Lately, I've been listening to folks like Rachel Maddow and Richard Holbrooke talk about the situation in Afghanistan. I've been hearing that the rate of illiteracy in that country runs in the area of 70 to 80%. The government is having a hard time enforcing the law because in cities like Kandahar, there are only 9 magistrates to hear court cases. I've also heard about the government, along with the military forces from NATO, have seemingly stopped cutting down Afghan poppy and marijuana fields so that farmers can stay afloat selling these crops.
I've heard that the primary mission of the NATO forces is to prevent "collateral damage" to civilians as they relentlessly hunt down the Taliban. It's been reported that the Taliban gave al Qaeda a free hand to operate in this poor, backwards country which led to the September 11th attacks on the United States in 2001, and that this is the primary reason that the United States and NATO operate on the premise that if we don't develop a strong central government in Kabul, that more attacks will surely hit the United states "Homeland" after being planned in Afghanistan.
During an interview with Rachel Maddow, Special Envoy to the nations of Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard C. Holbrooke remarked that NATO must create a strong central government in order to get the majority of the populace to align themselves with the government in Kabul. This supposedly, would break the grip that the Taliban holds over the people that live in the rural areas. Since a hefty majority or the Afghan population live in the rural areas, this becomes a very tall order.
While listening to Holbrooke pontificate on the problems that the central government faces in winning "the hearts and minds" of the Afghan people, I couldn't help but remember the rhetoric that came out of Vietnam over 40 years ago. There too, we were involved in winning "the hearts and minds" of the Vietnamese people and there too, Richard C. Holbrooke was involved in that strategy.
Listening to Holbrooke discuss the reasons we are in Afghanistan made me think about what a wonderful nation the United States truly is. Even though we are experiencing a recession that is akin to the Great Depression of the 1930's, with official unemployment figures running about 9 percent on average (while the true figures are obscured because so many have come off the unemployment rolls due to these people no longer being eligible for unemployment benefits due to the length of time they have been unemployed and many have ceased looking for work, while some economists claim the real figures are between 20 and 25%), we valiantly spend our nation's treasure to "help" these unfortunate Afghan people to build a nation free from corruption and rule by tribal warlords.
Holbrooke claims that we are making substantial progress in opening schools while training the Afghan Army and police forces to bring about a nation run by law. Even though the main cash crop in that country is opium that accounts for something like 95% of Europe's heroin supply and most of its hashish, we are asked to believe that soon Afghanistan will be a major supplier of corn and other foodstuffs after the central government "rehabilitates" the farmers that make their livings off of narco-agriculture. After all, why would farmers willingly grow poppies and marijuana when they could grow eggplants, melons and corn?
Listening to government officials like General Ben Hodges describe the Taliban's way of settling disputes in Kandahar made me wonder if the military leadership over there are sampling the hashish being grown by the farmers.The truth as I see it, there is so much corruption and so little support from the government in Kabul, the idea of bringing Afghanistan into the twenty-first century could take decades.
The true nature of our involvement in Afghanistan is something that has yet to be defined. The obvious question is why are we there? What makes this nation (and I use the term loosely), so important that we need 150,000 troops from the U.S. (and almost as many mercenaries), and tens of thousands of troops from NATO as well as Mongolia, South Korea and other non-NATO countries, to perform the task of "nation-building"? Is it because of the TAPI petroleum pipeline that will run from the Caucuses to ports in India, thus bringing oil from the Caucuses without having to go through Russia, and insuring petroleum to Western Europe without the inconvenience of having it controlled by Russia and thus holding Western Europe hostage? Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia on the pipeline;
"The new deal on the pipeline was signed on 27 December 2002 by the leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2005, the Asian Development Bank submitted the final version of a feasibility study designed by British company Penspen. "Since the US-led offensive that ousted the Taliban from power,' reported Forbes in 2005, "the project has been revived and drawn strong US support" as it would allow the Central Asian republics to export energy to Western markets "without relying on Russian routes". Then-US Ambassador to Turkmenistan Ann Jacobsen noted that: "We are seriously looking at the project, and it is quite possible that American companies will join it." Due to increasing instability, the project has essentially stalled; construction of the Turkmen part was supposed to start in 2006, but the overall feasibility is questionable since the southern part of the Afghan section runs through territory which continues to be under de facto Taliban control."
There are other reasons for the U.S. to be involved in Afghanistan, al Qaeda not being the most important. Control of Afghanistan gives the United States access to Iran to the west and China to the east whiles to the north are many of the "Stans". Afghanistan is a very strategic area.
The stated goal of the United States is to bring Afghanistan stability and to keep the Taliban and with them, al Qaeda out of the country. They also use the treatment of women and the narco-trade into the equation. If one were to watch Holbrooke and Obama opine on why we are there in that country, you may think that the United States was a very altruistic nation indeed. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are in Afghanistan in order to maintain a military presence that directly confronts both Iran and China. This is a military campaign for hegemony in Central Asia. We are also there to procure a source of oil from the Caspian Basin without having to use Russia in which to run the pipeline and thereby reduce their influence in Western Europe.
If the United States was so concerned about the people of Afghanistan, if it were so concerned about abuses toward women and the influence of the Taliban and al Qaeda, countries like Saudi Arabia would certainly be a nation to be worried about. There are many nations in the World that savage their people and export terrorism. Myanmar (Burma), Egypt, Sri Lanka and Namibia are some nations that have horrible human rights abuses, yet we don't send in the Marines.
I don't believe for a moment that we are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people. We don't operate that way. There are easier ways to keep track of global threats to our nation. Occupying nations that present a threat is costly and hasn't worked well for us in the past. The latest Gallup poll revealed that 56% of Americans don't think we should continue this war. In these economic times, it seems like financial suicide to work towards mastery of the world through military means. It's not only expensive, but morally wrong. Therefore the United States must have a reason to do so.
If you buy into the old Bush mantra that "We fight them there so we don't have to fight them here", there is something fundamentally wrong in your thought patterns. Realistically, the planning of 9/11 wasn't born in the caves of Tora-Bora. We supported the Taliban against the Russians. There are plans within plans and it's gotten us to the point where most of the U.S. military finds itself in a quandary. There are two reasons that always emerge when discussing the importance of Afghanistan" Iran and the pipeline.
The notion that our soldiers are fighting over there to preserve our freedom over here is by far, one of the most ridiculous statements ever uttered by any government, anywhere, ever. I watched 60 minutes on the July 18th, when Scott Pelly was embedded with Golf Company for a week. They had a formation for the eight Marines killed during their tour. They were all Lance Corporals" E-3's. No Captains, not even a Sergeant made the ultimate sacrifice. In the Army, they would have been classified as Privates First Class. In Iraq, a few years ago, the soldiers brought up on Court-Martial in the Abu Graib case, none of the soldiers convicted were over the pay grade of E-4. Where were the NCO's and Officers when they rampaged through the prison?
This war falls on the backs of young men and women at the bottom of the military hierarchy. This "All-Volunteer Military" is nothing more than a "back door draft" using those individuals that have no other way to support themselves in many cases. They are "fighting for our freedom", but even that phrase rings hollow. Since 9/11 I see our freedoms grow weaker and weaker. Someday soon, we will all wake from this nightmare and find that we have no "freedoms" left.