05 July 2008

Obama, Afghanistan, and change?

Make Way for Field Marshall Obama
Hunkering Down in Afghanistan
Afghanistan was supposed to be the "good war"; a "just response" to the attacks of September 11. It was supposed to bring Bin Laden to justice "dead or alive" and quash terrorism wherever it originated. 95 per cent of the American people supported the invasion of Afghanistan. Now less than half think the U.S. will prevail. The war was promoted as a way to replace a repressive fundamentalist regime with a democratic government based on western values. The Bush administration promised to rebuild war-torn Afghanistan, transform its feudal system into a free market economy, and liberate its women from the oppression of Islamic extremism. It was all hogwash. None of the promises have been kept and none of the goals have been achieved. Besides, war isn't an instrument for positive social change; it's about killing people and blowing up things. Dolling-up military aggression as "preemption" can work for a while, but eventually the truth comes out. Democracy and modernity don't come from the barrel of a gun. Far from being the "good war", Afghanistan has turned out to be a brutal war of revenge. Three decades of fighting has left the country in ruins and the violence is only getting worse. As victory becomes more elusive, the US has stepped up its bombing campaign making 2008 the most deadly year on record. Civilian casualties have skyrocketed and millions of Afghans have become refugees. At the same time, the Taliban have regrouped and taken over strategically vital areas in the south disrupting US supply lines from Pakistan. Khost has fallen into the hands of the Afghan resistance just as it did before the Soviet Army was defeated in the 1980s. The Taliban are moving inexorably towards Kabul and a battle for the capital now seems unavoidable.For the second month in a row, the number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan has exceeded Iraq. The fighting has intensified while security has steadily deteriorated. The Taliban's numbers are growing, but the total allied commitment is still under 60,000 troops for a country of 32 million. This makes it impossible to capture and hold territory. The military is limited to "hit and run" operations. The ground belongs to the Taliban. Michael Scheuer, former CIA chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station, made this statement at a recent conference at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC: "Afghanistan is lost for the United States and its allies. To use Kipling's term, 'We are watching NATO bleed to death on the Afghan plains.' But what are we going to do. There are 20 million Pashtuns; are we going to invade? We don't have enough troops to even form a constabulary that would control the country. The disaster occurred at the beginning. The fools that run our country thought that a few hundreds CIA officers and a few hundred special forces officers could take a country the size of Texas and hold it, were quite literally fools. And now we are paying the price." Scheuer added, "We are closer to defeat in Afghanistan than Iraq at the moment."Scheuer's pessimism is widely shared among military and political elites. The situation on the ground is hopeless; there is no light in the tunnel. Author Anatol Lieven put it like this in an article in the Financial Times, "The Dream of Afghan Democracy is Dead": "The first step in rethinking Afghan strategy is to think seriously about the lessons of a recent opinion survey of ordinary Taliban fighters commissioned by the Toronto Globe and Mail. Two results are striking: the widespread lack of any strong expression of allegiance to Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership; and the reasons given by most for joining the Taliban -- namely, the presence of western troops in Afghanistan. The deaths of relatives or neighbors at the hands of those forces was also stated by many as a motive. This raises the question of whether Afghanistan is not becoming a sort of surreal hunting estate, in which the US and Nato breed the very “terrorists” they then track down. "Lieven is right. The occupation and the careless killing of civilians has only strengthened the Taliban and swollen their ranks. The US has lost the struggle for hearts and minds and they don't have the troops to establish security. The mission has failed; the Afghan people have grown tired of foreign occupation and support on the homefront is rapidly eroding. The US is just digging a deeper hole by staying. By every objective standard, conditions are worse now than they were before the invasion in 2001. The economy is in shambles, unemployment is soaring, reconstruction is minimal, security is non-existent and malnutrition is at levels that rival sub-Saharan Africa. Afghanistan not safer, more prosperous, or freer. The vast majority of Afghans are still living in grinding poverty exacerbated by the constant threat of violence. The Karzai government has no popular mandate nor any power beyond the capital. The regime is a sham maintained by a small army of foreign mercenaries and a collaborative media which promotes it as a sign of budding democracy. But there is no democracy or sovereignty. Afghanistan is occupied by foreign troops. Occupation and sovereignty are mutually exclusive. According to The Senlis Council's report, "Stumbling into Chaos: Afghanistan on the brink": "The security situation in Afghanistan has reached crisis proportions. The Taliban's ability to establish a presence throughout the country is now proven beyond doubt; 54 per cent of Afghanistan’s landmass hosts a permanent Taliban presence, primarily in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban are the de facto governing authority in significant portions of territory in the south and east, and are starting to control parts of the local economy and key infrastructure such as roads and energy supply. The insurgency also exercises a significant amount of psychological control, gaining more and more political legitimacy in the minds of the Afghan people who have a long history of shifting alliances and regime change."Journalist Eric Walberg further clarifies the role played by the Taliban in his article "The Princess and the Taliban": "Western readers have become numbed into accepting the code words 'enemy' and 'insurgents', ignoring the underlying fact that the Taliban are still the legitimate government, that these so-called insurgents are in fact widely seen as freedom fighters battling the non-Muslim foreign occupiers — the real 'enemy' — who invaded the country illegally and have killed hundreds of thousands of resistance fighters and innocent civilians illegally. Rather than 'killed', the word 'murdered' might be more appropriate. For locals, the dead are 'martyred', as in Iraq and Palestine..... The country’s declining socioeconomic situation point to the Taliban as the only feasible force to control the situation."It is not even clear that women are better off now than they were under Taliban rule. According to Afghan Parliament member, Malalai Joya: "Every month dozens of women commit self-immolation to end their desolation....The American war on terror is a mockery and so is the US support of the present government in Afghanistan which is dominated by Northern Alliance terrorists....Far more civilians have been killed by the US military in Afghanistan than were killed in the US in the tragedy of September 11. More Afghan civilians have been killed by the US than were ever killed by the Taliban.....The US should withdrawal as soon as possible. We need liberation not occupation." ("The War on Terror is a Mockery", Elsa Rassbach, Z Magazine Nov 2007)The Taliban had effectively eradicated poppy cultivation before the invasion in 2001. Now, after six years of war, the opium trade is back with a vengeance and Afghanistan accounts for 93% of world's heroin production. 2007 was a particularly good year yielding 20% more opium than a year before. Heroin is now Afghanistan's number one export; the nation has become a US narco-colony. Bush could care less about drug trafficking. What matters to him is stabilizing Afghanistan so that the myriad US bases that are built along pipeline corridors can provide a safe channel for oil and natural gas heading to markets in the Far East. That's what really counts. The administration has staked America's future on a risky strategy to establish a foothold in Central Asia to control the flow of energy from the Caspian to China and India. But US policymakers are no longer confident of victory in Afghanistan. In fact, according to a Pentagon report: "Taliban militants have regrouped after their initial fall from power and 'coalesced into a resilient insurgency.' The report paints a grim picture of the conflict, concluding that Afghanistan's security conditions have deteriorated sharply while the fledgling national government in Kabul remains incapable of extending its reach throughout the country or taking effective counternarcotics measures."The situation is dire and it's forcing Bush to decide whether to shift more troops from Iraq or face growing resistance in Afghanistan. Meanwhile the violence is spreading and combat deaths are on the rise. Pentagon chieftains now believe they can only defeat the Taliban by striking at bases in Pakistan, a reckless plan that could inflame passions in Pakistan and trigger a regional conflict. Gradually, the US is being lured into a bigger quagmire. ONWARD FIELD-MARSHALL OBAMA Presidential candidate Barak Obama, "The Peace Candidate", supports a stronger commitment to the war in Afghanistan and has proposed "sending at least two additional combat brigades -- or 7,000 to 10,000 troops -- to Afghanistan, while deploying more Special Operations forces to the Afghan-Pakistan border. He has also proposed increasing non-military aid to Afghanistan by at least $1 billion per year." (Wall Street Journal) Obama, backed by Brzezinski and other Clinton foreign policy advisers, has focussed his attention on the "war on terror", that dismal public relations coup which conceals America's desire to become a major player in the Great Game, the battle for supremacy on the Asian continent. Obama appears to be even more eager to repeat history than his opponent, John McCain. In November, voters will be asked to pick one of the two pro-war candidates. McCain has made his position clear; his focus is on Iraq. Now it is up to Obama to point out why it's more acceptable to kill a man who is fighting for his country in Afghanistan than it is in Iraq. If he can't answer that question, then he deserves to lose.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com

The above article by Mr. Mike Whitney is an outstanding commentary on where we are headed today. I want to give a big "Thank you" to Mike for allowing me to share his article with you folks here who may not drop in over at the Counterpunch web site very often.

What wonders we have done in that poor country, Afghanistan. We have increased the production of opium poppies. Now Afghanistan accounts for close to 95% of the worlds trade in heroin. Wow, god bless 'Merica I suppose. We keep bombing them and that leads to more civilians deaths. Do not believe the Air Force (air farce), there is no such thing as "precision bombing". The jet jockeys always kill the Innocent civilians along with a few (maybe) of the "bad guys". This was as true in Vietnam as it is still today in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Surgical air strikes" are a fig newton of the Pentagon brass who probably never have had any real combat experience.
The jet jocks are like old McCrazy, they do their killing from the cockpit of an air craft, never seeing who it is they are killing. The ground troops have that messy job, along with trying to clean up the mess made by the "fly boys".

We also cannot defeat the Afghans nor the Taliban. Why? Same reason we did not defeat the Viet Cong in Vietnam. Actually the very sane reason the Brits lost the American Revolution. They are fighting for THEIR homes and families. Yes sir, just as the folks who fought the Brits were doing back in the late 1770's. They are on their own home turf. No invading army can suppress that for long. Oh, sure, the Romans did get away with that sort of crap for a good long time, but eventually, even the mighty Roman army lost or pulled out and headed for home.
Invading armies tend to do that. They get tired, worn out, beaten down and pack it in and go home. Every occupying army has ultimately done that. We will too. Yes, we are still in Japan, Korea, and Germany, to name just a very few places where we "occupy" foreign countries. We will have to come home from those places as well some day. The sooner the better actually. Those countries no longer need our military to protect them. They are stable enough and rich enough to defend themselves.
Back to Afghanistan, even the almighty Alexander the Great could not defeat them. Now that ought to tell us all something right up front.
The Brits tried, twice at least. The Russians, or should I say Soviets, tried and failed. Of course "we" had a good hand in that one. Remember, WE trained many of these folks. Now we are fighting them. Funny, but Saddam comes to mind about now. We funded him in his war with Iran. We sold him chemical and biological weapons. There is even that famous (infamous?) photo of him shaking hands with old Rummy. Funny how they can be the "best buddies" to America one day, and then, all of a sudden, they are our sworn enemies. Is it them, or do we turn on our "friends" often? Think about that for a while. We did the same thing in Vietnam even. We installed "our" guy in Saigon, then, when we tired of him, we had him "eliminated". Why would anyone trust America? We don't seem to be very good at staying friends for long.
Afghanistan will go down as another defeat, just as Vietnam did, and Iraq probably will. Please don't even think about war with Iran. Or crossing into Pakistan. That area of the world does NOT need more killing.
I would wish that an Obama presidency might make a difference, but seriously doubt that it will. After his groveling at the AIPAC meeting, I no longer think he will change anything regards our foreign policies. He will stay in Iraq and Afghanistan until the treasury can no longer find anyone to borrow money from to keep those wars going. In the end, Obama will be just like W. Shrubbie is now. Yes, he may be less a disaster than McCrazy, but he will not be the "savior" some think he is. He is just another politician, seeking a higher office than the one he has now. No different than the rest of them.
We need to end our idiotic wars and bring our troops home from the war zones. Then we need to start to bring ALL of our troops home from around the world. The only "need" for US troops in foreign countries is to keep the Marine guard at our embassies. All our bases are not required for our defense. Only an empire needs to keep bases in foreign lands. We need to restore our constitutional republic, end the dreams of empire, they will bring us nothing but grief.
semper fi

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