Sorry about the timing, only a few days before the 4th of July. It's totally fortuitous -I only write because I feel like, not because I need to make it coincide with some events. Hope you can still enjoy Independence Day. Happy Birthday America!
Recent headlines were going all over the case of Gen. McChrystal after he and his aides outrageously insulted the Obama government. It peaked with his firing resignation after apologies. Some say it's a good thing. Others believe that it's a blow to the Afghan campaign. But in fact, it doesn't really matter anymore now: this war has been lost for too long.
McChrystal was praised for being a highly sportive, Spartan general, close to his soldiers, with great ideas. He wrote the most important parts of the COIN (Counter-insurgency) strategy and applied them in Afghanistan, reigning air power and engagement rules in an effort to reduce civilian casualties. He was a model for his soldiers, an ex-special force officer who wasn't afraid to go on patrol in dangerous region of the country and 'wouldn't just stay confined inside a Kabul office.'
To replace him is much acclaimed Gen. Petraeus, the general that 'pacified' Iraq in 2007. He took over McChrystal in the former land of Saddam Hussein and his 'surge' bring peace to the country. He plagiarized wrote the praised COIN strategy with the help of McChrystal and is regarded as the 'next Eisenhower,' a potential future GOP runner.
You might thus think that both generals are good guys doing the right things (well, except for the insulting accident), but the truth is not so shiny. McChrystal was the commander of task force 6-26, a special force command in Iraq that used 'black room' for torture, illegal imprisonments and accused of several deaths, operating without laws, hunting terrorists at a price paid by civilians and innocent bystanders. He helped cover up the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman, ex football player enlisted Rangers. Even though his COIN ideas are good, there's just tactics. There is no strategy for Afghanistan, just merely soldiers trying to survive in its harsh and unfriendly land while governments still believe in the illusion of victory.
Gen. Petraeus' track record is no better. He did reduce violence in Iraq -for some time. After his nomination over there, he authorized a six fold increase in the use of air power (from 229 sorties/year during MacChrytal commandment to 1447 sorties/year). You can assume quite a lot of innocent civilians were caught in the bomb deluge. Way to pacify, Bomber Harris style. Even though since then Iraq has been declared 'pacified' and doesn't hit the news everyday as it used to do -now it's Afghanistan- violence is still a grim reality for millions. But US troops can now disengage -toward Afghanistan. And, again, he wants to go full force in his new land and remove ease engagement restrictions.
But replacing generals in this war doesn't change anything. The war has been a 'cause perdue' for several years now. A 2008–leaked memo of the British diplomatic envoy in Afghanistan was clearly implying that the war was lost, that they needed to install a puppet dictator and leave the country ASAP. It's the old trick failing armies come up with when things are not going well. We've already seen how well it worked for Vietnam during the 1970's and Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal.
That was in October 2008. What's the situation today? June 2010 is the deadliest month up to date and the US increased its involvement: more troops, more money, more equipment. Why not retreat? The 36 Stratagems says that retreat is actually a wise choice when one cannot win: "If it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat, then retreat and regroup. When your side is losing, there are only three choices remaining: surrender, compromise, or escape. Surrender is complete defeat, compromise is half defeat, but escape is not defeat. As long as you are not defeated, you still have a chance." How ironic is a strategy treaty that ends on retreat? How ironic is a leadership that still maintains its course of action even though they know it's a helpless cause?
However reasonable as it seems, retreat is not a viable option for many: civilian governments and war lovers mongers, disconnected from the reality of the ground and blinded by their own interests and beliefs, still claim that victory is possible and that they're doing a better job than the Soviets did.
The Soviets shelled villages suspected of harboring militants and were using an awful lot of firepower to fight off insurgents. They killed a lot of innocent people, held only the main towns while the countryside was in the hand of the insurgents. If units were daring out, they would always run into ambushes, and lose one by one their soldiers. It cost them a gigantic price, both in human lives and economically speaking. In the end, they exited Afghanistan 10 years, 14,500 dead and 1m civilians lives later. A few years later, the USSR fell apart, to the surprise of everyone -no one, not even Soviet analysts like Robert Gates were expecting it- and the Evil Empire crumbled under its own weight.
Increasingly, the US starts to look like late years USSR. In Afghanistan the US are targeting houses suspected of harboring militants with missiles, using an awful lot of firepower to fight off insurgents. They're killing 'an amazing number of civilians,' holding only the main towns while the countryside is in the hand of the insurgents. If units are daring out, they will always run into ambushes, and lose one by one their soldiers. It's costing them a gigantic price in human lives, and economically speaking this is a nightmare, in particular in the midst of the worst economical crisis since the Great Depression (FYI, the current crisis is now called the Great Recession -catching any similarity here?).
The local government is highly corrupted, and the NATO nations regularly pay local warlords and Taliban to not attack their own troops (and see this when it doesn't work). In short, this is rather hopeless. Can we thus assume that the US is following the path of USSR? In that case, the reputation of Afghanistan for being the graveyard of Empires would be proven right once again.
History tells us a lot about the future. If humans would only understand that and learn from it, I'm pretty sure the world would be a better place. Instead, the same mistakes are being made over and over and over again. How could we otherwise possibly justify 5,000+ years of wars, killings, rising and falling empires, dawn and dusk of civilizations? Most people assume dully that since we have a better standard of living, easier access to knowledge, more educated citizens, and unprecedented technologies we're way better than our predecessors who were merely monkeys with sticks.
But that's quite wrong. Our ancestors were just as technologically arrogant as we are today: how about phalanx formation? Iron? Gunpowder? We just have technologies that allow us to do more things, like killing people everywhere around the globe (even your own citizens) by tireless, obedient killing machines. But does it mean you're going to win any war? If you think so, I suggest you go back to Strategy 101, starting with Sun Tzu.
Drones targets extended to rank and file soldiers. Do the math: does killing 3 guys with no educational background, no strategic value of any sort (they don't lay out plans for offensives or operations, they're just obeying orders), Kalashnikovs (400USD each in Khyber pass) and a tactical vest, for a rough total value around 1000 USD of equipment, with a $68,000 missile is cost effective? And I'm not even taking into account the human, psychological or political effects!
In fact killing people in countries that are not at war, wiping out innocent bystanders and engaging in act of wars has a far more bigger, yet impalpable cost.
If you lived in a country that is not at war (at least not a war you know about) and that your neighbors' house with some extremists inside, as well as at least one of them family in it, was reduced to rubles in the middle of the night, traumatizing your children and making your husband/wife sleepless, how would you feel about the country that fired that missile?
And keep in mind this is the best case scenario: you're family is alive, the neighbors were the 'bad guys', your house stands still and you can still work. How about the families of those innocent people wiped out from this world by mistake !? How should they feel about those extra-judicial killings, performed without civilian double check, by the very country that regularly repeat its commitment to Human Rights, Freedom and Democracy?
The Empire is crumbling, but its leaders still want you to believe that what the country is on the right path. As the saying goes, 'fish rots from the head.' The US is not a country anymore, it's just a big business run by robber barons in the Beltway, mixing politics, economics, big money and interests (their, not yours!).
Playing with the label 'terrorist', they've created a fear that shouldn't exist in time of unprecedented security. They've killed people using torture and/or outright murder, violating the basics of Geneva Convention, but people still support its use since it's supposed to be for 'good reasons' i.e.: 'they're the bad guys!' But what if it did the opposite? It looks more like a self-fulfilling prophecy, where 'preemptive actions' create the very roots and ground for terrorist acts, where a foreign policy stating its aim as defeating terrorism is actually feeding terrorism. It's a waste, a non winnable war, a self-destructing vicious circle with no exit in view.
But even though this reality is more than ever palpable after 9 years of war around the world, big corporations are getting billions out of it. BP with its Pentagon contracts, Xe (ex Blackwater) was hired again for another $120m contract, and all the other security firms, suppliers of the Army, weapon producers (every soldier in Afghanistan is matched by a civilian contractor – the US has now 142,000 soldiers, do the math). It's pure pillage, 21st century style.
And yet, they're asking for more! As if the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan were not enough, some are asking for war with Iran. Nothing new though. In fact, the neocon saying was in 2003: 'Everyone wants to go to Baghdad, real men want to go to Tehran.' And the recent moves of US and Israeli fleets can turn dire pretty quickly. An article is even titled: 'There will be war'. Put yourself in the shoes of Iran here. Funny how suddenly things change…
But paid 'experts' in Washington know better. It's the last great theft of the United States' people before the big fall down. As in late USSR, 'military power' has been mistaken for 'power'. High/drunk on war, neocons believe everyone can be beaten up badly enough to accept being their puppets allies. As Sun Tzu writes: "Military action is like fire. If not put out, it burn itself out." Let's just hope that 'once burned twice shy' will eventually prevail. I mean, 2 bloody-messy-dirty-world-destabilizing-wars, the mother-of-all-financial-crisis and the biggest-oil-spill-disaster-in-history in the same decade, from the same country, because of the same people?
Sadly, I would say that the future looks bleak for the US. Some even call it a Fascist Police-State. Harsh words? Maybe not that much. You're looking at a country that:
- Forbids a 6 years old to fly because of her name;
- Exempts murderous companies from legal charges and keeps doing business with them;
- Allows gas companies to drill with unsafe methods, poisoning water sources, buy off sick and dying people; pollute so badly the soil that inhabitants can set their tap water on fire; make people shower with chemicals; and in the mean time says that the method is safe to later acknowledge it's a 'nasty, nasty stuff';
- Has the most expensive, yet worst health care system;
- Allows guns bearing when it's clearly killing and wounding dozens;
- Has the highest incarceration rate of the world, dwarfing OECD countries and setting it ahead of repressive, war thorn or drug states;
- Knew two and a half years ahead that a huge financial crisis was underway, yet did nothing to stop it;
- Has a financial system build on fraud and/or is corrupted;
- Doesn't allow its citizens to film its police;
- Has a biased media that only relay government propaganda instead of doing its job (investigating);
- Doesn't allow citizens to check the actions of their own government and defend its (not so) right to kill them abroad;
And we could go on and on… But the American public is 'tuning out.' No one cares. This is not a symptom specific to the 'land of the free', but common in the entire televised world. Why look for information by yourself when your TV can bring it to you? Why even bother checking what they're talking about, covering it in 2 minutes breaking news inserted in between 10 minutes of commercials? Why hear another point of view since the 'experts' rested their case in front of the camera? Our televised societies are now lavishly, voluntarily brainwashed by what could be one of the greatest mean to communicate knowledge. But it isn't. Despite the warning of E. Murrow, in the 1958, TV has become the modern equivalent of "bread and circuses".
"… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses"
Same sad pattern from century to century. By 'tuning out', the public allows the government to do nasty things without much to bother about. You just have to look at president Obama: after getting elected for his desire for change, gathered hope and followers, promised to set America back on track what did he do? The opposite: he expanded-extended Bush's wars all around the globe, feigned to withdraw from one to getting more involved in another, let Guantanamo open, agreed to kill fellow citizens and did not punished Wall Street thieves at all. In addition, he 'killed' public opinion on the Health Care reform, refused offers from the Dutch and 12 other governments to help contain the oil spill (the Dutch offered their superior technology, vessels and crew at no charge -as Yves Smith wrote "read this and get angry"), and his foreign leadership has been dubious to say the least. And if you believe that it's not his fault, well read this.
President Obama was supposed to be the man that would set it all right, make America take back its role of leading the world toward enlightenment, freedom and democracy. He created such a tremendous movement, both at home and abroad. He inspired hope of a better future, a change from the old system and a reconciliation between fractured civilizations. And now that he failed, people that once had great expectations now see him just as another politician that cheated them to get to power. It was the last chance. Now, it seem highly unlikely that the US reputation abroad can ever be restored. Some have even theorized that the BP oil spill is the 'American Chernobyl'.
The US is taking a path that looks more and more like the USSR: apparatchiks, dachas, big money, disregard for the 'low people', reliance on police and military tools, unsustainable regime… Everything is there for the Empire to bite the dust sooner rather than later. Ironically, as USSR leaders were using their fake belief in communism to make their not-at-all-communist regime to survive but finally fail, in the US the very blinded beliefs in capitalism are being misused but will eventually drive the country to chaos. As President Abraham Lincoln once said:
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
Well, he actually never said that. But I guess that's still right…
About Carlito Riego
"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi