Thursday, May 13, 2010

Who's the Commander-in-Chief?

David Wood foresees a dismal future for Afghanistan, since there seems to be no joint political strategy between the White House and Afghan leaders. In Obama's Afghanistan: No Political Strategy, No Benchmarks, No End Point, Wood speculates on the results of President Obama's recent meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

He writes, "Neither Karzai nor administration officials defined what they want Afghanistan to look like in one year, or five, or 10. Nor did anyone mention benchmarks that could help chart progress or lack of progress toward that goal." The main stated goal, of course, is the elimination of al-Qaida. But how can any force insure that the Afghan people will possess the will to maintain the new institutions that are now being intruded into their customs?

The hubris on the part of the Americans is astounding. With their mighty fire power, the Western bully entered another man's world and centuries-old culture, yet eight years later the foreigners are setting up unfamiliar political structures, while discussing their "key goals" to "make local government more able and willing to respond to local needs and grievances." Wood informs us that "Thousands of U.S. troops and civilians are working in Afghanistan today training local officials to draw up budgets and plan and manage projects."

For now, Afghans must cooperate with the Western bully, but will they want those structures and alien institutions once the bully has left their land? Stephen Biddle, in the Washington Post, claims that a system of bribery, even blackmail, using the carrot and stick approach, will probably be employed by the Obama administration. Since Afghanistan is "critically reliant on the United States for life support," he writes, "aid programs can be accelerated or slowed, ... logistical support can be provided or withheld, ... visas can be granted or denied." He claims, "The possibilities are nearly endless."

Yes, carrot and stick should make for a good foundation between the governments of the two countries. After all, it's worked before.

Whatever dreams there might be for the future, the present reality is a gruesome one and will be held in the long memories of Afghans for many years to come. It will take a lot of mental purging to forget what Westerners have done in their midst for almost a decade.

For instance, we learn from The New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh news that previously has been confirmed by soldiers in the field. In "US Troops Carrying Out Battlefield Executions," Hersh, in a videotaped conference discussion, tells of outright executions of prisoners by soldiers. "They're being executed on the battlefield." [See post below this one, Get out of our country, for comments of two soldiers.] Hersh explains it this way:

What they've done in the field now is, they tell the troops, you have to make a determination within a day or two or so whether or not the prisoners you have, the detainees, are Taliban. You must extract whatever tactical intelligence you can get, as opposed to strategic, long-range intelligence, immediately. And if you cannot conclude they're Taliban, you must turn them free. What it means is, and I've been told this anecdotally by five or six different people, battlefield executions are taking place. Well, if they can't prove they're Taliban, bam! If we don't do it ourselves, we turn them over to the nearby Afghan troops and, by the time we walk three feet, the bullets are flying. And that's going on now.

What long, long memories of the American invader the Afghans, and the Iraqis, will hold.

On another grim note, it would seem that Obama, the boy wonder President, similar to the previous boy wonder, George W. Bush, isn't exactly in charge of things. Hersh claims that Obama is "looking the other way," when it comes to atrocities being committed, because he is "dominated by the military." Obama is in real trouble, says Hersh, when it comes to geopolitics. "The military are dominating him on the important issues of the world: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Is the boy wonder the Commander-in-Chief, or isn't he? Who's in charge here, anyway?

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