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September 8, 2006

Unfinished in Afghanistan
Posted by Teresa at 02:57 PM * 48 comments

Speech by George W. Bush, September 27, 2004
“Focus on Education with President Bush” Event
Midwest Livestock and Expo Center, Springfield, Ohio

[A]s a result of the United States military, Taliban no longer is in existence. And the people of Afghanistan are now free. (Applause.) In other words when you say something as President you better make it clear so everybody understands what you’re saying, and you better mean what you say. And I meant what I said. (Applause.)

CNN World News, September 8, 2006 Taliban claim deadly Kabul bombing

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN)—The Taliban have claimed responsibility for a massive suicide car bombing that killed at least 18 people—including two U.S. soldiers—near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

“A coalition convoy was the target of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device this morning near the U.S. Embassy here,” according to Master Sgt. Chris Miller. The convoy was comp[o]sed of three armored Humvees.

Journalist Tom Coghlan said the Humvee that bore the brunt of the explosion had its turret blown 30 yards from the site the the attack. The blast spread debris and body parts across the Massoud roundabout, about 50 yards from the embassy. Video from the scene showed a charred, severed foot on the ground as military medics attended to a limp body dressed in military fatigues a short distance away.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper, at the scene of the attack, said: “This is a real sign of a resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. It is also a sign that the Taliban are increasingly adopting al-Qaeda-style tactics.”

Reuters, September 08, 2006 NATO chiefs study call for more Afghan troops

WARSAW, Sept 8 (Reuters)—NATO defence chiefs gathered in Warsaw on Friday to discuss raising troop levels in Afghanistan after top alliance officials conceded they had underestimated Taliban resistance and needed reinforcements.

The talks were due to take place after at least 16 people were killed on Friday in the deadliest suicide bombing in the Afghan capital Kabul since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, an attack which witnesses said was aimed at a NATO convoy.

NATO’s top commander of operations, U.S. General James Jones, said on Thursday he would urge national military chiefs at the talks to offer up to 2,500 extra troops on top of the roughly 18,500 which NATO already has there.

Christian Science Monitor, September 08, 2006 In border zone, Pakistan backs off from Taliban

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN—On the eve of the five year anniversary of 9/11, Pakistan’s government struck a deal Tuesday with Taliban fighters, handing them what may turn out to be effective control over the tribal border region of North Waziristan.

Their allies will be freed from jail, confiscated weapons will be returned, and the Army will pull back from the check posts it has erected, ending aerial and ground operations. In return, the militants promise to evict foreign fighters and prevent infiltration into Afghanistan. …

In the years since Sept. 11, 2001, Pakistan has displayed a singular dedication to fighting foreign fighters and their local hosts—often at a great price, both real and political. Pouring 80,000 troops and hardware into the tribal zone, the Pakistani military has lost nearly one man for every Al Qaeda operative—totaling several hundred—it has captured or killed. President Pervez Musharraf has nearly lost his life twice in the fight, after Al Qaeda’s suicide bombers trained their sights on him. Few contest this record of sacrificial bravery.

But some say that it has come at a great national price: As the battle against Al Qaeda has mounted, so, too, has the military grown in strength and political influence, becoming in essence the very state it is supposed to serve. That has allowed it to break up Al Qaeda’s network, but also to rupture the political landscape, splintering parties and institutions into fragments that can barely challenge its rule.

Today, analysts and members of the opposition claim, Parliament and civil society barely function in the shadows of the Musharraf government. As a consequence, the pillars of legitimacy needed to effectively address the causes of extremism—national consensus, social and political development, local governance—have been removed, leaving the military to address the problem the only way it knows how: with helicopter gunships and ground assaults. These measures have consistently failed, however, sowing widespread outrage that has compelled the government to backtrack, signing peace accords like the one this week.

Reuters, September 08, 2006 Senate panel finds no prewar Iraq-Qaeda link

WASHINGTON—Saddam Hussein provided no material support for al Qaeda and had no relationship with al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi, despite claims by administration officials including President George W. Bush, said a Senate report released on Friday.

The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, drawing on a previously undisclosed 2005 CIA assessment, was released as Americans prepared to mark the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States by al Qaeda. …

The assessment in the CIA report was similar to the conclusion reached by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, which found that there had been no “collaborative relationship” between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

If you haven’t had a look at the Iraq War Timeline, you should. It’s a remarkably clear presentation of the events leading up to the war, and then the war itself. What you can see in some of its earliest entries is that long before 9/11, a group of some of Bush’s closest cronies, called The Project for a New Amerian Century, decided that the United States should go to war with Iraq for a bunch of bad and ill-defined reasons. (If you don’t have access to the New Statesman site, you can read the same article here. I highly recommend it.)

New Yorkers tend to be pretty clear about who attacked us on 9/11. If you aren’t,* allow me to explain that Saddam Hussein had zero to do with it. The Taliban were the ones who backed Osama bin-Laden and al Qaeda, so going to war with Afghanistan actually made sense: they’d attacked us.

And yet, after giving the war in Afghanistan a lick and a promise, George Bush declared it was over, and flounced off to Iraq to have the war he’d been planning all along. Sure, he’d talked about helping to rebuild Afghanistan and create democratic institutions there (which among other things would have given its citizens better things to do than blowing up the building where you work), but at the point that he declared the war in Afghanistan over, it came out that his administration hadn’t budgeted a single penny toward that effort. Afghanistan was a poor country to start with, and after Bush & Co. left it was even poorer. What forces we left behind have mostly stayed hunkered down in Kabul.

Not surprisingly, the Taliban has risen again. Their adherents are using al Qaeda-style techniques. Let me repeat: these are the guys who actually do have a history of attacking the United States. You’re just as vulnerable to them as you were on the day before 9/11.

And one more thing. You know how people who don’t know how to do a particular thing think it’s magic? Like, people who’ve bought their first truck think it’ll do the kind of stunts they’ve seen on car commercials, or people who don’t know the first thing about computers will somehow get the idea that their monitor can see them, or that their software can divine what it is they’re trying to do? You really should go back and look at that article on The Project for a New American Century. It’s fascinating. One way or another they’re pretty much all draft dodgers, with no military experience to speak of.* They think that going to war will have magic effects. They have no idea what they’re doing. Which may account for the way they’ve consistently been wrong about everything.

Comments on Unfinished in Afghanistan:
#1 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 05:59 PM:

The pentagon has no clue how to handle Afghanistan. Remember Rumsfeld saying "There are no targets there?" The only way he knows how to fight a war is to use l33t technology to take out physical targets. The pentagon needs to hire some sociologists and use social science, dammit. You can't solve all problems with cool technology.

#2 ::: Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 06:02 PM:

Sure there are targets! Canadians! Certainly, the US is getting very good at killing us, after all.

#3 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 06:03 PM:

No -- it isn't the Pentagon that is deficient in knowledge of strategy and tactics, it's the man in charge of the Department of Defense.

Rummy's read too many Tom Clancy novels and thinks that's REALLY the way things ought to work. (And he's fired everyone who disagreed with him.)

#4 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 06:03 PM:

Responding to my own comment: the trouble is, they did try to use social science during the cold war, and they got it wrong *shrug*

#5 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 06:06 PM:

Lori--I agree, Rumsfeld is the problem.

#6 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 06:09 PM:

The folks at the Pentagon are technogeeks: they always have to get the Newest Thing, whether it works or not. Those of us who are willing to wait get better results for less money. (Think Star Wars project ... still not working, right?)

And I'm still pissed that we didn't do the right thing in Afghanistan. We had a chance to actually do them some good, with roads and schools and stuff, and Shrub got distracted by - ooh, shiny! - Iraq and blew it.

Shrub: failed businessman, failed governor, failed president, successful front man for PNAC.

#7 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 06:20 PM:

I bookmarked the Iraq War Timeline. It's a terrific site, but it's too much to take in in one sitting. But early in the presentation I was struck by a quote from a paper written by Paul Wolfowitz which made it very clear that these men (were there any women among them? damn few, I'd bet) wanted to maintain American power, influence, wealth, access to oil etc. right where it was in March 1992. No industrial nations were to be permitted to challenged American interests, and the established economic and social order was to remain as it is, presumably indefinitely.

Right there we see the genesis of what we are going through today. These folks believed and perhaps they still believe that they can stop and/or manage all economic and social change that might diminish American wealth and power. On a worldwide basis.

In a pig's eye they can.

#8 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 06:45 PM:

"In other words when you say something as President you better make it clear so everybody understands what you're saying, and you better mean what you say. And I meant what I said."

I can just picture these lines being used in the promo spots for the TV movie, "How The Hell Did That Happen?," about the time the nation teetered on the brink of a dark age.

(The one with Frankie Muniz as Bush the Lesser, and an Japanese animatronic as Cheney, because no actor could be found who could do the Sneer convincingly.)

#9 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 06:51 PM:

My first memories, as a boy growing up in south London, are of streets with Afghan names -- Cabul (sic) Road, Kandahar Road -- laid out originally during the Second Afghan War in the nineteenth century and commemorating British victory over the Afghans. In other words, this is a story that's been told before, and the US is clearly earning its membership in the exclusive club of 'conquerors' of Afghanistan like the British and the Russians.

The fact that the US has withdrawn a large part of its own forces from Afghanistan and left things under NATO command suggests that Rummy has developed a strategy for dealing with Afghanistan -- cut and run.

#10 ::: Graham Blake ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 07:01 PM:

There is a disconnect evident in the coverage of the situation in Afghanistan. Since the beginning of August, 12 of Canada's 2200 soldiers in Afghanistan have been killed. A per capita mortality rate 15 times higher than that suffered by American forces in Iraq during the same period. Overall casualty figures for combined NATO forces are ever growing. There has mostly been a deafening silence in the mainstream American media, and certainly from the White House regarding the reality there. I believe the reluctance to address the increasing violence in Afghanistan is another example of the unwillingness to acknowledge any responsibility or failure in the foreign policy initiatives of the current administration.

I have always been extremely antagonistic to the ongoing endeavours and ambition of the military industrial complex, but I have generally supported the military intervention in Afghanistan. The Taliban made cruel rulers of that nation, and it was definitely a reasonable decision to end their control of the nation. It is just criminal that the American administration walked away from Afghanistan to pursue the agenda of madness in Iraq.

For all the shit that Canada has taken for being a so-called weak partner in the "War Against Terror" - in our refusal to attack Iraq - we are sure paying a bloody price for actually sticking with the original mission. It is galling that we are dealing with the mess left behind when Bush & Co. realised the opportunity to use the anger of a victimised America to justify a full scale war in Iraq, instead of actually doing what the administration always loves to say it is doing, "staying the course".

We signed on for this mission, but I can tell you I certainly feel a great sense of personal outrage at the American military adventure in Iraq, how it has cost the Afghanistan mission, and how this has only further destabilised the region, and ultimately the world.

#11 ::: Ronald Toland ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 07:03 PM:

"New Yorkers tend to be pretty clear about who attacked us on 9/11. If you aren't,* allow me to explain that Saddam Hussein had zero to do with it. The Taliban were the ones who backed Osama bin-Laden and al Qaeda, so going to war with Afghanistan actually made sense: they'd attacked us."

Actually the current evidence is that Osama Bin Laden was in Pakistan at the time of the attacks. The 9/11 terrorists were mostly Saudi Arabian. None were agents of the Afghanistan government, so to say the Taliban attacked us doesn't fly.

As I recall, the Taliban offered to hand over Bin Laden, but we turned them down because they wanted to see the evidence of Bin Laden's responsibility. Hardly a great reason to go to war:

US: "Give us Bin Laden!"
Afghan: "Okay, but first prove he's the one that attacked you."
US: "Scr*w you, buddy, I don't need evidence. I'm angry and want to bomb someone."
Afghan: "But--"
US: "Too late."
*explosions, sound of villages burning*

#12 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 07:14 PM:

To (mis)quote our hostess:

I Hate the way this administration makes me into a nutbar conspiracy theorist

It really wasn't enough for ABC to try to present a work of right wing fiction as fact. Now, Bush wants to interrupt it for a speech.

The mind reels. There was a time, really there was, when I found it easy to believe in coincidence.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 07:24 PM:

[a] Japanese animatronic as Cheney, because no actor could be found who could do the Sneer convincingly

Actually, Stefan, Richard Dreyfus is looking more and more like Dick.

#14 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 07:38 PM:

It's ironic that a grab for "global dominance" by a country that was already riding pretty high has resulted in anything but the goal.

The US military is in shreds, the economy is teetering, the dollar is shaky, the import/export balance is a complete imbalance -- a few things could, no doubt, be worse; but George has made a shambles of the country he elbowed his way into running.

#15 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 07:48 PM:

Well sure Scorpio, but you're ignoring all the good things. We can go to bed knowing that American horses won't be slaughtered for meat, and that the billionaires we all aspire to be someday can safely pass on their wealth to their children.

#16 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 08:27 PM:

You know, Cheney's sneer reminds me of Bob Hope. Not that helps in finding a suitable stand-in for him, of course. Maybe Cheney should think about comedy as a future career....

#17 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 09:04 PM:

[A]s a result of the United States military, Taliban no longer is in existence. And the people of Afghanistan are now free.

...I'm sure the several ranking Afghani officials who stopped by my office for coffee this summer would be thrilled to hear that. They seem to be under the impression that the Bush Administration's complete bungling of Afghani reconstruction is leaving the door wide open for the Taliban's return and leaving local law enforcement in the hands of drug lords.

The Taliban is the most vital nonexistant organization I've ever seen, considering they recently won a vote for a 'Ministry of Decency' --I'm sure the 'liberated women' of Afghanistan were thrilled about that one.

They said that if the US really wants to help them get on their feet, they need equipment and training for their police, not their military.

#18 ::: Carolyn Davies ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 09:15 PM:

[A]s a result of the United States military, Taliban no longer is in existence. And the people of Afghanistan are now free.

As someone who spent her formative years in a bedroom community of CFB Edmonton... there really aren't words for the rage I'm feeling right now. I don't even blink anymore when local businesses have their flags at half-mast, because it's always for someone who died.

People coming back from missions say that Afghanistan's a war we're never going to win so long as it stays a War on Drugs; the peacekeepers won't succeed so long as "progress" means "stop growing your opium, which makes all your money; grow this wheat instead. So what if you won't be able to feed your family? At least it's ethical!"

I'm not an expert, but they're the only ones giving evidence that's more compelling than "they hate us and our democracy." But then, nobody else knows what the problem is, because nobody even cares.

#19 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 11:09 PM:

Graham, Carolyn: I know that NATO troops (British, Dutch, Canadian) have been taking it in the neck in Afghanistan. Tell us about your dead. Our press never mentions them.

#20 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 11:43 PM:

#19 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden -- "Tell us about your dead. Our press never mentions them."

Actually, I've found that the U.S. Press does mention them, just as it mentions many other horrifying things (most of which happen in the Congress & speeches by High Administration Officials). The problem I see is that the press then never does anything with this, like linking things together and suggesting what they might signify.

#22 ::: Carolyn Davies ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 12:15 AM:

Teresa- I honestly don't know how to do that. I don't know the dead; none of the names announced are friends or my friends' boyfriends or fathers. The dead are the people I am fortunate enough not to know. So far, at least.

I know the terror of living. I still remember getting together with my friends the morning after thr friendly fire incident in 2002, trying to figure out who wasn't there and whose father might have died. I still stop to listen every time they announce another death (every week, every two weeks, every month; each one is reported individually, nationwide). In the town I lived in, it was taken for granted that some people would not walk or drive across grass, and you just didn't force them. We are used to living with our scars, here.

But right now I don't know that I'm qualified to talk about the dead. I never knew them.

#23 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 12:50 AM:

Here in the UK, Afghanistan is getting coverage.

The British Army is running at its limit, and using ammunition faster than since Korea--one report said WW2.

The news has shown video footage; soldiers in action, shot with the cameras in mobile phones.

Here's a BBC page with the video.

This isn't patrols coming under fire, it's attacks on the small posts, platoon strength, that in the past have given us the hearts and minds opportunities to win such wars. But the Taliban have the manpower to make resupply difficult and make frequent attacks, both infantry and mortars.

They seem to be depending on airstrikes to survive. Watching the video, I see napalm being used.

Now, if things go pear-shaped in Iraq, is the USAF going to maintain force levels in Afghanistan?

I have a bad feeling about this.

#24 ::: Graham Blake ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 03:21 AM:

Since Canada joined the mission in Afghanistan in 2002, 32 Canadians have been killed and an untold number have been wounded. Of the 32 killed since 2002, 22 of them have been killed in just the past 6 months. In the past two months alone we have had 16 killed, and 67 wounded. You can see that things are going from pretty not good to really quite bad, and quickly.

Generally Canada's dead are only mentioned in American media if at least four die at once, or they are killed by American fire. Or if it is a really slow news day. Grim, but true. In a sense this is ok, this is a fight we chose to engage in, wise or not, and we see to our own. The sacrifices don't need to be validated in the American media.

What I do struggle with, as I am sure many here do, is the lack of attention span American media has for the big picture stories. Between the intentional campaigns of misinformation from the government, and the media habit of jumping in attention-deficit fashion to the next-shiny-story, with no narrative threads, it is very difficult for the dazzled masses to get their heads wrapped around what is really going on.

I am glad you made this post tonight, it frames and brings together well the broader picture on this story. When you start hearing NATO's Supreme Allied Commander saying they have been surprised by "level of intensity" of Taliban attacks, and more troops are needed immediately, and when flagged draped coffins are coming home in bunches every week, there is a story that needs to be talked about here, and this story can only be properly understood in the full context of all that has unfolded in the past five years. There are few news organisations doing their job to properly put this all in perspective.

#25 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 05:40 AM:

The War on Afghanistan is as evil an mistake as the War on Iraq is. It is in exactly the same mess, with a puppet government in Kabul to mirror the one in Bagdhad and a resurgent resistance against the foreign invaders labelled "terrorists" and "Al Quiada" or "Taliban".

Bombing and than invading Afghanistan has not lead to improvements for its inhabitants, a fact that was clear at the time as well.

And it hasn't even achieved its supposed goal, getting the people behind the September 11 attacks!

#26 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 08:29 AM:

This Afgan War followed, in essence, the example of previous successful Afghan Wars. You back one side in an Afghan Civil War, and encourage that side, when they win, to be honourable Afghans while not being your enemy.

What spoilt the thing was a two-fold failure. First, the diversion of attention to Iraq. Second, the failure to switch from an occupation to the maintenance of a strike force at safe bases outside Afghanistan.

The epic takes of courage and disaster come from the attempts of occupying forces to escape Afghanistan, and from the actions of powerful mobile forces attempting their relief.

See, as a warning, the events of July to September, 1879. And that was a war we eventually "won".

But the aim was different. It wasn't a war on terrorism, but an attempt to safeguard British India, and maintain a buffer against the Russian Empire. It's the world of the Great Game and Kim, and a time when service on the North West Frontier, that violent and debatable land, was a way for young British officers to display military virtue.

But Arithmetic on the Frontier still holds true.

Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.

And there's a lot of things in the Barrackroom Ballads and Departmental Ditties that still look true today. A General Summary is just as true today.

#27 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 08:46 AM:

When the only tool you have is an army, every problem looks like a war.

The goal for invading afghanistan wasn't to get the people behind the 9/11 attacks. It was to satisfy the american public. The public was solidly behind invading somebody immediately, and afghanistan was the only country that appeared to have something to do with it that we could attack on short notice.

It was just a few years ago but it seems like forever. I remember it. My own father is usually pretty sensible but he said we had to have a war with somebody. I was saying for 9/11 we needed to improve our police methods and get a lot of international cooperation for that, and we needed to ask muslim religious authorities when the religion says it's OK to kill civilians in sneak attacks, and we didn't need a war. He told me I was crazy. They hit us and we had to hit them back.

Every day that went by without a war the public got more impatient. The bushies haven't been very good at much else, but they've been real good at influencing public opinion, and they've been real good at placating public opinion when there was opinion that needed placating.

They gave us just enough afghan war to get the public off their backs and then they went back to doing what they wanted.

#28 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 11:51 AM:

In canse anyone has missed it, the Taliban is encouraging opium growth. Before we invaded, Bush gave them a large sum of money to stop opium growing, which they did with ruthless effciency.

It's like some sort of obscene global slapstick act.

#29 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 12:09 PM:

Josh Jasper # 28: the Taliban is encouraging opium growth. Before we invaded, Bush gave them a large sum of money to stop opium growing, which they did with ruthless effciency.

So one (presumably inadvertent) consequence of the war in Afghanistan is more and cheaper heroin in Europe and the U.S., allowing Bush to maintain or increase the troop levels in the War on Drugs.

I was politically active during the Vietnam war. I loathed LBJ's choices, and despised the man. But even then I could see -- it was obvious every time he appeared on television -- that the choices he was making were killing him. Biographies have since told me that indeed, the Vietnam war haunted Johnson's sleep, destroyed his health, and as we all know, he chose not to run -- the burden the war placed on him was so great. I wish I could see some indication in George Bush's demeanor or speech that he understands the gravity of his actions. I wish I could believe that knowledge of what he has done to us, to the Iraqis, (even if he still thinks he was right to do it) keeps him awake at night.

I don't see any sign of it.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Lizzy L... Didn't a biography of LBJ come out last year? It sounded pretty good, but I can't remember the title or the author. I think it was one half of a volume whose second half was a biography of Martin Luther King.

#31 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 03:42 PM:

Lizzy L: I wish I could see some indication in George Bush's demeanor or speech that he understands the gravity of his actions. I wish I could believe that knowledge of what he has done to us, to the Iraqis, (even if he still thinks he was right to do it) keeps him awake at night.

I think that's one of the reasons the left hates him so much. He's just smirking all the damn time. There's no evidence of sincerity or caring. Even after Katrina, and the tragedy his administration caused and continues to cause by gutting FEMA, he's just having a grand old time.

Sometime I suspect he really is getting hammered all the time. God know he acts as if he were juiced.

Perhaps he's some breed of sociopoath, unable to feel guilt or remorse. It'd explain a lot.

#32 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 03:46 PM:

Oh, and paralells to the heroin trade in South East Asia and the cocaine trade in South America are all apt.

Seriously. Any time the US a western power invades another nation under a right wing establishment, we should just expect some sort of massive surge in drug sales worldwide. The two are clearly related throughout history.

It's the opium wars all over again. Why the hell don't people see it?

#33 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 03:54 PM:

The great Afghan/Iraq adventure has had a number of unexpected consequences. Here is another one to put behind your ear for the next rainy day. Such has been the contempt for their allies that the Bush Administration has demonstrated that, the next time the US Govt. pulls a stunt like this, your men and women will march off to war on their own. There won't be any other country lining up beside you.

How did it come to this? They aren't defeating their 'enemies' but they are certainly alienating your friends.

The really appalling fact is that Bush & Co obviously don't give a flying fuck about it.

#34 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 04:25 PM:

Serge, I don't know what biography of Lyndon Johnson you're thinking of; there have been a number of them. Robert Caro's three-volume masterpiece is not finished; he's working on the final volume, titled The Presidency. Doris Kearms Goodwin wrote an excellent one. There's an odd book, the title of which escapes me, which talks about the health of presidents: it makes it very clear how sick Johnson really was over what he felt he had to do, and is one the most effective arguments I have ever read for the contention that stress can kill you.

Josh Jasper, Sometime I suspect he really is getting hammered all the time: a good friend of mine who has struggled with substance abuse all her life says that she is sure Bush is a dry drunk, which means that he probably isn't drinking, but all the demons that led to his being a drunk (as we know he was) are still twisting his psyche into knots.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 06:20 PM:

Thanks, Lizzy L... I think the biography I read about was about LBJ's early years. I understand that he was a teacher in remote parts of Texas where he became quite closely acquainted with poverty.

#36 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 07:01 PM:

Serge, you may have read the first volume of Caro's biography of Johnson. He grew up in poverty -- the total opposite of GWB -- "dirt poor" accurately describes it.

When I look back to some of what I thought and believed about the man in my youth, I am quite ashamed of my ignorance.

#37 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 07:08 PM:

There's a pretty good oral biography of Johnson which gives a strong idea as to what the key elements were that led him to keep the Vietnam war going: the belief that "Jack wanted to win it when he was President, so I have to win it now that he's gone" and the equally poisonous "I can't be the first President to lose a war." One of the interesting footnotes was an interview with Lucy where she talked about when she'd go into the room where Lyndon had three TV's going with the national news (NBC, ABC, CBS) and and sit with him. She said his eyes kept filling with tears and then he'd pull it together and then they'd fill with tears again.

I'm not going to tell you that Johnson was the best resident of the Oval Office of the modern era: hell no. I will confidently predict that George W. Bush has never been seen in a similar situation.

#38 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 07:16 PM:


I think the biography I read about was about LBJ's early years. I understand that he was a teacher in remote parts of Texas where he became quite closely acquainted with poverty.

This is where one of his best speeches came from. Can't remember the exact details, but it was when he and Humphrey were ramming the Civil Rights Act through. He talked about how when he'd been a school principal he'd seen "rich folks" in convertables drive along the road by the school and toss orange peels (or was it sections? things blur) to the poor Hispanic kids who'd fight over 'em like candy. He then said "I swore that if I ever had the power I'd do something about it, and now that I can I will.

#39 ::: David D. Levine ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 02:33 AM:

You'd think that if someone tries to do something you'd hate but bungles the job, it'd be better than if they'd succeeded. But the current administration's fiascos show that it's far, far worse.

#40 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 09:49 AM:

The problem is that most ways for the president to bungle his job land heavily on the whole country. Losing an unnecessary war is even worse than winning it. (More realistically, getting bogged down in an endless occupation and nation-building exercise we didn't really need to do is worse that carrying out a successful invasion and brief occupation while we put some new, less offensive strongman into power, and then getting out.

#41 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 04:47 PM:

Graham, it's true that Canadian sacrifices don't have to be validated by the U.S. media, but it behooves us to pay attention to them.

I've seen the news stories that report that a threshhold number of Canadian soldiers have been killed. Unless we killed them, their deaths are mentioned halfway through the story, with no pictures or conversations.

The stories themselves don't go into the larger context. They're nearly as unvarying as bus plunge stories. Most U.S. readers wouldn't notice if you plugged in a completely different set of placenames: Somebody's fighting somewhere. Some people got killed. And that's all.

#42 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 06:19 PM:

Nineteen Brits died in Afghanistan last week. (Admittedly, 14 of them in one plane crash: but that's not the point. There are 5000 British troops out there; even if you discount the Nimrod MR2 crash, the current loss rate is equivalent to 5% per year, or equivalent to the US force in Iraq losing about 6000 men per year. In other words, Afghanistan is five times as dangerous as Iraq, if you're a western soldier.)

We're supposed to bloody know better, having invaded Afghanistan two or three times before. (For a real horror story, a look at General Elphinstone's Expedition is always a hair-raiser.)

I blame Teflon Tony for not reading his history books properly. (New Labour is seemingly immune to history -- if it wasn't, it would be unelectable.)

#43 ::: Graham Blake ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 01:22 AM:

I agree, it would be very helpful if the American media considered significant the ongoing price we and others are paying in Afghanistan. Not as a validation, but as a sign that the American media is capable of providing cogent reporting and analysis of the so-called war on terror and its implications. I know, absurd, but we can hope.

There is a growing call in Canada to pull our troops out of Afghanistan, particularly from voices on the left. Though I normally pitch my tent there, I am not yet convinced that withdrawing is the correct course. As it begins to resemble Iraq more with each passing week, I am not entirely convinced it is the wrong course either.

I am also well aware that the more we bomb, the more we kill, the deeper we etch the line that defines "us" as separate from "them", Islam from Jew & Christian, East from West. Perhaps it has already gone on too long and gone too far. Perhaps there is no hope of avoiding the dehumanization of "the other" that allegedly justifies their murder. The extremists on either side of this deepening line are dictating the terms of this reality. It is extremely disturbing, and the road we are on is headed toward some very dark places indeed.

I would like to believe that our efforts in Afghanistan will lead to a stable society with less cruelty to women and less extremist violence. I am growing increasingly pessimistic about those prospects.

#44 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:23 AM:

Graham, Carolyn, Dave Bell--thanks for reminding us that we aren't just placing our own people in harm's way with these adventures. I am afraid that every single thing Graham has said about our press is true. I don't know if they're stupid, bought, or intimidated, but the results are the same whichever it is.

I live about fifty miles from Ft. Campbell, the home post of the US 101 Airborne Division, and as they are returning from Iraq (again), you can see the entire area take a deep breath and exhale in relief. Of course, there's the picking-up-the-pieces-of-people's-lives to do now, and hope that this deployment hasn't done, and the next deployment won't do, more damage than can be fixed. Last week I assisted on a PTSD claim for an Iraqi war veteran (we've also had plenty of claims on immigrant refugees from Saddam's era over the years) and I am certain there will be more to come.

For those interested in LBJ bios, here's a list from Wikipedia, which may not be complete but is detailed.
General biographies
Robert A. Caro. The Years of Lyndon Johnson. 3 volumes as of 2006]]: The Path to Power (1982); Means of Ascent (1990); Master of the Senate (2002). The most detailed biography, extends to 1960.
Dallek, Robert. Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 (1991); Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 19611973 (1998); also: Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President (2004), 400-page abridged version of his 2 volume scholarly biography
Kearns Goodwin, Doris. Lyndon Johnson & the American Dream. (1977), a character study
Reedy, George Lyndon B. Johnson: A Memoir (1982) ISBN 0-8362-6610-2, a memoir by the press secretary
Woods, Randall. LBJ: Architect of American Ambition (2006) highly detailed scholarly biography (1000 pages)
[edit]Presidential years
Bruce E. Altschuler; LBJ and the Polls University Presses of Florida, 1990
Bernstein, Irving. Guns or Butter: The Presidency of Lyndon Johnson 1994.
Bornet, Vaughn Davis. The Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. 1983
Divine, Robert A., ed. The Johnson Years. Vol. 1: Foreign Policy, the Great Society and the White House. 1981.
Divine, Robert A., ed. The Johnson Years. Vol. 2: Vietnam, the Environment, and Science. 1987.
Divine, Robert A., ed. The Johnson Years. Vol. 3: LBJ at Home and Abroad. 1994.
Firestone, Bernard J., and Robert C. Vogt, eds. Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Uses of Power. (1988), essays
Gould, Lewis L. Lady Bird Johnson and the Environment. 1988.
Lichtenstein, Nelson, ed. Political Profiles: The Johnson Years. 1976. biographies of 400+ key politicians
Mann, Robert. The Walls of Jericho: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Russell, and the Struggle for Civil Rights. 1996.
Redford, Emmette S., and Marlan Blissett. Organizing the Executive Branch: The Johnson Presidency. 1981.
Shesol, Jeff. Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud That Shaped a Decade 1997.
White, Theodore H. The Making of the President, 1964 1965.
Zarefsky, David. President Johnson's War on Poverty 1986.

#45 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 01:10 AM:

The Schmuck is an evil, twisting, lying sack of shit--I had the TV set on for his latest performance full of horseshit. The FCC would have put me in debtor's jail for a few centuries with the number of times I said, "You lying sack of shit," during the performance.

There was a complete lack of mention of "where in the world is Osama bin Laden or his head?" OBL from Public Enemey #1 has disappeared from the Schmuck's vocabulary more completely than a purged Soviet official from all May Day parade photo, replaced with images of other Soviet officials. Schmuck substituted Saddam Hussein for OBL the way the Soviet retouch specialists did replacements....

Stinking lying neo-Stalinist war criminal....

And then NBC had the temerity to have a commentator claim that Schmuck was the "healer in chief" with the speech. HORSESHIT! The commentator allowed that the Democrats "tomorrow" might be calling him "politician in chief."

No mention was made that he was LYING, that the women of Afghanistan are NOT materially better off today--there are those US-backed warlords who treat women possibly even worse than Taliban! The women of Iraq amd hugely worse off. Schmuck claiming otherwise is the biggest liar in decades on the world stage.

1984 = 2001-present....

#46 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 04:27 AM:

I draw to your attention this news story from today's issue of The Guardian

Bush: Saddam was not responsible for 9/11

He is admitting his crimes, as if he knows he will never be prosecuted for them.

#47 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 08:37 AM:

In today's headlines:

Rice: World must not abandon Afghanistan

To which all I can say is "Why not, sweetie? You did."

#48 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 09:36 AM:

In Helmand province, everything north of Route One has been ruled a legitimate target as of two weeks ago. That's a free-fire zone roughly 100 miles by 50.

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