The Middle East Is Not America’s Fight

19 09 2019

 By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

In an article entitled “The Iran War: Danger Lurks In Inaction,” Conrad Black—the Canadian-born, British former newspaper publisher, author and life peer—has written in The New York Sun:

Last weekend’s drone raid on the Saudi oil fields, along with the Israeli elections, opens a new chapter in Middle Eastern relations. Whether the attack on Saudi oil production, which has temporarily stopped more than half of it, was launched by Iranian-sponsored Yemeni Houthis or by the Iranians themselves is beside the point, as the Houthis had no independent ability whatever to acquire and use such weapons.

The Iranians are behind the incident. There is room for legitimate debate about the merits of the conflicting sides in the Yemen war, but there can be no doubt that by any standards, the direct attack on Saudi Arabia was an act of war, and as it was entirely dependent on Iranian weapons procurement and instruction, it is an escalation of the war-by-proxy between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Yemen with an outright act of war by Iran against Saudi Arabia.

There is no reason to believe, or even to recommend, that Saudi Arabia should turn the other cheek and engage in reactive pacifism. Because the Trump administration has ignored the efforts of American political factions, including recalcitrant Republicans, to ditch the Saudis, Washington retains great influence on the Saudi response to what is a severe provocation. This can be seen as a great opportunity, as it furnishes a justification for administering a heavy blow against the most troublesome regime in the world.

The United States would do well to take the trouble to line up allies. The Western alliance will be even more skittish than usual, given that the aggrieved party is the not entirely presentable Saudi regime. Saudi Arabia has been a joint venture between the House of Saud, an old nomadic desert family favored by Britain and France on the collapse of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire at the end of World War I, and the Wahhabi Islamic leadership. The feudal and absolute monarchy paid extensive Danegeld to the Wahhabis as they spread militant Islam throughout the Eurasian landmass and in Australasia and North Africa, in exchange for a free pass for the Saudi royal family.

The Saudi regime has gradually, under steady American influence, modernized the structure of the state, spread the petro-money around the population, and withdrawn from the Faustian bargain with fundamentalist Islam. It has followed the Arab version of the Chinese model: economic and (to some extent) social reform and general distribution of prosperity, without relaxing the authority or capacity of self-assertion of the state. The Saudis avoided the catastrophe of Russia and, briefly, Egypt, of trying to introduce democracy without elevating public standards of prosperity and education.

Saudi Arabia is, in any case, a much more reputable regime than the terrorism-promoting, bigoted theocracy of Iran — an almost friendless nation apart from a few other militant Islamic entities and as a nuisance of convenience that China and Russia and even Turkey encourage to irritate the United States and its Middle Eastern allies and protégés, especially Egypt, the Emirates, the Saudis, and Israel.

The struggle that is now escalating is among theocratic and secular Muslim countries, militant Islam, and Middle Eastern minorities — the Jewish state and Arab Christians — and the fairly arcane but often fiercely contested distinction between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, as well as a contest between petroleum-exporting countries, a field where Saudi Arabia has generally been preeminent. These waters have been muddied considerably by the effective elimination by the United States of overseas energy imports as its own production has been sharply boosted from shale-fracking and increased offshore exploration.

An incidental but useful clarification from this event has been the revelation of the absurdity and irrelevance of the extreme Green nonsense. The President was correct in announcing that he would release oil as necessary from the United States national petroleum reserves to stabilize world supply. Even 50 years from now, no part of the solution to such a problem as this will have anything to do with nostrums about windmills and solar panels.

Apart from the removal of the United States as the world’s chief petroleum importer, the Middle Eastern correlation of forces has also been altered by the disintegration of two prominent Arab countries, Iraq and Syria (formerly two of Israel’s most militant enemies), and the encroachment upon Arab affairs of the ancient foes of the Arabs, the Turks and the Persians (Iran).

The European rejection of Turkey has helped persuade that country’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to imagine that Turkey has a role to play in Arab affairs, and the general clerical and nationalist belligerency of the Islamic Republic in Iran has assisted the Arabs in focusing on self-protection and shelving their diversionary preoccupation with Israel.

The fixation on Israel was always just an invented distraction of the Arab masses from the misgovernment their leaders inflicted on them, but now, and with Turkey and Iran meddling in Syria and Iraq, the Palestinians, who were generally regarded in the Arab world as sharpers like the Jews and Lebanese, are redundant to the pan-Arab interest, and Israel is a vital ally.

Now is the time for the imposition of a solution: The Palestinians can have a modest state, but that’s all they get, and it must be conditioned on formal recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with internationally agreed frontiers. The Israeli election will almost certainly produce a grand coalition between the two main parties that could facilitate an agreement by producing a slightly more flexible government in Jerusalem, i.e. a somewhat more flexible Benjamin Netanyahu (though not one seriously contemplating retirement; the charges against him are nonsense and just part of hardball Israeli politics). Israel would benefit from a government independent of the Arabs, the religious parties, or the far left.

The United States must lead an effective coalition response to the Iranian aggression against Saudi Arabia. The NATO states that import oil, especially from Saudi Arabia, should be forcefully invited to join in augmented sanctions, and the United States should require those countries that trade profitably with the U.S. to join an embargo of Iran until it genuinely renounces its sponsorship of terrorist enterprises, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and, as long as the Yemeni civil war is bilaterally deescalated, the Houthi.

A serious coalition, including all the countries whose ships ply the Persian Gulf, should, under American leadership, accomplish the internationalization of the Strait of Hormuz, and discourage by force any Iranian attempt to restrict those waters. And the U.S. must (at the expense of the beneficiary countries) install serious air security over Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, and northern Iraq. Foreign drones should never have got anywhere near the Saudi oil refineries and collection points and would not be especially hard to intercept.

This attack was planned as meticulously as the 9/11 attacks and, like them, attempted to evade any particular national responsibility. The fact that there was no suicide element may be taken as slight progress for the world’s counterterrorists.

An air assault on Iranian oil facilities and nuclear military sites would be entirely justified, and this measure should be prepared as the next step, with the prior approval of a reasonable range of supportive countries, as the instant response to any further provocations. It would not be a great risk for the United States to lead a punitive air mission that would flatten Iran’s nuclear military program and crush it economically, and such a step would arouse no objections from any civilized country.

If the Saudis want to move to this more ambitious phase of retribution now, as long as the administration takes the time necessary to stiffen the backbone of the vocal but often almost invertebrate allies, and as long as it is planned carefully, there is no moral or practical reason to hesitate. Iran is an outlaw regime in chronic need of punishment, and the danger lies not in overreaction but in insufficient retaliation.[2]

Black is correct: “[T]he direct attack on Saudi Arabia was an act of war,” but it was not an act of war against the United States or the American people.  We were pushed into the Iraq War by Israel and its neocon shills; and that war alone cost more than 5,000 American lives with many more maimed, and trillions of dollars wasted, for nothing. Never again, even if Israel’s existence is at stake.

The United States is the largest energy producer in the world once again, and as I have written previously:

[W]e do not need the Middle East—or Israel—for anything anymore. Also, an overwhelming number of Americans elected Donald Trump to keep us out of foreign wars, not to embark on new ones.[3]

Pat Buchanan—an adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, and a former GOP presidential aspirant himself—was correct when he stated:

To [former White House aide and Israeli shill, John] Bolton, Trump’s trashing of Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal was the first step toward a confrontation and clash to smash the Tehran regime. To Trump, it was a first step to a Trump-negotiated better bargain with Iran.[4]

Black is mistaken when he writes:

The Palestinians can have a modest state, but that’s all they get, and it must be conditioned on formal recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with internationally agreed frontiers.

Giving “crumbs” to the Palestinians, and abandoning any notions of a viable two-state solution, smacks of colonialism and apartheid, which are abhorrent in America and the West today.

Black is mistaken too when he writes:

The United States must lead an effective coalition response to the Iranian aggression against Saudi Arabia. The NATO states that import oil, especially from Saudi Arabia, should be forcefully invited to join in augmented sanctions. . . .

It is in America’s best interests to open our energy “spigots” wide, and supply Europe with its energy needs, and do the same with respect to China.  Among other things, this would boost the U.S. economy immeasurably; it would undermine the Russian dictator-for-life Vladimir Putin’s brutal regime; and it would enhance American jobs and our trading relationship with China, which desperately needs energy products to keep its flagging economy afloat and on an even keel.

Next, Black has written:

An air assault on Iranian oil facilities and nuclear military sites would be entirely justified, and this measure should be prepared as the next step, with the prior approval of a reasonable range of supportive countries, as the instant response to any further provocations. It would not be a great risk for the United States to lead a punitive air mission that would flatten Iran’s nuclear military program and crush it economically, and such a step would arouse no objections from any civilized country.

If the Saudis want to move to this more ambitious phase of retribution now, as long as the administration takes the time necessary to stiffen the backbone of the vocal but often almost invertebrate allies, and as long as it is planned carefully, there is no moral or practical reason to hesitate. Iran is an outlaw regime in chronic need of punishment, and the danger lies not in overreaction but in insufficient retaliation.

Wow!  This smacks of the warmongering by those who brought us the Vietnam War and the Iraq War; and it must be rejected categorically by the American people.  They do not want war; and thankfully Black does not occupy any policy role in the West vis-à-vis the Middle East.

Bald Eagle and American Flag --- Image by © Ocean/Corbis

© 2019, Timothy D. Naegele


[1]  Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass). He and his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, specialize in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and Timothy D. Naegele Resume-19-4-29). He has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal (see, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commendation_Medal#Joint_Service). Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com

[2]  See https://www.nysun.com/national/latest-ploy-against-trump-is-to-conjure/90804/

[3]  See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/06/the-state-of-our-union-2019/#comment-17209 (“Warmonger: Enemy Of The American People”)

[4]  See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/06/the-state-of-our-union-2019/#comment-19656 (“Echoes Of The Despicable John Bolton”)


Actions

Information

13 responses

19 09 2019
H. Craig Bradley

TIME FOR SOME DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS

I think most informed Americans see a need to punish Iran. Iran is acting in a manner that appears designed to goad us into a direct military conflict. However, as President Trump said the other day: “There are a range of alternative actions such as tougher sanctions, and targeted or “proportional” military strikes, or even cyber warfare”. President Trump does not need or want a war at this time. He can not be forced to engage in one with Iran. He did not take the bait.

Well, we have had these same policy options for some time, so its a matter (test) of will here. If President Trump appears to do nothing, then the message to Iran is go ahead and do it again somewhere else, as there is no penalty or consequence for doing so. Looking weak is not the right message to send to a belligerent like Iran. In addition, it would not be my idea of a deterrent. Therefore, some visible action in response is required by the President. Its his decision alone.

Like

19 09 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Craig, for your comments.

I disagree vehemently with your first sentence.

As I stated in the article, and previously:

[A]n overwhelming number of Americans elected Donald Trump to keep us out of foreign wars, not to embark on new ones.

The Middle East is not our problem, fight or concern, period.

As I have written previously too:

Donald Trump is correct: let the parties in the Middle East fight it out; and when the dust settles—or the nuclear clouds part—we can then see who is still standing, if anyone.

The Middle East is not our fight, just as the Iraq War and the Vietnam War were tragic mistakes. The U.S. is the largest energy producer in the world again, and essentially energy independent. We do not need the Middle East anymore, including Israel—which has been a burden without benefits for almost 70 years.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/is-israel-doomed/#comment-7993

Like

19 09 2019
H. Craig Bradley

PETRODOLLARS OR YUAN ??

We have an agreement with Saudi Arabia since the 1970’s in which the Saudi’s agreed to price their oil in U.S. Dollars and all purchases of Saudi Oil by any customer or nation must be settled in U.S.D. exclusively. In exchange, we guaranteed their security with our military. This is the Petrodollar arrangement that has kept the dollar as indispensable around the world all these years. It was promoted by then Sec. of State, Henry Kissinger.

Breaking this four decade agreement potentially means they are free to price in other currencies and settle in whatever currency they want to. China is looking to expand the use of their own “funny money” the Yuan anywhere they can, as is Russia. Europe is developing an alternative to the U.S. controlled SWIFT international payment system, as well. So, financial changes along with many other ones are in-play globally. If the dollar loses its exclusivity, then we pay a price and not a small one. So, you have to look at all the issues, not just the emotional ones or what is first apparent.

Like

20 09 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

I have advocated for a long time that we deny Russia access to the SWIFT payments system, and effectively bring it to its knees.

China is not in good shape; and our economic and military might are second to none in the world today.

With respect to Saudi Arabia, we owe them nothing; and “1970’s agreements” are worth essentially what Barack Obama’s agreement with Iran is worth today, or even less.

Like

20 09 2019
RayUSA

I too strongly disagree with your first sentence and, I might add, your second as well, to which I will attempt to address.

In the circles I travel in, no one wants another war in the Middle East. Punishing Iran militarily, as you state, would lead to just that. Israel and its US proxies the NeoCons are desperately attempting to maneuver us into attacking Iran. Is it possible that someone other than Iran was behind the drone attacks? Isn’t it strange that all of the big jets, including their titanium engines, just “vaporized,” yet numerous parts of these drones didn’t? Curious to say the least.

Back to Iran, who is it that is doing the “goading”? Is it really Iran, as you claim, or, is it the US with its crippling sanctions against the people of Iran?

We have a long history of poking our noses into other nations’ affairs, often provoking serious consequences. Our embargo on Japan is just one example. FDR’s embargo on Japan provoked the attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to the real goal; the back door entry into the European conflict.

War is mankind’s most hideous crime. It should be fought rarely and only when the survival of the nation is at stake. Even if Iran is behind this, which I find to be doubtful, it really does not effect the security, and certainly does not put in doubt our survival !

Like

20 09 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Ray, for your comments.

Also, it must be noted that a Saudi hit team viciously murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

And like the sudden and brutal attack by Israel on the USS Liberty in international waters that killed 34 brave men and injured others, we may not know anytime soon who was responsible for the attacks on Saudi Arabia.

See, e.g., http://www.gtr5.com/ (“USS Liberty Memorial”) and https://www.timesofisrael.com/tillerson-says-netanyahu-skillfully-played-trump-using-misinformation/ (“[Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson says Netanyahu skillfully ‘played’ Trump using misinformation”—”‘It bothers me that an ally that’s that close and important to us would do that to us,’ he said”)

Like

20 09 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

Can Trump Still Avoid War With Iran?

This is the title of an article by Pat Buchanan—an adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, and a former GOP presidential aspirant himself—who has written:

President Donald Trump does not want war with Iran. America does not want war with Iran. Even the Senate Republicans are advising against military action in response to that attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.

“All of us (should) get together and exchange ideas, respectfully, and come to a consensus — and that should be bipartisan,” says Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch of Idaho.

When Lindsey Graham said the White House had shown “weakness” and urged retaliatory strikes for what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls Iran’s “act of war,” the president backhanded his golfing buddy:

“It’s very easy to attack, but if you ask Lindsey … ask him how did going into the Middle East … work out. And how did Iraq work out?”

Still, if neither America nor Iran wants war, what has brought us to the brink?

Answer: The policy imposed by Trump, Pompeo and John Bolton after our unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Our course was fixed by the policy we chose to pursue.

Imposing on Iran the most severe sanctions ever by one modern nation on another, short of war, the U.S., through “maximum pressure,” sought to break the Iranian regime and bend it to America’s will.

Submit to U.S. demands, we told Tehran, or watch your economy crumble and collapse and your people rise up in revolt and overthrow your regime.

Among the 12 demands issued by Pompeo:

End all enrichment of uranium or processing of plutonium. Halt all testing of ballistic missiles. Cut off Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Disarm and demobilize Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq. Terminate support for the Houthi rebels resisting Saudi intervention in Yemen.

The demands Pompeo made were those that victorious nations impose upon the defeated or defenseless. Pompeo’s problem: Iran was neither.

Hezbollah is dominant in Lebanon. Along with Russia and Hezbollah, Iran and its militias enabled Bashar Assad to emerge victorious in an eight-year Syrian civil war. And the scores of thousands of Iranian-trained and -allied Shiite militia fighters in the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq outnumber the 5,200 U.S. troops there 20 times over.

Hence Tehran’s defiant answer to Pompeo’s 12 demands:

We will not capitulate, and if your sanctions prevent our oil from reaching our traditional buyers, we will prevent the oil of your Sunni allies from getting out of the Persian Gulf.

Hence, this summer, we saw tankers sabotaged and seized in the Gulf, insurance rates for tanker traffic surge, Iran shoot-down a $130 million U.S. Predator drone, and, a week ago, an attack on Saudi oil production facilities that cut Riyadh’s exports in half.

This has been followed by an Iranian warning that a Saudi attack on Iran means war, and a U.S. attack will be met with a counterattack. We don’t want war, the Iranians are saying, but if the alternative is to choke to death under U.S. sanctions, we will use our weapons to fight yours.

America might emerge victorious in such a war, but the cost could be calamitous, imperiling that fifth of the world’s oil that traverses the Strait of Hormuz, and causing a global recession.

Yet even if there is no U.S. or Saudi military response to Saturday’s attack, what is to prevent Iran from ordering a second strike that shuts down more Arab Gulf oil production?

Iran has shown the ability to do that, and, apparently, neither we nor the Saudis have the defenses to prevent such an attack.

A more fundamental question arises: If the United States was not attacked, why is it our duty to respond militarily to an attack on Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is not a member of NATO. It is not a treaty ally. The Middle East Security Alliance or “Arab NATO” chatted up a year ago to contain Iran — of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states — was stillborn. We are under no obligation to fight the Saudis’ war.

Nor is Saudi Arabia a natural American ally.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman runs an Islamic autocracy.

He inserted himself into first position in the line of succession to the throne of his father, who’s in failing health. He locked up his brother princes at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton to shake them down for billions of dollars.

He summoned the prime minister of Lebanon to the kingdom, where the crown prince forced him to resign in humiliation. He has ostracized Qatar from Arab Gulf councils. He has been accused of complicity in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

With his U.S.-built and bought air force, the Crown Prince has made a hell on earth of Yemen to crush the Houthis rebels who hold the capital.

The question President Trump confronts today:

How does he get his country back off the limb he climbed out on while listening to the Republican neocons and hawks he defeated in 2016, but who have had an inordinate influence over his foreign policy?

See https://buchanan.org/blog/can-trump-still-avoid-war-with-iran-137515 (emphasis added)

Of course Buchanan is correct.

The shills for Israel in Washington are as thick as fleas. They pushed the United States into the tragic Iraq War; and they are trying desperately again to push us into a war with Iran.

Some of them are evil “Israel Firsters,” who must be stopped at all costs. Others are simply useful stooges, who are as un-American as Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

It is unlikely that President Trump will go to war anytime soon. After all, an overwhelming number of Americans elected him to keep us out of foreign wars, not to embark on new ones.

Also, the greatest force for war in the Middle East, Israel’s Netanyahu, may be gone soon—which cannot happen fast enough.

Like

8 10 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

Never Again In The Middle East: Not One More American Life

Pat Buchanan—an adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, and a former GOP presidential aspirant himself—has written:

The backstage struggle between the Bush interventionists and the America-firsters who first backed Donald Trump for president just exploded into open warfare, which could sunder the Republican Party.

At issue is Trump’s decision to let the Turkish army enter Northern Syria, to create a corridor between Syrian Kurds and the Turkish Kurds of the PKK, which the U.S. and Turkey regard as a terrorist organization.

“A disaster in the making,” says Lindsey Graham. “To abandon the Kurds” would be a “stain on America’s honor.”

“A catastrophic mistake,” said Rep. Liz Cheney.

“If reports about US retreat in Syria are accurate,” tweeted Marco Rubio, Trump will have “made a grave mistake.”

“The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake,” said ex-U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, “we must always have the backs of our allies. ” But of our NATO ally of almost 70 years, Haley said, “Turkey is not our friend.”

Sen. Mitt Romney called it a “betrayal”:

“The President’s decision to abandon our Kurd allies in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal. It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster.”

Trump tweeted this defense of his order to U.S. forces not to resist Turkish intervention and the creation of a Turkish corridor in Syria from the eastern bank of the Euphrates to Iraq:

“The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. … I held off this fight for … almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.”

When, in December, Trump considered ordering all U.S. troops home from Syria, Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in protest.

Behind this decision is Trump’s exasperation at our NATO allies’ refusal to take back for trial their own citizens whom we and the Kurds captured fighting for ISIS.

The U.S. has “pressed France, Germany, and other European nations, from which many captured ISIS fighters came, to take them back, but they … refused,” said a Sunday White House statement. “The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost. … Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years.”

What are the arguments interventionists are using to insist that U.S. forces remain in Syria indefinitely?

If we pull out, says Graham, the Kurds will be forced, for survival, to ally themselves with Bashar Assad.

True, but the Kurds now occupy a fourth of Syria, and this is not sustainable. We have to consider reality. Assad, the Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah have won the war against the Sunni rebels we and our Arab friends armed and equipped.

We are told that the Kurds will be massacred by Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan, who sees them as terrorist allies of the PKK.

But the Turks occupied the Syrian border west of the Euphrates and the Kurds withdrew without massacres. And how long must we stay in Syria to defend the Kurds against the Turks? Forever?

If we depart, ISIS will come back, says Cheney: “Terrorists thousands of miles away can and will use their safe-havens to launch attacks against America.”

But al-Qaida and ISIS are in many more places today than they were when we intervened in the Middle East. Must we fight forever over there — to be secure over here? Why cannot Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States deal with ISIS and al-Qaida in their own backyard?

Why are ISIS and al-Qaida over there our problem over here?

“This will throw the region into further chaos,” says Graham.

But if Trump’s decision risks throwing the region into “further chaos,” what, if not wholesale U.S. intervention, created the “present chaos”?

Consider. Today, the Taliban conduct more attacks and control much more territory than they did in all the years since we first intervened in 2001.

Sixteen years after we marched to Baghdad, protests against the Iraqi regime took hundreds of lives last week, and a spreading revolt threatens the regime.

Saudi Arabia is tied down and arguably losing the war it launched against the Houthi rebels in 2015. Iran or its surrogates, with a handful of cruise missiles and drones, just shut down half of the Saudi oil production.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is awakening to his nation’s vulnerability and may be looking to negotiate with Tehran.

Among those objecting most loudly to an American withdrawal from the forever wars of the Middle East are those who were the most enthusiastic about plunging us in.

And, yes, there is a price to be paid for letting go of an empire, but it is almost always less than the price of holding on.

See https://buchanan.org/blog/is-trump-at-last-ending-our-endless-wars-137583 (“Is Trump At Last Ending Our ‘Endless Wars’?“) (emphasis added)

First, there was the senseless Vietnam War—brought to us by JFK, Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara—in which friends of mine died for nothing.

Then, there was the Iraq War—brought to us by Israel and its neocon shills and surrogates in Washington—in which more than 5,000 Americans died and many more were maimed, and trillions of dollars were wasted, for nothing.

No more wars, certainly in the Middle East, even if Israel’s survival is at stake. The Middle East is not America’s fight, and never will be.

Pat Buchanan is correct:

Among those objecting most loudly to an American withdrawal from the forever wars of the Middle East are those who were the most enthusiastic about plunging us in.

Israel, first and foremost—behind closed doors.

. . .

On a personal note, the Kurds have been our friends and allies. An independent state of Kurdistan should be created for them, just like Armenia is an independent state, and the same is true of Israel.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenia (“Armenia”) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan (“Kurdistan”)

Like

8 10 2019
H. Craig Bradley

AMERICA AND AMERICANS FIRST

Like it or not, the political tide has turned. President Trump wants no more foreign wars or entanglements and is taking progressive steps to unwind previous commitments in the Middle East and elsewhere. America is shrinking its global footprint and can no longer afford the costs of being “the world’s policeman”. In short, Americans are fed-up with endless foreign wars and conflicts.

We need to pull back and that is exactly what President Trump is doing in Syria and elsewhere. The Neocons of former presidential administrations were dedicated to nation building and military interventionism as a foreign policy tool. The dismissal of neocon and warmonger, John Bolton was part of Trump’s break from the folly of former Presidents. We need a break. Plus, with $1 Trillion a year deficits, we simply can not afford any more military (mis-)adventures.

I say its been a long time coming. The Kurds need to stand on their own two feet, as they say. We can still sent them weapons and ammo, but they need to fight their own battles. We need to take care of America First. Screw the rest of the (whole) world. The world, after all, is just shit anyway.

Like

8 10 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

Spoken like a true isolationist, Craig.

Yes, I agree that we must employ/deploy an “America First” national policy/strategy, which President Trump is doing. I want the Kurds to survive and prosper, like the Armenians are doing today. And yes too, Americans are tired of foreign entanglements; and we must pick and choose carefully where we get involved.

But we have enemies abroad who would love to destroy the United States and the American people; and they must not be “neglected” or overlooked. They include China, Russia, North Korea and various terrorist groups around the globe. This is where our focus must be, not on the “cesspool” that is the Middle East.

With our energy independence and dominance comes the ability to cut the Middle East loose, and let the “chips fall where they may,” which is what President Trump is doing.

Like

10 12 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

Two Senseless Wars Resulting In The Tragic Loss Of American Lives: Afghanistan And Iraq, Repeats of Vietnam [UPDATED]

Craig Whitlock has written in the Washington Post:

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

The U.S. government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The Post won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle.

In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.

With a bluntness rarely expressed in public, the interviews lay bare pent-up complaints, frustrations and confessions, along with second-guessing and backbiting.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”

Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action, according to Defense Department figures.

The interviews, through an extensive array of voices, bring into sharp relief the core failings of the war that persist to this day. They underscore how three presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and their military commanders have been unable to deliver on their promises to prevail in Afghanistan.

With most speaking on the assumption that their remarks would not become public, U.S. officials acknowledged that their warfighting strategies were fatally flawed and that Washington wasted enormous sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan into a modern nation.

The interviews also highlight the U.S. government’s botched attempts to curtail runaway corruption, build a competent Afghan army and police force, and put a dent in Afghanistan’s thriving opium trade.

The U.S. government has not carried out a comprehensive accounting of how much it has spent on the war in Afghanistan, but the costs are staggering.

Since 2001, the Defense Department, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development have spent or appropriated between $934 billion and $978 billion, according to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University.

Those figures do not include money spent by other agencies such as the CIA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is responsible for medical care for wounded veterans.

“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. He added, “After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.”

The documents also contradict a long chorus of public statements from U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting.

Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.

“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged to The Post that the documents show “the American people have constantly been lied to.”

The interviews are the byproduct of a project led by Sopko’s agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Known as SIGAR, the agency was created by Congress in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud in the war zone.

In 2014, at Sopko’s direction, SIGAR departed from its usual mission of performing audits and launched a side venture. Titled “Lessons Learned,” the $11 million project was meant to diagnose policy failures in Afghanistan so the United States would not repeat the mistakes the next time it invaded a country or tried to rebuild a shattered one.

The Lessons Learned staff interviewed more than 600 people with firsthand experience in the war. Most were Americans, but SIGAR analysts also traveled to London, Brussels and Berlin to interview NATO allies. In addition, they interviewed about 20 Afghan officials, discussing reconstruction and development programs.

Drawing partly on the interviews, as well as other government records and statistics, SIGAR has published seven Lessons Learned reports since 2016 that highlight problems in Afghanistan and recommend changes to stabilize the country.

But the reports, written in dense bureaucratic prose and focused on an alphabet soup of government initiatives, left out the harshest and most frank criticisms from the interviews.

“We found the stabilization strategy and the programs used to achieve it were not properly tailored to the Afghan context, and successes in stabilizing Afghan districts rarely lasted longer than the physical presence of coalition troops and civilians,” read the introduction to one report released in May 2018.

The reports also omitted the names of more than 90 percent of the people who were interviewed for the project. While a few officials agreed to speak on the record to SIGAR, the agency said it promised anonymity to everyone else it interviewed to avoid controversy over politically sensitive matters.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, The Post began seeking Lessons Learned interview records in August 2016. SIGAR refused, arguing that the documents were privileged and that the public had no right to see them.

The Post had to sue SIGAR in federal court — twice — to compel it to release the documents.

The agency eventually disclosed more than 2,000 pages of unpublished notes and transcripts from 428 of the interviews, as well as several audio recordings.

The documents identify 62 of the people who were interviewed, but SIGAR blacked out the names of 366 others. In legal briefs, the agency contended that those individuals should be seen as whistleblowers and informants who might face humiliation, harassment, retaliation or physical harm if their names became public.

By cross-referencing dates and other details from the documents, The Post independently identified 33 other people who were interviewed, including several former ambassadors, generals and White House officials.

The Post has asked a federal judge to force SIGAR to disclose the names of everyone else interviewed, arguing that the public has a right to know which officials criticized the war and asserted that the government had misled the American people. The Post also argued the officials were not whistleblowers or informants, because they were not interviewed as part of an investigation.

A decision by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington has been pending since late September.

The Post is publishing the documents now, instead of waiting for a final ruling, to inform the public while the Trump administration is negotiating with the Taliban and considering whether to withdraw the 13,000 U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan.

The Post attempted to contact for comment everyone whom it was able to identify as having given an interview to SIGAR. Their responses are compiled in a separate article.

Sopko, the inspector general, told The Post that he did not suppress the blistering criticisms and doubts about the war that officials raised in the Lessons Learned interviews. He said it took his office three years to release the records because he has a small staff and because other federal agencies had to review the documents to prevent government secrets from being disclosed.

“We didn’t sit on it,” he said. “We’re firm believers in openness and transparency, but we’ve got to follow the law. . . . I think of any inspector general, I’ve probably been the most forthcoming on information.”

The interview records are raw and unedited, and SIGAR’s Lessons Learned staff did not stitch them into a unified narrative. But they are packed with tough judgments from people who shaped or carried out U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

“We don’t invade poor countries to make them rich,” James Dobbins, a former senior U.S. diplomat who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan under Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. “We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic. We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”

To augment the Lessons Learned interviews, The Post obtained hundreds of pages of previously classified memos about the Afghan war that were dictated by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld between 2001 and 2006.

Dubbed “snowflakes” by Rumsfeld and his staff, the memos are brief instructions or comments that the Pentagon boss dictated to his underlings, often several times a day.

Rumsfeld made a select number of his snowflakes public in 2011, posting them online in conjunction with his memoir, “Known and Unknown.” But most of his snowflake collection — an estimated 59,000 pages — remained secret.

In 2017, in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research institute based at George Washington University, the Defense Department began reviewing and releasing the remainder of Rumsfeld’s snowflakes on a rolling basis. The Archive shared them with The Post.

Together, the SIGAR interviews and the Rumsfeld memos pertaining to Afghanistan constitute a secret history of the war and an unsparing appraisal of 18 years of conflict.

Worded in Rumsfeld’s brusque style, many of the snowflakes foreshadow problems that continue to haunt the U.S. military more than a decade later.

“I may be impatient. In fact I know I’m a bit impatient,” Rumsfeld wrote in one memo to several generals and senior aides. “We are never going to get the U.S. military out of Afghanistan unless we take care to see that there is something going on that will provide the stability that will be necessary for us to leave.”

“Help!” he wrote.

The memo was dated April 17, 2002 — six months after the war started.

With their forthright descriptions of how the United States became stuck in a faraway war, as well as the government’s determination to conceal them from the public, the cache of Lessons Learned interviews broadly resembles the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s top-secret history of the Vietnam War.

When they were leaked in 1971, the Pentagon Papers caused a sensation by revealing the government had long misled the public about how the United States came to be embroiled in Vietnam.

Bound into 47 volumes, the 7,000-page study was based entirely on internal government documents — diplomatic cables, decision-making memos, intelligence reports. To preserve secrecy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara issued an order prohibiting the authors from interviewing anyone.

SIGAR’s Lessons Learned project faced no such restrictions. Staffers carried out the interviews between 2014 and 2018, mostly with officials who served during the Bush and Obama years.

