Friday, January 9, 2009

Tarbaby

I'm sure there are more commentators on this subject, but I'm struck by the strong case William Blum makes for our getting our butts out of Afghanistan just as soon as we possibly can. Which means now. Basically his argument is the reason we're in Afghanistan at all has to do with US economic interests, specifically in this case, oil and gas companies. What a surprise, eh? Corporate interests are why we've been intervening in the affairs of foreign countries for over 150 years.

With all the hoopla surrounding the election, the selection of the Obama cabinet, the economic catastrophe, Obama's economic plan, and so forth, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to have fallen off the radar screens. It gets to be that way with wars, doesn't it? They go on so long that they just become part of the background. Silently like termites, they eat away billions of bucks, and steadily deposit an increasing toll of the dead, wounded, and maimed on the doorsteps of moms and dads, wives and sweethearts, sons and daughters. All of those who can proudly hold up their heads and pronounce that their loved one gave his life, limb, health, sanity, psychological balance--take your pick--in the (and I love this circumlocution) "service of his (or her) country."

No, that would not be correct. Service to the country has nothing to do with it. Countries are not served by the death of soldiers. The objectives of politicians are served. The most accurate statement of the matter is: "died for whatever political objective the country's leadership thought worth spending the lives of other people's children on." But that would not get a single soul to sign up, would it? Even the most desperate. So being sacrificed permanently for transient political objectives has to be gussied up in robes such as honor, sacrifice, duty, courage, heroism, etc., etc., etc. It's all b.s. But it's b.s. that is perennially bought by the less-than-thoughtful.

And now our leaders--and Obama is in the forefront on this one, too--want to crank up the US commitment to the perpetual meat-grinder that Afghanistan has become. Not without misgivings, it's true, but he and his advisers seem to think that "solving" the situation there is going to require more troops. A recent story in the Washington Post reports that US troops there will exceed 50,000 by summer and for who knows how long.

"This is a long fight, and I think we're in it until we are successful along with the Afghan people," [Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates said, adding: "I do believe there will be a requirement for sustained commitment here for some protracted period of time. How many years that is, and how many troops that is, I think nobody knows at this point."

Ain't that encouraging? Doesn't anybody see the plain truth of the matter? Like Vietnam, like Korea, like Iraq, Afghanistan is a palpable tarbaby. Smacking it upside the head with the other fist will accomplish nothing but limit our options even further to rid ourselves of this mess. But it will, of course, serve the interests of the military war machine perfectly well. It loves open-ended commitments.

Just for the record, as of today Afghanistan has cost the U.S. 628 lives and wounded 2,607. [Iraq totals are 4,222 and 30, 934.] Neither of these sets of figures counts the lives of so-called "coalition" forces.
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