.com>TomDispatch
Friday, September 17, 2010

Yes, it would be funny if it weren’t so 
grim.  After all, when it comes to squandering 
money and resources in strange and distant places 
(or even here at home), you can count on the 
practitioners of American-style war to be wildly over the top.

Oh, those madcap Pentagon bureaucrats and the 
zany horde of generals and admirals who go with 
them!  Give them credit: no one on Earth knows 
how to throw a war like they do -- and they never go home.

In fact, when it comes to linking “profligate” to 
“war,” with all the lies, manipulations, and cost 
overruns that give it that proverbial pizzazz, 
Americans should stand tall.  We are absolutely #1!

Hence, the very first TomDispatch American Way of 
War Quiz.  Admittedly, it covers only the last 
four weeks of war news you wouldn’t believe if it 
weren’t in the papers, but we could have done 
this for any month since October 2001.

Now’s your chance to pit your wits (and your 
ability to suspend disbelief) against the best 
the Pentagon has to offer -- and we’re talking 
about all seventeen-and-a-half miles of corridors 
in that five-sided, five-story edifice that has 
triple the square footage of the Empire State 
Building.  To weigh your skills on the 
TomDispatch Scales of War™, take the 11-question 
pop quiz below, checking your answers against 
ours (with accompanying explanations), and see if 
you deserve to be a four-star general, a 
gun-totin’ mercenary, or a mere private.

1.With President Obama’s Afghan surge of 30,000 
U.S. troops complete, an administration review of 
war policy due in December, and fears rising that 
new war commander General David Petraeus might 
then ask for more troops, what did the general do last week?

a.He informed the White House that he now had too 
many troops for reasonable operations in 
Afghanistan and proposed that a drawdown begin immediately.

b. He assured the White House that he was 
satisfied with the massive surge in troops 
(civilian employees, contractors, and CIA 
personnel) and would proceed as planned.

c. He asked for more troops now.

Correct answer: c.  General Petraeus has already 
reportedly requested an 
mini-surge of 2,000 more troops from NATO, and 
probably from U.S. reserves as well, including 
more trainers for the Afghan military.  In 
interviews as August ended, he was still 
that he had “the structures, people, concepts, 
and resources required to carry out a 
comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency 
campaign.” But that was the summer silly 
season.  This is September, a time for cooler heads and larger demands.

2.With President Obama’s announced July 2011 
drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in mind, the Pentagon has already:

a.Begun organizing an orderly early 2011 
withdrawal of troops from combat outposts and 
forward operating bases to larger facilities to 
facilitate the president’s plan.

b. Launched a new U.S. base-building binge in 
Afghanistan, including contracts for three $100 
million facilities not to be completed, no less 
completely occupied, until late 2011.

c. Announced plans to shut down Kandahar Air 
Base’s covered boardwalk, including a TGI 
Friday’s, a Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a Mamma 
Mia’s Pizzeria, and cancelled the opening of a 
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs as part of its preparations for an American drawdown.

Correct answer: b.  According to Walter Pincus of 
the Washington Post, construction is slated to 
begin on at least three 
million air base projects -- “a $100 million area 
at Shindand Air Base for Special Operations 
helicopters and unmanned intelligence and 
surveillance aircraft”; another $100 million to 
expand the airfield at Camp Dwyer, a Marine base 
in Helmand Province, also to support Special 
Operations forces; and a final $100 million for 
expanded air facilities at Mazar-e Sharif in 
northern Afghanistan.  None of these projects are 
to be completed until well after July 2011. 
“[R]equests for $1.3 billion in additional fiscal 
2011 funds for multiyear construction of military 
facilities in Afghanistan are pending before 
Congress.”   And fear not, there are 
indications that the fast-food joints at Kandahar are going anywhere.

3.The U.S. military has more generals and admirals than:

a.Al-Qaeda members in Yemen.

b. Al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan.

c. Al-Qaeda members in Pakistan.

d. Al-Qaeda members in all three countries.

Correct answer: a, b, c, and d.  According to CIA 
Director Leon Panetta, there are 
to 100 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, 
possibly less.  Best estimates suggest that there 
are perhaps 
hundred” al-Qaeda members in poverty-stricken, 
desertifying, strife-torn Yemen.  There are also 
an estimated 
hundred” members and leaders of the original 
al-Qaeda in the Pakistani borderlands.  The 
high-end total for al-Qaeda members in the three 
countries, then, would be 800, though the actual 
figure could be significantly smaller. According 
to Ginger Thompson and Thom Shanker of the New 
York Times, the U.S. military has 
generals and admirals, approximately 100 more 
than on September 11, 2001.  (The average salary 
for a general, by the way, is $180,000, which 
means that the cost of these “stars,” not 
including pensions, health-care plans, and perks, 
is approximately $170 million a year.)  The U.S. 
military has 
four-star generals and admirals at the moment, 
which may represent more star-power than there 
are al-Qaeda operatives in 
Afghanistan.  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates 
has suggested that, as a belt-tightening measure, 
he might cut the top-heavy U.S. military by 50 
positions -- that is, by half the increase since 9/11.

4.With the U.S. military obliged, by agreement 
with the Iraqi government, to withdraw all U.S. 
military personnel from Iraq by the end of 2011, the Pentagon has:

a.Decided that, in the interests of Iraqi 
sovereignty and to save U.S. taxpayers money, all 
U.S. troops will depart ahead of schedule, 
leaving Iraq no later than next February.

b. Instituted austerity measures, halted 
renovations on remaining American bases, and 
handed over all base construction efforts to the Iraqi government.

c. Continued to sink hundreds of millions of 
dollars into military base improvements.

Correct answer: c.  Jackie Soohen 
toured Balad Air Base in Central Iraq for 
Democracy Now!  That base, described in the past 
as an 
town, has, she points out, “three large gyms, 
multiple shopping centers, recreation areas, and 
a movie theater,” not to speak of multiple bus 
routes and the usual range of fast-food parlors, 
PXs, and the like.  The base, she reports, is 
still expanding and “on bases like this one..., 
the military continues to invest hundred of 
millions in infrastructure improvements, and it 
is difficult to imagine them fully abandoning 
everything they are building here.”  They are, in 
fact, not likely to do so anytime soon.  There 
are still more than 
U.S. Air Force personnel in Iraq.  Thanks to 
previous American policies, that country, which 
once had a large air force, today has only a 
rudimentary one.  The new Iraqi air force is 
eager to purchase its first jet fighters, F-16s 
from Lockheed Martin, but no agreement has been 
signed or date set for delivery.  The Iraqis will 
still need further years of pilot training to fly 
those planes when they do arrive in 2013 or 
later.  In the meantime, the U.S. Air Force is 
almost guaranteed to be the Iraqi Air Force, and 
U.S. Air Force personnel will undoubtedly remain 
at Balad Air Base in significant numbers, “withdrawal” or no.

5.What did the Pentagon recently hand over to Iraq?

a.A check for one trillion dollars to reconstruct 
a country which the U.S. invasion and occupation 
plunged into a ruinous civil war that cost 
millions of Iraqis their homes, their jobs, their 
economic security, their peace of mind, or their lives.

b. An IOU for two trillion dollars to reconstruct 
a country which the U.S. invasion and occupation 
plunged into a ruinous civil war that cost 
millions of Iraqis their homes, their jobs, their 
economic security, their peace of mind, or their lives.

c. Some hot air.

Correct answer: c.  We’ll bet you didn’t know 
that, in 2003, the U.S. military occupied not 
only the land of Iraq, but its air, too.  Just 
to a Pentagon press-release-cum-news-story, “the 
U.S. Air Force handed over the Kirkuk sector of 
airspace, 15,000 feet and above, to the ICAA 
[Iraq Civil Aviation Authority] at Baghdad 
International Airport.”  In November, the U.S. 
plans to hand over even more hot air, this time 
in the south of the country -- but not all of 
it.  Iraq will not control all of its air until 
some time in 
Of course, once they have their air back, the 
Iraqi Air Force will only need planes and trained 
pilots to make use of it.  (See question 4.)

6.The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a 
“combat-capable brigade-sized unit,” has been 
deployed three times (according to the U.S. Army) 
“during Operation Iraqi Freedom -- serving 
successfully in tough areas including Fallujah, 
Tall Afar, Ramadi, and Baghdad.”  Its lead 
elements were recently sent from Fort Hood, Texas, to where?

a.Afghanistan as the final installment of 
President Obama’s surge of U.S. troops into that country.

b. Camp Justice, the U.S. military base in Oman, 
as a warning to insurgents in neighboring Yemen.

c. Camp Darby in Livorno, Italy, because the war 
there didn’t end all that long ago and, besides, 
Switzerland sits threateningly to the north.

d. Juarez, Mexico, because Secretary of State 
Hillary Clinton recently declared Mexico’s drug 
war an “insurgency,” and insurgencies are now an 
area of U.S. military expertise.

e. Iraq, the country that the “last U.S. combat 
troops” left less than a month ago.

Correct answer: e.  Of course, the “Brave 
Rifles,” as the unit is known, are not -- we 
repeat not -- combat troops.  They’re just, says 
“combat capable.”  Yes, they’re trained for 
combat.  But take our word for it, they’re NOT 
combat troops.  Yes they’re well armed.  But NOT 
for combat.  And yes, they’re an “Armored 
Cavalry” unit.  But it’s NOT about combat, 
OK?  They’re in Iraq strictly in an 
and assist” capacity.  Did we mention that they aren’t a combat unit?

7.With the U.S. military occupation of Iraq due 
to end in 2011, the American mission there is 
officially being left to the State Department, 
representing the civilian side of U.S. foreign policy, which is planning to:

a.Spend about $1.5 billion dollars to set up and 
run two embassy branch offices and two or more 
“enduring presence posts” (they used to be called 
“consulates”), including hiring the necessary armed private contractors.

b. Employ 2,400 people in its (“largest in the 
world”) embassy, the size of the Vatican (but far 
better defended) in Baghdad’s Green Zone and at its other posts.

c. More than double its force of private civilian 
contractors to 6,000-7,000, arm them with 
cast-off Pentagon heavy weaponry and Apache 
helicopters, and form them into “quick reaction teams.”

d. Spend another $800 million on a program to train the Iraqi police.

e. Take on more than 1,200 specific tasks 
previously handled by the U.S. military.

Correct answer:  a, b, c, d, and e (and even they 
don’t cover the subject adequately).  Michael 
Gordon of the New York Times 
most of the numbers above.  Who knows what those 
1,200 previously military tasks may be, but, 
Jeremy Scahill, those five “enduring presence 
posts” are to be set up on what are now U.S. 
military bases, assumedly so that the Pentagon’s 
costly base-building won’t go completely to 
waste.  It all represents a unique arrangement, 
since the civilian State Department’s corps of 
mercenary warriors will then 
used to “operate radar to warn of enemy fire, 
search for roadside bombs, and fly surveillance 
drones,” among other jobs.  Oh, and good news -- 
if you happen to be a private contractor at least 
-- that police-training program will be run by 
private contractors; and even better, just in 
case the private contractors don’t act on the 
up-and-up, there will be people 
assigned to provide oversight and they will be... 
private contractors, of course.  How can the new 
diplomats from the remodeled five-sided State 
Department go wrong, advancing as they are 
encased in the latest mine-resistant vehicles 
known as MRAPS and ever prepared to give peace a chance?

8.  When private military contractor Blackwater 
(now known as Xe Services) found itself in hot 
water after some of its guards slaughtered 17 
Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad square in 2007, the company responded by:

a.Admitting error, while begging forgiveness 
from, and rapidly paying generous compensation 
to, the families of the dead Iraqi civilians.

b. Vowing to avoid all armed work in the future 
and to transform the company into a 
community-services and elderly care operation.

c. Setting up at least 31 shell companies and 
subsidiaries through which it could still be 
awarded contracts by the State Department, the 
CIA, and the U.S. Army without embarrassment to anyone.
Correct answer: c.  So James Risen and Mark 
earlier this month in the New York Times. The 
company, which is “facing a string of legal 
problems, including the indictment in April of 
five former Blackwater officials on weapons and 
obstruction charges, and civil suits stemming 
from the 2007 shootings in Iraq,” hasn’t suffered 
in pocket-book terms. Just this year, it received 
for $120 million to provide the State Department 
with security in Afghanistan, and another 
million to protect the CIA in Afghanistan and 
elsewhere.  (The Agency has awarded Blackwater 
and its shell companies $600 million since 2001, 
according to Risen and Mazzetti.)

