When does Afghanistan officially qualify as a “quagmire”?

July 2, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More

We’ve now been in Afghanistan longer than we were in Vietnam, with a similar amount of progress.  American casualties are again on the rise, along with the power of the Taliban. The new general in charge, General Petraeus,

General Petraeus- new Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

General Petraeus- new Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. via Wikipedia

assures us that he will continue to try to minimize civilian casualties, so long as that doesn’t interfere too much with his plans to bomb the hell out of the country. Our rules to protect civilians were a bit too “bureaucratic” for his liking–not that they actually worked, in any case. The now-infamous Rolling Stone profile of General McChrystal has this to say:

In the first four months of this year, NATO forces killed some 90 civilians, up 76 percent[!] from the same period in 2009 – a record that has created tremendous resentment among the very population that COIN theory is intent on winning over. In February, a Special Forces night raid ended in the deaths of two pregnant Afghan women and allegations of a cover-up, and in April, protests erupted in Kandahar after U.S. forces accidentally shot up a bus, killing five Afghans. “We’ve shot an amazing number of people,” McChrystal recently conceded.

The Rolling Stone piece mysteriously left out the next part of McChrystal’s statement. Here’s the full quotation (emphasis mine):

“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.

What do you call someone who has admitted to killing an “amazing” number of people (including civilians) who were not threatening him in the least? I thought the technical term was “war criminal“, but apparently most Americans still consider it “war hero”. Rolling Stone also declined to elaborate on why the deaths of 2 pregnant Afghan women drew “allegations of a cover-up”. Please allow me to quote Glenn Greenwald, providing the full context:

On February 12 of this year, U.S. forces entered a village in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan and, after surrounding a home where a celebration of a new birth was taking place, shot dead two male civilians (government officials) who exited the house in order to inquire why they had been surrounded, and then shot and killed three female relatives (a pregnant mother of ten, a pregnant mother of six, and a teenager). The Pentagon then issued a statement claiming that (a) the dead males were “insurgents” or terrorists, (b) the bodies of the three women had been found by U.S. forces bound and gagged inside the home, and (c) suggested that the women had already been killed by the time the U.S. had arrived, likely the victim of “honor killings” by the Taliban militants killed in the attack.

Although numerous witnesses on the scene as well as local investigators vehemently disputed the Pentagon’s version, and insisted that all of the dead (including the women) were civilians and were killed by U.S. forces, the American media largely adopted the Pentagon’s version, often without any questions. But enough evidence has now emerged disproving those claims such that the Pentagon was forced yesterday to admit that their original version was totally false and that it was U.S. troops who killed the women:

After initially denying involvement or any cover-up in the deaths of three Afghan women during a badly bungled American Special Operations assault in February, the American-led military command in Kabul admitted late on Sunday that its forces had, in fact, killed the women during the nighttime raid.

One NATO official said that there had likely been an effort to cover-up what happened by U.S. troops via evidence tampering on the scene (though other NATO officials deny this claim). The Times of London actually reported yesterday that, at least according to Afghan investigators, “US special forces soldiers dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath of a botched night raid, then washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened.”

In any case, Petraeus’ confirmation was swift and unanimous. Our representatives in Congress were falling all over themselves singing his praises, supposedly because he won the Iraq war for us. Someone should tell the 90,000 troops who are still stationed in Iraq— I’m sure they’d like to come home at some point. Of course, we’re going to need to keep our troops in Afghanistan for quite some time as well, nevermind President Obama’s rosy promise to have them out starting in July 2011. The more conspiratorial readers will of course remember the report that the U.S. had recently “discovered” nearly $1 trillion dollars worth of mineral deposits in Afghanistan. John Cook at Yahoo! News does an admirable job pointing out the suspicious timing of this “news”:

Risen’s piece quickly drew fire from online reporters and writers (including this one), who pointed out that many of the story’s purported revelations about Afghanistan’s mineral reserves had been previously reported. They also questioned the timing of the story, coming as it did on the heels of a series of troubling reports about the stability of the Karzai government and one day before Gen. David Petraeus was scheduled to testify before Congress about the war.

The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder wrote that the story “suggest[s] a broad and deliberate information operation designed to influence public opinion on the course of the war.” Talking Points Memo‘s Josh Marshall wrote that “the timing of the revelation is enough to raise some suspicions in my mind.” And Foreign Policy‘s Blake Hounshell wrote that “there’s less to this scoop than meets the eye.

And so we must turn to General Petraeus to save the war for us, after his predecessor had a truth fit and expressed the impolitic opinion that the civilian leadership doesn’t have an idea how to win this war, or lose it more gracefully, or even exactly what it is that we should be doing there. I’m sure the leadership was considering getting rid of McChrystal before the Rolling Stone piece– he broke consensus back in May when he admitted that “nobody is winning” in Afghanistan, which apparently was news to some people. The lack of any kind of a plan, or benchmarks for progress has been pointed out repeatedly, not least from Erich here at Dangerous Intersection (see here, here, and here for examples). For another example, see the recently leaked memo from Ambassador Eikenberry (again, h/t Erich) which paints a very different picture of our effort in Afghanistan than the administration’s public relations department would have everyone believe. Please read the whole thing, but here are some highlights (remember he was writing this memo prior to President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 additional troops):

  • “…sending additional forces will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult, if not impossible to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable.”
  • “He [President Karzai] and much of his circle do not want the U.S. to leave, and are only too happy to see us invest further. They assume that we covet their territory for a never-ending “war on terror” and for military bases to use against surrounding powers.”  [I wonder why they would assume that??]
  • “Even if we could eradicate pervasive corruption, the country has few indigenous sources of revenue, few means to distribute services to its citizens, and most important, little to no political will or capacity to carry out basic tasks of governance.”
  • “Sending additional combat brigades will require tens of billions of dollars annually for years to come, costs not detailed in DOD charts.”

Unfortunately, all of this seems like par for the course at this point. The American public is too preoccupied with the myriad other crises that we are facing to pay much attention to the wars we are involved in. Even when our tax dollars go to supporting the very same “insurgency” that we are asking our troops to fight, we cannot muster the spine to demand and end to the fraud and corruption perpetrated by our leaders. See, your taxes are funneled through the government to private contractors, who apparently must pay the Taliban for protection. This is in addition to the billions of dollars of aid money which are simply loaded up on pallets and flown out of Afghanistan to destinations unknown.

This corruption is merely, as I say, par for the course. At least it was, until a recent Supreme Court ruling in which the Court found that doing something as minor as providing advice on peaceful conflict resolution to a terrorist organization is equivalent to providing “material support” to that organization, and therefore merits prosecution. My question is simple: in light of this ruling, may we demand prosecution of our civilian and/or military leadership under the very same statute? Aren’t they demonstrably providing material support for terrorism? Aren’t these private contractors who are fighting a large part of our wars doing the very same thing?  Don’t billions of dollars count for anything anymore?

But no, I must be dreaming. There is no way that the political class would apply the same standards to themselves that they demand from the rest of the world. See also the ever-shifting definition of “terrorism”, depending on who is committing the acts in question. Or the way that “torture” becomes something else when we do it. As the pseudonymous Tyler Durden opined at Zero Hedge, the ability of the government to capriciously and arbitrarily choose who will be subject to and exempt from the laws is a hallmark of fascist police state (emphasis in original):

My own take is, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project is not about limiting free speech—it’s about the state expanding it power to repress. The decision limits free speech in passing, because what it is really doing is expanding the state’s power to repress whomever it unilaterally determines is a terrorist.

In the decision, the Court explicitly ruled that “Congress and the Executive are uniquely positioned to make principled distinctions between activities that will further terrorist conduct and undermine United States foreign policy, and those that will not.” In other words, the Court makes it clear that Congress and/or the Executive can solely and unilaterally determine who is a “terrorist threat”, and who is not—without recourse to judicial review of this decision.

By a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court has explicitly stated that Congress and/or the Executive is “uniquely positioned” to determine who is a terrorist and who is not—and therefore has the right to silence not just the terrorist organization, but anyone trying to speak to them, or hear them.

So! To sum up: The U.S. government can decide unilaterally who is a terrorist organization and who is not. Anyone speaking to such a designated terrorist group is “providing material support” to the terrorists—and is therefore subject to prosecution at the discretion of the U.S. government. And if, in the end, it turns out that one definitely was not involved in terrorist activities, there is no way to receive redress by the state.

Sounds like a fascist police-state to me.

Me too.


Category: Corruption, Current Events, hypocrisy, Orwellian, War

About the Author ()

is a full-time wage slave and part-time philosopher, writing and living just outside Omaha with his lovely wife and two feline roommates.

Comments (3)

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  1. Brynn Jacobs says:

    And further down the rabbit-hole we go: (hawkish) GOP chairman Michale Steele is now also under fire for telling the truth about our war in Afghanistan:

    Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is facing a new test of his leadership over comments he made that appear to question America's military effort in Afghanistan.

    Video footage that emerged Friday shows Steele referring to the conflict as "a war of Obama's choosing" and implying that the effort is doomed to fail.

    "If he's such a student of history," Steele said, referring to President Obama, "has he not understood that, you know, that's the one thing you don't do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? Everyone who has tried, over 1,000 years of history, has failed."

    He described the events surrounding the dismissal of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as the top commander in Afghanistan as "comical."

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Brynn: Have you seen the recent announcement by Hamid Karzai?

    In a rare U.S. media appearance, Karzai continued to press for the removal of the vast majority of U.S. private contractors by the end of this year. He argued that their continued presence inside Afghanistan was "an obstruction and impediment" to the country's growth, a massive waste of money, and a catalyst for corruption among Afghan officials.

    "The more we wait the more we lose," Karzai said during an appearance on ABC's "This Week." "Therefore we have decided as an Afghan government to bring an end to the presence of these security companies… who are not only causing corruption in this country but who are looting and stealing from the Afghan people.


  3. Brynn Jacobs says:


    Yes, I've been following this story closely. Karzai's incredibly smart position has put the US leadership into quite the quandary: how do you fight a war with a military that has outsourced its warfighting capability, when private contractors are no longer allowed? His position, by the way, is quite similar to that of Hamid Gul, the former director of Pakistan's ISI intelligence service. Gul has gained notoriety lately, as the US military accuses him of helping to sponsor terrorists which are "destablizing" our efforts in Afghanistan. The US military is basing this position on the released documents from Wikileaks. Gul denies these charges, and says he's ready to testify to congress on the matter, if only we would grant his visa request. Check out what else he is saying:

    Former Director General Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) General Hamid Gul claimed that the notorious Black Water and the DynCorp were operating in Pakistan under the name of Xe Services and Security Contractor respectively.

    He said thousands of the officials of both the US agencies were operating in Afghanistan while its almost 2000 officials were working in Pakistan.

    He said the tax money paid by the US people was being wasted in Afghanistan.

    He said the disclosure of secret US documents on WikiLeaks showing killings of innocent Afghanis indicating the destruction of the US secret agencies.

    He said that the US was afraid of him and he could inform the US of its forces and army’s failures that’s why he was denied US visa.

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