About 30 of the interview records are transcribed, word-for-word accounts. The rest are typed summaries of conversations: pages of notes and quotes from people with different vantage points in the conflict, from provincial outposts to the highest circles of power.

Some of the interviews are inexplicably short. The interview record with John Allen, the Marine general who commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013, consists of five paragraphs.

In contrast, records of interviews with other influential figures are much more extensive. Former U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker sat for two interviews that yielded 95 transcribed pages.

Unlike the Pentagon Papers, none of the Lessons Learned documents were originally classified as a government secret. Once The Post pushed to make them public, however, other federal agencies intervened and classified some material after the fact.

The State Department, for instance, asserted that releasing portions of certain interviews could jeopardize negotiations with the Taliban to end the war. The Defense Department and Drug Enforcement Administration also classified some interview excerpts.

The Lessons Learned interviews contain few revelations about military operations. But running throughout are torrents of criticism that refute the official narrative of the war, from its earliest days through the start of the Trump administration.

At the outset, for instance, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan had a clear, stated objective — to retaliate against al-Qaeda and prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Yet the interviews show that as the war dragged on, the goals and mission kept changing and a lack of faith in the U.S. strategy took root inside the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department.

Fundamental disagreements went unresolved. Some U.S. officials wanted to use the war to turn Afghanistan into a democracy. Others wanted to transform Afghan culture and elevate women’s rights. Still others wanted to reshape the regional balance of power among Pakistan, India, Iran and Russia.

“With the AfPak strategy there was a present under the Christmas tree for everyone,” an unidentified U.S. official told government interviewers in 2015. “By the time you were finished you had so many priorities and aspirations it was like no strategy at all.”

The Lessons Learned interviews also reveal how U.S. military commanders struggled to articulate who they were fighting, let alone why.

Was al-Qaeda the enemy, or the Taliban? Was Pakistan a friend or an adversary? What about the Islamic State and the bewildering array of foreign jihadists, let alone the warlords on the CIA’s payroll? According to the documents, the U.S. government never settled on an answer.

As a result, in the field, U.S. troops often couldn’t tell friend from foe.

“They thought I was going to come to them with a map to show them where the good guys and bad guys live,” an unnamed former adviser to an Army Special Forces team told government interviewers in 2017. “It took several conversations for them to understand that I did not have that information in my hands. At first, they just kept asking: ‘But who are the bad guys, where are they?’ ”

The view wasn’t any clearer from the Pentagon.

“I have no visibility into who the bad guys are,” Rumsfeld complained in a Sept. 8, 2003, snowflake. “We are woefully deficient in human intelligence.”

As commanders in chief, Bush, Obama and Trump all promised the public the same thing. They would avoid falling into the trap of “nation-building” in Afghanistan.

On that score, the presidents failed miserably. The United States has allocated more than $133 billion to build up Afghanistan — more than it spent, adjusted for inflation, to revive the whole of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II.

The Lessons Learned interviews show the grandiose nation-building project was marred from the start.

U.S. officials tried to create — from scratch — a democratic government in Kabul modeled after their own in Washington. It was a foreign concept to the Afghans, who were accustomed to tribalism, monarchism, communism and Islamic law.

“Our policy was to create a strong central government which was idiotic because Afghanistan does not have a history of a strong central government,” an unidentified former State Department official told government interviewers in 2015. “The timeframe for creating a strong central government is 100 years, which we didn’t have.”

Meanwhile, the United States flooded the fragile country with far more aid than it could possibly absorb.

During the peak of the fighting, from 2009 to 2012, U.S. lawmakers and military commanders believed the more they spent on schools, bridges, canals and other civil-works projects, the faster security would improve. Aid workers told government interviewers it was a colossal misjudgment, akin to pumping kerosene on a dying campfire just to keep the flame alive.

One unnamed executive with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), guessed that 90 percent of what they spent was overkill: “We lost objectivity. We were given money, told to spend it and we did, without reason.”

Many aid workers blamed Congress for what they saw as a mindless rush to spend.

One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a U.S. county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’ ”

The gusher of aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption.

In public, U.S. officials insisted they had no tolerance for graft. But in the Lessons Learned interviews, they admitted the U.S. government looked the other way while Afghan power brokers — allies of Washington — plundered with impunity.

Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel who deployed to Afghanistan several times and advised three U.S. generals in charge of the war, said that the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai had “self-organized into a kleptocracy” by 2006 — and that U.S. officials failed to recognize the lethal threat it posed to their strategy.

“I like to use a cancer analogy,” Kolenda told government interviewers. “Petty corruption is like skin cancer; there are ways to deal with it and you’ll probably be just fine. Corruption within the ministries, higher level, is like colon cancer; it’s worse, but if you catch it in time, you’re probably ok. Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it’s fatal.”

By allowing corruption to fester, U.S. officials told interviewers, they helped destroy the popular legitimacy of the wobbly Afghan government they were fighting to prop up. With judges and police chiefs and bureaucrats extorting bribes, many Afghans soured on democracy and turned to the Taliban to enforce order.

“Our biggest single project, sadly and inadvertently, of course, may have been the development of mass corruption,” Crocker, who served as the top U.S. diplomat in Kabul in 2002 and again from 2011 to 2012, told government interviewers. He added, “Once it gets to the level I saw, when I was out there, it’s somewhere between unbelievably hard and outright impossible to fix it.”

Year after year, U.S. generals have said in public they are making steady progress on the central plank of their strategy: to train a robust Afghan army and national police force that can defend the country without foreign help.

In the Lessons Learned interviews, however, U.S. military trainers described the Afghan security forces as incompetent, unmotivated and rife with deserters. They also accused Afghan commanders of pocketing salaries — paid by U.S. taxpayers — for tens of thousands of “ghost soldiers.”

None expressed confidence that the Afghan army and police could ever fend off, much less defeat, the Taliban on their own. More than 60,000 members of Afghan security forces have been killed, a casualty rate that U.S. commanders have called unsustainable.

One unidentified U.S. soldier said Special Forces teams “hated” the Afghan police whom they trained and worked with, calling them “awful — the bottom of the barrel in the country that is already at the bottom of the barrel.”

A U.S. military officer estimated that one-third of police recruits were “drug addicts or Taliban.” Yet another called them “stealing fools” who looted so much fuel from U.S. bases that they perpetually smelled of gasoline.

“Thinking we could build the military that fast and that well was insane,” an unnamed senior USAID official told government interviewers.

Meanwhile, as U.S. hopes for the Afghan security forces failed to materialize, Afghanistan became the world’s leading source of a growing scourge: opium.

