Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Here’s another article that suggests we’re in trouble in Afghanistan due to cultural insensitivity:

In Afghanistan, cultural cluelessness can be deadly

The range of culturally insensitive actions seems pretty broad in this account: speaking rudely, ridiculing Afghan soldiers, home invasion, disrespect toward women, dropping bombs on civilians from the air, shooting people. Not surprisingly, Afghans have come to resent these insensitive actions during the ten years we have tried to wrap up our war against the Taliban. They say they don’t want us there anymore. Even Karzai says it. He indicates he’d rather deal with China or India, even Russia, though he knows that once we leave he’ll probably have to depart, too.

So that’s what we’ve come to after ten years. The soldiers we’re supposed to train keep shooting us. Honestly. The instructor says, “Here, take this rifle and point it at the target. Take aim and squeeze off the round.” A few hours later, the Afghan recruit takes aim at the instructor’s buddy, who is relaxing with friends, and blows him up at close range. That’s some training program. We give you the gun. We give you the ammunition. You load up the weapon and shoot us.

So many articles repeat facilely that these green-on-blue killings occur because of misunderstandings, arguments, grudges, personal vendettas, and the like. That doesn’t sound right to me. First of all, the reporters who write these reasons don’t seem to know any more about individual cases of murder than I do. They seem to be writing down what other people have written down.

More importantly, the reason for shooting an American or any NATO soldier has to be more consequential than some personal dispute or other. The hatred must run so deep. The shooter knows that just a few seconds after he fires, he’ll be dead on the ground, too. Most green-on-blue attacks are suicide attacks. The killer takes multiple bullets to his body almost before his victim hits the ground.

No Afghan soldier will say to himself, “I don’t like that guy. He dissed me this morning. I have a new gun here and I’m gonna finish him off.” It can’t be that simple. The Afghan soldier doesn’t know American culture any more than Americans know his. He expects some difficulties when he works with foreign soldiers. Moreover, the Afghan soldier is homesick, just like the American soldiers. He wants to return to his family, too. When an Afghan soldier makes a decision to pull the trigger, when he decides when and where he’ll shoot an American, he knows he’s going to die. He knows he won’t ever go home again.

Would you make a decision like that over some dispute in the mess hall? Would you give up your life because some American soldier jerked you around and made you angry? Give the Afghan soldiers some credit. They are not that impulsive. When they decide to trade their own life for an American life, they make that decision in their heart. No one can force them to it. They draw pay from the Americans, not the Taliban. If an Afghan soldier pulls the trigger – knowing that a coffin is his next stop – antipathy, anger, enmity and hatred for Americans run to his core.

Here’s a story of how palpable this hatred is. One American soldier had guard duty with an Afghan soldier. All night, at their post, the Afghan soldier shouted at the American, “Get out of here! We don’t want you here! Go home!” He shouted the words over and over and over, in his ear, all night. The American tried to ignore him, but it’s hard to remove your mind from abuse like that. You certainly can’t do your job as a guard when all you can hear is invective from the soldier on duty with youo. At last, toward morning, the American told his Afghan counterpart to shut up. A dispute followed. How predictable is that? Somebody probably noted the incident as cultural insensitivity.

This incident left the American soldier so shaken he wrote to his father about it. That’s how we know it happened. He said he could feel the Afghan soldier’s hate as his counterpart harangued him. He could feel it radiate, hear it in the Afghan soldier’s voice, until it entered his heart and made him afraid. He wrote that he was afraid he would not come home, that one of the Afghan soldiers he was serving with would shoot him. Shortly after he wrote the letter, an Afghan soldier murdered him. Think how this soldier’s father felt, holding the letter and a photograph of his son.

One can hardly say this American soldier, who sensed how he would die, was blameworthy. He just wanted to stand guard duty and go back to his bunk. He tried to get the soldier on duty with him to stop shouting in his ear, but he couldn’t. I imagine he could hear the Afghan’s rage building. The American had become a focal point for the Afghan’s deep anger for – who knows what? For all the bad things Americans have done during this war.

You see references to Americans’ cultural cluelessness so often, you’d almost think that if we got clued in, the murders would stop. If we got clued in, we would stop killing Afghans. If we stopped killing Afghans, the green-on-blue murders would eventually stop. What’s significant is that right now, nearly everyone in the country hates us. Even the corrupt political operators in Kabul, who skim American dollars like cream, dislike us. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Pashtun or otherwise, you want the Americans gone. It may be the only thing the tribes in this riven country agree about: get rid of the Americans. Leave us alone, let us settle things ourselves – just get out of here.

