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What Are We Doing in Afghanistan?

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Posted on Mar 14, 2012

By Joe Conason

For everyone who originally supported the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban, the question today is how what was once a righteous mission can end in anything but ruin. Blaming the Bush administration’s neglect and incompetence for the critical failures of the first several years is fair enough, but it is not easy to argue, let alone prove, that the Obama administration has improved upon the mess it inherited.

The same corruption prevails in Hamid Karzai’s Kabul and the same incompetence and lassitude plague the Afghan security forces. The only realistic option, unpalatable as it may be, is negotiation with the Taliban. But recent events have made that prospect even more elusive, as the Afghan people become still more alienated.

The absence of rioting in the wake of the massacre of 16 civilians—mostly women and children—by an American soldier should not be regarded as anything but the numb resignation of a people who now regard atrocities as ordinary in the conduct of war by both sides. They know that the Taliban regularly perpetrate similar crimes and worse, yet they no longer welcome the presence of the foreigners who came to save them. The state of relations between American troops and the Afghans they are supposed to be training is reflected by the fact that the safety of U.S. personnel can no longer be assured even in government ministries.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government continues to be dominated by a clique bent on kleptocracy rather than democracy. To the extent that the Karzai government represents the popular will, it does so by abusing the Americans and our allies—a meager thanks for the expenditure of blood and treasure that created it and keeps it in power. Protecting the dominant element in Afghan politics only ensures that the United States shares the responsibility for its crimes and the hatred of the people it oppresses.

What keeps the United States engaged is a plausible concern that our departure will permit the Taliban to claim victory, and that our troops are making progress, slow but measurable, in recapturing territory from the enemy. There is no longer any illusion among Pentagon leaders or in the White House that foreign forces can permanently extirpate the Taliban, desirable as that would be. Instead, the real policy for the past few years, whether troops levels rise or fall, is to establish a basis for reconciliation between Kabul and its armed opponents, and to leave the Afghans prepared to defend themselves from extremism.

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Thanks to Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, however, we now know that the progress that has justified the war during the Obama years is largely illusory. Generals like David Petraeus tell the president and Congress that things are going well, but after spending a year on the ground, Davis discovered the opposite—and with great courage revealed his findings.

Haven’t we heard this story before? Yes, it all sounds far too familiar—an endless war on behalf of an unworthy and ungrateful regime, bolstered by dubious reports of progress and sustained by fitful attempts at negotiation. Of course, there are important differences between Vietnam, where the United States took over a colonial battle based on deceptions and delusions, and Afghanistan, where we and our allies went in to remove the gang responsible for the murder of thousands of civilians on American soil. More than a decade later, with Osama bin Laden dead, those distinctions are fading rapidly.


Joe Conason is the editor in chief of NationalMemo.com.

© 2012 Creators.com


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By lisa, March 28, 2012 at 10:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The kinetics of afnamistan operate not there, but in the us domestic arena - this is the essence of the Julian version of the Fabian Strategy. Alas, the author misses the real-politik and thrusts at the illusions.

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By heterochromatic, March 17, 2012 at 5:07 am Link to this comment

Maani——good points, but Mahsoud wasa known as a hero and NOT the head of
state…..there simply was no recognized government…...

Mahsoud was out of the country and when he tried to return, bin Laden had him
assassinated.

Report this

By Maani, March 16, 2012 at 10:15 pm Link to this comment

hetero:

Afghanistan became a sovereign nation in 1919.  Most recently, Mohammed Najibullah was President until 1992.  After this, Ahmad Shah Massoud was recognized as the legitimate leader of Afghanistan.  Ironically (?), he was assassinated just two days before 9/11.  Shortly after we routed the Taliban, Hamid Karzai was “installed” as president in January 2002.  As I noted, Karzai was a former Unocal executive, and an obvious U.S. puppet.

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By heterochromatic, March 16, 2012 at 9:50 pm Link to this comment

Oh—-thanks truffer——but the response is indicative of the fact that there
WASN"T a recognized government and only a recognition of de facto power.

the delegation was met by an undersecretary…..and…


as your link explicitly says…....“Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described
the Talib government only a month ago as something quite disgusting….”


that’s not the way a recognized government, even a disgusting one, is
describing or how it’s delegation is greeted.

this was simply a possible business deal…..


the plain fact is that the Taliban was NEVER recognized as a real government by
anybody in the world outside of their owners and trainers…. Saudi Arabia and
Pakistan….....after that…..nada.


I apologize for not understanding that you meant the link as a response to my
question… i thank you for the effort.

Report this

By truthforall, March 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm Link to this comment

heterochromatic—you asked at 7:27am “who constituted the recognized
government
prior to 2001?????”  This is my response!

Report this

By heterochromatic, March 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment

truffer—- and that has shit to do with 2000 and beyond.

Report this

By truthforall, March 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment

A Taliban delegation has visited Washington and was received by some State
Department officials. The Taliban delegation included Acting Minister for Mines
and Industry Ahmed Jan, Acting Minister for Culture and Information Amir Muttaqi,
Acting Minister for Planning Din Muhammad, and recently appointed Taliban
Permanent Delegate on the United Nations Mujahid. This was in 1997.

http://www.gasandoil.com/news/n_america/667244be2de655c63f57d51e60155e
57

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By BrilliantBill, March 16, 2012 at 10:35 am Link to this comment

When the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Lakota dispatched Custer and company in 1876, that was a “righteous mission.”

When the monsters who have stolen the government of the United States ordered our military into Afghanistan, it was a blatantly criminal act.

I don’t know who this Conason character is, but he has no business doing public commentary. I can only suppose he’s an apologist for the criminals controlling this country today.

Report this

By truthforall, March 16, 2012 at 9:05 am Link to this comment

If the US wanted Osama bin-Laden, it had the legal recourse to ask for
extradition as it did in Libya for the downing of the American plane.

The nonviolent alternative is to negotiate extradition. Negotiation of
international conflicts is a solemn duty under Article 33 of the United Nations
Charter.

The Taliban’s agreement on extradition is of a piece with its position all the way
through this crisis. The Taliban Information Minister, Qudrutullah Jamal, said
early on, ‘Anyone who is responsible for this act, Osama or not, we will not side
with him. We told [the Pakistan delegation] to give us proof that he did it,
because without that how can we give him up?’ (Independent, 19 Sept., p. 1)
Three days later, Taliban Ambassador Zaeef said, ‘We are not ready to hand
over Osama bin Laden without evidence’ (emphasis added, Times, 22 Sept., p.
1).

When US Secretary of State Colin Powell promised to publish a US dossier of
evidence against bin Laden (an offer subsequently withdrawn), Ambassador
Zaeef responded positively. ‘The ambassador said it was “good news” that the
US intended to produce its evidence against Mr bin Laden. This could help to
solve the issue “otherwise than fighting”.’ (Independent, 25 Sept., p. 3)

On Sun. 30 Sept, the Taliban made another offer which was completely
distorted and misrepresented by the Government and the media. The Taliban
Ambassador to Pakistan said - in a quotation that appeared only in one
newspaper, the Independent, and incompletely even there - ‘We say if they
change and talk to us, and if they present evidence, we will respect their
negotiations and that might change things.’ (‘Bin Laden “hidden by Taleban”,
BBC News Online, 30 Sept.)

http://www.j-n-v.org/AW_briefings/ARROW_briefing005.htm

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By truthforall, March 16, 2012 at 8:48 am Link to this comment

Noam Chomsky writes: “We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi
commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and
dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin
Laden’s, and he is not a ‘suspect’ but uncontroversially the ‘decider’ who gave the
orders to commit the ‘supreme international crime differing only from other war
crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole’ (quoting
the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of
thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the
bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.” 

Report this

By truthforall, March 16, 2012 at 8:47 am Link to this comment

Both Osama and 9/11 have been in the news lately but how many of us know that
Osama bin Laden’s role in the events of September 11, 2001 is not mentioned on
the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted notice (http://www/fbi.gov/wanted.htm).  In 2006,
Rex Tomb, chief of investigative publicity for the FBI explains, “The reason 9/11 is
not mentioned on Osama bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no
hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11. . . . He has not been formally
indicted and charged in connection with 9/11 . . . . .”

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By heterochromatic, March 16, 2012 at 8:27 am Link to this comment

Maani——who constituted the recognized government
prior to 2001?????

nobody.

Report this

By surfnow, March 16, 2012 at 5:06 am Link to this comment

For everyone who originally supported the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban, the question today is how what was once a righteous mission can end in anything but ruin…”

Joe Conason with this opening is the reason why Abbie Hoffman despised liberals. ” a righteous mission” my ***.  Absolutely nothing this fascist government has done since WWII has been ” righteous.”  But Conason and all the other Clinton-Obama type liberals have bought every lie- starting with the Warren Commission through the 9-11 cover-up.

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By Maani, March 15, 2012 at 11:36 pm Link to this comment

hetero:

You say, “And it wasn’t really a sovereign nation that we invaded. There was no recognized government.”

Do you understand the concept of a “sovereign” nation?  Despite internal civil wars and strife, Afghanistan has been a “sovereign nation” - with a recognized gov’t - since 1919.  You really need to learn your history.

Second, as you well know, I do not share your belief that “Afghanistan harbored the group that attacked us.”

Third, you say, “We spent years prior to 9/11
asking the Taliban to shut down the terrorist training camps, boot out the transnational terrorists and turn over bin laden.”

Who are we to tell another nation what to do regarding its internal affairs?  As for turning over OBL, the Taliban was fully prepared to do that.  They simply asked for ANY proof - whatsoever - that OBL actually masterminded the 9/11 attacks.  Since the U.S. could not provide such proof, they refused to turn him over.  Seems perfectly logical to me.

You end by saying, “We had every right in the world to invade.”

Poppycock.  We had NO right to invade.  Even if the Taliban WAS harboring OBL, that is not good enough reason to invade a sovereign nation.  It is not even good enough reasons to invade a non-sovereign nation.

There was ZERO legal or other justification for the U.S. to invade Afghanistan.  Period.  And any suggestion to the contrary is insupportable.

BTW, the reason we invaded had nothing to do with 9/11, OBL or the Taliban.  They were just the “good excuses” for doing so.  The real reason had to do with oil, natural gas and pipelines we had been trying to build for years.  The “installment” of Hamid Karzai - a former executive at Unocal, the company that was trying to build the pipeline - pretty much says it all.

Peace.

Report this

By heterochromatic, March 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm Link to this comment

Maani—- and it wasn’t really a sovereign nation that we invvaded.
there was no recognized government.
perhaps you’ll take a few minutes to read this stuff from the UN.

http://www.un.org/news/dh/latest/afghan/un-afghan-history.shtml

Report this

By denk, March 15, 2012 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment

*righteous mission* my ass

yugo, iraq , afpak, somalis, yemen, libya n soon to be syria….are all *sumpreme international crimes*
as per nuremberg indictment.

Report this

By heterochromatic, March 15, 2012 at 10:23 pm Link to this comment

Maani—- his overall point is manifestly incorrect.


Afghanistan harbored the group that attacked us and we spent years prior to 9/11
asking the Taliban to shut down the terrorist training camps, boot out the
transnational terrorists and turn over bin laden…..


we had every right in the world to invade.

Report this

By Maani, March 15, 2012 at 10:09 pm Link to this comment

hetero:

It seems a tad disingenuous to nitpick truthforall’s statement: his overall point was obvious, clear - and correct.  Afghanistan did not attack us.  Neither, in fact, did the Taliban.  Our invasion of Afghanistan was premised on the claim that OBL and Al Qaeda caused 9/11 and were hiding there.  Even if we assume that to be true (about OBL and Al Qaeda), as TFA points out, it is, at best, illegal to invade a sovereign nation because a small group of individuals there perpetrated a crime on U.S. soil.

Peace.

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By heterochromatic, March 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm Link to this comment

truthforall—-The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was a pre-emptive
strike which is
illegal under the Geneva Conventions, the principles of the United Nations, and
Article VI the US Constitution.——

go back and get the GED before unleashing any more of the bizarre, uninformed
and illogical.

Report this

By truthforall, March 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm Link to this comment

The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was a pre-emptive strike which is
illegal under the Geneva Conventions, the principles of the United Nations, and
Article VI the US Constitution.  The Bush administration made the Taliban its
enemy and issued a most-wanted list of Taliban officials whose major offense
was defending their country. 

Afghanistan did not bomb the Twin Towers.  Oh, it housed al-Qaeda which did? 
Al-Qaeda did not represent the Afghanistan government. If the Klu Klux Klan
bombed Parliament in Great Britain, does that give Great Britain the right to
invade the United States, destroy its government and armed forces, and set up
its own temporary government? 

If the US wanted Osama bin-Laden, it had the legal recourse to ask for
extradition as it did in Libya for the downing of the American plane.  The United
States knew its people wanted revenge and Afghanistan was a convenient
excuse. 

Fifteen of the 19 “terrorists” who caused 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, so we
invade—Afghanistan?

Report this

By heterochromatic, March 15, 2012 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment

christian96———- your “facts” are incorrect and your math is atrocious.

go back to whatever you’re reading and read it again until you figure out why it’s
so lame.


are you related to anybody that goes by the handle Oceanna?  Is hysteria and wild
overstatement a family problem?

Report this

By Maani, March 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment

“...once a righteous mission…”

Since I reject this very notion, the rest of the article becomes moot.

Report this

By I.M. Small, March 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm Link to this comment

We wage a war on terror
With unmanned drones the means
Despite “margin of error”
To wipe it from the scenes—
It seems as out of nowhere
A hissing sound is heard,
Of sudden death the sower—
Don’t think that someone erred.

High profile was the target
Amidst that marketplace—
So go the throes of war, get
A grip, unfrown that face!
Too bad a dozen children
Were near the terrorist—
The war can be bewildering,
But cross _him_ off the list.

We wage a war for freedom,
Democracy abroad,
But laws, why should we heed ‘em
When we are right by God.
Jehovah is the master
That guides our unmanned drones—
They couldn’t get there faster
Hamstrung by “known unknowns.”

Like innocents or guilty
To differentiate
When mingled blood will spilt be
Would be a folly great.
It is how we protect ‘em,
Civilians, our allies,
With something up the rectum
That falters while it flies.

To fight “terror with terror”
Our modus has to be,
Of not a soul the sparer—
Our drones successfully
Teach that force triumphs over laws
(Due process let be damned),
Like School of the Americas:
So let the point be rammed.

Report this
Blueokie's avatar

By Blueokie, March 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment

christian96 - Did you mistake this site for one promoting National Socialism?  Aren’t you late to your Bund meeting where you’ll be rehearsing “Springtime for Hitler and Germany”?  Idiot.

Report this

By balkas, March 15, 2012 at 10:00 am Link to this comment

what is the war party doing in afgh’n? i suggest, the war party [one and the only US ever had] is
now doing in afgh’n the same thing it did in korea, vietnam, cuba, iraq, palestina, nicaragua,
europe ‘17 and numerous other places: to either win territory and to posses it [in]directly and to
defend US ideology.
there never ever had been other causes for wars of aggression, but the ideology [usually nat’l
and/or personal supremacism] and to obtain land
and we may engage in discovery of the justifiable causes for the causes for all invasions,
interventions, preemtions, raids, bombings, etc.
anyone willing to take this task up? because there is no justifiable cause for an aggression, i am
not taking up that job!!
oh goddevil, how long is this gonna go on? i mean the writings by scribes about wars and
waging wars! thanks

Report this

By A. Benway, March 15, 2012 at 9:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Afnamistan business has little to do with Afnam - and mostly to do with what many might call looting operations by the sutler class. This is as old as Empire - ask Alcibiades. The “war” must be “fought” but never allowed to end. And the natural response by the pagan hordes? The classical strategy they employ also has a venerated name, it’s known as the Fabian Strategy. And it’s working…

Report this

By allen, March 15, 2012 at 9:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“What Are We Doing in Afghanistan?”

Is this a trick question?

Report this

By Fibonacci65, March 15, 2012 at 8:28 am Link to this comment

Christian96:  Your Islamaphobia slip is showing.  I suggest you move to Utah and practice forcing birth on as many women as you can so you will be rewarded in your heaven. 

These mad thoughts are another reason to get out of Afghanistan immediately.  And although it’s a fine article, Mr. Conason, Afghanistan started like Vietnam and will end the same way—yet America will never learn, and never stop slaughtering “the other” nor invading countries against all moral and international laws.

Report this

By christian96, March 15, 2012 at 8:03 am Link to this comment

I just heard a story that Muslims in Belgium are
multiplying at a rate that by 2030 they will
outnumber the rest of the population.  They have
said they will institute Sharia Law.  The birth
control pill will come back to haunt us.  The same
will be true in the rest of Europe and eventually
America.  Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya,
etc. will not forget what America has done to them
They don’t have to bomb us.  They will overtake us
by numbers and use those numbers in our democracy
at the ballot box.

Report this

By John in Kerrville, March 15, 2012 at 5:24 am Link to this comment

Immediate withdrawal is the only answer!  The Military-Industrial complex must be
silenced!

Report this
thecrow's avatar

By thecrow, March 15, 2012 at 5:20 am Link to this comment

No, Mr. Conason, “a colonial battle based on deceptions and delusions” is precisely what the US is waging in Afghanistan.

One more time:

http://michaelfury.wordpress.com/2008/10/30/the-ones-who-attacked-us/

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