Afghanistan Plan?

Ann Jones at Tomdispatch on the “Afghanistan Boondoggle”:

The first of 20,000 to 30,000 additional U.S. troops are scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan next month to re-win the war George W. Bush neglected to finish in his eagerness to start another one. However, “winning” the military campaign against the Taliban is the lesser half of the story.

Going into Afghanistan, the Bush administration called for a political campaign to reconstruct the country and thereby establish the authority of a stable, democratic Afghan central government. It was understood that the two campaigns — military and political/economic — had to go forward together; the success of each depended on the other. But the vision of a reconstructed, peaceful, stable, democratically governed Afghanistan faded fast. Most Afghans now believe that it was nothing but a cover story for the Bush administration’s real goal — to set up permanent bases in Afghanistan and occupy the country forever.

Whatever the truth of the matter, in the long run, it’s not soldiers but services that count — electricity, water, food, health care, justice, and jobs. Had the U.S. delivered the promised services on time, while employing Afghans to rebuild their own country according to their own priorities and under the supervision of their own government — a mini-Marshall Plan — they would now be in charge of their own defense. The forces on the other side, which we loosely call the Taliban, would also have lost much of their grounds for complaint.

Instead, the Bush administration perpetrated a scam. It used the system it set up to dispense reconstruction aid to both the countries it “liberated,” Afghanistan and Iraq, to transfer American taxpayer dollars from the national treasury directly into the pockets of private war profiteers. Think of Halliburton, Bechtel, and Blackwater in Iraq; Louis Berger Group, Bearing Point, and DynCorp International in Afghanistan. They’re all in it together. So far, the Bush administration has bamboozled Americans about its shady aid program. Nobody talks about it. Yet the aid scam, which would be a scandal if it weren’t so profitable for so many, explains far more than does troop strength about why, today, we are on the verge of watching the whole Afghan enterprise go belly up.   [emphasis mine]

What’s worse, there’s no reason to expect that things will change significantly on Barack Obama’s watch. During the election campaign, he called repeatedly for more troops for “the right war” in Afghanistan (while pledging to draw-down U.S. forces in Iraq), but he has yet to say a significant word about the reconstruction mission. While many aid workers in that country remain full of good intentions, the delivery systems for and uses of U.S. aid have been so thoroughly corrupted that we can only expect more of the same — unless Obama cleans house fast. But given the monumental problems on his plate, how likely is that?    [more]

The deaths of Afghan civilians in this “boondoggle” break my heart.  The deaths of Canadian soldiers are rarely noted, outside this country.  That rather pisses me off.  The fact that all of them are dying to line the pockets of powerful American corporations outrages me.

Conserving Violence

From Edward S. Herman at Z Magazine:

It is interesting and depressing to see that as Obama calls for some kind of withdrawal or at least substantial cutbacks of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, at the same time he calls for escalation in Afghanistan. By doing this he hopes to ease the threat of vulnerability to accusations of weakness on “national security” and an un- or anti-American “cut and run” perspective. This has long been a problem for the Democrats, who have a mass populist constituency that would like some transfer of government resources to their pressing civilian needs.

The establishment, including the mainstream media, therefore, keeps the pressure on to assure that the Democrats stay in line and the Democrats often compensate, even overcompensate, to demonstrate their integration into an imperialist worldview and weapons culture. Both Gore and Bush wanted a bigger military budget in 2000 (Nader, who wanted cuts, was marginalized). Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the campaign trail called for a larger army to meet U.S. “defense” needs. Now Obama wants us to take on a bigger commitment to violence. This will keep the arms cargo ships and planes busy and the bomb factories and plane and missile factories working at full capacity. Of course, those wanting infrastructure improvements and resources will have to wait and “hope” for a better future after our enemies are defeated and full hegemony and stability are established. They need a good dollop of “vision.”

The law of conservation of the level of violence thus rests on the structure of power and its reflection in politics. If you want to compete in politics in the militarized America of today you can’t scrimp on money for “national security” and you need to display a readiness to exercise a “muscular” foreign policy. If you call for reduced forces in one country, you must urge their increase in another. Keep those muscles in shape and bombs dropping.

One of my favorite quotations from the Vietnam War era was: “I think maybe today we create many Vietcong,” spoken by a Vietnamese collaborator and helicopter pilot when answering a question by Master Sergeant Donald Duncan while both were on a plane that had just dropped bombs on a Vietnamese target. The Vietnam War was a murderous capital-intensive war, with millions of tons of bombs dropped on villages deemed supportive of the indigenous enemy, along with napalm, phosphorus, and crop-destroying chemicals. (Napalm and rice-killing chemicals were used exclusively in the South, which we were allegedly “saving” from the North’s “aggression.”) In any case, this murderous behavior killed vast numbers, but also made any Vietnamese previously harboring doubts about the ongoing struggle extremely hostile to the United States and its local puppets. We had mastered the art of creating enemies.

Read the rest here

Obama and Iraq

Obama says “put down the cynicism” and vote for him.  I can’t.  Read his lips:  Barack Obama, if he becomes US President, will not take the US out of Iraq:

In April the New York Sun reported that Colin Kahl, an adviser to Barack Obama’s campaign and its day-to-day coordinator of the working group on Iraq, recommended that the US maintain between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq to serve in an “over-watch role” until 2010. Post publication, Kahl clarified that “this has absolutely zero to do with the campaign”.

Obama, who, on his past record, is believed to have the best policy on military withdrawal from Iraq, does not seem to intend to end the occupation. Susan Rice, a senior foreign affairs adviser to the Obama campaign, reiterated what we have heard from Bush administration officials over the past five years: that the number of US troops Obama would keep in Iraq “depends on the circumstances on the ground”.

Obama emphatically cautioned in October 2002: “Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbours and even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences” and “an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida”.

Today he not only refrains from calling for total withdrawal – he does not address the removal of the “enduring” US military bases in Iraq and the embassy scheduled to open there this month. This is the size of the Vatican, has superthick walls, electrical and water plants, gymnasium and the largest swimming pool in the country. It cost $740m, has room for at least 1,000 “government employees”, a school for their children, bunkers, two helipads, yoga studios, fast-food outlets and shopping malls.

Other “enduring bases” remain, four of them along the lines of Camp Victory near Baghdad airport, which is twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, already one of the largest US overseas bases built since Vietnam. Camp Anaconda near Balad houses more than 20,000 troops, over 250 aircraft, thousands of civilian contractors, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut and Starbucks outlets.   more at Le Monde Diplomatique