Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Whose Blood, Whose Treasure? by William Astore

Have American military leaders learned anything after decades of failed interventions? From William Astore at tomdispatch.com:

America’s Senior Generals Find No Exits From Endless War

Veni, Vidi, Vici,” boasted Julius Caesar, one of history’s great military captains. “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed that famed saying when summing up the Obama administration’s military intervention in Libya in 2011 — with a small alteration. “We came, we saw, he died,” she said with a laugh about the killing of Muammar Gaddafi, that country’s autocratic leader. Note what she left out, though: the “vici” or victory part. And how right she was to do so, since Washington’s invasions, occupations, and interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere in this century have never produced anything faintly like a single decisive and lasting victory.

“Failure is not an option” was the stirring 1995 movie catchphrase for the dramatic 1970 rescue of the Apollo 13 moon mission and crew, but were such a movie to be made about America’s wars and their less-than-vici-esque results today, the phrase would have to be corrected in Clintonian fashion to read “We came, we saw, we failed.”

Wars are risky, destructive, unpredictable endeavors, so it would hardly be surprising if America’s military and civilian leaders failed occasionally in their endless martial endeavors, despite the overwhelming superiority in firepower of “the world’s greatest military.” Here’s the question, though: Why have all the American wars of this century gone down in flames and what in the world have those leaders learned from such repetitive failures?

The evidence before our eyes suggests that, when it comes to our senior military leaders at least, the answer would be: nothing at all.

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Empire of Absurdity: Recycled Neocons, Recycled Enemies, by Danny Sjursen

The American empire is crumbling, as have the empires before it. From Danny Sjursen at antiwar.com:

There are times when I wish that the United States would just drop the charade and declare itself a global empire. As a veteran of two imperial wars, a witness to the dark underside of America’s empire-denial, I’ve grown tired of the equivocation and denials from senior policymakers. The U.S. can’t be an empire, we’re told, because – unlike the Brits and Romans – America doesn’t annex territories outright, and our school children don’t color its colonies in red-white-and-blue on cute educational maps.

But this distinction, at root, is rather superficial. Conquest, colonization, and annexation are so 19th century – Washington has moved beyond the overt and engages in the (not-so) subtle modern form of imperialism. America’s empire over the last two decades – under Democrats and Republicans – has used a range of tools: economic, military, political, to topple regimes, instigate coups, and starve “enemy” civilians. Heck, it didn’t even start with 9/11 – bullying foreigners and overturning uncooperative regimes is as American as apple pie.

Still, observing post-9/11, post-Iraq/Afghanistan defeat, Washington play imperialism these days is tragicomically absurd. The emperor has no clothes, folks. Sure, America (for a few more fleeting years) boasts the world’s dominant economy, sure its dotted the globe with a few hundred military bases, and sure it’s military still outspends the next seven competitors combined. Nonetheless, what’s remarkable, what constitutes the real story of 2019, is this: the US empire can’t seem to accomplish anything anymore, can’t seem to bend anybody to its will. It’s almost sad to watch. America, the big-hulking has-been on the block, still struts its stuff, but most of the world simply ignores it.

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An Officer’s Path to Dissent, by Maj. Danny Sjursen

Danny Sjursen reviews the insanity that is America’s wars. From Sjursen at antiwar.com:

Maj. Danny Sjursen gathering coordinates to set up an airstrike while under fire during a patrol in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.

For a while there, I was a real star. High up in my class at West Point, tough combat deployments in two wars, a slew of glowing evaluations, even a teaching assignment back at the military academy. I inhabited a universe most only dream of: praised, patted and highly respected by everyone in my life system and viewed as a brave American soldier. It’s a safe, sensible spot. For most, that’s enough. Too bad it was all bunk. Absurdity incarnate.

The truth is, I fought for next to nothing, for a country that, in recent conflicts, has made the world a deadlier, more chaotic place. Even back in 2011—or even 2006, for that matter—I was just smart and just sensitive enough to know that, to feel it viscerally.

Still, the decision to publicly dissent is a tough one. It’s by no means easy. Easy would be to go on playing hero and accepting adulation while staying between the lines. Play it safe, stick to your own, make everyone proud. That’s easy, intellectually immature—the new American way.

When you take the journey of dissent, you lose friends, alienate family, confuse confidants and become a lonely voice in your professional world. I’ve spent years sitting in military classrooms from West Point to Fort Knox to Fort Leavenworth as the odd man, the outlier, the confusing character in the corner. It’s like leaving the church, becoming an atheist, all while still living in the monastery. Still, the truth is that the military is more accommodating than one might suspect. I wrote a critical book, published some skeptical articles, but it’s not as though anyone ever outright threatened me. The pressure is different, more subtle: veiled warnings from superiors, cautious advice from mentors.

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The U.S. Military’s Lost Wars, by William J. Astore

Once upon a time militaries were supposed to win wars. From William J. Astore ate tomdispatch.com:

Overfunded, Overhyped, and Always Over There

One of the finest military memoirs of any generation is Defeat Into Victory, British Field Marshal Sir William Slim’s perceptive account of World War II’s torturous Burma campaign, which ended in a resounding victory over Japan. When America’s generals write their memoirs about their never-ending war on terror, they’d do well to choose a different title: Victory Into Defeat. That would certainly be more appropriate than those on already published accounts like Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez’s Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story (2008), or General Stanley McChrystal’s My Share of the Task (2013).

Think about it. America’s Afghan War began in 2001 with what was essentially a punitive raid against the Taliban, part of which was mythologized last year in 12 Strong, a Hollywood film with a cavalry charge that echoed the best of John Wayne. That victory, however, quickly turned first into quagmire and then, despite various “surges” and a seemingly endless series of U.S. commanders (17 so far), into a growing sense of inevitable defeat. Today, a resurgent Taliban exercises increasing influenceover the hearts, minds, and territory of the Afghan people. The Trump administration’s response so far has been a mini-surge of several thousand troops, an increase in air and drone strikes, and an attempt to suppressaccurate reports from the Pentagon’s special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction about America’s losing effort there.

Turn now to the invasion of Iraq: in May 2003, President George W. Bush cockily announced “Mission Accomplished” from the deck of an aircraft carrier, only to see victory in Baghdad degenerate into insurgency and a quagmire conflict that established conditions for the rise of the Islamic State. Gains in stability during a surge of U.S. forces orchestrated by General David Petraeus in 2007 and hailed in Washington as a fabulous success story proved fragile and reversible. An ignominious U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011 was followed in 2014 by the collapse of that country’s American-trained and armed military in the face of modest numbers of Islamic State militants. A recommitment of U.S. troops and air power brought Stalingrad-style devastation to cities like Mosul and Ramadi, largely reduced to rubble, while up to 1.3 million children were displaced from their homes. All in all, not exactly the face of victory.

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Mr President. End This Shameful War Now! By Eric S. Margolis

The US has no business being in Afghanistan. From Eric Margolis at lewrockwell.com:

An ancient Hindu prayer says, ‘Lord Shiva, save us from the claw of the tiger, the fang of the cobra, and the vengeance of the Afghan.’

The United States, champion of freedom and self-determination, is now in its 18th year of colonial war in Afghanistan.  This miserable, stalemated conflict is America’s longest and most shameful war.  So far it has   cost over $1 trillion and killed no one knows how many Afghans.

This conflict began in 2001 on a lie: namely that Afghanistan was somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the US.  These attacks were planned in Europe and the US, not Afghanistan, and apparently conducted (official version) by anti-American Saudi extremists.  This writer remains unconvinced by the official versions.

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The US Military Is Winning… No, Really, It Is! by Nick Turse

The US can “win” every war in which it engages, simply by having the military stay put wherever it’s inserted, and calling that winning. From Nick Turse at tomdispatch.com:

A Simple Equation Proves That the U.S. Armed Forces Have Triumphed in the War on Terror

4,000,000,029,057. Remember that number. It’s going to come up again later.

But let’s begin with another number entirely: 145,000 — as in, 145,000 uniformed soldiers striding down Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s the number of troops who marched down that very street in May 1865 after the United States defeated the Confederate States of America. Similar legions of rifle-toting troops did the same after World War I ended with the defeat of Germany and its allies in 1918. And Sherman tanks rolling through the urban canyons of midtown Manhattan? That followed the triumph over the Axis in 1945. That’s what winning used to look like in America — star-spangled, soldier-clogged streets and victory parades.

Enthralled by a martial Bastille Day celebration while visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in July 2017, President Trump called for just such a parade in Washington.  After its estimated cost reportedly ballooned from $10 million to as much as $92 million, the American Legion weighed in. That veterans association, which boasts 2.4 million members, issued an August statement suggesting that the planned parade should be put on hold “until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home.” Soon after, the president announced that he had canceled the parade and blamed local Washington officials for driving up the costs (even though he was evidently never briefed by the Pentagon on what its price tag might be).

The American Legion focused on the fiscal irresponsibility of Trump’s proposed march, but its postponement should have raised an even more significant question: What would “victory” in the war on terror even look like? What, in fact, constitutes an American military victory in the world today? Would it in any way resemble the end of the Civil War, or of the war to end all wars, or of the war that made that moniker obsolete? And here’s another question: Is victory a necessary prerequisite for a military parade.

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Washington’s Backfiring Bombing, by Brian Cloughley

Bombing is not a particularly intelligent way to conduct foreign policy. From Brian Cloughley at strategic-culture.org:

Wikipedia tells us that “The Times Square Ball is a… prominent part of a New Year’s Eve celebration commonly referred to as the ball drop, where the ball descends 43 metres in 60 seconds… to signal the start of the new year.” It’s one of these silly things that is quite appealing in the spirit of the Christmas-New Year season, and most of us have a chuckle and consider ourselves slightly foolish for enjoying it.

But there was another and less amusing ball-drop on New Year’s Day, involving a tweet from US Strategic Forces Command or Stratcom, which declares it “deters strategic attack and employs forces, as directed, to guarantee the security of our nation and our allies” In the gobbledegook language of the military it, amongst other things “deters catastrophic actions from adversaries and poses an immediate threat to any actor who questions US resolve by demonstrating our capabilities.”

According to Stars and Stripes, the Stratcom tweet read “Times Square tradition rings in the New Year by dropping the big ball… if ever needed, we are ready to drop something much, much bigger.” As greetings go, you couldn’t get much more crass, confrontational and puerile than that.

The Washington Post noted that an embedded video “showed footage of a B-2 stealth bomber. As the words STEALTH, READY and LETHAL flashed across the screen, the aircraft released bombs. They fall to the ground and crash with a fiery explosion.” Just another video game, really.

The tweet was withdrawn with the apology that it “was in poor taste & does not reflect our values” but it is obvious that the original message is the one that Stratcom, the US Air Force and Washington as a whole want to send : their “values” include being “ready to drop something much, much bigger” on targets all round the world, and they’ve been blitzing with depressing frequency for many years. A month before the big ball bomb tweet Reuters reported that “At least 30 Afghan civilians were killed in US air strikes in the Afghan province of Helmand, officials and residents of the area said on Wednesday [November 28], the latest casualties from a surge in air operations aimed at driving the Taliban into talks.”

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