Focal Points Blog

Light at End of Afghan Tunnel Recedes With Brazen Taliban Attacks, Army Desertion, and Flourishing Opium Trade

Taliban“Now we can see [success in Vietnam] clearly, like the light at the end of a tunnel.”
— Gen. Henri Navarre, commander French forces in Vietnam, May 20, 1953

“A new phase is starting…we have reached an important point when the end begins to come into view…there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
— Gen. William Westmoreland, commander U.S. forces in Vietnam, November 1967

“Yesterday’s attack [in Kabul] was a fleeting event; it came and it went. The insurgents are on the defensive.” The performance of Afghan security forces should tell Afghans “they can sleep well at night.”
— Gen. John Allen, North Atlantic Treaty Commander in Afghanistan, Sept. 14, 2011

Dear Lord, what is about generals that seem to make them so particularly immune to history’s lessons?

Gen. Navarre had a sure-fire plan to draw the Vietnamese insurgents into a great battle that would end the war. Worked like a charm. On May 7, 1954 the French army surrendered at Dien Bien Phu.

In November 1967, Gen. Westmoreland was making the rounds in Washington, talking up “body counts” and “pacification,” and how the U.S would have this little matter in Vietnam wrapped up pretty quickly. Ten weeks later, on Jan.31, 1968, the National Liberation Front and the North Vietnamese launched the Tet offensive that put the U.S. Embassy in Saigon under siege, seized the city of Hue, and shattered the myth that the U.S. was winning the war in Vietnam.

And now Gen. Allen says the attack on Kabul indicates the Taliban are on their last legs.

For NATO this year has been the deadliest in the decade-old war, and the Kabul assault suggests that the Taliban are hardly on the ropes. As Matthew Green of the Financial Times put it, “The attack was among the most sophisticated insurgents have launched on the capital and exposed the inability of Afghan forces to guarantee security even in the most heavily defended districts.”

A “fleeting event”? I suppose that depends on how one defines “fleeting.” Seven Taliban pinned down NATO and Afghan security forces for 20 hours, scattering Embassy officials, and pretty much paralyzing a major part of the capital. It was the 26th major attack on Kabul since 2008, assaults that have killed 225 people.

What generals don’t get (it tends to be above their pay grade) is that wars like Vietnam and Afghanistan— wars of occupation—are political, not military affairs. The U.S. military continues to claim that the Tet offensive was a huge military victory because it killed lots of insurgents, and the U.S. took back all the cities it lost. But Tet was less a military offensive than a political undertaking aimed at derailing the myth that the U.S. was “winning” the war in Vietnam. And that is exactly what Tet did. Regardless of what the generals thought, the American people concluded that they had been lied to, and that the war could not be won.

During the Paris peace talks to end the war in Southeast Asia, an American colonel confronted his North Vietnamese counterpart and told him that the U.S. had won every battle in the Vietnam War. The North Vietnamese officer nodded, “Yes, that is true, but also irrelevant.” I doubt the American officer got the point.

General Allen’s line about “the insurgents are on the defensive” can now join former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s dismissal of the growing Iraqi insurgency as nothing but Saddam Hussein “dead-enders.”

As for Kabul residents being able to “sleep well at night” because of the performance of the Afghan security forces:

“The nature and scale of today’s attacks clearly proves that the terrorists received assistance and guidance from some security officials within the government who are their sympathizers,” Naim Hamidzai, chair of the Afghan parliament’s Internal Security Committee, told the New York Times. “Otherwise it would be impossible for the planners and masterminds of the attack to stage such a sophisticated and complex attack, in this extremely well guarded location without the complicity of insiders.”

The Afghan Army saw its desertion rate more than double in the first six months of this year. Between January and June, some 24,590 soldiers deserted, compared with 11,423 who left in the same period in 2010. The Afghan army is supposed to reach 195,000 by October 2012.

The Afghan army has also been unable to recruit Pashtuns from southern Afghanistan, the heart of the insurgency. According to a recent study by the New York Times, Pashtuns from Kandahar, Helmand, Oruzgan, Zabul, Paktika, and Ghazni make up 17 percent of the population but only 1.5 percent of the army. In short, the Afghan Army in the south is essentially a northern army of occupation, which explains why no one in the southern provinces will join the army, and virtually no Taliban have switched allegiances to the government.

To shore up security, the U.S. has been recruiting and arming militias that, according to a recent Human Rights study, have killed, raped and stolen from local villagers. U.S. Special Forces recruit the militia members, who then shift their loyalties to local warlords. This should hardly come as a surprise. The Soviets tried exactly this tactic during their occupation, which ended up fueling the growth of the warlords and led to the devastating 1992-96 civil war.

Of course General Allen might have had something else in mind when he talked about getting a good night’s sleep.

According to the United Nations, this year will be a bumper crop for opium. Prices for dry opium increased 306 percent this year, from $69 a kilo to $281 a kilo. As Jean-Luc Lemahieu, an official of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, told the New York Times, “This is not business as usual. There is no crop that can compete with those prices.”

Smoke enough opium you can sleep through anything.

For the last 10 years we have bombed, shot, incarcerated, and water-boarded a lot of people in Afghanistan. We have allowed opium to become the country’s major source of income, and we are currently bringing back the warlords and their armies. Afghanistan is a far more dangerous place today than it was a decade ago, and the only tunnels are the ones in which the Taliban store their weapons and supplies.

It seems time to resuscitate a line from another decade and another war: “Out now!”

More of Conn Hallinan’s work can be found at Dispatches From the Edge.

Saudis to U.S.: You’re Sleeping on the Couch Tonight

Prince Turki al Faisal

Prince Turki al Faisal

Cross-posted from Mondoweiss.

Prominent Saudi officials have been wagging their fingers at the U.S. since 9/11, trying to convince Washington that Riyadh is as indispensable to the U.S.’s Middle East status quo as Tel Aviv is. One such prominent Saudi official, Prince Bandar, has gone so far as to compare the arrangement between Saudi Arabia as a “Catholic marriage,” i.e., periods of separation are allowed but divorce is not. He is, by U.S. standards, an exasperating partner because of his proclivity to make statements along the lines of “the U.S. shouldn’t be counted on to restore stability across the Middle East” and to go around the U.S.’s back in conversations with Pakistani, Emirates and Malaysian officials.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi ambassador and intelligence chief (one of the main silent partners in the U.S.-led campaign to arm the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s) is suggesting the stubborn U.S. will soon be seeing some unwelcome papers from his lawyer. He warns the U.S. that its recalcitrance over the Palestinian Authority’s effort at the UN will force the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to reconsider its ties with Washington. From the New York Times:

The United States must support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations this month or risk losing the little credibility it has in the Arab world. If it does not, American influence will decline further, Israeli security will be undermined and Iran will be empowered, increasing the chances of another war in the region.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has. With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the “special relationship” between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people.

Saudi leaders would be forced by domestic and regional pressures to adopt a far more independent and assertive foreign policy. Like our recent military support for Bahrain’s monarchy, which America opposed, Saudi Arabia would pursue other policies at odds with those of the United States, including opposing the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq and refusing to open an embassy there despite American pressure to do so. The Saudi government might part ways with Washington in Afghanistan and Yemen as well.

Considering that the Saudis have long been our partners in making Afghanistan, Yemen and Bahrain what they are today, their newfound “unhelpfulness” would certainly undermine U.S. interests in those countries — if it actually comes to pass.

Saudi statements about Israel today essentially amount to (hypocritical) bluster. Saudi Arabia is no sudden human rights champion, however much the royal family goes on about Palestinian refugees and self-determination. And in foreign policy, there is far too much at stake for both Riyadh and Washington to have a falling out.

Nor can the Saudis realistically expect to get a better deal in Iraq than the one they currently have in the form of the U.S.-backed al-Maliki, since a different government might be more willing to work with Iran, the Saudis’ archenemy and “populist” theocratic rival (though Tehran today is about as authentically populist as Rick Perry).

In Yemen and Bahrain, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia basically have the same interests: marginalize Iran and suppress popular dissent under the banner of counterterrorism. The Saudis also cannot expect to easily switch out military suppliers and consultants when it comes to their armed forces, as U.S. intel and equipment dominates the Saudi defense apparatus.

Most likely, there will be a flurry of diplomatic snubs (“Emirates, please tell the U.S. to pass the salt.”), but little more than that — you cannot say the Saudis are going to undermine aspects of U.S. policy in retaliation because, well, Saudi officials have done that on a regular basis in both good times and bad, in sickness and in health, for rich or for … rich.

It’s a turbulent marriage, to be sure, but remember, divorce is not permitted! And while you can annul a Catholic marriage, neither the U.S. government nor the Saudi royal family will be annulling theirs, whatever happens in Israel and the Occupied Territories from here on out.

Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.

Nuclear Weapons Stewardship a Victim of Mission Creep

Stockpile Stewardship is the name of the U.S. program in which it maintains its nuclear program without conducting nuclear tests. According to this fiscal year’s management plan, write Nickolas Roth, Hans M. Kristensen and Stephen Young at the FAS Strategic Security Blog, “from 2011 to 2031, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) plans to spend almost $16 billion on Life Extension Programs (LEPs) to extend the service life and significantly modify almost every warhead in the enduring stockpile.”

This includes between $1.7 billion and $3.9 billion for each of the five individual bomb models. But the “figures do not include almost $11 billion in additional NNSA expenses simply to maintain the stockpile, outside of the LEP programs. This brings total spending on nuclear warheads over the next twenty years to $27 billion.”

In tandem with the words “significantly modify,” the authors have noticed an innovation in cataloging the bombs that indicates mission creep on the part of the NNSA away from just maintaining the stockpile.

For each weapon type, different variants are designated by a … “Mod” number … e.g., B61-7 is the “B61 Mod 7.” Only significant changes would result in a new Mod number. … This seems to indicate that all LEPs will now produce warheads with new Mod numbers, apparently in anticipation of significant modifications. [Emphasis added — RW.]

Where does the White House stand on this?

Up to a point, this effort enjoys widespread congressional and White House support. … However, NNSA’s enthusiasm for extensively modifying all warheads may be going beyond what Congress and the Obama administration as a whole will support. … In an example of rising concerns, [a GAO] report on the B61 LEP raised red flags about the NNSA’s proposed changes to the bomb. The report [noted that the B61 LEP] was the first ever that sought to simultaneously refurbish multiple components, enhance safety and surety, and make other design changes. . . [Expressing its concern, a] Senate appropriations committee. … report notes that “NNSA plans to incorporate untried technologies and design features to improve the safety and security of the nuclear stockpile” (emphasis added [by authors]).

“While some enhancements may be warranted,” write the authors, “the justification for all these new features appears to be based on an open-ended development of new technologies for the incorporation of enhanced surety features into warheads independent of any threat scenario. This pursuit of a wide range of surety improvements,” in turn, “justifies the need for substantial warhead modifications and additional production and simulation capabilities.” In fact, “warhead modification is now a central goal of the stockpile stewardship management program.”

In other words, “Modification—not just maintenance—of the enduring stockpile has become a core objective.” The authors conclude:

One gets the sense that, since Congress stopped the Reliable Replacement Warhead, NNSA has seized on safety and security as the sure-fire cause to allow major warhead modifications and win significant funding.

