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Posts Tagged ‘War

How The US Funds the Taliban

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I want to draw attention to this article by legendary investigative journalist Aram Roston in last November’s The Nation, which gives some pretty compelling evidence that the US plans Afghanistan to be an endless war. The US taxpayer is apparently the Taliban’s single biggest donor.

Now, many would argue that we’re merely ending the war through monetary means, but you have to really think about what this implies. The Taliban may decide not to shoot at us for the time being, but this money being  given to them now can be used against us at any future date. The Taliban are evidently a cheap organization to run, and with millions of US dollars they can continue resisting forever.

This is simply not rational behavior for a country who’s avowed goal is to “defeat the Taliban”. It is rational for a country who wishes always to have a “Taliban” around to fight.

As one of the truck drivers on the route we pay the Taliban not to fire upon says:

Hanna explained that the prices charged are different, depending on the route: “We’re basically being extorted. Where you don’t pay, you’re going to get attacked. We just have our field guys go down there, and they pay off who they need to.” Sometimes, he says, the extortion fee is high, and sometimes it is low. “Moving ten trucks, it is probably $800 per truck to move through an area. It’s based on the number of trucks and what you’re carrying. If you have fuel trucks, they are going to charge you more. If you have dry trucks, they’re not going to charge you as much. If you are carrying MRAPs or Humvees, they are going to charge you more.”

We have been pursuing the same strategy as part of our “Surge” in Iraq with the so-called “Sunni Awakening”, and while every pundit to the right of an anarchist crows that “The Surge Worked”, we have not seen any political reconciliation there, no disarmament, and no end to suicide attacks (an average of 1.5 of which occurred every week in 2009).

I have no doubt that the “Afghan Surge” or whatever it is they’re calling it nowadays will be trumpeted from every news outlet within six months as the greatest victory since Julius Caesar. But, as in Iraq, I think we will find a full withdrawal to be still in the infinite future.

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Written by pavanvan

April 18, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Tax Day!

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I know I’m a day late for tax day, but I wanted to re-post the War Resisters League’s pie-chart on where these tax dollars are being spent. You can download a detailed PDF here.

I hope everyone had a happy filing.

Written by pavanvan

April 16, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Why Ben Metcalf Pays His Taxes

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Harper’s has just made for free an outstanding essay by their literary editor, Ben Metcalf, entitled “Why I Pay My Taxes“. It was first published in April, 2008, and should be required reading for everyone on tax day.

Excerpts:

Who has nottoppled republics and tyrannies alike so that a corporation he took no personal interest in might enhance by meaningless increment an already criminal profit? Who has notwatched on his television set as a bomb or a tank he helped personally to pay for made a charred and limbless stump out of what previously was an innocent (if un-American) child? I might also ask, if only out of curiosity: just how many of these children needed to be chopped up and burnt before at last my fellow citizens thought to stop payment on the meat grinder and the furnace? One hundred? One thousand? Ten thousand? More?

Does not a single such death constitute a villainy no latter-day tax protest could hope to overcome? Was even that one small tragedy not predicted by our military accountants well in advance of any physical war, to be folded neatly into their projections of “collateral damage”? And have we not all of us long understood this phrase to be but a transparent attempt to log beforehand a formal regret over the slaughter to come while implying also that said slaughter will be accidental and therefore, magically, unforeseen?

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In 2007, to take but my most recent foray, I paid something on the order of $20,000 into the federal pail. Of this sum, I can be assured that 31 percent, or $6,200, was put toward current military expenses (which would strike me as almost miserly if it did not far surpass what I have given at any one time to any other cause). Of this $6,200, I know that roughly 23 percent, or $1,400 (also more than I have given at any one time to any other cause), went immediately to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which our current administration, the second Bush, claims already to have won.

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Surely, though, I can say with some certainty that the $1,400 I sent last year to the wars abroad scored at least on occasion. That unassuming sum, after all, would have paid for 5,000 M16 machine-gun bullets at 28 cents per. Five thousand bullets! Is notone of these now lodged in a foreign corpse on my tab and my behalf? True, the price has gone up since then (by a whopping 2 cents), but that still promises a good 4,666-bullet year, and with luck I might get a cost-of-living raise to make up the difference.

The whole thing is grimly hilarious, and well worth reading.

Written by pavanvan

April 16, 2010 at 10:09 am

How Not to End the War in Afghanistan

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A rather disappointing article in The New York Review of Books by British Labour politician David Miliband this week entitled “How to End the War in Afghanistan” prominently displays all the hang-ups our ‘coalition forces’ suffer when contemplating that quagmire of a war. It would be interesting to discuss this article because it contains within it the genealogy of orientalist Western thought toward that unfortunate desert; from British gamesmanship during the 19th century to hedge against Russia to the 21st century Anglo-American occupation of the same desert, ostensibly to hedge against Iran and China. Astoundingly, it seems we have learned nothing of imperialism, of cultural imposition and brute coercion in the intervening centuries. Then, as now, we marched in and expected the Afghans to listen to us because, after all, it was in their best interest to do so. Then, as now, we expressed our bewilderment that they could not grasp so easy a concept. And then (as now) we wrung our hands and lamented that we wish there were another way, but we must, unfortunately, continue our occupation until we achieve a “stable” “friendly” “democracy” in that far-off, warlord-plagued desert.

For an article with such a direct title, Mr Milibrand chooses a roundabout method of answering his implied question. After all, “How to End the War in Afghanistan” could be summed up in about a paragraph: NATO-led coalition forces should immediately cease all combat operations, issue an apology to the Afghan people for using them as pawns in macabre game of geopolitical chess, withdraw all troops and war material, and extend some manner of reparations for the thirty years of horrific destruction the US and Britain collectively wrought upon their land.

From the first sentence of his article, we can see Mr. Milibrand rejects that method of “ending the war”. He repeats, with no sense of irony, the prevailing narrative which brought us into the war in the first place, a narrative which has been shown to be false, and which goes directly against the stated aim of Milibrand’s article (‘ending the war’). In his opening paragraph below, I have bolded the most dubious claims:

In the 1990s that country’s Taliban government provided a safe haven and support for al-Qaeda. In return Osama bin Laden provided the Taliban with money and fighters. Afghanistan became the incubator for the September 11 attacks. The international intervention in response to those attacks had widespread support around the world. But we never meant for our militaries to be there forever. Eight years later, with al-Qaeda pushed into Pakistan, it is not enough to explain to people why the war started. We need to set out how it will be ended—how to preserve what has been achieved and protect South Asia from a contagion that would affect us all.

Now, it is clear that one would not begin an article with such fantastic mendacity if one were serious about “ending the war”. As Milibrand well knows, 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan; the US provided far more dollars to the Taliban than Osama Bin Laden (and continues to do so); the 2001 invasion saw massive, worldwide protests that were the largest yet seen (but were surpassed two years later against the Iraq War); and the so-called “contagion” that would “affect us all” has neither been defined nor genuinely demonstrated.

And so on. The article continues to detail the pernicious “insurgent” problem that threatens the “stability” of Hamid Karzai’s US-imposed dictatorship, the opium which continues to be a “major problem” for Afghanistan (even though the premier opium kingpin in Afghanistan is on the CIA’s payroll), and the problems of “corruption” (even though the US-supported Karzai regime is widely considered to be one of the most corrupt in the world.)

The mendacity displayed here is astonishing, but it is the natural result of the inherent contradictions in Mr Miliband’s position. On one hand, like all politicians seeking election, he wants this unpopular war to “end”. On the other hand, like all geopolitical power players, he wants a US-friendly regime in Afghanistan, one which will act precisely as we wish it to act and will acquiesce to the permanent stationing of US troops, should China, Pakistan or Iran begin to act uppity. Now, obviously, imposing an illegitimate, unelected government like that of Mr Karzai would tend to make a few of his citizens upset, and just as obviously, the US would have to use force, perhaps indefinite force, to defend its client. Hence the contradiction. “Ending the War” implies letting go of our client state in Afghanistan, something which Mr Miliband and our US policy planners are evidently unwilling to do.

Hence the vague threats of “contagion”, the constant apology for the Karzai dictatorship (He has, after all, “promised to tackle corruption”), the rancid bellicosity toward “extremists” (“They must be beaten back”, says Miliband, which sounds pretty “extreme” to me), etc.

The most astounding line in the whole essay comes when Mr Miliband says: “The idea of anyone reaching out to political engagement with those who would directly or indirectly attack our troops is difficult.” The lack of self-awareness in such a pronouncement is almost too much to be believed. Let us imagine that Britain had been invaded by Germany in 1940, as was then thought to be a serious possibility. The British had been preparing for guerrilla warfare to repel the Nazis, but, under Milibrand’s logic, any British resistance would have been illegitimate! After all, the German general could say, “The idea of reaching out to those who would attack our troops is difficult.” How dare those British attack good German soldiers? And likewise, how dare those dastardly Afghans attack our stalwart American forces, who only invaded their country and installed a corrupt and unpopular dictator in order to bring them Peace™ and Democracy™ !

So, in the end, despite a confused list of policy suggestions that happen not to make a lick of sense (how the hell does he expect to “eradicate corruption” while supporting stolen elections and massive payments to drug kingpins?!), Mr Miliband’s essay argues cogently in favor of the Afghan war. If there is one thing we are meant to take away from this essay, it is that these desert wogs simply have no idea how to govern themselves and need constant oversight from their best friends in the United States and Britain. Doing so, of course, requires a long-term military presence (something which Mr Miliband curiously appears to support). He ought to have titled it “How not to End the War in Afghanistan”.

Written by pavanvan

April 12, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Iraq Elections: US Chooses its Favorite

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It looks as though our trusty client Maliki will come out ahead in the 2010 Iraqi elections after all, if this McClatchy dispatch is any indication. Carrying out long-standing political discrimination against the disgraced Ba’ath party, six major candidates will lose their votes and seats, costing Allawi (another US client) his victory. The six candidates committed the awful crime of having been associated with the Ba’ath party before the US invasion:

Six winning candidates in Iraq elections will be stripped of their votes and lose their seats – which would cost secular politician Iyad Allawi’s bloc its narrow victory – if a federal court upholds a broad purge of candidates who are suspected of past involvement with the late dictator Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath Party, Iraqi officials said Monday.

What’s most appalling about this development is not that the Iraqis had to choose between two pro-occupation candidates, but that Ahmad Chalabi is in charge of the so-called ‘de-baathification”, and thus in a position to unilaterally decide who can and cannot contest elections in Iraq. Chalabi, you must remember, was a major architect of the 2003 invasion, and went so far as to provide fake intelligence to convince Bush to bomb Baghdad. Astoundingly, Chalabi also contested the 2010 Iraqi Elections, while retaining the power to disqualify candidates at will. (Unsurprisingly, he won re-election.)

Aram Roston has written several excellent articles detailing Ahmad Chalabi’s crucial role in the Iraq invasion, and his 2008 article in The Nation entitled “Chalabi’s lobby” is a must read. Why Chalabi is still in such a powerful position after the Senate Intelligence Committee determined he had (in their words) “attempted to influence United States policy on Iraq by providing false information” is totally beyond me.

Somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon, some master brain or another must have decided that the US would rather have Maliki in the Prime Minster’s seat rather than Allawi, and gave the order to Chalabi (who has been collaborating with the US Department of War since the ’90s) to disqualify such-and-such candidates to make Maliki come out on top.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter – not to the Iraqis, anyway. Either Allawi or Maliki would have carried out US policy like the obedient servants they are. Whoever won, the Iraqis would still be saddled with a long-term occupation force of 50,000, their oil would still have gone up on the international market, with no chance of nationalizing it, and their elections would continue to be rigged in favor of the US – just as this one was.

When they said we’d be bringing “democracy” to Iraq, I’m sure our leaders meant “US-style democracy”. You know, the kind where the electorate chooses between two candidates with identical policies and who are funded by the same corrupt sources. Just like we have it here!

Written by pavanvan

March 30, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Secretary of War Calls European De-Militarization “Threat to Peace”

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Is he serious?

“The demilitarization of Europe — where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it — has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st,” he told NATO officers and officials in a speech at the National Defense University, the Defense Department-financed graduate school for military officers and diplomats.

So the reduction of arms and a general aversion to war is a threat to “security”. War, in other words, is peace – but not only that: in the twisted mind of Secretary Gates, peace is somehow war.

Written by pavanvan

March 2, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Profiles in Idiocy: Anne Applebaum

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Anne Applebaum has won major accolades for her Gulag: A History, for which she owes a huge debt of gratitude to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and which constitutes the poor man’s history of the Soviet Union – for when you want your histories dull and without universal insights into human nature. Her work for The Washington Post, however, has been singularly atrocious, and one wonders what, exactly, she learned from all her research into the depths of evil.

