Iraq and Afghanistan

Lara Logan, chief CBS News foreign correspondent, went on The Daily Show and reminded us that more foreign soldiers died in Afghanistan in June than in Iraq.

What little American attention there is on the long, far wars has been focused on Iraq but overshadowed by the American economy and its effects on the election cycle.

Our dear leaders have almost gotten US oil company penetration into Iraq for the first time since they were punted out in favor of Iraqi nationalization in the 70’s. This means that the cronies will leave office fat and happy, with high oil prices and a new Iraq deal that will help them retire very comfortably to Dallas, Texas. Fucking wonderful.

Lara Logan also asks, “When was the last time you saw an American soldier’s body on TV?”

Petraeus will end up being portrayed favorably by history. I can see him becoming an important political figure in the future, perhaps running for president one day. No doubt he has turned the American strategy in Iraq from one of counter-terrorism (which was what it was when I was there) to counter-insurgency, which has fared far better. But the bottom line is that Iraq will, whenever the US pulls out, have a civil war to determine power. There will be refugees, assistance to warring factions from neighboring countries, and continued US meddling in Iraqi affairs.

I think it is just plain stupid to argue that we need to stay in Iraq to maintain security. What security is that, exactly? Bribing people with guns and butter to do what you want? This stopgapping is distorting the conditions on the ground. Are things better just because the media has given up covering Iraq, and therefore it’s “quieter”? And the cobbled-together “alliances” (of convenience) are already being tested: you know it’s bad when a bunch of US govt. dudes get blown up at a council meeting, and two soldiers get shot by a councilman somewhere else.

When in history has a foreign occupation been able to help a smooth transition to a post-occupation peaceful country?

[edit: I’m glad that the esteemed William Odom agrees with a rapid pull-out.]

Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda may be subject to severe in-fighting. One of its spiritual guides has turned on it, in a Dr. Fadl, one of the foremost intellectuals on jihad. Zawahiri himself had to respond to Dr. Fadl’s missives, in an attempt to discredit them and maintain Al-Qaeda’s right to kill.

Al-Qaeda has been declared defeated in Iraq by the CIA, but even the CIA is allowing for the fact that Al-Qaeda could easily re-establish itself there. Al-Qaeda’s taken heavy losses in Iraq thanks to Petraeus, and has rightly pulled out to concentrate more on Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda still suffers from the legacy of Zarqawi, who killed Shi’ites and civilians indiscriminately. This helped the populace in Iraq turn on them. It makes sense strategically for Al-Qaeda to reorient itself into Afghanistan while the heat is seriously on in Iraq.

Besides, Afghanistan has always been a far more welcome place for international terrorists and global insurgents. Its people will fight for whoever pays them, because their only long-term goal is to keep out foreign occupiers. Afghanistan is a good defensive base and enjoys strict interpretation of Islam in the areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda’s fighters will fight harder in Afghanistan than they did in Iraq (as most of Al-Qaeda in Iraq was composed of Iraqis under visiting foreign amirs — not a great environment for sustained group efforts).

So Afghanistan was never friendly towards us as an occupier. But Iraqis should have easily been our friends. We’ve been slaughtering them. We’ve let them down multiple times.

Pakistan’s inability to counter the Taliban has led to it conceding a massive peace plan that allows Al-Qaeda to stay.

With bin Laden and Zawahiri still comfortably hidden, it is surprising (actually it isn’t) that Afghanistan is probably the farthest thing from Dubya’s mind right now. His ham-fisted approach to life is inspiration to us all that any stupid fool with a pedigree can become the most powerful person in the world. It harks back to the days of Commodus and other imperial meatheads who hasten the declines of their governments.

Public awareness in the US of the occupations is close to zero. The public gave up on it all a long time ago. They don’t understand it and they never will. They are exhausted and want it to be over, not because it is wrong, but because they’re tired of hearing the bad news — plus, there’s no Vietnam-like backlash. The Global War on Terror is simply a joke: “Oh, hey, that Iraq thing’s going REAL well, isn’t it?” People say it with a sneer as if they were there and as if they care about what it’s done to our country and to the world and to Iraqis and to justifying the actions of other countries. Meanwhile my buddy Brendan has deployed a total of 37 months to Iraq. Some of my friends have deployed multiple times. I met an amputee who’s just one of many at Walter Reed.

Even I have to remind myself that among my peers here at Georgetown, I should keep prodding them to remember that these occupations continue and that it will be their responsibilities as diplomats and government officials and business leaders to set policy and strategy that send people off to war.

I also have to remind myself that I have close to two years still remaining on IRR, so that I may still be re-called to deploy. I would be going virtually silently while my peers haven’t the faintest clue what that might mean except, “Oh, sucks to be him.” By virtue of switching to an all-volunteer service, all the incentives for caring about war have been removed since the US is completely safe from invasion and since it’s far wiser to pursue careers in the private sector than to serve a government starved for money and talent by neo-conservative agenda.

Is this what the Gilded Age and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s pre-Great Depression age were like?