Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Unbridgeable Gap: Who We Were and Who We Thought We Were, by Maj. Danny Sjursen

The slogans wear thin when wars go inconclusively on and on and the only winners are the defense contractors and other recipients, by fair means or foul, of US government largesse. From Danny Sjursen at antiwar.com:

Americans, and their soldiers, were led to believe they fought for democracy and freedom these past 17 years; the truth was far murkier.

“War is just a racket… I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service…during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”
~ Major General Smedley Butler, US Marine Corps, 2 time Medal of Honor recipient (1935)

I grew up in blue-collar Staten Island, New York City. My mother was a waitress, my father an overqualified civil servant who also painted houses and delivered Chinese food in Brooklyn. I come from a world where it seems you’re either a cop, a fireman, or a junkie. My mother had four brothers; two, along with my grandfather, were FDNY to the core; the others fell deep into the drug and alcohol game; it killed them both. But not me; no, I was the family’s golden child, always the pleaser, always high achieving, and I’d do something special. I thought it was my destiny.

In July 2001, while my high school friends partied during the summer before college, I found myself at Cadet Basic Training – “Beast Barracks,” as we called – a new officer candidate at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Hating it from the start, I wanted out, but, well, quitting wasn’t an option. Four years later, I was one of 911 cadets who graduated – Time magazineprofiled us as the “Class of 9/11” – and commissioned in the US Army on May 28, 2005. Some 18 months later, I arrived in Baghdad.

For me, a high school senior in the year before the world changed, the army seemed glamorous, and, surprisingly safe. Back then there were no long, or “real,” wars. American soldiers almost never fired a shot in anger, let alone got killed. I guess I imagined overseas travel, at worst a tour peacekeeping in Kosovo or something, which, I figured, would provide cool photo ops and interesting stories.

Two months after beginning basic training, in September, while sparring in plebe (freshman) boxing class, the towers fell, and everything changed. I’m embarrassed to admit that, for the next four years at West Point, my biggest fear was that the wars would end before I could ship over and do my part. Truth is, I don’t recognize that kid anymore.

To continue reading: Unbridgeable Gap: Who We Were and Who We Thought We Were

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15 Years of War: To Whose Benefit? by Charles Hugh Smith

Why does the US fight wars but not win them? Here’s a hint: it’s a very profitable arrangement for some. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

As for Iraq, the implicit gain was supposed to be access to Iraqi oil.
Setting aside the 12 years of “no fly zone” air combat operations above Iraq from 1991 to 2003, the U.S. has been at war for almost 17 years in Afghanistan and 15 years in Iraq. (If the word “war” is too upsetting, then substitute “continuing combat operations”.)
Since the burdens and costs of these combat operations are borne solely by the volunteers of the U.S. Armed Forces, the American populace pays little to no attention to the wars unless a household has a family member in uniform who is in theatre.
Permanent combat operations are now a barely audible background noise in America, something we’ve habituated to: the human costs are invisible to the vast majority of residents, and the financial costs are buried in the ever-expanding mountain of national debt. What’s another borrowed trillion dollars on top of the $21 trillion pile?
But a nation continually waging war should ask: to whose benefit? (cui bono) As near as I can make out, the nation has received near-zero benefit from combat operations in Afghanistan, one of the most corrupt nations on Earth where most of the billions of dollars “invested” have been squandered or stolen by the kleptocrats the U.S. has supported.
What did the nation gain for the tragic loss of lives and crippling wounds suffered by our personnel and Afghan civilians?
As for Iraq, the implicit gain was supposed to be access to Iraqi oil. As near as I can make out, the U.S. imports about 600,000 barrels of oil per day from Iraq, a relatively modest percentage of our total oil consumption of 19.7 million barrels a day.
(Note that the U.S. was importing around 700,000 barrels a day from Iraq before Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched in March 2003–and imports from Iraq declined as a result of the war. So what was the energy-security gain from launching the war?)
Meanwhile, Iraq exports over 2 million barrels a day to China and India, where the presumed benefit to the U.S. is that U.S. corporations can continue to produce shoddy goods using low-cost Asian labor that are exported to U.S. consumers, thereby enabling U.S. corporations to reap $2.3 trillion in profits every year.

Illegal Wars: The New American Way, by Danny Sjursen

No doubt about it, most of the wars the US is currently fighting are unconstitutional. From Danny Sjursen at  truthdig.com:

A U.S. Army soldier patrols with Afghans in the village of Yawez in Afghanistan in 2010. (U.S. Army / CC BY 2.0)

[T]he President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons. …
S.J. Res. 23 (107th): Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), Sept. 18, 2001

The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary … in order to … defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq. …
H. J. Res 114 (107th): Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq, Oct. 18, 2002

It’s all so obvious to a detached observer. Nonetheless, it remains unspoken. The United States of America is waging several wars with dubious legal sanction in domestic or international law.

The U.S. military stands astride the Greater Mideast region on behalf of an increasingly rogue-like regime in Washington, D.C. Worse still, this isn’t a Donald Trump problem, per se. No, three successive administrations—Democratic and Republican—have widened the scope of a global “war” on a tactic (terror), on the basis of two at best vague, and at worst extralegal, congressional authorizations for the use of force (AUMF). Indeed, the U.S. is veritably addicted to waging undeclared, unwinnable wars with unconvincing legal sanction.

Despite 17 years of fighting, dying and killing, there have been no specific declarations of war. Instead, one president after another, and hundreds of derelict-in-their-duty congress members, have simply decided on their own that a vague resolution, rubber-stamped while the rubble in New York was still smoking, authorizes each and every conflict in which America’s soldiers—and many more civilians—continue to die. This AUMF authorized the president to kill or capture those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, but, well, few of America’s current adversaries had anything to do with that.

To continue reading: Illegal Wars: The New American Way

The Iran-Pakistan border is a geopolitical powder keg, by Dr. Lawrence Sellin

China is wading into Pakistan and Iran as part of its New Silk Road project. There is no assurance the chaos that plagues much of that region won’t overwhelm China. From Dr. Lawrence Sellin at southasiahudson.org:

The Iran-Pakistan border contains all the ingredients for a geopolitical explosion – regional rivalries, Sunni-Shia conflicts, ethnic insurgents, espionage, drug smuggling and human trafficking.

China considers the stability of the region so important that it brokered a series of border security meetings between Iran and Pakistan over the past year.

Much of China’s multi-billion-dollar investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) hinges on the commercial viability of the Pakistani port of Gwadar, near the Iranian border, for which it has a 40-year operational lease. Moreover,  CPEC is the regional linchpin of the Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious plan to connect Eurasia, the Middle East and Africa to China through a series of land-based and maritime economic zones.

Additionally, the planned Chinese naval base on Pakistan’s Jiwani peninsula, even closer to the Iranian border and located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, is a critical military node in China’s “String of Pearls” facilities designed to dominate the strategic sea lanes in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.

Such ambitions present a direct economic and military threat to India. Commercially, Gwadar competes with joint Iranian-Indian development of the port of Chabahar, just 150 miles to its west.

According to numerous reports, Saudi Arabia contributes to the instability of the border region by sponsoring virulently anti-Shia Sunni militant groups, such as Jaish al-Adl, who launch attacks on Iran from safe havens in Pakistan.

Iran retaliates by supporting the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), an ethnic separatist group, whose sanctuaries and leader, Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, are claimed to be inside Iranian territory and routinely conduct cross-border operations against Pakistani government targets. Members of the BLF are suspected to be in contact with Iranian intelligence, often through drug lords acting as intermediaries. BLF members are occasionally confused with their anti-Shia counterparts. Some months ago, a BLF team was mistakenly attacked by Iranian border guards. One member, shot in the encounter, was taken to Imam Ali Hospital in Chabahar for treatment, but later died of his wounds. The other team members were subsequently released by Iranian forces.

To continue reading: The Iran-Pakistan border is a geopolitical powder keg

 

Rand Paul: It’s Time for a New American Foreign Policy

Rand Paul is a breath of fresh air on US foreign policy. From Paul, at nationalinterest.org:

Americans have also been increasingly clear that they are tired of constant war.

What kind of job can you have where you are consistently wrong, yet get to still go on TV talking endlessly and making more wild predictions that will no doubt lead to the same failed result?

If you guessed “TV Weatherman” you’re close…but the job I’m referring to is “Neocon Foreign Policy Expert”

Being a neocon means never having to say you’re sorry, even trillions of dollars and decades into doomed wars.

Iraq

Famously, the neocons have told us that we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. The thousands of American soldiers killed or wounded might argue otherwise. The architects of the Iraq war forgot to tell us that it would embolden Iran and give Iran a new ally in the ‘liberated’ Shia majority in Iraq. They forgot to tell us that it would tip the balance of power in the Middle East and encourage Saudi Arabia to go on a military buying spree and become the third largest purchasers of weapons in the world.

Libya

The neocons told us that the Arab Spring would bring Western-style democracy to the Middle East. They told us toppling Muammar el-Qaddafi would bring freedom and stability. They were wrong and instead of stability the overthrow of Qaddafi brought chaos. They failed to understand that the chaos of Libya would become a breeding ground for terrorism.

Syria

The neocons loudly announced that regime change in Syria was their goal. Yet, even Hillary Clinton realized the problem when our arms, as well as Saudi and Qatari arms, were getting delivered in the hands of ISIS. In one of the Wikileaks emails, Hillary warned Podesta: “the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia . . . are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIS and other radical groups in the region.”

And yet, the deliveries of Western arms to jihadists went on and on for years.

Despite the evidence that many of the fighters opposing Assad were jihadists with an equal hatred for Israel and the United States, the weapons kept flowing.

To continue reading: Rand Paul: It’s Time for a New American Foreign Policy

Time to Admit the Afghan War is ‘Nonsense’, by Jonathan Marshall

After 17 years in Afghanistan, with Taliban control of territory and opium poppy production at record highs, it’s time for the US government to rethink that military commitment. From Jonathan Marshall at consortiumnews.com:

Exclusive: Officially, the U.S. military objective in Afghanistan is to force the Taliban to the negotiating table, but just last month President Trump said that talks with the Taliban are off the table, indicating an incoherent policy, as Jonathan Marshall notes.

Whatever happened to the Donald Trump who tweeted in 2013, “Let’s get out of Afghanistan … we waste billions there. Nonsense!”

Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots fly near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, April 5, 2017. The pilots are assigned to the 7th Infantry Division’s Task Force, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade.The unit is preparing to support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Resolute Support. (Army photo by Capt. Brian Harris)

And whatever happened to the reality TV star who used to tell under-performers, “you’re fired”?

Today, as commander in chief, President Trump is indefinitely extending the Afghan war’s record as the longest in U.S. history. He’s wasting $45 billion to wage it this year alone. And he’s not even thinking of firing his huckster generals who claim that sending a few thousand more troops and stepping up the bombing will be a “game changer.”

Much like the Vietnam War, every day’s news of war from Afghanistan puts the lie to optimistic claims of a military solution. A recent BBC study concluded that Taliban forces are now active in 70 percent of the country, more than at any time since the end of 2001. Unofficial U.S. estimates of their strength have soared from about 20,000 in 2014 to at least 60,000 today.

Afghan government forces number several times as many, but—like their counterparts in the Vietnam War—they “lack the one thing the U.S. cannot provide: the will to fight a protracted campaign against a committed enemy,” in the words of Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The Taliban have proven that no place in Afghanistan is safe from their long arm. At the beginning of February, they infiltrated a bomb-laden ambulance into Kabul, just blocks from a meeting at the Afghan Ministry of Defense with the head of the U.S. Central Command. Its blast killed more than 100 people and injured 235. It followed only days after Taliban gunmen stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, killing at least 20 people, including four Americans.

 

To continue reading: Time to Admit the Afghan War is ‘Nonsense’

The Wars No One Notices Talking to a Demobilized Country, by Stephanie Savell

You come up with some huge numbers when you tally all the costs of America’s wars since 9/11. There’s no way the results have been worth those costs. From Stephanie Savell at tomdispatch.com:

I’m in my mid-thirties, which means that, after the 9/11 attacks, when this country went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq in what President George W. Bush called the “Global War on Terror,” I was still in college. I remember taking part in a couple of campus antiwar demonstrations and, while working as a waitress in 2003, being upset by customers who ordered “freedom fries,” not “French fries,” to protest France’s opposition to our war in Iraq. (As it happens, my mother is French, so it felt like a double insult.) For years, like many Americans, that was about all the thought I put into the war on terror. But one career choice led to another and today I’m co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

Now, when I go to dinner parties or take my toddler to play dates and tell my peers what I do for a living, I’ve grown used to the blank stares and vaguely approving comments (“that’s cool”) as we quickly move on to other topics. People do tend to humor me if I begin to speak passionately about the startlingly global reach of this country’s military counterterrorism activities or the massive war debt we’re so thoughtlessly piling up for our children to pay off. In terms of engagement, though, my listeners tend to be far more interested and ask far more penetrating questions about my other area of research: the policing of Brazil’s vast favelas, or slums. I don’t mean to suggest that no one cares about America’s never-ending wars, just that, 17 years after the war on terror began, it’s a topic that seems to fire relatively few of us up, much less send us into the streets, Vietnam-style, to protest. The fact is that those wars are approaching the end of their second decade and yet most of us don’t even think of ourselves as “at war.

To continue reading: The Wars No One Notices Talking to a Demobilized Country