Her columns consistently and unapologetically disavow international law, human rights, or any concern for civilian casualties – each week brings a new and more forceful call to “defend our allies” and “defeat our enemies”, usually with only the most token concern for anyone who might stand in our way.

Her latest article, horrifically entitled: “Prepare for War With Iran – In Case Israel Strikes” displays all of her odious tendencies, and is worth discussing in detail.

She starts by observing that President Obama is unlikely to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran. Why?

The president will not bomb Iran’s nuclear installations for precisely the same reasons that George W. Bush did not bomb Iran’s nuclear installations: Because we don’t know exactly where they all are, because we don’t know whether such a raid could stop the Iranian nuclear program for more than a few months, and because Iran’s threatened response — against Israelis and U.S. troops, via Iranian allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Lebanon — isn’t one we want to cope with at this moment.

Apparently this lady hasn’t heard of a little thing called international law. You see, under normal circumstances, countries aren’t allowed to go mindlessly bombing each other on flimsy pretexts. This constitutes “aggression”, and the Nuremberg Principles (to which we supposedly subscribe) consider it “the supreme international crime”. I mean, I get that we basically threw that idea out the window long ago, but isn’t Ms. Applebaum supposed to be a scholar who specializes in international relations? What kind of scholar thinks the only reason we don’t go around bombing other countries is because it probably wouldn’t work?

After this bald refutation of the basic principles of international law, Ms. Applebaum raises another specter of war. Even though we may consider it inconvenient to bomb Iran, that doesn’t mean other countries won’t. Other countries like Israel. As she remarks:

The defining moment of his presidency may well come at 2 a.m. some day when he picks up the phone and is told that the Israeli prime minister is on the line: Israel has just carried out a raid on Iranian nuclear sites. What then?

Yes, “what then” indeed? Well, a reasonable observer might note that such a “raid” would be an act of sheer aggression, not to mention one supremely unjustified. After all, Israel boasts of its nuclear weapons every chance it gets, and Iran hasn’t carried out any “raids” on its nuclear sites.  A country truly interested in the rule of law would chastise Israel for its wanton aggression, cut off the extravagant military aid ($2.5 billion per year) it currently supplies the aggressor, and maybe even impose those sanctions everyone likes to talk about so much. The same sanctions we’re currently threatening Iran with. I don’t remember Israel getting any sanctions when it got the bomb. Oh, that’s right. We gave it to them.

The rest of the article serves as a justification for such Israeli “raids”. As she says:

Many Israelis regard the Iranian nuclear program as a matter of life and death. The prospect of a nuclear Iran isn’t an irritant or a distant threat. It is understood directly in the context of the Iranian president’s provocative attacks on Israel’s right to exist and his public support for historians who deny the Holocaust. If you want to make Israelis paranoid, hint that they might be the target of an attempted mass murder. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does exactly that.

I have a hard time believing she wrote this passage with a straight face. Perhaps she remembers a little speech given by President Bush, charmingly nicknamed the “Axis of Evil” speech. In it, he specifically named Iran to the eponymous “axis”, and then punctuated that slur by invading another member of said axis. The US mainstream press is is full of naked suggestions that President Obama attack Iran, including this endearing piece by Mr. Daniel Pipes, ludicrously entitled How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran. “The American people would support it,” Mr. Pipes contends.

For crying out loud, Ms. Applebaum’s own article is entitled “Prepare for War with Iran”! I wonder if she thinks that might make the Iranians “paranoid”.

Of course, Ms. Applebaum doesn’t want war with Iran. But a country’s gotta do what a country’s gotta do:

I do hope that this administration is ready, militarily and psychologically, not for a war of choice but for an unwanted war of necessity. This is real life, after all, not Hollywood.

And here we see, finally, in what an alternate reality our mainstream punditry operates. Defending an Israeli war of aggression is no longer a choice, but a necessity. Should Israel, without consulting us, begin a unilaterial bombing campaign on Iran, the United States has no choice but to fight Israel’s war for it. I mean, does Ms. Applebaum expect us to buy this nonsense?

Next she’ll be telling us that it’s necessary for the US to remain the “sole superpower” for the indefinite future. Oh wait…