The Peace Laureate and his apologists – along with all the well-wadded neoconmen and their strange bedfellows, the liberal interventionists – may like to proclaim that the Iraq War is over (and we won!), but those actually fighting the war know that – as Cab Calloway liked to say of the stories you’re liable to read in the Bible – it ain’t necessarily so. From the Army Times: Combat brigades in Iraq under different name.
As the final convoy of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., entered Kuwait early Thursday, a different Stryker brigade remained in Iraq.
Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division are deployed in Iraq as members of an Advise and Assist Brigade, the Army’s designation for brigades selected to conduct security force assistance.
So while the “last full U.S. combat brigade” have left Iraq, just under 50,000 soldiers from specially trained heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades will stay, as well as two combat aviation brigades ...
There are seven Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq, as well as two additional National Guard infantry brigades “for security,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Ratcliff. ...
The Army selected brigade combat teams as the unit upon which to build advisory brigades partly because they would be able to retain their inherent capability to conduct offensive and defensive operations, according to the Army’s security force assistance field manual, which came out in May 2009. This way, the brigade can shift the bulk of its operational focus from security force assistance to combat operations if necessary.
That is to say, they can do what combat troops throughout history have always been able to do: ride herd on a conquered people when they're down (or "provide security force assistance," in our demure modern parlance), and lash out with heavy power when the natives get restless.
Or to put it another way, what we have in Iraq now is 50,000+ combat troops doing what combat troops do. And forty tons of lipstick won't obscure the swinish nature of this continuing war crime.
In any case, the Peacer's war leader in the aggression-ravaged country says that we can always more amounts of combat troops back into Iraq to join the combat troops still there in the highly unlikely event that the "security forces" of the local client government should -- perish the thought -- prove to be inadequate to the task of making the country safe for Halliburton and Shell. As Jason Ditz reports (see original for links):
Though the Obama Administration’s claims that the war in Iraq is “over” is a myth to begin with, top US Commander in Iraq Gen. Ray Odierno today detailed the possibility of US forces “returning” to Iraq in larger numbers.
Odierno insists this would “only” happen if Iraq’s security forces suffer a complete failure in the ability to provide security in Iraq. And while Odierno insists “we don’t see that happening,” the reality on the ground makes this all the more plausible.
Oh and of course, we will also keep our combat troops in Iraq if the client government we installed asks us too -- surely yet another astronomically unlikely scenario, but hey, you never know, do you?
Odierno added that he was certain the US would consider staying in Iraq beyond 2011 if asked by the Iraqi government. But clearly as the situation worsens on the ground the question of spinning the drawdown as the “end” of the war will transition more into the question of “reinvading” Iraq ....
The hell we have made in Iraq -- "between 25 and 50 percent unemployment, a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums ... the killing of innocent people ... part of daily life," as Adil Shamoo aptly puts it -- is far from over. And if our militarist elites have their way, it will never end.
To such people, one can only echo Tolstoy's damning words:
"And do not say that you do what you do for the people: that is untrue. All the horrible things you do, you do for yourself, for your own mercenary, vainglorious, vengeful, personal reasons, so that you can live a bit longer in that state of corruption in which you live, and which seems to you a blessing."
To borrow once more the immortal words of As'ad AbuKhalil, "for those who care and do not care," my recent interview with Scott Horton at Antiwar Radio is now up.
As you can see from these comments (by "eppie") attached to the Antiwar post of the interview, my intellectual acumen really wowed the folks out there. To wit:
It wasn't necessarily 'luck' that brought us a 'second Pearl Harbor', but I wouldn't expect a pseudointellectual like Floyd to recognize that.
And it's perfectly obvious at this point that Obama has pivoted decisively towards war with Iran, and it's clear that the reported hiring of Kagan is perfectly in sync with that, with the process we've already seen where the Obama Regime pushes blame for what's wrong in Afghanistan and Iraq towards Iran, simultaneously making excuses for its failures, while building its bogus case for the next war based on lies ... but yeah, I recognize that it's too much to expect a great 'intellectual' like Floyd to be able to think ahead that far, or to use enough critical judgement to figure any of that out. Nope, it's important for 'illustrious intellectuals' to stay well behind the curve, commenting vociferously ON WHAT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED.
And so it's not surprising to hear Floyd's facile reassurance that the US High Command could never get away with the nakedly massive and brutal tactics they used in Vietnam. Of course, it's perfectly obvious that once the war with Iran starts, all restraints will be cast aside throughout what we so euphemistically call the 'theater'. We'll see tactics of massive violence throughout the Bloody Arc from Somalia to Iran.
You say it's not dark yet, Floyd? My God, how dark do you want it to be before you say 'it's hellishly dark'? Ah yes, I get it. The 'intellectual' must always wait until it is far too late for portentious 'intellectual' pronouncements to do any good.
Yep, this irony-free individual has nailed me dead to rights. I'm ashamed that I've never once mentioned the bipartisan American elite's yearning -- and planning -- for a war with Iran (not even here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and dozens of other places where I utterly failed to deal with issue), nor have I ever spoken a single word about the massive, even hellish violence that could result from such an act of aggression. Too much silly-billy shilly-shallying with my Wittgenstein monographs, I reckon.
In any case, if you care (or do not care) to hear a rather ragged and weary pseudo-intellectual rambling on for half an hour -- sometimes about THINGS THAT HAVE ALREADY HAPPENED -- here's your chance.
These days, the powers-that-be don't go straight to the shiv in the back or the poison in the drink or the faked suicide or the tragic car accident on a dark road; no, today we are a bit more circumspect in taking down high-profile irritants of empire. The modern way is to begin the takedown with a smear campaign -- preferably some sort of ""moral turpitude" to sully their public image and discredit their entire cause.
And so on late Friday we had the announcement that Swedish authorities had issued an arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on charges of rape and molestation. This was followed a few hours later -- after Wikileaks mounted a ferocious defense against the charges, and promised to carry on with its work regardless -- by a sudden decision to withdraw the warrant, with officials now saying the rape charge was unfounded -- although they said nothing about the lesser charge of molestation, leaving that vague but turpitudishly resonant charge hanging in the air for the moment.
This rigmarole is about as blatant a smear as can be imagined, coming as it does just after the Obama Administration has been caught out in an outright lie about Wikileaks attempts to redact its next release of classified war documents to ensure that no Afghans named in the papers will be put at risk. Not only has the Peace Laureate's minions been lying about Wikileaks' earnest efforts in the regard, but this deceit has been actively abetted by the New York Times, whose own reporter passed along Wikileaks' offer to the Pentagon -- then publicly dismissed the claim that Wikileaks had made the good-faith offer. (Glenn Greenwald has the story on this egregious -- if depressingly standard -- malefaction by the imperial servitors in the media.)
Wikileaks made the offer to ward off the criticism it received after the last release; i.e., that it had "blood on its hands" because Afghan insurgents would strike at any Afghans named in the documents as cooperating with the occupation forces. This "blood libel" was trumpeted all over the media by Obama officials -- while their own hands were absolutely pouring with the blood of innocent Afghans murdered at their command. The fact is, of course, that not a single case of such retribution has been reported; and the charge itself is based on the ludicrous assumption that the Taliban does not already know who is cooperating with the occupation forces. (In any case, many if not most Afghans cooperating with Americans do it quite openly, as part of the Afghan government, for example, or in liaising with military commanders in their region, or working for the occupation's vast base-building projects, distribution networks and reconstruction programs, etc.)
But this initial blood libel -- belched forth by such longtime butchers as Obama's favorite Bush Family factotum, Bob Gates -- did not really take hold. The revelations continued to pour forth from the 92,000 documents unveiled by Wikileaks last month -- such as this remarkable story by Pratap Chatterjee at TomDispatch, detailing the operations of the American death squad, Task Force 373, whose existence was revealed in the Wikileaks trove. These professional assassins are a key element of the Peace Laureate's strategy in Afghanistan -- and an example of a large-scale trend in the War Machine's ever-evolving "philosophy" of Terror War.
Indeed, many of the proponents of Obama's "surge" in assassination liken it -- favorably! -- to the murderous Phoenix Program in Vietnam directed by the CIA, which killed at least 20,000 people, by the Agency's own admission. (Other, more independent examinations put the the true death count of those slaughtered in these non-combat, "extrajudicial killings" at in the range of 40,000 to 70,000. For more on the Phoenix Program, and on Obama's grand "continuity" with imperial atrocities past, see here.) As Chatterjee notes:
President Obama has, by all accounts, expanded military intelligence gathering and “capture/kill” programs globally in tandem with an escalation of drone-strike operations by the CIA.
There are quite a few outspoken supporters of the “capture/kill” doctrine. Columbia University Professor Austin Long is one academic who has jumped on the F3EA bandwagon. Noting its similarity to the Phoenix assassination program, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths during the U.S. war in Vietnam (which he defends), he has called for a shrinking of the U.S. military “footprint” in Afghanistan to 13,000 Special Forces troops who would focus exclusively on counter-terrorism, particularly assassination operations. “Phoenix suggests that intelligence coordination and the integration of intelligence with an action arm can have a powerful effect on even extremely large and capable armed groups,” he and his co-author William Rosenau wrote in a July 2009 Rand Institute monograph entitled” “The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency.”
Others are even more aggressively inclined. Lieutenant George Crawford, who retired from the position of “lead strategist” for the Special Forces Command to go work for Archimedes Global, Inc., a Washington consulting firm, has suggested that F3EA be replaced by one term: “Manhunting.” In a monograph published by the Joint Special Operations University in September 2009, “Manhunting: Counter-Network Organization for Irregular Warfare,” Crawford spells out “how to best address the responsibility to develop manhunting as a capability for American national security.”
This then is where we are. We have the President of the United States -- who has already openly proclaimed his "right" to assassinate anyone on earth, including American citizens, without the slightest due process of law, simply at his arbitrary command -- now feverishly expanding the use of death squads, whose stealthy night raids on sleeping villages have already killed a vast number of innocent civilians in Afghanistan (as the Wikileaks documents show). This same administration is now running "black ops," secret armies, proxy wars and other covert activities in more than 75 countries around the world. That is to say, the Obama Administration is now murdering people in their beds, fomenting bloody ethnic conflict, supporting and/or carrying out acts of terrorism, spreading corruption, assisting dictators, arming warlords, spreading hate and suffering all over the world -- and doing it knowingly, proudly. ("Evil in broad daylight" indeed, as Arthur Silber details here.)
And these are the moral paragons who have now turned their machinery of lies and smears against Wikileaks. For make no mistake; although the rape charges were manufactured in Sweden -- which, incidentally, is where some of Wikileaks' servers are located -- they emanate from the proud deathlords in Washington. Indeed, didn't we hear just a few weeks ago that the Peace Laureate's people had launched a campaign of pressuring foreign governments to put fetters on Assange and his organization? Now Sweden's center-right government -- no, Rush, Sweden is no longer the super-socialist fairyland of your nightmares -- has obviously hearkened to the master's voice.
But although this first foray has been rebuffed, it is certain that what we are seeing is the beginning of a concerted effort to destroy Assange as a public figure and thereby discredit the work of Wikileaks -- and by extension, the truth of its revelations.
And smearing, of course, is just the first step. If that doesn't work ... well, the avowed and openly proclaimed proponents of assassination certainly have other, more "prejudicial" methods at their disposal, nicht war?
John Pilger, writing before this latest assault, speaks strongly about the need to defend and support Wikileaks' mission. Of course, no one has spoken more eloquently, insightfully and to the point on this issue than Arthur Silber, whose multi-part series on the manifold implications of Wikileaks' efforts is absolutely essential reading. (See also here and here.)
I'd like to take this chance to say that I now believe that my initial response to Wikileaks' Afghan Papers release (see here) was almost entirely wrong. I fell into the all-too-common trap of discussing the issue in the terms that power itself had set: i.e, how the revelations could be spun by the War Machine for its advantage, instead of standing back and seeing the larger picture of just what such an act of defiance -- unstoppable due to its invisible dissemination via the internet -- really meant. Yet Silber wisely pointed out a salient fact of our time: that our warlords will use anything and everything -- and nothing at all -- to advance their agenda. The substance of any given story doesn't matter to them: they will spin it into a reason to continue the Terror War and the agenda of domination. But this basic truth somehow escaped me.
I seized upon the very first stories in the mainstream press about the leaks, noting -- with righteous fury -- that they told us nothing we had not already heard before. I was writing literally within a couple of hours of the first look at a gargantuan storehouse of 92,000 documents -- yet I was certain that I knew just what the trove contained, and what it meant. I downplayed their significance, tossing off the "savvy" observation that these were "no Pentagon Papers." But scant hours after this confident proclamation, there was the man behind the Pentagon Papers himself, Daniel Ellsberg, making precisely that comparison.
With a hasty, thoughtless rush to judgment -- and with a focus far too fixed on the "media narrative," and on the need to get my uniformed opinion out there -- I did what I now feel was a great disservice to an event that was in fact a significant blow against the empire; a significance confirmed by the empire's panicked reaction to it.
It is easy to sit on the sidelines and pontificate. Over the years, I've spoken out as forthrightly as I know how, but I'm no activist, I haven't risked much; all it has cost me is a few journalism gigs. But the people at Wikileaks are putting their liberties -- and their lives -- on the line, to take practical action to try to bring some of the horrors of the Terror War to an end. It's not a question of romanticizing any one organization, or any one man, seeing them as paragons whose every action or statement is sacrosanct; nobody needs that, and it never accomplishes anything. It just gets in the way of the task at hand.
But when people are putting everything on the line to stand up against the ravages of power -- against war, against aggression, against assassination and atrocity -- then I want to stand with those people, and stand by those people. As the old gospel song says, "I want to be there in that number."
In a week when the American establishment has been ludicrously lauding "the end" of the most decidedly unended war in Iraq, a new book takes us back to the very heart of darkness in this still ongoing war crime, which is nowhere near its end.
In the Guardian, novelist and Vietnam War veteran Edward Wilson reviews what he calls "the best book by far about the Iraq war": Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent Into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death, by Jim Frederick. The book tells the story of the horrific rape and multiple murder carried out one night by American soldiers in an Iraqi village in 2006. As Wilson puts it:
This isn't a book for armchair war junkies. It's about what Wilfred Owen called "the pity of war". The centre and the pity of Jim Frederick's account is the murder of the Janabis, an Iraqi family, and the rape of their 14-year-old daughter by four US soldiers. The most chilling aspect of the crime was the casual manner in which it was carried out. It was almost a jape – something to break the boredom of endless hours at a checkpoint. The soldiers did it because they had the power to do it; they didn't need a reason why – almost the invasion of Iraq in microcosm.
Fourteen-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi's home in Iraq was a sturdy farmhouse full of light in an isolated area but only a few hundred yards from a U.S. traffic checkpoint [TCP.] After watching the tall, modestly-dressed girl working in her family's field, U.S. 101st Airborne Private James Barker, as he testified, decided to rape her. He recruited Green, who wanted to kill some civilian Iraqis and then their sergeant. In uniform, Barker became bold enough to barge into her home, leering at Abeer in front of a family which was helpless to stop U.S. troops in full gear. Off again to themselves, drinking whiskey which they would later say they got from the Iraqi Army, the eventually five U.S. soldiers reasoned that the family would be easy to kill and that nothing more substantial than her parents stood between them and Abeer. Sex was incidental; the goal, they all testify, was to hurt Iraqis. All but one of the five got out of uniform, putting on the dark Army "ninja" outfits that the Army had designed to keep them warm at night. Then they deserted their post, maneuvering through backyards to burst into the house in black clothes in full daylight.
While Specialist James Barker pinned a terrified Abeer down, and Cortez raped her, Green shoved her parents and six-year-old sister Hadeel at gunpoint into a room with him and shut the door. The mother Fakhriya Taha Muhasen and the father Qassim Hamza Raheem huddled in a corner trying to shield Hadeel, so Green killed the father, then the mother, then Hadeel, shooting the six-year-old point blank in the face with an AK47. He then re-entered the main room where she was, threw the AK47 down, raped Abeer, and standing up from doing it, put a pillow over her face and shot and killed her.
The soldiers used kerosene to set the lower part of her dead body on fire, and after they left, flames caught the house, bringing the family's relatives who saw the smoke then the bodies. They ran to the U.S. checkpoint for help, but two of the killers who were among the U.S. troops responding managed to blame the slaughter on "insurgents." Abeer's two younger brothers, surviving because they had been at school, came home to find their house burned, their family dead and blood and brains all over the walls. The killers meanwhile celebrated with a barbeque. Green bragged to anyone who would listen about what he had done, including the officer. Then Green, unpunished, was honorably discharged with a diagnosis of "antisocial psychiatric disorder."
To "justify" the crime -- or at least mitigate it -- the defense called numerous witnesses who revealed that inevitable mindset of counterinsurgency cited above:
The witnesses said that the family whom Green and the other four soldiers had slaughtered were killed because they were Iraqi; that combatants and non-combatanbts seemed indistinguishable; or as one said with what sounded like bewildered accusation, "they look just like me and you," they were "all out to get us."
In his review of Frederick's book, Wilson describes how this murderous mindset evolved:
There are three basic things to avoid in war: getting killed, being convicted of war crimes and having a commanding officer who thinks you are useless. B Company's ill-fated 1st Platoon avoided none of these. By the end of their deployment, 11 of 1st Platoon's 33 members were dead or in jail for murder. Why? According to their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Kunk, it was all their fault: "You 1st Platoon are fucked up. Fucked up! Every single one of you!" Colonel Kunk was straight out of Catch-22. His officers referred to his control-freak outbursts as "getting Kunked" or being under the "Kunk gun". He seemed to have had every tact and empathy instinct removed: 1st Platoon's seven killed in action "were dead because of their failings", and the survivors were "quitters, crybabies and complainers". Such leadership is not unknown in the US military. Sometimes it works, but when it doesn't, the results can be bloody.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The platoon's best leaders were killed early on, and the remaining soldiers were a mixture of seething resentment, indiscipline and combat exhaustion. Young soldiers on a battlefield packed with civilians need constant and close supervision. This didn't happen.
The best of 1st Platoon's lost leaders was Sergeant Kenith Casica. A photo shows James Barker, one of the rapists, with his arms around gentle giant Casica. The expression on Barker's face as he hugs Casica is pure bliss. Barker has found a replacement for the father who died when he was 15, but soon afterwards the surrogate father is dead as well. Casica was openly friendly to the Iraqis. When he was teased as a "hadji hugger" he reminded his men that they were there to help the Iraqis. If Casica had lived, Abeer Janabi and her family would also be alive today.
But of course, Sgt. Casica was tragically deluded -- judging the system, and his superiors, by his own morality and intentions, perhaps. For the undeniable fact is that the American military was not in Iraq "to help the Iraqis." This has not only been confirmed by the evidence of what has actually happened -- a million innocent people killed, four million displaced, a society destroyed and plunged into a state of permanent terror, violence and extremist hatred - - but also by the historical record of the preparations for the war at the highest levels. The record shows that the intention of the war was to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein and through military force implant a more favorable government in what was considered a key strategic area for enforcing and extending American dominance over world affairs.
Halliburton Co. said on Wednesday that it has gotten a letter of intent from Shell Iraq Petroleum Development BV that would make Halliburton the project manager for developing the Majnoon field in southern Iraq.
... Iraq reached a deal with Shell in January to develop the mammoth oil field, along with partner Petronas, Malaysia's state-run oil company. Shell and Petronas plan to raise production in the field from the current 45,900 barrels per day to 1.8 million barrels per day over 10 years.
Halliburton shares rose 9 cents to close at $28.79 on Wednesday.
And of course even the stated reasons for starting the war had absolutely nothing to do with "helping the Iraqi people." These war-fomenting propaganda points centered removing the (non-existent) threat of Iraq's (non-existent) "weapons of mass destruction," and also framed the invasion as a response to the "terrorists who attacked us on 9/11," although Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks, or with the forces involved in them.
But there they were, the soldiers thrown into a criminal enterprise by their commanders and their civilian chiefs. What else could such an operation spawn but more crime? Wilson continues:
Frederick acknowledges the adrenaline buzz of battle but does not attempt to gloss over war's inherently brutal and dehumanising nature. ... Inevitably, there are echoes of Vietnam, the most chilling of which comes from a 1st Platoon soldier: "You can't think of these people as people." The same dehumanisation that led to My Lai led to the murder of the Janabis. And in both wars, the soldiers who refused to tolerate dehumanisation were the real heroes ... Black Hearts is the best book by far about the Iraq war – a rare combination of cold truth and warm compassion.
Below is my first piece on these crimes, shortly after they came to light -- a look inside the blood-clouded, war-battered mind that birthed atrocity:
Did you see her and want her so bad, that young, forbidden fruit? Did she once smile nervously at the checkpoint, and you thought it was just for you? Did you come on strong the next time around, flash a little money maybe, or lay a syrupy line on her that you got from a phrasebook? What did she do – recoil? Look away? Look disgusted? Look blank? What did she do to bring on the big hurt from a big, tough man like you?
So you planned it all out. You cased the house, you reconnoitred. You got your buddies in on it – or were they in from the start, did they make a play too, were they too turned away by this haughty Arab bitch, this piece of trash from a shitheap town in a shitheap country filled with nothing but lazy, lying, murdering towelheads? Somebody like that thinks they're too good to give it up to you? You liberated her goddamned country, for Christ's sake, and now she won't even put out? That dog won't hunt. Hell no. You and your pals had to teach her a lesson. You had the power, you had the guns, you were Americans; who was going to stop you?
So you set up the mission. You knew how to do it. How many houses had you raided before? Dozens, hundreds – who the hell knows? Who the hell cares? You went in and got her, you did what you wanted to her. You shoved the other hajjis into the next room, put a gun on them, then got down to business. Did your buds take a turn? Everybody get a taste? Or maybe you'd already ruined her before they got a chance – beat her, tore her, pounded her into goo? Who the hell knows? Who the hell cares? At some point, she just wasn't worth it anymore. No fight left in her. Laid there like a limp rag. Passed out maybe.
So you took out your gun, you took out your power, you took out the thing that makes you an American – a ralteal person, a human being --- instead of a walking piece of shit like everyone else in that godforsaken hellhole of a country, you took it out and you shot her in the head. One shot, clean kill. Did you say anything? Crack a joke? "Not tonight, honey, I've got a headache." Or did you just stand there and curse her, puking your self-righteous rage all over her dead body?
Who took charge after that? Was it you, or one of the others? It all started moving so fast, like a dream had been broken – or maybe this was the dream? Maybe it was all a dream, the whole fucking thing, from day one, all of it nothing, happening to nobody, going on nowhere, never. But the smell was real, you couldn't get away from it, that wet smell, meat and guts in a slime of blood. It filled your nose, filled up your whole head behind your face, it lined your throat, coated your skin. And if the smell was real, then the whole thing….
Move, fast, now! The hajjis in the other room: no witnesses, goddamn it! Who's this, the mother? Head shot, head shot, down. Who's this old bastard? Father, brother? Who cares? Head shot, head shot, in the face, down. And what's this? Oh for Christ's sake, how old is she? Six? Seven? Eight? What are you going to do, wait till she grows up and comes looking for your ass? Catch her, goddamn it, just shoot, shoot! Down.
Now burn the other one. Yeah, the bitch in the other room. Set her on fire and get the hell out. Report terrorist activity. The Sunni bastards in the area. Secure the perimeter. Get your fucking story straight and keep your fucking mouth shut. We're home free. Home free….
Is that how it went down? Does it still feel good? They got two of your brothers from the same platoon later, chopped off their heads. Reckon that was payback? Now the squealers are coming out. It's in the goddamned papers. The brass are going to throw you to the dogs. They can be big men, they can rape whole countries, kill tens of thousands of people -- but just let some grunt try to get a little on the retail side, and all hell breaks loose. It just ain't fair.
Well, buddy, what can we say? You should have your fun last year, when there wasn't an election. Nobody would have paid a blind bit of notice. And you should have called in an airstrike, not that half-assed burning job – nothing buries evidence like a 500-pound bomb.
The only thing now is to get a good lawyer, then hunker down. If you can string it out long enough, Bush's media brigades can start working the refs for you, muddying the waters, smearing your accusers, providing the proper context, invoking 9/11. And speaking of 9/11, isn't that what it's really all about? Isn't that what you were really doing when you raped that girl and shot her in the head and burned her body and killed her family – defending our country from those who attacked us on that tragic day? What you did was justice, damn it, not a crime! Just like the whole war.
But you're on your own this time, comprade; Uncle Rummy's done cut you loose, set you up for the old "bad apple" shuck-and-jive. Sure, he's personally signed direct orders that he knew would kill thousands of civilians every bit as innocent as that family you massacred -- but then, he's an Ivy League man, a corporate chieftain, a respected public servant, and you are just another hick from the sticks. He's home free; you're going all the way down.
Let this be a lesson to all the cannon fodder out there: don't get above your raising, don't emulate your betters. Law is for the lowly, not the great and good.
Buried many fathoms deep in an LA Times story about the latest American scolding of its unruly satrap in Bactria, we find this little nugget:
Some senior officials are saying privately that they fear their reliance on the Karzai administration could be the weakest link of their strategy to stabilize the country. Government corruption is seen as one of the most important factors driving ordinary Afghans to support the Taliban. ...
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the newly appointed head of the international forces in the country, has hired two experts known for their strong emphasis on fighting corruption, Frederick Kagan and Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster.
That's right; Frederick Kagan, the neocon architect of the Iraq "surge," the epitome of the armchair warriors who have sent thousands of human beings (including their fellow Americans) to needless death and plunged millions more into needless suffering, has been hired by the Peace Laureate Administration to serve as guide and counsel to the Laureate's newly appointed military supremo.
It goes without saying that Kagan -- yet another spawn of the Project for a New American Century, that gaggle of bloodthirsty Beltwayers who openly longed, in September 2000, for a "new Pearl Harbor" to scare the American public into supporting the group's hyper-militarist agenda -- is not an expert on "fighting corruption" or on Afghanistan, just as he knew nothing about Iraq. He is an "expert" on one topic only: churning out bullshit to justify war. And that is exactly why he has been hired by Obama and Petraeus.
Now Bush has drawn on AEI "scholar" Frederick Kagan to fashion his genuinely demented plan for a major escalation of the Iraq War: the famous "surge" that has dominated the shoptalk of the Beltway in the past month – the same month in which American soldiers were dying in near-record numbers while Bush cleared brush on his fake ranch. (The spread was purchased as a campaign prop in 1999 but is invariably referred to by media sycophants as his "beloved" homestead, as if he'd spent years of his life communing with the soil there, rather than the odd month now and then on vacation). While he dithered – consulting with his "brain trust" on the best way to ignore the suggestions of the Iraq Study Group and the clearly expressed will of the American people to bring the American occupation of Iraq to an end – more than 100 U.S. soldiers were shot to death or blown to pieces. An almost equivalent number of Iraqi civilians were murdered every day during December by the death squads of the factions brought to power by Bush and their sectarian opponents in the nationalist insurgency that arose in response to his invasion.
What the Kagan plan called for – and what Bush accepted in a slightly diluted form ... – is a re-invasion of Baghdad, with thousands of additional U.S. troops thrown into savage urban warfare in "critical Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods." (The latter of which are now practically non-existent, thanks to the virulent "ethnic cleansing" in the city by Bush-backed Shia militias and their Sunni counterparts). In the unintentionally revealing language that permeates so much of the war-porn generated by the well-fed, stay-at-home armchair generals of PNAC, AEI and the White House, Kagan – a young, portly academic with no expertise whatsoever in the Middle East – writes in the Washington Post that "the only 'surge' option that makes any sense is both long and large."
The mass-murdering blandishments that Kagan poured in Bush's ear demanded that already-overstrained American ground forces "accept longer tours for several years" (italics mine), as he stated in his AEI report, "Choosing Victory." The citizen-soldiers in National Guard units will also have to "accept increased deployments during this period," it seems. Meanwhile, Kagan will no doubt continue to discuss the finer points of "counterinsurgency" and "clearing neighborhoods" with congenial colleagues at Washington's finest restaurants – while also insisting, as he does in "Choosing Victory," that "the president must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight in the decisive conflict of this age."
In this plan – and the version of it Bush adopted for his "New Way Forward" – we see the hideous obscenity of the whole criminal enterprise laid bare. The bloodlust of physical cowards like Bush and Cheney and Kagan – their overpowering need to see other people kill and die – is now reaching genuinely irrational proportions. The war in Iraq was launched solely to serve the political ambitions, personal fortunes and radical ideologies of a small group of American elitists (and the delusions of grandeur of its little handmaiden in the UK). It had no larger strategic benefit or moral purpose, despite all the ever-shifting rhetoric to the contrary. It has not enhanced American security. It has not given the Iraqis a better life. It has not spread freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East. It was not designed to do these things. But neither has it accomplished its true aim, as clearly defined by PNAC and others, of establishing a solid American military presence in Iraq as a launching pad for further expansion of the "single sustainable model of national success" and the juicy contracts that would follow.
And so we had Kagan's "surge," the sole aim of which was to perpetuate and entrench the American presence by an adroit manipulation of the then-prevailing media "narrative." What was seen as an appalling "failure" soon became a rousing "success" (or even "an extraordinary achievement," as the Peace Laureate himself put it) in the American media. Why? Because after the Americans helped its Shiite protégés finish their ethnic cleansing of Baghdad, and bribed other insurgents to change sides (for awhile), the horrific monthly death counts of murdered civilians dropped from the world-historical levels of 2006-2007 to the "merely" abominable levels that afflict Iraq today.
And so here, at last, is the true "mission accomplished": the establishment of a permanent American military presence in Iraq -- which was one of the stated aims of PNAC's 2000 blueprint for an expanded militarist empire. Although America's "combat role" in Iraq was declared over this month, 50,000 troops (and an equal number of Washington-paid privateers) remain in the conquered land, carrying out the same missions as before. Meanwhile, the State Department is now amassing its own armed force of up to 50,000, which will be a massive, permanent military presence, even if the Pentagon ever decides to move its troops elsewhere. (Which is highly unlikely, with the American-installed local leaders currently saying that US troops will be needed "at least" until 2020.)
No doubt Kagan's paymasters, Obama and Petraeus, are hoping they can pull off the same trick in Afghanistan, which at the moment is in roughly the same "narrative" frame as Iraq was in 2007: a five-alarm, full-scale FUBAR. And who knows? They may do it. If they can get the death counts down a bit -- and keep St. David the Unquestionable out there awing the ever-credulous media and political establishments -- perhaps they can entrench the American military presence, in all those “supersize me" bases they are now building, for years and years to come.
And once again, we are left to wonder: How many times, and in how many ways, must we be shown the true nature of the Obama Administration -- its absolute, steely determination to perpetuate and expand a militarist empire, no matter what it costs in human life abroad and internal rot at home -- before we can see and acknowledge the reality before us? So much sound and fury is expended on the hair-splitting differences (or the appearance of differences) between our political factions, but the fact remains is that they are all one party: the party of imperial power. As Andrew Bacevich noted recently:
For the last 50 years, the U.S. national security establishment has remained essentially unchanged. It is a worldwide military presence configured not to defend the nation but to project power around the globe. That standing force fosters a penchant for interventionism, whether overt or covert. ... The [bipartisan] consensus no longer makes sense, yet it persists—not because it produces effective policies but because of deeply ingrained habits, and because it serves a variety of purposes...
It produces profit for companies. It provides status prerogatives for the military. It justifies the budgets of the Defense Department and the intelligence community. It provides a sustainable source of funding for congressional campaigns. And it provides people with opportunities to participate in what they think are great historical events.
No one is allowed anywhere near the halls of power or the levers of influence if they do not subscribe to this consensus. Anyone who questions it is automatically relegated to the margins. Barack Obama would not have been nominated by his faction or elected president if he was not a zealous adherent of the imperial agenda, and all that it entails: endless war, erosion of liberty, endemic corruption, and economic injustice.
And that is why Obama is happy to employ figures from the Bush Regime, like David Petraeus (and his death-squad wingman, Stanley McChrystal), like Robert Gates, like the odious toady Frederick Kagan -- because he and they are part of the same system, the same agenda. This is the underlying reality of American politics today.
Flights of Imagination
As I noted here the other day (in a piece that went over like ye olde lead balloon), many things are still possible in this world; there are many ways in which we could be reshaping some of the present abominable realities that beset us. Tom Englehardt presents a few possibilities for profound change in our militarist empire -- although, sadly, these must be offered more as thought experiments, due to the extreme unlikelihood of their adoption as policy by our blood-soaked, morally lobotomized elites. Still, any genuine change begins, at some point, as an act of imagination, so Englehardt's five alternative scenarios are well worth contemplating, as is his conclusion:
Right now, as a nation, we find it remarkably difficult to imagine ourselves as anything but what we now believe ourselves to be – and Washington counts on that. We find it almost impossible to imagine ourselves as just another nation (even perhaps, a more modest and better one), making our way on this disturbed planet of ours as best we can. We can’t imagine ourselves “safe” without being dominant, or being dominant without killing others in distant lands in significant numbers to ensure that safety; nor can we imagine ourselves dominant without that full panoply of secret armies, global garrisons, overlapping spy agencies, fear manias, and all the money that goes with them, despite the abundant evidence that this can’t be safety, either for us or for the planet.
We no longer know what a policy of cautious peace might look like, not having put a cent into envisioning such a project. War and an aggressive global national security state (and the language that goes with it) are all Washington knows and all it cares to know. It is completely invested in the world it now so shakily oversees, and cares for no other .... Maybe one of these days, what-if fever will spread in this country....
A consummation devoutly to be wished, of course. But in a culture where imagination -- an open, creative, intuitive, receptive engagement with reality -- is scorned in favor of barren fantasy -- self-closed, flat, cartoonish renditions of the impossible -- that ever-dormant fever may be long in reawakening. Still, to quote that famous American, Edsel Floyd, we live in hope and die in despair.
Opting Out Jonathan Schwarz points out a salient fact too little observed: i.e., when our leaders declare that "all options are on the table" regarding some recalcitrant state or difficult situation, they don't really mean it. In fact, the use of that bellicose phrase -- whose only real meaning is, "We will kill lots of people if we have to, with everything we've got, including nuclear weapons, if that's what it takes" -- automatically closes off a whole range of options. As Schwarz notes, after quoting the psychopathic repetition of the "options" trope by tough-talking Obama minions threatening war with Iran:
Any actual reporter would have pointed out the glaringly obvious fact about this rote repetition: all options are not on the table. For instance, Israel is not going to consider giving up its own nuclear weapons if it were part of a deal to make it certain Iran would not develop its own. Nor is the United States considering giving up its nukes. Nor do we have any interest in a region-wide peace settlement that would satisfy us regarding Iran if it required U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the United States hasn't even signaled any openness to apologizing to Iranians for our numerous crimes against them (overthrowing their government, teaching the Shah how best to torture them, helping Saddam use WMD against them, etc.). Apparently we would prefer to attack Iran or indeed for Iran to get nuclear weapons rather than exercise any of these possible options.
Pakistan: The Drowned and the Droned
Pakistan is in the midst of one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history. More than 20 million people have been displaced by floods whose extent beggars the imagination; at one point, an area the size of Great Britain has been underwater -- and more floods are coming. Millions face the threat of immediate starvation. In the wake of the water and the massive displacement, disease is growing, with "6 million children are at risk of life-threatening diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition and pneumonia," as the Guardian reports. "Stagnant flood plains in densely populated, poverty-stricken urban areas may become breeding grounds for cholera, mosquitos and malaria." UN chief Ban Ki-moon calls it the worst natural disaster he has ever seen.
Yet you could go days without hearing or reading about this epochal suffering -- although you might run across an occasional "think piece" on how the floods could affect Washington's Great Gaming in the region, which is, of course, the most important thing. And in the UK, you could read yards and yards of print about the UK-Pakistan cricket series without being disturbed with ugly scenes of children dying in their own watery filth -- or, indeed, with any of those annoying pleas for donations that always crop up in other disasters.
The looking-away from this disaster is extraordinary -- especially in a country that our elites have identified as "crucial" to America's "national security strategy." Perhaps they feel that, all in all, it's a good thing if the floods thin out the troublesome Pakistani population a little bit, and keep the survivors pre-occupied with basic survival. More likely, they just don't give a damn one way or another. As long as they keep the ever-profitable war machine churning in the region, it doesn't matter what happens to the actual people who live there.
We could see this exemplified clearly over the weekend, as the Obama Administration made a notable contribution to the relief effort: drone missiles. Yes, while the Pakistanis were literally trying to keep their society afloat in a world-historical cataclysm, the Peace Laureate was lobbing a few more missiles into remote Pakistani villages, killing alleged "rebels" in yet another in a series of illegal acts of aggression on the sovereign territory of an American ally.
Everyone knows that these attacks are only exacerbating the problems they are ostensibly designed to solve -- extremism, anti-Americanism, political instability in the region, etc. Yet still they go on, and on. One can only conclude from this that the ostensible reasons offered for the policy are not the real reasons motivating it.
Those real reasons -- in essence, the perpetuation of power, loot and dominance for our militarized, imperialized American elite -- are so overwhelmingly important to our leaders that they would keep killing Pakistanis, in Pakistan, even during an unprecedented national crisis. It seems there is nothing that will induce them to make even the slightest, momentary pause in this murderous campaign. Killing people is that important to them; they can no longer exist, or even imagine an existence, without it.
Meanwhile, here's one of those annoying pleas for donations to help the flood victims: Oxfam America and Oxfam UK.
UPDATE: The NY Times finally finds some front page room for the Pakistan disaster, with only the briefest mention of its all-important impact on the strategies of the Potomac imperium.
God and Man and War Criminals at Yale
Yale University continues its modern tradition of hiring war criminals to instruct young minds in the ways of the world. First, it was Tony Blair, brought over to pontificate at Yale Divinity School -- and now Stanley McChrystal, chief honcho of death squads and "strenuous interrogation" in Iraq and later failed leader of the "Obama Surge" in Afghanistan, has been hired by the august institution to ''examine how dramatic changes in globalization have increased the complexity of modern leadership," the NY Times reports.
Yes, modern leadership is a complex business, all right, but the wisdom McChrystal has to offer can probably be boiled down to this essential nugget: "Kill all the ragheads you want, all over the world -- but for god's sake don't make disparaging remarks about the president to a music magazine!" No doubt our future modern leaders will take that lesson to heart.
The Mirror Crack'd: Silber Delves Deeper on the Mosque Affair
Arthur Silber goes another level deeper in this followup to his analysis of the pervasive racism animating the "Ground Zero Mosque" affair. As always, you'll cheat yourself if you don't treat yourself to his arguments in full, but here is just one of the insights from the piece:
Those who repeatedly and furiously denounce the "Ground Zero mosque," as they speak in horrified tones of the coming conquest of America by Islam, tremble before one possibility far more than any enemy they have chosen to identify. Their capacity for more accurate perception and even minimal self-awareness is altogether obliterated by their greatest of all fears: that they might have to hold up a mirror to their own souls and see the diseased, twisted nature of what they have allowed to permanently reside there.
Such people cannot be reasoned with, and it is futile to try. But we should always remember what it is that actually drives them to such destructive rage, and that it has nothing at all to do with the source they are willing to identify. This pattern is, of course, as old as humankind. What we loathe in ourselves, we place in others. Then we destroy those others, believing we thus destroy what we loathe.
But the enemy still lives, inside us. Until that is understood, the battle will never end, nor will the destruction, the suffering and the death.
There was great rejoicing on the port side of the blogosphere this weekend after Barack Obama took the "brave step" of announcing "his support for the Ground Zero mosque." (There was also much rejoicing on the starboard side as well, as it "proved" the Right's contention that Obama is a double-secret Islamic Muslim Moslem Mohammedan out to convert every American into Islamic Muslim Moslems.) Even stern critics of many aspects of the Obama regime declared that here, at last, the pusillanimous progressive prez had taken a worthy stand, and should be praised.
[I confess that I have never understood this latter stance, especially when it comes from those who continually lay out the high crimes and atrocities of the current administration in devastating detail. Why should we make a point of praising leaders whom we know are engaged in criminal, immoral and unconstitutional actions? As I've noted here many times before, every government in the history of the world has done "good" things, in some areas, for some people, or even many people -- even the worst regimes of the last century. They built roads, established social programs, dug sewers, built hospitals, schools, parks, museums, brought electricity to rural regions, lifted millions out of poverty and illiteracy, and so on and so forth. Their leaders often made speeches about their abiding belief in freedom and peace and a decent life for all; Stalin's constitution, for example, promised a virtual paradise of democracy, tolerance, equality and ease. Indeed, you can find "good" deeds being done by all kinds of criminal groups: Al Capone's gang helped many of the poor and sick in their neighborhoods -- in fact, it was the Chicago mob that first forced milk producers to date-stamp their products, to protect consumers from buying old milk which had been sold as fresh. But no one feels compelled to be "fair" by noting their good deeds along with the many murders, atrocities and acts of terrors they committed. Why then should we praise a president who is directing -- and expanding-- the murderous operations of rampaging, liberty-gutting war machine?]
In any case, soon -- in less than 24 hours, in fact -- it was walkbacks all around, as the Pusillanimous One issued a statement that diluted his original declaration to the point of anodyne meaninglessness. No longer a bold stand against the truly sickening racism -- and deliberate deceit -- of the manufactured "controversy," Obama's "stance" was reduced to beltway boilerplate about our exalted American principles ... while specifically (and cravenly) denying that these principles could be or should be applied to this, or any, particular case.
As you might imagine, Arthur Silber has been on this case like the proverbial duck on the folkloric June bug. I was going to write on this topic, but he has already said most everything that I was going to say -- and much more besides. So let me then direct you immediately to his take on the subject, which opens with the most salient point -- that our "bold, brave" president is, by any measure (including those most solemnly encoded in the laws of the United States of America), a wanton war criminal. He also adds many other insights along the way -- such as the entirely ignored fact that the "Ground Zero Mosque" is, strictly speaking, not a mosque at all, and not at Ground Zero, while also scoring the deep, widespread and, dare we say it, popular racism at the core of this whole issue (which he also deals with in this follow-up piece). Hie thee there immediately, and read.
As we noted here recently, Arthur Silber is in the midst of a landmark series on the Wikilieaks revelations -- a series whose profound implications and insights extend far beyond the particulars of the current controversy (although he has many pertinent things to say about those as well). I'm sure I will be drawing on these essays in the days to come. Circumstances prevent me from doing them justice at the moment, so for now I just want to point you to them once again (several more have appeared since their first mention here), and urge you to read them, if you have not done so already.
A Brief History of Hell
It's a story we have oft told here -- how the Potomac Empire brought fresh hell to Somalia -- but in light of the current imperial seat-warmer's "continuity" with the insane and inhumane policies of his predecessor, Charles Pena provides a very useful overview of "Blowback, Somali Style."
Long Gone Wrong Turn
Neil Ascherson writes of an exhibit which I just attended at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford: The Lost World of Old Europe. As he notes:
The Oxford exhibition is small, but utterly spectacular. Its objects – the figurines, the painted ceramics – are irresistible. Its message adds a new page to the conventional history of ‘civilisation’. Some 7000 years ago, in south-eastern Europe around the lower Danube, groups of farmers with loosely similar ways of life settled in an area reaching from modern Bulgaria and Romania across into Ukraine. In the transitional period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, they flourished and multiplied. They evolved an elaborately beautiful material culture of painted pottery, goldwork and beads. They modelled and treasured clay figurines of women – and a few men. They mined copper and gold, and imported fashionable seashells from the distant Aegean. They seem to have lived in peace and equality. Before the first big cities arose in Mesopotamia, the peoples settled between the Carpathians and the Dnieper (heftily named the ‘Cucuteni-Tripolye culture’) lived in enormous ‘villages’ with up to 8000 inhabitants. These were the largest communities anywhere in the world. But such ‘megatowns’ show no trace of palaces or temples or other structures of central authority. If this ‘Old Europe’ had survived and spread westwards and northwards, the human story of the whole continent might have developed along a different track – perhaps a happier one.
But it did not survive. ‘Old Europe’ became a ‘Lost World’. Between 4000 and 3000 BC, invaders rode in from the eastern steppes, mobile warriors who used horses and who were pastoral herders rather than farmers. The mounds (‘tells’) inhabited for thousands of years were deserted and the ‘megatowns’ burned down. The copper mines were abandoned and the wonderful pottery and figurines forgotten. So much for theories of inevitable, linear progress....
The whole piece is well worth reading.
Even as Tony Blair prepares for this whirlwind "War Criminal Memoir" Tour (anticipating his senior partner in perfidy, George Bush, by a few months), the unquiet graves he left behind him continue their turbulations. As the Guardian reports: Experts call for David Kelly inquest. The new UK government -- egregious wankers that they are -- seem less inclined to bury the bloody laundry of their predecessors (at least in some limited cases) than some Ovaloid Peace Laureates we know.
Charles Davis points us to a definition of "Beltway liberalism in 24 words." They are offered up, as you might suspect, by that reliable chewer of progressive conventional wisdom, Matthew Ygelsias, who tells us:
"From a Keynesian standpoint, I believe that with the economy depressed it’s better to spend the money in Afghanistan than not to spend it."
As Davis notes:
Sorry, but someone truly familiar with all the horrors of war, someone who could actually empathize with an Afghan mother or father losing their child to an American smart bomb -- or a child watching their parents die in a botched night raid by U.S. marines -- could never write that.
Ah, but in the cozy bipartisan cocoon of the imperium, war is always on the menu. It is, as Andrew Bacevich points out, the very glue that binds the American elite together, for all their loud but very minor factional quibbles.
And you can't feel your way into the suffering of others when your own organs of perception are smeared with glue ... and coagulate gore.
I noted here a couple of weeks ago that I was looking "forward to seeing more of the genuine revelations of heretofore undisclosed crimes that will likely be emerging from the still largely unexplored documents" released by Wikileaks last month. I have not been disappointed. (I've also been in the process of revising much of my first reaction to the document dump; but more on that later perhaps.)
As the media froth surrounding the initial appearance of the documents recedes, the nuggets of hard truth become clearer, with diligent researchers digging through the trove. For example, Bretigne Shaffer finds some of the underpinning for the media blitz now obviously under way to reverse the growing public discontent with the war in Afghanistan.
The most glaring emblem of this campaign, of course, is the recent Time Magazine cover of the horrifically mutilated Afghan girl, which was accompanied by the headline: "What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan." (As Shaffer notes, this was posed not as a question, but as a stark statement of fact, with this not-so-subtle-implication: "If you oppose this war, you are objectively pro-mutilation.") Of course, the atrocity committed against this young woman is indeed a wicked, sickening crime. But it has nothing to do with "our" presence in Afghanistan.
No wait, strike that; it has everything to do with our presence in Afghanistan -- a presence which is greatly exacerbating the societal breakdown and empowering the kind of retrograde extremism that together lead to the perpetuation of such practices. As Shaffer notes, there is a close parallel here to the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, who came to power after the United States essentially obliterated that nation with a beserker frenzy of bombing that surpassed the tonnage of all the bombs dropped by the Allies in World War II.
In any case, such horrific crimes against women and children go on all the time, all over the world, in every culture. Why would Time Magazine, which usually ignores such things, decide to highlight this particular crime, at this particular time -- and use it directly to make a "moral" case for continuing the war? Shaffer points out what she found in the Wikileaks dump:
As if the implicit pitch for more war as a solution to violence against women did not provide enough cognitive dissonance, the woman pictured was actually disfigured by family members at the order of a Taliban official last year – eight years after US forces entered Afghanistan.
In fact, the Time piece fits very neatly with something found in one of the leaked documents that has the White House so concerned. Titled "CIA Red Cell Special Memorandum: Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-led Mission-Why Counting on Apathy Might Not Be Enough," the document ."..outlines possible PR strategies to shore up public support in Germany and France for a continued war in Afghanistan."
The Memorandum continues:
"The proposed PR strategies focus on pressure points that have been identified within these countries. For France it is the sympathy of the public for Afghan refugees and women... Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission... Media events that feature testimonials by Afghan women would probably be most effective if broadcast on programs that have large and disproportionately female audiences." (Emphasis Shaffer's)
Putting a year-old atrocity on the cover of Time Magazine is indeed an effective "media opportunity" for a war machine eager to keep its blood-greased engines churning. And not that anyone cares, but the Taliban hotly denies any involvement in the crime against the young woman, which was carried out by her own in-laws. As AFP reports:
Independent US monitoring agency SITE said the English-language statement from the Taliban spokesman was posted on Saturday on the website of the group, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan:
"As far as the story of Aisha is concerned, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has condemned this barbaric, inhumane and un-Islamic act and declares that this case has never been forwarded to any court or persons of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
The statement goes on to point out that under Islamic law the "cutting of human ears and noses whether the human is alive or dead is illegal and prohibited."
But yes, there is violence against women in Afghanistan -- great violence. But this has only increased, not decreased, as the American military presence drags on, as Shaffer notes (see original for links):
Says Ann Jones, journalist and author of Kabul in Winter, "For most Afghan women, life has stayed the same. And for a great number, life has gotten much worse."
Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, says "the attacks against women both external and within the family have gone up. Domestic violence has increased. (The current) judiciary is imprisoning more women than ever before in Afghanistan. And they are imprisoning them for running away from their homes, for refusing to marry the man that their family picked for them, for even being a victim of rape."
Anand Gopal, Afghanistan correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, says "The situation for women in the Pashtun area is actually worse than it was during the Taliban time. ...(U)nder the Taliban, women were kept in burqas and in their homes, away from education. Today, the same situation persists. They’re kept in burqas, in homes, away from education, but on top of that they are also living in a war zone."
Shaffer then points us to a remarkable article by Mohammad Qayoumi in Foreign Policy earlier this year: a photo essay on what Afghanistan looked like 50 years ago:
The photos were taken from an old book published by Afghanistan’s planning ministry in the 1950s and 60s, and were accompanied by Qayoumi’s commentary recalling the Afghanistan he had known as a young man. The images depict men and women in western dress going about their daily lives in what appears to be a fairly well-developed, functioning society. Qayoumi recounts:
"A half-century ago, Afghan women pursued careers in medicine; men and women mingled casually at movie theaters and university campuses in Kabul; factories in the suburbs churned out textiles and other goods. There was a tradition of law and order, and a government capable of undertaking large national infrastructure projects, like building hydropower stations and roads, albeit with outside help. Ordinary people had a sense of hope, a belief that education could open opportunities for all, a conviction that a bright future lay ahead. All that has been destroyed by three decades of war, but it was real."
The images are in stark contrast to pretty much any photos from Afghanistan today, and are a poignant reminder of how much that country has lost.
She also points out how these images jar with the brutal pig-ignorance that holds sway in the imperial mindset of American policymakers and their war-profiteering whores like Blackwater's Eric Prince. She first excerpts a recent quote by Prince, then gives her conclusion:
"You know," [Prince said], "people ask me that all the time: 'Aren't you concerned that you folks aren't covered under the Geneva Convention in [operating] in the likes of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan?' And I say, 'Absolutely not,' because these people, they crawled out of the sewer and they have a 1200 AD mentality. They're barbarians. They don't know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there."
As Qayoumi’s photo essay demonstrates so clearly, Afghanistan is not a devastated nation because its people "have a 1200 AD mentality." It is devastated because it has been invaded and occupied by hostile foreign powers for years. Anyone who truly cares about the welfare of the Afghan people would do well to remember this fact before proposing more of what has caused that country’s problems as their solution.
Back to the world again, after 10 days of total media de-tox: no internet, no television, no radio, no newspapers, nothing but those quaint cubical constructions of paper and ink known as books.
I would highly recommend one of those cubes to anyone interested in elucidating the cultural, political, social, spiritual, and psychological bedevilments that inform our bruising and battering age: The Master and the Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, by Iain McGilchrist.
For me personally, the book has been not only a richly fecund field of new insights and connections, but also, in many ways, a ricorso, a thunderclap of return to some deeply-felt intimations and understandings of Being that had once -- in their rough, inchoate, unrefined early forms -- seemed to be moving me in the direction of a deeper, more holistic engagement with life, if I may put it that way. I lost most of these intimations along the way somewhere, wandering away from the deep, swift, churning river down many dismal, swampy by-paths, pushing through murk, tangled in vines, anxious, fearful, diminished. It's strange to have stumbled suddenly out of the undergrowth to catch a glimpse of the old river, still there (though not the same water, of course; never the same water), still surging, still alive.
Whether I can hew my way down to the water again is another question, of course; the vines are still thick, the murk is heavy, and the spirit and flesh much weaker than before. But I can hear the river again, for now; I can feel and scent its vibrant air. I might just make it yet.
In the light of these revelations and returnings, I might be writing in a somewhat different vein in the future, at least at times. I think that in many ways I've come to -- or am coming toward -- the end of what I can say about these hideous and harrowing times of ours. Or rather, I have a great deal I can say; I just don't know how much I can fruitfully add.
I started this blog for two main reasons. One was the fact that I knew my weekly Moscow Times column wouldn't last forever, and I wanted to have an arena where I could still spout my opinions -- and, less glibly, where I could work out what I really thought and felt about the issues of the day. I've always had to write things out in order to know my own mind. That was one reason.
The other was one that I've mentioned frequently over the years: the burning desire -- or rather the compulsive need -- to bear witness to the monstrous horrors and murderous hypocrisies of the age, most especially those being committed by the rampaging empire into which I was born. I just wanted to make it known that I had seen these evils and had not stayed silent, had not acquiesced, but had spoken out against them, in public, for the record, in my own name.
Well, I've borne that witness, in print and on-line, through wars and atrocities and changes of power among imperial factions, for the last decade. No one who cares to know could be in any doubt as to where I stand. But I feel more and more that I have reached some kind of limit with the analytical approach that I have taken for these many years. I think that I have made clear all that I can make clear, all that is clear in my own mind, at this point in my life experience and my learning. I think I need to experience more and learn more (learn much, much more), open myself up to new perspectives -- and regain some old perspectives. So, as Boris Pasternak once put it at a somewhat similar point in his life, I may be writing badly for a time -- clumsily, searchingly, groping for a new way, starting over.
That's not to say that I won't continue to catalogue the atrocities of the age. I think, deep down, that I can't not do that, even if I tried. But I also hope to be thinking through and writing through to some different understandings. Anyway, we'll see.