If, after the horrors of this week in Afghanistan, the 4-Starry-eyed generals responsible for this 20-year March of Folly are not held accountable, there will be still worse to come. None were held accountable for the disasters of Vietnam or Iraq, and now the allegedly smart 4-Star Generals and Admirals are – get this – preparing for war with China and Russia.
"Civilian control" of the military is a fiction when the Departments of Defense and State are headed by windsock politicians like Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton, not to mention President Barack Obama who lacked the spine to stand up to political generals like David Petraeus. This was clear as a bell 12 years ago, when on March 24, 2009, Obama announced his first surge of troops into Afghanistan.
He claimed his decision was the result of a "careful policy review" by military commanders and diplomats, the Afghan and Pakistan governments, NATO, and other international organizations. That he did not mention any intelligence input into this key decision for a slow surge in troops and trainers was not an oversight. There was no intelligence input – just as there was none before the benighted "surge" of U.S. troops into Iraq in 2007, during which an extra thousand GIs were killed.
Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were in charge, and they knew best. They would run their own policy review, thank you very much. And if the outcome meant an automatic fourth star for the generals, who’s to complain.
The pressure on Obama was so clear that when he announced his decision to surge troops into Afghanistan I wrote "Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President."
"The road ahead will be long," Obama warned. That part he got right; that was guaranteed by the strategy adopted.
It seemed only right and fitting that Barbara Tuchman’s daughter, Jessica Tuchman Mathews, then-president of the Carnegie Foundation, showed herself to be inoculated against the kind of "cognitive dissonance" about which her historian mother Barbara Tuchman warned in her classic book, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam. In a January 2009 Carnegie report on Afghanistan concluded, "The only meaningful way to halt the insurgency’s momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban."
Many old hands in intelligence and the military were also highly skeptical, but Congress and the mainstream media remained bedazzled by the medals and merit badges of Petraeus and other generals, some of whom looked forward to another star and kept their mouths shut. Only one summoned the courage to speak out. He happened to be the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, who a few months before had publicly contradicted his boss, Defense Secretary Gates, when Gates started talking up the prospect of a "surge" of troops in Afghanistan.
McKiernan insisted publicly that no Iraqi-style "surge" of forces would end the conflict in Afghanistan. "The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ‘surge,’" McKiernan said, adding that what is required is a "sustained commitment" that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution.
Now here is Richard Medhurst on Afghanistan.
He states it ends in shame? It started that way as well (but I do not believe it is ending, sadly -- it should).
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Thursday, August 19, 2021. The financial costs (burden) continue to increase for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Turkish government slaughters again . . .
The great and mighty and pure and innocent Turkish government has killed more deadly, evil people. Oh wait, they killed civilians. Again. Like they do over and over.
At least five people were killed and numerous others wounded in Turkish airstrikes on a makeshift hospital in the predominantly Yazidi Sinjar region of Iraq on Tuesday, according to local and diplomatic sources on the ground. The attacks are part of Ankara’s broader military campaign against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) across Iraqi Kurdistan that has displaced thousands of villagers and claimed dozens of civilian lives.
The clinic in the village of Skiniya at the southwestern foot of Sinjar Mountain was totally destroyed in the airstrikes, according to medical workers cited by Agence France-Presse. They initially placed the death toll at three. Several of the victims were reportedly civilians and the rest members of a Yazidi militia known as the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), which received training from the PKK and is on the Iraqi government’s payroll.
Condemned did they? Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) reports:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has received an official
invitation to visit Baghdad later this month to attend the Baghdad
summit, Iraq’s foreign ministry said on Sunday.
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein on Saturday met with Erdogan in Istanbul.
“The minister delivered an invitation letter from Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to the Turkish President to attend the summit meeting scheduled at the end of this month in Baghdad at the level of leaders of Iraq’s neighboring countries,” reads a statement from the Iraqi foreign ministry.
Well what a rebuke to Recep! (That was sarcasm.) The inept Mustafa al-Kadhimi is a joke and this is how he looks with elections supposedly mere weeks away. What an embarrassment.
He's the Marilyn Monroe of prime ministers -- Marilyn trained her dog -- or tried to -- by 'striking' him with a Kleenex when he pooped on the carpet. That's Mustafa for you.
Iraq regularly decries violations of its sovereignty and has repeatedly summoned the Turkish ambassador over Ankara’s cross-border military campaign.
But Iraq, which counts on Turkey as an important commercial partner, has refrained from taking punitive measures.
In response to the latest murder of Iraqi civilians carried out by the Turkish government, the US State Dept Tweeted yesterday:
No surprise, the Tweet led to many responses. We'll note two. First, this is from Tim Hogan:
Second, journalist Seth Frantzman Tweets:
U.S. embassy in Turkey showed support for Turkish operations in Iraq a few days ago.. & now it says “military action ( by Turkey, a foreign power) should respect Iraqi sovereignty. Like what?
In other reported violence, MEHR NEWS AGENCY notes:
Iraqi sources reported Thursday morning that a US military logistics convoy was targeted in Iraq's Saladin province.
According to the Saberin News, the convoy was targeted in the city of Siniya , north of the Iraqi capital.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Staying with the topic of the US military, Leo Shane III (MILITARY TIMES) reports:
The cost of caring for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan could top $2.5 trillion by 2050, creating tough financial decisions for both the veterans community and the entire country, according to a new analysis by the Costs of War Project released Wednesday.
And that's just the veterans' care aspect. Rachel Layne (CBS NEWS) reports:
Although the U.S. is trying to turn the page on two decades of war in the Middle East, American taxpayers can expect to pay for those conflicts for decades to come.
The ultimate cost of the nation's engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, on top of the incalculable personal toll on combatants and civilians, reflects a shift in how war has typically been financed. From the American Civil War through the Korean War, the U.S. government has mostly paid for its conflicts through taxes and war bonds. But in the post-September 11 era, U.S. military spending has been financed almost entirely through debt.
Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government has spent $2.2 trillion to finance the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to figures from Brown University's Costs of War Project. Yet that sum — which amounts to roughly 10% of the the country's total gross domestic product — only reflects upfront costs.
“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a veterans care crisis, with disability rates soaring past those seen in previous wars,” said Harvard University professor Linda Bilmes, lead author of the new estimates.
“This will take a long-term toll not only on veterans, but the U.S. taxpayers that will bear these costs for decades to come.”
The latest analysis of the costs of veteran care in coming decades is roughly $1 trillion over previous estimates by the group. Researchers cited “more frequent and longer deployments, higher levels of exposure to combat, higher rates of survival from injuries, higher incidence of serious disability, and more complex medical treatments” as the reasons for the higher price tag.
As we were noting yesterday:
This discussion/debate should not be dominated by the military -- current or ex.
'I have skin in the game.'
Sorry, have you seen the bill that future generations will be paying down? Everyone has skin in the game -- whether they realize it or not. We also have another debt -- call it karmic.
Moving to the topic of events in Afghanistan, Gary Leupp (COUNTERPUNCH) notes::
All the cable anchors join in depicting the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan (which is to say, the defeat of the U.S. in the war) as a tragedy. Is it not heartbreaking that the U.S. spent $800 billion in military expenditures in Afghanistan during the war, and another $200,000 billion in Pakistan? And that it spent $ 5 billion a year on economic aid? And that it created a force (on paper) of 300,000 troops, and provided them with the most up-to-date weapons and training for 20 years, only to see them buckle under the advance of a rag-tap bunch of militants with Kalashinovs? And that it built schools for girls (like the Soviets did) only to see them burned down?
And that in achieving all this it lost 2372 soldiers, and its allies lost 1147 soldiers? Is it not a waste?
Experts like former DHS secretary Juliette Kayyem appear on CNN and try to explain. Asked why the Afghan “national” forces have performed so poorly, she asks whether “corruption” was responsible, or “lack of pay.” Secretary of State Tony Blinken keeps reiterating that the Afghans have been well trained for 20 years and they have to want their freedom enough to fight for it. One feels that in the end Afghans will be blamed for their inability to take directions, unwillingness to accept U.S. tutelage, intrinsic religious conservatism and xenophobia. Blinken’s spin is: we won the war when we achieved “our one overriding purpose” in crushing al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. That was always the motive—not the remaking of Afghanistan. But the war continued long after this goal was obtained in mid-December 2001; the U.N. estimates over 5000 civilian casualties in that war just in the first five months of this year. But according to Blinken, these last two decades of war have been mere spin-offs of that purpose realized early on.
That surge to 100,000 troops under Obama? Absolutely nothing to do with al-Qaeda. The point was to prevent the Taliban from regaining power. The Afghan forces after a decade of training weren’t up to the task to fighting their ill-armed countrymen. If Blinken insists that transforming Afghanistan was not the “overriding purpose” of the imperialist invasion of 2001, why did the U.S. stay so long?
The news anchors cry crocodile tears about the possible fate of translators left behind. They don’t ask why anyone would want to punish them. All they did, after all, was facilitate the U.S. occupation of their country. But no Afghans had invited the U.S. to invade their country and teach them about democracy, women’s rights or anything else. The interpreters were working with people that a substantial portion of the population viewed with hostility and fear. They made a wager about the future and lost, although I suspect most will wind up abroad living in relative comfort.
And the talking heads grieve for the women and girls. Women’s education was a priority of the Soviet-backed government of the 1980s, and a key target of the Mujahadeen whose Afghan component fragmented into warlords’ private armies and the Taliban, and whose foreign component spawned al-Qaeda and ISIL. The U.S. willingly encouraged a jihad by such people against the modern, secular regime. It was part of its amoral Cold War strategy to combat “communism” everywhere. The communists’ education of girls was seen not as a good thing but as a tool of the enemy to control girls’ minds. In other words, the U.S. has a mixed record on promoting women’s rights and education in Afghanistan.
I love how everyone’s just pretending the Afghanistan Papers never happened and the Taliban takeover is some kind of shocking tragedy instead of the thing everyone knew would happen because they’ve been knowingly lying about working to create a stable government this entire time.
If the US had a free press and was anything like a democracy, the government wouldn’t be getting away with squandering thousands of lives and trillions of dollars on a twenty-year war which accomplished literally nothing besides making assholes obscenely wealthy.
Thousands of human lives. Trillions of dollars. If western mass media were anything remotely resembling what they purport to be, they would be making sure the public understands how badly their government just fucked them. Instead it’s just “Oh no, those poor Afghan women.”
War apologists talk about “doing nothing” like that’s somehow worse than creating mountains of human corpses for power and profit. “We’ve got to DO SOMETHING about the Taliban! We can’t just do NOTHING!”
Uhh, yes you can. Please for the love of God do nothing. Doing nothing would be infinitely better than more military interventionism in a nation you’ve already tortured for twenty years for no valid reason.
People who think US interventionism solves problems just haven’t gone through the mountains upon mountains of evidence that it definitely definitely does not at all. Nobody honestly believes the US needs to invade every nation in the world with illiberal cultural values; they only think that way with Afghanistan due to war propaganda. And women’s lives in Afghanistan have still been shit under the occupation.
They had twenty years to build a stable nation in Afghanistan. Twenty years. If you believe that’s what they were really trying to do there, or that results would be any different if you gave them twenty more, you’re a f**king moron.
If you think the US needs to be in Afghanistan so the Taliban doesn’t take over then have some integrity and intellectual honesty and admit you want perpetual occupation. In which case you should be arguing for Afghan annexation so they get votes and congressional representation.
The following sites updated: