Monday, July 26, 2010

Julian Assange: My Nomination for Nobel Peace Prize in Journalism

The statement by National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones condemned Julian Assange's Wikileaks as endangering lives of our soldiers and their mission in Afghanistan:
The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security. Wikileaks made no effort to contact us about these documents - the United States government learned from news organizations that these documents would be posted. These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people.
What endangers lives is stupidity. What Jones is saying is that leaks endanger Obama's mission.

Personally, I believe military and intelligence services' secrecy should be maintained and guarded as a matter of national security. I am also not opposed to all wars in general. For example, the solutions to problems presented to the world by Iran and North Korea elude me. I am not a bully: I would not kick a good war in the teeth when it's already down on its knees. But I would take any and every opportunity to kick a bad war in its teeth.

Stupidity risks Lives. And it has been the height of stupidity, after all the experience of Vietnam and Iraq, to expect that a democratic and open society will indefinitely support and sustain a prolonged and costly war which does not address core national interests. The height of stupidity.

But on to support my nomination of Julian Assange who is behind Wikileaks' Afghanistan: The War Logs. (Good luck getting in!) This interview from TED will cost my readers some 19 minutes of their valuable time but it reveals Assange's contribution of document journalism is larger than Afghanistan-Nam. (I availed myself of the subtitles):

I rest my case. res ipsa loquitur.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Open Letter

Mr. President,

PLEASE: be the man of your speeches.

Please, please, please: appoint a "Truth Squad" to de-construct and explicate these utterly false, fabricated "news/stories" that frighten, inflame, and incite our fellow citizens. Sadly, we Americans no longer have a viable "Fourth Estate" to do the requisite fact-checking and the necessary investigative reporting they once did. So, YOU must confront these lies and distortions.

First impressions, especially when they appeal to our fears, are long remembered. The bigger and more outrageous the lie, the easier it is to remember. The right has learned these lessons well. They magnify the effectiveness of their machinations by repeating the lie over and over and over.

Right now, there is no one to say: "the emperor is wearing no clothes." We need truth-speakers. We need a president who stands up for his appointees, not a president so intimidated by right-wing talk-show hosts that he acts without all the facts.

Please, please, please: give up your fantasy of changing the Washington atmosphere. It is too toxic, and only getting more so as you refuse to name their destructive tactics. Republican'ts know only how to obstruct and to manipulate. They are incapable of negotiating in good faith and they have made their goal patently clear: Obama must fail. Stop colluding with them. Find your backbone...Please.

Stop giving away YOUR power to the enemy. They are winning the war to capture the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans - because our president is minimizing the damage that the right's lies are doing to our body politic.

By trying to ignore their obfuscating and reprehensible political machinations, trying to "take the high road", you have ceded the national dialogue to the right.

Please, stop trying to "look presidential". You must fight for us. This is a war for the hearts and souls of our fellow citizens, and you are on the sidelines. Get fired up, Mr. President. Mount your stallion! GO! Fight the good fight with all that is within you. NOW. PLEASE.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What Would Be Worse than Failure in Afghanistan?

Howabout Success?

James Carroll, Boston Globe columnist and author of the bestselling Constantine’s Sword, wrote the following in review of Tom Engelhardt's current book, The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s:
.... the Pentagon-driven mistakes, myths, self-deceptions, and crimes ... have wreaked havoc in Iraq and Afghanistan. That the American wars are proving to be as fruitless now as they were then unnecessary keeps them from rising to the level of actual tragedy....
Well, I don't know about that. Judging from Engelhardt's current perspectives, American statecraft is well on its way toward tragedy of Shakespearian proportions:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Richard Holbrooke

I've always had the greatest respect for Richard Holbrooke. His skill set in diplomacy and statecraft has proved to be unparalleled. He certainly delivered the goods during the Wars of Yugoslavian Dissolution. And I always thought he was this generation's Best and the Brightest.

But I'm not buying an 8½ year-old war from him.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Afghanization of the Occupation: Variation on a Theme

Three British Troops Are Fragged

Armed with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and an automatic rifle, a rogue Afghan soldier attacked a group of British troops early Tuesday in southern Afghanistan, killing three of the soldiers and wounding four others before escaping.

The Afghan soldier was assigned to a patrol base shared by NATO troops and the Afghan National Army in the volatile southern province of Helmand, according to NATO spokespeople and Afghanistan's Defense Ministry.

Helmand is where American troops mounted a large-scale offensive earlier this year to uproot Taliban insurgents from a stronghold in the town of Marjah.

The motive for the attack in the Nahr-e-Sarraj district remained unclear.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

On Afghanistan, Ann Coulter and I Agree!

Well, agree somewhat, anyways...

In her July 7th column, Coulter agrees with me when I said that Michael Steele was on to something when he hung our fools' errand in Afghanistan around the President's neck as a war of Obama’s choosing. Of course, it makes me uncomfortable to agree with anything that Ann Coulter says. It's just that it's come to me that I'm feeling even more uncomfortable with General Stanley McChrystal's David Petraeus' "tough sell".

Therefore, I'm only quoting the portion of Coulter's words with which I am in agreement. In turns out that I agree with a large portion:

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele was absolutely right. Afghanistan is Obama's war and, judging by other recent Democratic ventures in military affairs, isn't likely to turn out well.

It has been idiotically claimed that Steele's statement about Afghanistan being Obama's war is "inaccurate" -- as if Steele is unaware Bush invaded Afghanistan soon after 9/11.

Yes, Bush invaded Afghanistan soon after 9/11. Within the first few months we had toppled the Taliban, killed or captured hundreds of al-Qaida fighters and arranged for democratic elections, resulting in an American-friendly government.

Having some vague concept of America's national interest -- unlike liberals -- the Bush administration could see that a country of illiterate peasants living in caves ruled by "warlords" was not a primo target for "nation-building."

..... (literacy rate, 19 percent; life expectancy, 44 years; working toilets, 7).

..... Obama hasn't ramped up the war in Afghanistan based on a careful calculation of America's strategic objectives. He did it because he was trapped by his own rhetorical game of bashing the Iraq war while pretending to be a hawk on Afghanistan.

At this point, Afghanistan is every bit as much Obama's war as Vietnam was Lyndon Johnson's war. True, President Kennedy was the first to send troops to Vietnam. We had 16,000 troops in Vietnam when JFK was assassinated. Within four years, LBJ had sent 400,000 troops there.

.....Republicans used to think seriously about deploying the military. President Eisenhower sent aid to South Vietnam, but said he could not "conceive of a greater tragedy" for America than getting heavily involved there.

As Michael Steele correctly noted, every great power that's tried to stage an all-out war in Afghanistan has gotten its ass handed to it. Everyone knows it's not worth the trouble and resources to take a nation of rocks and brigands.

Based on Obama's rules of engagement for our troops in Afghanistan, we're apparently not even fighting a war. The greatest fighting force in the world is building vocational schools and distributing cheese crackers to children.

But now I hear it is the official policy of the Republican Party to be for all wars, irrespective of our national interest.

What if Obama decides to invade England because he's still ticked off about that Churchill bust? Can Michael Steele and I object to that? Or would that demoralize the troops?

Our troops are the most magnificent in the world, but they're not the ones setting military policy. The president is -- and he's basing his war strategy on the chants of cretins.

Nonetheless, Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney have demanded that Steele resign as head of the RNC for saying Afghanistan is now Obama's war -- and a badly thought-out one at that. (Didn't liberals warn us that neoconservatives want permanent war?)

I thought the irreducible requirements of Republicanism were being for life, small government and a strong national defense, but I guess permanent war is on the platter now, too.

Of course, if Kristol is writing the rules for being a Republican, we're all going to have to get on board for amnesty and a "National Greatness Project," too – other Kristol ideas for the Republican Party. Also, John McCain. Kristol was an early backer of McCain for president -- and look how great that turned out!

Inasmuch as demanding resignations is another new Republican position, here's mine: Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney must resign immediately.
It's yesterday's conventional wisdom that our 44th President had his Harry Truman moment in firing Stanley McChrystal. Barack Obama still has his Lyndon Johnson's date with destiny looming before him when he has to accept a single-term presidency.

I'm not just askin'... I'm sayin'...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Essential Michael Hastings

As everyone in this universe knows, Michael Hastings has published a major essay in Rolling Stone chronicling how a runaway general Stanley McChrystal seized control of the war by never taking his eye off his real enemy: The wimps in the White House.

I have excerpted and re-arranged Hastings epic essay, shortening it to its essence in 1,275 words.

....Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States.

Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany's president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.

.....Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as "shortsighted," saying it would lead to a state of "Chaos-istan."

.....From the start, McChrystal was determined to place his personal stamp on Afghanistan, to use it as a laboratory for a controversial military strategy known as counterinsurgency. COIN, as the theory is known, is the new gospel of the Pentagon brass, a doctrine that attempts to square the military's preference for high-tech violence with the demands of fighting protracted wars in failed states. COIN calls for sending huge numbers of ground troops to not only destroy the enemy, but to live among the civilian population and slowly rebuild, or build from scratch, another nation's government – a process that even its staunchest advocates admit requires years, if not decades, to achieve. The theory essentially rebrands the military, expanding its authority (and its funding) to encompass the diplomatic and political sides of warfare: Think the Green Berets as an armed Peace Corps. In 2006, after Gen. David Petraeus beta-tested the theory during his "surge" in Iraq, it quickly gained a hardcore following of think-tankers, journalists, military officers and civilian officials. Nicknamed "COINdinistas" for their cultish zeal, this influential cadre believed the doctrine would be the perfect solution for Afghanistan. All they needed was a general with enough charisma and political savvy to implement it.

.....As McChrystal leaned on Obama to ramp up the war, he did it with the same fearlessness he used to track down terrorists in Iraq.....After arriving in Afghanistan last June, the general conducted his own policy review, ordered up by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The now-infamous report was leaked to the press, and its conclusion was dire: If we didn't send another 40,000 troops – swelling the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan by nearly half – we were in danger of "mission failure." The White House was furious.

McChrystal ... was trying to bully Obama, opening him up to charges of being weak on national security unless he did what the general wanted. It was Obama versus the Pentagon, and the Pentagon was determined to kick the president's ass ..... In the end, however, McChrystal got almost exactly what he wanted....

Today ..... the prospects for any kind of success look bleak. In June, the death toll for U.S. troops passed 1,000, and the number of IEDs has doubled. Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the fifth-poorest country on earth has failed to win over the civilian population, whose attitude toward U.S. troops ranges from intensely wary to openly hostile. The biggest military operation of the year – a ferocious offensive that began in February to retake the southern town of Marja – continues to drag on, prompting McChrystal himself to refer to it as a "bleeding ulcer." In June, Afghanistan officially outpaced Vietnam as the longest war in American history – and Obama has quietly begun to back away from the deadline he set for withdrawing U.S. troops in July of next year. The president finds himself stuck in something even more insane than a quagmire: a quagmire he knowingly walked into, even though it's precisely the kind of gigantic, mind-numbing, multigenerational nation-building project he explicitly said he didn't want.

When it comes to Afghanistan, history is not on McChrystal's side. The only foreign invader to have any success here was Genghis Khan – and he wasn'thampered by things like human rights, economic development and press scrutiny. The COIN doctrine, bizarrely, draws inspiration from some of the biggest Western military embarrassments in recent memory: France's nasty war in Algeria (lost in 1962) and the American misadventure in Vietnam (lost in 1975). McChrystal, like other advocates of COIN, readily acknowledges that counterinsurgency campaigns are inherently messy, expensive and easy to lose.....

Even those who support McChrystal and his strategy of counterinsurgency know that whatever the general manages to accomplish in Afghanistan, it's going to look more like Vietnam than Desert Storm. Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, who serves as chief of operations for McChrystal says
It's not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win. This is going to end in an argument.
In a classified cable Ambassador Eikenberry wrote in January was leaked to The New York Times warned,
We will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves short of allowing the country to descend again into lawlessness and chaos.
Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and leading critic of counterinsurgency who attended West Point with McChrystal says,
The entire COIN strategy is a fraud perpetuated on the American people. The idea that we are going to spend a trillion dollars to reshape the culture of the Islamic world is utter nonsense.
McChrystal may have sold President Obama on counterinsurgency, but many of his own men aren't buying it.....

..... facts on the ground, as history has proven, offer little deterrent to a military determined to stay the course. Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn't begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. a senior adviser to McChrystal says.
If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.
Such realism, however, doesn't prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further.

But even if he somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the U.S. homeland, the war will do little to shut down Al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock. says Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer who has extensive experience in the region, says
It's all very cynical, politically. Afghanistan is not in our vital interest – there's nothing for us there.
..... After nine years of war, the Taliban simply remains too strongly entrenched for the U.S. military to openly attack. The very people that COIN seeks to win over – the Afghan people – do not want us there. Our supposed ally, President Karzai, used his influence to delay the offensive, and the massive influx of aid championed by McChrystal is likely only to make things worse. Andrew Wilder, an expert at Tufts University who has studied the effect of aid in southern Afghanistan, warns,
Throwing money at the problem exacerbates the problem ... A tsunami of cash fuels corruption, delegitimizes the government and creates an environment where we're picking winners and losers.
[And that's] a process that fuels resentment and hostility among the civilian population. So far, counterinsurgency has succeeded only in creating a never-ending demand for the primary product supplied by the military: perpetual war. There is a reason that President Obama studiously avoids using the word "victory" when he talks about Afghanistan. Winning, it would seem, is not really possible....

Michael Hastings did not do a hatchet job on Stanley McChrystal. The creeping mission Afghanistan is his real target. And he nailed it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Michael Steele Calls Obama Out for Being Bush Lite

"Out of the mouths of babes oft times come gems."

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele referred to our counter insurgency war in Afghanistan as "a war of Obama's choosing" and implying that the effort is doomed to fail:

The McChrystal incident, to me, was very comical. I think it's a reflection of the frustration that a lot of our military leaders has with this Administration and their prosecution of the war in Afghanistan ... this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not - this was not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in. It was one of those - one of those areas on the total board of - of foreign policy of the middle east, that you would be in the background, sort of shaping the, the changes that were necessary in Afghanistan, as opposed to directly engaging troops. But it was the President, who tried to be cute by half, by flipping the script, demonizing Iraq while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan. Well if, if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know, that’s the one thing you don’t do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan. Alright? Because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan...
I have nothing to add. Steele said it all.

Sunday, July 4, 2010