US Gen McChrystal’s Dismissal!
Western governments are governed by oligopoly of bankers and financiers along with military-industry complex and energy sectors. Bushes, Obamas and Blairs, Browns are but their tools whom they put into power to implement corporate policies. These leaders are looked after well in retirement. With as much defense expenditure as the rest of the world put together, US is subsidizing its war industry at the cost of its taxpayers by its endless wars around the world. In this decision making and implementing nexus, pliant military generals play important role. They are looked after well while in service and with post retirement jobs in military industry, think tanks and even as embedded ‘experts’ on Fox channel and CNN etc. Most follow their master’s orders, but a few do sometimes differ, protest, stand up and suffer.
War on Iraq and Generals’ Revolt
Before Gen Stanley McChrystal’s comic caper in the magazine 'Rolling Stones' to get himself fired rather than live with the ignominy of losing an unwinnable Afghan war, there were earlier revolts by US generals; on the handling of the US war in Iraq. It began, much before March, 2003, when Anglo-American leaders were beating the war drums. Leaks from some in the Establishment who favored an "inside-out" plan to "take Baghdad and one or two key command centers and weapons depots first, in hopes of cutting off the country's leadership and causing a quick collapse of the government ," were dismissed by Marine General Anthony Zinni, a former Commander of Central Command and a US Middle East envoy, as a recipe for a "Bay of Goats" disaster, like the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba." (Similar crazy plans are being leaked out again now to browbeat Iran – watch this space).
Many generals and independent think tanks, not financed by US neo–cons had warned that "a US attack would dangerously destabilize the region, harm the global economy, and infuriate Arab and Muslim masses." It has all come true. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief aide Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson dubbed a neo-cons Cabal around Vice President Dick Cheney, led by his old time buddy and patron Defense Secretary Ronald Rumsfeld, for the post invasion mess in Iraq.
In the beginning of 2006, six retired U.S. Marine and Army generals denounced the Pentagon planning for the Iraq war which was also the view of 75 percent of the officers in the field, and probably more. (Rumsfeld had to finally leave) The generals might have spoken in retirement, but they brought imposing credentials to their revolt. Major Gen. Paul Eaton, first to speak out, was in charge of training Iraqi forces until 2004. He said that: "I have seen a climate of groupthink become dominant and a growing reluctance by experienced military men and civilians to challenge the notions of the senior leadership." Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs up to the eve of the war, charged Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith with a "casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions – or bury the results."
Other generals who spoke against the Pentagon policies were Brig. Gen. James Marks, a retired Iraq veteran and military analyst who said, "Clearly the presence of more combat forces on the ground would have been needed." Gen. Eric K Shinseki, who had told the Congress before the war that many hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to pacify Iraq after the invasion was passed up for promotion. Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Army's 1st Division in Iraq, charged that Rumsfeld did not seek nor did he accept the counsel of field commanders. He was supported by Maj. Gen. John Riggs. Maj. Gen. Charles J. Swannack, former field commander of the 82nd Airborne, believed " we can create a stable government in Iraq", but Rumsfeld mismanaged the war.
Cometh Armed Messiah Petraeus !
Gen David Petraeus’s appointment as commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, replacing Gen Stanley McChrystal is in fact a demotion since as Central Command Chief he had supervised Gen McChrystal. It could be Obama’s (politician’s) way of ‘fixing’ politically savvy Petraeus, who has many political supporters and reportedly nurses political ambitions himself (for 2012 elections). But to succeed in the Afghanistan quagmire would need a miracle.
The so called "successful surge" in Iraq under Gen Petraeus is nothing but a US corporate media created public relations myth sold to a gullible American public by the Pentagon. What Petraeus did was to disgorge Samsonites full of cash to willing and selected strands of the Sunni resistance who fiercely fought the US occupation, while at the same time fighting the Shia dominated government in Baghdad and its various militias. The ‘Surge’ and attacks by US forces and Shia militias have led to ethnic cleansing, with mixed Shia-Sunni communities now herded in their own community’s areas. But the Sunni-Shia civil war is still on in Iraq, killing at least 300 civilians every month but much less than before the agreement for the US troops (now less than 90,000) to be confined to the bases, when the resistance attacked GIs and in the process many Iraqi civilians also got killed.
Wrote eminent journalist Pepe Escobar, “Petraeus never ended the Sunni-Shi'ite civil war raging in Iraq between 2006 and 2007. He tried to marginalize the Sadrists; he failed miserably. What he did, apart from showering US dollars, was to kill - via McChrystal's death squads - the leaders of many a Sunni resistance cell, while building a million checkpoints and installing a horrendous cement apartheid in Baghdad (a key factor into driving citywide unemployment to 80%).
Do not forget that since March 2003 according to Informationclearinghouse.info website over 1.3 million Iraqis in a population of 25 million have been killed , millions maimed and over 3 million rendered refugees in Syria, Jordan and inside Iraq. Over 4700 US troops have also been killed and many tens of thousands injured and maimed for life. Some pacification of the grave yard. Vice President Biden has talked of a UN peacekeeping force (any takers) after the US troops leave. The nation of Iraq created by 20th century imperialists the British by joining 3 Ottoman provinces lay asunder in a bloody mess by the successor imperialist power, USA.
