Al-Qaida could not care less what we do in Afghanistan. We can bomb Afghan villages, hunt the Taliban in Helmand province, build a 100,000-strong client Afghan army, stand by passively as Afghan warlords execute hundreds, maybe thousands, of Taliban prisoners, build huge, elaborate military bases and send drones to drop bombs on Pakistan. It will make no difference. The war will not halt the attacks of Islamic radicals. Terrorist and insurgent groups are not conventional forces. They do not play by the rules of warfare our commanders have drilled into them in war colleges and service academies. And these underground groups are protean, changing shape and color as they drift from one failed state to the next, plan a terrorist attack and then fade back into the shadows. We are fighting with the wrong tools. We are fighting the wrong people. We are on the wrong side of history. And we will be defeated in Afghanistan as we will be in Iraq.
The cost of the Afghanistan war is rising. Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed or wounded. July has been the deadliest month in the war for NATO combatants, with at least 50 troops, including 26 Americans, killed. Roadside bomb attacks on coalition forces are swelling the number of wounded and killed. In June, the tally of incidents involving roadside bombs, also called improvised explosive devices (IEDs), hit 736, a record for the fourth straight month; the number had risen from 361 in March to 407 in April and to 465 in May. The decision by President Barack Obama to send 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan has increased our presence to 57,000 American troops. The total is expected to rise to at least 68,000 by the end of 2009. It will only mean more death, expanded fighting and greater futility.
We have stumbled into a confusing mix of armed groups that include criminal gangs, drug traffickers, Pashtun and Tajik militias, kidnapping rings, death squads and mercenaries. We are embroiled in a civil war. The Pashtuns, who make up most of the Taliban and are the traditional rulers of Afghanistan, are battling the Tajiks and Uzbeks, who make up the Northern Alliance, which, with foreign help, won the civil war in 2001. The old Northern Alliance now dominates the corrupt and incompetent government. It is deeply hated. And it will fall with us.
We are losing the war in Afghanistan. When we invaded the country eight years ago the Taliban controlled about 75 percent of Afghanistan. Today its reach has crept back to about half the country. The Taliban runs the poppy trade, which brings in an annual income of about $300 million a year. It brazenly carries out attacks in Kabul, the capital, and foreigners, fearing kidnapping, rarely walk the streets of most Afghan cities. It is life-threatening to go into the countryside, where 80 percent of all Afghanis live, unless escorted by NATO troops. And intrepid reporters can interview Taliban officials in downtown coffee shops in Kabul. Osama bin Laden has, to the amusement of much of the rest of the world, become the Where’s Waldo of the Middle East. Take away the bullets and the bombs and you have a Gilbert and Sullivan farce.
No one seems to be able to articulate why we are in Afghanistan. Is it to hunt down bin Laden and al-Qaida? Is it to consolidate progress? Have we declared war on the Taliban? Are we building democracy? Are we fighting terrorists there so we do not have to fight them here? Are we “liberating” the women of Afghanistan? The absurdity of the questions, used as thought-terminating clichés, exposes the absurdity of the war. The confusion of purpose mirrors the confusion on the ground. We don’t know what we are doing.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of U.S. and NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, announced recently that coalition forces must make a “cultural shift” in Afghanistan. He said they should move away from their normal combat orientation and toward protecting civilians. He understands that airstrikes, which have killed hundreds of civilians, are a potent recruiting tool for the Taliban. The goal is lofty but the reality of war defies its implementation. NATO forces will always call in close air support when they are under attack. This is what troops under fire do. They do not have the luxury of canvassing the local population first. They ask questions later. The May 4 aerial attack on Farah province, which killed dozens of civilians, violated standing orders about airstrikes. So did the air assault in Kandahar province last week in which four civilians were killed and 13 were wounded. The NATO strike targeted a village in the Shawalikot district. Wounded villagers at a hospital in the provincial capital told AP that attack helicopters started bombarding their homes at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. One man said his 3-year-old granddaughter was killed. Combat creates its own rules, and civilians are almost always the losers.
by Howard Zinn
July 4, 2009
Excerpt from The Progressive July 3, 2009
There are things that happen in the world that are bad, and you want to do something about them. You have a just cause. But our culture is so war prone that we immediately jump from, “This is a good cause” to “This deserves a war.”
You need to be very, very comfortable in making that jump.
The American Revolution—independence from England—was a just cause. Why should the colonists here be occupied by and oppressed by England? But therefore, did we have to go to the Revolutionary War?
How many people died in the Revolutionary War?
Nobody ever knows exactly how many people die in wars, but it’s likely that 25,000 to 50,000 people died in this one. So let’s take the lower figure—25,000 people died out of a population of three million. That would be equivalent today to two and a half million people dying to get England off our backs.
You might consider that worth it, or you might not.
“I am sure that Americans would favour the emergence from the present situation of a truly popularly based government and it is very appropriate for the president to make clear that that is what he favours. Now if it turns out that it is not possible for a government to emerge in Iran that can deal with itself as a nation rather than as a cause then we have a different situation, then we may conclude that we must work for regime change in Iran from the outside but if I understand the president correctly he does not want to do this as a visible intervention in the current crisis.”
How much attention do elections in Japan, India, Argentina, or any other country, get from the U.S. media? How many Americans and American journalists even know who is in political office in other countries besides England, France, and Germany? Who can name the political leaders of Switzerland, Holland, Brazil, Japan, or even China?
Yet, many know of Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. The reason is obvious. He is daily demonized in the U.S. media.
The U.S. media’s demonization of Ahmadinejad itself demonstrates American ignorance. The President of Iran is not the ruler. He is not the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He cannot set policies outside the boundaries set by Iran’s rulers, the ayatollahs who are not willing for the Iranian Revolution to be overturned by American money in some color-coded “revolution.”
Iranians have a bitter experience with the United States government. Their first democratic election, after emerging from occupied and colonized status in the 1950s, was overturned by the U.S. government. The U.S. government installed in place of the elected candidate a dictator who tortured and murdered dissidents who thought Iran should be an independent country and not ruled by an American puppet.
The U.S. “superpower” has never forgiven the Iranian Islamic ayatollahs for the Iranian Revolution in the late 1970s, which overthrew the U.S. puppet government and held hostage U.S. embassy personnel, regarded as “a den of spies,” while Iranian students pieced together shredded embassy documents that proved America’s complicity in the destruction of Iranian democracy.
The government-controlled U.S. corporate media, a Ministry of Propaganda, has responded to the re-election of Ahmadinejad with non-stop reports of violent Iranians protests to a stolen election. A stolen election is presented as a fact, even thought there is no evidence for it whatsoever. The U.S. media’s response to the documented stolen elections during the George W. Bush/Karl Rove era was to ignore the evidence of real stolen elections.
People ask me where I stood politically you know. It’s not that I disagree with Bush’s economic policy or his foreign policy. But that I believe he was a child of Satan here to destroy the planet Earth.
Yeah, I’m a little.. a little to the left there, I was. I was leaning that way.
Yeah you know who else is going, little Quayle boy. Little Damien.
Is that guy Damien? Tell me those blank empty eyes aren’t gonna glow red in the very near future.
[eyes roll back in head]
Stop making jokes about meee. Nrrr. I’ll spell potato any fucking way I want. Nrrrr.
Rioters in LA, let’s nuke them.
Bush was a pussy Nrr.
He held me back.
Frightening people man. Bush tried to buy votes towards the end of the election. Goes around, you know, selling weapons to everyone, getting that military industrial complex vote happening for him. Sold 160 fighter jets to Korea and then 240 tanks to Kuwait and then goes around making speeches why he should be Commander-in-Chief because, “We still live in a dangerous world.”
Back in September 2003 — long before I ever knew about the [non] Federal [no] Reserve Bankster scam, Pastor Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church said, “If we have a national debt of 6 trillion dollars, it would be interesting to know who we owe.”
He got my attention…
“To whom do the citizens of the United States of America owe 7 trillion dollars? … Your bible doesn’t call it interest, your bible calls it usury. I dare you to touch somebody and tell them, You ain’t using me! … See when that banker comes along and says, it’s just interest, you ought to look right back at him and say, you’re USING me!”
He went on to powerfully quote the Bible and Jefferson and then said, “Do you know right now, that if we got together as the American people and we sold every building, and every square inch of American soil, for the total amount of its worth, we would have to pay back THAT America — and two more! Somebody OWNS this nation.”
It is becoming clear that the bailout measures of late 2008 may have consequences at least as grave for an open society as the response to 9/11 in 2001. Many members of Congress felt coerced into voting against their inclinations, and the normal procedures for orderly consideration of a bill were dispensed with.
The excuse for bypassing normal legislative procedures was the existence of an emergency. But one of the most reprehensible features of the legislation, that it allowed Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to permit bailed-out institutions to use public money for exorbitant salaries and bonuses, was inserted by Paulson after the immediate crisis had passed.
According to Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vermont) the bailout bill originally called for a cap on executive salaries, but Paulson changed the requirement at the last minute. Welch and other members of Congress were enraged by “news that banks getting taxpayer-funded bailouts are still paying exorbitant salaries, bonuses, and other benefits.” In addition, as AP reported in October, “Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. questioned allowing banks that accept bailout bucks to continue paying dividends on their common stock. `There are far better uses of taxpayer dollars than continuing dividend payments to shareholders,’ he said.”
Even more reprehensible is the fact that since the bailouts, Paulson and the Treasury Department have refused to provide details of the Troubled Assets Relief Program spending of hundreds of billions of dollars, while the New York Federal Reserve has refused to provide information about its own bail-out (using government-backed loans) that amounts to trillions. This lack of transparency has been challenged by Fox TV in a FOIA suit against the Treasury Department, and a suit by Bloomberg News against the Fed.
The financial bailout legislation of September 2008 was only passed after members of both Congressional houses were warned that failure to act would threaten civil unrest and the imposition of martial law.
U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., both said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson brought up a worst-case scenario as he pushed for the Wall Street bailout in September. Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO, said that might even require a declaration of martial law, the two noted.