It’s a sign of the New American times that even when we know we don’t have cogent grounds to continue our woebegone wars, we can’t invent compelling reasons to end them.
In September 2009, President Obama caved to Pentagon demands to send more troops to the Bananastans* even though nobody in the Department of Defense could tell him what they’d do with the extra troops. This was before Obama fired Gen. David McKiernan as Bananastan commander to make way for Gen. Stan McChrystal, who was fired to make way for Gen. David Petraeus, whom Obama should have fired the second he took office, along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen, and the rest of the Bush administration Pentarchy**.
Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana is the latest voice in Congress to express doubt about what is now inescapably Obama’s war. Once a supporter of our imperial pratfall in the Bananastans, Lugar now says, “The lack of clarity in Afghanistan does not end with the president’s timetable,” and he thinks that our involvement there is “proceeding without a clear definition of success.” Politeness Man couldn’t have put it more civilly.
We don’t have coherent war aims. The “realistic and achievable” objectives that Obama’s national security “Chess Masters” established in their March 2009 Bananastans policy paper revolved around a “core goal” to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Pakistan or Afghanistan.”
CIA director Leon Panetta recently reaffirmed that the number of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is “50 to 100. Maybe less.” Maybe none. Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, says there are “somewhat more than 300” al-Qaeda characters hiding in Pakistan, which means there are somewhat fewer than 400 there for a total of less than 500 of them in the Bananastans. Since experts like Leiter say the vast majority of al-Qaedeers are in the Bananastans that puts their strength worldwide at comfortably under 1,000. A 2005 report by the Century Foundation said that al-Qaeda never had more than “several hundred” formal members. (The Century Foundation was talking about the real al-Qaeda, not the copyright violators in Iraq. The “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” hooligans are like a college that calls itself “The Harvard of Northwest Indiana.”)
Whatever al-Qaeda’s exact number is, it’s a safe bet that it has fewer card-carrying members than the Ku Klux Klan or NAMBLA. Leiter says we’ve made “incredible successes” against al-Qaeda, and that the group “is weaker today than it has been at any time since 2001.” But, but, but, but, but, Leiter quickly adds, “Weaker does not mean harmless!” Senior Pentagon bull-feather merchant Mullen does Leiter one better: he’s worried about the “depth of synergies” between al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups, including (ominous chord) the Taliban! Where do we find such admirals? The next thing you know, Mullen will be asking for a defense budget hike to help close the “depth-of-synergies gap.”
And as I’ve often noted, even if there’s only one al-Qaeda member, the only safe haven he needs to plan and direct terrorist operations against Americans is a pocket big enough to hold his smart phone. For the U.S. military to deny al-Qaeda sanctuary, it would have to occupy every nook and cranny of the earth from the bottom of the Marianas Trench to the peak of Mount Everest, something that couldn’t occur even in neocon prodigy Freddie Kagan’s wettest dream ever.
The only genuine security threats the Bananastans present to the U.S. are the nukes in Pakistan and the heroin in Afghanistan, but none of our national security tank-thinkers give a pig’s wings about either of those things. If we ever decide to so something about those threats, though, the Air Force and Navy could bomb both of them back to the molecular level in less time than it takes the Baltimore Orioles to lose a baseball game.
Other “realistic and achievable” goals set out by the white paper included establishing legitimate governments and effective security forces in both Bananastans. We’ll cure cancer before either of those things will happen. Our decision to stand by election-robber President Hamid Karzai ensures that Afghanistan will never have a legitimate government. Afghan security forces are corrupt, incompetent, and infiltrated by insurgents, and estimates that they may be able to operate without training wheels by 2014 were arrived at with the aid of hallucinogens.
As for Pakistan, it’s even more of a security state than America. Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, just strong-manned his prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, into extending his term for another three years. This makes Kayani even more powerful in his country than Petraeus is in ours.
By August 2009, shortly after McChrystal took command in the Bananastans, the war intelligentsia had stopped wasting oxygen on arguments that our circus in Central Asia had anything to do with our national security. Counterinsurgency shaman David Kilcullen, an adviser to both Petraeus and McChrystal, baldly admitted that counterterrorism was “not at the top of my list” of reasons we “need to persist” in the Bananastans. Among his top justifications, according to journalist Anne Gearan, were that the United States and NATO have promised protection to the Afghan people, that the future of the NATO military alliance could hinge on perseverance in Afghanistan, and that if Afghanistan crumbles, nuclear-armed Pakistan would probably follow.
Harrumph! Kilcullen needs the sharp edge of a stainless-steel hanky administered to the upside of his noggin. One of McChrystal’s last acts as top banana in Bananastan was to delay his much heralded Kandahar offensive because the locals told him they didn’t want his protection. As for Pakistan crumbling, we can rest assured that Gen. Kayani won’t allow that to happen, even if he has to stay in power six, 10, 15 years – whatever it takes!
That leaves us continuing to gush national blood and treasure over the Khyber cliffs to preserve a military alliance that hasn’t had a gnat’s whisker’s worth of relevance in two decades. This is the same NATO that presently provides troops to ISAF, the acronym for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan that, according to U.S. troops, actually stands for “I Suck At Fighting.” None of that keeps NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen from being “optimistic” about the Afghanistan project, though, and he says NATO will “not leave Afghanistan prematurely.” So I guess we have to stay too. If they stay and we leave, they might call our troops a bunch of sissies, and we can’t have that now, can we?
Last week the House of Representatives told the Senate they’d vote yes to $60 billion for more war in the Bananastans if the Senate voted yes to $20 billion for school districts and grants to low-income college students and security along our border with Mexico. The Senate sneered and told the House no to investing $20 billion into items of genuine national security and yes to throwing $60 billion at a war that is wholly contrary to our best interests. What a shameful indicator of America’s priorities.
Even worse, though, is the spine of the antiwar argument that insists we should withdraw from the Bananastans conflict because we can no longer support it economically. We became a global hegemon by dominating the rest of the world militarily. For us to continue to fight wars based on whether or not we can afford them is madness. It is difficult to imagine a need for us to fight any sustained armed conflict, much less one against an enemy that doesn’t have a navy or an air force or even a real army to speak of. If we ever encounter a war we truly need to fight, we can afford to fight it whatever the cost, but an old green penny is too much to pay for a war that isn’t necessary.
And it is clearer than ever that the most wrong thing Barack Obama has ever done, and likely will ever do, is to call our Chinese fire drill in the Bananastans a “war of necessity.”
We must stop putting up with the militaristic nonsense our elected officials continue to perpetrate. Here’s hoping the WikiLeaks bombshell helps blast us out of the ovine torpor we’ve been seduced into by the war mongrels who President Dwight Eisenhower warned us would take over our country if we didn’t keep them on a short leash.
* The Bananastans are Afghanistan and Pakistan, our banana republics in Central Asia.
** The Pentarchy is the Pentagon oligarchy that promotes the Long War agenda.