The United States has spent about $9 billion to fight the problem over the past 18 years, but Afghan farmers are cultivating more opium poppies than ever. Last year, Afghanistan was responsible for 82 percent of global opium production, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

In the Lessons Learned interviews, former officials said almost everything they did to constrain opium farming backfired.

“We stated that our goal is to establish a ‘flourishing market economy,’ ” said Douglas Lute, the White House’s Afghan war czar from 2007 to 2013. “I thought we should have specified a flourishing drug trade — this is the only part of the market that’s working.”

From the beginning, Washington never really figured out how to incorporate a war on drugs into its war against al-Qaeda. By 2006, U.S. officials feared that narco-traffickers had become stronger than the Afghan government and that money from the drug trade was powering the insurgency.

No single agency or country was in charge of the Afghan drug strategy for the entirety of the war, so the State Department, the DEA, the U.S. military, NATO allies and the Afghan government butted heads constantly.

“It was a dog’s breakfast with no chance of working,” an unnamed former senior British official told government interviewers.

The agencies and allies made things worse by embracing a dysfunctional muddle of programs, according to the interviews.

At first, Afghan poppy farmers were paid by the British to destroy their crops — which only encouraged them to grow more the next season. Later, the U.S. government eradicated poppy fields without compensation — which only infuriated farmers and encouraged them to side with the Taliban.

“It was sad to see so many people behave so stupidly,” one U.S. official told government interviewers.

Th specter of Vietnam has hovered over Afghanistan from the start.

On Oct. 11, 2001, a few days after the United States started bombing the Taliban, a reporter asked Bush: “Can you avoid being drawn into a Vietnam-like quagmire in Afghanistan?”

“We learned some very important lessons in Vietnam,” Bush replied confidently. “People often ask me, ‘How long will this last?’ This particular battlefront will last as long as it takes to bring al-Qaeda to justice. It may happen tomorrow, it may happen a month from now, it may take a year or two. But we will prevail.”

In those early days, other U.S. leaders mocked the notion that the nightmare of Vietnam might repeat itself in Afghanistan.

“All together now — quagmire!” Rumsfeld joked at a news conference on Nov. 27, 2001.

But throughout the Afghan war, documents show that U.S. military officials have resorted to an old tactic from Vietnam — manipulating public opinion.

In news conferences and other public appearances, those in charge of the war have followed the same talking points for 18 years. No matter how the war is going — and especially when it is going badly — they emphasize how they are making progress.

For example, some snowflakes that Rumsfeld released with his memoir show he had received a string of unusually dire warnings from the war zone in 2006.

After returning from a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan, Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army general, reported the Taliban had made an impressive comeback and predicted that “we will encounter some very unpleasant surprises in the coming 24 months.”

“The Afghan national leadership are collectively terrified that we will tip-toe out of Afghanistan in the coming few years — leaving NATO holding the bag — and the whole thing will collapse again into mayhem,” McCaffrey wrote in June 2006.

Two months later, Marin Strmecki, a civilian adviser to Rumsfeld, gave the Pentagon chief a classified, 40-page report loaded with more bad news. It said “enormous popular discontent is building” against the Afghan government because of its corruption and incompetence. It also said that the Taliban was growing stronger, thanks to support from Pakistan, a U.S. ally.

Yet with Rumsfeld’s personal blessing, the Pentagon buried the bleak warnings and told the public a very different story.

In October 2006, Rumsfeld’s speechwriters delivered a paper titled “Afghanistan: Five Years Later.” Brimming with optimism, it highlighted more than 50 promising facts and figures, from the number of Afghan women trained in “improved poultry management” (more than 19,000) to the “average speed on most roads” (up 300 percent).

“Five years on, there is a multitude of good news,” it read. “While it has become fashionable in some circles to call Afghanistan a forgotten war, or to say the United States has lost its focus, the facts belie the myths.”

Rumsfeld thought it was brilliant.

“This paper,” he wrote in a memo, “is an excellent piece. How do we use it? Should it be an article? An Op-ed piece? A handout? A press briefing? All of the above? I think it ought to get it to a lot of people.”

His staffers made sure it did. They circulated a version to reporters and posted it on Pentagon websites.

Since then, U.S. generals have almost always preached that the war is progressing well, no matter the reality on the battlefield.

“We’re making some steady progress,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, told reporters in September 2008, even as he and other U.S. commanders in Kabul were urgently requesting reinforcements to cope with a rising tide of Taliban fighters.

Two years later, as the casualty rate among U.S. and NATO troops climbed to another high, Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez held a news conference in Kabul.

“First, we are steadily making deliberate progress,” he said.

In March 2011, during congressional hearings, skeptical lawmakers pelted Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, with doubts that the U.S. strategy was working.

“The past eight months have seen important but hard-fought progress,” Petraeus responded.

One year later, during a visit to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stuck to the same script — even though he had just personally dodged a suicide attack.

“The campaign, as I’ve pointed out before, I think has made significant progress,” Panetta told reporters.

In July 2016, after a surge in Taliban attacks on major cities, Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the time, repeated the refrain.

“We are seeing some progress,” he told reporters.

During Vietnam, U.S. military commanders relied on dubious measurements to persuade Americans that they were winning.

Most notoriously, the Pentagon highlighted “body counts,” or the number of enemy fighters killed, and inflated the figures as a measurement of success.

In Afghanistan, with occasional exceptions, the U.S. military has generally avoided publicizing body counts. But the Lessons Learned interviews contain numerous admissions that the government routinely touted statistics that officials knew were distorted, spurious or downright false.

A person identified only as a senior National Security Council official said there was constant pressure from the Obama White House and Pentagon to produce figures to show the troop surge of 2009 to 2011 was working, despite hard evidence to the contrary.

“It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture,” the senior NSC official told government interviewers in 2016. “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.”

Even when casualty counts and other figures looked bad, the senior NSC official said, the White House and Pentagon would spin them to the point of absurdity. Suicide bombings in Kabul were portrayed as a sign of the Taliban’s desperation, that the insurgents were too weak to engage in direct combat. Meanwhile, a rise in U.S. troop deaths was cited as proof that American forces were taking the fight to the enemy.

“It was their explanations,” the senior NSC official said. “For example, attacks are getting worse? ‘That’s because there are more targets for them to fire at, so more attacks are a false indicator of instability.’ Then, three months later, attacks are still getting worse? ‘It’s because the Taliban are getting desperate, so it’s actually an indicator that we’re winning.’ ”

“And this went on and on for two reasons,” the senior NSC official said, “to make everyone involved look good, and to make it look like the troops and resources were having the kind of effect where removing them would cause the country to deteriorate.”

