Does the Military Have a New Goal of Hanging Afghanistan Failure on Obama?

On Monday, I could only reply with the Twitter equivalent of uncontrolled laughter when Robert Caruso tweeted a quote from Stanley McChrystal, who was appearing on Morning Joe to hype the paperback release of his book. Responding to a question from Al Sharpton, McChrystal said, in Caruso’s transcription, “the military doesn’t have goals…we follow the policy of the nation”.

Of course, as Michael Hastings so exquisitely documented, McChrystal and his band of merry operators had as their primary goal the advancement of their own careers while also promoting the concept of forever war. And as Gareth Porter points out, David (ass-kissing little chickenshit) Petraeus gamed Obama on the end date for the surge in Afghanistan, significantly extending the time of maximum troop presence (and maximum fund flow to contractors). It is equally important not to forget the Pentagon operation that places “analysts” with television news operations, somehow always finding analysts whose views align with Pentagon goals of forever war (and more purchases from the defense contractors who employ these same analysts when they go to the other side of the revolving door). Yes, Eisenhower foresaw all of this and yet we ignored his warning in 1961.

But somehow last night’s headline from the Wall Street Journal seems on first blush to run counter to the concept of forever war. We are now told that the military’s latest plan for a troop presence in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year (pending a signed BSA, which is certainly not a given) would be only 10,000 troops (a significant reduction from previous ideas that have been floated) and that these troops would be drawn down to essentially zero in another two years, ending precisely with Obama’s term in office. The Journal offered this by way of explanation:

The request reflects a far shorter time frame for a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan than commanders had previously envisaged after the current international mission ends this year. The new approach is intended to buy the U.S. military time to advise and train the Afghan army but still allow Mr. Obama to leave office saying he ended America’s longest war, the officials said.

So the military is pitching this latest plan as being an opportunity for Obama to claim “success” in ending the war. But we all know that the effort in Afghanistan has been an abject failure that has achieved absolutely nothing beyond killing a huge number of Afghans along with far too many coalition troops while squandering an obscene amount of US money. Instead, this looks to me more like the military moving to try to hang its failure on Obama by not extending the quagmire into yet another presidential administration. And that view seems to me to be reinforced by the military’s framing of Obama’s options:

Military leaders told Mr. Obama that if he rejects the 10,000-troop option, then it would be best to withdraw nearly all military personnel at the end of this year because a smaller troop presence wouldn’t offer adequate protection to U.S. personnel, said officials involved in the discussions.

The military wants this debacle to end during Obama’s term no matter what, and you can bet that is because their goal is to blame him for their failure.

But lest we raise our hopes that sanity has finally broken out within the walls of the Pentagon and that the generals finally have learned to hate war, we have this gem from Reuters:

Afghanistan’s government, increasingly at odds with Washington, is cracking down on advertisements that promote keeping U.S. troops in the country after 2014 and has already shut down a spot aired by the country’s most widely watched broadcasters.

The commercials – some funded by a U.S. organization – have drawn official criticism because they urge President Hamid Karzai to abandon his refusal to sign a security pact with the United States that would enable the troops to stay.

And just what US “organization” has been funding the commercials that seek to prolong the US military’s presence in Afghanistan? Why, that would be the US military itself:

Broadcasters were aware the spots were funded by ISAF or related groups, but saw “public service” advertising as a source of revenue.

Afghanistan’s most popular channel, Tolo TV, said the spots were provided by a company called Ads Village, whose officials acknowledge the funds came from ISAF or U.S. state aid agency USAID.

But ISAF insists this is all just for educational purposes:

The ISAF declined to indicate how much it spends on advertising, saying: “Public information released… is intended to inform and educate the public on the mission and operations of ISAF and our Afghan National Security Forces partners.”

The Pentagon is just so addicted to propaganda that it will pay for anything that promotes more fighting and more purchasing of war equipment. But they will consider at least a brief pause and/or change of venue in order to try to pin one of its worst failures on the president it has spent years trying to manipulate. Everywhere else, though, expect full speed ahead from our forever war fanboys.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
17 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    Excellent, Jim, right on, and worthy of your inducting into the Smedley Butler Hall of Fame (if there was one).