9.Recently, Iran unveiled a new armed drone, 
billed as a long-range unmanned aerial bomber and 
dubbed the “Ambassador of Death” by the country’s 
president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Afterwards, the Pentagon:

a.Cut out drone strikes in Pakistan to send Iran 
a message that conducting regular attacks on a 
country with which you are not officially at war is impermissible.

b. Announced plans to rethink the fast-and-loose 
rules of robotic assassination used in its 
Terminator wars for the better part of a decade 
so that Iran could not cite U.S. actions as precedent.

c. Stepped up drone strikes in the Pakistani 
tribal borderlands, sometimes carrying out more than one a day.

Correct answer: c.  In discussing Washington’s 
desire to export drone technology to allies, 
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has 
Iranian drones a “concern.”  The U.S. has, 
however, not only continued to pave the way for 
Iran (and every other nation and non-state actor) 
to conduct drone attacks with utter impunity, but 
the process.  For his part, State Department 
spokesman P.J. Crowley recently echoed Gates, 
Iran’s dronesa “concern to us and concern to 
Iran’s neighbors.”  Of the new Iranian drone’s 
unofficial moniker, he said with a laugh, “It’s a 
curious name for a system.”  Perhaps he’s unaware 
that his own government 
dubbed its two marquee armed drones -- with a 
straight face, mind you -- Predator and Reaper 
(as in “Grim...”) and that those aircraft launch 
“Hellfire” missiles.  The 
name of the Iranian drone is actually the least 
inflammatory of the three: “Karrar” or “striker.”

10.Five hundred million dollars is approximately the amount:

a. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged in 
July to development projects for Pakistan to 
“build broader support for the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.”

b. Afghanistan’s troubled Kabul Bank had in cash 
just weeks ago before its panicked depositors bled it dry.

c. The amount of money the U.S. military will 
spend on its musical bands this year.

Correct answer: a, b, and 
to the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus, the U.S. 
military may now spend $500 million or more 
annually on its musical bands -- the U.S. Army 
alone has 
than 100 of them -- the same amount used to sway 
a critically impoverished country of 166 million 
people in what’s been portrayed as a 
multigenerational war of paramount 
importance.  At least 
Bank now knows where to go for a loan, assuming 
that Afghans will accept trombones instead of cash.

Blast-from-the-Past Bonus Question

11.Who said, “I think for us to get American 
military personnel involved in a civil war inside 
Iraq would literally be a quagmire”?

a.Bob Dylan, mumbled during a live performance in April 2002.

b. Dick Cheney in 1991 when he was George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense.

c. George Steinbrenner in an interview with the 
New York Daily News after the Yankees won the 1998 World Series.

Correct answer: b.  If only Cheney had listened 
to himself when he became vice 
president.  “Several years after occupied Iraq 
had become the quagmire he once warned about,” 
writes historian John Dower in his striking new 
of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq, 
“Cheney was asked how to reconcile what he argued 
in 1991 and disregarded later.  ‘Well, I stand by 
what I said in ‘91,’ he replied. ‘But look what’s 
happened since then -- we had 9/11.’”  Sigh.

And believe it or not, folks, that’s it for the 
wild and wacky world of American war this 
month.  If you answered at least 10 of 
theAmerican Way of War Quiz questions correctly, 
consider yourself a four-star general.  If you 
answered 5 to 9 correctly, you qualify as a gun 
totin’ mercenary (with all the usual 
of the Flies perks).  If you did worse, you’re a 
buck private in a U.S. Army 
ensemble that’s just been dispatched to Camp 
Dwyer in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the 
Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s 
where this article first appeared.  His latest 
American Way of War:  How Bush’s Wars Became 
Obama’s(Haymarket Books), has just been 
published. You can catch him discussing war 
American-style and his book in a Timothy MacBain 
TomCast audio interview by clicking 
or, to download it to your iPod, 

Nick Turse is the associate editor of 
TomDispatch.com.  An award-winning journalist, 
his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, 
Nation, and 
at TomDispatch. His latest book, 
Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso 
Books), has just been published.  He discusses 
why withdrawal hasn’t been on the American agenda 
in Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio 
interview, which can be accessed by clicking 
or downloaded to your iPod 
Turse is currently a fellow at Harvard 
University’s Radcliffe Institute.  You can follow 
him on Twitter 
on <http://nickturse.tumblr.com/>Tumblr, and on 
His website is NickTurse.com.

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