In other field reports sent up the chain of command, military officers and diplomats took the same line. Regardless of conditions on the ground, they claimed they were making progress.

“From the ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, told government interviewers in 2015. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?”

Upon arrival in Afghanistan, U.S. Army brigade and battalion commanders were given the same basic mission: to protect the population and defeat the enemy, according to Flynn, who served multiple tours in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer.

“So they all went in for whatever their rotation was, nine months or six months, and were given that mission, accepted that mission and executed that mission,” said Flynn, who later briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser, lost his job in a scandal and was convicted of lying to the FBI. “Then they all said, when they left, they accomplished that mission. Every single commander. Not one commander is going to leave Afghanistan . . . and say, ‘You know what, we didn’t accomplish our mission.’ ”

He added: “So the next guy that shows up finds it [their area] screwed up . . . and then they come back and go, ‘Man this is really bad.’ ”

Bob Crowley, the retired Army colonel who served as a counterinsurgency adviser in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers that “truth was rarely welcome” at military headquarters in Kabul.

“Bad news was often stifled,” he said. “There was more freedom to share bad news if it was small — we’re running over kids with our MRAPs [armored vehicles] — because those things could be changed with policy directives. But when we tried to air larger strategic concerns about the willingness, capacity or corruption of the Afghan government, it was clear it wasn’t welcome.”

John Garofano, a Naval War College strategist who advised Marines in Helmand province in 2011, said military officials in the field devoted an inordinate amount of resources to churning out color-coded charts that heralded positive results.

“They had a really expensive machine that would print the really large pieces of paper like in a print shop,” he told government interviewers. “There would be a caveat that these are not actually scientific figures, or this is not a scientific process behind this.”

But Garofano said nobody dared to question whether the charts and numbers were credible or meaningful.

“There was not a willingness to answer questions such as, what is the meaning of this number of schools that you have built? How has that progressed you towards your goal?” he said. “How do you show this as evidence of success and not just evidence of effort or evidence of just doing a good thing?”

Other senior officials said they placed great importance on one statistic in particular, albeit one the U.S. government rarely likes to discuss in public.

“I do think the key benchmark is the one I’ve suggested, which is how many Afghans are getting killed,” James Dobbins, the former U.S. diplomat, told a Senate panel in 2009. “If the number’s going up, you’re losing. If the number’s going down, you’re winning. It’s as simple as that.”

Last year, 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war, according to the United Nations.

That is the most in one year since the United Nations began tracking casualties a decade ago.

See https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/ (“AT WAR WITH THE TRUTH“) (emphasis added; documents and diagram omitted)

Another tragic mistake by former President George W. Bush and his administration, like the war in Iraq. Afghanistan’s poppy crop was not destroyed from Day One, which has funded this war against the Afghans, Americans and our allies.

Two wars with a tragic loss of American lives, with many more maimed for life, and trillions of dollars wasted for NOTHING.

Like the Vietnam War in which more than 55,000 Americans died, and many more were maimed for life, NEVER AGAIN. And this time, we need to mean it!

See also https://buchanan.org/blog/is-it-jaw-jaw-or-war-with-iran-137860 (“Is it Jaw-Jaw or War With Iran?“)

Like

11 12 2019
RayUSA

Mr. Naegele,

Your postings are always thought provoking. I appreciate your efforts.

Many years ago, I read this statement: “Only the dead have seen the last of war.”

Somewhere too, I recall this statement: “War is mankind’s greatest crime, and the most profitable.”

I believe that most Americans are, by nature, a peace loving people. However,
what is so dismaying to me is how easy it is for an “event” to change normally peace loving people into ravaging warmongers, whipped into a frenzy by the bought and paid for tools of the military/industrial complex, the mainstream media.

Just a few historical illustrations come to mind; the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, which, with Randolph Hearst’s successful propaganda efforts to “convict” Spain, ushered us into the Spanish-American War.

The sinking of the Lusitania (cargo included munitions to be used against Germany) by a German U-Boat was used greatly by US newspapers in order to enrage the then “neutral” American people, ushering us into the disastrous WW I. (Pres. Wilson claimed “in order to make the world safe for Democracy. At that time, there was not a single Democratic State in all of Europe!)

The attack on Pearl Harbor which was purposely provoked by FDR via his embargo upon the island of Japan. Japan’s attack opened the door for FDR’s real purpose, that being, the “back door” into the European War that the American people steadfastly opposed.

The Gulf of Tonkin “incident,” which never even occurred, yet was used to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, granting the warmonger/profiteer LBJ full war powers against the enemy, North Viet Nam.

The “babies thrown on the floor from their incubators by Iraqi soldiers” story that was told by a 15 year old Kuwaiti civilian girl that went by the name of “Nayirah.” A small “problem” arose when the identity of this 15 yr. old witness was revealed to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US. This lie was repeated over and over again by Pres. George H. W. Bush in order to justify the Persian Gulf War.

The “attacks” on 9/11, which was used to somehow blame Iraq and Afghanistan. The conflicting evidence of that day is enough to fill entire volumes.

False flag “gas attacks,” actors in “white helmets” and all, were employed in Syria in order to get us to invade there. Their attempts failed. after the American people rose up in unison proclaiming an overwhelming NO! (Perhaps this is the real reason, along with Trump’s reluctance to invade Iran, that is the real impetus behind the impeachment efforts?)

Israel’s efforts to get us to attack Iran presents a unique problem; being that Iran is allied with China and a resurgent, and determined, Russia. IMO, Israel knows that nuclear technology (along with availability of needed materials) is advancing dramatically in the Arab world, resulting in a vastly weakened Israeli position. Time is not on their side, hence their unrelenting, urgent push for AMERICA to eliminate THEIR enemies.

Could a US attack upon Iran lead the world into the catastrophe of World War III? My fear is that an attack on Iran would quickly spiral out of control and escalate into what would be mankind’s final battle.

Like

12 12 2019
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Ray, for your thoughtful comments. Welcome back. 😊

Yes, I agree with most if not all of your comments. For example, Israel and its neocon surrogates pushed us into the Iraq War, in which more than 5,000 Americans died and many more were maimed, and trillions of dollars were wasted — for nothing.

NEVER AGAIN, must be our mantra.

And yes too, Donald Trump is under attack from many sides, including Israel’s despicable shill John Bolton. The President is fighting “establishments” that have been entrenched in Washington and other American power centers for decades or more.

Like Lincoln, he is courageous.

Like

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.




%d bloggers like this: