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Thursday, January 12, 2012

MUST READ PLEASE: THE AFGHAN WAR-THE ASCENDANCY OF DIPLOMACY OVER WARFARE

Imagine
Written by Mr. Peace, John Lennon,
Performed by Neil Young
"Imagine there's no countries,
nothing to kill or die for!"

Ok, you’ll have to bear with me on this one. No satire, no comedy this time. No funny pictures, just a serious article about the Afghanistan war.  It is a grave matter of life and death and war and peace.  And the story has some complexity to it, so I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible, while at the same time offering an analysis worth taking a look at. The topic is the continuing U.S. military aggression in Afghanistan.

Dick Cheney’s White House tenure originated when he served as a failed Defense Secretary under George H.W. Bush, during which time he presided over the invasion of Panama by the U.S. military, and the retaking of Kuwait against Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The militarism evidenced by Cheney in these warmongering gambits, and especially the financial motive (oil—especially given the fact that Kuwait’s then per-capita income was among the highest in the world due to their oil reserves and output along with its close alliance with the Saudi royal dictatorship), particularly Saddam’s ability to continue his sabre rattling post-Kuwait, helped bring about the downfall of the first Bush administration at the polls to Bill Clinton.

So, now we fast forward to the stolen election of 2000, and the installation of H.W.’s son, Dubya Bush as ‘President’ of the United States, and Cheney now VP, and once-failed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (under Gerald Ford—he took over immediately following the dramatic fall of Saigon, and pushed for funding for the B-1 Bomber and Cruise missile dollars, despite the recent futility of American military aggression in S.E. Asia in the three wars his administration had just lost there).

In September of 2011, in the biggest defense and intelligence failure in American history, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Dubya and the gang failed to prevent 19 fools with plastic box cutters from killing nearly 4,000 U.S. citizens, providing dramatic footage of the twin World Trade Center towers collapsing, the Pentagon itself being hit and another airliner failing to hit the White House only because those on board had cell phone information about what was going on that September 11th, 2011 morning and the heroic call of “Let’s roll” followed by the intentional crashing of the plane in a Pennsylvania field by the civilians on board.
It is now evident that Dubya was an intellectual pigmy and was a puppet run by those around him, especially Cheney (and to a lesser extent in military affairs, Rumsfeld). Osama Bin Laden’s rag-tag, but somewhat well-financed tiny band of extremist thugs were financed primarily by Bin Laden's inheritance of only $25million from his family’s construction business (The Economist, "Osama bin Laden", 7 May 2011, p. 93) and numbered only several thousand at their height. The nineteen 9/11 hijackers were trained in camps run and financed by Bin Laden in Afghanistan at the time, Bin Laden being harbored by the Taliban because of a financial arrangement between homself and Mullah Omar, more so than any religious or political affiliation.

Public outrage at the events of 9/11 distracted the media and the public from the Bush Administration’s defense failure, and literally utilizing a megaphone and standing atop the rubble at Ground Zero Bush was able to obfuscate the issue and launch a series of aggressions overseas, beginning with Afghanistan. The American and British military, along with token support from other nations to make it look like a more widespread effort, routed the Taliban and whatever Al Qaeda there were long before the end of 2001, and the Taliban has been out of power in that nation since then and Al Qaeda shifted its meager resources to Pakistan (along with the Taliban for a while) and neither have been a significant threat to anyone except the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai which the United States installed and which is in danger of crumbling due to its own greed, incompetence and illegitimacy.

Meanwhile Cheney, Rumsfeld, Dubya and General David Petraeus distracted the nation even further by lying about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq (how could Saddam deliver them to the U.S. anyway, and pose a threat to U.S. national security--a question never addressed by them) and somehow tying Saddam to Al Qaeda justifying another war of aggression in an Islamic nation, this time the Arab nation of Iraq. Cheney, Dubya and Bush Sr. all had axes to grind with Saddam and this was their meager pretext. For the next 7 years this overfunded and over-technologically gifted Department of Defense has fought two stalemated wars against tiny gangs in possession of no Navies, Air Forces, missiles of any sort to speak of, nothing really except side arms and poorly designed and manufactured land mines (improvised explosive devises). The result is more than a quarter million dead Iraqis and Afghans, 5,000 of America’s and its allies' youngest and bravest, and more than $2 trillion in blown up hardware and wasted dollars and a continuing middle eastern and south Asian crisis that is out of control. And now a nuclear Pakistan in addition to a nuclear India.

Enter Barack Obama in January of 2009, and Hillary Clinton as the new Secretary of State. When President Obama took office, General David Petraeus had amassed huge political capitol within the Defense Department, and within the general political culture. Despite the stalemated wars, people were even rumoring an eventual Petraeus run for the Presidency. 

An outstanding diplomat, an adviser to Senator John Kerry during his 2004 run for the White House, and to then Senator Hillary Clinton during her 2008 run for the Presidency, Richard Holbrooke became special adviser and Ambassador to the overall situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan under President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

From day one in the United States there has been tension and bureaucratic infighting between the State Department and the Department of Defense, the War Department or whatever name it has had at the time. The DOD has always had the upper hand by virtue of its larger budget and the authoritative and powerful capabilities that its mission summons. It has the guns, plain and simple, and it has the largest budget in the world. Period. By comparison, the State Department’s abilities to compete are miniscule. Its budget is relatively a dwarf compared to the billions amassed annually by DOD, and the Stae Department's weapons are words, political persuasion and diplomacy; not guns, missiles and bombs. In an interesting turn of events, at the inception of the establishment of the State Department via the U.S. Constitution, the Secretary of State was deemed the first cabinet official in line to the Presidency ahead of all other Cabinet positions, establishing the pre-eminence of State and of Diplomacy in our legal tradition, ahead of violence and warfare.

Ambassador Holbrooke (and over time the NY Times reported on his efforts on their back pages very well) went about the business of trying to make sense of the situation left to President Obama by Dubya’s people. There was fighting still going on between tribal forces, Taliban and the U.S., the Karzai regime and other parties within Afghanistan proper. The Taliban leadership and what remained of Al Qaeda were now in Pakistan, and a fanatical group known as the Huqani network was largely protecting the relatively few remaining Al Qaeda.  Pakistan’s government faced opposition domestically for a variety of reasons, and was not a sure bet to remain in power, and this got complicated by natural disasters. And Hamid Karzai was evidently so corrupt that he was loading American hard currency on skids and flying it to foreign capitals in case he had to make a mad dash for it at any given point. The Afghan infrastructure was still non-existent and poverty persisted in both Afghanistan and now getting worse due to flooding in Pakistan.

Secretary of State Clinton trusted Ambassador Holbrooke who had the confidence of most parties involved because of his years of experience as a trusted diplomat throughout the world, but in that region in particular, and he had developed personal rapport with many of the key players.  Secretary Clinton deferred to Holbrooke’s expertise and skills, and gradually parties began talking with one another.

Unfortunately, the American military wasn’t very supportive of any sort of negotiated approach and Petraeus and other military brass sought often to throw monkey wrenches into any talks, even though politics are not something uniformed brass are expected to involve themselves in.

Then a volcano erupted in Iceland, and grounded airline traffic in Europe for a month or so. General Stanley McChrystal was then the chief in command of Afghanistan, and Petraeus was his boss as Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) commander over both the Afghanistan and Iraq operations. General McChrystal had authorized a Rolling Stone reporter to follow him and his entourage that week, not expecting to be grounded in Europe. He and his uniformed cohorts wound up spending nights at clubs and flapping their yaps in opposition to President Obama, the strategies, both diplomatic, personally and militarily that were being pursued. President Obama called McChrystal back to Washington and McChrystal “resigned” pronto.

General Petraeus was placed back in ‘charge’ of operations in Afghanistan, but that was actually a demotion—he went from CENTO commander in charge of Iraq and Afghanistan, to only overseeing Afghanistan.

Now, please mind you, that Petraeus and McChrystal had broad support within the military. It is NOT just a simple matter of kicking people out of power for a given President. In addition to that Petraeus had developed a large cadre of supporters within both political parties on Capitol Hill and in the general population, despite his waste of lives, resources and lousy generalship of these two pathetic war efforts.

A huge tragedy befell the nation and the world when on December 13, 2010 Ambassador Richard Holbrooke died as a result of a rare and unexpected aortic dissection. This stilted the battle between diplomacy and war within our own government temporarily.

Over the summer, however Secretary Clinton gradually was continuing to gain the upper hand in tackling the entrenched elites at DOD, and while still in uniform and on the ground in Afghanistan, General Petraeus was compelled reluctantly to begin giving background information and then publicly telling members of the press that talks were commencing between the Karzai crew, our own people, elements of the Taliban (minus the top leadership, most notably Mullah Omar), the Huqanis, and the Pakistani government.

Then finally in July of 2011, in the largest reshuffling of the national defense hierarchy in the past 10 years, President Obama finally showed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the gate, and he resigned. General Petraeus left the military and was placed in charge of the CIA, which accomplished several things. 1) It undercut and/or neutralized his political support within the uniformed military and within the Defense Department. 2) It prevents him from speaking out publicly against U.S. policy and seeking a civilian political base. 3) It puts him in a command/control structure in a civilian setting where he does have a skill set which may prove useful.

And by naming Leon Panetta to the DOD Secretary’s job, the result is that a civilian with Democratic Party credentials is back in charge of defense, instead of a career militaristic maniac. Panetta spent 14 years in the House of Representatives, was a Clinton Chief of Staff, and brings a political rather than a military inclination back to the Pentagon.

Just this past week, January 7th, the NY Times reported that Qatar would allow the Taliban to open offices there in order for them to navigate a diplomatic process with other nations. And just today the Washington Post, in an article by Karen DeYoung linked here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/2012/01/11/gIQAdPpzrP_story.html?wpisrc=al_national;  said “The Obama administration will resume peace talks with the Taliban as soon as Afghan President Hamid Karzai formally blesses the negotiations, according to senior administration officials who indicated that the process could be underway within weeks.” They went on to report that “Marc Grossman, the senior U.S. diplomat who shepherded a series of secret U.S. meetings with the insurgents last year, will meet with Karzai late next week to ensure that he is on board, officials said.”

One interesting irony worth noting is that if any negotiated peace is successfully acheived pertaining to Afghanistan, the signatories to the treaty are likely to inlude the Afghan government, the Pakistani government, elements of the opposition including Taliban, even members of the Huqani network. Notably absent from any signing would be the American goverment, simply because the reactionary partison tone of the current Republican Party would no doubt make it highly unlikely that the U.S. Senate would ratify any peace treaty.

For those of us who want out of Afghanistan and see little or no advantage to American troops remaining, this is all good news. A negotiated settlement would mean a potential earlier departure than currently planned by all parties. I take issue with one aspect of today’s Washington Post piece, so I warn readers that I do NOT believe that this administration will negotiate with Mullah Omar nor with several of the former top Taliban government leaders, which has been previously reported both in the press, by the Defense Department and by the State Department.

But a bigger picture thing has happened here. Since WW II the largest budget on earth has been the U.S. Department of Defense budget. The largest killing machine in world history is the U.S. Department of Defense. Since WW II there has been a bureaucratic battle between diplomacy and war within our own government (even General Prez Eisenhower not only created it, but had the audacity to use it politically when he ‘warned’ of the Military Industrial Complex). Since WW II we have not fought one officially declared war. We have not fought a single international war with a nation from another continent on our continent since 1800. Since WW II we’ve fought foreign wars of aggression in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Panama, Iraq twice now, and Afghanistan. We have deployed the largest, most powerful and most technologically advanced intercontinental nuclear arsenal on earth. We spend as much annually on our war budget as the rest of the world combined. As far as I know not one person of color, nor one woman has been allowed to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff or as Secretary of Defense.

We’ve now had three successive women as Secretary of State. Madeline Albright will be recognized in the decades to come as perhaps among the shrewdest and most effective we’ve ever had. Condoleezza Rice proves that possessing a PhD doesn’t make one an expert. Secretary of State Clinton, along with President Barack Obama, may have just won the biggest and most significant organizational battle in U. S. history.

It went little noted that upon taking office, within a couple of months after taking office, President Obama radically changed U.S. Strategic Military policy. For the first time since the successful conclusion of the Manhattan Project resulting in our successfully detonating the world’s first nuclear weapons, the official American nuclear strategy is to ultimately disarm our own nuclear weaponry and envisions a nuclear weapon-free world. The only way to have 100% nuclear weapons security IS for them to be eliminated. Though we may disagree and fuss about details along the way, I DO believe that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are transforming the nation and the world in ways which will result in an international military and political culture much safer from nuclear warfare, and safer from all war, PERIOD. Think it over please, but re-elect them and give them 4 more years to achieve these awesome ends, please!
It's 2am as I finish up this piece, and I'm praying as hard as I can for all those who are caught up in war zones tonight. War involves killing and maiming. With guns, bombs, knives, bear hands or glass. Whatever's available. It often means paying thugs so your kids won't get tortured and killed by them. It means paying thugs so they won't come and rape your wife and daughters again tonight. It means being beaten senseless by people you don't know, and knowing no reason why and knowing no way to stop it from happening. It means having your house burnt to the ground. Finding another spot to live and having it torched. It means filthy unsantary water, mud really. It means disease, and drinking water and bathing water that is brown and has lice-like creatures in it. It means your infant will die tonight. It means your mother, father and sisters are dead and you don't know if you'll make it through the night. It means greedy people in white shirts and ties who are somehow getting rich from the whole deal. It means never forgetting seeing your sister have her clothes torn off and objects inserted into her private parts and being held back from defending her and then being beaten yourself. It means seeing your neighbor having one finger chopped off at a time for bloodsport. It means kids, puppies and kittens with no home and no understanding of anything. It means bursts of gunfire, sometimes close sometimes not so close. It means bombs, sirens and collapsing buildings. Screams for help, mercy and of pain. It means blood. Lots of blood all over people and things. It means destruction. It means hunger, and eating things you'd never imagine having to eat. Eating wild animals, rats, mice, vermin. Eating moldy diseased food from dumpsters or deciding whether it's better to give it to a hungry dying kid or not. It means thinking about turning a gun on yourself just to escape the brutality of all of it.
This is what American military aggression has brought to Asia, Africa, the middle east, and Latin America since we dropped two nuclear bombs on specifically chosen civilian targets when we won Nuclear War I in our surprise first-strikes against the unsuspecting men, women and children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
I pray for an end to war. I pray for the safety and sanity of those caught up in it tonight. I pray for the safety and sanity especially of those who are in leadership positions and responsible for sending others out to wage these morally bankrupt crimes upon humanity. I pray for Barack Obama, for Hillary Clinton, for Secretary Panetta and for all those who have the opportunity to lead the deadliest nation on earth towards a path of peace and righteousness at long last. I pray for mercy for the victims of war. I pray for peace, that it may please be Your will. In Jesus' precious, precious name I pray today and always.

Love.
Amen.

14 comments:

Jane Dunn said...

To borrow from Country Joe & The Fish: One, two, three what are we fighting for?

Unabashed Left said...

Thanks Jane Dunn and Bianca Longgood. I want all my friends to read this one.

Unabashed Left said...

thanks so much Paulette Collier!

Paulette Collier said...

No!...Thank you for this thought provoking article...I join you in prayer!

Bianca Longgood said...

No problem, Yes thank u every time I pray I do always for peace

Carla Binion said...

I read the whole article, and I think it's beautifully written and agree with most of it. I think you did a good job pointing out the horrors of war and the fact that all war spirals out of control and ends up creating a gristly nightmare world of daily-life-as-torture for innocent civilians. People don't tend to factor in the far reach of destruction that is bound to happen any time we enter a war - the fact that the nightmare world will shred the bodies of babies, puppies, and guiltless living beings by the thousands. The human race should have outgrown war, and might have if we'd found a way to keep psychopaths from so often taking leadership positions in business and politics. The old saw "evil flourishes when good people do nothing" applies. Somehow, the good people have always allowed the most easily corrupted ones to rise to powerful positions and have done far too little to reverse that tendency. I have ideas for how we could change the trend, but they're beyond the scope of this note. At the least I think nations need to begin placing a higher value on educating their populations regarding critical thinking and b.s.-detecting; to find ways to insist potential political leaders pass personality tests to weed out those with psychopathic tendencies; and to shift from plutocratic toward democratic systems. Before any of that could begin, there would have to be significant change in what we as human beings value. Bringing up a generation to value real compassion and wisdom - and strongly condemning authoritarianism and anti-intellectualism - would be a good start.

Nancy McBeth said...

Great article and awesome comment Carla Binion

Unabashed Left said...

‎Carla Binion, I ditto Nancy McBeth's comment, taking the time to offer this thoughtful commentary on a difficult topic means much. I'm taking the liberty of adding these comments to the comment section of tht article on the blog, particularly your's Carla, and thanks also to Jane Dunn, Paulette Collier, Bianca Longgood, and to all! ♥ ; Not War, pleeze!

Edward Baclawski said...

Thank You, Steve. That was a very well written piece. It really is time to find a way out of Afghanistan. Before you can find a way out you need to know how you got there, and you layed it out quite well. Ironically, I was thinking about this stuff while I was driving to work last night, specifically how one major catylyst for 9/11 was Osama Bin laden's anger at the US Military based in Saudi Arabia. As you well noted that was directly as a result of George HW Bush military action in Kuwait ,which was very simply war to protect oil. Very good job, Steve Alexander, Thanks again.

Unabashed Left said...

Thanks for the thughtful commentary Edward Baclawski!

Unabashed Left said...

Hi Carla,
Thank you for taking the time to comment so thoughtfully on a piece I wrote regarding War, Peace and Afghanistan. I’ve followed military affairs for 50 years and have studied it from an academic perspective as a political scientist, and now as a grad student of religion, and as a popular interest writer. Most of my pieces include comedy and satire to reach a wider audience, but this article needed to avoid those magnets. Your comment was gutsy enough to indicate that you have some possible areas of disagreement with my piece, while at the same time offering the following awesome insight:
“The old saw "evil flourishes when good people do nothing" applies. Somehow, the good people have always allowed the most easily corrupted ones to rise to powerful positions and have done far too little to reverse that tendency. I have ideas for how we could change the trend, but they're beyond the scope of this note.”
I’m fortunate in that my page IS being widely read, and that it offers me a platform to articulate views on issues that matter. Your comment was well written, thoughtful and remarkable in all those regards. I haven’t done this before, but I want to ask you to offer your ideas which are “beyond the scope of this note” by putting them down on paper and doing a guest blog for my website. I can’t offer money, but I can offer an unedited opportunity to get your opinions out and the assurance that I would be honored by your contribution if you choose to do so. It can be as long or as short as you’d wish, you can do it in word format or whatever works for you.
My own contact info, including my email, cell phone and my FB accounts are on my FB profile, and I invite you to text, email, call or contact me by any means any time. But please consider my request to guest blog at unabashedleft.blogspot.com? Thank you Carla!
Sincerely,
Steve Alexander

Carla Binion said...

Steve, thanks so much for your very kind invitation and comments. I really like your blog and would be honored to write a guest piece. For several years I've submitted my articles first to Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal), and am currently writing an essay for IR on civil liberties. I have a couple of other projects in the works now, too, but will catch up soon and get with you again on this. I wrote about some of the qualities I think our society needs to cultivate if we're to evolve beyond war in an essay recently published at Intrepid Report. The essay is "Embracing Mystery, Loving Wisdom."

You've raised some important questions about our need to outgrow war and move toward a more peaceful world. I hope in the long-run larger numbers of people will see creating peace is a real possibility, and I think it starts with a deep shift in our shared values and the way we perceive the nature of the universe - things I expanded on in the essay I mentioned above. Thanks again for your kind comments, and I'm looking forward to keeping up with your blog and getting to know you better.

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