Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Repackaging the Terror Wars

Once more into the breach we go as General Obama launches one of the largest U.S. offences in recent years in Afghanistan. And Obama is telling us that U.S. marines will now be used to win the “hearts and minds” of Afghans everywhere an integral part of the great new and improved Obama Brand of war. Thus, in this far away exotic land of Afghanistan, a land ruled by warlords and inhabited by a people who have been fairly successful at outlasting would-be conquerors of imperial bent, will be given the gift of Democracy which by pure magic will transform Afghanistan into something resembling Modesto California making the world safer for Americans and no doubt the planned gas pipelines to go through Afghanistan.

Rewinding the tape a bit you all might recall that Obama was fairly outspoken against the Iraq War when running for office. Then later, after being elected, he decided that the Iraq surge was an astonishing success. What was once a failure was rebranded as a success without as much as a twitch of an eye? So you can easily see when you have a strategy like renaming that anything is possible, anything in the whole wide wonderful world.

This is early in Obama’s stellarific career so he has a little time on his side but not much. To many of Democratic persuasion Afghanistan is the right war, the war that should have been fought in the first place. I wonder how long that will last since Americans only like wars they think they are winning. But then as Obama showed from the beginning he doesn’t care all that much what the faithful think.

In the many news articles chronicling the Afghanistan War we are told that having rethought how to proceed our leaders say that the focus will be on protecting Afghan citizens and that restraint will be used when conducting air attacks. This is part of the hearts and minds theme yet you have to question how effective as diplomats will the marines be? I would assume that diplomacy 101 and anthropology aren’t part of marine boot camp. If the new logic is to protect Afghan citizens then the next logical step would be to withdraw all the U.S. troops from Afghanistan and halt all the bombings completely. In this manner the people of Afghanistan will be much safer than they are now. But of course there is no real concern for the Afghan people rather it is reserved for the mission which must be protected at all costs. That’s what the new strategy boils down to. The only reason they wish to decrease civilian casualties is that high casualties might interfere with their cherished and beloved war effort.


General Nicholson said that the American force of of almost 4,000 had been joined by only about 400 effective Afghan soldiers.

“The net increase in Afghan security forces is zero” since the brigade arrived a few months ago, he said. The lack of Afghan forces “is absolutely our Achilles heel,” adds Capt. Brian Huysman, commander of Charlie Company of the First Battalion, Fifth Marines in Nawa.

Captain Huysman said the Afghan forces are critically important in establishing trust and communication with the citizen population. “We can’t read these people, we’re different,” he said. “They’re not going to tell us the truth. We’ll never get to build and transition” — the last phase of the operation — “unless we have the Afghans.”

With casualties beginning to mount, American military officials say they want at least a full brigade of Afghan forces in Helmand, thousands more than are here now.

“With casualties beginning to mount,” and indeed they are and they will. Captain Huysman is honest enough to know that he or anyone else in command doesn’t know what they are doing or why they are doing it. It seems to me that Obama and his tactical advisors are merely flying by the seat of their pants. It isn’t a good sign when you see them improvising as they go as in this hearts and minds fiasco. Once again I don’t think that there is an actual overall plan for these criminal wars, these guys who believe they know how to lead have no plan, they are playing it by ear, experimenting to see what will work even while they spend human lives on both sides to achieve some nebulous fantasy both ill-defined and dangerously ignorant of what repercussions their meddling will produce. On the other hand if the goal is to produce instability throughout the world I think their strategy will work wonders.


At July 07, 2009 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rewinding the tape a bit you all might recall that Obama was fairly outspoken against the Iraq War when running for office.

Not exactly, Rob. He was outspoken against it BEFORE he became a US Senator. Starting in 2006, he became either silent, or non-committal, upon his arrival in the Senate.

Go see his floor speeches and votes as a US Senator from Illinois.

The truth was on the wall from the start. One only had to look.

At July 07, 2009 10:52 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

Yes that is probably more correct than what I wrote though Obama has always maintained that he would be escalating the Afghan War which by default made Iraq the wrong war at least until the surge which is probably how I should have said it.

I never cared for Obama. When I began hearing about him I checked out some of his speaches and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why people thought he was different. He wasn’t saying anything different in fact he sounded like the totally indoctrinated narrow minded shallow thinking beaurocrat that he actually is.

At July 08, 2009 3:56 AM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

It's just a fantasy, but when Robert McNamara died I found myself hoping that he recorded a short video warning us about following down the same path he took, in Afghanistan. But I'm not holding my breath.

I suppose I base this a little on how Gerald Ford supposedly voiced his misgivings about Iraq in 2003 to Woodward in private, but insisted he say nothing until several thousands-- no, strike that-- until he died.

It's wrong to speak ill of the dead, etc, so I better just go to bed now.

At July 08, 2009 7:47 AM, Blogger Bob In Pacifica said...

My only problem here is trying to make a rational connection between the character known as "Obama" and what the national security state does.

However, I am always delighted and surprised when someone actually mentions the Afghan pipeline, since the logic of Afghanistan then comes into focus, once again, when you see the need for Big Oil to secure "our" straw to drain oil and natural gas from Central Asia.

If you look at the hotspots in Asia over the past year, note how they relate to various "straws". Georgia hosts oil and gas pipelines in competition with Russia's heading west to Europe. That little "war" was a Cold War thrust at Russia as well as justification for other "straws". Georgians want to throw out their CIA puppet now, which makes that gambit another Bush failure. So now when Obama went to Russia to preach freedom and peace to the Russian people in the back room he was negotiating ways to keep the munitions flowing to the troops in Afghanistan.

