Volatility

April 10, 2010

The Company You Keep

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: — Russ @ 2:15 am

 

Obama and his chickenhawks have been having quite the little problem lately with their stooge Karzai. Even as the Helmand offensive moves on toward Kandahar, Karzai in a series of speeches has been attacking his imperial masters, threatening uncooperation and even going over to the Taliban.
 
Apparently what set him off is his irritation over the typical US establishment hypocrisy of wanting the forms of good-civics democracy no matter how corrupt the reality. (There’s that process mentality again.) Although the US government wants Karzai to be as corrupt as he has to be, and if necessary to steal elections (in the aftermath of the stolen election Obama contented himself with one of his impotent lectures like he tries to give the banksters; just as with Wall Street, so here too this proves that he approves of the crime but hopes for tidier processes), it also wants to pretend it’s doing something to prevent such fraud in the future. So Karzai’s expected to jump through the hoops of submitting to the oversight of a UN-certified “watchdog”. Karzai, being just a common hood who considers kleptocracy his entitlement, the job he’s being paid for, is chafing at even this fig leaf. So he tried to pass a panel-packing law so his own creatures would staff the panel. Yet his own crony legislature rejected this, I assume because “somebody” paid them more.
 
In his rage Karzai has been lashing out at the US cabal. “I am not a puppet!”, he shouted. He blamed all the fraud on the UN and US. He claimed there won’t be any Kandahar offensive if he doesn’t support it. He accused the US of interfering in areas beyond its competence or authority and broadly hinted that US interests and his own may not always coincide. He invited Ahmadinejad to visit and speak. He said the US military operation was practically an invasion which may lead to “a national resistance”, and threatened the obvious – unless his government is seen to have legitimacy, the Taliban movement becomes synonymous with a Pashtun national movement. The Taliban will in fact be a legitimate resistance movement.
 
Leave me alone, he demanded, or “I swear I am going to join the Taliban.”
 
That’s nice friends you got there, Obama and Bush.
 
He’s right, of course, about the legitimacy issue, while every antiwar analyst has pointed out this fundamental contradiction in the US government premise. The military’s own counterinsurgency doctrine intones that there must be an indigenous government perceived as legitimate by the people. The Karzai government, of course, is not legitimate and is not seen as legitimate. The Pashtuns rightly see Karzai as a kleptocratic American stooge presiding over a Tajik-dominated alien regime, who stole the election. By our own premise we have to admit this war can’t work and get out. But of course the government stays the course anyway. (I’ve written some stuff about this war’s “credibility” before, for example here, here, and here.)
 
One of my favorite passages of war commentary is this gem from McChrystal, who does seem to have the virtue of sometimes speaking the absurd truth rather than making up some slick lie.
 

So many things could scuttle McChrystal’s plans: a Taliban more intractable than imagined, the fractured nature of Afghan society and, no matter what President Obama does, a lack of soldiers and time. But there is something even worse, over which neither McChrystal nor his civilian comrades in the American government exercise much control: the government of Hamid Karzai, already among the most corrupt in the world, appears to have secured its large victory in nationwide elections in August by orchestrating the stealing of votes. A United Nations-backed group is trying to sort through the fraud allegations, and American diplomats are trying to broker some sort of power-sharing agreement with Karzai and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah.

But increasingly, McChrystal, as well as President Obama and the American people, are being forced to confront the possibility that they will be stuck fighting and dying and paying for a government that is widely viewed as illegitimate.

When I asked McChrystal about this, it was the one issue that he seemed not to have thought through. What if the Afghan people see their own government as illegitimate? How would you fight for something like that?

“Then we are going to have to avoid looking like we are part of the illegitimacy,” the general said. “That is the key thing.”

 
Here’s a stat which puts into perspective the “legitimacy” of this wholesome democratic government:
 

* Believe it or not, for instance, U.S. commanders in our war zones have more than one billion congressionally mandated dollars a year at their disposal to spend on making “friends with local citizens and help[ing] struggling economies.” It’s all socked away in the Commander’s Emergency Response Program. Think of it as a local community-bribery account which, best of all, seems not to require the slightest accountability to Congress for where or how the money is spent.