The treachery of these murders remains. The Afghans have a deep tradition of hospitality – they take good care of their guests. For Afghans to murder soldiers who came over to help them tells you something. The shooters don’t regard us as helpers, let alone guests. They regard us as enemies. The shooters believe their families and friends will honor them for their sacrifice. They do not regard their act as treachery at all. They regard it as a small victory in a fight to rid their country of occupiers.

Two thousand lost servicemen is a lot of deaths. Twenty-seven months until we leave in December 2014 is a long time. I saw an article by Frederick and Kimberly Kagan in the Wall Street Journal that argued, “Don’t leave Afghanistan after we have made so much progress. We can still win the war, finish the work we started there.” As I scanned the article, I wanted to know what that work was, where we would be at the end of 2014 that is different from where we are now. The best the Kagans could offer was, we have to run down the Taliban. We have to clear them out! We have to disarm them, defeat them, destroy them. The argument didn’t say why we should do that. It didn’t say why that goal was worth the trouble, why it was worth the blood of one soldier whose father waits back home.

We want to ask why a goal that seemed such a good idea ten years ago remains a goal we want to accomplish now. Yes, the standard line is that we have to get rid of the Taliban to deny al Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan. Given what we’ve learned since 9/11, given what has changed, this argument is absurd. Our soldiers in Afghanistan know it, yet they continue their work the best they can. When will the soldiers’ military and civilian leaders acknowledge the game is up?

Read Steven Greffenius’s recent book, Revolution on the Ground, second in a pair that began with Revolution in the Air. Download to your Kindle or Kindle app at Amazon.com.

Read Full Post »

Erratic Karzai

The specter of Vietnam hangs over our war in Afghanistan. First came the questions:

  • Will we lose another war?
  • Should we escalate this conflict, or get out?
  • Will this war become a quagmire?

Then came some contrasts:

  • The terrain is a lot different.
  • The Cold War is over, so a superpower confrontation isn’t in the background.
  • We haven’t lost as many soldiers in Afghanistan. Moreover, we have an all volunteer force now, and a relatively small number are deployed to the war zone.

In one respect, though, perhaps the most important one, you can see a similarity between the two conflicts that should give us pause. In both wars, our principal aim was not to conquer or occupy foreign territory. Our principal aim in Afghanistan, as in Vietnam, is to quell an insurgency and maintain a strong, stable government friendly to our interests. We failed to accomplish that in Vietnam, and thus lost the war. All the political signs right now indicate that we will fail to accomplish that aim in Afghanistan as well.

We have backed Hamid Karzai’s government in Kabul. The people who live in the region have many reasons to regard the government in Kabul as illegitimate. One important reason is that we back it. It’s a weak government in many respects, but one move on our part would make it more stable and acceptable to Afghans: we could stop backing it.

We back Hamid Karzai because he’s our only option. Never formulate your strategy in a way that limits your options. Do the opposite: formulate a strategy that leaves you multiple paths to your goal. What is our goal in Afghanistan? We want no more attacks on our homeland to originate from that region. Do we have to back Hamid Karzai and his government to accomplish that aim? You tell me.

Hamid Karzai has done everything a human being can reasonably do to tell us he does not want our backing. You have to ask what else he could do to get our attention. What if he were to denounce us in public, saying that our presence in his country is bad for his government and for all Afghanis? He’s done that. What if he were to tell us he’d like us to leave as soon as we can, because our presence in his country just leads to more and more killing? He’s done that. What if he stole an election with vote fraud so blatant that even his own cronies couldn’t defend it, then told us to mind our own business when we asked what’s going on? We all know he’s done that, too.

What’s our explanation for this behavior? We say he’s erratic. That implies that he doesn’t know his own mind. It implies that he can’t form a plan and stick with it. Erratic suggests he’s not reliable, not serious, not credible. I don’t know, but the record of what he has said in public seems pretty consistent to me. He doesn’t want us in his country anymore. Yes, we do protect him from the Taliban, but he doesn’t seem to be so worried about that. From his actions and his words, he appears more worried about the Americans in his country than about the Taliban.

Now we learn that his government receives bags of cash every year from Iran, our arch-enemy in the region. When the New York Times calls him on it, he says, “What’s the big deal? The U. S. government knows about this. I told them myself when I was in Washington.” Wow, that looks good for everybody doesn’t it? The American government knows that Iran funds the government in Kabul to the tune of two million or more a year, and we’re all okay with that?

You can’t fault Iran for wanting to advance its interests in Afghanistan. Moreover, Kabul would be ungracious to refuse a gift like that. Money is short, Kabul has big bills to pay, and Iran isn’t asking much in return. But you gotta wonder, do we really have a clear idea of what we’re doing over there? Honestly. When we leave, Iran’s still going to be there, like a good neighbor. Do we think Karzai will keep taking money from us after we leave because he likes us better?

