Monday 28 September 2009
Obama visits Pentagon. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley / The US Army)
The ripest moment of absurdity last week was the spectacle of Pentagon officials berating The Washington Post for publishing the supposedly confidential assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, prepared by General Stanley McChrystal, America's Man in Charge of that doomed adventure.
The Pentagon asked the Post to cut certain passages on the ground that they would compromise national security.
Since the document is commonly supposed to have been leaked to Bob Woodward by either McChrystal himself or one of his retinue, it seems silly to start whining about the irresponsibility of the press. The record for willful indiscretion is probably held by Henry "Hap" Arnold, the only five-star general to hold the grades of General of the Army and later, during World War Two, General of the Air Force.
Anyone wanting to understand how JFK plunged into the Vietnamese quagmire and how LBJ got in even deeper has only to follow the current fight over Afghan policy. Insanity effortlessly trumps common sense.
By common agreement, the situation is rapidly getting worse. In terms of military advantage, the Taliban have been doing very well, helped by
Ahmed Rahid writes in a savage and well-informed piece in The
"For much of this year the Taliban have been on the offensive in
"In August, moreover - as part of their well-planned anti-election campaign - the Taliban opened new fronts in the north and west of the country where they had little presence before. On election day in Kunduz in the far northeast of the country, considered to be one of the safest cities in
"Yet if it is to have any chance of success, the Obama plan for
"After Obama's injection of 21,000 troops and trainers, total Western forces in Afghanistan now number 100,000, including 68,000 U.S. troops. It is likely that Gen. McChrystal will soon ask for more. Obama's overall plan has been to achieve security by doubling the Afghan army's strength to 240,000 men and the police to 160,000; but these are tasks that would take at least until 2014 to complete, if indeed they can be carried out. Meanwhile the military operation in
"Across the region many people fear that the
After months of derision about
The oft-announced goal of training an Afghan army and police force is faring no better - in fact, considerably worse - than the efforts at "Vietnamization" 40 years ago. Once furnished with a few square meals, some new clothes and a weapon, the recruits - some of them having been sent by the Taliban to get some basic training - promptly desert.
The expedition to
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Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs