Truth, Justice, and the American Way of Empire

One of my first reactions to the news that Nicolas Sarkozy told Obama he doesn’t like Bibi Netanyahu is to note that Sarko is right.

“I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama, unaware that the microphones in their meeting room had been switched on, enabling reporters in a separate location to listen in to a simultaneous translation.

“You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Obama replied, according to the French interpreter.

Bibi is a liar. Particularly in the context of relations with the Palestinians, Bibi has repeatedly broken promises not to expand settlements.

Nevertheless, the Neocons are now gunning against Obama for his response–which was effectively non-committal.

Hell, it’s not even like Obama responded by calling Bibi an ungrateful ally, like Bob Gates has said on the record.

But I couldn’t help but connect this flap to the firing, last week, of the general in charge of training Afghans, John Allen.

Gen. John Allen, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, just announced that he fired Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller, the deputy commander of the crucial mission to train Afghan security forces. Fuller, a recent arrival to Afghanistan, gave a surprisingly harsh interview to Politico criticizing Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan generals he mentors as “isolated from reality.”

Allen is having none of it. “These unfortunate comments are neither indicative of our current solid relationship with the government of Afghanistan, its leadership, or our joint commitment to prevail here in Afghanistan,” Allen said in a statement.

His crime? Pointing out how ungrateful Hamid Karzai is for our efforts in Afghanistan (which is pretty similar to what Gates did with Bibi).

A senior U.S. Army officer in Afghanistan called key elements of the government “isolated from reality,” said they don’t appreciate America’s sacrifice for their nation and offered up some choice words for President Hamid Karzai.


The two-star general flashed irritation when he brought up Karzai’s recent remarks that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan in a war against the U.S., blasting the president’s comments as “erratic,” and adding, “Why don’t you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You’ve got to be kidding me … I’m sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you’re telling me, ‘I don’t really care’?”

Now, frankly, I think Allen mistook our own actions for generosity rather than strategic self-interest. Gates, at least, seemed to acknowledge that we would continue to support Israel anyway out of our own (misguided) self-interest.

But it seems worth note that we are increasingly whining about the ungrateful response to our exercise of self-interest. And then trying to pretend we didn’t.

7 replies
  1. scribe says:

    I thought Fuller’s* other comment, which you omitted, was more trenchant and harsher: he noted that you could give a man a fish or teach him how to fish (and that the latter was, implicitly, what his job was) but that the Afghans were bitching about getting cod when they wanted haddock (or the other way around).

    In other words, it had less to do with how we are expressing/effecting our self-interest by giving aid and buying allies, than to do with the snotty sense of entitlement spoiled brats like Karzai and his kleptocronies exhibit when they get a firehose of aid shoved down their gullets and can’t move it to a safe haven fast enough.

    My parents taught me early on that, if you have to buy your friends, they aren’t your friends and you’re wasting your money. It seems our government hasn’t learned that lesson despite 60 or so years of trying it.

    And as to the Israeli government, if an alien were to land here and look at both the world’s history and the current behavior of that government towards the Palestinians, that comparison would compel the alien to conclude the Isaeli government not only had not learned anything from their experience with the WWII-era German government (and the post-war Polish gov’t), but had undertaken to emulate them. They’ve built a wall around a ghetto wshose creation they mandated, starve, isolate and improverish its residents, and routinely kill occupants of that ghetto. Gaza 2011 looks a hell of a lot like Warsaw 1943 in that regard. The only thing that hasn’t taken place are mass killings, but that’s only because some of the supporters of the Israeli government (and more radical members of it) have not yet had their way.

    Allen fired his subordinate Fuller; Allen was not fired. And, FWIW, that kind of blowup by a senior officer, Fuller, is often the kind of thing that happens when that officer is already on the way out for one reason or another. From my service, I remember sitting in the mess hall one day in the officers’ dining room (because of the building layout, such was possible – ordinarily, there’s just a big common room with a table over in the corner where the officers eat) with a couple other lieutenants when the (relatively new) colonel commanding a neighboring unit came in to eat. He was upset and, while his lunch cooled, launched into a tirade about the subordinate officers in his unit, whom he castigated for all sorts of things, most of which pertained to the unit’s lack of military-ness. The other unit was a medical unit and their indiscipline (and high pregnancy rate) made TV’s M*A*S*H look really hardcore by comparison. It turned out – we found out later – he’d basically (in sports terms) “lost his locker room” (to the unmilitary subordinates’ inertia) and he was fired later that day. The tirade was in anticipation of that, which he saw coming.

    It’s a rare event, but it does happen, such an eruption of honesty.

  2. rugger9 says:

    Bibi may just find a way to do that, expending whatever sympathy capital remains from the Holocaust experience just as Shrub expended the capital from 9/11/01.

    Israel needs to vote Bibi out. And I’m thinking the Iran war being pushed is just a way that Bibi thinks he’ll hold onto the PM job.

  3. Arbusto says:


    If the commentariat at TPMCafe are correct, and my other readings indicate they are, Israel has moved to the right in part due to many eastern European and Russian ultra-Orthodox Jews immigration. More radical, yet under-educated (by prior Israeli standards), they fall the Zionist banner and thereby support of Bibi, liar, unethical and warmonger not withstanding.

  4. rugger9 says:

    @Arbusto: # 4
    I also note that Haaretz and others aren’t going quietly into the night, nor are the protesters in the not-well-reported-in-the-West demonstrations in Tel Aviv, etc. The thing about parliamentary systems is that it can be harder to stifle dissent in a place with an active, politically sensitive Fourth Estate, as Israel has [and the UK has, that’s why we find out about the Downing Street memos, for example].

    If these are Russians driving that bus, their experience with democracy is limited, and as many Russians do, have a long-standing wish for a warm water port without restrictions [i.e the Montreux Convention for the Black Sea]. Bandar Abbas would serve nicely. In addition, it is a long stretch, but indeed possible, that the harder line on Turkey can be traced to the animosity dating to the Byzantines combined with the warm water port. [FWIW, one name for Istanbul = Constantinople = Czargrad for the Russian Empire]

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Failing to be suitably grateful for American generosity was a failing of Arbenz in Guatemala, Allende in Chile, Mossadegh in Iran, and virtually every progressive or liberal voice in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Central Africa. The American taxpayer spent billions reminding them how to be grateful.

Comments are closed.