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U.S. failures when it comes to the Gulf of Guinea are many: a failure to address the longstanding concerns of a government watchdog agency, a failure to effectively combat piracy despite an outlay of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, and a failure to confront corrupt African leaders who enable piracy in the first place.
Few Americans born after the Civil War know much about war. Real war. War that seeks you out. War that arrives on your doorstep - not once in a blue moon, but once a month or a week or a day.
The DoD has never undergone an audit. In 2004, it actually pledged to undergo a full audit by 2007, but that deadline came and went, and then they moved it to 2016. No one, not even the DoD, thinks they'll actually be able to pass it in 2016.
The thing that really struck me was how many firms that we think of as strictly civilian had ties to the Pentagon. Companies like Apple, Starbucks, Oakley the sunglasses manufacturer. Even Google, and a lot of big corporations like PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive, and Nestle, that you don't normally think of as defense contractors.
The United States has been fighting African pirates since the early days of the republic - battles so formative that, among other things, they established a long-standing pattern of dealing with foreign policy problems through armed interventions and also inspired the iconic phrase 'the shores of Tripoli' in the Marine Corps hymn.
Whether I'm trying to figure out what the U.S. military is doing in Latin America or Africa, Afghanistan or Qatar, the response is remarkably uniform - obstruction and obfuscation, hurdles and hindrances. In short, the good old-fashioned military runaround.
Secret ops by secret forces have a nasty tendency to produce unintended, unforeseen, and completely disastrous consequences. New Yorkers will remember well the end result of clandestine U.S. support for Islamic militants against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s: 9/11.
The U.S. has taken an active role in wars from Libya to the Central African Republic, sent special ops forces into countries from Somalia to South Sudan, conducted airstrikes and abduction missions, even put boots on the ground in countries where it pledged it would not.
The Obama presidency has seen the U.S. military's elite tactical forces increasingly used in an attempt to achieve strategic goals. But with Special Operations missions kept under tight wraps, Americans have little understanding of where their troops are deployed, what exactly they are doing, or what the consequences might be down the road.
If the present is any guide, government-sanctioned, counterfeit history is in your future.
The military has a very long relationship with Hollywood that dates back to the silent film era.
You don't need a digital David Petraeus or a President Bush avatar to distract you from the truth. You don't need to wait decades to have disinformation beamed into your head. You just need a constant stream of misleading information, half truths, and fictions to be promoted, pushed, and peddled until they are accepted as fact.
It turns out that, if you want to know what the U.S. military is doing in Africa, it's advantageous to be connected to a large engineering or construction firm looking for business.
What the military will say to a reporter and what is said behind closed doors are two very different things - especially when it comes to the U.S. military in Africa.
Without a clear picture of where the military's covert forces are operating and what they are doing, Americans may not even recognize the consequences of and blowback from our expanding secret wars as they wash over the world.
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Carter G. Woodson
Daniel J. Boorstin
James Truslow Adams
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