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DNC v Michael Steele

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Check out this piece by emptywheel about the DNC’s response to the Michael Steele comments about the war in Afghanistan:

A number of people have taken the DNC to task for its Rovian attack on RNC Chair Michael Steele for comments suggesting we might fail in Afghanistan (Glenn Greenwald, Greg Sargent, Adam Serwer). The only thing I would add to their comments is to note that not only a majority of the Democratic caucus in the House–as Glenn points out–but also two-thirds of Democrats in polls are ready to end the Afghan war, most of them strongly. Is the institutional Democratic Party trying to score political points on an issue that a solid majority of their party opposes? Really, we’ve gotten that stupid?!?

But what really demonstrates the stupidity of the move is how it puts us in ideological and political partnership with Liz “BabyDick” Cheney–who has called for Steele’s firing over his comments.

There’s more.

I like the way Wheeler calls Liz Cheney “Babydick”. Somebody should copyright that phrase.

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July 4th, 2010 at 9:49 am

Modo Cuts Through the BS on Afghan War

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I am not a faithful Maureen Dowd reader and certainly not a fan (nor a sworn enemy) but she brings the real to her column in the New York Times today:

The question for the Obama White House is not whether it can grow to appreciate the caped capo who runs Afghanistan. (President Obama can’t stand him.) The question is whether Karzai will fall for all the guff they’re throwing at him.

Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Gen. Stanley McChrystal were paraded into the White House press room to pretend as though their dispute about the efficacy of the surge, given Karzai’s serious flaws as a partner, has been put to rest. (It hasn’t.)

The administration crooned a reassuring lullaby to the colicky Karzai: that it has a long-term commitment in Afghanistan (it doesn’t) and an endgame there (it doesn’t) and that it knows that the upcoming Kandahar offensive will work (it doesn’t).

Asked by a reporter about the change from sticks to carrots, Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan who has had contentious sessions with Karzai, replied: “No, I certainly don’t think it’s changed.” (It has.)

For their part, the Afghans promise to work on stemming corruption and stopping the poppy trade. (They won’t.)

Sadly, it looks to me as though the White House and the Pentagon will not catch up to such reality until after the mid term elections this fall.

Some recent polling suggests that the public is losing patience with the war in Afghanistan. For example according to a recent ABC News poll:

“The war in Afghanistan remains problematic in U.S. public opinion, with just more than half of Americans saying it’s not been worth fighting.

At 52 percent, that criticism of the war has grown by 8 points since December, when its support rebounded in a positive response to President Obama’s announced surge-then-withdraw plan. Views of the war are back almost exactly to where they were before the president’s Dec. 1 address.

Forty-five percent say the war has been worth fighting, including 26 percent who feel that way “strongly,” its lowest strong support in polling back more than a year. There’s greater intensity among opponents; 38 percent feel strongly that the war in Afghanistan has not been worth it.

Something tells me that growing opposition to the war does not come from war supporters suddenly converted to pacifism. Rather, I suspect that the public is beginning to present a self interested pragmatism. Without clear success in the very near future, support for the Afghan adventure will continue to fall until it presents Obama with LBJ’s Vietnam dilemma.

Full disclosure: My opinion is that the U.S. should get out of Afghanista, the sooner the better.

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May 12th, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Blowback

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Fropm the UK Independent (the entire article is well worth the time):

The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.

The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over, he was part-disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes, the remains put on display as a warning to others against defying Taliban orders to stop educating girls.

Sounds like the Taliban, doesn’t it? And it would be a terrible thing if the Taliban once more ruled Afghanistan. The Taliban of course took over that country after the Soviets had been driven out with U.S. and other Western support.
Here’s a little info about the regime the Soviets invaded Afghanistan to support. The People Democratic Party of Afghanistan took power in 1978 folllowing a bloody coup. Then:

The PDPA, as a pro-communist socialist party, implemented a socialist agenda which included decrees abolishing usury, banning forced marriages, state recognition of women’s rights to vote, replacing religious and traditional laws with secular and Marxist ones, banning tribal courts, and land reform. Men were obliged to cut their beards, women couldn’t wear a burqa, and mosque visiting was forbidden. The PDPA invited the Soviet Union to assist in modernizing its economic infrastructure (predominantly its exploration and mining of rare minerals and natural gas). The USSR also sent contractors to build roads, hospitals, schools and mine for water wells; they also trained and equipped the Afghan army. Upon the PDPA’s ascension to power, and the establishment of the DRA, the Soviet Union promised monetary aid in the amount of at least $1.262 billion.

These reforms and the PDPA’s monopoly on power were met with a large backlash, partly led by members of the traditional establishment. Many groups were formed in an attempt to reverse the dependence on the Soviet Union, some resorting to violent means and sabotage of the country’s industry and infrastructure. The government responded with a heavy handed military intervention and arrested, exiled and executed many mujahedin “holy Muslim warriors”.

Now I wouldn’t be able to vote for the PDA, but ya gotta admit, they seem like a much more humane lot than the Taliban. But because the Russkies got involved (which was dumb and they would have lost anyway, without American invlvement) we had to help Osama Bin Laden make his bone and build up his chops. Which gave us Al Quaeda and the Taliban. Heckuva job, CIA.

All those poeple who carry on about Islamofascists? Where were they or their intellectual predecessors in that fight? Rooting for Russia? Not bloody likely.

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December 1st, 2006 at 9:12 pm

Posted in Afghanistan,Al Qaeda

Afghanistan is Messedupistan

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Eric Margolis is a columnist specializing in international affairs who somehow got a job with the right wing Toronto Sun (the Fox News Channel of Canadian Newspapers -or is that the National Post?).

His column today is headlined West Won’t Win Afghan War. In that column, Margolis discusses a report released by the Senlis Council, a European think tank whose work, “…encompasses foreign policy, security, development and counter-narcotics policies and aims to provide innovative analysis and proposals within these areas.”

Here is margolis on the Senlis Council’s recently released report on Afghanistan:

The respected European think tank, Senlis Council, which focuses on Afghanistan, just reported the Taliban is “taking back Afghanistan” and now controls that nation’s southern half. According to Senlis, southern Afghanistan is suffering “a humanitarian crisis of starvation and poverty.

“U.S. policies in Afghanistan have re-created the safe haven for terrorism that the 2001 invasion aimed to destroy,” Senlis found.

Claims that withdrawing Western garrisons from Afghanistan or Iraq will leave a void certain to be filled by extremists are nonsense. Half of Afghanistan and a third of Iraq are already largely controlled by anti-Western resistance forces.

Were it not for omnipotent U.S. airpower, American and NATO forces would be quickly driven from the area.

Here is an article from the September 5 Guardian about the Council’s report and the British Foreign Office response (they’re in denial, of course).  I would supply a link to U.S. media coverage of this report but I can’t find any. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough.

Anyway, Margolis sums things up this way:

What the West calls “Taliban” is actually a growing coalition of veteran Taliban fighters led by Mullah Dadullah, other clans of Pashtun tribal warriors, and nationalist resistance forces under Jalalladin Hakkani and former prime minister Gulbadin Hekmatyar. Many are former mujahadeen once hailed as “freedom fighters” by the West, and branded “terrorists” by the Soviets.

The UN’s anti-narcotic agency reports narco-state Afghanistan now supplies 92% of the world’s heroin. Production surged 20% last year alone. Who is responsible? The U.S. and NATO. Washington, Ottawa and London can’t keep pretending this is someone else’s problem. Drug money fuels the Afghan economy and keeps local warlords loyal to the U.S.-installed Kabul regime.

Afghanistan’s north has become a sphere of influence of Russia and its local allies, the Uzbek-Tajik Northern Alliance (led by notorious war criminals and leaders of the old Afghan Communist Party).

The U.S. and its allies are not going to win the Afghan war. They will be lucky, the way things are going, not to lose it in the same humiliating manner the Soviets did in 1989.

Ottawa’s deepening involvement in a conflict in which it lacks any national interests — save pleasing Washington and selling lumber — jeopardizes Canada’s security.

Western troops are not fighting “terrorism” in Afghanistan, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims. They are fighting the Afghan people. Every new civilian killed, and every village bombed, breeds new enemies for the West.

So with Iraq’s Anbar province and southern Afghanistan under their belts, the Jihadists now have two enclaves from which they can plan and stage operations, whatever they may be. In other words, things are now much much worse than they were five years ago. After hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives.
Heckuva job there, Bushie.

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September 17th, 2006 at 8:39 pm

What Does AQ Want?

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The great Billmon has another insightful post about the wars we are fighting (or are being fought in out name). Here are some higlights. My comments folllow.

The real irony, though, is that the administration is talking up its ability to play defense even though it has insisted, over and over again, that the key to victory is a good offense — i.e. taking the fight to the enemy, a forward strategy for freedom, etc. But by that measure, the war is on its way to being lost — in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and not least in the hearts and minds of the Islamic world, which is the war’s true center of gravity. (Even the Cheneyites acknowledge this, if only with boilerplate lip service.)…

To me, it looks like the jihadist movement is using the Maoist instruction manual for prolonged struggle, albeit at a kind of macro, worldwide (or at least Islamic world) level…

…by effectively shutting down (or at least crippling) the old Al Qaeda, the US has indeed made Iraq (and southern Afghanistan and the Pakistani border regions) the “central fronts” in the war. But this may have been precisely the evolutionary direction the jihadist movement needed to go in order to become a serious revolutionary threat in the Middle East…

If Al Qaeda were to root itself into Anbar and develop widespread popular support, it could take years, if not decades, to uproot it again. You only have to look at a map to see what a nightmare that could be for every regime in the neighborhood…

Like most extreme reactionary movements, Al Qaeda has no meaningful economic or political program (Land to the Tillers, All Power to the Soviets) to offer the Islamic masses. It’s call for the strictest possible interpretation of Shari’a law is divisive and repels rather than attracts international sympathy. But what it does have going for it are wide and deep fears of cultural penetration and Western domination, and the ancient religious duty of all Muslims to defend Islam and the community of believers…

The administration has made it into a mantra: Better to fight them over there than over here. As I’ve pointed out before, it’s hardly an either/or proposition. But to the extent that America does have a choice between fighting terrorists “here” (in the Islamic ghettos of London or New York or Hamburg) or “there” (the deserts of Anbar, the Hindu Kush) maybe it should choose here — our turf instead of theirs, the near enemy rather than the far. Because at this point, it’s not clear our far enemy can be defeated on its own home ground.

In the kind of war we are now engaged in, it is hard to imagine a home team losing. Isn’t that a big part of the story of the last century? Conquest is fleeting. The British, French, Dutch, German and Soviet empires are gone for good. The American empire is on its way out. But will America let go willingly or will it take a catastrophic defeat to destroy the empire along with a fair sized chunk of influence and affluence alike.

While I have never understood the ultimate goal of the jihadists,  I have also never taken seriously the right wing caricature of this enemy as wanting to conquer the world and forcibly convert all to Islam. It seems to me that they would like to drive the U.S. or at least American influence from the Middle East. It also seems to me that they might be able to make temporary alliances with less other elements in Middle Eastern countries and societies to achieve this goal.  Some nationalist forces, for example, might also be eager to act against American influence and interests.

But if and when the jihadists and others succeed in this project, how will they govern their societies? The Afghani Taliban model might frighten a lot of Muslims the way it does ”enlightened” westerners like you and me. Te repeat from Billmon’s peost quoted above, “Like most extreme reactionary movements, Al Qaeda has no meaningful economic or political program (Land to the Tillers, All Power to the Soviets) to offer the Islamic masses.” If Al Qaeda were to take over a country like Jordan, for example,  I can easily imagine a resistance quickly forming and sectarian warfare to break out a la Iraq.

In short, depending how things play out, we could be looking at another generation of acute and chronic instability in the Middle East and South Asia.

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September 14th, 2006 at 9:46 pm

They Got Him, Thank God

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Whew! They caught that pervy king of polygamy in Nevada or Utah or someplace. Just in time too. How much longer could the cable news anchors keep talking about the pervy John Mark Karr since he has been let go?

Lord knows, there’s nothing going on in Iraq, Afghanistan or Washington worth reporting on.

And it would only upset people to let them know what a mess the economy is in.

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August 29th, 2006 at 10:35 am