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The Grand Game

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There is a valid reason that Afghanistan is called the graveyard of empires. The terrain is inhospitable, the climate is inhospitable and the populace to a large degree is inhospitable. They don't want our help, they don't want anyone's help, and if they want to live in the 14th century, I say let 'em.

Our government, since the end of World War II, has played political chess with the globe, each side striving to control as many squares as possible. The purpose is to block or hedge the other fellow out, to block their path to oil or other minerals and to control their access to world markets.

Since the end of the cold war and the rise of the neocons this plan has been accelerated. If we use Google Earth and start at the western edge of the Black Sea there is tiny Georgia with US efforts to stir up trouble, backing yet another tinhorn dictator. To the South is Turkey, a loyal NATO ally, which Israel is trying to defame because otherwise she might have to explain herself. So she deflects that blame and puts a wedge inside American foreign policy. Moving west is Iraq with the second largest oil reserves and the largest untapped oil reserves in the world. It is obvious why that square needed to be absorbed into the empire.

On to the west is friendly Saudi Arabia, beheadings nightly, no cover charge. The Saudi ruling class is a very pragmatic bunch because this is a very religious place. The people worship Allah devoutly while the ruling elite worship money and Capitalism. Officially the country is a monarchy with a consultative council. The council exists so that the monarch can claim some form of representative government. It is a showcase for the occasional female legislator or modern idea, but like the French parliament under the monarchy, it is largely ceremonial.

There is also tiny Kuwait, but with Saddam gone, they're are as useful as a snow shovel in Florida. Then you've got the three little gems of Dubai, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- three friendly little countries that are cashing in on all the money floating around the region. As we move further west, we cue the "Jaws" music because we have reached Iran, that evil country and basically the only country in the region not involved in warfare against its neighbors except when attacked with US blessings by Iraq. On Iran's eastern border we find the jewel in the crown, Afghanistan, and to her east, Pakistan. The US has essentially drawn a 2,000-mile-long line from Tbilisi to Islamabad.

The purpose is to cut Russia and China off from the oil wealth of the Middle East. Russia has her own oil and mineral wealth, but when you control the pipelines and control the governments that control the pipelines you effectively control the oil. The Russians have been working on new infrastructure towards Europe so it's becoming a codified division of spoils. Europe will get Russian oil and the US will monopolize Middle East oil. The Chinese aren't slow to pick up on this grand game and have been busy buying up oil patches in Africa and Latin America with the problem being that they are too far behind to catch up.

These strategies were all carefully thought out but there is a problem. The neocons who thought this strategy up, while being very astute politically, were very dull-witted mathematically. These were the people who said Iraqis would throw flowers and candy to US troops, and that the war was over except for a few dead-enders. Then there was the whopper that the Iraq war would pay for itself.

As we know it has not panned out that way, and now every few months since 2001 we dump 20-billion or 30-billion or 100-billion dollars in to keep the grand game going. So far the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with all the little side adventures in Pakistan and Yemen, have cost the US taxpayer $1,013,535,967,212. But it's only money, leaving aside that this country is desperately in need of money at home to help its own people and to build its own schools and infrastructure. Then there is the more important issue of using American mothers' sons and daughters as pawns to play the grand game.

Five thousand dead Americans in Iraq and tens of thousands more wounded both physically and mentally. This past June was the most deadly month so far in Afghanistan and we have lost nearly 2,000 more in that land. A land that doesn't want them, a land that doesn't need them, and all for the sole purpose of playing a grand economic game with the added by-product of harassing Iran.

Let's say, hypothetically speaking, Iran decided tomorrow to throw herself at the feet of the US and the US agreed to drop all sanctions. Would Iran be allowed to jail and execute political prisoners? Would she be allowed to harass religious minorities? Would she be allowed to practice extremist religious policies? Sure she would, lots of US allies do it all the time. So let's be grown-ups here for a second. The US campaign against Iran is about harassing a government that won't fall down and kiss our feet.

The US does business with China and Nigeria and Vietnam but has sanctions against Cuba because they jail political prisoners. We threaten sanctions against Venezuela because they suspended the license of an opposition TV station that supported a coup against the lawful government. In most countries that's called treason and the penalty is normally worse than a suspended license.

So here we have this grand game and fat, bald, old men in the Pentagon or in Washington pushing pieces on the board and the pieces die. These so-called leaders rationalize that the end justifies the means, but it is always to their ends and from our means.

Recently President Obama fired the top general in Afghanistan. It reminded me of Truman and MacArthur, but not because Obama fired McChrystal. McChrystal was no MacArthur; MacArthur was insufferable and had no plan for ending the war in Korea other than shooting his mouth off. Truman was unsure whether to fire MacArthur. He sent six months' correspondence to General George Marshall and asked his advice. Marshall answered, "You should have fired that son of a b*tch six months ago!" Such is the case with McChrystal and such is the case with Afghanistan.

The only way to win in Afghanistan is to send in a D-Day style invasion and to occupy every hill and hamlet. Then reduce it to a Pol Pot style Cambodia and rebuild it from scratch, but that will never, ever happen.

I wrote the other day about a US contract to supply illiterate Afghan pilots with second-hand Russian helicopters purchased for seven million dollars each above the price of a new helicopter. From 500 computers missing to entire buildings for which we have paid millions of dollars to have constructed that are unsafe and uninhabitable, for every hundred dollars poured into Afghanistan for assistance, nickels and dimes fall out the other side.

We are paying warlords millions of dollars to guard stretches of highway to protect it from the warlords themselves. We built a diesel powered electric generating station in Kabul that requires fuel convoys to supply it with expensive diesel fuel from Pakistan rather than repairing Afghanistan's only hydroelectric dam. Why? It was argued that the dam was too hard to defend from insurgents. It's becoming insanity personified.

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I who am I? Born at the pinnacle of American prosperity to parents raised during the last great depression. I was the youngest child of the youngest children born almost between the generations and that in fact clouds and obscures who it is that (more...)

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