Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

Good Kill

June 9, 2015

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Our recent strategy in the War on Terror is similar to our strategy in Vietnam: keep killing the enemy until there are none left. That strategy didn’t work in Vietnam, and it’s not working today. The Taliban have made a comeback in Afghanistan, and Daesh now control large parts of Syria and Iraq. Is it time for our policymakers to try something else?

This question is posed by the recent film, Good Kill, written and directed by Andrew Niccol. It tells the story of Thomas Egan (Nathan Hawke), an Air Force pilot who has been reassigned to being a drone pilot. After two children are inadvertently killed in a drone attack, he begins to have doubts about his job. The emotional stress that Egan is under starts to cause strains in his marriage to Molly (January Jones).

Things get worse when Egan’s group is placed under the direct control of the CIA, whose rules of engagement are looser than those of the military. They have a policy of a “double tap”: firing a missile at the first responders to an attack, on the theory that most such people are likely terrorists themselves. The CIA considers it an acceptable risk that innocent people will almost certainly get killed. The characters argue about this. Egan’s fellow crew member, Vera (Zoë Kravitz), makes the case that drone attacks are causing people to side with the terrorists, while Egan’s commanding officer, Col. Johns (Bruce Greenwood) makes the “we can’t risk losing one American’s life” argument. The debate is never resolved one way or another. At the end, however, when Egan literally walks away from his job, it’s clear that we’re expected to see this as a moral redemption for Egan. Although it seems an empty victory, since we know that the military will simply replace him with somebody else.

Good Kills is a well-made film that raises a number of troubling questions, but its feel-good ending cant’t conceal the fact that it doesn’t offer any answers.

A Reply to Noam Chomsky: America’s Imperial Power Is Not in Decline

August 4, 2013

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Aletnet has posted an article by Noam Chomsky entitled America’s Imperial Power Is Showing Real Signs of Decline. Chomsky cites as proof of his claim the fact that the Organization of American States (O.A.S.) has passed a resolution condemning the countries that refused to allow Evo Morales’s plane to enter their airspace last month. However, I doubt that this resolution will have any concrete results. What is of greater significance is the incident that led to this resolution in the first place. The U.S. apparently pressured four countries – France, Italy, Portugal and Spain – into denying passage through their airspace to the President of Bolivia, in the belief that Edward Snowden might be on his plane. In doing so, these countries not only violated international law, they insulted the leader of a resource-rich nation. So, the U.S. got four governments to act against their own best interests. That’s a pretty impressive display of political power, if you ask me.

Chomsky argues that the U.S. no longer wields as much influence over Latin America as it once did. This is true, but a major reason for this is that since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. foreign policy has shifted its focus to the Middle East and southern Asia. The U.S. now wields greater power in that region of the world than ever before. The U.S. carries out drone attacks in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen with impunity. The U.S. now has military bases set up throughout the region. The Arab Spring was a setback, but the U.S. has since been able to reassert its influence in the countries involved.

Empires don’t always get what they want. When the British empire was at its height, the British suffered a military defeat in Afghanistan. A resolution passed by Latin American countries is no proof that the U.S. empire is in decline. Neither is Putin’s refusal to extradite Snowden.

Chomsky wants to believe the U.S. is in decline when it really isn’t.

The War in Gaza

November 17, 2012
      I know how at least 80 percent of the clashes there started. In my opinion, more than 80 percent, but let’s talk about 80 percent. It went this way: We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn’t possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that’s how it was.
      – Moshe Dayan

Those who support Barack Obama should ask themselves what he has done about the current war in Gaza that Romney would not have done. The Obama Administration has endorsed this act of sheer insanity by the Israeli government. According to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, the Hamas Leader, Jabari, had been working on a ceasefire with Israel when he was asassinated. Clearly, the Israeli government does not want peace. And since Obama has endorsed this, he clearly does not want peace either. We are in the age of endless war. We have drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. The Obama Administration is angling to find some way to keep at least some troops in Afghanistan after 2014. It gives the government officials an excuse to give money to their friends in the defense industry while cutting social spending. It gives them an excuse to spy on their own citizens and to meddle in other country’s affairs.

Randolph Bourne once said, “War is the health of the state.” For Israel, and increasingly for the U.S., it is becoming the state’s whole raison d’etre.

The Fall of General Petraeus

November 13, 2012


Gen. David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a really good sex scandal in Washington, so the one involving Gen. Petraeus comes as a welcome relief after a truly dreary presidential election. Petraeus is accused of having had an affair with his “biographer”, Paula Broadwell. She is the reputed author of an admiring book about Petraeus with the perhaps unfortunate title of All In. (It has also come out that this book was at least partly ghost-written.)

There is more than a little moral hypocrisy in all this. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is chair of the Democratic National Committee, has said: “Disturbing is the word that has come to my mind since all of this has come to light. Really, I think it goes without saying if you’re the director of the CIA, if you are a four-star general in the United States army, that you have to hold yourself to a higher standard. And you can’t put yourself in a compromising position.” Yes, a man who authorizes torture and drone strikes can’t sully himself with extra-marital sex. Schultz, by the way, helped organize last summer’s Democratic convention, at which one of the featured speakers was former president Bill Clinton, who coaxed a White House intern into giving him blow jobs.

It all started when Jill Kelley, a friend of Petraeus’s family, told an FBI agent, with whom she was apparently involved in some way, that she had been receiving harassing e-mails from Broadwell. Even though the FBI normally doesn’t investigate this sort of thing, those intrepid G-Men went to work, eventually examining 20,000 pages of e-mails. (I’m not making this up.) Not only did they discover Broadwell’s affair with Petraeus, but they also discovered that Kelly was having an affair with Gen. David Allen, Petraeus’s successor in the Afghanistan command.

Kelley is an interesting person in her own right. According to the Los Angles Times: “…she has angered some senior officers for what were described as persistent efforts by her to forge close personal ties to successive Central Command four-star officers by deluging them with emails, a former Central Command aide said.” Could there be such a thing as a military groupie? There must be something about a man who bombs villages in Afghanistan.

Some will cite this affair as evidence that the American empire is in decline. This is nonsense. There is, for example, good reason to believe that Eisenhower had an affair with his female chauffeur during World War II. And at one point in his career, MacArthur was demoted when it was discovered that he had a mistress.

The FBI agent who started the investigation – who has so far only been identified as Agent Shirtless – is said to have a “worldview” that is “hostile” to Obama. I think we can guess what that probably means.

Those who live by the media, die by it. When the Iraq war wasn’t going well, the government and the media decided that they needed a hero to distract people. Petraeus, who wears more medals than a Soviet-era bureaucrat, seemed a logical choice. He was given credit for a non-existent victory in Iraq, to hide the fact that Bush had actually cut a deal with Sunni militia groups. Now Petraeus has been undone by one of those who worked hardest create his myth. Shakespeare would have relished this.