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Posts Tagged ‘AFGHANISTAN’

BAD ALLIES = BAD OUTCOMES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2022 at 12:12 am

For those born after 1975, America’s departure from Afghanistan marks the first humiliating retreat from a valuable ally.

But this is wrong.

In April, 1975, the South Vietnamese Army suddenly crumbled under an all-out offensive by North Vietnamese regular army units.

The United States—which had been been supplying military assistance to Vietnam since the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower—suddenly saw its worst nightmare come to life.

It had poured more than $120 billion into the conflict in Vietnam from 1965-73. At least 58,000  United States soldiers had died there. Another 304,000 had been wounded.

Map showing the partition of French Indochina following the 1954 Geneva Conference

Vietnam during the Vietnam war

User:SnowFire, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

The last American troops had left Vietnam on March 29, 1973. President Richard Nixon claimed that he had achieved “peace with honor.” The South Vietnamese Army was supposedly now trained by Americans to defend the “country” from attack by North Vietnam. 

Then came December 13, 1974—the start of the North’s all-out offensive.

The result: South Vietnamese forces melted away.

This was hardly surprising to American veterans of the war. Among them a favorite joke had been: “There’s a new batch of South Vietnamese rifles for sale. Never fired, and only dropped once.”

By April 30, 1975, Saigon, the capitol of South Vietnam, fell to the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong.

Fall of Saigon

At home, watching TV, Americans felt shame as Army helicopters hurriedly lifted off the roof of the United States embassy. Numerous South Vietnamese desperately tried to climb aboard—only to have their hands stomped on by Americans equally desperate to get out before North Vietnamese forces reached them.

Now, 46 years later, Americans were seeing Air Force planes taking off from Kabul Airport, with hordes of Afghans desperate to leave the country, racing after them.

Said President Joseph Biden: “Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in U.S. history.” 

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joseph Biden

Just as the South Vietnamese Army had chosen flight instead of fight, so, too, did the Afghan Army—in just 10 days.

“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” said Biden. “And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.

“When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces.

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Donald Trump

“Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict.

“I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”

Republicans have since tried hard to blame the resulting chaos on Biden. But in doing so they deliberately ignore the role played by his predecessor, Donald Trump, in facilitating that rout.

As Biden noted, Trump had invited the Taliban to Camp David to discuss the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.  Making this offer thoroughly disgraceful were two factors:

First: The date for this conference was on the eve of the 18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of those attacks, was then living in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.

It was the refusal of the Taliban to turn him over to American justice that led directly to the American invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2001.

Second: Pointedly uninvited to this conference were any members of the Afghan government, which—officially—the United States regarded as a valuable ally. 

There is a brutal lesson here that Americans have long refused to learn: Bad allies make for bad outcomes. Those who refuse to defend themselves cannot be bribed or forced to do so by others. 

Contrast the “I have to catch a plane” cowardice of Afghan soldiers with the courage of Ukrainian soldiers—and civilians—fiercely defending their country from Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked Russian invasion. 

During the assault by Russian troops on the capital of Kiev, the Biden administration urged President Volodymyr Zelensky to evacuate to a safer location and offered to help him do so. Zelensky refused, saying: “The fight is here [in Kiev]; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

Until Presidents and Congressional leaders learn to distinguish worthwhile allies from worthless ones, Americans will continue to waste lives and treasure on the latter.

THE WORLD SEES HORROR IN UKRAINE; ISLAMICS SEE RACISM: PART TWO (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 8, 2022 at 12:21 am

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a massive invasion of Ukraine.

To Ukrainians, it’s a matter of life-or-death.

To Americans, Europeans and Westerners in general, it’s a horrific, unfolding tragedy.

But to nonwhites—and especially Islamics—the sympathies of these nations is a sign of racism and Islamophobia. 

One reason many Westerners feel greater sympathy for Ukrainians than Arabs: Islamics have routinely blamed the West—especially Americans—for their own internal conflicts.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which is safely located in Great Britain—the total number of dead from the Syrian civil war [in 2016] was more than 310,000.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - Wikiwand

The Observatory blamed the West for this Islamic self-slaughter.

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.”

In short: It’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

And why are all these murderers eagerly slaughtering one another? Because of a Muslim religious dispute that traces back to the fourth century.

Yes, it’s Sunni Muslims, who make up a majority of Islamics, versus Shiite Muslims, who comprise a minority.

What Are the Differences Between Sunni and Shiite Muslims?

Shiite Muslim women 

Each group considers the other takfirs—that is, “apostates.” And, in Islam, being labeled an apostate can easily get you murdered. 

This is, in short, not a conflict that can be resolved by driving an aggressor country out of another. It will never end—because both Sunnis and Shiites believe “God is on our side” in an inner-religious war that dates back centuries. 

“We are wondering, why were Ukrainians welcome in all countries while we, Syrian refugees, are still in tents and remain under the snow, facing death, and no one is looking to us?” asked Syrian refugee Ahmad al-Hariri, who fled the war in his country for nearby Lebanon 10 years ago.

In an ideal and rational world, factors like religion, economics and race would not matter when large numbers of people are threatened by war. But this is not a rational and ideal world, and human emotions and prejudices usually play a deciding role in people’s behavior. 

People identify and feel comfortable with those who most resemble themselves. In prisons, black inmates sit with blacks; whites with with whites; Hispanics with fellow Hispanics. 

The vast majority of Ukrainian refugees are highly-skilled and -educated Christians—meaning they will easily meld into the populations that make up most of Europe. Many of them already have relatives scattered throughout such countries as Poland, Hungary and Romania.  Which means they can call on those relatives for support while settling in.

Much has been made—by nonwhites—of the fact that Ukrainians are Caucasians. This is undoubtedly one factor that leads other Caucasians to identify with their plight. But when Syrians identify with Palestinians, no doubt their own shared skin color and religion apply just as much. 

Another reason why this conflict has riveted the attention of the world: Millions believed that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 ended the Cold War.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

But Vladimir Putin has brutally notified the world that it’s on again. Europeans—and Americans—fear that Putin’s attack on Ukraine, like Adolf Hitler’s attack on Poland, is simply the first of a series of conquests to come.

In 1935, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini set out to create a second Roman Empire by invading Ethiopia. The conflict pitted poorly-armed Ethiopian forces against Italians armed with radio, bombers and even mustard gas. Even ambulances and hospitals became targets for Mussolini’s air force.

Ethiopia’s emperor, Haile Selassie, appealed in person to the League of Nations for aid in repelling the invasion. His plea was greeted by laughter from the Italian and German delegates—and ignored by the rest of the world.

The war ended in 1937 with an Italian victory.

Haile Selassie in full dress (cropped).jpg

Haile Selassie

By contrast: The Spanish Civil War proved a magnet for international commitment. The conflict pitted Fascists under General Francisco Franco against the new Spanish Republic. Adolf Hitler and Mussolini sent troops and planes to aid Franco.  

Tens of thousands of volunteers from about 50 countries poured into Spain to support the Republican cause—among them, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from the United States.. Writers Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos lent their propaganda talents to the Republic.

American liberals sensed that this civil war was a testing ground for the weapons of Fascism—as it proved to be. By 1939, the superior numbers and weapons of Franco and his allies prevailed. 

When Hemingway returned to the United States he tried to warn all who would listen that a far greater war was coming: World War II.

People see conflicts in the light of their own priorities. No two conflicts are the same—and will never be seen the same. What was true for the ones in Ethiopia and Spain remains true for the ones in Syria and Ukraine.

THE WORLD SEES HORROR IN UKRAINE; ISLAMICS SEE RACISM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 7, 2022 at 12:10 am

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a massive invasion of Ukraine. 

To Ukrainians, it’s a matter of life-or-death.

To Americans, Europeans and Westerners in general, it’s a horrific, unfolding tragedy.

But to nonwhites—and especially Islamics—throughout the world, the sympathies of these nations is a sign of racism and Islamophobia. 

The day after the invasion began, CBS News senior correspondent in Kyiv Charlie D’Agata said: “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilised, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully, too – city where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.”

William Golden // CBS Logo

CBS

On social media, his comment was strongly criticized as dehumanizing non-white, non-European peoples. 

One Twitter user wrote: “Atrocities start with words and dehumanization. Atrocities unleashed upon millions in the ME, fueled by dictators labeled as reformists in the west. The racist subtext: Afghans, Iraqi & Syrian lives don’t matter, for they are deemed inferior—’uncivilized.'”

In fact, conditions in Ukraine have been relatively peaceful. Afghanistan has never actually been a nation, simply a patchwork of feuding warlords. This has been true from the time of Alexander the Great to the Taliban today. Dictators have always been the rulers of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. 

On February 25, Sky News broadcast a video of people in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro making Molotov cocktails, explaining how grating Styrofoam makes the incendiary device stick to vehicles better.

In the media - Positive Money

A Twitter user wrote: “If this was done by Palestinians, Afghanistan or other nations resisting occupation, it would be terrorism. And during Mandela’s anti-apartheid era, it was also dubbed terrorism. For Europeans facing similar situations, it is resistance! Western duplicity knows no bounds.”

“Terrorism” is defined as “The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

Defending one’s country from attack by another country is not terrorism. In fact, from ancient times, it has been seen as the highest virtue, calling forth loyalty and courage.

Palestinians have repeatedly targeted civilians—not soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces—for death. In Afghanistan, women and children have been routinely massacred by warring factions.

There are solid reasons for fears of Islamic terrorism.

In his 2011 book, The Secrets of the FBI, Ronald Kessler notes the refusal of the Islamic community to identify known or potential terrorists within its ranks. 

The Secrets of the FBI by Ronald Kessler

Said Arthur M. Cummings, then the Bureau’s executive assistant director for national security: “I had this discussion with the director of a very prominent Muslim organization here in [Washington] D.C. And he said, ‘Why are you guys always looking at the Muslim community?’”

“I can name the homegrown cells, all of whom are Muslim, all of whom were seeking to kill Americans,” replied Cummings. “It’s not the Irish, it’s not the French, it’s not the Catholics, it’s not the Protestants. It’s the Muslims.”

On BFM TV, France’s most-watched cable news channel, journalist Philippe Corbe said: “We’re not talking here about Syrians fleeing the bombing of the Syrian regime backed by Putin, we’re talking about Europeans leaving in cars that look like ours to save their lives.”

This was heavily criticized: “This war is just revealing the western hypocrisy and racism at its peak.”

There is a difference between a Syrian dictator waging war against his own citizens, and a nuclear-armed country waging all-out war on a smaller, democratic nation. The skin color of the peoples involved has nothing to do with either action. 

“These are not the refugees we are used to… these people are Europeans,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told journalists of the Ukrainians. “These people are intelligent, they are educated people…. This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists…

“In other words,” he added, “there is not a single European country now which is afraid of he current wave of refugees.”

Kiril Petkov 2021.jpg

Kiril Petkov 

President.bg, CC BY 2.5 BG <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/bg/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This was treated as racism by Islamics: “A refugee is a refugee, whether European, African or Asian,” Syrian journalist Okba Mohammad said.

In fact: By early 2021, 10 years after Syria’s civil war erupted, European Union states had taken in one million Syrian refugees and asylum seekers; Germany alone took more than half. In 2016, the European Union paid billions of euros for Turkey to continue hosting 3.7 million Syrians.

On February 6, 2016, The World Post carried this story: “Geneva III: The Stillborn Conference and the Endemic Failure of the International Community.”

The first paragraph read:

“While approaching the fifth anniversary of the Syrian civil war on March 15 — which claimed more than 300,000 lives, approximately 700,000 wounded, 4 million fled the country, and another 6 million displaced within Syria — the international community has failed to put an end to bloodshed in this war-torn country.” 

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which is safely located in Great Britain—the total number of dead [in 2016] was now more than 310,000.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - Wikiwand

And who did the Observatory—and The World Post-–blame for this Islamic self-slaughter? 

The West, of course.

WARNING! DOING BUSINESS WITH MERCENARIES CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 30, 2021 at 12:05 am

The United States had been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 16 years—and between 2001 and 2017 had spent an estimated $714 billion.

Still, there was no end in sight.

Then Erik Prince suggested a remedy: Mercenaries—via his private company, Academi.

For $3.5 billion in taxpayer monies, he claimed that he could vin a victory that had eluded the United States Air Force, Army (including Green Berets) and Navy SEALs.  

Erik Prince.jpg

Erik Prince

By Miller Center [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1997, Prince created Blackwater, a private security company providing support to military and police agencies.

In August, 2003, Blackwater got the first of a series of Federal contracts to deploy its forces in Iraq. For $21 million, it safeguarded Paul Bremer, America’s proconsul running the occupation. 

Ultimately, Blackwater got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

According to human rights organizations, Blackwater abused Iraqis and engaged in torture to obtain information.

In September, 2007, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in a Baghdad traffic circle.

Five guards were charged with murder. Three were convicted in October, 2014, of 14 manslaughter charges and in April 2015 sentenced to 30 years in prison. These sentences were deemed unfair upon appeal and await re-sentencing. 

Owing to its highly controversial activities in Iraq, Prince renamed the company Xe Services in 2009 and then Academi in 2011.

By 2018, against opposition by the Pentagon, Prince lobbied President Donald Trump to let Academi privatize the war in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, his company did not become the sole American military force in Afghanistan—despite his sister, Betsy Devos, being the Secretary of Education.

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private–and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich yourself.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

But there are dangers to hiring men whose first love is profit. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

But there are others who have offered a timely warning against the use of mercenaries. One of these is Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

“THE AFGHAN CAMPAIGN”–THEN AND NOW

In History, Military, Social commentary on August 24, 2021 at 12:14 am

In the 1981 epic medieval fantasy “Excalibur,” director John Boorman warns us through King Arthur’s court magician, Merlin: “For it is the doom of men that they forget.”

But that isn’t true for fiction and nonfiction writer Steven Pressfield, who repeatedly holds up the past as a mirror to our present. 

In his 1998 novel, Gates of Fire, he depicted the heroic last stand of “The Three Hundred Spartans” at Thermopylae.

In Tides of War (2000), he recreated the later conflict between ancient Athens and Sparta through the life of Alcibiades, the infamous Athenian statesman and general.

And in The Virtues of War (2004), he showcased the brilliant and luminous (if increasingly dark and explosive) personality of Alexander the Great, whose soaring rhetoric inspired men to hurl themselves into countless battles on his behalf.

But it is his 2006 novel, The Afghan Campaign, that today holds special relevance for Americans obsessed with the end of their 20-year war in Afghanistan.The Afghan Campaign | Steven Pressfield

The novel opens with Matthias, a young Greek seeking glory and opportunity, signing up with the army of Alexander the Great. But Alexander has conquered the Persian Empire, and with it have passed those conventional, set-piece battles where everyone can instantly tell friend from foe.

Alexander next plans to conquer India. But first he must pacify its gateway—Afghanistan. It is here, for the first time, that the Macedonians meet an enemy unlike any other.

“Here the foe does not meet us in pitched battle,” warns Alexander. “Even when we defeat him, he will no accept our dominion. He comes back again and again. He hates us with a passion whose depth is exceeded only by his patience and his capacity for suffering.”

Matthias learns this early. In his first raid on an Afghan village, he’s ordered to execute a helpless prisoner. When he refuses, he’s brutalized until he strikes out with his sword—and then botches the job.

But, soon, exposed to an unending series of atrocities—committed by himself and his comrades, as well as the enemy—he finds himself transformed.

It is not a transformation he expected—or relishes. He agonizes over the gap between the ideals he meant to embrace when he became a soldier—and the brutalities that have drained him of everything but a grim determination to survive at any cost.

Pressfield, a former Marine himself, repeatedly contrasts how noncombatants see war as a kind of “glorious” child’s-play with how those who must fight it actually experience it.

Steven Pressfield (@SPressfield) | Twitter

Steven Pressfield

He creates an extraordinary exchange between Costas, an ancient-world version of a CNN war correspondent, and Lucas, a soldier whose morality is outraged at how Costas and his ilk routinely prettify the indescribable.

The phrase Lucas hates most: “Put to death.”

“Language matters, Costas. Look at my feet. That black isn’t dirt. I can scour my flesh with lye and caustic. That man-blood never comes out.

“I hate the Afghan. He is a beast and a coward. But what I hate most is that he has dragged us down to his level.”

And we know the truth of this exchange immediately. For there are brutalities inflicted by our troops on the enemy—and atrocities inflicted by the enemy upon our soldiers—that never make the headlines, let alone the TV cameras.

We know, though we don’t wish to admit, that, decades from now, thousands of these men will carry horrific memories to their graves. These memories will remain sealed from public view, allowing their fellow but unblooded Americans to sleep peacefully, unaware of the price that others have paid on their behalf.

Like the Macedonians (who call themselves “Macks”), our own soldiers found themselves serving in an all-but-forgotten land among a populace whose values could not be more alien from our own if they came from Mars.

Instinctively, they turned to one another–not only for physical security but to preserve their last vestiges of humanity. Pressfield is never more eloquent than when he puts into the words of his war-weary veteran, Lucas, the following:

“Never tell anyone except your mates. Only you don’t need to tell them. They know. They know you. Better than a man knows his wife, better than he knows himself. They’re bound to you and you to them, like wolves in a pack. It’s not you and them. You are them. The unit is indivisible. One dies, we all die.”

Put conversely: One lives, we all live.

Pressfield has reached into the past to reveal fundamental truths about the present that most of us could probably not accept if contained in a modern-day memoir. These truths take on an immediate poignancy owing to our recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But they will remain just as relevant decades from now, when our young soldiers of today are old and retired.

The Afghan Campaign thrusts us directly into the flesh-and-blood horrors created by political rhetoric: The horrors of men traumatized by an often unseen and always menacing enemy, and the horrors they must inflict in return if they are to survive in a hostile and alien world.

GUEST EDITORIAL: PLAYING THE BLAME GAME

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 23, 2021 at 12:09 am
Want to play the blame game?  Let’s see who we can blame for Afghanistan:

(1)  The Bush administration: They got us into this mess with no exit strategy and then dropped the ball, failing to get Bin Laden and starting another war in Iraq.  I hope the war profiteers’ profits were worth all the American (and other) lives lost. The war in Afghanistan was a rushed response to the events of 9/11.  Everyone in Congress supported it except for one Representative.  Barbra Lee of California voted ‘no’ because she believed we should have been cautious.  She was right.

The USA ignored what happened previously to the Russians.  And the irony is that we helped the resistance fighters (the Mujahideen) with arms and training which were later used against us.  The Mujahideen became the Taliban. 

Pin on ufghaan

Afghanistan 

(2)  The Obama administration: Obama got Bin Laden, but shortly thereafter we lost Seal Team 6 in a helicopter that was shot down by the Taliban.  After that, Obama was pretty much hands off.  He wanted to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, nut he got burned when he pulled us out of Iraq and the Iraqi army collapsed under pressure from ISIS.  He did not want to make the same mistake.  But that decision left us in limbo land.  We weren’t winning, but at least we weren’t losing.  The plan continued to be propping up the ineffective Afghan government and training their army. 

(3)  The Trump administration: Trump came into office and increased the number of troops to 14,000. But he planned to reduce the number of troops back to the level he inherited from Obama and eventually pull out entirely. They made a deal with the Taliban that did not include the Afghan government and signaled that a pullout was coming. Whatever happened to “We don’t deal with terrorists”? 

No telling how the pullout would have worked under Trump, but if the Afghans folded like they did, the result would have probably been the same.  Interestingly, the GOP pulled down a webpage that lauded Trump’s “Historic peace agreement with the Taliban”. 

Archived version of RNC page touting Trump's Taliban deal

 

And let’s not forget that Trump negotiated the release of Abdul Ghani Baradar (one of the founders of the Taliban) from a Pakistani prison.  And he’s the one who signed the peace agreement.   That peace agreement was supposed to have led to discussions between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but that never happened. 

(4) The Biden administration: They went along with the Trump agreement, basically giving the green light to the Taliban.  The Taliban would have waited us out for a hundred years if necessary. Joe gets the blame for what happens under his watch, but he should get credit for ending an occupation that should have ended many years ago. 

(5)  Pakistan:  They let Bin Laden and the Taliban hide.  We got Bin Laden, but we couldn’t get the Taliban without starting a war with Pakistan.  And they have nuclear weapons.

(6)  The Afghan people: Who let the Taliban take over in the first place? They did. Who counted on the USA and others to keep them safe? They did.  Who took advantage of our training and weapons, only to fold like a cheap suit against the Taliban when they were on their own?  They did. 

I do feel sorry for those who did what they could, but overall, there was no way they could ever defend themselves.

So, there’s plenty of blame to go around. 

Biden is getting heat from both sides.  The pullout is a mess, largely because of underestimating the speed at which the Taliban would take over and the collapse of both the Afghan government and Afghan army.  There is fear that many of the Afghans who helped the US are in danger and they may not get out. Some people have already died trying to cling to a jet as it took off. Biden is sending more troops to cover the evacuation. 

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

President Joseph Biden

But Biden gave an honest speech.  He admitted that there were failures.  He took responsibility and defended his decision instead of trying to deflect.  It’s hard to imagine Trump doing the same.

Time will tell if the decision to pull out at this time was the right move. There is no denying that we have been mired in this quagmire for too long. We have wasted too many lives and too many resources. 

The spin will continue. Liz Cheney hilariously blamed Obama and Trump while conveniently forgetting to mention her dad’s involvement (along with Bush and Rumsfeld) in getting us into this mess in the first place. George Bush told a German broadcaster that Biden’s order to pull out was a grave mistake.  That’s like an arsonist blaming the firefighters for not handling the blaze he created. 

Hopefully, we will learn from this fiasco. The moral of the story is that we shouldn’t go around and mess with others’ business when we can’t even get our own shit in order.  And if we should fall into that trap again, we should at least refrain from “nation building”, which is the height of American arrogance.

__________

Ed Muurahainen is a historian, writer, and musician. He resides in Orlando, FL, where he studied psychology, political science and logic at Valencia College and the University of Central Florida. 

BARBARIANS CAN’T BE CIVILIZED

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2021 at 12:07 am

On July 8, President Joseph Biden said that America would withdraw its armed forces from Afghanistan by August 31, thus ending the nearly 20-year war.

“How many more, how many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?” Biden said to those calling for the United States to extend the military operation. 

To put the consequences of this effort into human terms:

On December 21, 2015, a suicide-bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.  Six American troops and an Afghan were killed.

One of the dead was Joseph Lemm, 45, a detective and 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department. A technical sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, he had been deployed three times—once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

Joseph Lemm - Tunnel to Towers Foundation

Joseph Lemm

Lemm left behind a daughter, Brook, 16, a son, Ryan, four, and his wife, Christine.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff on December 23 in Lemm’s honor.

“Staff Sergeant Joe Lemm served this nation with the selflessness and bravery that embodies the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD,” Cuomo said in a statement. 

Lemm’s death was a double tragedy—that of a dedicated man who should not have died so needlessly. 

A total of 2,312 US military personnel in Afghanistan have died and 20,066 have been wounded since 2001. The cost of military operations is put at $824 billion.

The history of American conflict in Afghanistan began on September 11, 2001.

On that date, 19 Islamic hijackers slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted—and the hijackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

The mastermind of the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire then living in Afghanistan, under protection by its ruling thugocracy, the Taliban.

The administration of President George W. Bush demanded his immediate surrender to American justice.

The Taliban refused.

So, on October 7, 2011—less than one month from the 9/11 attacks—American bombers began pounding Taliban positions.

The whole point of the campaign was to pressure the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

But the Taliban refused. Bin Laden holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then ultimately escaped into Pakistan.

After December, 2001, American Intelligence completely lost track of Bin Laden. CIA officials repeatedly said he was likely living in the “no-man’s-land” between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thus, there was no longer any point in pressuring the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden

Still, the United States continued to commit forces to Afghanistan—to turn a primitive, warlord-ruled country into a modern-day democracy.

There was, admittedly, a great deal to detest about the Taliban:

  • When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they turned soccer stadiums into execution plazas for mass beheadings or shootings.
  • Taliban “fighters” have proven their “courage” by throwing acid into the faces of women who dared to attend school.

Taliban religious police beating a woman

  • On August 8, 1989, the Taliban attacked Mazar-i-Sharif. Talibanists began shooting people in the street, then moved on to mass rapes of women. Thousands of people were locked in containers and left to suffocate.
  • The Taliban forbade women to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative and wearing the burqa—a traditional dress covering the entire body. Those who disobeyed were publicly beaten.

Yet, as horrific as such atrocities were, these did not obligate the United States to spend eternity trying to bring civilization to this barbaric country.

And, in pursuing that goal, both the Bush and Obama administrations repeatedly overlooked the following realities:

  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014) didn’t believe in democracy—despite American claims to support his efforts to bring this to Afghanistan.
  • His authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul, and he was viewed by most Afghans as an illegitimate ruler, imposed by America.
  • The same can be said for his successor, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
  • American soldiers in Afghanistan felt surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • Afghan “insurgents” are fighting American forces because (1) they are in a civil war; and (2) they believe their country has once again been occupied by foreigners.
  • Counterinsurgency was preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan—where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

All these truths applied just as firmly to America’s failed misadventure in Vietnam.

Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their so-called South Vietnamese allies as American troops now feel about their Afghan “allies.”

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed up how Americans had really felt about their supposed South Vietnamese allies.

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person. The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps. The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].

“The fourth was VC [Viet Cong]. And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value. The only thing below them was the civilians,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 14, 2021 at 12:11 am

For America to avoid permanent military entanglements in the Middle East, it must learn to mind its own business.

Perhaps the most important reason for doing so: America’s past efforts in that region have usually gone horribly awry.

Two examples should suffice:

Iran: Mohammad Mosaddegh was the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from 1951 until 1953. His decision to nationalize the Iranian oil industry led to his overthrow in a CIA coup.

He was replaced by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who ruled until 1979 when a national upheaval forced him to flee. Iranians have never forgiven the United States for subjecting them to the 25-year reign of a brutal despot.

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Shah of Iran

Afghanistan: In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. America began supplying shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the Afghan Mujahideen fighters. These shifted the balance of the war to the Afghans, who brought down countless Soviet airplanes and helicopters.  

Deprived of air supremacy, the Soviet Army lost 14,453 killed and 53,753 wounded, and withdrew by 1989.

Americans congratulated themselves on their Realpolitic. But many of the Stingers remained in the hands of jihadists—who decided that America was now “The Great Satan.”  

One of those jihadists: Osama bin Laden.

According to Michael Scheuer, a primary step for disengaging from the Middle East is for America to its role as Israel’s permanent bodyguard.

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran—as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

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Michael Scheuer

For decades, the United States has pursued two policies in the Middle East—one based on relations with the Arab world and the other based on relations with Israel.

Policy 1: Maintaining access to vast amounts of Arab oil at low prices.

Policy 2: Maintaining the security of Israel.

Since the Arabs and Israelis hate each other, each side constantly tries to sway American support in its direction.

Every step the United States takes to defend Israel—diplomatically or militarily—ignites hatred of Americans among Islamics.

And every step—diplomatically or militarily—the United States takes to improve its relations with Islamic countries convinces Israelis that they’re being “sold out.”

In short: The United States is like a giant with one foot stuck in Israel and the other stuck in the Islamic world—leaving his private parts fully exposed to both.

This is not to deny that Israel has a right to exist. Every nation—including Israel—has the absolute right to defend itself from aggression.  

But no nation—including Israel—has the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

Millions of Americans believe they are morally obligated to defend Israel owing to the barbarism of the Holocaust. America, however, was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

Another reason many Americans feel committed to Israel: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that, for Jesus Christ to awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

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Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

After Christ returns, they believe, the Jews will face a choice: Become Christians or go to hell. For evangelical Christians, Jews remain the eternal “Christ killers.”

And if Jews must assume temporary control of the Middle East to bring about the return of a man who died 2,000 years ago, so be it.

This is also the view of many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate. 

Unfortunately, such unbalanced views are shared by millions of equally irrational evangelical Christians.

During his October 9, 2013 appearance before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Michael Scheuer absolutely rejected the conservatives’ assertion that jihadists wage war on America because they “hate us for our freedoms.”  

SCHEUER: These people are fighting for something substantive, for something religious….They are not going to fight us because we have women in the workplace.

That is an insanity. What they are fighting us about is what we do.Invariably, they attribute their motivation to U.S. and Western military intervention and support for Israel and Muslim tyrannies.

Scheuer’s take on Israel brought him into direct conflict with Rep. Peter T. King (R-New York).

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Congressman Peter T. King

KING: I would just say we would have more dead Americans if we didn’t stand by our allies in the Middle East. We would just encourage al-Qaeda to take advantage of us.

SCHEUER: You know, you are presiding over a bankruptcy. What can be worse? What has been the goal of al-Qaeda since it was formed? To bankrupt the United States.  Who is winning today, sir? We are done like dinner.

KING: We are winning and we will continue to win unless we take the advice of people like you.

SCHEUER:  Sir, you are exactly wrong. We are losing. Two U.S. field armies were defeated by men in the field with weapons from the Korean War.

KING: The fact is we have not been successfully attacked since September 11.

SCHEUER: The fact is, sir, we have had two military defeats overseas, which is far more important.

And, warns Scheuer, more defeats—domestic and international—lie ahead unless the United States radically changes its policies toward the Middle East.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 13, 2021 at 12:10 am

According to Michael Scheuer, the United States faces a danger that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran who, from 1996 to 1999, headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq (2008).

And in Marching Toward Hell he bluntly indicts the “profound and willful ignorance” of America’s “bipartisan governing elite.”

Scheuer defines this elite as “the inbred set of individuals who have influenced…drafted and conducted U.S. foreign policy” since 1973.Within that group are:

  • Politicians
  • Journalists
  • Academics
  • Preachers
  • Civil servants
  • Military officers
  • Philanthropists.

“Some are Republicans, others Democrats; some are evangelicals, others atheists; some are militarists, others pacifists; some are purveyors of Western civilization, others are multiculturalists,” writes Scheuer.

But for all their political and/or philosophical differences, the members of this governing elite share one belief in common: “An unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

And he warns that this “bipartisan governing elite” must radically change its policies–such as unconditional support for Israel and corrupt, tyrannical Muslim governments.

Otherwise, Americans will be locked in an endless “hot war” with the Islamic world.

On September 28, 2014, President Barack Obama provided an example of this “unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

In an appearance on 60 Minutes, Obama spoke about his recent decision to commit American troops to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Steve Kroft: I think everybody applauds the efforts that you’ve made and the size of the coalition that has been assembled.

But most of them are contributing money or training or policing the borders, not getting particularly close to the contact. It looks like once again we are leading the operation. We are carrying…

President Obama: Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world.

And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don’t call Beijing. They don’t call Moscow. They call us. That’s the deal.

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling.

President Barack Obama

Kroft: I mean, it looks like we are doing 90%.

Obama: Steve…when there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge making sure Haiti can rebuild. That’s how we roll. And that’s what makes this America.

Scheuer believed that America shouldn’t be the world’s 9-1-1 number. And that the place to start was by not deploying troops to Syria.

By the time Obama gave his 60 Minutes interview, more than 470,000 people had been killed in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war. The conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad. 

And cheering on America’s intervention was the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights—which was safely based in Great Britain. 

According to its website:

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.” 

In short: It’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

In fact, there were powerful reasons why the United States should steer clear of that conflict.

First, since 1979, the U.S. State Department had listed Syria as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports: Hizbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safehouse in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–-the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–“Carlos the Jackal” 

Second, there were no “good Syrians” for the United States to support––only murderers who had long served a tyrant and other murderers who wished to become the next tyrant.

Third, the United States didn’t know what it wanted to do in Syria, except “send a message.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, wrote: “War is the continuation of state policy by other means.” But President Barack Obama didn’t state his “state policy” toward Syria—or what he intended to gain by attacking it.

Obama had said he wasn’t “after regime-change.” That would leave Assad in power–-and free to go on killing those who resist his rule.

For America to avoid permanent military entanglements in the Middle East, it must learn to mind its own business.

Among Michael Scheuer’s warnings: The United States cannot defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) through air power alone.

President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes against ISIL in September, 2014.  Since then, the United States Air Force has dropped thousands of bombs on ISIL convoys.

AMERICA AS THE WORLD’S 9-1-1: TIME TO HANG UP: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 12, 2021 at 12:05 am

On July 9, Conservative New York Times Columnist David Brooks offered the case for why the United States should retain its military forces in Afghanistan.

He did so in response to President Joseph Biden’s July 8 announcement that the withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan would conclude by August 31:

“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation build. It’s the right and the responsibility of Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.” 

America had attacked Afghanistan in October, 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks orchestrated by Al Quaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was then a “guest” of the country’s ruling Taliban, which refused to turn him over.

Osama bin Laden portrait.jpg

Osama bin Laden

The initial goal of American military forces had been simple and direct: Find Bin Laden—and kill him.

But by December, 2001, Bin Laden was no longer in Afghanistan. He was thought to be living somewhere in the “no-man’s-land” between that country and Pakistan. 

At that point, American forces could—and should—have been withdrawn.  

But they weren’t.

Instead, the mission became a “civilize-the-barbarians” one. That is: Make Afghanistan a democracy where everyone—especially women—could be safe from hardline Islamic fundamentalists intent on creating a theocratic dictatorship. 

In previous years, Brooks’ argument for retaining American troops in Afghanistan would have been made by liberals—and furiously assailed by conservatives.

On the July 9 edition of The PBS Newshour, Brooks said: “I think [Biden]’s making a mistake [in withdrawing troops from Afghanistan].

“And it’s become obvious in record time that it’s a mistake. When he announced the policy initially, he said he had faith in the Afghan government to hold Afghanistan together from the Taliban. That has fallen apart.

“…Eighty-five percent of the territory has already fallen to the Taliban. The Taliban seems completely confident they will take over.

“I think it was 2014 or so, when this Pakistani young lady, Malala, won the Nobel Prize, and who was shot in the head by the Taliban for going to school. There are a lot of Afghan Malalas out there. And we were all moved by her.

“And we all sympathized and thought that was a very important cause that young women in this part of the world should be able to get an education. And we’re walking away from that. We’re walking away from the idea that Afghanistan will stay one country.

“…So, to me, what we were doing over the last year, which was like 2,500 troops, relatively low casualties, was a price worth paying for humanitarian and strategic reasons.”   

And when the United States isn’t voluntarily placing its soldiers in harm’s way, world leaders are calling for them to be placed there.

On July 7, Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, plunging an always chaotic “nation” into even greater chaos. On July 10, Haiti’s interim government asked the United States to deploy troops to protect key infrastructure as it tries to stabilize the country.

Anticipating such a request, Brooks said on the July 9 edition of The PBS Newshour:

“Even the story earlier in the program on Haiti, if Haiti is asking us to come in to stabilize Haiti, is that our role anymore? It used to be you had some sense of where America’s posture was. I don’t think I have a sense of where American’s posture is right now.”

Which brings us to former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer.

According to Scheuer, for all their ideological differences, Republicans and Democrats share one belief in common: An unquenchable ardor to have the United States intervene abroad in all places, situations and times.”

Scheuer is a 20-year CIA veteran—as well as an author, historian, foreign policy critic and political analyst.

Michael Scheuer

From 1996 to 1999 he headed Alec Station, the CIA’s unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

He has served as a news analyst for CBS News and adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies.

And he’s convinced that if America wants peace, it must learn to mind its own business.

He’s also the author of two seminal works on America’s fight against terrorism: Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2003) and Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq (2008).

Scheuer argues that Islamics don’t hate Americans because of “our way of life”—with its freedoms of speech and worship and its highly secular, commercialized culture. Instead, Islamic hatred toward the United States stems from America’s six longstanding policies in the Middle East: 

  • U.S. support for apostate, corrupt, and tyrannical Muslim governments;
  • U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula;
  • U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis’ thrall;
  • U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low;
  • U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan; and
  • U.S. support for Russia, India, and China against their Muslim militants.

Scheuer contends that no amount of American propaganda will win “the hearts and minds” of Islamics who can “see, hear, experience, and hate” these policies firsthand.

But there is another danger facing America, says Scheuer, one that threatens “the core of our social and civil institutions.”

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