Coming back to Afghanistan, the people and the topography are quite different. Pashtuns will accept Petraeus' bundles of cash (after all Afghanistan is the second most corrupt country in the world after Somalia). What's certain is that the Pashtuns would be quite happy to take the money and not run, but wait - exactly as the Sunni Iraqis are doing.
As for General McChrystal's hardcore, "take, clear and hold" counter-insurgency (COIN) plus building up local "governance", what his ‘surge’ in Afghanistan did was to repeat running Pentagon death squads as in Iraq i.e. performing COIN designed by Petraeus himself. While McChrystal made a lot of noise , he failed. One does not captivate Pashtun civilians' hearts and minds by bombing their villages to rubble and incinerating their sons, daughters and wedding parties.
Prof Kennedy on US exit from Afghanistan; “Heads, you lose; Tails, you don’t win.”
Hoping that someone in NSC or the State Department is devising some get-us-out-slowly-but-steadily stratagems, Prof Kennedy admits that “the Afghanistan-Pakistan entanglement is an issue so vexed and complicated that it would have tested the wisdom of the greatest leaders and strategists of the past. It is not totally fanciful to imagine Augustus, William Pitt the Elder, Bismarck or George Marshall pondering over a map which detailed the lands that stretch from the Bekaa Valley to the Khyber Pass. None of them would have liked what they saw.” Look at the distances , the awful topography, and the willingness of the other side to accept appalling casualty rates, make a limited war— a finely calibrated war — something of a nonsense. Kennedy after talking to those with Afghan field experience feels that US “at least cannot “win” in the sense that knee-jerk congressmen and rabid Murdoch newspapers understand that word, a victory grotesquely skewed by their habit of invoking American football language: smash, overrun, crush, annihilate.”
“Pulling out should not be construed as appeasement since US would not be the first to leave those wretched mountains and their defiant tribes to their own devices; indeed, we would simply join that long list of former occupation armies which eventually thought the better of it and made for the exit. A three-time British Prime Minister and four-time Foreign Secretary Lord Salisbury once observed, nothing is more fatal to a wise strategy than clinging to the carcasses of dead policies.” Yet , Kennedy feels, “few administrations have the resolve to let go; and frankly, in the case of Afghanistan, a mushy compromise—half-concealed withdrawal—might be the least-worst way to go, at least for now. But not forever.”
What do the various stakeholders in Afghanistan want and what they can obtain is difficult to forecast. A declining Hegemon US cannot even try what it forced on the Afghans in 2002. It is 2010. The Pashtuns would be the main deciders. If they can come together they can wipe out the British imposed but unenforceable Durand Line. The Pashtuns have ethnic homogeneity, Deoband ideology for now, opium and contraband trade links with neighbors and Dubai, even a flag and perhaps Mullah Omar as one of the leaders. But they are likely to first fight among themselves as after the exit of Soviet forces. But unlike mid-1990s, after what the Pakistani, predominantly Punjabi military has done at Washington’s behest and allowed raining of drone deaths, in North West Pakistan and in Afghanistan, Pashtuns are unlikely to be run by ISI. And if a Pashtun state become de jure, what happens to the other provinces in Pakistan, which has failed to even create a territory based national identity.
And what about non Pashtun people of Afghanistan, who form almost 60% of the population and oppose Taliban/Pashtun domination and ideology as they did after the Taliban were enabled to take over most of Afghanistan. Barring Karzai, a Pashtun, most of the establishment comprises of non-Pashtuns, who had resisted the Taliban under Northern Alliance. They will have support of neighboring states, Iran, Uzbekistan, and others like a now resurgent Moscow and economically important New Delhi. What about Beijing and its dream of connecting its turbulent Turkic Uighur majority Xinjiang province to Gwadar port in Baluchistan on the Arabian Sea for transfer of energy from the Gulf, bypassing the insecure sea lanes via Indian Ocean and Malacca straits, a project which Washington would do its utmost to nullify. Neither Moscow nor India would like that to fructify too.
And what about the US design to keep its military bases at least in non-Pashtun northwest Afghanistan and detach mineral rich Baluchistan (the old news about the mineral wealth was highlighted simply to justify in the eyes of the US population which has become disenchanted with the unending war in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan.) What about Washington encouraging dissensions in Kyrgyzstan, with the multi ethnic Ferghana valley states becoming unstable and chaotic like Afghanistan and engulfing central Asia and Xinjiang.
New Delhi must remember, whatever the final outcome in Afghanistan, sooner or later Pashtuns would seek good relations with India. It should re-establish contacts with Taliban and other leaders.
This sums up the problems and possible outcomes of the Afghanistan tunnel with little clear light at the end. There are other tunnels too, the Iraq tunnel, which US entered in 2003 and the keystone problem of Palestine, with Israel becoming no less important for a downsized United States, after Russians are back in Ukraine, its ally Georgia bashed by Moscow two years ago and US position becoming shaky in Kyrgyzstan. Only if there were an Octopus which like the one in Germany which accurately predicted the Football World cup results, could also see into the future and predict the outcome.