 
The real comedy has come from the administration’s reaction to Karzai’s misbehavior and the tantrums of its flacks. Hillary called to complain. Meanwhile Obama “disinvited” him from a scheduled White House visit.
 
But this effect was somewhat blunted when Obama personally traveled to Kabul as a supplicant, begging for better behavior. (And now Obama has even sent him a thank-you letter, “for receiving him on such short notice”!) This sure is a posture Obama easily assumes. He’s done it with Karzai before, following the stolen election when Obama begged him not to steal any further elections. While we can understand how meek and spineless he is with his masters Dimon and Blankfein, he’s just as prone to bow and scrape before heirarchical inferiors like Lieberman, Republicans, and Karzai.
 
The jingo flack NYT is trying to cover for his character weaknesses here. In the process it provides a window into its own lack of character. Several pieces try to peddle the line that Obama’s begging expedition was indeed “embarrassing” – but to Karzai. I don’t know – when the President of the United States goes halfway around the world to beg a flunkey to behave himself, it seems to me that’s flattering to the flunkey while shameful for the boss. Strong leaders send other flunkies to deal with flunkies. 
 
Indeed the NYT’s editorials have been downright hysterical:
 

American officials have repeatedly warned Mr. Karzai that unless he truly commits to eradicating corruption (including among his own family members), improving governance and institutionalizing the rule of law, there is no chance of defeating the Taliban. Mr. Karzai has repeatedly shrugged off those warnings.

 
And we have repeatedly warned that by definition such things can never happen in a corrupt war propping up a corrupt stooge.
 

Mr. Obama made the right decision to send another 30,000 troops to help drive the Taliban out of important strongholds. But there is no way to hold those cities and towns without an effective Afghan government (at both the federal and local level) to take over. And after eight years of fighting, more than 1,000 American lives lost and more than $200 billion from American taxpayers spent, Mr. Karzai’s failure to build a credible, honest and even minimally effective government remains the Taliban’s No. 1 recruiting tool.

 
No, as all sane people comprehend, your very presence is the #1 recruiting tool. (Along with your own newsreels proudly displaying your normal way of life.)
 

The rambling speech of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Thursday was alarming. His delusional criticism of the United Nations and governments whose troops are risking their lives by fighting the Taliban complicates the difficult effort to stabilize Afghanistan.

 
“Rambling…alarming…delusional…” At least he got you to open up about what you really are, since nothing seems more unhinged than the chickenhawk NYT’s tone on this. Referring to Karzai’s calling the invaders “invaders”, the NYT responds that this truth is “conceit”. While we’ve gleaned that from their editorial tone throughout (not just on the war, of course, and only starting in the editorial section), it’s funny to see it openly expressed.
 
But the most important takeaway is how, while they repeat the declaration the army made years ago and the admission McC made months ago, that “the effort depends on credible leadership in Kabul”, they still to this day refuse to advocate the one and only action which follows from this. Since it’s by now an established fact that Karzai is not credible and never will be credible, by their own premise they have to renounce their aggression and get out.
 
But incomprehensibly according to any rational measure, they not only refuse to abide by their own stipulation, but they keep stipulating it! It’s insanity.
 
(The Times says “Mr. Karzai is encouraging those who want the US out of Afghanistan”. No, he’s confirming that we were right, and you by your patent derangement are proving we were right. Just as you’re aligned in every other way, so you both prove right everyone who has pointed out the futility of everything you’re doing.)
 
The NYT does indeed become frustrated trying to analyze this:
 

Interviews with diplomats, Afghan analysts and ordinary Afghans suggest that the United States and other Western countries have three options: threaten to withdraw troops or actually withdraw them; use diplomacy, which so far has had little result; and find ways to expand citizen participation in the government, which now has hardly any elected positions at the provincial and district levels.

Threatening to withdraw, which Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, called the “nuclear deterrent” option, would put the United States and other Western countries in the position of potentially having to make good on the promise, risking their strategic interest in a stable Afghanistan. Few experts think the country would remain peaceful without a significant foreign force here. Moreover, withdrawal could open the way for the country to again become a terrorist haven.

Some Western critics of Mr. Karzai believe that the West has no choice but to threaten to leave.

“There is no point in having troops in a mission that cannot be accomplished,” said Peter W. Galbraith, former United Nations deputy special representative for Afghanistan, who was dismissed after a dispute with his superiors over how to handle widespread electoral fraud and what senior U.N. officials later said was his advocacy of Mr. Karzai’s removal. “The mission might be important, but if it can’t be achieved, there is no point in sending these troops into battle. Part of the problem is that counterinsurgency requires a credible local partner.”

Diplomacy has so far failed to achieve substantial changes, although some analysts, like Mr. Biddle, who opposes the so-called nuclear option, believe that the West should demand concessions before spending any more money on development projects like digging wells and building schools.

“We do millions of things in Afghanistan, and any of those things can become a source of leverage,” he said. “Far too much of what we do in Afghanistan we just do without asking for anything explicit in return.”

 
What’s your leverage? What can you do to demand that? You’re the junkie. You’re the fiend. Karzai may depend upon you for his regime’s literal existence, but your regime depends upon him perhaps even more profoundly, given how the very psyche of the power structure is so bound up in the Permanent War. (Also more nonsense about the regime’s “credibility”.)
 
We see how emotionally and psychologically committed the administration and the media are. In that sense their own fear is perhaps even deeper than that of the stooge who’s risking his life, which probably doesn’t mean as much to him. Physical existence isn’t held as dear in a place like Afghanistan, the latest such place where that’s true. That’s why spiritually bloated and enervated Westerners will never be able to win wars in such places.
 
But that passage does contain one hint about a way to extend and pretend with regard to regime “credibility”. Since according to their war premise they need a legitimate regime, and since any sane person knows that regime can’t be Karzai’s, it follows that they can try to prop up their bankrupt war rationale by dumping him and getting another stooge. Nobody buys the crap about “citizen participation in the government”. That’s probably code for, “if Karzai doesn’t fall into line, we can replace him”.
 
(Replace him with whom? I’m sure these idiots have no idea. They’ll need another Pashtun if they want to keep peddling the lie about “good jobs” awaiting all these Taliban fighters who are expected to lay down their weapons and resume civilian life. Not that’s anyone’s any more likely to believe it then than they believe it now.)
 
As is so often the case with Karzai, that question makes me think of Diem. The US cabal did replace Diem when his behavior, identical to Karzai’s, became too annoying, and they thought they had alternatives. It turned out they really didn’t have good alternatives, they went through a fast-changing slew of regimes before finally settling on Thieu, the final South Vietnam stooge. As we know, the whole farce was vain from the start. It was always doomed to fail, and it did fail. It would be a joke if not for the fact of 58,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese murdered, and god knows how many on both sides mutilated, physically and spiritually.
 
Evidently, chickenhawks like Obama and the NYT do think Vietnam was a funny joke, however, since they’re so eager to replay it. There are more parallels here between Diem and Thieu on the one hand and Karzai on the other, which the warmongers really should consider.
 
I really can’t imagine what today’s jingoes are whining about. They know Karzai – he’s the same guy they’ve always had working for them. Throughout America’s imperial history. It’s always that exact same guy – thuggish, corrupt, lying, demanding, and ungrateful. Diem was that guy, and Thieu was that guy. (Have you ever seen interviews with Thieu after he fled Vietnam with the fall of Saigon? He spent the rest of his life badmouthing America, calling Americans liars and cowards for not continuing to prop up his regime the way Nixon and Kissinger had promised him. That’s your guy, imperialists. That’s your Karzai, that’s your Chalabi.)
 
One thing I wonder, in case there really is anyone foolish enough to truly believe in the American government’s wars. Does it ever occur to these people that if time after time they undertake these operations and find that the best people always side against them, and that the only people they can find to work with them and serve as their “clients” are these same thugs and crooks, does it ever occur to them that maybe this is evidence that their cause is not “good”, that it is in fact evil?
 
It always makes me think of the old saying, you can be judged by the company you keep. America has always found itself in the same vile company, for over a hundred years, every time it engages in what we anti-imperialists call imperial wars. Every time the criminals have a new rationale, like today’s “war on terror”, and every time so many people are willing to believe the rationale, but doesn’t anyone ever notice the constant – look at the company you keep.
 
Does that ever make anyone stop and wonder? What would they think if they found that a new pastime had them associating with such thugs in their own life? Or if their kids were running with such a crowd?
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7 Comments

  1. This is Vietnam style madness all over again. And I expect it has some of the same peculiar details, no pun intended, of the war in indochina. One of those details involves making enormous sums off money of the narcotics trade. In Vietnam there was massive drug smuggling being perpetrared from within The Golden Triangle by Air America aka The Company, or more properlyThe CIA.

    Today we almost certainly have our hand in that same cookie jar which is a key reason we are there in such force. The rumor is that JPM is laundering drug profits through a subsidiary bank in Bagdad.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that U.S. stock market propping operations, which are vast at this stage, and to some extent, offshore, are being funded, along with other operations, by profits skimmed from the trillion dollar Afghan drug trade.

    The entire Afghan endeavor almost certainly comprises some part of the ratty duct tape holding the whole Mussolini style fascist business model (masquerading as a country) together.

    Comment by Edwardo — April 10, 2010 @ 6:59 am

    • I don’t follow this stuff but Karzai is beginning to look like Diem, n’est ce pas?

      As for the drug trade profits, it’s like Cincinnatti with the pork industry: they use everything but the squeal.

      Comment by jake chase — April 16, 2010 @ 8:08 am

  2. …of money off the…

    Comment by Edwardo — April 10, 2010 @ 6:59 am

  3. The entire Afghan endeavor almost certainly comprises some part of the ratty duct tape holding the whole Mussolini style fascist business model (masquerading as a country) together.

    The TomDispatch link in the piece, and lots of other stuff at the site like Nick Turse’s reporting, goes into great detail on how ramified the military-industrial complex is throughout the “civilian” economy. Any normal-seeming big company, e.g. food or entertainment, is more likely than not to have a fat Pentagon contract.

    So dismantling the militarism structure is just as unthinkable to the corporatist system as breaking up the TBTFs would be. The whole purpose of the war sector, just like the finance sector, is to loot the taxpayer.

    And that’s why they needed the Global War on Terror. Clinton’s corporate military buildup and intermittent wars didn’t bring in enough rents, just like “regulated” finance didn’t.

    So just as the insolvent structure needed massive deregulation to open the floodgates for its “innovations”, in order to blow new bubbles, so it also needed to escalate the extraction of war rents. Ergo the GWOT, which I’ve called part of the Bailout in other posts.

    The Bailout and the GWOT serve the same purpose. They’re feudal looting conveyances. (The GWOT has the added benefits of being red meat for the Republican base and as “war on terror” provides the pretext for intimidation of dissent and gutting of civil liberties.)

    Comment by Russ — April 10, 2010 @ 7:53 am

  4. “It always makes me think of the old saying, you can be judged by the company you keep. America has always found itself in the same vile company, for over a hundred years, every time it engages in what we anti-imperialists call imperial wars. Every time the criminals have a new rationale, like today’s “war on terror”, and every time so many people are willing to believe the rationale, but doesn’t anyone ever notice the constant – look at the company you keep.

    Does that ever make anyone stop and wonder? What would they think if they found that a new pastime had them associating with such thugs in their own life? Or if their kids were running with such a crowd?”

    Right on. And you’d think these thugs we hire to run their local branch of our government would figure out the outcome is almost always a noose. Saddam anyone? Saddam was our guy at one time. Remember? Hell, we even let him get away with shooting a missile into the USS Stark. But that was then – this is now.

    Comment by Bloodgroove — April 11, 2010 @ 9:51 am

  5. Marcos and Noriega are two other examples. (Not a noose in the end, but almost as bad.)

    Comment by Russ — April 11, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  6. […] Rumsfeld: “Karzai’s a challenge. But you work with what you have.”   Yes, you launch imperial wars with the stooges you have, not the ones you want.   And how well is this war of aggression going? About as well as can be expected under the […]

    Pingback by The Afghanistan Decay « Volatility — June 16, 2010 @ 3:47 pm


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