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Great mysteries of empire are always shrouded in mystery. One idea that I have lifted from terrible military fiction is the concept of the 6P’s.
Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Can you guess which imperialistic nation didn’t do their homework?
“Sky said the United States led the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to oust a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and to help establish a democratic beachhead in the Middle East. But after the invasion, it was the military that was left with the job of trying to keep the country together.
“They had been told to go in and take care of Saddam and that was it. They were completely unaware of the situation there. They had to make the best of the situation they found themselves in.”
According to Sky, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush believed that democracy would take hold on its own; they had no roadmap for how to make that happen.”
Yah. You would think after a grand statue toppling the rest of the piece of the ‘nation-building’ exercise would just fall into place. What could go wrong?
“These plans drawn up in Washington were all wishful thinking,” she said.
At one point, Sky recounts in the book, Donald Rumsfeld showed up for a military briefing in northern Iraq, and didn’t know where neighbouring Iran was on the map.”
Yep, the US had the smartest guys in the room in on this one. Predictably, they royally screwed the country up, destroying vital civilian infrastructure, murdering a bunch of civilians and of course setting the state for the next terrorist flavour of the month, ISIL. You’d think there would be some questions of accountability being asked as to who laid the foundation of this megalith of stupidity.
“No one has ever been held accountable for the decisions, for the false intelligence that led them to invade Iraq,” she says. “They should be. The people at the top should be held accountable for what went wrong.”
Sky was blunt in her assessment to General Odierno, telling him that America’s blundering in Iraq was the, “worst strategic failure since the foundation of the United States.”
I’m guessing that if you arbitrarily declare victory at some point during the shit-show it somehow allows the drivers of the clown-car to be exculpated for all their sins. Of course having the biggest war machine on earth allows you to do pretty much as you please – Nuremberg and Geneva Conventions be damned.
But let’s not focus too much on the big picture yet, more cock-ups are yet to happen:
“But the biggest missed opportunity happened following the first national elections in 2010, when the sitting Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, failed to gain a majority.
“Iraqis had become convinced that politics, not violence, was the way forward.” she says. “All the various groups came out to vote, and the bloc that won ran on a platform of ‘no to sectarianism.’
“Sky believes this presented an opportunity to oust Nouri al-Maliki, a man who was consolidating his own power base, in favour of a true – or at least fledgling – democracy.
“But it was a close result. Maliki refused to accept the results,” she said.
The U.S. decided that backing al-Maliki, even with his faults, was the best chance for stability. This wasn’t something the military supported.
“The ambassador at the time, Chris Hill, had no experience of Iraq and didn’t really want to be there.”
Sky writes that Hill spent most of his time trying to make the embassy in Baghdad “normal.” He even brought in rolls of sod to make a lawn where he could practise lacrosse.
“General Odierno was adamant that the U.S. should protect the political process, allow the winning group 30 days to form the government. Hill didn’t have the same feel for Iraq and he said ‘Maliki is our man, the strong man the country needs.’ In the end Biden went with the ambassador’s recommendation.”
Sky believes it was a huge mistake.
“Maliki’s politics were poisonous,” she said.”
Well he looked like Saddam Hussein 2.0 ( the one we liked and actively supported, economically and militarily)and that was a good thing! Oh wait…
“Sky was disheartened as she watched the Iraqi people lose confidence in the country’s leaders, especially groups such as Sunni Muslims, who felt there was no place for them and no chance to be part of the government.
“If you were Sunni, you made the unfortunate decision that supporting ISIS was a better option than supporting the central government in Baghdad,” she says.
Current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been trying to reform the government. This week he cut the cabinet in an attempt to oust some of the old guard, and dropped quotas for government positions that were based on ethnicity.
Sky is cautiously hopeful that the new government may help turn things around, but says it will not be easy.”
Well and that brings us up to today – Can we get a ‘Mission Accomplished’ ?! Anyone? Anyone??
Is this thing even on?
Here at DWR we’ve been keeping an eye on the Greek economic situation. As early as 2010 we commented that the IMF had been working its magic on the Greek economy:
“Did you ever want to see a society remade into the corporatist mode? Greece is going down that path right now. The IMF is gleefully setting out conditions and ‘austerity measures’ necessary for Greece to qualify for the bailout package. How much would you wager that the Public Sector is going to take a beating? Today’s news is part of a cycle of the forced privatization of the Greek economy.”
Here we are in 2015:
“Greek lawmakers have approved a government motion that allows reform proposals [AUSTERITY] to be used as a basis for negotiations with international creditors, as the country seeks a third bailout.
The 300-member parliament passed the motion by majority vote, with 251 lawmakers voting in favor, 32 against and 8 voting ‘present’ — a form of abstention indicating dissent from their own party line.
In a speech delivered ahead of the vote, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought to persuade lawmakers, including dissenters within his own left-wing Syriza party, to back the proposals and grant his finance minister the authorization to use them as a basis for negotiations with creditors over the weekend.”
You see? The IMF hasn’t stopped its slow destruction of the Greek economy, like slowly metastasizing cancer, the financial skulduggery makes fixing the economy untenable. The recently ousted Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis comments:
“Varoufakis explains exactly why he fought for a NO vote and how unfair and irrational the creditors have been in refusing to discuss debt re-structuring. As Varoufakis points out, it is perfectly normal in the world of finance for us to be offered long term loans that suit our budget. It happens every day, yet Greece has not been offered a sustainable debt repayment plan that will enable it to pay back its creditors with interest, without forcing people at home to suffer as they do right now. If Greece has no money left, then how can it possibly pay what the IMF and the ECB expect it to? Varoufakis had suggested that his country pay an increased sum of money back over a longer time period, enabling the economy to grow over time. The creditors refused. When Prime Minister Tspiras announced a referendum would take place, the creditors were absolutely furious. Democracy is not something they understand, it seems.”
This is exactly the no-win situation that Disaster Capitalism sets up. Which leads to this inescapable conclusion:
“And herein lies the problem. We live in a neo-liberal, globalized plutocracy. An elite group of bankers control the global money supply (and the politicians we vote for), and here’s the thing: they do not believe in democracy. They do not believe that ordinary people have the right to an opinion, let alone a vote, on issues as enormous as the one facing Greece. This is all the more infuriating when you consider the fact that it’s regular members of the public who are being forced to bail out private banking debts. Worst of all, rather than listen with interest to Varoufakis’s logical and intelligent argument, corporate journos like Paul Mason prefer to doggedly defend the position of Greece’s creditors, while peddling fear and lies about the consequences of a Greek exit from the Eurozone.”
So what to do in Greece? The proposed “bailout plan” is shite, and the people of Greece have already said no to similar BS:
“The proposed measures, including tax hikes and cuts in pension spending, are certain to inflict more pain on a Greek public who just days ago voted overwhelmingly against a similar plan.”
“The new measures overturn many of the election promises of Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza party, which had vowed to overturn bailout austerity, and come less than a week after 61 per cent of voters opposed similar reforms, proposed by creditors, in last Sunday’s referendum.”
The Greek people have said “No” to Austerity and Greece’s political elite are apoplectically pretzelling trying to make the societal poison known as Austerity somehow palatable to masses.
A quick review of what is coming next:
We need to watch what happens in Greece very carefully now. The forces of international neo-liberal capitalism need to make an example of Greece to scare other countries in similar situations (Spain, Italy) into accepting the resculpting of society for the benefit of the hyper-rich.
Democracy is expected to bend a knee toward this insidious neo-liberal economic paradigm – the will of the people subsumed to corporate interests – an for what?
We all know the answer.
Well you know it is important when Al Gore is in the house:
“Al Gore says there’s a “powerful voice” speaking out about climate change: Mother Nature.
Gore, citing “striking” examples of extreme climate-related conditions, said while scientists have long agreed climate change is real, the real environmental challenges facing people will drive change.”
What you don’t see is the changes being made to our global system of economics and trade that will actually do something to move the planet away from the lovely CO2 oven outcome that we’re building for ourselves. One of the key aspects of the problems surrounding controlling global warm is the compartmentalization of the climate talks and the trade talks.
“Not that there was any question about which side would win should any of the competing pledges to cut emissions and knock down commercial barriers ever come into direct conflict: the commitments made in the climate negotiations all effectively functioned on the honour system, with a weak and unthreatening mechanism to penalize countries that failed to keep their promises. The commitments made under trade agreements, however, were enforced by a dispute settlement system with real teeth, and failure to comply wold land governments in trade court, often facing harsh penalties.
In fact, the hierarchy was so clear that the climate negotiators formally declared their subservience to the trading system from the start. When the U.N. climate agreement was signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, it made clear that “measures taken to combat climate change, including unilateral ones, should not constitute… a disguised restriction on international trade.” (Similar language appears in the Kyoto Protocol.)”
-Naomi Klein. This Changes Everything p. 76 – 77.
So even back in the day we were being screwed over by capitalism (shocked). The notion that we can’t restrict trade in order to preserve our biosphere has underwritten almost every climate agreement the world has put forward. And that is the problem – moving goods all over the globe is carbon intensive and for the necessary work to start in tackling climate change the fundamental economic principles of neo-liberal capitalism and trade need to be rewritten.
So until you see a climate conference that includes the WTO, IMF, and World Bank be prepared for nothing more than important words and no real change in the system.
No one tells me ‘nuthin anymore. We missed the UN international torture day, it happened on June 26th and of course I hear about it after it happens. Our media coverage was, underwhelming, as torture must not bring us down from the elation felt in the US for the SCOTUS SSM decision.
I’m not even sure what to wear to celebrate UNITD, orange jumpsuit? Bruises? How does one costume lifelong psychological trauma.
I’ll be ready next year though, rest assured. :/
The recent terrorist shooting in South Carolina have brought the issue of racism back to the top of the heap in the mainstream media. I’m sure there will be deep introspective think pieces in all of the major dailies and magazines. Then, like any story the media deigns “having being milked enough”, the racist terrorist attack will be quietly shunted to the side while the next tragedy is cued up for consumption.
Consumption of news these days seems to be the problem though. We are expected to keep track of the world, hell even personalize our ‘news experience’, but that is not what being an educated, engaged member of society is all about. The 5th Estate is (should) there to monitor the centres of power in society and report their activities for the citizens of democratic countries can engage with and evaluate said activities. With so much of media today being focused on infotainment rather than critical analysis of important events how the the average citizen get the information she needs?
There are a couple of threads to pull apart with the questions being raised. Firstly, the idea that personalized news is good idea for democratic societies, secondly the role of infotainment media and lastly the effect of the professional media colluding with the centers of power in society. All three of these aspects work against the creation of active, informed democratic participation in society.
“Society” is the watchword here – the ludicrous amount of personalization options presented to us in North America society gives us choice – and we all know (or should know by now the neo-liberal taint associated with that concept) that the choice presented to us is really a form of atomization that keeps our fingers firmly off the pulse of society and rather, firmly on our own as we sail alone through society.
What comes to mind is an captioned black and white image (pro-tip:if you want to every reuse something save it the first time you see it) of people on a train all
reading the paper. The witty caption was something like this – smartphones and technology have changed society darn much… You can see the obvious parallel being made; every buried in a newspaper vs. everyone buried in their smart phones. On the surface this is correct but I remember pausing then thinking that something wasn’t quite right.
That “something” was that reading the daily newspaper was a still a shared experience in society. You could talk to someone about an article, even a complete stranger, and it was likely that they would have read the same article and then you could start a conversation about it. How neat is is that? Today though, that is a much taller order as many people have tailored their consumption of news to their tastes and sphere of interests making finding a common ground with people that much more difficult. Talking to people about important issues is what community is about, especially when they have different views on what is the correct course of action. Hashing things out, being charitable, accepting an well reasoned argument are all part of living in a democratic society.
Democracy is not a streamlined affair, nor should it be, because our personal freedom and ethical concerns are at stake. When governments act unilaterally and secretly it doesn’t matter what personal choices you make, it is the society around you that is going to shit and your choosy-choices and personal experiences will also be circling the drain since you are part of said society(see Canadian bill C-51, NAFTA, Trans-Pacific-Partnership). So having a reliable, accessible, common base of public knowledge is important to democratic society.
Democratic society has given us many media choices but, coupled with the capitalist infrastructure that actually runs the show our media sources have conglomerated and become ensconced within the power structures of society. See Fox and Faux News for the most shining example of the marriage between news and corporate propaganda. The focus of much of our news media today is to sell advertising, while educating/informing the public on crucial issues facing society is quite far down the list. I shudder when I see how much of the professional media now resembles Entertainment Tonight rather than the venerable Front Page Challenge (The Fifth Estate, Marketplace, et cetera). It now takes a great deal of time just to filter out the dross to get to the important news that people should know about their society and even then one must take into account the bias and elite influence present within ‘serious news’. The importance of public broadcasters cannot be overstated here – public institutions such as the CBC, NPR, and BBC are more free from the elite consensus and can more accurately report on the issues without the elite’s point of view being considered the default (This is a relative judgment – see Media Lens for an annotated listing of how awesomely independent Auntie Beebs is becoming).
Public broadcasting, with all of its problems aside, is one avenue to escape ‘the preferred message’ being broadcast to society by the corporate media with their vested interests of the status-quo. This isn’t a wild conspiracy theory – the way the world currently works benefits a certain class of people and it is their best interests to maintain the current system because it keeps them at the top of the heap. No mystery present. This system also provides the answers to why certain problems keep cropping up again and again within society – inequality, institutionalized racism and sexism for example. There structures within society serve their purpose; the ‘right people’ profit from their existence and thus are maintained. Just look at the perspectives surrounding mass murders:
The evidence, but then put through the media filters and the very different result…
The NYT’s nails it, for once, and lays down a view into the systemic racism that permeates North American society. This is the story that needs constant repetition. Yet, watch how soon the white racial violence dissipates into the ether. This is not a fluke, not a statistical aberration, this is policy. And thus, because of the collusion of much of the media with the current centres of power, the problems that face our society are not adequately dealt with nor are they given the proper amount of time or analysis that would help the people of the nation understand these problems and what can be done about them.
For those in power though it wise to note that only so much tamping down of these systemic problems can be done. Eventually, these issues take a life of their own and people will take radical action to resolve these seemingly ‘intractable’ problems and not in the way that the nestled elite likes.
We tell ourselves the stories we need to hear. This is excerpt details American involvement in Afghanistan, but from a non-embedded reporters point of view and analysis.
“The central thesis of the American failure in Afghanistan — the one you’ll hear from politicians and pundits and even scholars — was succinctly propounded by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage: “The war in Iraq drained resources from Afghanistan before things were under control.” In this view, the American invasion of Iraq became a crucial distraction from stabilization efforts in Afghanistan, and in the resulting security vacuum the Taliban reasserted themselves.
At its core, the argument rests upon a key premise: that jihadi terrorism could be defeated through the military occupation of a country. That formulation seemed natural enough to many of us in the wake of 9/11. But travel through the southern Afghan countryside, and you will hear quite a different interpretation of what happened. It comes in snippets and flashes, in the stories people tell and their memories of the time, and it points to a contradiction buried deep in the war’s basic premise.
You can find this contradiction embodied in a sprawling jumble of dust-blown hangars, barracks, and Burger Kings, a facility of barbed wire, gunmen, and internment cages: Kandahar Airfield, or KAF, as it came to be called, the nerve center for American operations in southern Afghanistan, home to elite units like the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets. A military base in a country like Afghanistan is also a web of relationships, a hub for the local economy, and a key player in the political ecosystem. Unravel how this base came to be, and you’ll begin to understand how war returned to the fields of Maiwand.
In December 2001, an American Special Operations Forces unit pulled into an old Soviet airbase on the outskirts of Kandahar city. They were accompanied by a team of Afghan militiamen and their commander, a gregarious, grizzly bear of a man named Gul Agha Sherzai. An anti-Taliban warlord, Sherzai had shot to notoriety in the 1990s following the death of his illustrious father, Hajji Latif, a onetime bandit turned mujahed known as “the Lion of Kandahar.” (Upon assuming his father’s mantle, Gul Agha had rechristened himself Sherzai, Son of the Lion. His first name, incidentally, roughly translates as “Respected Mr. Flower.”) With American backing, Sherzai seized the airfield, then in ruins, and subsequently installed himself in the local governor’s mansion — a move that incensed many, Hamid Karzai among them. Nonetheless, Sherzai brought a certain flair to the office, quickly catching notice for his fist-pounding speeches, tearful soliloquies, and outbursts of uncontrollable laughter, sometimes all in a single conversation.
Sherzai may not have had much experience in government, except a brief tenure as Kandahar’s “governor” during the anarchic mid-1990s, but he knew a good business opportunity when he saw one. The airbase where the Americans were encamped was derelict and weedy, strewn with smashed furniture and seeded with land mines from the Soviet era. Early on, one of Sherzai’s lieutenants met Master Sergeant Perry Toomer, a U.S. officer in charge of logistics and contracting. “I started talking to him,” Toomer said, “and found out that they had a knowledge of how to get this place started.” After touring the facilities, the Americans placed their first order: $325 in cash for a pair of Honda water pumps.
It would mark the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership. With Sherzai’s services, the cracked and cratered airstrip blossomed into a massive, sprawling military base, home to one of the world’s busiest airports. Kandahar Airfield would grow into a key hub in Washington’s global war on terror, housing top-secret black-ops command rooms and large wire-mesh cages for terror suspects en route to the American prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
For Sherzai, KAF would be only the beginning. In a few swift strokes, he made the desert bloom with American installations — and turned an extravagant profit in the process. He swiped land and rented it to U.S. forces to the tune of millions of dollars. Amid the ensuing construction boom, he seized gravel quarries, charging as much as $100 a load for what would normally have been an $8-a-load job. He furnished American troops with fuel for their trucks and workers for their projects, raking in commissions while functioning as an informal temp agency for his tribesmen.
With this windfall, he diversified into gasoline and water distribution, real estate, taxi services, mining, and, most lucrative of all, opium. No longer a mere governor, he was now one of the most powerful men in Afghanistan. Every morning, lines of supplicants would curl out of the governor’s mansion.
As his web of patronage grew, he began providing the Americans with hired guns, usually from his own Barakzai tribe — making him, in essence, a private security contractor, an Afghan Blackwater. And like the employees of that notorious American firm, Sherzai’s gunmen lived largely outside the jurisdiction of any government. Even as Washington pumped in funds to create a national Afghan army and police, the U.S. military subsidized Sherzai’s mercenaries, who owed their loyalty to the governor and the special forces alone. Some of his units could even be seen garbed in U.S. uniforms, driving heavily armed flatbed trucks through the streets of Kandahar.
How to Fight the War on Terror Without an Adversary
Of course, even in the new Afghanistan there was no such thing as a free lunch. In return for privileged access to American dollars, Sherzai delivered the one thing U.S. forces felt they needed most: intelligence. His men became the Americans’ eyes and ears in their drive to eradicate the Taliban and al-Qaeda from Kandahar.
Yet here lay the contradiction. Following the Taliban’s collapse, al-Qaeda had fled the country, resettling in the tribal regions of Pakistan and in Iran. By April 2002, the group could no longer be found in Kandahar — or anywhere else in Afghanistan. The Taliban, meanwhile, had ceased to exist, its members having retired to their homes and surrendered their weapons. Save for a few lone wolf attacks, U.S. forces in Kandahar in 2002 faced no resistance at all. The terrorists had all decamped or abandoned the cause, yet U.S. special forces were on Afghan soil with a clear political mandate: defeat terrorism.
How do you fight a war without an adversary? Enter Gul Agha Sherzai — and men like him around the country. Eager to survive and prosper, he and his commanders followed the logic of the American presence to its obvious conclusion. They would create enemies where there were none, exploiting the perverse incentive mechanism that the Americans — without even realizing it — had put in place.
Sherzai’s enemies became America’s enemies, his battles its battles. His personal feuds and jealousies were repackaged as “counterterrorism,” his business interests as Washington’s. And where rivalries did not do the trick, the prospect of further profits did. (One American leaflet dropped by plane in the area read: “Get Wealth and Power Beyond Your Dreams. Help Anti-Taliban Forces Rid Afghanistan of Murderers and Terrorists.”)
-Excerpted from No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes by Anand Gopal, published by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
Copyright 2015 Anand Gopal