afghanistan

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Juan Cole offers some sobering news this morning which raises significant questions about the viability of the Obama-McChrystal plan for Afghanistan. Here’s his third paragraph:

The past two weeks have seen the situation in Afghanistan deteriorate palpably, raising significant questions about the viability of the Obama-McChrysstal plan for the country. The chain of catastrophes has been reported in piecemeal fashion, but taken together these events are far more ominous than they might appear on the surface.

And here’s his first paragraph:

You probably won’t see it in most US news outlets, but on Monday morning in Kabul and Jalalabad, hundreds of university students demonstrated against US strikes this weekend that allegedly killed a number of civilians. I want to underline the irony that the students in Tehran University are protesting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while students in these two Afghan cities are calling for Yankees to go home. Nangarhar University in Jalalabad only has a student body of about 3200, so ‘hundreds’ of students protesting there would be a significant proportion of the student body.

Need I say more? Perhaps read the whole article and weep?

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…. the fact that our country is once again falling into a morass if not an abyss, namely Afghanistan. Not that it makes much difference what I say here. My loyal readership has dropped down to a precious few, while most of it, such as it is, comes from people searching for Frank Zappa, Pearl Harbor Day, or other things largely irrelevant to the present moment. How did I ever set up this blog for such an outcome?

Anyway, getting back to Afghanistan, Frank Rich in the NYT today has a block buster of an Op-Ed called “The Missing Link From Killeen to Kabul”. I think this is a must read for everyone, even those searching for Frank Zappa. (By mentioning Frank Zappa here, maybe some in their searching will chance upon this post?)

Here is the number one comment by readership popularity on Frank Rich’s article:

Fort Hood is an example of how religious doctrine can be used as an excuse for mentally unbalanced people to assume the role of the God they claim to worship. It’s not only Muslims who fall in this category, but Christians who blow up Federal buildings and murder abortion doctors. It also applies to ultra-Orthodox Jews who assassinate Israeli prime ministers.

There are hotheads of all types and sizes looking for a holy war. Cooler heads should prevail.

Afghanistan is the latest chapter in America’s attempt to play God in another fashion, by recreating the world in our own image. It’s time to quit wasting our soldiers’ lives and our resources and focus on what it will take to finally bring the U.S. infrastructure, education, and social safety net into the 21st century.

This comment, by Aredee of Madison, WI, is getting 560 reader recommendations with the second most popular getting 367. Practically all of the many comments on Frank’s article are for America getting out of Afghanistan. Check ’em out, after you read the article.

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It’s probably true, as Minds Erased says, that the Nobel Peace prize is really like a Grammy Award, not based on merit, just a popularity contest, and only meant as a form of encouragement. Hendrick Hertzberg in the latest New Yorker (Oct. 19) pretty much agrees with this view. But that old foreign policy guru, Zbigniew Brzezinski, while admitting that Obama needs to earn the prize, deserves it nevertheless. Why? Here’s what he says:

He deserves it because, in the course of less than a year, he really has refined America’s relationship with the world. He has grandly improved America’s image in the world. He has committed America to a series of policies designed to resolve conflicts and to deal in a non-unilateral fashion with key issues. And he has committed America to grand goals in the area of nuclear weaponry, global problems and so forth.

What do I think?

Well, I think Iran is really not a threat and that if Obama can’t figure out how to talk to them, he’s not earned much, and he really should get out of Afghanistan. At least it appears now that he may drop the idea of routing out the Tailban. That’s a step forward.

But what do I think about Obama getting the prize?

Well, I don’t think he should have rejected it, but I’m sure it’ll be an additional burden for him to carry. It’s good that he at least is donating the proceeds to charity.

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Bob Herbert has a sobering Op-Ed in the NYT this morning, The Ultimate Burden. He describes a book of color photos by photographer Peter van Agtmael of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how most Americans have conveniently put these two absurd, obscene conflicts out of their minds.

So, who the Hell in America does fight these wars? Answer: less than 1% of our population of 300 million, and where does that 1% predominantly come from? Certainly not from children of the upper classes, from children of the economically advantaged.

So, where’s the draft? Funny we can’t pass one, isn’t it? I wonder why that is?

Here’s the most popular comment to Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed. It says it all:

I wish we could pass a new Constitutional amendment that said that a Congressional vote authorizing a war or any other overseas military action would immediately trigger a draft of males and females between 18 and 25 and that the first young people drafted would be any 18- to 25-year-old children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews of members of the House and Senate, the Cabinet secretaries, and the president and his/her staff.

Would Bush have been so quick to authorize an invasion of Iraq if he had known that doing so would subject Jenna and Barbara to the draft? Would Hillary Clinton have voted for the Iraq War Resolution if it had meant that Chelsea would be headed for boot camp?

If the rich and powerful are not willing to send their own children into combat, then the war is bogus. Note that most members of Congress had a child or grandchild in the armed forces during World War II.

Thank you, pdxtran from Minneapolis, for that insightful comment.

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Books Recently Read

OK, I’ve started a lot of books but have not managed to complete them. Now, however, in the recent few weeks I’ve actually completed two books!

They’re both novels. I think my problem has been that I tend to pick heavyweight books in politics, science, philosophy, religion, etc., which by their nature are not “page turners”. I wade into these tomes and often get bogged down, then put them aside.

Ah, but in the case of Ken Follett’s “World Without End” I stuck with it to the very end, all 1014 pages of it! This book was indeed a page turner. The characters may have been two-dimensional but I was fascinated by them anyway. The story, or stories and developments, were exciting throughout, if somewhat improbable. I do believe one got a good feel for life in the 1300’s though, black death and all.

The second book I finished, this one just a few days ago, was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This a beautiful, heart-rendering book about an emigre from Afghanistan and his relationship with his boyhood friend. The themes of racism, agonizing love, betrayal, and the reality of Afghanistan are woven together in an intricate fabric. Improbable coincidences do happen but after all, at basis this is a story and a wonderfully powerful one.

I’d recommend each of these books if you want to take a break from blogging for a bit and curl up with a good book by the fire.

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How about some non-US spin on General Petraeus leaving Iraq? Ajazeera is a good place to start. Here’s a video discussed by Juan Cole this morning. Instead of the happy talk of victory that the US media would spin, Juan Cole quotes a more realistic statement by Gen. Petraeus himself:

‘ In a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, Petraeus said experience in Iraq shows it will take political and economic progress as well as military action to tackle increased violence in Afghanistan. “You don’t kill or capture your way out of an industrial strength insurgency,” he said.’

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piLqHQyqDos[/youtube]

Click on the YouTube and watch the heavies! There’s quite a bunch there. Also, what sounds to Juan Cole (and me) like realistic reporting. Worth a three minute watch.

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What is the story on Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the MIT grad who may have been imprisoned at Bagram, that notorious American detention facility in Afghanistan, for the past five years?

Siddiqui is a 36-year old Pakistani woman who when young was sent to America by her father, along with her two siblings, for education. But in 2003 while she was living in Karachi, Pakistan, with her parents and three children she suddenly disappeared. She was arrested on July 17 of this year on false charges, according to her lawyer, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, who says she has proof that Siddiqui was being held at Bagram Air Base for the past five years.

Sharp also says Siddiqui appears traumatized, is very passive, and is “like a person who has been excessively institutionalized.” I got this information from this NPR article. Eric Alterman has further details and links here. Particularly interesting is the investigation by Tim Bella at ProPublica, Mystery Surrounds Case of Terror Suspect. Here is a 3-minute video, The Case Against Aafia Siddiqui, from Aug 6, 2008, on AlJazeera:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMcJr0NbzNA[/youtube]
I doubt there is anything like this in the American media.

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One of my morning reads to capture the news and find out what’s going on in the world has always been Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. He’s got a great post this morning on the hysteria of the neocons over the Russian response to Georgian troops invading Ossetia. Here’s the closing paragraph of this short four paragraph read:

Watching the Bennetts and the Krauthammers get all jazzed up about Georgia as the new Afghanistan, with all the painfully awkward nostalgia and excitement of an 80s era Gilligan’s Island reunion flick is entertaining. But much less so when you realize these jokers might be running the government in six months.

Of course McCain is right in there with the rest of them, championing them in fact and sending his surrogates to Georgia. Well, we’ll see whether the whole thing doesn’t blow over in a couple weeks. I’ll come back here then with an update!

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