The various uprisings in Western China are the territories where China is building its own pipeline to move petro products to their industries. That pipeline cuts out Western oil companies from collecting their pennies at the turnstile. It's about the money of energy. Osama and Obama are just cartoon characters on the stage.

And guess who else has been planning a pipeline? Iran, who is having its own political crisis. (It should be noted that many of the Iranian reformers in this go-round in Iran are the same folks who negotiated with Bush I and his CIA cronies to withhold the hostages and throw the 1980 election to Reagan.)

Trying to measure the security state's actions as a reflection of Obama and his policies is ass-backwards, though. By winning the election he gets to sit at the head of the table. But he never gets to call the tune.

If there is any resentment at all towards Obama and the Dems it's because this modulation in the country's leadership gives people temporary hope for some kind of progressive change, and then with the repetition of the same old same old people's hopes are broken. But by expecting Obama to be anything more than a puppet is to willfully ignore the structural nature of power in the US. What Obama "can" or "can't" do and what he "will" or "won't" do are all academic here, because he can't get away with doing what the actual holders of power want him to do.

This is not a political problem. Americans never really get a choice in these things and when we think we do we're ultimately disappointed. The generals and the oil execs and bankers run it all. What "Obama" does is to further discourage voters who seek change.

At July 08, 2009 7:50 AM, Blogger Bob In Pacifica said...

Correction: Can't get away with doing what the holders of power DON'T want him to do.

At July 08, 2009 4:20 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

What’s the connection between Obama and the National Security State? the connection is fairly clear. I believe that it is a mistake to view Obama as being forced to do what he does by the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies, etc. because he doesn’t need to be forced. As I have said and I still believe that Obama is completely indoctrinated in the idea of American exceptionalism and this makes him an enthusiastic believer in expanding the American military footprint all around the globe.

Now I agree with you that Obama is pressured by the Pentagon, corporate lobbies, the Israeli lobby, and what have you. And like you I believe that the true seat of power resides in the super wealthy, those who profit from war. However it became clear with the ridiculous claims made by Bush and his administration regarding WMD and all the rest of the lies that were used to justify the invasion of Iraq were enhanced by the stovepiping of raw intelligence from the CIA ordered by Cheney. In other words the office of the president used the intelligence agencies to manufacture lies after the decision to go to war had already been made. Intelligence gathered wasn’t used as a factor in going to war, it was manufactured to justify war. And this leaves me with the very strong impression that when it comes to the CIA that they will do what they are told to do by the president not the other way around.

I also agree that oil is an important factor in all of this terror war business. Most believe that the oil companies are behind much of the imperialism today and that may well be true. Yet the real value of oil is its strategic value to empire building, to the military. You cannot fight wars without fuels and supplies and the ability to move vast amounts of the stuff all hinges on having the oil and controlling its source. I don’t believe the overall concern over oil is so much about cheap fuel as it is about the ability to wage war when and where we wish and much of that depends on controlling oil resources.

At July 08, 2009 4:43 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

Here is an op-ed written by Obama during his run for office.

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected. We would move them from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We would pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq’s stability, and commit $2 billion to a new international effort to support Iraq’s refugees.

Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been. As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq.

As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.

I wrote about it almost one year ago.


So he wasn’t completely silent on Iraq though as you read the article you can see where he is changing his tune. First he was against the surge, later he considered it a success. I’ll give Obama this much. He was always careful to state his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan, he wasn’t lying about that as we see today. He maintained from the beginning that there would be residual forces left in Iraq though 50,000 troops is hardly residual.
Iraq was always the wrong war for Obama and his position of withdrawing the troops helped him gain popularity with the faithful. Unfortunately the faithful tend to overlook minor details like 50,000 toops.

At July 10, 2009 7:07 AM, Blogger Bob In Pacifica said...

I remember LBJ talking about doing things "with a heavy heart" in his Texas drawl. You knew the boom was about to be lowered because he spoke about his heavy heart.

I think that's the difference between Dems and Repubs in the National Security State business. A Dem President may watch as you are snatched off the street and flown to a secret prison in a foreign country with a heavy heart. The next Bush will do it with glee, or do it saluting the flag or do as part of his/her higher calling.

That's not much comfort when your jailers whip out the bamboo-under-the-fingernails trick.

My point is that Obama (or any President), as a decision-maker or policy-maker, is irrelevant. His options are, uh, limited. He cannot decide to remove troops from Afghanistan. He cannot decide not to bomb civilians in Pakistan's hinterlands.

Does he have "a heavy heart" when the people get screwed over or does he go back to the White House and laugh his ass off about the suckers? It really doesn't matter.

Try this: You have to eat at a crappy fastfood restaurant. There are two cashiers. One is surly and rude. One is smart, clever, smiles, and seems to care about what you say. It doesn't matter. You still get served the same crappy food. The only difference is the smile when you get your tray of crappy food. Bon apetit!

At July 10, 2009 9:22 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

I hear what you are saying and actually I’m sure we agree on much of this. On Obama not having a choice perhaps it would be more succinct to say that Obama cannot do the things you mentioned without political costs and repercussions to himself because he could do those things. But he won’t because of what he is.


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