If our main goals are to make Karzai’s government self-sufficient and friendly to the United States, we need to think of some different goals. If our main strategy to accomplish our goals is to apply military pressure to the Taliban, train the Afghan armed forces, provide security and fund development projects in Afghanistan, we may want to look at the result to see if the strategy is working. If we were to ask Karzai in private if he thinks the strategy is working, I don’t think he’d say yes.

When our client says that he takes money from our enemy and adds that we’ve known about that for quite a while, you have to take another look at both our ends and our means. We already gave Iran a big opportunity to expand its regional might when we attacked Iraq. Now perhaps we can balance things out and give Iran some room to run on the other end of the field. But then, if you have a client who’s erratic, what can you do?

Read Full Post »

Why the Constitution Matters in Military Affairs                                    

Week after week it’s easy for me to blog with compelling arguments that most things Congress does is unconstitutional.  But, up until about two years ago with the advent of Ron Paul’s Freedom Revolution and last year’s birth of the Tea Partiers, most Americans would have said, so what if something is unconstitutional?  That document is outdated and irrelevant.  These are modern times with issues unimaginable to the Founders.  Nonsense, the eternal truths contained in the U.S. Constitution are as relevant today as they were in the 1700s.

Take making war for instance.  Article 1 Section 8 gives Congress, not the president, the power to declare war.  In that same section, Congress has the power to finance the endeavor.  Since the end of World War II, the clause pertaining to declaring war in the Constitution, like many others, has been almost totally ignored by both the Congress and president.  Additionally, Congress has rarely if ever invoked its power to restrain presidential power by controlling the purse strings of the military during times of war.  The consequences have been horrendous. 

In the 1960s and 1970s it led to an 11 year war in Southeast Asia.  Instead of a declaration of war the military action was justified on the basis of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed in 1964.  The resolution gave President Johnson the authorization to do whatever was necessary in order to assist “any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty.”   This vague and open ended wording led to much criticism of the president and his Secretary of Defense over how they conducted the war.  Specifically, President Nixon’s expanding of it to include the bombing of Cambodia made an already unpopular war almost an event that tore the country in two.  It also led to over 50,000 American and countless Southeast Asian lives being lost.  The conflict ended in defeat for the U.S. and spending for the war caused high inflation which hurt American households, facilitated our manufacturing base to move overseas, and eventually brought on problems like the Savings and Loan crisis.

In current times we find ourselves mired in two conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  To be sure, Congress did not declare war in either circumstance.  For Afghanistan, it passed a resolution authorizing the president to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups.  For Iraq, the resolution authorized the president to use the Armed Forces of the United States “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” in order to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.”

It seems like Washington never learns from its mistakes.  Again, loosely worded resolutions instead of firm declarations with a narrow objective allowed President Bush to abuse his powers by spying on Americans, holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely, and expand the bombing to include other countries other than Afghanistan and Iraq, namely Pakistan.  In addition to over 1 million Iraqi and Afghani deaths from the main theaters of war, 1 in 3 people killed in the expanded bombings of Pakistan have been civilians. 

Because Washington has not followed the eternal truth that war should be entered into and conducted carefully, our government is primarily responsible for the destabilization of the Middle East.   It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that because of the threats of invasion that came from the previous administration and with American military might all around it Iran is attempting to acquire nuclear weapons.  Even though Saddam was a vile and ruthless tyrant his Iraq acted as a counterweight to Iran.  Today, Iraq is in chaos and if U.S. forces do ever leave it will be ripe for a takeover by Islamic extremists.

A Republican Congress unfortunately did not deny George W. Bush the ability to launch an unjust war on Iraq based on lies, misinformation and his desire to avenge Saddam Hussein for allegedly sending a hit squad to assassinate his father.  One man made the decision to start the war in which Americans would die and hundreds of billions of dollars would be spent.  This was not the intent of the Founders who were wise enough to give the powers of declaring wars and financing them to the Congress.  The Founders gave them to Congress because it is a deliberative body that represents the many viewpoints of Americans.  These viewpoints, like in the enactment of laws, place a check and balance on the solitary power of the president.  Congress has abdicated this constitutional power and consequently has propped up an imperial presidency – something the Founders, other than Hamilton and Adams, would have vehemently rebelled against.

