Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category
I’ve been spending far more time reading than writing lately, as writing and nursing blog posts eats up more time than I’m willing to expend. However, I think it time well spent to point folks to articles that begin to make sense of the precarious position our nation or world finds itself in.
So pull up a comfy chair on this grey and dreary spring day (thought the rain is most wonderful), pour a cup of coffee, tea or what have you and dig in.
Today’s reading comes from William R. Polk, Losing the American Republic. Here’s the end of Part 1 (Part 2 hasn’t been published yet, but I’m looking forward to it).
Lessons Needed Learning
It would be rewarding if one could say that our experience in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan has made us wiser in our approaches to Somalia, Syria, Libya and Yemen, but it is hard to substantiate that conclusion. Yet the lessons are there to be learned. There are more, but consider just these few:
- Military action can destroy but it cannot build;
- Counterinsurgency does not work and creates new problems;
- Nation building is beyond the capacity of foreigners;
- Piecemeal, uncoordinated actions often exacerbate rather than solve problems;
- The costs of military action are multifold and usually harm not only the attacked but also the attacker’s society and economy;
- Reliance on military action and supply of weapons to the client state encourages it to undertake actions that make peace-seeking harder rather than easier;
- War radiates out from the battlefield so that whole societies are turned into refugees. In desperation they flee even far abroad and create unforeseen problems.
- The sense that the attacker is a bully spreads and converts outsiders into enemies;
- Failure to understand the society and culture even of the enemy is self-defeating;
- Angry, resentful people eventually strike back where they can and so create a climate of perpetual insecurity.
The result of such actions is deforming to the central objective of an intelligent, conservative and constructive American foreign policy — the preservation of our well-being.
It would seem that we in America are once again experiencing a kumbaya moment in which we all hug, hold hands, and say things like “America, Fuck Yeah!” and chant “USA, USA.” All because of the killing of one man. But in watching the news reports of celebrations taking place outside of the White House and where the twin towers used to grace the skyline of NYC, I couldn’t help but see parallels between how some Americans reacted and how some Muslims reacted after 9/11.
When we were surprised by this:
Some in the Muslim world reacted like this:
In many respects we couldn’t understand why there would be anybody in the world that would be happy with an attack on America. We collectively scratched our heads seeking answers to why people hated us. And because we have no understanding of history, of cause and effect, we smugly came to the conclusion that it was because they hate our freedom, or that Islam was simply a naturally violent and barbaric religion.
Yet when we final got revenge with this:
Some in America reacted like this:
Now, I’m not saying that the attacks that occurred on September 11th and the killing of Osama Bin Laden are equivalent acts of violence. The people in the Twin Towers were innocent, Osama had crimes to pay for. The deaths of 3,000 unsuspecting people on that morning can not be rationalized, while Osama had to have known what fate held in store for him, he knew he was a hunted man. Otherwise, he would not have been hiding out in a high security compound. Osama Bin Laden deserved to be punished for his actions, to be brought to justice for the atrocities he set in motion.
But what the two events share is their symbolism. The attacks on 9/11 weren’t so much aimed at the people in those buildings as they were the symbols of American strength, both financial and martial. Osama struck at the heart of our empire, attempting to unveil the corruption and moral degradation that lies at the core of our world spanning reach. Our strike this weekend, cutting off the head of Al Qaeda, was just as symbolic. We proved that no matter how long we have to wait or how far we have to go, America will hunt down every last terrorist and we will show no mercy. There will be no day in court for the likes of Osama Bin Laden. Others like him will be put down like the dogs that they are.
News that we got Osama was an emotional release… an end to a chapter in our current American story. But for all the celebrating there needs to be a more focused and inward reflection of what this event really means for our current situation. And my guess would be that beyond the symbolism, beyond the feel good moment, little will change. Our quest for hegemony will continue unabated and the world’s reaction to such a geopolitical reality will continue.
I’ll leave you with this somber reflection…
If you haven’t yet, take time this weekend to download and read through “Three Cups of Deceit” by Jon Krakauer. It’s free, well written, and will leave a terrible taste in your mouth.
If you have been living under a rock this last week let me summarize the week’s biggest scandal: Greg Mortenson, Bozeman resident, best selling author, and head of the Central Asia Institute, is a big fat liar covered in liar sauce.
Krakauer details each of the lies Mortenson told in his book “Three Cups of Tea,” which include: falsifying why he built a school in Korphe, Pakistan, misappropriating funds from the non-profit CAI (to the tune of over $7million), lying about a kidnapping, and not building schools he’s claimed to have built! There’s more, but I want to encourage you to read the small, free book rather than just watch the 60 Minutes episode that rehashes (poorly) Krakauer’s work.
People have been coming to Mortenson’s defense all week, with his biggest defense coming from Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times. Kristof has written about Mortenson before, and admits in his column that he’s a big fan, and tries to downplay Mortenson, in effect, stealing money from a non-profit.
I don’t know what to make of these accusations. Part of me wishes that all this journalistic energy had been directed instead to ferret out abuses by politicians who allocate government resources to campaign donors rather than to the neediest among us, but that’s not a real answer. The critics have raised serious questions that deserve better answers: we need to hold school-builders accountable as well as fat cats.
Kristof drops that nugget, along with others, to mount his defense of Mortenson based on this: sure he may have lied, but he did do good–the idea being that his works outweigh his sins. As Kristof says, “…even if all the allegations turn out to be true, Greg has still built more schools and transformed more children’s lives than you or I ever will.”
Fine. But that doesn’t excuse Greg Mortenson lying, and deceiving good people giving up their money to make the world a better place. Mortenson’s work, and his lies, are separate issues. Yes, he’s done good, but he’s also a lying shit. Those two facts can exist simultaneously. Education for Afghan girls: Good. Misusing charitable funds for personal gain: fucking evil.
Also, this is not only about good deeds vs lies. It comes down to the fact that Mortenson has been accused (and I think the evidence adds up) of misusing donated money for personal gain. As Krakauer points out in his book, Mortenson uses CAI funds to travel to speaking engagements where he recounts the lies in his books. Upon giving his talk he is reimbursed by the event promoters. But, Mortenson does not then reimburse CAI. (FYI, flying out of Bozeman, Montana costs a fair penny.)
Even Kristof takes a moment from his ham-fisted stroke job of a column to say, “I am deeply troubled that only 41 percent of the money raised in 2009 went to build schools…”
Lying is never good, and using good deeds to justify lies is immoral. I don’t know, nor do I understand, why Greg Mortenson felt he needed to lie to justify his good deeds. I only know that he was wrong to deceive people, and wrong to waste their money on his own frivolity.
Greg Mortenson is not a hero, he’s a lying shit who also did some good. Hopefully a better person will come along to pick up his cause, with honesty.
Our war in Afghanistan isn’t in the news much anymore… there are better and more interesting things for the media to pay attention to now; the uplifting story of the wave sweeping away autocratic regimes in the Middle East, crazy shit Teapublicans do and say, our own economic plight/scandal, or Miley Cyrus taking a bong rip. And besides, a slow moving wreck is much less interesting than a spectacular flame out. What more is there for the media to cover and write about that hasn’t already been covered after a decade of occupation of a foreign land?
Armadillo, a Danish documentary following the nine month deployment of a Danish platoon to Helmand during 2009 featured last night at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival does what no reporting can; give an honest portrayal of the situation through the eyes of soldiers. The documentary takes it’s name from the forward operating base in which the Danish platoon is stationed. Despite the fact that the cameras are embedded with the Danish soldiers from the time they leave their homes to the time they return, the documentary isn’t a biased affair. You are given a chance to see the challenges facing both the soldiers and the Afghani civilians.
You see the despair of a mother saying goodbye to her son leaving for Afghanistan; witness the heartbreak of a farmer that had his house blown-up by a mortar – killing his mother and daughter – while he was away at market; see the fear in the eyes of an Afghani father afraid to speak to the Danes for fear of the Taliban cutting the throats of his sons; feel the anxiety of the Danes as they prepare for a patrol and later receive fire from a hidden position; hear the anger in the voice of children who have had friends and family killed in the fighting as they taunt the soldiers; experience concern for a platoon leader seriously injured after his vehicle gets hit by an IED.
I remember sitting in my high school computer lab when we started shocking and awing Iraqi civilians, and soldiers into oblivion. Some of my classmates were cheering. I was 18 so I could only think of Johnson, Nixon, and the story my Dad’s plan to run to Canada when he got his draft number (just a few months before the end of the Vietnam draft).
We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for over nine years, and in Iraq nearly eight years. The cost of the wars has exceeded $1 trillion. Nearly 100,000 American troops have been wounded, and thousands have died.As for civilians of those two nations, thousands are dead, homeless, or slowly descending into a mindset wherein bombs are a fashion statement.
All those years, all that money, and all of those wounded human beings and I still have yet to get a sound reason for this question I’ve had all along: “Why are we fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?”
It’s a childish question, I know. But it is nonetheless relevant. The Left has laid blame on reactionary tactics (Afghanistan), and corporatism (Iraq). The Right is quick to beat the purity drum with a ratta-tat-tat roll for FREEDOM! FOR! ALL! The Left arguments may be true, we may be in these conflicts for empty reactionary reasons and our ongoing desire to burn dead dinosaurs. I don’t know.
As for the Right’s reasoning, well, I don’t know how an occupation creates freedom. And I mean that literally. How are people free if armed soldiers are walking around telling them what to do?
I ultimately want to believe the best in all people, even former President George W. Bush. I want to believe that he got bad intel, and that he stretched facts for pure reasons (it ain’t likely, but I want it to be true). I want to believe that we are still losing lives and money for the cause of freedom, even if I feel that war is a misguided means to an end when it comes not from the people, but from an outside force.
But, hell, it’s probably just imperialism and greed.
I want answers to why this has happened, and why it’s still going on. I’m Cruise in A Few Good Men. I want the truth (and, sadly, my government seems to think more like Nicholson).
I didn’t put anything else in the email. Just the question; no slant or bias. I could have asked how any of them sleep at night knowing they could save lives, or if each flag-draped coffin means something to them. I could have asked Baucus if his nephew dying changed his mind.
I only used those eight simple words.
For those of you who have never emailed our national representatives, the easiest way is through the email forms available at their websites (links above). You give some personal info (most likely for future mailers), select a topic from a pre-made list, and then you’re free to write a little message.
But here’s something interesting:
At Tester’s site you cannot select Afghanistan as a topic, but you can ask about Iraq; Baucus apparently wishes to avoid talking about either (regret those votes Max?) as neither war is an available topic so I chose “foreign policy”; Denny is the only one providing an option for both under the heading “WAR.” I’m not lying. His topic list has the word “WAR.” Just like that. In CAPS. Like it should be proceeded by a grunt and the words “Good god, y’all. What is it good for?”
My emails have been sent. I’m waiting for responses.
I’ve been waiting for nearly ten years. I’ll post the responses as they come in.
Update (5:20pm): I posted this on Twitter at approximately 5:10pm MST. Rep. Rehberg’s account is verified. Sen Tester’s is not. It’s possible that Mr. Smith can infact no longer go to Washington, but Mr. Duganz can go to the internet.
Via Helena’s CBS KXLH reporter Marnee Banks’ twitter feed, comes the sobering reminder that Montana National Guard Troops will be deploying Monday morning for (first) a six-week stop for training in Mississippi and then to their purposed assign in support of the Overseas Contingency Operation.
This is their second deploy, having already supported Operation Iraqi Freedom for 12 months in 2004-2005.
Montana’s soldiers leave from 5 major departure sites in the state – here are the times and locations:
Helena: Army Aviation Support Facility 2:40 pm
Great Falls: Great Falls International Airport 5:35 am
Belgrade: Gallatin Field Airport 6:00 am
Billings: Billings International Airport 3:40 pm
Missoula: Missoula International Airport 6:35 am
Today my thoughts are with them and their loved ones – their wives and husbands and children and fathers and mothers. Each of them take every drop of good will and wishes that I have in me.
For those of you who might of missed it, CBS News’ Face the Nation has posted the video of Bob Schieffer’s interview with Bozeman native Greg Mortenson.
Don’t miss it. There’s lots to learn there.
Nicholas Kristof, one of NYTimes best, had a column recently where he lamented the war as it juxtaposed upon the wisdom of Mortenson’s best-selling book, Three Cups of Tea. It’s a must-read.
One thing that’s been stuck in my head from watching Mortenson’s interview this past Sunday?
The U.S. spends $1 million per soldier, per day, for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan
Imagine if we’da built schools over these last nearly 10 years? Imagine if we’d bring 246 our soldiers home today and build a higher education system for all of Afghanistan?
This upcoming week marks Barack Obama’s taking full ownership of the Afghan war, and escalating it to over a hundred thousand troops. To those of us who lived during the Vietnam war the similarities are eery. That war changed the history of this country–not because of the war or the purpose it was fought for, but because of the clash of cultures at home that ripped this country apart.
Even given that Obama will sell his war and its escalation with an exit strategy, we have to ask: is it worth this? Does this make sense for America to take on at this time? Can you really write an exit strategy while you are escalating a war with ill-defined goals, and botched strategies? A war in a part of the world where outsiders have never won?
Another similarity with WWII: it was the scope and scale of that war which eventually drug this country out of the Great Depression. Will our destabilization of the middle east–with Iran and Pakistan potentially entering the war theater with Afghanistan and Iraq, lead to WWIII? Is this the end play? Perpetual war? Return of the draft?
Too many questions, and no answers.
I’m reminded, as the title to this diary attests, of the scene in Apocalypse Now, where the helicopters rage across the countryside spewing napalm, and we feel the war taking a turn towards madness.
“This is the end
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes…again
Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need…of some…stranger’s hand
In a…desperate land
Lost in a Roman…wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane…” – The Doors