    “War is a racket. . .the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
    — MajGen Smedley D. Butler, USMC, double recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, 1935

  2. joanneleon says:

    I guess they are looking for someone to pin the loss of a war on. But I just don’t see a full withdrawal from Afghanistan, though that’s obviously what’s best.

    Whatever has kept us there this long probably hasn’t changed. I think we’re looking at another situation where a government won’t give our troops immunity. And I don’t see how the money is going to stop flowing, so my wild assed guess is that there’s a new, even more privatized long term plan. Pull out the troops, yes, but replace them with all mercenaries and some JSOC.

    I just don’t see the war machine walking away from Afghanistan. But I hope they do. The best way for that to happen would be for Congress to turn off the spigot. Hell, maybe that’s what is happening. If so, great. Five years too late but great.

    What I’m waiting for is 24/7 big argument: ‘Look what happened to Iraq when you didn’t give us immunity and we withdrew all our troops.’

    Still, it looks like Karzai has had it. But does he have enough support? Afghanistan is addicted to the billions that flow into it, as is the war machine. Then again, maybe they’ve been told they’ll keep getting the dollars but in new locations.

  3. Don Bacon says:

    Let’s leave some troops in Parwan province.

    Parwan, also spelled Parvan, is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It has a population of about 631,600, which is multi-ethnic and mostly a rural society. Charikar serves as the provincial capital.
    –It is just north of Kabul.
    — Bagram Air Base, which is one of the largest U.S.-military bases in Afghanistan, is located in Parwan 55 km north of Kabul.
    –US troops are needed there.

    Oct 21, 2013
    Clash Between Taliban and Afghan Forces Consumes Ghorband
    Parwan province’s Ghorband valley has turned into one the fiercest battle fronts in the Afghan security forces’ fight against the Taliban insurgency ever since militants blocked off roads in and out of the area three days ago.
    “The fighting is intense,” a Ghorband resident named Mohammadullah told TOLOnews. “We came in from Sia Gerd region on foot because the Taliban blocked the way…the situation is very bad.”

    But on the other hand maybe not…

    Jan 21, 2014
    TOLOnews received video clips from an anonymous source showing Parwan MP Abdul Sattar Khawasi calling on residents of Ghorband District to launch Jihad against the U.S.

    Although the exact date of the video footage has yet to be confirmed, the clips clearly show Khawasi at a public gathering in Ghorband promoting Jihad against the U.S.

    “Jihad is legitimate against the U.S., and silence against the U.S. is an act in violation of religion, I am obligated to tell you,” Khawasi says in part of the video.

  4. TarheelDem says:

    McChrystal, Petraeus, and company are the worst generals since George Armstrong Custer and William Westmoreland–and for precisely the same reasons.

    Of course, the military want to blame anything and everything except for the fact that empires can do genocide but they can’t do coinsurgency short of genocide. And the American people, craven as we are, are not quite up to full-scale, open, in-your-face genocide quite yet. After the national security state gets full autonomy in the double government, but that sort of openness has not yet happened although Congress is beginning to act like the Roman Imperial Senate.

  5. Don Bacon says:

    The generals use “troops” as tools of their own advancement, trying to synchronize with politicians who keep funding wars to ‘support the troops” and really to financially support their own political campaigns.

    But “troops” actually have feelings, some of them negative. So the suicide rate of active troops is double the US national average, and of veterans is is EIGHT TIMES the national average.

  6. BlueDevilFan says:

    Each President has had an almost equal amount of time in Afghanistan. They both get equal blame. Idiot 1 decided to stay, Idiot 2 maintained the staus quo.

  7. C says:

    More and more this reminds me of Vietnam and the Civil War.

    By the end of Vietnam, ended by Nixon who was elected as the peace candidate (no that isn’t a joke), even the military was eager to leave. Then within a decade or so it became all about how “we could have won” but the politicians stopped us. These days people will with all seriousness even claim that it was a Democrat who ended the war even as the military was ready for victory.

    With the Civil war the historian Shelby Foote noted that shortly after the loss stories started appearing in the south about the failures of Jefferson Davis including the famous legend that he surrendered while wearing women’s clothes. The point, Foote notes, was that these legends were not being started by northerners or about the generals. Southerners refused to believe that the generals lost the war it had to be the politicans fault.

    This feels like more of the same.

  8. P J Evans says:

    The military leaders who want Mr O blamed for ‘losing Afghanistan’ should face the facts: they’re the ones who have been giving him advice on how to run that war, and it’s been bad advice. It comes back to them, every time.

  9. Riccardo Cabeza says:

    As long as the careerist, the senior leadership get paid for this strategic failure, it’s all good.

  10. Michael Murry says:

    Ah, yes, the old “stab in the back” excuse offered up by every defeated and discredited imperial military in the history of the human race. As far as concerns the post-WWII U.S. military, just pick an impoverished foreign country that never attacked America, then invade, then occupy, then retreat, then studiously refuse to ask:

    “Who killed Davey Moore?
    Why? And what’s the reason for?” — Bob Dylan

    Instead ostentatiously demand to know who — other than the perpetrators — to blame:

    Who Lost Iraq?
    (after the Bob Dylan song, “Who killed Davey Moore?”)

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “It wasn’t me,” said the President,
    With his hard head stuck in its hard cement.
    “I just start fires in the minds of men;
    Pour gas on the flames every now and then.
    I accomplished my mission when I robbed the store,
    Then to cover up the crime I went and started a war.
    In a few more years someone else will want the fun;
    I’ll give the mess to them; then I’ll say that I won!
    They’ll lose Iraq
    Who couldn’t see me handing them the sack.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “It wasn’t us,” cried the military brass.
    “We just saluted Rumsfeld and kissed his senile ass.
    We long ago swore not to think too hard or much;
    Just do as we’re told and to use that as a crutch;
    So when the hopes go wrong and the shit hits the fan,
    We can always just say: ‘We took our orders from the man.’
    With our medals and our pensions and our private jumbo jets
    ’It’s the only war we’ve got’ and that’s as good as it gets.
    They lost Iraq:
    The suits who tied our hands behind our back.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “It wasn’t me,” said the rapping Secretary
    Talking too dense and sounding real scary.
    “We know we don’t know what we don’t know we know
    But we do know how to stage a little dog-and-pony show.
    The Senators and Congressmen whose districts get the pork
    Think the meat’s well done, so they stick in a fork.
    The army’s not the one we want, but let me tell you what:
    We have to go to war with it or see our funding cut.
    They lost Iraq
    Who wouldn’t cut me some semantic slack.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “Who the hell cares,” shrugs the televangelist
    Preaching at his pulpit and pounding with his fist
    “I tell folks: ‘vote Republican if you don’t want to die’
    (Watching cable television; lapping up the lie).
    I feed the rubes on fantasies of Armageddon Day,
    When Jesus in his spaceship comes to take them all away.
    I scare ‘em and they love it and they come back for more
    To vote for someone else’s kid to fight in their war.
    They lost Iraq
    Who wouldn’t stop me selling Crusade crack.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “We had to hit someone,” said the jaded journalist
    Thumbing through his Rolodex and making up a list
    Of contacts in the government who leak the names of spies
    Whose husbands tell the truth sometimes, instead of packaged lies.
    “My name is Tom Friedman and ‘the world is flat;’
    That shit about a globe you heard just isn’t where it’s at.
    I cheered for Dubya’s war just like the chicken hawk I am
    And then when things went south I blamed a Lebanese imam.
    They lost Iraq:
    Who wouldn’t buy my books from off the rack.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “I’ve explained it all,” said the White House mouthpiece man
    Mumbling in mantras with shameless élan.
    “Our zigzag course takes us straight through the plots
    If you just fit the curve to the scatter of dots.
    In the sovereign state of the occupied town
    We could “stand ’em all up” if they’d quit falling down.
    But no matter what the carnage or the number who grieve
    Just remember “Stay the Course” means we’ll never leave.”
    They lost Iraq
    Who hired as spokesman some tired FOX NEWS flack.

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “It wasn’t us,” cried the frightened Democrats,
    As much an opposition as a dozen gnats.
    “We voted for King George’s war and never blushed.
    With just a hint of nastiness, he left us hushed.
    We bought into the syndrome of the sycophant
    Who’d gladly ditch the donkey for the elephant.
    But now that all our compromise has come to nought,
    We’re too ashamed to do the things we truly ought.
    We love Iraq
    And only wished to help Chalabi’s claque.”

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “Don’t look at us,” moaned the undecided block.
    Reliable consumers of a total crock.
    We love it when the government makes up those lies
    And sells them to us like McDonald’s greasy fries.
    Just show us a commercial made by Thomas Hobbes
    About our nasty, brutish lives with few good jobs.
    Then scare us half to death with tales of married queers.
    We’ll swallow anything just like our lousy beers.
    What is Iraq?
    Is it a toothpaste that gets rid of plaque?”

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “It wasn’t me,” said Saddam Hussein,
    Sitting in his court cage, shouting his refrain:
    “I ran things better and we had a state;
    Now we only have Maliki, an invertebrate
    Who does the step-and-fetch-it as his daily toil
    For Dubya and his crony friends who steal our oil.
    But Mad Dog and his Englishman have come undone,
    Parading ’round in circles in the noonday sun.
    Bush lost Iraq
    When he and Blair launched their unwise attack.”

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “Who the hell do you think?” said Ehud Olmert.
    “You mean you didn’t know Israelis just don’t care?
    A busted, broken Arab land fits in quite nice
    With Zionist delusions of a Paradise
    Where Arab refugees profess to love the Jews
    And swear to every statement made by Karen Hughes.
    The goyim in America will foot the bill
    Providing all the weaponry we need to kill.
    Forget Iraq;
    And take your marching orders from AIPAC.”

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “Who talks of loss at all?” ask the Mullahs in Iran.
    As far as we’re concerned George Bush is just The Man.
    He stumbles and he bumbles then he gives away
    For nothing everything for which we’d gladly pay.
    Dick Cheney writes the crap for him to catapult
    Who never met a thought that he could not insult
    The Shiites in Iraq will get our help, indeed,
    To end the occupation that they do not need.
    We won Iraq
    Who let Bush do the work while we sat back.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “Who said you ever owned us?” cried the people of Iraq.
    “Who asked you for your bloody war and unprovoked attack?
    You seemed to think that killing us and wrecking all we had
    Could win elections for George Bush and make him look less bad.
    Our oil we’ll sell to whom we please. Why don’t you find your own?
    And get yourselves a president at least a little grown.
    In case you haven’t noticed, he’s the one that you should fear
    Whose words smell like the noisome gas escaping from his rear.
    Please leave Iraq
    Then see if you can win your own souls back.”

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006

    Does the United States corporate/military/political class really think they can stage yet another performance of this bogus kabuki theater farce?

  11. matt carmody says:

    I think Eisenhower was prompted to make that speech because he had been exposed over the years to people like the Dulles boys, Skull and Bones manipulators W. Averill Harriman, Prescott Bush and his CIA agent son, George, and Richard Nixon and his criminal entourage. The stench emitting from those huge loads of excrement had to give Ike reasons to worry about the future of the country.

  12. P. Lee says:

    To Mr. Bacon:
    Gen. Butler was talking about those who viewed soldiers as nothing more than pawns…”That’s what they are their for!”

    War is the failure of diplomacy.

    I am amused that the POTUS is excused for any executive failings. Foreign policy is supposed to be the presidency’s strongest suit and this administration is doing its damned best not to wear it.

    Merely obliging that the ‘men in the arena’ do what they are paid to do…die.

    To C: It is more akin to the end of the Mexican-American War…We all know what conflict was next.

    I had so many friends who thought it was really going to be different this time…How sad, terribly sad.

  13. Don Bacon says:

    from Smedley Butler’s ‘War Is A Racket’ (1935):

    Who provides the profits – these nice little profits of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them – in taxation. We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100.00 and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the bankers. These bankers collected $100 plus. It was a simple manipulation. The bankers control the security marts. It was easy for them to depress the price of these bonds. Then all of us – the people – got frightened and sold the bonds at $84 or $86. The bankers bought them. Then these same bankers stimulated a boom and government bonds went to par – and above. Then the bankers collected their profits.

    But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.

    If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran’s hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men – men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.

    It’s worse now. The suicide rate of veterans is eight times the US national average.

  14. Michael Murry says:

    Dead Metaphors

    We serve as a symbol to shield those who screw us
    The clueless, crass cretins who crap on our creed
    We perform the foul deeds they can only do through us
    Then lay ourselves down in the dark while we bleed

    Through cheap Sunday slogans they sought to imbue us
    With lust for limp legacy laughably lean
    Yet the Pyrrhic parade only served to undo us
    We die now for duty, not “honor” obscene

    We carried out plans that the lunatics drew us
    Their oil-spotted, fly paper, domino dream
    Then we fought for the leftover bones that they threw us
    While carpetbag contractors cleaned up the cream

    We stood at attention so they could review us
    Like bugs on display in a cage made of glass
    We hurried, then waited, so they could subdue us
    Yet somewhere inside something said: “kiss my ass.”

    We did the George Custer scene Rumsfeld gave to us
    We took ourselves targets to arrows and bows
    While the brass punched their tickets, the Indians slew us
    A “strategy” ranking with History’s lows

    When veterans balked they contrived to pooh-pooh us
    With sneers at our “syndrome” of Vietnam sick
    When that didn’t work they set out to voodoo us
    With sewer boat slanderers paid to be slick

    The wad-shooting gambler comes once more to woo us
    His PR team planning precise photo ops
    For to sell his used war he’ll have need to construe us
    As witless weak wallpaper campaign-ad props

    The nuts and the dolts in their suits really blew us
    They made our life’s meaning a dead metaphor
    Still, no matter how Furies and Fate may pursue us
    The Fig Leaf Contingent has been here before

    The years pass in darkness and graveyards accrue us
    As early returns on investments gone wrong
    So the next time “supporters” of troops ballyhoo us
    Remember to vomit in tune to this song.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2005

  15. Michael Murry says:

    “Charles Oman, in his classic study of war, spoke of the veterans of the battles of the Middle Ages as ‘the best of soldiers while the war lasted … [but] a most dangerous and unruly race in times of truce or peace.'”– Robert Jay Lifton, Home from the War: Vietnam Veterans, neither victims nor executioners

    When Jaundice Comes Marching Home
    (after the popular Civil War song, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”)

    When Jaundice comes marching home once more,
    Guffaw! Guffaw!
    We’ll know what its masters have in store,
    Guffaw! Guffaw!
    A shiver of terror to run up the spine,
    At the thought of what’s next if we don’t fall in line
    Oh they’d like us scared when
    Jaundice comes marching home

    When Jaundice comes snarling home this time
    Guffaw! Guffaw!
    We’ll spit in its face with a jeering rhyme
    Guffaw! Guffaw!
    Our leaders who screwed up and shot our wad
    Will tell us they did it for country and GAWD
    But we’ll know they lie when
    Jaundice comes snarling home

    When Jaundice comes limping home to hate
    Guffaw! Guffaw!
    The wars that it lost and the shit on its plate
    Guffaw! Guffaw!
    The ones who deployed it to bomb and kill
    Now find that they’ve used up the easy thrill
    So they’ll have to hide when
    Jaundice comes limping home

    When Jaundice comes sneaking home to hide
    Guffaw! Guffaw!
    The failure and waste and our wounded pride
    Guffaw! Guffaw!
    Of no further use is the man in pain
    Who can’t be recruited to do it again
    So avert your eyes when
    Jaundice comes sneaking home

    When Jaundice has marched in its last parade
    Guffaw! Guffaw!
    And laid down to sleep in the endless shade
    Guffaw! Guffaw!
    We’ll have us a wake for the late deceased
    From whose awful clutches we’re now released
    How we’ll all breathe free when
    Jaundice has died at home

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2012

    The abused veteran of a meaningless war either takes out his rage and shame on himself, or he joins the police force and takes it out on the civilians who sent him away without giving a second’s thought to what might come back from years spent abusing hapless foreigners.

  16. Don Bacon says:

    The human brain, they have recently determined, doesn’t fully mature until about age thirty, depending of course upon the nature and extent of personal experiences. So the military machine works on teenagers and twenty-somethings to influence them toward state goals. They are quite successful at it, until the realization comes, with maturity, that they’ve been used. Used up, in fact. We see the results on many street-corners, the ones still alive.

    Nearly 50,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were either homeless or in a federal program aimed at keeping them off the streets during 2013, almost triple the number in 2011, according to numbers released Thursday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    But hey, let’s keep 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. How much harm can it do?

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