In 2006 the Democrats took back control of Congress with a pledge to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  For a time there was hope that they would restore the constitutional balance of power in war making. They simply could have done this by cutting funding for the wars.  But instead, Congress continues to finance the wars and in fact has gone along with President Obama’s wishes to continue funding bombings in Pakistan and to escalate the war in Afghanistan – so much for the hope that Congress would exert control over the powers granted to it and rein in the powers usurped by the president.

Wars are costly both in terms of human life and monetary expense.  Unless an attack on U.S. soil is imminent, Congress must retain its constitutional power to declare war and use its authority over funding it to limit the president’s actions.  By not following these constitutional mandates we have become a militaristic society almost constantly at war in adventures far beyond what the Founders envisioned.  This has caused a drain on our families, our finances, and our country’s reputation in the world.  Fortunately, many Americans are finally waking up to this reality.      

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina.

Read Full Post »

The poll is at

The LNC resolution which “calls on the government of the United States to withdraw the armed forces of the United States from Afghanistan, without undue delay”, is at http://www.lp.org/news/press-releases/lnc-passes-afghanistan-resolution:

At the September meeting of the Libertarian National Committee, the following resolution was passed:

WHEREAS the government of the United States should return to its historical libertarian tradition of avoiding entangling alliances, foreign quarrels, and military adventures; and

WHEREAS the stability and security of Afghanistan lie outside the jurisdiction of the government of the United States; and

WHEREAS the Libertarian Party recognizes that the only legitimate role of the military is to defend America against direct attack or the imminent threat of attack;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Libertarian National Committee calls on the government of the United States to withdraw the armed forces of the United States from Afghanistan, without undue delay.

At LewRockwell.com blog, Eric Garris writes:

Today the Libertarian Party national website, LP.org, has posted a poll on their front page:

Should more troops be sent to Afghanistan?

The correct libertarian position is, of course, withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. This is not an option on the poll. Someone who holds the correct libertarian position must be satisfied with voting “no,” along with those who want to “stay the course” in Afghanistan.

Does this mean we can expect coming LP polls like this:

Should income taxes be increased?

Should penalties against marijuana users be increased?

If you are an LP member, you might want to tell the national office and the national national committee members (two totally separate entities) how you feel about this:



Read Full Post »

I found this very disturbing local story while looking for updates on the cop who hit and killed a pedestrian, dragged his body under the police cruiser for over half a mile, then claimed he didn’t know he had hit anyone.

Soldiers dying in their sleepApparently a lot of young soldiers are making it through the war, and coming home only to die in their sleep unexpectedly. Even more strangely, this has happened three times within a three-week period, to three families in West Virginia who live within an hour of one another.

Is the Veterans Administration giving returning soldiers a fatal cocktail of medication for post-traumatic stress disorder? It certainly seems that way, since all three of these young men were taking the same drug cocktail. Healthy young men don’t just die in their sleep. Something stopped their respiration while they were sleeping, and I’d guess it was the drugs they were prescribed combined with their disturbed sleep patterns.

I haven’t heard anything about this in the national media. Is this a national epidemic? It’s possible that it is, and journalists just haven’t put the pieces together to realize that.

Clearly, anyone reading this who is taking that combination of drugs (or knows someone else who is taking it) needs to contact their doctor immediately.

“He would normally stay up watching TV at night because it was hard for him to sleep and I went ahead and went to bed. The next morning when I got up, I found him on the couch, he was in the same position he was in when he went to sleep and he was already gone,” Layne said.

A soldier from Kanawha City, Eric Layne left behind an 18-month old son and a baby girl on the way.

Meanwhile, Logan County resident Cheryl Endicott’s son Nicholas died January 29th while being treated at a military hospital in Bethesda.

He too reportedly went to bed and never woke up.

“They told me that at 10:55, they entered his room, he was non-responsive, had no pulse so they deceased him right then and there,” said Endicott.

Finally, on February 12th Stan and Shirley White lost their son Andrew, another Kanawha County service member who stopped breathing in his sleep. For the Whites, it was the second son they said goodbye too. Robert White died while serving in Afghanistan.

“You’re always expecting and fearing when your children are at war that they’re not going to make it back. They don’t come back and lie in their bed, go to sleep and die. That doesn’t happen. That’s not supposed to happen,” Stan White said.

Each family heard about the others’ tragedies and eventually compared stories.

All three men were in their 20s, served in Iraq and died in their sleep within a three-week period, but that’s only the beginning of the similarities.

Each military man was being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and had started exhibiting the same strange behavior and symptoms.

“Excessive weight gain, anger management disturbed sleep patterns, tremors,” White said.

The young men were each taking a number of prescription drugs before they died, but the combination they all had in common includes Paxil, Klonopin and Seroquel.

You can read the rest of this extremely disturbing article here.


Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: