Saturday, March 01, 2008


Seriously, does anyone know what we are doing in Afghanistan? Somehow, over the years, I have completely lost track of why we are still there and what it is we are supposed to be doing. As I recall, we went into Afghanistan to get revenge on the guys who blew up the trade center in New York (even though they were from Saudi Arabia). But we wanted to get Osama bin Laden, the ringleader. We failed miserably as we didn’t have enough troops or enough smarts to get him when we had the chance. He is rumored to be living in Pakistan, up in the mountains, and surrounded by people so protective of him no one will turn him in even for the reward of 100 million dollars (now that’s loyalty). Anyway, we don’t seem to really be looking for him very seriously anymore and Pakistan doesn’t want us poking around in their territory and we wouldn’t have enough troops or firepower to get him anyway. For all I know he might well be living in Prague or Paris or maybe even St. Petersburg. In any case the existence of bin Laden does not seem to explain why we are still in Afghanistan (although I am not a conspiracy buff, I am still not completely disabused of my notion that bin Laden is still a CIA asset).

There was talk, as I remember back, of wanting to build a pipeline for oil or gas or something through Afghanistan. Does that explain why we might still be there? If it does we are certainly not very serious about it or we would have lots more troops there – lots more. If this is not why we are still there, and if we aren’t seriously trying to get bin Laden, then why are we still there? It is said that at the moment Karzai controls 30% of the country, the Taliban contarol 10%, and the other 60% is controlled by tribal chieftains (often referred to as warlords). I don’t know where these percentages come from but they don’t seem to reflect the presumed reality on the ground that I see in other accounts. Most of Afghanistan has always been tribal and no one has ever conquered that wild country. The British failed, the Russians failed, and we are failing. This was entirely predictable, especially when we never made any provision for enough troops and then withdrew some of them to attack Iraq. There is no chance whatever that we are going to control Afghanistan. And knowing this, why in the hell don’t we just acknowledge the reality of the situation and get out? Oh, I forgot, we have to protect Karzai, now said to be merely the mayor of Kabul (why don’t we just retire him in Paris). We can’t get the Europeans interested enough to provide any more troops, they want out, and we clearly won’t get anywhere on our own, so what is the point?

Now the Bush/Cheney administration won’t provide us with any information about the 760 million dollar disaster sometimes referred to as our embassy. It is, of course, way behind schedule and also riddled with expensive overruns. It is also, I gather from at least some accounts, little more than a piece of junk. This monstrosity covers something like 27 acres, is the largest embassy ever, and is really meant to be just a Little America sitting there in a hostile country. It has its own stores and restaurants, tennis courts, swimming pools, bowling alley, and on and on, obviously designed to win hearts and minds. I haven’t seen anything lately about all the other permanent bases we have built that are not permanent (permanent is a term with considerable flexibility as the permanence could be for a few years, many years, even forever). They quite likely won’t be permanent for long as I suspect Iraqi hospitality will not allow them to be. Oh, well, what’s another few billion wasted.

The Israelis, having trapped a million and half Palestinians in Gaza, are now proceeding to starve, humiliate, and murder them at their leisure. It’s all the Palestinian fault, of course, for sending their somewhat puny rockets into Israel (once in a while they actually hit something). They are not supposed to fight back, its just like in The Maltese Falcon when Humphrey (you don’t see many Humphreys nowadays) says to Peter Lorre, “when you’re slapped you’ll just take it and like it.” Israeli is now threatening a holocaust if they don’t stop firing the rockets. Of course the Israelis have every right to defend themselves from the mosquito that is Gaza, they would never think of negotiating in good faith and giving back some of the land they have already appropriated or replacing the orchards they have destroyed, or making any good faith effort to achieve a just peace. “It’s our way or the highway,” and this is a disastrous one way highway leading nowhere for the Palestinians (except perhaps to a genuine holocaust).

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
Abraham Lincoln

No comments: