Obama’s handpicked general, Stan McChrystal, has been lionized by the right wing media as a military genius who can win the Afghanistan war. As troop fatalities rose over the past weekend conservative radio was all henny penny that we need more troops and we need them now (even when at least two of the deaths result from “friendly backfire”––one American helicopter collided into another U.S. helicopter, suggesting there are, perhaps, too many American soldiers in Afghanistan, at least at that particular moment.) So while Obama “dithers,” to quote our former Vice President, let’s consider what General McChrystal is smoking. Scott Ritter sums it up:
McChrystal operates under the illusion that American military power can provide a shield from behind which Afghanistan can remake itself into a viable modern society. He has deluded himself and others into believing that the people of Afghanistan want to be part of such a grand social experiment, and furthermore that they will tolerate the United States being in charge. The reality of Afghan history, culture and society argue otherwise. The Taliban, once a defeated entity in the months following the initial American military incursion into Afghanistan, are resurgent and growing stronger every day. The principle source of the Taliban’s popularity is the resentment of the Afghan people toward the American occupation and the corrupt proxy government of Hamid Karzai. There is nothing an additional 40,000 American troops will be able to do to change that basic equation. The Soviets tried and failed. They deployed 110,000 troops, operating on less restrictive lines of communication and logistical supply than the United States. They built an Afghan army of some 45,000 troops. They operated without the constraints of American rules of engagement. They slaughtered around a million Afghans. And they lost, for the simple reason that the people of Afghanistan did not want them, or their Afghan proxies.
Perhaps we need to listen to our historians, as much as we listen to our generals.
Today is Halloween. Of course, a good Christian should have nothing to do with this sick, wicked holiday. After all it’s Satan’s day. So let’s all get up a petition to get the day renamed “Harvest Ween” or something less demonic-sounding. At the very least we should provide an alternate venue for our children. Something healthy and wholesome in the church gymn-atorium with costumes of Bible characters. And we should remember to pray for all those lax parents who need to wake up and be very afraid of this day. After all, I heard that covens of witches perform human sacrifices of children they nab on this most wicked of nights. ( I know it’s not an urban myth because I heard it on Christian radio.) Okay. Time out. Maybe right-wing talk radio’s fear mongering needs to do a little fact-checking. Like the fact that Halloween IS a Christian holiday. It goes back to the 1500s. The day was the Hallowed Eve (by the way, hallow means holy). It was the night before All Saints’ Day. Young, Christian boys would dress up to mock the devil. Martin Luther had it right. “The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him.” Or as the Bible says, “Greater who is He who in us, than he who is in the world.” So let’s all take a break. Take a pitchfork to Old Harry. Study a little church history and stop trying to muck with a Christian Hallowed day.
Recounts have never been good for democracy. They slow down progress, create false hopes and make rigging elections…well, awkward. Fortunately, our handpick, corrupt, vote-fixing leader of Afghanistan is putting his foot down. He has found a handy foil, “foreigners.” You remember foreigners don’t you? Those were the people who gave this clown his crown. Our is that thing a fez? Very stylish, anyway.
Prosecuting the war on terror has always required a steely resolve, a heart of courage and a complete disregard for history, facts or anything approaching reality. It is a shame that the Nobel Prize committee can’t cough up a Nobel War prize. John McCain and the neo cons would be shoo ins. Frank Rich of the New York Times explains:
Perhaps the most surreal aspect of our great Afghanistan debate is the Beltway credence given to the ravings of the unrepenant blunderers who dug us into this hole in the first place.
Let’s be clear: Those who demanded that America divert its troops and treasure from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 and 2003 — when there was no Qaeda presence in Iraq — bear responsibility for the chaos in Afghanistan that ensued. Now they have the nerve to imperiously and tardily demand that America increase its 68,000-strong presence in Afghanistan to clean up their mess — even though the number of Qaeda insurgents there has dwindled to fewer than 100, according to the president’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones.
But why let facts get in the way? Just as these hawks insisted that Iraq was “the central front in the war on terror” when the central front was Afghanistan, so they insist that Afghanistan is the central front now that it has migrated to Pakistan. When the day comes for them to anoint Pakistan as the central front, it will be proof positive that Al Qaeda has consolidated its hold on Somalia and Yemen.
To appreciate this crowd’s spotless record of failure, consider its noisiest standard-bearer, John McCain. He made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.
What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.
Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could “in the long term” somehow “muddle through” in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to “muddle through” there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the “remarkable success” of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony “truce” ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb’s up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site…
…Americans, meanwhile, want to see the fine print after eight years of fiasco with little accounting. While McCain and company remain frozen where they were in 2001, many of their fellow citizens have learned from the Iraq tragedy. Polls persistently find that the country is skeptical about what should and can be accomplished in Afghanistan. They voted for Obama not least because they wanted a new post-9/11 vision of national security, and they will not again be so easily bullied by the blustering hawks’ doomsday scenarios. That gives our deliberating president both the time and the political space to get this long war’s second act right.
The Holy Scriptures warn us of false messiahs promising “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. However, the Good Book says precious little about folks who receive Nobel Peace prizes when they have no peace accomplishments to merit it. President Obama has been awarded this honor after a mere nine months on the job, with America embroiled in two land wars and, most recently, having just bombed the moon. The event is rich with irony. But our President accepted the award with appropriate humility and understood it as a reminder of what he has yet to be accomplished, rather than a metric of “mission accomplished” achievements to quote his Nobel-prizeless predecessor. Whether Obama’s over-the-top apologetic rhetoric on foreign soil has emboldened terrorists remains to be seen. What is certain is his turning sabre-rattling into multilateral cooperation has at least emboldened our European allies. Which after the last eight years , is worth, at least, an honorable mention.
SNL opened this week’s show with their President Obama trying calm the American people down by explaining that his presidency has accomplished nothing. Andrew Sullivan also argues that Obama is actually a very conservative leader. His foreign policy is far less expansive than the neocon imperialism of Bush. He is approaching Afghanistan with restraint and deliberation. And his proposed public option will provide coverage for a whopping 5% of the population. Hardly socialism. By contrast, Sullivan sees people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin as “populist radicals” who are simply hijacking the conservative movement for their fringe causes. Hard to argue with him there. So, you want a conservative in the White House? Congratulations, you just got your wish.
Depending on who you believe, Obama has either deftly played the Iranians like a violin or he has just let the lying-est country in modern history pull the wool over his limpid, doe eyes. Whatever the long-term results from Geneva’s multilateral talks, one thing we should remember is that Iran has probably never been the giant bogeyman that we have imagined it. Juan Cole elaborates:
Belief: Iran is aggressive and has threatened to attack Israel, its neighbors or the U.S.
Reality: Iran has not launched an aggressive war modern history (unlike the U.S. or Israel), and its leaders have a doctrine of “no first strike.” This is true of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as well as of Revolutionary Guards commanders.
Belief: Iran is a militarized society bristling with dangerous weapons and a growing threat to world peace.
Reality: Iran’s military budget is a little over $6 billion annually. Sweden, Singapore and Greece all have larger military budgets. Moreover, Iran is a country of 70 million, so that its per capita spending on defense is tiny compared to these others, since they are much smaller countries with regard to population. Iran spends less per capita on its military than any other country in the Persian Gulf region with the exception of the United Arab Emirates.
Belief: Iran has threatened to attack Israel militarily and to “wipe it off the map.”
Reality: No Iranian leader in the executive has threatened an aggressive act of war on Israel, since this would contradict the doctrine of ‘no first strike’ to which the country has adhered. The Iranian president has explicitly said that Iran is not a threat to any country, including Israel.
Belief: But didn’t President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten to “wipe Israel off the map?”
Reality: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did quote Ayatollah Khomeini to the effect that “this Occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” This was not a pledge to roll tanks and invade or to launch missiles, however. It is the expression of a hope that the regime will collapse, just as the Soviet Union did. It is not a threat to kill anyone at all.
That Darwinian missing link which connects man and monkey seems ever-elusive. But scientists have uncovered the latest set of old bones, that with the diligent help of cg artists can be covered with tell-tale fur so it can look as chimplike as it does human. The funny thing about the latest in our “scientific discoveries” is that it is looking more and more as though our ancestors weren’t the knuckle-dragging chimpanoids that the old evolutionary charts used to serve up. And I can’t help but observe that old “ardi” looks quite humanlike except for all the …umm…monkey hair that the artist renditions insist on adding. Is it just me or is this evolution thing starting to look like so much monkey business? Time Magazine explains:
The elusive common ancestor’s bones have never been found, but scientists, working from the evidence available — especially analyses of Australopithecus and modern African apes — envisioned Great-Great-Grandpa to have looked most nearly like a knuckle-walking, tree-swinging ape. But “[Ardi is] not chimplike,” according to White, which means that the last common ancestor probably wasn’t either. “This skeleton flips our understanding of human evolution,” says Kent State University anthropologist C. Owen Lovejoy, a member of the Middle Awash team. “It’s clear that humans are not merely a slight modification of chimps, despite their genomic similarity.”