Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Christmas in Kabul

I’m sure Santa managed to visit many of our troops in Afghanistan, but I fear there are others who are otherwise engaged. Because, after all, today is the 80th day of the tenth year of the war in Afghanistan.

We were all Fair Game

Convicted criminal Scooter Libby with his boss, Dick Cheney

Saw Fair Game yesterday, the current movie about the outing of  the CIA’s Valerie Plame by the Bush White House, done to punish her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson for speaking truth to power –  it was a classic drama in real time and a worthy movie subject.

But. It would have been a much better movie without Sean Penn and it would have been a much more honest movie had it not borrowed so freely from All The President’s Men. Penn was a problem – I thought – because his personal involvement with left-wing causes spilled over into the Wilson character.

It’s always good to be reminded of some of the more sordid moments in our history. Especially given – as we’ve since learned – how deeply Plame was involved in counter-terrorism at the time that the White House ‘outed’ her. How petty the retribution against Wilson was – had they understood any history, they would have known that the best way to minimize damage from  Wilson’s revelations would have been to ignore them. But they let their lesser natures rule and did far more damage to their cause than Wilson’s op-ed ever could have. Silly and petty people.

And the thing they were protecting wasn’t information; they were protecting their own lies.

And so we’re still in Iraq. And of course we’re still in Afghanistan where today is the 70th day of the tenth year of that war.

Good morning

The gate yesterday

I suppose on this 68th day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan, I should not complain – not about being unbloggy, not about my grapefruit tree producing small fruit (still delicious, but never saw them this puny size before), not about anything really – but I did suffer a tragedy this morning.

My much beloved new addition to the house – the gate I installed to turn the carport into a private and spacious work space, that gate – was blown down and twisted last night when we had gale force winds (and maybe a little local tornado) which made very scary noises thru the night, all presaging a cold front and another blast of that cold cold air – we’ve been told to expect a hard freeze tonight and probably tomorrow.

This morning

This morning from the top

I have spoken to the brilliant Sean who created the gate and repairs will be done as soon as the wind dies down. And he’ll reinforce it a bit.

I imagine if the troops abroad knew about my gate, they’d be very concerned.

New GYWO as good as the old GYWO

Get Your War On was an online cartoon series – political, devastating. They stopped publishing a few years ago. But just today- New York Magazine is running a reprise! I hope this portends more in the future. I was a HUGE fan.

There are 21 new panels and here are a few – all about Afghanistan. (this is probably a serious copyright infringement, but information must be free!)

Shoot the messenger – yet again

The Julian Assange saga brings to mind another truth-teller who had to go.    

    Remember Ashleigh Banfield, the former ‘next big thing’ in cable news? Her reporting from the Twin Towers on 9/11 (she personally pulled an injured cop out of harm’s way fer Elvis sake!) and then from Afghanistan and briefly from Iraq was substantial, exciting, fiercely honest.

Banfield in Tora Tora with Afghan fighters

That was then. In April of 2003, a month after we invaded Iraq, in a speech at Kansas State, she criticized the news coverage of Iraq and how news out of Afghanistan had dropped off the radar. She said news coverage of the wars was shallow. Continue reading

Wars are easy

Ben reminds me this morning that “the price is now estimated at some three trillion dollars for the two wars. Not only that, we’ve had to borrow that money from Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries so we could have our tax cuts.”

Oh, shame, shame on us.

And meanwhile, today is the 64th day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan.

Growing up Orwell

I think it’s a reasonable guess to say that when we launched the war in Afghanisan, these young men were somewhere between 10 and 14 years of age. For them, we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

Today is the 52nd day of the tenth year of our war in Afghanistan.

Keepin’ us safe

It is the growing inequality between societies that generate so many social pathologies. And grotesquely unequal societies are also unstable societies. – Tony Judt, “Ill Fares the Land”

Thank elvis for our wars. Were it not for our valiant fight in Afghanistan and Iraq to preserve American democracy, were we not over there spending blood and treasure and pissing off a billion or so people, we might find ourselves in trouble here at home. Why, were it not for our wars, we might see an erosion of our way of life.

Ahh, that's more like it!

The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.

“C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

So says Nicholas Kristoff (whom commenter Alan considers a girly man) – he had more than these few words on that subject in yesterday’s Times.

Words like these:

“Economic polarization also shatters our sense of national union and common purpose, fostering political polarization as well.

“So in this postelection landscape, let’s not aggravate income gaps that already would make a Latin American caudillo proud. To me, we’ve reached a banana republic point where our inequality has become both economically unhealthy and morally repugnant.

Oh – in Afghanistan, today is the 33rd day of the tenth year of the war.

Fight our wars with citizen soldiers!

Today, The New York Times is all over the latest Wikileaks document dump. I’m pretty agnostic about the issue, but am of course interested in the contents. One story (they have many today looking at it from all aspects) in particular grabbed my attention – about our use of contractors in war since 2001.

From the story:

Blackwater in Baghdad

“Contractors were necessary at the start of the Iraq war because there simply were not enough soldiers to do the job. In 2004, their presence became the symbol for Iraq’s descent into chaos . . .

Even now — with many contractors discredited for unjustified shootings and a lack of accountability amply described in the documents — the military cannot do without them. There are more contractors over all than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.

This practice, combined with the emerging military culture that lives in a different place than the rest of us, is I think dangerous. At the least, I think it’s immoral. If we finance wars, it should be us doing the fighting – and not just those who volunteer. If we inflict pain, let us feel pain. Otherwise what are we?

It’s wrong.

Let me add: Today is the 18th day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan.

The Tenth Year: welcome Pakistan!

C-Span this morning tells me my calendar is off by two days, and that in fact it is today that is the first day of the tenth year of the War in Afghanistan.

Here’s a little something from the Wall Street Journal front page:

Pakistan Agency Urges Taliban to Fight

Members of Pakistan’s spy agency are pressing Taliban field commanders to fight the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, some U.S. officials and Afghan militants say, a development that undercuts a key element of the Pentagon’s strategy for ending the war.

The Pakistani spy agency, the ISI, has always been the power behind the Taliban, at least since the 1980’s. To understand how it all began, there’s not a better book than Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars.

An anniversary approaches

I stopped my daily posts on our time in Afghanistan some months ago; of course the calendar didn’t stop. The beat has  gone on.

Afghan caualites '01-'10

My first post on that war was on the first day of the ninth year. In fact, it noted the first hour of the first day of the ninth year of that war. For  nine months I counted the days daily, and then it became weekly, bi-weekly. It’s now been three weeks.

My generation fought in Vietnam. And they fought for more than a decade. And we lost. And it damaged our national psyche for decades. The draft was in force at that time so the price in blood and treasure touched everyone’s life one way or another. Every single one of us.  We fought it, we died in it and we came to demand its end. It was an immoral war and we were ashamed. And we lost that war. The shame and humiliation damaged us; we haven’t been the same country since.

But today’s volunteer, professional military now insulates us from the horror. The nightly news doesn’t even bother to report it. Look at the front page of any newspaper – any Afghan stories there? (For that matter, any Iraq stories?).

Shame on us. Shame on me. Especially since today is the 363rd day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan. 2130 Coalition soldiers have died, over 1300 of them Americans. 7266 American casualties as well. 2010 already has the highest death count. The highest before this year was last year. And the highest before that, was the year before. The was has cost, as of today, $362,000,000,000.00. (Here at home, we’re laying off police and teachers.)

Two more days till the tenth year. Is that okay with you?

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Reagan meets the Taliban and refers to them as Afghanistan’s founding fathers, despite their remarkable ability to deny even the most fundamental of human rights.*

Ronnie Reagan loved his Founding Fathers (Mujahadeen, aka the Taliban, in Afghanistan) and his Freedom Fighters (the Contras in Nicaragua). The ‘Fathers’ were fighting the Communist ‘menace’ and the ‘Fighters’ an elected leftist government. In Afghanistan, where the Soviets invaded to grab property for a natural gas pipeline, the Taliban prevailed and then Afghans died in the tens of thousands at their hands. In Nicaragua, our chosen right wing dictator and his Contras ultimately were run out by the people and the left wing government, headed by Daniel Ortega – came back into power by election. But Reagan (and his manipulators) got to play lords of the universe. (That ole’ military-industrial complex played a role too . . .)

Blogger futile democracy  has some interesting history on American empire, something that got a long airing here a few days ago. Worth a read.

And given the subject here, let’s remember that today is the 341st day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan.

*Pix and caption from his post.

Nine-eleven, nine years

Nine years since Al Quada took down the Twin Towers. Not a day any of us is likely to forget ever, especially if we were able to watch it happen in real time on teevee. I was in my office at the theatre that morning – no online live streaming then, at least not at my company – and at the first word, we all raced to a break room where there was a television. And we watched – about a dozen of us. And we didn’t speak. We just watched. Our building had by then  become a no-smoking building. But we smoked – for hours. No one said a word. About an hour after the second tower fell, we began going home. And didn’t come back for a few days except to staff the evening performances – the show always goes on. But during the day, no one came in. The phones had stopped ringing. The box office was silent. No one answered email. So we stayed home and watched New York and called friends and family.

Less than a month later, U.S. forces were in Afghanistan. And we have been there for eight years and 338 days.

It’s hard to know what’s been accomplished. The purity – don’t know if that’s the right word – the purity of our cause was soiled by the diversion to Iraq. The capture of our actual enemy was thwarted by the diversion to Iraq. The support of most of the rest of the world began evaporating in distaste after the diversion to Iraq.

Our leaders served us badly. And now I expect they’re somewhere playing golf. There should be a price to pay, but the only price being paid is by our troops.

  • In Afghanistan 2071 coalition troops have died and many many more have been casualties. Those might be acceptable numbers were it not for the fact that half of the deaths have occurred in the last 19 months.
  • In Iraq  4800 have died (over 30K seriously injured), but at least there the fatality numbers have gone steadily down since the civil war abated. And with the implementation of the (Bush) Status of Forces Agreement, there are fewer troops in the country, none of whom are designated combat troops. (They’ll all be going to Afghanistan soon.)
  • Since 2001 we’ve spent over A TRILLION DOLLARS on our wars – 800 billion in Iraq, and 300 billion in Afghanistan.

And after all that, we’re scared to death of shampoo bottles and our shoes. We Americans need to do some very serious soul searching before we’re ready to go in grace into this new century and this new millennium.

At the very least, we need to stop amusing ourselves with trivial nonsense. But we are what we are. Aren’t we.

Friday again

It’s been quite a week:

  • Glenn Beck turned from a populist demagogue into our very lord and savior come back to earth to teach us a new history of western civilization;
  • a disturbed man saw a gap in programming at the Discovery Channel, so he grabbed his guns and bombs and headed off to have a chat with them – it ended badly;
  • caterpillars ate a pretty green shrub near my front door;
  • the Iraq War is over;
  • the Iraq War is not over;
  • and my 98-year old father has found yet another new reason for living (don’t ask).

(And since we’re measuring increments of time here,  how about this little measurement: today is the 330th day of the ninth year of the war in Afghanistan.)

We may need more than an oldie today. A laugh? Yeah, a laugh. So, before we go all sing song . . . this is only a minute, do not let your eyes wander and pay close attention.

Surprise, surprise and still we’re at war

Another example (see below) of how badly our press behaves. How the memes spread and an inference by a partisan party quickly becomes a spreading news story. Case in point: 3:17pm, I am tired of the paperwork under which I’ve been buried today; I turn on tv for a distraction. Here’s what MSNBC is telling me:

The NY Post has said that ‘some tenants’ of the big bad Imam Rauf are calling him a slumlord because he hasn’t gotten rid of the bed bugs in their building. (For those of you who don’t follow such trivia, the City of New York is fighting a city-wide infestation of bed bugs.) So Rupert Murdoch’s NY Post (also the originator of the terrorist mosque story) prints a non-story and MSNBC dutifully reports it as “The NY Post is saying that someone (unnamed) is saying . . . ” Take it from there. It’ll be all over the media tonight.

This is how the Fourth Estate drives the nation into a gutter of irrelevance while seeking to entertain itself and titillate its audience. They are teh suck.

Although, I kind of understand – after all, it’s really hard work to report that today is the 326th day of the ninth year of the war in Afghanistan.

In August! In Florida!

We’ve had so much rain – four days pretty much non-stop – and so little sun this week, temperatures dropped to the point where last night it was much cooler outside than it was inside. So I ran around and opened all the windows and sliders, turned the AC off  (in August! in Florida!) and slept in a house full of fresh air and a lively little breeze.  Short-lived, but joyful. The house is closed up again; things were a little tacky this morning but what the hell. It was so worth it. A beautiful night.

The pool is near to overflowing and the water is approaching c-o-l-d. In August! In Florida!

That said, the sun is out for a while, the thermometer is moving back up and the deep summer doldrums seem to be upon me . . . feeling quite unbloggy. So lite posting until my mood alters.

Meanwhile consider this – as the body count goes up – today is the 322nd day of the ninth year of the war in Afghanistan.

And I thought Obama was smart . . .

This Sunday morning, I made myself watch Meet the Press, because the entire show was to be an interview with Gen. David Petraeus in Afghanistan. David Gregory – whom I usually find offensive – did a superb job. He started out, as all celebrity journalists do, with the old tired Tim Russert tactic of starting every follow-on question with “but! but!”. But Petraeus, with his quiet and patient intelligence, wore him down and finally Gregory got past himself and a fine fine interview ensued. Watch it here.  And it wasn’t until the interview wrapped up that I realized there had been no commercial interruptions.

There are many of us who worship at the altar of Sunday morning television, a questionable activity to be sure. Like myself, I know quite a few people – mostly blog friends – who’d been looking forward to the arrival of Christiane Amanpour on ABC at the anchor desk. Her first show was a disappointment – it was the same show it had always been. And I sincerely hope she eventually puts her own stamp on it. So it’s ironic to find myself entranced at Meet the Press. Now – if Gregory and NBC can hold onto this tone, a serious one, we will all be better informed. Which, after all, is the point.

Petraeus used the phrase “The Long War” which has been creeping in lately. I expect we’ll be hearing more of that phrase, as we head into our tenth year in Afghanistan, where today is the 310th day of the ninth year of our presence in that sorry and beautiful land.

In just 62 days . . .

. . . we will be starting the tenth year of the War in Afgahanistan. Perhaps before we reach that point, someone can answer a few questions I and a few hundred million others have – like:

  • who are we fighting?
  • what defines winning?
  • why are we fighting?
  • how does this make us more secure?

I sure don’t know the answer to those questions, even on this 303rd day of the ninth year there.

We kid ourselves

Time Magazine has this picture on its cover and asks  “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan“.

Are they unaware that this is what happened while we were IN Afghanistan?

Why does anyone think it will be different?

Lose/lose

That’s our future with Afghanistan. Afghanistan will go back to being Afghanistan whether we leave now or in five years. Or ten years. And all we’ll have accomplished is giving ourselves another Vietnam.  It didn’t have to be this way.  But we needed to go to Iraq, see . . .

Friggin’ Vietnam with better field medicine.

ISI and Pakistan and empty vessels on my teevee

For almost two decades, books* have been being written about the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, and how they – with the CIA – created the Taliban. It’s a well known narrative.

Television is discovering the story (as a result of the big wikileak document dump reported in yesterday’s NY Times and everywhere else). To television, it is a brand new story. They didn’t know about this. Some sound like they weren’t even familiar with the ISI.

These are the people who inform a nation.

* Best of the lot is Steve Coll’s 2004 book GHOST WARS: Afghanistan, the CIA and Osama Bin Laden. (approximation of the title) The paperback has an update from the 9-11 Commission. Pakistan and ISI figures heavily in his account. (warning: it’s a long book but reads like a thriller)

White roofs? Oh, yeah.

Atrios, the master of understatement, reminded us this morning that we could change everything with white roofs.

Back in the 70’s, when the ‘greenhouse effect’ was big news, some 12-year old kid somewhere in America came up with the idea of painting all the black roofs white. Since white is reflective instead of absorptive, doing so would have an actual effect on the temperatures at ground level. Brilliant.

Atrios: “It would be good stimulus, good for climate change, good for energy costs, good for a whole bunch of stuff. I suppose that’s why it isn’t happening.”

Maybe the arabs always knew that. I’d like to show you this picture from Yemen, but it seems you need to go the NY Times to actually see it.  I wonder if they always did this or were listening to that 12-year old.

Would sure put a lot of people to work. And we could offer tax cuts and rebates, just like Carter did in the ’70’s when he got us to get energy audits and wrap our hot water heaters. It made a huge difference. (That was the beginning of the Energy Star system with appliances.)

I’m a big fan of anything that will cut our obsense energy use, especially on this 287th day of the ninth year of the war in Afghanistan.

Remember this?

In the Bush administration, and after 9/11, Admiral John Poindexter proposed a new level of surveillance inside the country. Deaf to the power of language apparently, he named the program Total Information Awareness. Most people recoiled. Press reports at the time said the program was not undertaken or it was begun but shut down or it was merged into other programs – press reports were garbled and ultimately not reliable. Wikipedia’s entry (link above) seems sound.

If the name of the program weren’t sufficiently frightening, the logo they developed is terrifying.

This morning, The Washington Post has released a very important study, compiled and reported over two years and in cooperation with Public Broadcasting’s Frontline program, of the size and state of the US Intelligence apparatus.

From the summary:

“After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.”

They’ve created a separate and very interactive website is up and it includes a trailer for the Frontline documentary to be aired in October.

Top Secret America:– A Washington Post investigation –  A hidden world, growing beyond control

I think we are all obliged to read it. And then, I think we are all obliged to make noise. Although it may just be too late to undo what’s been done.

Let us hope it’s not too late to bring some troops home from the escalating war in Afghanistan. Today is the 284th day of our ninth year there.

Money for money

BP has their fingers crossed yet again, and a few million residents of the Gulf Coast weep as their way of life disappears. Just another day in the greatest country ever governed by an almost entirely owned Congress.

From today’s New York Times‘ (that paper so thoroughly quoted by Glenn Beck) lead editorial:

“No industry enjoys the array of tax breaks and subsidies that the oil and gas industry does . . . Industry has spent $340 million on lobbying over the last two years to block [initiates to limit the tax breaks]”

So. Let’s see how that goes.

I drive by a big box store with a fully lit parking light six hours after the store has closed and am comforted by the knowledge that those lights can burn on as long as our soldiers keep fighting those wars. Like in Afghanistan, where today is the 277th day of the ninth year of the war.

Nothing short of higher energy prices will change how we behave in this country. Our disgraceful wasteful ways go on. We should be so very ashamed.

Common sense peeking out?

This – from James Fallows at The Atlantic – would make me hopeful that we stand a chance of returning to some sort of sanity in this country had I not seen far more evidence pointing the other way. I’ve just hated this stuff ever since I saw my first New Jersey barrier.

Fallows:

“A reader who works in the main Citibank building in Manhattan writes to report:

  • “My office building is the world headquarters of Citibank. In the wake of 9/11 they decided they needed increased security and so have required all bags and packages to go through an x-ray machine. You could be carrying Dirty Harry’s revolver in a shoulder holster under your jacket,, or ten pounds of plastic explosive taped to your chest, but your attaché case had to be screened. Amazingly, after nearly nine years of doing this, they stopped this week, although the announcement from building management reassuringly told us that the x-ray machines are in storage and can be wheeled out at a moment’s notice. “

“[May we] hope that the broader society will follow this brave beacon? “

My own local county court shares a building with many other county offices and the building is wide open to the public. It has multiple entrances and parking lots on three sides. The courtroom, which is upstairs, has elaborate security set up at the entrance, manned by as many as four deputies at a time (they trip over each other). Getting to the courtroom from elsewhere in the building wouldn’t be difficult, but I assume the fancy pricey security equipment makes everyone feel safer. 

So we hide behind our scanners and let strangers look inside our shoes, while a few hundred thousand young Americans do their jobs under fire, walking across land mines on this 271st day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan.

When they come home, they’ll probably find us under our beds; we are such sissies.

Without comment

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, speaking yesterday in Connecticut:

“The McChrystal incident, to me, was very comical. And I think it’s a reflection of the frustration that a lot of our military leaders have with this Administration and their prosecution of the war in Afghanistan,” said Steele. “Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

” . .  if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that.”

Can’t wait till the troops in Afghanistan hear that. We’re going into the celebratory weekend of July 4, and today is the 267th day of the ninth year of the War.  

UPDATE:  In the comments, I suggested the GOP – other than Darth Kristol – was not taking notice. They are.

UPDATE AGAIN: Actually, things seem to be moving along . . . when The Corner at National Review Online speaks thusly, a new weather front has moved in . . .
“Rarely do you see such an impressive combination of tone-deafness and falsity. Amazing that the chairman could utter so much that is incorrect with his foot so far in his mouth.”

Prescience

Here is the very definition of the word.

From Byrd’s March 13 speech just before the Iraq war:
“ If the United States leads the charge to war in the Persian Gulf, we may get lucky and achieve a rapid victory. But then we will face a second war: a war to win the peace in Iraq. This war will last many years and will surely cost hundreds of billions of dollars. In light of this enormous task, it would be a great mistake to expect that this will be a replay of the 1991 war. The stakes are much higher in this conflict.[62]

And six days later, after Bush ordered the invasion:
“ Today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned. Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination.[63]

Wonder if the troops in Afghanistan remember all that. Actually, they’re probably too busy fighting on this 263rd day of the ninth year of their war.

I’m in awe

Atrios is brilliant. He hates the Afghan war as much as I do. And he really loathes Micahel O’Hanlon (like I do), he of the “I think this today – oh wait, it’s tomorrow – I don’t think that anymore” school of punditry.  Today Atrios catches O’Hanlon saying:

At this moment, as we enter into perhaps the most crucial six months of the entire war, I hope and pray that President Obama will decide we cannot afford to be without the leadership of such an amazing American.

The acerbic Atrios gets it entirely right, when he adds: “Eight and a half years later we’re starting “the most crucial six months?”

Gen. Stanley MacArthur

Per James Fallows at the Atlantic, Obama has a constitutional obligation to fire McCrystal. Article II,  Section 2 makes the President Commander in Chief. As such, he must act swiftly to

  1. stop disrepect for the chain of command.
  2. protect the security of the US against  public discord within that chain of command and public scorn for one’s own current government, and
  3. protect civilian oversight of the military.

McCrystal has to say bye-bye, but please please please Mr. President, require him to do so.

Good morning

Summer is here. It’s been here for a month. And in all that time, it hasn’t rained a drop. Usually we’d call this ‘fire season’, but the heavy rains in March and April may have mitigated that. At least I haven’t smelled smoke in the air.

Gen. Stanley McKRISTOL

On CSpan, someone is talking about McCrystal and his ‘conspicuous success’. Hold your rhetoric Mr Ambassador (that’s what he is but I’m too far away to see his actual name and I’m not moving and that is that) – we’re headed for the decade mark in Afghanistan. If longevity in theater is our goal, well then, yes, this is a great success.

And I know we’re almost at that decade mark because today is the 249th day of the War in Afghanistan.