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  The Last Station: Surging Into the Savage Past in Afghanistan

COMMENTARY:

The Last Station: Surging Into the Savage Past in Afghanistan

by Chris Floyd
First published in Empire Burlesque yesterday, 13 February 2010

US Marines scaring little boys...
I.
If one is attempting to galvanize public support for a long and bloody war of domination and occupation that has no discernible purpose, why then, a nice guaranteed, low-cost "victory" will demonstrate that the "new and improved" strategy of your "new and improved" president is "working," and that we are "winning" -- so we can't quit now!

The current Nobel Peace laureate is continuing his noble and inspiring work of war this week in the latest PR blitz in Afghanistan: "Operation Moshtarak," the much-ballyhooed, extravagantly telegraphed "attack" on the city of Marja. Is it even worth discussing this monstrous sham? The perpetrators of the attack know full well that there will be no "battle." Even the American commanders cannot be so sealed in their arrogant ignorance that they do not know their insurgent opponents will do what every guerrilla army does when facing concentrations of conventional military force: disperse into the countryside, and into the urban populace, biding their time until the occupiers draw down their forces -- and in the meantime launching small ambushes with sniper fire and roadside bombs aimed at the sitting-duck cannon fodder placed in harm's way by their publicity-driven commanders.

And yet, the Western media has fully bought into the hackneyed, transparently false narrative of "the largest military operation of its kind since the American-backed war began eight years ago," with a plucky band of Marines and their faithful Afghan allies facing down "hundreds" of hardened fighters in the "largest Taliban sanctuary inside Afghanistan." The embedded media tracked the countdown to the attack as if they were hunkered down in the landing craft on their way to Omaha Beach. Except, of course, when one is genuinely planning an actual major attack on a strong, entrenched enemy -- as at Omaha Beach -- one does not normally advertise it around the clock for weeks on end beforehand.

If, however, one is attempting to galvanize public support for a long, grinding, bloody war of domination and occupation that has no discernible purpose (none that can be stated in public, anyway), why then, a nice set-piece "battle" which will end in a guaranteed, low-cost "victory" is just the ticket. It will demonstrate that the "new and improved" strategy of your "new and improved" president is "working," and that we are "winning" -- so we can't quit now!

This is of course the same message conveyed many years -- and many thousands of lives -- ago by the fall of Kabul, the "conquest" of Kandahar, and other great triumphs that "cleaned out" the various "largest Taliban sanctuar[ies] inside Afghanistan." But as any ad man can tell you, a commercial brand needs to be refreshed periodically in order to keep pulling in the profits. And the Afghan War brand has been a veritable bonanza, a cornucopia of contracts, corruption, profiteering and political pull for all of the interested parties involved: the various militaries and security apparats (and their contractors), the political elites, the many insurgent factions (loosely and falsely given the single rubric "Taliban"), the warlords, the druglords, organized crime, violent religious extremists -- in short, all those who traffic in hate, death, conflict and fear.

Or as "retired American military officer working in security in Afghanistan" put it to Nir Rosen in Mother Jones:

"Every time our boys face them, we win," he told me grimly. "We're winning every day. Are we going to keep winning for 20 years?"

Yes, mister retired American military officer, that is indeed the plan -- if they can swing it:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Feb. 17, 2017 -- President David Petraeus' "New Way Forward" in the Af-Pak War got off to a rousing start today as a combined force of U.S. Marines and Frontier paramilitaries launched a new 'warfighter/nationbuilder' offensive against this stonghold of Taliban insurgency. The attack is seen as a vital test of what the president has called his "Counterinsurgency 2.0" strategy, an updating of the highly successful approach that President Petraeus implemented in Iraq, where the 75,000 remaining U.S. advisors and trainers recently marked the 10th anniversary of his victorious surge.....

II.

The true context of the present operation, and the many that preceded it, and the many that will follow it, was put in stark relief by Scott Horton at Harper's last week, when he did us the great service of posting an excerpt from the correspondence between Lev Tolstoy and Mohandas Gandhi. The exchanges between the young Hindu lawyer and the aging Russian writer burn with a moral fervor and compassion that in our day seem to have come from another planet, not just another century. Here is an excerpt from that excerpt, taken from a letter that Tolstoy wrote (in his strong if imperfect English) just weeks before his death in 1910:

Lev TolstoyThe longer I live – especially now when I clearly feel the approach of death – the more I feel moved to express what I feel more strongly than anything else, and what in my opinion is of immense importance, namely, what we call the renunciation of all opposition by force, which really simply means the doctrine of the law of love unperverted by sophistries....

This law was announced by all the philosophies – Indian as well as Chinese, and Jewish, Greek and Roman. Most clearly, I think, was it announced by Christ, who said explicitly that on it hang all the Law and the Prophets. More than that, foreseeing the distortion that has hindered its recognition and may always hinder it, he specially indicated the danger of a misrepresentation that presents itself to men living by worldly interests – namely, that they may claim a right to defend their interests by force or, as he expressed it, to repay blow by blow and recover stolen property by force, etc., etc. He knew, as all reasonable men must do, that any employment of force is incompatible with love as the highest law of life, and that as soon as the use of force appears permissible even in a single case, the law itself is immediately negatived.

The whole of Christian civilization, outwardly so splendid, has grown up on this strange and flagrant–partly intentional but chiefly unconscious–misunderstanding and contradiction. At bottom, however, the law of love is, and can be, no longer valid if defence by force is set up beside it. And if once the law of love is not valid, then there remains no law except the right of might. In that state Christendom has lived for 1,900 years. Certainly men have always let themselves be guided by force as the main principle of their social order....

The clear-eyed idealism -- the belief in constant, relentless, non-violent resistance to evil -- that drove Tolstoy, Gandhi and their many spiritual descendants, such as Martin Luther King Jr., are now openly mocked, or else condescendingly discarded as quaint relics, unsuitable for our own tough, savvy times. We saw a prime example of this derision only a few months ago, when Barack Obama, the loudly self-proclaimed Christian, accepted his Nobel Peace Prize with a ringing endorsement of state violence on a massive, savage, overwhelming scale, and an explicit renunciation of non-violence. (For more, see "Miraculous Organ: Blair, Obama and the Narcissists' Defense")

How far we have travelled in the wretched century since Tolstoy's last letter to Gandhi -- a journey into the past, back to the caves, back to the dark forests, where "there remains no law except the right of might."


Chris Floyd at his deskChris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at cfloyd72@gmail.com.

This column is republished here with the permission of the author.



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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on February 14, 2010.

 

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