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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Posts Tagged ‘Tim Hetherington’

Ten Years of U.S. War in Afghanistan

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

“While post-9/11 veterans are more supportive than the general public, just one-third (34%) say that, given the costs and benefits to the U.S., the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have both been worth fighting.”

—Pew Research Center, “War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era,” Oct. 2011

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Is it a rule of the age of the War on Terror(ism) that no armed conflict the U.S. enters ever really ends? Is that what the Defense Department was signaling when it came up with the name Operation Enduring Freedom?

With all the attention this week to Occupy Wall Street and, sadly, the death of Steve Jobs, it was almost possible to not notice the tenth anniversary of the U.S. war in Afghanistan that began on Oct. 7, 2001. But, as we said this past September 11, we’re not forgetting.

This war has been the longest in American history for over a year: the milestone was passed in June 2010 when the war entered its 104th month. U.S. involvement in Vietnam is reckoned at 103 months long. U.S. participation in World War II was only 44 months. The Afghan war is now in its 120th month, and the Obama White House and Pentagon see our forces there well into 2014 and beyond.

A majority of the American public has long said this war is not worth fighting. A Pew Research Center poll in June found 56% of Americans—an all-time high—want the U.S. to pull troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Veterans are usually the segment of the population most supportive of military engagements, but a new Pew Research poll, “War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era,” finds that only one-third of post-9/11 veterans say that, “given the costs and benefits to the U.S., the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have both been worth fighting.” Only one-third of veterans.

And what is Congress doing? What are we telling Congress to do? How do we get their attention? Do they ever read their mail?

The White House issued a quiet statement (no graphic pictures of burned or bloody shredded bodies of nineteen-year-olds) noting the sacrifice of some 1,700 American service members in this war, to “honor the memory of the nearly 1,800 American patriots, and many coalition and Afghan partners, who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan for our shared security and freedom.” The statement hits all the right notes, if you believe in that kind of thing.

End It Now. Quietly. Steadily. Reinforce the Diplomatic Corps.

What we believe is that the war in Afghanistan is not one that can ever be won. The best that can be done is not through arms but through quiet steady accelerated withdrawal of armed forces and the intelligent application of diplomacy along the lines the late Richard Holbrooke was attempting. Try to forge agreements or alliances between the numerous tribes and ethnic groups and factions within them to provide for their living together with as little violence as possible. Accept the necessity of some diplomatic presence and some foreign aid, with as little interference as possible from neighboring interests (Pakistani, Iranian).

A precise prescription for a diplomatic resolution is beyond our pay grade, to put it lightly—and for all we know it may not be possible even for a diplomat / peace broker of Richard Holbrooke’s or George Mitchell’s capabilities—but we do know the costly military operation is unaffordable for a nation as cash-strapped by under-taxation of its wealthy individuals and effectively non-taxation of its corporations. (Far from the traditional approach of raising taxes during wartime, the Republican-driven U.S. government has been slashing revenues since the Afghan war began.) The United States has already spent some $462 billion in the Afghanistan war, more than 1,700 soldiers have died, and over 14,000 have been wounded in action. The war is approaching a half trillion dollars—a figure that would surely be higher had not the Bush administration siphoned off a great proportion of U.S. “resources” toward the invasion of Iraq from 2003 until they were redirected back to Afghanistan by President Obama in 2009. The war in Iraq has cost $800 billion by the time you read this. And already the Iraq war alone is estimated by Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz to eventually cost the U.S. $3 trillion.

The present Obama plan announced in June is to wind down the Afghan war by 2014, when the U.S. role will change “from combat to support.” But what does “wind down” mean? How many soldiers will still be stationed there? How many are presently in Iraq? How many military contractors will still be in Afghanistan and Iraq by 2014, and at what cost? The projected reductions will only bring us back to the roughly 65,000 troops that were stationed in Afghanistan when Obama announced the surge. As we pointed out in June,

we still have 85,000 active duty military personnel stationed in Iraq at a monthly cost of about $4 billion. For that matter, U.S. military personnel number some 50,000 in Germany, 35,000 in Japan, and 25,000 in South Korea. How long does the government intend to keep this going?  (“Obama’s Troop Drawdown Is Little, Late, But a Start,” 6/23/11)

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Afghanistan: More Insane Than a Quagmire

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

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“. . . the reality, secretly guarded until now, is . . . [that] . . . it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. . . . That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap. . . . The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter; interview with Le Nouvel Observateur (Paris), January 15–21, 1998

“Notwithstanding the damage al Qaeda and the Taliban have suffered . . . bin Laden’s forces now have the United States where they have wanted it, on the ground in Afghanistan where Islamist insurgents can seek to reprise their 1980s’ victory over the Red Army [of the Soviet Union]. Al Qaeda now has the chance to prove bin Laden’s thesis that the United States cannot maintain long-term, casualty-producing military engagements . . .”

Michael Scheuer, former head of CIA’s bin Laden unit, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America (2002)

“. . . as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.  After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. . . . It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan. . . . our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended—because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.”

President Barack Obama, United States Military Academy at West Point, Dec. 1, 2009

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Runaway General, Runaway War

Everyone has heard at least a few choice snippets of the trash-talk by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff (“Bite me,” etc.) reported by Michael Hastings in “The Runaway General” in the July 8–22, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone. While we urge everyone to read the whole article (better yet, buy a copy like we did), we thought it would be productive to present some revealing excerpts about the war itself—the substance we wish the Beltway media would focus on to serve the public interest, rather than rehashing the gossip and backbiting. There were many passages we could have quoted, but here are a few. You’ll see that the general’s insults, while careless and insubordinate, are not the most disturbing material.

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