And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains... [Jesus] said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
– The Gospel of Mark
The "Good War" in Afghanistan -- now in its eighth year with no one even pretending there is light at the end of the tunnel – is about to reach yet another "major milestone" in its blood-stained progress. No, we don't mean this week's presidential election – a chaotic, violent affair that will produce more chaos, more violence, more dissension and repression, whoever is "elected" to head the widely despised and mistrusted American-backed government. We're talking about the "strategy review" now being conducted by the death-squad commander appointed by Barack Obama to lead the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan: General Stanley McChrystal.
Sometime later this month, or early next month, McChrystal is due to give his recommendations for subduing a land that Alexander the Great, the British Empire and the Soviet Union all failed to conquer. Naturally, these considerations of this "secret" review have already been leaked to a fare-thee-well, and naturally, they involve a massive increase of American and British combat troops, as Reuters and ABC report:
McChrystal's advisors have said publicly that he will need more boots on the ground even after force levels reach 68,000 U.S. troops -- on top of more than 30,000 from allied nations -- later this year.
The ABC report said McChrystal's assessment team has suggested deploying about 12,000 to 27,000 additional U.S. troops, above the more than 20,000 extra troops President Barack Obama already has approved.
And the Daily Telegraph notes that the despite the growing opposition to the war in the UK, where the majority of people want the Afghan adventure ended, the government of the hapless unelected hack, Gordon Brown, has already slipped in a stealth escalation of 900 soldiers. Ostensibly, these were sent to assist with security for this week's election, but Brown has agreed to leave them permanently in the quagmire. British brass, who have been directly involved with McChrystal's review, are also signaling the obvious: he will call for more troops, and he will get them from Obama, and the British bulldog will happily wag its tail and duly throw a few more thousand pieces of cannon fodder into the Bactrian fire:
Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, said: "General McChrystal is doing a review. It may be that he asks for more troops and it may be that more troops are needed from the coalition in the short term."
And as we all know, "short term" takes on a different meaning when you're dealing with a "Long War" against terrorism.
What we will probably see is the old good cop-bad cop ploy: McChrystal will ask for double great googily-moogily amount of troops, then Obama, striking a pose of Solomonic wisdom and moderation, will give him only a single great-googily-moogily amount of troops. The president will then bask in progressive praise for "restraining" the "defense establishment" – even as he as he throws that establishment huge slabs of war-profiteering red meat, while escalating the war toward Vietnam proportions.
Or who knows? Obama might decide to prove his Commander-in-Chief cojones and accede to all of the recommendations of McChrystal's new strategy review. Of course, one does worry a bit about the soundness of Stanley's strategizing after seeing him in action over the summer. As Jeff Huber notes:
At his Senate confirmation hearings, McChrystal promised that the "measure of effectiveness" in Afghanistan would not be the number of insurgent guerillas killed but the number of Afghan civilians protected. Upon his arrival in Afghanistan he continued to conduct the air strikes that have killed so many civilians and ordered a major offensive designed to kill insurgent guerillas.
The major offensive didn’t work out. The guerilla insurgents did what guerillas are supposed to do – run away rather than stand and fight a superior force, choosing instead to strike unexpectedly at lightly defended outposts. McChrystal, who is supposed to be an "expert" at fighting insurgent guerilla forces, was "surprised" that the guerilla insurgent forces he was fighting fought the way insurgent guerilla forces typically fight.
And now this general of genius is set to propose yet another "surge". This despite the fact, as Carlotta Gall points out in the New York Times, virtually every outside expert as all well as every interested party in the Afghan conflict – from the Karzai government to Karzai's opponents to the various insurgent factions to the NGOs to the UN mission – all agree that the very last thing that Afghanistan needs right now is an even greater influx of foreign military forces.
Unfortunately, the only party that doesn't agree with that approach is the one with the most guns, planes, bombs and loot: the United States (and its little panting bulldog, of course.) While Afghans cry out for immediate negotiations and redress of grievances, preferably beginning at the tribal and local level, the American-Anglo warlords insist on enforcing a top-down solution, and only "from a position of strength." For example, America's chief "diplomat," Hillary "Obliterate 'Em" Clinton, says she is for negotiating with anyone – as long as they first surrender completely to America's terms. This is of course the same line she and Obama are taking in their "diplomatic" approach to Iran: "We will by happy to sit down and negotiate with you as long as you accept all of our demands up front."
But we should expect no less from a "progressive" Secretary of State who just last month was gushing with praise for the "wise counsel" she regularly receives from her "generous" and "thoughtful" predecessor, Henry Kissinger, who among other monstrous war crimes, was instrumental in the illegal carpet-bombing of Cambodia, which destroyed the country and ushered in the rule of the genocidal Khmer Rouge. As I noted once in a CounterPunch piece:
It's 1970. Nixon is angry: the Air Force is not killing enough people in Cambodia, the country he's just illegally invaded without the slightest pretense of Congressional approval. The flyboys are doing "milk runs," their intelligence-gathering for targets is too tame, too by-the-book. There are "other methods of getting intelligence," Nixon tells Kissinger. "You understand what I mean?" "Yes, I do," pipes the loyal retainer.
Nixon then orders Kissinger to send every available plane into Cambodia -- bombers, fighters, helicopters, prop planes--to 'crack the hell out of them,' smother the entire country with deadly fire: "I want them to hit everything." Kissinger dutifully calls his own top aide, General Alexander Haig, and tells him to try to implement the plan: "He wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia," Kissinger says. "It's an order, it's to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves."
"Anything that flies on anything that moves." This is kind of wise and thoughtful counselor who is helping guide American policy in the "Good War" and elsewhere. But it was ever thus in the "Long War" of domination that our National Security State has been waging, at home and abroad, for lo these 60 years.
At any rate, whether Obama chooses a demure can of "Surge Lite" or a whole bulging keg of "Surge DeLuxe," the result will be the same: more violence, more death, more resistance, more radicalization, more corruption. Such is the blood-and-iron logic of domination.
And make no mistake: it is domination – not peace, not freedom, not "national security" – that is the name of the game in the "Good War." At every stage in this long, gruesome, meat-grinding morass, the Americans and their NATO tag-alongs have pursued policies that are transparently, howlingly counterproductive to the professed aims of the invaders. At the end of her NYT piece, Gall provides an illuminating vignette of this process in action:
Abdul Wahid Baghrani, an important tribal leader from Helmand Province who went over to the government in 2005 under its reconciliation program, negotiated the surrender of the Taliban in 2001 with Mr. Karzai. Now he lives in a house in western Kabul but is largely ignored by the government, despite the enormous influence he could exercise.
Three months ago his eldest son, Zia ul-Haq, 32, was killed, along with his wife and driver, when British helicopters swooped in on their car as they were traveling in Helmand. Two Western officials confirmed the shooting but said it was a mistake. The forces were trying to apprehend a high-level Taliban target, they said.
"My son was not an armed Talib, he was a religious Talib," he said. The word Talib means religious student. "From any legal standpoint it is not permitted to fire on a civilian car.
"This is not just about my son," he said. "Every day we are losing hundreds of people, and I care about them as much as I care for my son."
Despite the deaths, he has remained in Kabul and still advocates peace negotiations. He said it was wrong to consider the Taliban leadership, or the leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, as irreconcilable. "It is not the opinion of people who know him and work with him," he said. "Of course it is possible to make peace with the Taliban — they are Afghans," he said. "The reason they are fighting is because they are not getting the opportunity to make peace."
But they are not going to get that opportunity. Instead, Obama and the Brits are getting ready to pour thousands of more troops into the cauldron. And when that fails, as it inevitably will, what will they try next? "Anything that flies on anything that moves"?
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on August 18, 2009.