by ralphlopez, Fri Jun 25, 2010 at 05:05:42 PM EDT
As we hear more of the breathless fallout over the McChrystal interview and his staff's foot-in-mouth, you might want to keep in mind the following fact: McChrystal was given the chance to voice objections to the controversial parts of the Rolling Stone article in which drunken aides were quoted, but he signed off anyway.
"Eric Bates, the magazine’s editor, said during an interview on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" that McChrystal was informed of the quotes prior to its publication as part of Rolling Stone's standard fact-checking process — and that the general did not object to or dispute any of the reporting. Asked if McChrystal pushed back on the story, Bates responded: "No, absolutely not." "We ran everything by them in the fact-checking process as we always do," the Rolling Stone editor said.
McChrytal then offered his resignation before Obama ever asked for it, and headed for the White House after being summoned by the reportedly "angry" president.
Wait a minute, Let me get this straight. McChrystal was given the chance to voice objections to his aides' "shitfaced" comments but didn't say, "uh, these guys were drunk. I know you are a fair publication so can some of this be off the record?" Other comments made during the now famous bus ride were made after agreement that they be off the record, so the situation would have called for cutting a little slack, at least as far as the "gotchas."
Now it sounds as if it may have been more like: "hey, you forgot the good one about "bite me.""
So what's really going on here? Are we to believe the explosiveness of these remarks would have escaped someone who has risen to the top of an organization known for some of the most vicious political infighting in the world? What did McChrystal apologize for? For staff making the remarks? Or for him approving them? It is interesting that the aides are never associated by name for their remarks, thus shielding them from an Article 88.
The popular narrative of the party boys getting all chummy with the ruthless reporter they shouldn't have trusted in the first place, then waking up with headaches to see their boss being summoned by the president, falls apart.
Which leaves us with the possibility that this is a show made for the lunkheads in Peoria, to borrow from Mark Twain. I've been had. I was getting caught up in all this civilian versus military control stuff too. It precedes an impending vote on war funding which is making the politicians nervous, judging by how long it is taking them to take the vote. Retiring Chairman of the key House Appropriations Committee David Obey has so far kept the funds bottled up, and is starting to look like the anti-war tactician he began his career as, when he came into Congress as an anti-Vietnam War maverick. It's in the Appropriations Committee's hands now. (House Appropriations Committee Members)
The bill is laced with many crucial and necessary funds for good program, what peace activists call the "lipstick on the pig" gambit. The good things need to be separated into another bill, so the war in Afghanistan can get a clean up-or-down vote.
The mime lays bare what should be clear to most people by now: the policy in Afghanistan is there ain't no policy, except to keep it going. Fewer civilian casualties? More American casualties. More firepower and more civilian casualties? More hatred, more Taliban. As Cindy Sheehan, who first noticed the McChrystal contradiction, writes, the little play we just witnessed is an admission that the war is officially "FUBAR."
FUBAR: Military slang for: Fu#ked Up Beyond All/Any Repair/Recognition. FUBAR also has a close military acronym: SNAFU: Situation Normal All Fu#ked Up."
MacBeth, er, McChrystal, the Movie, was along the lines of a considered strategy called "Somebody do something!" It goes: "Somebody do something!" -- "What?" -- "ANYTHING! We've got a war vote coming up and it's got to look like something's happening!"
Think our august chamber of Congress couldn't possibly be this vacuous, this shallow when the lives of young Americans hang in the balance? Not to mention thousands of Afghans, not to mention hundred upon hundreds of billions of your tax dollars which could be used for something else? The same people who are itching to approve war funding just turned down an extension of unemployment benefits.
Nope. Where that money is going is fittin' and proper. Into the hands of Halliburton and Dyncorp, Xe-Blackwater and General Dynamics, who all pony up quite nicely at election time, thank you.
"All of this posturing and speechifying is nothing but a distraction from the fact that our economy is FUBAR, the Gulf of Mexico is FUBAR, the wars are FUBAR..."
All for a war, people now realize, which could be won for the cost of a few months of military spending in the beginning, for carefully-targeted, Afghan-led jobs and development programs. This takes advantage of the fact that almost nobody in Afghanistan really wants to fight, or even likes the Taliban. But if you plop a bunch of foreigners in those foreigner-type uniforms in the middle of a valley, by gosh, they just wouldn't be Afghans if they didn't take a few shots. Nothing personal.
It is no exaggeration: some remote Afghans have been quoted as asking "which ones are those?" of soldiers in the distance. Not as in -- are those Dutch or Americans? But as in, I thought the Russians were gone. British? They're still here? I thought we threw them out.
The official policy for Afghanistan is to keep the money flowing no matter what is happening. That's as much of a policy as there is. This has nothing to do with COIN, COUNT or anything of the kind. This has to do with $$$$. The McChrystal fiasco was theater because the war is theater, a very deadly kind. The good guys against the bad guys in the fourth poorest country in the world where anyone will fight for whomever pays.
The fear that if we withdraw, there will be civil war, instability, and possibly a Taliban takeover, is overblown. What this neglects is the lingering hatred of the Taliban, even among ordinary Pashtuns. But young men will fight for the ten-dollar-a-day wage in the vacuum of 40 percent unemployment and widespread hunger. The UN estimates 35% of Afghans are malnourished as well as 40% of children. Yes, the local Taliban also serves as an outlet for expressing traditional Afghan dislike for foreign occupation.
Unlike in 1992, Afghans are weary to death of war. Targeted, cash-for-work jobs programs, countrywide, for a couple of years, building basic infrastructure would make warlords irrelevant, as young men drift away and seek to feed their families in less risky ways. We don't do nation-building? Too expensive? We've already spent $250 billion on military operations in a country whose entire GDP is $12 billion a year.
Most Afghans want both sons and daughters to learn to read. There are many areas of Afghanistan, such as in the north, where security is far less of a problem. Wouldn't you know it? These are the areas that are most ignored for jobs and development, since that would be addressing a problem before it arose, instead of after. Farsightedness has never been one of the strong points of American foreign policy.
For whatever the true reasons for the 2001 invasion, whether to fight Al Qaeda or to monopolize an oil pipeline, troops could have been on their way out by now, and stability assured, had the U.S. come through on even a fraction of the assistance it has been promising since Zbigniew Bzrezenski first salivated at the chance to draw the Soviets into "their own Vietnam." Instead, the assistance has gone to foreign contractors who keep half the money in profits, even though other conduits are now available.
The diversion is important, but we need to tell Congress that it didn't work. At this moment there are thousands upon thousands of unemployed men lining the street corners in Kabul, the most secure city, still waiting for Western promises to be kept. The vehicles for Afghan-led development, budding Afghan institutions, and civil society actors independent of the Karzai government, consisting of honest and dedicated technocrats who will be doing the work long after the Karzai and other governments have come and gone, are now in place. We should insist that Congress deny the Pentagon funding for anything but orderly withdrawal, the way the Vietnam War was ended, and carefully targeted civilian assistance. This kind of peace plan would cost far less than 10% of what we dump into military operations, year after year, to no avail. Jobs and development for ordinary Afghans which will put an end to this murderous theater. No more war for these people, just help. Amen.
To see how your congressman has indicated he or she would vote if the war funding bill is released from committee, go to AfterDowningStreet.org's WHIP WARS.