Into the Afghan Abyss with Obama

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[For complete article reference links, please see original here.] 

If the old rule applies – the guerrilla wins if he does not lose – the United States, about to enter its eighth year of combat, is losing. And, using the old 10-to-one ratio of regular troops needed to defeat guerrillas, if the Taliban can recruit 1,000 new fighters, they can see Obama's two-brigade bet, and raise him. Just as Uncle Ho raised LBJ again and again.

What does President Obama do then? Send in 10,000 more?

The Soviet Union, whose 115,000-man army in Afghanistan reached more than twice the size of U.S.-NATO forces, even with the Obama surge, went home defeated in 1988. The Soviet Empire did not survive that humiliation....

[Actually, the Soviet Empire did survive that humiliation; it ultimately collapsed because the many internal contradictions of the system finally reached critical mass. These pent-up stresses and energies then found release through Gorbachev's policy of glasnost, and by his unwillingness to use the state's massive machinery of repression to contain the upheaval. Certainly the defeat in Afghanistan didn't help matters, but its direct fallout was largely confined to Kremlin insider politics.]

But I digress. Buchanan's essential point here is sound: the Soviets, with a much larger force -- and even fiercer "rules of engagement" -- could not subdue the Afghans to their will. [Nor could the British before them.] He goes on:

For as of today, the Afghan war resembles Vietnam far more than Iraq ever did.

Consider. Taliban attacks are up 40 percent this year. U.S. casualties in May and June exceeded those in Iraq. Gen. Petraeus says al-Qaeda is moving assets from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Karzai's writ still does not extend beyond the capital. He is mocked as the "Mayor of Kabul." Security in the capital is deteriorating.

For the sixth straight year, the poppy crop, primary source of the world's heroin, has set a new record. The Taliban eradicated the crop when in power, but are now collaborating with farmers to extort cash to keep fighting.

Most critically, Pakistan has become for the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda the same sanctuary that North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia provided for the Viet Cong and NVA, with this critical difference: We cannot bomb or invade Pakistan.

[Of course, our bombing and invading of Cambodia and North Vietnam did not weaken the Viet Cong or the NVA -- although the genocidal fury of Richard Nixon's destruction of Cambodia (send "anything that flies against anything that moves!" he commanded) did pave the way for the genocidal fury of the Khmer Rouge, whose ranks were swelled by radicalized victims of the U.S. bombing, and who went on to carry out an horrific genocide of their own. And I'll have to disagree with Buchanan on that last point: it is entirely possible for the United States to bomb or invade Pakistan. Indeed, if Obama's Afghanistan strategy is pursued in earnest, some kind of large-scale action in Pakistan is inevitable.]

Buchanan concludes:

Under the (Colin) Powell Doctrine for fighting wars, questions must be asked and answered affirmatively before committing U.S. troops:

Is a vital U.S. interest imperiled here? Do we have a defined and attainable objective? Have the risks and costs been fully weighed? Is there an exit strategy? Is the war supported by a united nation?

How many of these questions did Obama ask himself before pledging 10,000 more U.S combat troops to what will surely become, should he win, "Obama's war" even as Iraq has become "Bush's war"?

This is certainly a key point, and one that is being largely ignored in the presidential campaign. For years now, "serious" liberals have repeated the mantra that Bush "took his eye off the ball" in the War on Terror by fighting in Iraq instead of focusing on Afghanistan, the "good war," the "right war." Now Obama looks set to call their bluff: "You wanted a big war in Afghanistan? Here it is. Now what?"

Now what indeed. No doubt we will soon be treated to the spectacle of many staunchly "anti-war" leopards changing their spots. We will hear them supporting the same kind of "counter-insurgency tactics" in Afghanistan that they now decry in Iraq. We will hear the same justifications for "collateral damage" in Afghanistan that we now hear from rightwingers defending atrocities in Iraq. We will hear them advancing the same arguments for a continuing (and growing) American military presence in a volatile Muslim land that we have heard for years from Iraq hawks. And we will hear the same excuses for not joining the combat in a war they support that we have heard from the vast Chickenhawk Army of rightwing warmongers concerning Iraq.

But the stances, dances and petty squabbles of the chattering classes (yes, I'm a chatterer too) are unimportant. What matters is that the United States government is about to launch a substantial escalation of an already unjust and unproductive war, pursuing a strategy -- embraced by both presidential candidates and the leading lights of their respective parties (and the overwhelming majority of the media establishment as well) -- which will inflict death and suffering on tens of thousands of innocent human beings (at a minimum), while further spreading the brutalization, corruption and destabilization that are inherent in war. It is entirely possible that the multi-sided conflict in Afghanistan -- warlords, tribes, state armies, narco-gangs, foreign interventionists, covert operators, religious zealots, all in various, ever-shifting, ever-breaking alliances -- could go on for decades, especially if the flames are continually fed with blood and treasure from the American war machine.

Whether Obama's highly-hyped regime of change comes to the White House or we end up with a third Bush term under the doddering figurehead of McCain, this is the future being offered by America's leaders: endless war, endless suffering, a darker, more dangerous world.
Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Bodyguard of Lies:
The Truth Behind the 'Surge's' Smokescreen  
Written by Chris Floyd     
Monday, 28 July 2008  
For months, we have heard glowing reports about the success of the "surge" in Iraq. This "success" has quickly become conventional wisdom, and can be referred to without controversy in any news piece about Iraq, even if it is not the main point of the story. It goes without saying that America's bipartisan foreign policy establishment -- including the Terror War Democrat and Terror War Republican candidates for president -- has avidly embraced these reports, which now define the terms of the debate on what the United States should do next in Iraq.

Yet the remarkable story that appeared in the New York Times on Monday about the slaughter of three innocent Iraqi bank clerks underscores what should be one of the most glaringly self-evident truths of our day: the Terror Warriors lie all the time, about everything. They tell big lies and small lies, lies of omission and great big fabricated fairy tales, lies to cover up specific acts of crime in the conquered land and lies designed to obscure the big picture of the overarching war crime of the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. The first instinct of the propaganda mouthpieces of the Pentagon is, always, to lie, to distort, obfuscate, confuse, exaggerate or diminish -- whatever is required in their relentless campaign to make the foulest of crimes -- mass murder -- look like a noble deed.

As the Times reports, the Pentagon was forced by a storm of angry protest from the American-installed Iraqi government to do a genuine investigation of a June 25 incident in which a platoon of American soldiers shot the holy hell out of a car that had just passed through one of the most thorough and draconian checkpoints in Baghdad, killing three bank employees on their way to work. The Pentagon immediately claimed that the dead Iraqis -- two women and a man -- were terrorist insurgents who had fired on the troops. The Pentagon claimed that a weapon had been found in the burning hulk of the bank employees' car. The Pentagon claimed there were bullet holes in the American vehicles from the terrorists' gunfire. The Pentagon claimed that the car had hit a wall and "exploded," clearly implying that it was loaded with bombs.

All of these claims were outrageous lies, with no basis in fact whatsoever. They were apparently made up out of whole cloth somewhere in the Terror War propaganda mills, because the soldiers' own reports didn't support the claims.

In fact, the innocent bank workers were killed by soldiers from a convoy that had taken a wrong turn and ended up on a road used for Iraqi civilians. The soldiers were not supposed to be in that area. One of the vehicles in the convoy had a problem, and the convoy had stopped on the side of the road to deal with it. The civilian car -- having just passed a security checkpoint -- went on its way toward the bank on the civilian road as it had done countless times before.

One of the soldiers in the misplaced convoy began firing warning shots at the car. We don't know how many shots he fired, or how long he gave the car to stop, but it didn't stop quickly enough for the panicked soldiers. And so nine of the 18 men in the convoy lit up the car, shooting it -- and its occupants -- to pieces. The car never "exploded"; its engine was set on fire by the fusillade from the convoy and the flames spread through the car. The security-cleared civilians died a needless and horrific death trying to drive to work in their native land.

Needless to say, no one will be punished for the deaths. The Pentagon said the soldiers -- some of whom had already been involved in "escalation of force incidents involving civilians" -- followed proper procedure in the case. When you see an Iraqi car coming, you make it stop. When it doesn't stop quickly enough, you shoot it full of holes. That's because the "surge" has worked so well, you see: the liberated Iraqis are so happy with the invaders of their country that every single Iraqi vehicle must still be regarded as a potential deadly threat -- even after five years of happy liberation, and even after it has passed through stringent security checkpoints.

Naturally, soldiers of an occupying army are in constant danger of reprisals for the war crime their leaders have plunged them into. Naturally, they are jumpy and quick on the trigger, and naturally, "force protection" is their overwhelming priority. But the slaughter of the Iraqi bank workers is not "an extremely unfortunate and tragic incident," as Col. Allen Batschelet told the Times. It is the inevitable consequence of an illegal act of military aggression, and the perpetuation of that act year after year after year. American forces have already directly killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, and unleashed (and in many cases abetted) the forces that have killed hundreds of thousands more.

[As we saw yesterday with yet another murderous attack on religious pilgrims -- the kind of mass terror that had never occured in Iraq before the American invasion.]

There is only one way to achieve genuine "force protection" for the American soldiers in Iraq: withdraw them, all of them, and end the war crime they have been sent to perpetrate. Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain will do this. The Democratic-controlled Congress will not do it. The bipartisan foreign policy establishment will not do it. All of them are happy to swallow - and repeat -- the lies they are told about the war.

So we must try to do it ourselves: piecemeal, little by little, in whatever way we can. One way is supporting organizations like Iraq Veterans Against the War, which works for and with active duty and formers soldiers toward these goals:

1. Immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq.
2. Reparations for the human and structural damages Iraq has suffered, and stopping the corporate pillaging of Iraq so that their people can control their own lives and future.
3. Full benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women.

Now there's a platform for you. The politicians -- those devourers and regurgitators of lies -- won't offer us anything like it, so we will have to cobble it together ourselves. The IVAW is an excellent place to start.


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