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 Post subject: Obama and Afghanistan
PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 11:59 am 
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ACLU Dreictor Anthony Romero’s statement about the Justice Department’s affirmation of a court decision to go on concealing the US's rendition actions is a strong one. "This is not change. This is definitely more of the same." Well, Obama does represent change. But he also represents more of the same. And the way he is a little of both shows up in his plan to step up US military involvement in Afghanistan.

The US Afghanistan efforts: a mess

An ABC piece about a poll noted that 'Afghans’ Criticism of U.S. Efforts' is rising. General support of the US presence was 68% in 2005, 57% last year; and now only 42%. One out of five said US troops had recently killed Afghans in their region, double two years ago. Amy Goodman recently interviewed Sherif Bassouni. Bassouni was previously fired as a UN human rights investigator in Afghanistan after reporting atrocities committed by US-employed contractors in the country. He was long protesting the concealment of what was going on in US-run prisons there. Speaking to Amy Goodman gave "one small example" of US clumsiness in Afghanistan: $200 million spent on court houses, without prior arrangement with the Afghan judiciary, which turned out not to know about them or the money to furnish or maintain them.

It has been clear for some time that Afghanistan’s US-client ruler Hamid Karzai controls only the Kabul area, at best, while the rest of the country is run by warlords who are also drug lords and who make their own rules. Due to a culture of tribal loyalties and a rugged geography, ruling the country or even beginning to unite it are daunting problems.

No military solution

Bassiouni told Goodman the Afghan problems cannot be solved militarily. In the meantime, the US military "would be more comfortable with having a specifically military mission" (to "go after" the Taliban, their supporters, and Al Qaeda) and are "very averse" to functioning as “a police support force to help in the ecnomic development of the country." But more decisively he said, "I am convinced there is no military solution in Afghanistan. There is an economic development solution, but I don't see that as coming."

A logical point about Obama’s long-expressed plan to double US forces in Afghanistan from thirty to sixty thousand: if he opposed the war in Iraq, why does he want to follow an Iraq-war based "surge" plan in Afghanistan? Apart from the argument that war is harmful and cruel and wasteful, there is always an even better point for the pragmatists: it often doesn't work. We have seen how Israel's brutal assaults on Lebanon (to 'get' Hezbollah) two years ago and its even more horrific attack on Gaza (to 'get' Hamas) have been tactical and public relations failures (to put it mildly) and are turning Israel into a pariah state in the eyes of most of the world outside Israel and the United States. We have come to realize through much discussion and evidence about Baghram and Abu Gharib and 'extraordinary rendition', that according to experts, torture, apart from being illegal and immoral, is not a good way of getting reliable information. So why is it going to work to bomb Pakistan and double the US military troop involvement in Afghanistan?

I have referred before to Nir Rosen’s October 30, 2008 article in Rolling Stone, "How We Lost the War We Won,"* in which he argues from a period of being 'embedded,' so to speak, with the Taliban that they cannot be beaten militarily. Bassiouni pointed out that they have simply laid low and waited when they were out-matched, following Mao and the style of indigenous insurgencies everywhere. He also stated that Afghanistan is a tougher place, so crypto-imperialistic nation-building efforts can fail harder. This has been pointed out by many historians and summarized by Robert Fisk: nobody has ever been able to conquer Afghanistan. For both geographical and cultural reasons it is the toughest of nuts to crack.

After 9/11 the US attacked Afthanistan because it was headquarters for Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, but Bin Laden slipped away, and Al Qaeda, naturally, popped up elsewhere. Somehow, for different reasons, including imperialism, a naive messiah complex, and greed for profit-taking, the US got stuck in Afghanistan. Of course analogies with Iraq make not sense. Iraq was far more urbanized and developed when the US moved in to 'democratize' it by destroying it. Iraq's strategic, cultural, and economic attractiveness is obvious. But as Nir Rosen argues in his piece, Afthanistan isn't really worth the effort. Why would Obama want to step things up there, along with increasing bombings and incursions into Pakistan? It seems to be that he simply wants to show he's tough and friendly to the military, while avoiding the taint associated with Iraq.

All one can conclude is that these promised and already occurring incursions under the Obama administration are a misguided effort to look tough, a 'stick' to go with the 'carrot.' But what are the 'carrots,' and what is the use of a 'stick'?
*Nir Rosen's October 2008 Rolling Stone Afghanistan piece has been mysteriously "lost" by Rolling Stone itself only a year and nine months after publication, but is still found on a web page of the NYU Center on Law and Security so I've linked here to that. (July 15, 2010.) Rosen reports how the US used a hostile PR firm to "vet" him for embedding with the US military during his work for this "lost" Rolling Stone report. (Pulitzer Center, August 28, 2009.)

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