Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Sacking McChrystal: Testimony to a Lost War
By Stephen Lendman
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July 5, 2010
On August 10, 1997, in The New York Times Magazine, David K.
Shipler headlined, "Robert McNamara and the Ghosts of Vietnam" saying:
Looking back, one of the key war architects admitted "how dangerous it is
for political leaders to behave the way we did" about a war that shouldn't
have been fought and couldn't be won.
In his 1995 book, "In
Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam," former Defense Secretary
McNamara wrote: "....we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future
generations to explain why."
In 1965, he knew the war was lost and
said so, telling Lyndon Johnson: "I don't believe they're ever going to
quit. And I don't see....that we have any....plan for victory - militarily
or diplomatically," spoken as he began escalating dramatically, knowing the
futility and criminality.
Johnson was also uneasy, telling his
close friend, Senator Richard Russell, that he faced a Hobson's choice
saying: "I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't," the former being
impeachment if he quit, the latter certain defeat that destroyed him. After
three heart attacks, he died a sick, broken man, four years after he left
office, two days before Richard's Nixon's second inauguration, a man soon to
face his own moment of truth, omitting what should have brought him down and
America's Longest War - As Unwinnable as Vietnam,
Reshuffling the Deck Chairs to Delay It
McChrystal's out, Petraeus
is in, New York Times writers Alissa Rubin and Dexter Filkins announced the
switch June 23, headlining, "Petraeus Is Now Taking Control of a 'Tougher
He's taking over to execut(e) the strategy (he
engineered) with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal....directly responsible for its
success or failure, risking the reputation he built in Iraq," not a winning
surge, but by buying off Sunni tribal chiefs and key Baathists not to fight,
a much tougher strategy in Afghanistan, the traditional graveyard of
empires, defeating Alexander the Great, Genghis Kahn, the Brits and Soviets
among others, America likely next, but will Petraeus be around when it
happens. More on that below.
Waging a War on Terror
September 11, 2001 was the pretext for a global one, a so-called "just war"
to defend America against "outside enem(ies)," manufactured to appear real -
"radical Islam," including the Taliban, attacked on October 7, 2001, four
weeks after 9/11, planned months in advance in anticipation of what then
CENTCOM Commander General Tommy Franks called a "terrorist, massive,
casualty-producing event," arousing enough public anger to launch it.
It's America's longest war under a president saying he'd end it as a
candidate, then in office tripled US forces from 32,000 - 94,000, but
promised to begin exiting by summer 2011. He just reneged, saying:
"We didn't say we'd be switching off the lights," adding that "we said we'd
begin a transition phase that would allow the Afghan government to take more
and more responsibility," meaning America is there to stay, by August at a
planned 132,000 force level (and as many or more civilian contractors) under
Petraeus, stepping down from his CENTCOM post to take command, perhaps
unleashing greater than ever lethal force "until the insurgents are
genuinely bloodied," the preferred New York Times strategy in its June 25
editorial, raising Gideon Polya's December 2009 body count of 3.4 million
"post-invasion non-violent excess deaths" and another 1.1 million violent
ones - genocide by any measure.
Under McChrystal, it was death squad
terror, mostly against civilians, what he was trained to do as head of the
Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), what Seymour Hersh
called an "executive assassination wing" post-9/11, what Rolling Stone
writer Michael Hastings called "a handpicked collection of killers, spies,
geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs," Petraeus
perhaps mandated to escalate with greater than ever counterinsurgency
Yet America's longest war is unwinnable, according to
McChrystal's Chief of Operations, Major General Bill Mayville, saying: "It's
not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win. This is
going to end in an argument," already a defeat, US polls showing growing
numbers against it, what Ray McGovern calls "Vietnamistan," the analogy
needing no elaboration, what looks like Obama's last stand, Petraeus his
best shot according to some. For others, it's mission impossible, what no
one in Washington will accept so war rages on without end.
cost, Iraq and Afghanistan topping $1 trillion, or $1 million per soldier
annually, plus tens of billions more in black budgets (one estimate saying
over $56 billion a year) with no end of spending in sight, including
hundreds of millions to corrupt warlords according to a June congressional
Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs of the Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform report titled, "Warlord, Inc., Extortion and
Corruption Along the US Supply Chain in Afghanistan."
show "a vast (Pentagon supply chain) protection racket run (through Host
Nation Trucking contracts) by a shadowy network of warlords, strongmen,
commanders, corrupt Afghan officials, and perhaps others," undermining
Washington's war-winning strategy by "funding the insurgency."
investigation learned the following:
-- mainly warlords protect
America's supply chain, contracted by Host Nation Trucking (HNT);
they run a protection racket - specifically, "extortion, bribes, special
security, and/or protection payments;"
-- the latter, in turn, go to
insurgents to ensure safe passage;
-- corrupted Afghan officials
extort millions, the largest NHT private security provider saying it has to
pay $1,000 - $10,000 monthly in bribes to "nearly every Afghan governor,
police chief, and local military unit (through) whose territory supplies
pass," HNT reporting the same thing;
-- Afghanistan's logistical
nightmare undermines DOD's counterinsurgency (COIN);
Pentagon lacks effective oversight of its supply chain and security
contractors protecting it; and
-- it ignored warnings about
protection racket payments and the effects on its operations.
addition, Afghanistan's location and environment present enormous
challenges. The country is landlocked, the terrain unforgiving, including
desert sandstorms in summer, floods in spring, impassible mud at times, and
mountain roads leaving no room for error. Summer heat reaches 120 degrees.
Winters are usually snowy and frigid cold. Avalanches often block the only
tunnel linking Kabul to the north. Routes can stay closed for days. Poor
infrastructure, including few paved roads, creates more hazards, exacerbated
by easily planted and concealed explosives along supply routes as well as
regular insurgent attacks - "the harshest logistics environment on earth,"
according to one US official on the ground.
According to General
Duncan McNabb, head of US Transportation Command, "....what I worry (most)
about at night (is) our supply chain....always under attack," compounded by
all the above obstacles and limited processing capacity at distribution
hubs. Iraq, by comparison, is easy with its "decent infrastructure,"
manageable terrain, and access to the Persian Gulf.
chairman Rep. John F. Tierney (D. MA) said the Pentagon "would be well
served to take a hard look at this report and initiate prompt remedial
action," affecting "a good portion of a $2.16 billion contract's resources
into a corruptive (fog of war) environment," lacking oversight to fund
warlords and insurgents, what David Petraeus now confronts as commander, a
man New York Daily News writer James Gordon Meek said (on June 24) the
Taliban "endorses," calling him a wimp after his fainting spell before
Congress, no smarter than McChrystal, his firing a "divine victory,"
according to its spokesman, in a war no US president or general can win.
A Final Comment
After nearly nine futile years, Afghanistan
looks less winnable than ever, one of many signs the rising NATO death and
injury toll, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman downplaying it saying:
"We have more forces in Afghanistan, ISAF and US forces, than at any other
time. The level of activity is high, so as we conduct our operations and
engage with the enemy, the opportunities for hostile contact are going to go
In fact, escalation strategy was stability. Instead, spiraling
violence intensifies, what Petraeus won't likely curb better than McChrystal,
sacked not for deriding his superiors, for his leadership, growing popular
resistance, and for losing an unwinnable war, one more Afghan deaths can't
Nor can a change of command under a politically ambitious man,
perhaps contemplating a 2012 run against Obama, using war as the way to the
White House, win or lose in his new post. If successful, his popularity will
soar. If not, he'll exit early and blame a failed administration policy,
saying as president he'll turn it around, what won't matter as long as
voters buy it. Excuses can come later. For now, McChrystal's out. Petraeus
is in, Obama saying, despite setbacks and growing public doubts, his
strategy won't change.
In his Rose Garden announcement, he said: "We
have a clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban's momentum," what he
told West Point cadets last December 1, announcing the surge, then adding:
"After 18 months, (they'll) begin com(ing) home....our cause is just,
our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right
makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a
world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest
fears but the highest of hopes," a goal more distant now than ever after
nine futile years, waging war against peace - the supreme international
crime, to be escalated under a general perhaps believing a greater body
count leads straight to the White House, replacing the current incumbent who
A final note. On June 18, the State Department awarded
Blackwater (now Xe Services) a $120 million Afghanistan "diplomatic
security" contract for its Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif consulates. The firm has
another $200 million one to train Afghan forces, and works in country for
the CIA, Pentagon, diplomatic corp, and by providing protective services for
visiting Washington and foreign officials.
Yet Blackwater is
notorious for its lawlessness, for rewarding and encouraging its field
employees to destroy Iraqi life, its founder Erik Prince implicated in
murder, his top deputies facing indictment for numerous crimes, its Iraq and
Afghan operatives charged with killing noncombatants, the company involved
in other scandals, the State Department nonetheless telling CBS News that:
"Under federal acquisition regulations, the prosecution of the specific
Blackwater individuals does not preclude the company or its successive
companies and subsidiaries from bidding on contracts."
at times gets no-bid ones, its horrific record a plus in obtaining them,
including a potential new assignment worth up to $1 billion, to train the
Afghan National Police. It's been bid on, not yet awarded, but who more
qualified than the world's most powerful, well-connected mercenary army,
notorious for operating below the radar with no accountability, and being
handsomely rewarded for its lawlessness, much the way the Pentagon takes
care of its own, and how Washington works overall.
Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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