New Japanese Prime Minister Must Quell China’s Fears About His Nationalism

Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda

Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda

“Japan-U.S. and Japan-China relations need to be improved,” Japan’s newly elected prime minister, recently told his foreign minister. “I’d like you to place priority on them.”

Japan has put its sixth premier in five years in place to tackle the extensive problems facing Japan in the wake of consecutive tragedies including the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. The appearance of the new Japanese leader already attracted the attention of neighboring countries. China has viewed the appointment of Japan’s new premier with more anxiety than enthusiasm, given Yoshihiko Noda’s conservative views and comments supporting a controversial Tokyo shrine honoring World War II dead including Class A war criminals.

Despite such controversial remarks, the new prime minister is not likely to take any risky positions. As Koichi Nakano, political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, remarks, “Noda is likely to play down his past comments and he has no interest in complicating his situation by creating an acrimonious atmosphere when he needs to cooperate with Asian nations to get out of Japan‘s economic quagmire.” The Japanese public also will not want their leader to waste his time squabbling over historical issues with neighboring countries. The core interest of Japan at the moment is economic recovery. And China is a big part of this.

China has become a key trading partner to sustaining Japan’s economic growth. China has become Japan’s biggest trading partner, doing $176 billion worth of trade for the first half of 2011. The relationship is complementary. As the world’s largest developing country, China needs Japan’s technology and high-end products. As a trade and technology-oriented country, Japan needs China’s market which is close to Japan and has great potential. Japan also needs low-priced daily necessities made in China.

However, the two countries face a serious hurdle in the path toward better bilateral relations.

The maritime dispute between China and Japan over the Tokyo-administered island chain in the East China Sea known in Japan as the Senkakus and in China as the Diaoyu islands has been a longstanding point of conflict. The new leadership in Japan not only has stressed its claim over the islands but also revealed its willingness to take corresponding measures to China’s military expansion, especially its naval power. In a news conference on September 2, Japan’s foreign minister said that “China is building up its naval power without transparency. We’ll make firm demands on China over the matter.” In addition, the annual white paper report released by Japan’s ministry of defense outlines a plan to beef up the country’s naval power, with China and its maritime assertiveness cited as a major reason for the modernization. According to People’s Daily Online, the Japanese government uses the “China threat theory” to bridge the divide between Japan and the United States and to force local municipalities to continue to tolerate the presence of U.S. military bases.

The new Sino-Japan relations depend on the newly elected Japanese prime minister’s performance. But the revolving door nature of Japan’s leadership over the last five years has given “the world the impression that Japan’s leadership is fickle.” In order to improve relations with China, Yoshihiko Noda will first have to stay in power long enough to make a difference.

Ikhwan Kim is a Foreign Policy in Focus intern.

Impressive Taliban Attack on Embassy Eclipses Success for Afghan Security Forces

On the heels of the attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel in June and a British cultural center there in August, Tuesday’s well-coordinated attack on the United States embassy can be counted as another impressive showing by the Taliban. The New York Times reports that the attack “asserted the ability of the Taliban with a small number of men to use guerrilla tactics to terrify the population, dominate the media, and overshadow the West’s assertions that the Afghan government and security forces will soon be able to handle the insurgency on their own.”

On the bright side, Afghan security forces

… handled the response to the attack with little visible support from NATO troops, other than some surveillance. … Soon after Afghan forces flew their own attack helicopters to the building, strafing it and appearing to hit their target consistently. Late into the night, Afghan forces were still clearing it, floor by floor.

Still, the attack provides more fodder for those who would urge the United States to maintain its current presence.

A senior Western official said the attack made the talk of a peace deal with Taliban seem “absurd.”

Oddly, the attack comes just when “US Backs ‘Taleban Embassy’ In Move To End 10-Year War,” as the head to a London Times article (behind a paywall) by Catherine Philp and Jerome Starkey. (Thanks to Robert Naiman for bringing it to our attention.)

America has given its blessing for the Taleban to be brought in from the cold as the world paused to mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The Times has learnt that Washington has endorsed plans for the Islamist network to open political headquarters in the Gulf state of Qatar by the end of the year. The move has been devised so that the West can begin formal peace talks with the Taleban.

If the Taliban leadership is serious about negotiations, yet it or some faction of the Taliban executed a major attack on the United States, one can’t help but wonder: don’t these people talk to each other?

Israeli Settlers: Never Shy About Taking the Law Into Their Own Hands

Israeli settlerCross-posted from Mondoweiss.

Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari of the far-right National Union party coalition has announced a call to action for Israeli settlers in the West Bank to march out and confront anticipated Palestinian demonstrations in the Occupied Territories this month, which he describes as delegitimizing provocations by “the Arabs” and Israel’s “far-left.” He has prepared an outline for his campaign titled “September: The Threat of an Opportunity – Changing the Rules of the Game.” This announcement follows a recent spate of “price taggings” reportedly committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, the IDF and Peace Now activists in the run-up to the controversial Palestinian bid for recognition as a state through the UN.

Although the IDF is providing both training and weapons to Israeli settlers (and the Israeli courts have effectively immunized settlers from prosecution if they shoot Palestinian “trespassers”), Ben-Ari anticipates a scenario where the security forces will be overwhelmed, and thus cut and run: “[I] doubt that the security forces can effectively protect every settlement, in the event that demonstrations break out simultaneously all across the region. In such cases, the result will be [a retreat] – resulting in the abandonment of Jewish territory, looting [by Palestinians], property damage, and worse.” Ben-Ari has said that the settlers who flock to his banner must make every effort not to give an inch in the face of the “enemy” — that is, both Palestinians and the Israeli government, which he accuses of being willing to let the West Bank to become a “terrorist state” rather than endure the “burden” of the settlements any longer.

Below is (my) English translation of Ben-Ari’s manifesto as reported on by Israeli news outlet Arutz 7:

The [Palestinians’] September demonstrations present an opportunity to tell everyone, whether they want to hear it or not, that Judea and Samaria are our home:

We’re here! This is the legacy of our forefathers!
We’re here to stay forever!
We’re here! For the people of Israel!

The security forces have amply demonstrated that going into the anticipated September protests [by the Palestinians], they do not share the settlers’ concerns. Undoubtedly, this is the result of a political consensus that views the settlements as a “burden.” Even though the security forces have the option of working with the settlers to protect their homes and property, there has been minimal preparation by the security forces to mobilize them.

This is the settlers’ chance to declare that they are here.

There are 330,000 settlers in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem)! Settlers’ [security] squads, security coordinators and patrol vehicles are permanently on alert. And settlers have knowledge of the area and know the weaknesses of the [Palestinian] enemy.

We believe that if the settlers do not act to defend the settlements, no one else will. Ehud Barak and Netanyahu desire the establishment of a terrorist state on Israeli soil; they will not defend the settlers.

The plan is to organize hundreds and even thousands of kids, children, women and old men (with the assistance of reinforcements) from the settlements and walk right up to the Palestinian demonstrators, waving Israeli flags as we march across Israeli territory.

These actions will repeat themselves across Israel; the settlers will face down the opposing forces. No more [Israeli] soldiers and border guards in front of groups of Arab women and children. But children with children, boys with boys and women with women – it will destroy the “effect of September” and this will change the equation on the ground forever.


The campaign staff will include representatives of all relevant bodies, mayors, community leaders, and residents’ committees . . . representatives of the hilltop youth, and the like. When this goes down it will run effectively, but we will struggle in some areas:

The headquarters unit will be headed by an operations officer and team coordinators. Staff will unite all the existing workforce . . . [and] will prepare an operational plan based on the independent agenda of the settlers, and [staff will] organize marches and mass rallies outside the villages but also will be responsible for sending a response force for each locality where the event takes place against the terrorists.

The logistics team will ensure the supply of equipment for the marchers and a regular supply of food and water. The equipment provided will include legal “self-protection equipment” which would allow activists to defend themselves and retaliate in case of assault.

Much of the enemy’s campaign is going to take place in the media. Arabs run the media campaign, and at the disposal of the Arabs and leftists are not only most of the media establishment, but also many skilled speakers. The communications team will be based primarily on the Forum speakers in the West Bank with the assistance of the observation unit.

Lawyers and jurists that will handle legal challenges arising from the defense minister should he try to argue that these actions will harm the residents of Judea and Samaria. If any settlers are arrested during the events, the legal team will come to their assistance.

The Arutz 7 reporting obliquely references the necessity of reaching out to foreign organizations to carry out this campaign. It is not clear what organizations Ben-Ari and his supporters have in mind, though the French Jewish Defense League (JDL) has announced that it is coordinating the dispatch of volunteer “guards” who have military training with five West Bank settlements. The JDL, and the banned far-right Israeli political party Kach/Kahane Chai, were both founded by ultra-nationalist Israeli politician Meir Kahane. The JDL itself is allowed to operate in the U.S. and the EU, where it has ties to the anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic British Defense League.

Ben-Ari seems to envision that the Palestinian effort at the UN — which Ramallah argues is a necessity in the face of the Israeli government’s refusal to return to peace talks — will eventually lead to the same sort of withdrawal the Israelis undertook in Sinai and Gaza. A collective warning from the Israeli intelligence community urging the government to reevaluate its recalcitrance over returning to peace talks with Ramallah suggests that a schism is growing among Israeli elites about how to respond to the Palestinian initiative at the UN.

The National Union holds that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is an integral part of Israel (referring to the Occupied Territories by the Biblical designation of “Judea and Samaria”). It has frequently butted heads with Netanyahu’s policies in the past — because they don’t go far enough (i.e., formally annexing Israeli’s post-1967 territorial gains). Given the likelihood of a pro-Palestinian vote from the UN General Assembly by the end of the month, and the growing number of prominent Israeli voices expressing opposition to the Tel Aviv’s response to the vote, Ben-Ari and the settlers seem determined to be resorting to the tried-and-true tactic of changing the “facts on the ground,” lest a resumption negotiations scale back their gains (and, in the event of a binding UN resolution, allow a host of lawsuits against the Israeli government, settlements and security forces in the West Bank to proceed).

NB: It is not entirely clear if the Hebrew text presented by Arutz 7 is Ben-Ari’s report itself, or a condensed version edited by Arutz 7, though other Israeli news outlets have quoted pieces of the Arutz 7 text below as Ben-Ari’s own words).

Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.

The Motive for Terrorism That Officials Dare Not Acknowledge

In the commentary on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the news and infotainment media have predictably framed the discussion by the question of how successful the CIA and the military have been in destroying al Qaeda. Absent from the torrent of opinion and analysis was any mention of how the U.S. military occupation of Muslim lands and wars that continue to kill Muslim civilians fuel jihadist sentiment that will keep the threat of terrorism high for many years to come.

The failure to have that discussion is not an accident. In December 2007, at a conference in Washington, D.C. on al Qaeda, former State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin offered a laundry list of things the United States could do to reduce the threat from al Qaeda. But he said nothing about the most important thing to be done: pledging to the Islamic world that the United States would pull its military forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq and end its warfare against those in Islamic countries resisting U.S. military presence.

During the coffee break, I asked him whether that item shouldn’t have been on his list. “You’re right,” he answered. And then he added, “But we can’t do that.”

“Why not,” I asked.

“Because,” he said, “we would have to tell the families of the soldiers who have died in those wars that their loved ones died in vain.”

His explanation was obviously bogus. But in agreeing that America’s continuing wars actually increase the risk of terrorism against the United States, Benjamin was merely reflecting the conclusions that the intelligence and counter-terrorism communities had already reached.

The National Intelligence Estimate on “Trends in Global Terrorism” issued in April 2006 concluded that the war in Iraq was “breeding deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim World and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.” It found that “activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.” And in a prophetic warning, it said “the operational threat from self-radicalized cells will grow in importance…particularly abroad but also at home.”

Given the way intelligence assessments get watered down as they ascend the hierarchy of officials, these were remarkably alarming conclusions about the peril that U.S. occupation of Iraq posed to the United States. And that alarm was shared by at least some counter-terrorism officials as well. Robert Grenier, who had been head of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center in 2005-06, was quoted in the July 25, 2007 Los Angeles Times as saying the war “has convinced many Muslims that the United States is the enemy of Islam and is attacking Muslims, and they have become jihadists as a result of their experience in Iraq.”

As the war in Iraq wound down, the U.S. war in Afghanistan — especially the war being waged by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — was generating more hatred for the United States. As JSOC scaled up its “night raids” in Afghanistan, it never got the right person in more than 50 percent of the raids, as even senior commanders in JSOC recently admitted to the Washington Post. That indicated that a very large proportion of those killed and detained were innocent civilians. Not surprisingly, the populations of entire districts and provinces were enraged by those raids.

If there is one place on earth where it is obviously irrational to antagonize the male population on a long-term basis, it is the Pashtun region that straddles Afghanistan and Pakistan, with its tribal culture of honor and revenge for the killing of family and friends.

Meanwhile, after fleeing from Afghanistan to Pakistan in 2001, al Qaeda had rebuilt a large network of Pashtun militants in the Pashtun northwest. As the murdered Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad recounted in Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, President Pervez Musharraf, under pressure from Washington, began in 2003 to use the Pakistani army to try to destroy the remnants of al Qaeda by force with helicopter strikes and ground forces. But instead of crushing al Qaeda, those operations further radicalized the population of those al Qaeda base areas, by convincing them that the Pakistani government and army was merely a tool of U.S. control.

Frustrated by the failure of Musharraf to finish off al Qaeda and by the swift rise of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, the Bush administration launched a drone war that killed large numbers of civilians in northwest Pakistan. An opinion survey by New American Foundation in the region last year found that 77 percent believed the real purpose of the U.S. “war on terror” is to “weaken and divide the Muslim world” and to “ensure American domination.” And more than two-thirds of the entire population of Pakistan view the United States as the enemy, not as a friend, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

The CIA and the Bush and Obama administrations understood that drone strikes could never end the threat of terrorist plots in Pakistan, as outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden had told the incoming President, according to Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars. And if the Obama administration didn’t understand then that the drone war was stoking popular anger at the government and the United States, it certainly does now. Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has pointed out that “hatred of America is increasing in Pakistan” because of the drone strikes.

Yet the night raids and the drone strikes continue, as though the risk of widespread and intense anger toward the United States in those countries doesn’t make any difference to the policymakers.

There is only one way to understand this conundrum: there are winners and losers in the “war on terrorism.” Ordinary Americans are clearly the losers, and the institutions and leaders of the military, the Pentagon and the CIA and their political and corporate allies are the winners. They have accumulated enormous resources and power in a collapsing economy and society.

They are not going to do anything about the increased risk to Americans from the hatred their wars have provoked until they are forced to do so by a combination of resistance from people within those countries and an unprecedented rebellion by millions of Americans. It’s long past time to start organizing that rebellion.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam,” was published in 2006.

The Military: Unlikely Advocate for Green?

There has been much talk of late of the military’s efforts to “go green.” This characterization is accurate in a sense, but misleading if interpreted too broadly. The military recognizes that its dependence on massive quantities of fossil fuels imposes substantial risks, and to reduce these risks it must reduce its energy requirements. Although the military cites dependence on foreign oil and the dangers posed by continued climate change as a component of these risks, the more important issue is the logistics and costs involved in delivering fuel to distant operational centers around the world. The most obvious example of this danger is the staggering number of casualties suffered by servicemen and women during fuel shipments.

In response, the military has not only set impressive goals, but has already made significant headway in reducing its energy consumption. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute military greening Fact Sheet provides details for the Navy’s energy efficiency programs. Some of their goals include sailing the “Great Green Fleet,” a Green Strike Group run on biofuels and nuclear power by 2016; reducing non-tactical petroleum use in the commercial fleet by 50 percent by 2015; and deriving 50 percent of total energy consumption from alternative fuel sources by 2020. The fact sheet also reports that “[t]he Navy launched its first hybrid electric‐drive surface combatant, the USS Makin Island, in 2006; estimated cost savings will be $248 million over its service life.”

Despite the benefits of these clean energy programs, the House voted on July 7 to strike section 526 of a 2007 law aimed at promoting energy independence. This section prohibits federal agencies from purchasing fuels with higher lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than conventional petroleum fuels. Those who wish to repeal this section argue that it is an unnecessary constraint on operational flexibility and will damage the liquid coal industry. Those who hope to maintain the provision argue that it can serve as a tool for solidifying the military’s commitment to clean energy, and in the long run will lead to a broader spectrum of operational possibilities.

The climate activist’s view

From a green economy perspective, this legislation could not be more important. The military’s huge demand for energy translates into enormous market pull. By creating a market for biofuels and green technology, the military can spur further research and drive down the price of clean energy to levels that would be competitive with traditional energy sources. According to analysis presented at a congressional briefing on the Defense Department’s Deployment of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, section 526 sends positive signals to the green energy sector by reassuring clean energy producers that their investments will be met with steady demand from the DoD. Such stability is critical for any burgeoning industry.

Indeed, Pew Charitable Trust cites the lack of a coherent, stable clean energy policy framework as the main cause of the United States’s falling share of global clean investment. Maintaining clean energy supportive policies in the military could give green industries the toehold they need to become competitive in the U.S. market.

The military and the green economy

If the military does maintain a strong commitment to clean energy, it can play a unique role in the development of viable biofuels and other reduced carbon emissions sources. The Center for American Progress argues, “The military can test various advanced biofuels to determine the most effective blend before they are commercialized. And it can do this more easily than private businesses because it can afford to experiment without concern about a short-term profit.” With increased, stable demand, prices will drop and the industry will expand.

Many biofuels have only dubious credentials as friends of the environment. Thankfully, the Navy reports that it will not use corn as a fuel source, nor any other fuel that would diminish the food supply. The Navy is in fact mandated to only use fuels with lifecycle costs and emissions that are lower than traditional fossil fuels.

Military investment could also help develop green technologies. Many commentators point to GPS as an example of a technology initially developed for the military that gained a second life in civilian applications. Thomas Hicks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, recently argued that we are unlikely to anticipate the most important technological transfers, but did speculate that censors capable of detecting heat loss could be a likely candidate for one of these transformative cross-over technologies. He noted that military investment in this technology has dropped the cost of development substantially and has made it more likely that civilian applications could become economically viable.

The military: A PR agent for green?

There is another potential spillover effect that a successful military greening project could offer. The military is a nationally recognized organization with great prestige, giving its energy efficiency initiative the potential to legitimize going green and even to broaden recognition of the dangers of climate change. At a recent congressional briefing on the Defense Department’s Deployment of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the Army, Energy and Sustainability, argued that the military has historically led the nation toward broader acceptance of some of its most controversial social issues. Given their high level of respectability, veterans who understand the benefits of energy efficiency could change minds in their own communities and places of work. Kidd stated “When the army goes green, the nation will.” For an example of veteran climate activism already under way, take a look at Operation Free, a collection of veterans for sensible energy use. Merely having military planners discussing climate change as a legitimate concern within policy discussion certainly puts climate skeptics on shakier ground.

The military’s green programs could also offer proof that green initiatives don’t hurt the economy. When the military’s green programs achieve real successes in the form of jobs created, costs reduced, and lives saved, the military will have definitively demonstrated that a viable economy is not the necessary casualty of a strong policy on climate preparedness.

Maintaining the commitment

While cited frequently in DoD policy pieces, climate change and energy dependence remain secondary concerns in their strategic analysis. Military planners deal with hard choices, and will always be most concerned with the immediate, measurable consequences of their policies. While high capacity batteries and portable solar panels achieve obvious results, the cost of climate change and oil dependence cannot be easily measured, and are thus more difficult to fit neatly into strategic calculations.

So long as the military’s short-term considerations — cutting costs and increasing capabilities — translate into investments in emission reducing projects, climate activists will have something resembling an ally in the DoD. If the military’s strategic calculus changes due to a realignment of short-term considerations, we can expect to see any convergence of interests dissolve rapidly.

Some military planners have already parted ways with the logic of clean energy. Gen. Philip Breedlove, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, reports that the Air Force has nearly completed certifying its fleet to use carbon-intensive coal-to-liquid fuels. The use of these fuels is exactly what the section 526 legislation was designed to prevent. With the legislation in place, the Air Force is still unable to purchase coal-to-liquid fuels. That the Air Force moved forward with the certification process despite the legislation demonstrates that it is ready and willing to begin using these fuels as soon as legal barriers are removed.

Because military planners differ in their assessments of strategic realities, strong legislation remains necessary to maintain the military’s commitment to clean energy and energy reducing policies. The success or failure of those who wish to repeal section 526 will determine whether or not the many benefits of military greening will ever be wholly realized.

Keith Menconi is an intern at Foreign Policy in Focus.

The Hidden Culprit of 9/11: Clinical Depression

In one of the most useful articles occasioned by the tenth anniversary of 9/11, at Foreign Policy, Adam Lankford writes that “when it comes to the underlying motives and psychology of the 19 terrorist hijackers, the experts got it wrong.”

There were four terrorists piloting the hijacked airplanes on 9/11. And four sets of personal problems.

Mohamed Atta, who crashed the first plane into the World Trade Center, never wanted to leave his home country in the first place. … Since childhood, Atta had been pressured by his overbearing father to meet absurdly high expectations. … Marwan al-Shehhi, who flew the second plane, told his family that he had been going through a tough time, but could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Hani Hanjour, who crashed into the Pentagon, was described as meek and timid. … ” Ziad Jarrah, who intended to strike the Capitol building but crashed outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, spoke repeatedly of suicide long before the planning of 9/11. … [He] complained to his girlfriend … about being “dissatisfied with his life” and insisted that he didn’t want to leave Earth “in a natural way.”

Research increasingly shows that [suicide terrorists] are motivated far more by personal crises, mental-health problems, and suicidal desires than by ideology or commitment to the cause.

It’s long been known, as Lankford writes, “that terrorist recruiters often exploit the vulnerability of these desperate individuals to further their own ideological goals.” In fact, one can’t help but conclude that these men have suffered childhoods that may have included beating and sexual abuse.

Lankford concludes:

There has been more than 100 years of research on conventional suicide and murder-suicide, and previous scholars have identified many common risk factors and warning signs. It is time for counterterrorism officials to extend these findings to help them increase their precision and narrow their sights. While scanning jihadi websites, criminal databases, and intelligence files, they should stop just looking for radicalized individuals — and start looking for radicalized individuals who match these specific profiles.

Beyond just tagging and cataloguing these individuals lies another frontier: sparing human childred trauma to help them grow up healthy and whole. As Lloyd deMause, dean of psychohistory, writes in the twelfth chapter of his new book, The Origins of War in Child Abuse.

The crucial task of future generations will be to raise loved children who grow up to be peaceful, rather than walking time bombs.

That’s difficult enough to accomplish in the West. Wouldn’t such an initiative require yet more intrusion into Muslim cultures? DeMause explains

Even developing nations such as Palestine have had successes in child abuse prevention classes. … establishing Community Parenting Centers and early home visits for families has been shown to reduce both the amount of child abuse and the crime rates in the cities that provide the centers. … The child abuse prevention programs save so much money by reducing crime and saving some of the huge costs of wars that they have been shown to cost the government nothing.

A first step to gaining acceptance by, say, Muslim nations is by using peace counseling in conflict mediation. DeMause again.

I believe trained psychoanalysts and psychohistorians—particularly those who have done marital therapy and those who have treated delinquent gangs, who have handled the inner fears of people who are often ready to kill each other—should indeed be peace counselors. These counselors could identify the demonic dissociated voices in each group, their “Terrifier” voices,examine the fears, hatreds and scapegoating those voices engender … locate the self-destructive wishes they embody, and finally express remorse for the harm they have done.

Peace counseling should begin at home, however.

The first task of peace counselors would not just be talking to the Islamist terrorists, but talking to and changing the emotional states of U.S. foreign policy officials who are behind the current American practices of killing, torturing, beating, humiliating and shaming “enemies” around the world.

Traumatized members of other cultures helped cause 9/ll. Traumatized members of our own were responsible for the over-response in Iraq and Afghanistan that have left untold more injured and dead.

Ian Williams’s Lost 9/11 Chronicle, Part II

On 9/11, noted reporter and author, and Foreign Policy in Focus contributor, Ian Williams lived near the World Trade Center and reported on the attacks for Canadian Broadcasting. Not long afterward, he wrote a heretofore unpublished account, which we present in two parts. (Part I here.) — Ed.

On the Hudson side of Manhattan, the debris, smashed vehicles and even deeper ashes made for an even more apocalyptic scene. We were closer and the wind blew from the west into the fire, giving a clearer view of the firefighters trying to control the blaze in the surrounding buildings. Next to us, lines of hoses led from the fireboats which normally only seemed to provide water displays for the visiting cruise liners. Now they were pumping thousands of tons of Hudson water into the ruins.

I lent my cell phone to several exhausted firemen, checking on children, wives and friends. Someone had forced open a local deli, and they were helping themselves to water and snacks. Even though it was technically looting, no one took more than they needed, except one young man, who looked like a local resident. He helped himself to a pack of cigarettes, paused, and then took two more. Tobacco does that to a person, I thought, even as I wondered at an ash-covered fireman who came out with a huge lit cheroot in his mouth. How much smoke can you take!

Another fireman came out of the store. Caked in dust and sweat, he was voraciously stuffing a banana into his mouth in between gulps of water. He looked around with a sort of pugnacious puzzlement at the ash, the debris, the mud, and the smoke. “Can you believe it?” he asked me, “I’m looking for a fucking garbage can!” He threw the peel at the ashes on the floor as if it were a demonstration against the lack of civilization in the neighbourhood.

One of the firemen who had used my phone was telling me bitterly “You know, three hundred of our guys got caught when they collapsed.” He then said, “I don’t want to offend anyone, but we just gotta go in and nuke the whole fucking Middle East now.” It was timely reminder. It was early days, and no one had fingered the perpetrators, but somehow, I didn’t want to remind him of Timothy McVeigh and the anti-Arab hysteria that the media had perpetrated before it had happened.

It was now eight hours from the first crash. I had enough local colour, and thought that I was in danger of degenerating from a reporter to a rubbernecker, so I decided to make my way back and file. I headed south only to meet a more than usually implacable police cordon on the Hudson River promenade. “Get on the boat,” they said, pointing to a tug whose bow was nudging the sea wall. “No thanks, ” I said politely, waving my press card. “You have to. It’s dangerous.”

“I’m press — it’s my job to take risks. I’ve been in Beirut and the Balkans. No one’s shooting at me here, I told him, brandishing my press card.

“Get on, or we put you on. We already put two of you guys on,” he said with “make my day” relish. The tug took us to New Jersey, and dropped us at a pier with large signs saying “Condemned structure. No trespassing.” I had no idea how to get back into Manhattan to file, or to wash or change for that matter.

The view from the boat was almost worth it. The sun setting behind us was lighting up the intact windows of lower Manhattan as if they too were on fire, and tingeing the column of smoke with an appropriately bloody hue. All weekend I had been sailing on the Hudson from the Manhattan Yacht Club out of the North Cove in the shadow of the WTC. We had used the two towers as our navigation aids as we practiced tacking up and down the harbour. Their absence was even more striking. And I remembered, so was that of my fellow crew member, a Brit I had met for the first time, who had just arrived and was working on the 25th floor of one of the towers. He only had an office number. Death moved from wholesale to personal.

In New Jersey, waiting on the pier were police. Paramedics — Red Cross — waited for casualties. They had spent hours watching the pyre burn across the Hudson: they wanted desperately to help, but we were disappointments for their eleemosynary instincts, deportees more than evacuees. Lines of ambulances and doctors waited on the other side. No casualties emerged, except as smoke.

Hours later, a train from New Jersey to midtown and a long hike down the East River side brought us home. The police manned checkpoints on all the roads, but as so often in New York, the bike paths and foot paths are invisible to drivers. The police overlooked the route along the esplanade, and it became my own personal route for several days. At home, the power was gone, so were the phone lines. And a week later they still were.

Downtown reminded me of divided Berlin or Beirut. To the north of the police perimeter, there were bright lights, shops, bars and restaurants open for teeming crowds. To the south the inhabitants stumbled about in the dark. If they trudged north to resupply, they were shaken down at innumerable checkpoints by a motley array of military and police uniforms. I suspect, despite rather than because of them, there was little of the looting or lawlessness that the stereotype of New York City would suggest. The only vehicles moving were official vehicles with flashing lights on top. Looking for light relief, I suggested, “Hey, if aliens were looking on, they’d think it was the lights made them move!”

At the end of the week, the police commissioner reported that crime was way down. Even the criminal classes rose to the occasion. Radio reports dwelt on the few crimes. A man appropriated a fireman’s jacket, a retired warder stole some watches while someone else broke into Brooks Brothers. Brooks Brothers! Did he need a suit to start work on Monday? One thing was sure. He would pay some small part of the price for the absent perpetrators when the courts opened.

Our recently stocked refrigerator was thawing rapidly. On the first night, exhausted, dusty and thirsty I made an executive decision. There was a bottle of champagne in the fridge, still cool. We knocked it back before it could warm and sank into fitful sleep, punctuated by long vigils at the window watching as the first convoys of armoured cars and troops arrived along the FDR, and noting the absence of ambulances among the sporadic bursts of traffic.

We began an ironic tribute to the Paris Zoo menu from the siege of 1870. A born-again carnivore with a cholesterol problem, I had stocked up on venison, buffalo burgers and ostrich loin. No fricassee of elephant trunk at the back of the freezer, but we ate our way through the rest.

Just around the corner, our problem was writ large, much larger in fact. There was no power for the Fulton Street fish market, where millions of dollars worth of fish waited in freezers without power. Never particularly sweet smelling, I quailed at the thought of their eventual exhumation.

Two days later, the police allowed in generators for them, and trucks to ship some out. I went down to check. “Is this fish being dumped or sold?” “It’s still in ice, it’s fine,” they told me, as I made a mental note to drop fish from my menu for a few weeks. In a way, it was a reassuring sign of the return of the commercial impulse. One bleak reminder of the shock of the tragedy was that no umbrella sellers appeared on the streets to sell their wares when the rain of dust fell. After two days, in Chinatown, a storekeeper was selling visitors photo postcards of the explosions at 2 for three dollars. And of course there were flags, a dollar each.

The flags began to appear two days later. CBC wanted a series of interviews for their local stations, so I got up at 6 and went down to the river side so my cell phone could get a strong signal from across the East River in Brooklyn. Half an inch of rain had fallen, and more was bucketing down. I shuddered at the thought of the murky slurry that the rescuers would be working in.

In the grey morning light, the low clouds obscured the smoke and the rain even quelled the ubiquitous smell and dust. Under the shelter of the elevated highway, life had returned to normal. Elderly Chinese from nearby Chinatown did their exercises, and one solitary man brandished a sword in an intricate series of balletic movements. He did not pause as a column of a steel workers formed up in bright yellow waterproofs and hard hats with their union local number written on the side. Led by a large stars and stripes they headed south into the inferno.

About a dozen homeless usually live in the vicinity and four of them who seemed to make a virtual family were inspired to mount their own surreal march. Pushing the one in a wheelchair, they paraded with a placard, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall. New York City/The World.” Pausing in between radio interviews, I asked “Why?” “Gotta a ciggy?” one replied in an London accent. “No, sorry!” I apologized as the phone rang, from, of all places, Iquiluit in the Inuit new territories.

I’ve never understood flag fetishism, but I could see why people would want to respond. Over the next few days, the flags proliferated, but in almost reverse proportion to the distance from what the news reports were calling Ground Zero. “Positive patriotism” is all too often sullied with xenophobia, which is never an exact science. Maronite Churches were firebombed along with Sikh temples. Maronite and Sikh enthusiasm for Islam, let alone Islamic fundamentalism, has been historically someone tenuous, as anyone should know. But few voters in the world’s only superpower ever take time to study the world, which was perhaps precisely why I was standing in a disaster zone.

Another friend called, with semi-light relief, but again with a dark side.

His friend Mohammed worked in a restaurant where 11 of the 14 waiters were also called Mohammed. They used their colleges as names. “Hi Princeton! Hi Columbia!” He was earnestly seeking advice on how to change his name. Quickly.

You could almost tell how foreign a storekeeper, or a yellow cab driver felt from how many flags they were flying or sticking like talismans on their doors and windows. And the more I spoke to people, I could see solid reasons for the fear. “Someone must be punished,” is a universal cry. I did a radio interview for the left-wing station Pacifica in California. The anchorman on the other side of the continent, said “We have to punish them.” Inhaling the smoke from what was after all a near-miss for me personally, I asked, “How do you punish eighteen people who have just killed themselves? And if they had accomplices, can you trust the ideologues round this administration, the Cheneys and Rumsfelds, to identify the real perpetrators rather than use the opportunity to hit at their own perverse enemies’ list?”

I could trust Powell, who knows that even gestures have their price, but the others worried me. Each day, the news brought more suggestions of right-wing wish lists being tacked across the stable door after the Trojan horse had already exploded. More wire taps, tougher immigration, more defence spending, and calls for action all the more ominous for being so nebulously targeted.

I had seen the best side of New York and America in the long lines of volunteers, the heroism of the rescuers, the donations of food, clothes, and money, and the flood of resources available when the will was there. But the urge to do something could be as innocuous as standing on street corners with candles, or it could lead to applause for the incineration of other faraway cities of which they know or care little.

As Sunday drew on, Mayor Giuliani opened the way to Wall Street. Back to normalcy. Radio advertisements told Americans that the way to show their patriotism was to show their support for American companies. “Buy stock,” the broker harangued. I did a double take: it was genuine, not some subversive parody. And within sniffing distance, an army of rescuers used muscle power to sift the still smouldering ruins, looking with almost certain futility for survivors among the five thousand lives snuffed out in less than an hour on bright sunny morning in Manhattan.

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