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ADF members charged with manslaughter
October 11, 2010 7:20 PM   Subscribe

On 12 February 2009, soldiers from the ADF 1st Commando regiment crept through the dark near the village of Surkh Morghab, in southern Afghanistan. What happened next will be closely scrutinised, however grenades were used and five children were killed.

Three diggers have now been charged with manslaughter and not following orders by the Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade.

No Australian soldier has ever previously been charged with such offences against civilians in battle.

Brigadier McDade, who has two sons serving in the ADF, has been vilified.

This statement from two of the commandos expresses their regret but ultimately defends their choices.
Of course, commentators, columnists and bloggers can't help but weigh in.
posted by wilful (167 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tthe 1 Commando Regiment is reservist (yes, reservist special forces), and there have been questions regarding their level of training before leaving Australia.
posted by wilful at 7:23 PM on October 11, 2010


Jeff Sparrow's column on the Drum is worth a read on this, although the top and tail assumptions that Australia should get out of Afghanistan are somewhat above the particular issue.
posted by jjderooy at 7:39 PM on October 11, 2010


the top and tail assumptions that Australia should get out of Afghanistan are somewhat above the particular issue

How are they selling the war to you all?

I wouldn't imagine that "We must fight them there or fight them here" passes the laugh test for someone in Melbourne.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:54 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Joe, we have no fucking idea why we're there.

Actually yes we do, it's because sucking up to our great and powerful friend is pretty much the be-all-and-end-all of our foreign policy. Which has really worked a treat since 1946.
posted by wilful at 7:59 PM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Q: How are they selling the war to you all?

Ans: ANZUS (also see this)

From "Australia – United States relations": "The alliance has only been invoked once, for the invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks ..."

Not that it needed to be invoked, IMO.
posted by vidur at 8:29 PM on October 11, 2010


Those guys we are fighting over there do this kind of stuff every day and then crow about it on Jihadi websites. The UN reported that of the 1200+ civilians killed in Afghanistan 76% were killed by Taliban. I don't get it Joe you make a huge fuss about everything Obama does, but where we have an actual army in place to fight some truly evil people you want no part of it.
posted by humanfont at 8:40 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't think anyone really was selling it... I mean you have to support the diggers, and the pollies do enjoy riding on the odd tank, but mostly there's just an acceptance that our military policy gets set in the Pentagon.
posted by pompomtom at 8:42 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Herald Sun and Quadrant? What are you doing to me Wilful?! My brain is rotting fast enough, thank you very much.

My civilian opinion is that a war zone is no place for reservists, and if they are guilty of manslaughter they should be charged. Let the courts decide. If that means other soldiers on duty think twice before pulling the pin/trigger, so much the better imho. Maybe it will increase the risk to them, but that's what they're there for, not blowing up children.
posted by smoke at 8:44 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


How well I remember our Afghanistan
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Oruzgan
We were butchered the lambs at the slaughter
posted by orthogonality at 8:44 PM on October 11, 2010


smoke, not just Quadrant, but our esteemed jurist Professor Flint AM no less.
posted by wilful at 8:49 PM on October 11, 2010


Yep, its harsh, but I think most Aussies who give it some thought understand the pragmatic/realist line of thinking (leaving aside higher motives in both directions) that every once in a while Australia needs to water our long-standing and generally beneficial alliance with the US with our blood. The other arguments in both directions count in weighing up the decisions, but the alliance is the bedrock.

Its hard to debate (and for the media to report in an interesting manner) such a cornerstone of Australian life as the US alliance, particularly given people's desire to believe in independence as an absolute, so public discussion is mostly an argument between two poles of idealism of peace/its not helping vs defeating evil/security.
posted by jjderooy at 8:52 PM on October 11, 2010


where we have an actual army in place to fight some truly evil people you want no part of it

Because having that army in place creates more of those truly evil people.

Democrats didn't have any trouble understanding this two years ago.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:10 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't imagine that "We must fight them there or fight them here" passes the laugh test for someone in Melbourne.

Australians are targets for terrorist attacks (Bali).
posted by KokuRyu at 9:26 PM on October 11, 2010


mistakes were made
posted by telstar at 9:36 PM on October 11, 2010


Australians are targets for terrorist attacks (Bali).

And we very properly assist the indonesian police in successfully bringing those people to justice.
posted by wilful at 9:41 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Democrats didn't have any trouble understanding this two years ago.

A lot of people don't agree with this war. humanfont is the minority on this one.

Screw this anyway. Moral high ground doesn't defend our nine year old nation-building venture in Afghanistan. How many people backing this war could even point out Afghanistan on a map 10 years ago? Where was all the outcry about how the truly evil Taliban were skinning people alive in 1999? Forgive me if I'm not buying the self-righteous, "oh but the Afghan people argument".

Bob Herbert had a good column on why our nonsensical imperialism fetish is flawed policy at its worst.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:44 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Joe, I don't necessarily agree with it, but here is the address the Prime Minister made when she was in Tarin Kowt earlier this month. My italics:
We very much value it, because the mission is so important to our national interest. The mission is critical to making sure that this place does not again become a training ground, a place that sponsors violence and terrorism that is visited on innocent people around the world, but particularly on innocent Australians. We've lost too many lives in terrorist attacks and what you are doing is making sure that this place does not continue to be part of that cycle of terror that has taken the lives of so many Australians...
It's worth noting that she also specifically refers to the Parliamentary debate on Afghanistan we'll have in the Commonwealth Parliament during the next session as a result of the negotiations with the Greens and independents after the last Federal election.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:46 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Australians are targets for terrorist attacks (Bali).

Aussies weren't specifically targeted, it was more just white foreign tourists. Plenty of Western Europeans, Americans, and Canadians frequent the areas that were bombed in Bali.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:51 PM on October 11, 2010


How many people backing this war could even point out Afghanistan on a map 10 years ago? Where was all the outcry about how the truly evil Taliban were skinning people alive in 1999? Forgive me if I'm not buying the self-righteous, "oh but the Afghan people argument"

The facts will continue to be fixed around the policy.

I suspect the new model for 2011 will be "We need to keep drone bombing in Pakistan to keep its nukes away from Islamic extremists."
posted by Joe Beese at 10:15 PM on October 11, 2010


I suspect the new model for 2011 will be "We need to keep drone bombing in Pakistan to keep its nukes away from Islamic extremists."

This is the problem with riding a tiger. How do you ever get off alive?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:21 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


How many people backing this war could even point out Afghanistan on a map 10 years ago?

I'd guess that it's almost exactly the same number as could do so today.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:24 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


> This is the problem with riding a tiger. How do you ever get off alive?

You shoot it in the head with a pistol in your free hand then run like hell while the jackals and hyenas eat it instead of you.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:25 PM on October 11, 2010


Sounds to me like you are advocating the assassination of the POTUS.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:32 PM on October 11, 2010


> I suspect the new model for 2011 will be "We need to keep drone bombing in Pakistan to keep its nukes away from Islamic extremists."

Well, there is also this, published just today in The Australian. The same thesis keeps getting published at various occasions but the title ("World cannot allow Pakistan to collapse") says it all. Pakistan has used the same basic argument (since well before the recent devastating floods or the earthquake a while ago) and has by now mastered the art of negotiating with a gun to its own head.
posted by vidur at 10:36 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


We very much value it, because the mission is so important to our national interest. The mission is critical to making sure that this place does not again become a training ground, a place that sponsors violence and terrorism that is visited on innocent people around the world, but particularly on innocent Australians. We've lost too many lives in terrorist attacks and what you are doing is making sure that this place does not continue to be part of that cycle of terror that has taken the lives of so many Australians...

I'm sorry, but that is absolute horseshit. If it isn't Afghanistan, it's Pakistan. If it's not Pakistan, it's Iran. If it's not Iran, it's Iraq. If it's not Iraq, it's Yemen. If it's not Yemen, it's Algeria. If it's not Algeria, it's Somalia. If it's not Somalia, it's Sudan.

Basically, all Al Qaeda has to do is have one successful terror attack every ten years, and the Western world will drain it's national resources chasing them into every politically weak nation on earth that has zero infrastructure and no ability to police their own borders. It's like the low intensity conflict in Vietnam, but spread out across the whole fucking world.

All in response to criminal activity that kills less people every year than aspirin overdoses.
posted by notion at 10:38 PM on October 11, 2010 [11 favorites]


The NSA knows that I would never advocate such a thing. More it was a crude metaphor for just dropping everything in Afghanistan/Pakistan and sailing home.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:38 PM on October 11, 2010


From the Jeff Sparrow article to which jjderooy linked:
As The Australian puts it, ‘The difficulty in Afghanistan's near-impossible circumstances is that soldiers, insurgents and civilians are killed regularly’ and ‘The casualty rate would soar if Diggers became reluctant to open fire for fear of repercussions when split-second decisions were demanded.’
Well, there’s a three-word solution to both these problems. It goes like this. Bring. Them. Home...
Actually, it's solving a different problem, and Jeff Sparrow's being disingenuous. Supporters of the war shouldn't see a process of military justice as a threat to the ADF mission, and as opponents of the Australian presence—a group of which I'm part—shouldn't try to argue that the deaths of soldiers are in any way an argument against a military operation. If the war is worth fighting, then it's worth a casualty rate, and if military laws have application, they're worth testing in processes that affect the actions of real soldiers. Military justice processes are a good thing, and evading them for a political end is a very unwise thing to do.
Its hard to debate (and for the media to report in an interesting manner) such a cornerstone of Australian life as the US alliance
jjderooy, if you haven't yet, check out Hugh White's Quarterly Essay on China. The short story is that Australians accept the US Alliance (and the military misadventures that go with it) because it's a cheap and easy way of establishing regional security, but can't do so indefinitely into the future. The short short story is that the utility of the US Alliance is measured in renminbi.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:49 PM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Those guys we are fighting over there do this kind of stuff every day and then crow about it on Jihadi websites. The UN reported that of the 1200+ civilians killed in Afghanistan 76% were killed by Taliban. I don't get it Joe you make a huge fuss about everything Obama does, but where we have an actual army in place to fight some truly evil people you want no part of it.

Mmmm. The arguments for "preventative war" are always so, so juicy.
posted by Jimbob at 11:40 PM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


but where we have an actual army in place to fight some truly evil people you want no part of it.

Who exactly are we fighting again???
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:09 AM on October 12, 2010


This post is giving me jet lag
posted by the noob at 12:13 AM on October 12, 2010


"fight some truly evil people"

Are we invading America? Sweet.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 12:19 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Joe, we have no fucking idea why we're there.

Your 'we' doesn't include me.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:35 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why exactly are we fighting again?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:38 AM on October 12, 2010


Bill Clinton and the entire US foreign policy apparatus had evoke increasingly concerned about Pakistan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda and the Taliban throughout the 1990s. But that was just Wag the Dog politics according to Cheney and the other W. foreign policy geniuses who came in and ignored people like Richard Clark until it was too late. Remember the bombing of the Lincoln Tunnel and the dramatic attack on LAX that happened at the turn of the millennium, oh wait those attack were foiled because Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar who worked his way up from nothing not some preppy little legacy who squeaked through life on daddy's freinds and his last name. But of course you were too busy screaming wag the dog when he went after the Al-Qaeda leadership.

Also Obama is doing exactly what he said he would do. End Iraq and recommit to Afghanistan but have a plan that doesn't leave us there I'm an open ended combat mission. We are 50% of the way through the plan having ended our combat mission in Iraq and completed our buildup or forces in Afghanistan. We will begin a handover of security responsibilities to the Afghan National Army between January and July of 2011 with a goal of full transfer by 2014. Ideally in the next few months we will be able to bring some of the less radical elements of the Taliban into a reconciliation process while isolating the Omar-Al Qaeda faction. Talks between Karzai and these Taliban folks are underway.
posted by humanfont at 1:16 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


humanfont writes: "Those guys we are fighting over there do this kind of stuff every day and then crow about it on Jihadi websites."

When did Afghanis murder five American or Australian babies in Afhganistan? Hmm?
posted by bardic at 1:24 AM on October 12, 2010


"End Iraq"

50,000 US troops and probably about half as many paid mercenaries (ahem, "private contractors") is not an end, it's perpetual war against brown people.
posted by bardic at 1:27 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Talks between Karzai and these Taliban folks are underway."

This means nothing. Actually, it means less than nothing since Karzai has proven a) he's incompetent, even at being a figurehead and b) he's been in bed with the Taliban ever since the US decided to prop him up as a feckless, useless stooge.

The US should declare victory and leave yesterday. It's the only logical and moral solution to this mess.
posted by bardic at 1:41 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Talks between Karzai and these Taliban folks are underway.

Karzai is little more than the mayor of Kabul. The moment he steps outside the city limits, his life is over. All of the polls that support him and not the Taliban were conducted in secure areas of Afghanistan, which means basically Kabul, which only represents 10% of the total Afghan population.

The Unites States has tens of billions of dollars invested in permanent military installations across Iraq. Some airbases have their own bus lines and shopping malls. If you think we're going to hand the keys over to the Shiite Iraqi government -- bases that surround about 133 billion barrels of oil valued at 11.5 trillion dollars -- I've got several bridges to sell you.
posted by notion at 2:00 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get it Joe you make a huge fuss about everything Obama does, but where we have an actual army in place to fight some truly evil people you want no part of it.

Did Joe make the same level of fuss when Bush II was in charge?

Not every time The Big O gets called out it is about The Big O. Sometimes the situation sucked under the last clown and sucks under this clown. (and sometimes the clown car goes back a whole big number of clowns) The Big O has a chance to just say no and hasn't. Its like the suck is some kinda drug you can't resist.

As for fight some truly evil people - Really? So now the nation should work on bankrupting itself by spending As set out in this article, the estimated cost to kill each Taliban is as high as $100 million, with a conservative estimate being $50 million.? I really want to see the justification or the debunking that cost down to the Australian rates of $12,700, the lowest amount documented $380, the highest $76,000.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:44 AM on October 12, 2010


The US should declare victory and leave yesterday. It's the only logical and moral solution to this mess.

But we're fighting EVIL! EVIL so, well EVIL that children must be killed. Along with wedding parties (because weddings lead to children and we've already pointed out the EVIL kids.)

The terrible 2's are called that for a reason it seems.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:47 AM on October 12, 2010


"How are they selling the war to you all?"

Joe, you have the unique gift of converting every highly complex issue into something charmingly simplistic and ideological that others feel they should get behind.

The Australians know the benefits of the US/Australian alliance, certainly. They also know that the Japanese were way too close to Australia once, and were nearly able to cut them off entirely, but that tens of thousands of US troops fought and died to help drive them back.

So yes... there are obligations, both tangible and implied. And yes, there are dead Australian soldiers... but before that, there were also dead Australian civilians, killed by terrorists who are closely allied with the same terrorists who attacked us.

Really, for you to ask "how are you selling the war to you all?" on the anniversary of their 9/11 says plenty. I would say that the terrorists themselves made a far more convincing argument than the US could ever make that there's a reason why their troops are fighting and dying overseas.

You've been on MeFi for a long time now, but I find it disturbing that you were basically quiet about Afghanistan during the Bush administration, even as they were clearly not given the troops needed to resist the Taliban and as the Afghan military were barely able to recruit enough soldiers to keep afloat... but here we are, less than a third of the way through a temporary troop surge that *may* be able to turn things around... only now, when Afghan Army recruitment is finally achieving its goals and when those trainees are being protected from bomb blasts, when real progress is being made in former Taliban territory, and you're doing your best to give complete abdication a chance.

The fact is, a lot of troops in the military don't trust those on the left, because they feel that they're put into impossible situations, operating under rigid rules, and not given the policies and the resources to win. Here we have a Democratic POTUS who is giving them a limited amount of time to win this thing, only to have to deal with people like you, calling the mission a failure, even before it could possibly succeed.

How is what you're doing really all that different from the Republicans, when they say "we want Obama to fail", resist his proposed policies at every possible turn, even when they're based on many of their own suggestions, and when, after digging in their heels the whole way, they campaign on him being ineffective?

Predicting failure and surrender when you help sow the seeds of failure and surrender isn't a sign of great wisdom. It's oftentimes just a sign of how successful you've been.
posted by markkraft at 6:33 AM on October 12, 2010


(Every time a "progressive" throws away any chance at progress, gives up on any real attempt at achieving a nuanced understanding of the issues, and starts to scream betrayal, failure, and defeat, I can't help but think that Newt Gingrich is out there, wringing his hands joyously and having a little chuckle...)
posted by markkraft at 6:44 AM on October 12, 2010


I find it disturbing that you were basically quiet about Afghanistan during the Bush administration

I don't - given that I didn't join Metafilter until Obama was President-elect.

But if you insist on making this about me - which I grant you will be a lot easier than justifying the American presence in Afghanistan - there are 8,000 posts at Daily Kos under this name that you can trawl through.

I could return the favor by saying that your playing of the 9/11 card when there are only 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan also "says plenty". But I enjoy the advantage of basing my opinions on the facts of the situation - which are less mutable than who sits in the Oval Office or who I'm arguing with on the Internet.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:55 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hate war and think there's a lot of evidence to suggest that our efforts in AfPak are futile.

But those who believe that we should get out of Afghanistan yesterday, I ask you this: What if Pakistan becomes a failed state? What about the one hundred nuke warheads?

Those nukes (for one thing) make the whole AfPak misery incomparable to Iraq. The nuclear genie is at play in this one,
posted by angrycat at 7:06 AM on October 12, 2010


What if Pakistan becomes a failed state?

The longer we keep blowing up their children with CIA drone missiles, the likelier that is to happen.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:21 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact is, a lot of troops in the military don't trust those on the left, because they feel that they're put into impossible situations, operating under rigid rules, and not given the policies and the resources to win. Here we have a Democratic POTUS who is giving them a limited amount of time to win this thing, only to have to deal with people like you, calling the mission a failure, even before it could possibly succeed.

The War on Terror is impossible on it's face, with no further information. You might as well call it the War on People Who Probably Don't Like the United States, The War to Ensure Radicalization of the Muslim World, The War to Give Bin Laden Everything He Ever Wanted. You cannot use military violence to solve the problems caused by two hundred years of colonialist violence in the Middle East. You cannot wage a war on a non-state actor outside of your own state, much less on a military tactic.

The people on "the left" saw this shit from a mile away:
Every sane person should be afraid of the likely reaction - the one that has already been announced, the one that probably answers Bin Laden's prayers. It is highly likely to escalate the cycle of violence, in the familiar way, but in this case on a far greater scale.

The US has already demanded that Pakistan terminate the food and other supplies that are keeping at least some of the starving and suffering people of Afghanistan alive. If that demand is implemented, unknown numbers of people who have not the remotest connection to terrorism will die, possibly millions. Let me repeat: the US has demanded that Pakistan kill possibly millions of people who are themselves victims of the Taliban. This has nothing to do even with revenge. It is at a far lower moral level even than that. The significance is heightened by the fact that this is mentioned in passing, with no comment, and probably will hardly be noticed. We can learn a great deal about the moral level of the reigning intellectual culture of the West by observing the reaction to this demand. I think we can be reasonably confident that if the American population had the slightest idea of what is being done in their name, they would be utterly appalled. It would be instructive to seek historical precedents.

If Pakistan does not agree to this and other US demands, it may come under direct attack as well - with unknown consequences. If Pakistan does submit to US demands, it is not impossible that the government will be overthrown by forces much like the Taliban - who in this case will have nuclear weapons. That could have an effect throughout the region, including the oil producing states. At this point we are considering the possibility of a war that may destroy much of human society.

Even without pursuing such possibilities, the likelihood is that an attack on Afghans will have pretty much the effect that most analysts expect: it will enlist great numbers of others to support of Bin Laden, as he hopes. Even if he is killed, it will make little difference. His voice will be heard on cassettes that are distributed throughout the Islamic world, and he is likely to be revered as a martyr, inspiring others. It is worth bearing in mind that one suicide bombing - a truck driven into a US military base - drove the world's major military force out of Lebanon 20 years ago. The opportunities for such attacks are endless. And suicide attacks are very hard to prevent.

-Noam Chomsky, 9/18/2001
posted by notion at 8:02 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really, for you to ask "how are you selling the war to you all?" on the anniversary of their 9/11 says plenty.

Oh get the fuck. As an Australia, I can assure that there's no "our 9/11" involved. For one thing, we haven't invaded Indonesia (or, actually, to make it comparable to Iraq/Afghanistan...we haven't invaded Malaysia and Papua New Guinea). We worked with the Indonesian authorities to bring the criminals responsible to justice. We, for the most part, got on with our lives. I would wager that support for the Afghanistan War is higher in Australia than in the US, but that's only because (a) it only has minority support in the US anyway, and (b) we haven't had nearly as many young men killed as the US has. Not because we feel it's anymore "justified". I can assure you, we've been sold a lie, and the main purpose of the war, as the last few weeks here has demonstrated, is as a convenient backdrop for politicans' photo ops.
posted by Jimbob at 12:43 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


"How are they selling the war to you all?"

Actually, aside from the ANZUS treaty, the free trade agreement, and a long alliance with the US, probably the most important reason that Australia followed America into Afghanistan & Iraq was that (former) Prime Minister John Howard was on an official visit in Washington on September 11:

''It's still one of those moments in my life that I'll never forget,'' he said.

''Being on the spot meant that I understood the feeling of outrage, and distress, anger that Americans felt.''

Mr Howard, who has a deep affection for the US, described it as an ''an extraordinary moment in history''.

''It was the deepest violation of American sovereignty ever, even more so than Pearl Harbour, because it struck at the military and commercial heart of the country.

''I knew instinctively that it was a world-changing event.''

In response to the attacks, Howard invoked the ANZUS Treaty and said that the invocation of the treaty "demonstrates Australia's steadfast commitment to work with the United States.” In October, he committed Australian military personnel to the war in Afghanistan. Howard developed a strong personal relationship with the president, and they shared often similar ideological positions – including on the role of the United States in world affairs and their approach to the "War on Terror".


So basically, it all came down to Howard's personal reaction, from being in the US at the time of the attacks, plus a desire to think himself part of a big moment in history. It's just a pity he joined the wrong side.

(the right side is, of course, New Zealand's)
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:11 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


50,000 US troops and probably about half as many paid mercenaries (ahem, "private contractors") is not an end, it's perpetual war against brown people.

Except that we are obligated under treaty to be totally out by 2012. Furthermore the Iraqi government has been reducing the numbers of contractors at a pretty steady rate.
posted by humanfont at 2:19 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The War on Terror is impossible on it's face, with no further information."

Which has exactly nothing to do with the rather specific US effort to take control of key Taliban areas, while recruiting and training Afghan soldiers in record numbers, so that their government can handle their own problem in the future.

Well, if I argue that the POTUS put forward a policy that *might* work in allowing for the Afghanistan government to keep the Taliban out of power and avoid another decade of civil war followed by a repressive regime that protects and assists wannabe terrorists...

... but you preach complete failure before the facts on the ground indicate that, and you return by saying that it's absolutely impossible to work because it's absolutely impossible,

...well, I get to laugh at you then, right?!

I don't believe in the GWOT. Indeed, the entire policy was scrapped a long time ago. However, I do believe that despite the fact I opposed sending troops into both Iraq and Afghanistan, both countries -- and their people -- will be better off without extremist, repressive governments that will openly support terrorists.
posted by markkraft at 2:58 PM on October 12, 2010


"50,000 US troops and probably about half as many paid mercenaries (ahem, "private contractors") is not an end, it's perpetual war against brown people."

In what way is this comment not ignorant racebaiting?!

I'm supposed to be a racist because I believe, like the majority Afghan people do, that the Taliban are a bunch of foaming-at-the-mouth extremists who like terrorizing and bullying others?

Sure, the US military has killed civilians. But they also build roads, schools, and playgrounds... and help create badly needed irrigation projects.

They don't tend to cruise into town, butcher locals that disagree with them, dismember their bodies, and leave them as examples for everyone else. They don't burn schools and kill teachers, by specific intent. They don't want a decade of civil war, followed by a repressive, pro-terrorist regime.

Sure, Afghanistan is not a perfect state-of-affairs, but hey... little things mean a lot.

posted by markkraft at 3:13 PM on October 12, 2010


No offence Mark, but you don't know shit about Australia or Australians. Regarding WWII, the Japanese never had any intention of actually invading Australia (the top half is basically nothing but jungle and desert, it wasn't worth it to them) - and furthermore, were they to do that, Australia itself was prepared to give up as far as Brisbane.

The idea that there is some kind of "ledger", and the we "owe" you for saving us from Japan is frankly just such so much typical American imperialist bullshit, and demonstrates quite clearly your view of how America's foreign policy should be run (America=teacher in playground, everyone else= naughty or helpless children).

Comparing the Bali bombing to 9/11 is almost gob-smackingly ignorant. FFS, it happened in Bali - contrary to bogan Australia's beliefs, it's actually not a far flung state of our country, but in fact another nation, with different cultures, demographics, etc. If anything it was more like the American embassy bombings in Kenya.

Also, unlike America, we don't have a military-industrial complex whipping our population into a jingoistic fervour, and we certainly didn't play out our neocolonialist fantasies on our neighbour Indonesia, by invading them to dispense our own brand of justice. Nor did we have a role in orchestrating the collapse that led to the conditions of the bombings in the first place.

Frankly, I'm kind of offended that you would presume to speak for a country and citizenry you clearly know nothing about, and even worse do so simply to score points in your right wing agenda. There are arguments to be made about whether Australia should be in Afghanistan or not, but what you have raised - in addition to being factually wrong, boorish, and unrepresentative - is simply cheap chest-thumping. If that's the best you can do, no wonder people want the troops to come home.
posted by smoke at 3:31 PM on October 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


(Actually smoke, while most of what you say is correct, I don't think markkraft is a rightwinger, merely ignorant.)
posted by wilful at 3:44 PM on October 12, 2010


we certainly didn't play out our neocolonialist fantasies on our neighbour Indonesia, by invading them to dispense our own brand of justice.

*cough* East Timor *cough*
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:52 PM on October 12, 2010


I don't believe in the GWOT.

Is that the Global War On Terror?

They really should call it the Total War Against Terror.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:54 PM on October 12, 2010


or the Coalition United to Negate Terrorism
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:59 PM on October 12, 2010


*cough* East Timor *cough*

Ubu, I know you're just trying wind people up, but really, East Timor was hardly an invasion of Indonesia.
posted by wilful at 4:20 PM on October 12, 2010


*cough* East Timor *cough*
Mmm, and the Australian debate back in '99 certainly included lashings of historical guilt about the New Guinea campaign and Clinton's obligation to provide diplomatic cover as well as aircraft carriers. We do patronising interventionism just as well.
The idea that there is some kind of "ledger", and the we "owe" you for saving us from Japan is frankly just such so much typical American imperialist bullshit
No, "thanks to Uncle Sam" is pretty much how the Australian defence establishment and enough public opinion has always argued it. We spend relatively little of our own budget on our own defence and shelter under the strategic umbrella of whichever friendly foreign power cares to establish a regional hegemony. Before the Curtin government the UK, after Curtin, the US. Should the US choose or be unable to maintain hegemony, we'll find someone else.
I would wager that support for the Afghanistan War is higher in Australia than in the US
Having had a quick look around the internet, it's surprising that none of the Australian polling companies have released much in public about support for the war: it doesn't even seem to be something that's being measured. My view would be that Australian public opinion supports Australian involvement in US operations simply as a matter of course---that an individual operation makes no strategic sense doesn't mean our involvement in it isn't part of a greater tradeoff.

Me, I remain grateful to the Red Army for saving us from Fascism and remain a supporter of the foreign policy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. wait
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:27 PM on October 12, 2010


Ubu, I know you're just trying wind people up, but really, East Timor was hardly an invasion of Indonesia.

But it was an example of playing out our neocolonialist fantasies on our neighbour Indonesia. The fact that it was given legitimacy under the UN & international law doesn't avoid the fact that a significant part of the Australian population gets a bit of a kick over the idea that we could or should beat up on Indonesia militarily.

"Peacekeeping" during the transition to independence in East Timor had a distinctly patronising flavour of neocolonial arrogance, along with a tinge of "Rah, rah, rah - we're going to smash Kopassus!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:40 PM on October 12, 2010


lashings of historical guilt about the New Guinea campaign

Yes, I seem to recall the term "fuzzy wuzzy angels" being used a lot.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:42 PM on October 12, 2010


OK, I have to admit, I don't really know what a neo-colonialist fantasy is, I haven't had one, not sure if I would recognise one, but I thought the arguments for intervention in Timor Leste were pretty solidly based on sticking up for the little guy, allowing self determination, and a bit of paying back a war debt. I don't think they were much rooted in being nasty to Indonesia at all, a country that historically we've had excellent relationships with and that I don't think Howard or Downer were keen to aggravate just for kicks. Quite the opposite, we were too reluctant to intervene in Timor Leste because we didn't want to be seen as any sort of neo-colonialist adventurers. We were keen to get out just as soon as we safely could, and to avoid any sort of conflict with the TNI. And we're back training with Kopassus already.

But of course, reasonable people's opinions can differ on this.
posted by wilful at 5:00 PM on October 12, 2010


Fiasco just because some Australians drank the kool-aid doesn't make it any less bullshit. As pointed out above, New Zealand didn't send a bunch of troops to Afghanistan or Iraq, despite being saved in a war that ended 65 years ago.
posted by smoke at 5:02 PM on October 12, 2010


Except that we are obligated under treaty to be totally out by 2012.

Because the U.S.A. has never broken a treaty to which it is a signatory.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:05 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, back on the original topic, which attracted, oh, zero interest before we started talking about Afghanistan more generally, Tony Abbott (for yank readers, he's the opposition leader, the man from the more right wing party (no not Mark Arbib) who wants to be Prime Minister), has said (on Alan Jones radio show):
''The last thing that people would want to see is soldiers being stabbed in the back by their own government, and I know a lot of people think that's what's happening.''
Tones really has no fucking clue when it comes to the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary (even when military), and cultivates ignorance among the general populace.
posted by wilful at 5:13 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought the arguments for intervention in Timor Leste were pretty solidly based on sticking up for the little guy, allowing self determination, and a bit of paying back a war debt.

I always thought it was because Timor Leste would be an easier party to negotiate with than Indonesia as a whole when it came to negotiations over oil and natural gas in the Timor Gap. But, then, I'm a cynic. Surely if we supported Timor Leste, we should be up there helping free West Papua right about now?
posted by Jimbob at 5:24 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you can take the cynicism a bit too far. The Timor Leste intervention was popularly supported in Australia, and I don't recall any discussion of ripping 'em off for their gas. If that stuff happened behind closed doors (and I really do doubt it), it's irrelevant because there was a clear democractic mandate to do what we did, as well as a solid legal case.

Unlike in Afghanistan.

There are lots of understandable reasons why West Papua doesn't really register, and is a far more complex case.
1. it was part of dutch east indies, and Indonesian nationalists laid claim to it right from the start.
2. no actual invasion by indonesia, and enough of a legal fiction to cover them, unlike Timor leste.
3. no balibo incident
4. no long-term and deliberate cultivation of Australian support, unlike the Timorese.
posted by wilful at 5:38 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Understanding the Taliban and Insurgency in Afghanistan

Afghanistan's Local Insurgency

Some of the views of our adventure in Afghanistan are quite Clancyesque to say the least. Please do some reading before regurgitating talking points from the Gibbs machine.

The people we are fighting are not evil.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:39 PM on October 12, 2010


What's a Gibbs machine?
posted by wilful at 5:41 PM on October 12, 2010


Robert Gibbs
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:45 PM on October 12, 2010


Never heard of him.
posted by wilful at 5:54 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


a bit of paying back a war debt

Leste we forget.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:54 PM on October 12, 2010


"Surrender? Surrender be fucked!"
posted by wilful at 6:14 PM on October 12, 2010


Crikey today:
Australia has an independent process for military justice and a need to comply with international obligations. To suggest that the government should step in, as Tony Abbott did yesterday, is foolish

When the independent Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, charged three Australian Defence Force members over an incident last year that resulted in the death of six Afghans, she did so following "careful, deliberate and informed consideration of the available evidence".

She also did so independent of the Australian Defence Force and of the government, just as most Australians would expect to occur in a civilian situation.

Now, she deserves credit that her judgement is sound and that she is acting in the best interests of justice.

She also deserves to be free of political point-scoring, of being the subject of a demeaning internet campaign against her, and of bearing the wrath of ex-servicemen who completed the bulk of their service in an international legal environment that’s very different to what we currently face.

Yesterday, Tony Abbott said that he believes the government has not offered the three troops charged the best legal assistance possible.

Abbott, speaking with radio commentator Alan Jones, declared that he would not want to see “soldiers being stabbed in the back by their own government”.

But the ADF has already made it clear that it will provide the necessary support to the soldiers in question, including a personal undertaking from the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, that he will ensure the troops are fully supported throughout the legal process.

They will receive representation from senior and highly experienced ADF members. As for the independent prosecutor, she was appointed under the Howard government by the then minister for defence, Brendan Nelson.

Ensuring these soldiers do have their day in court is also vital for Australia to protect its international obligations, especially to the Geneva Conventions, in an international legal environment that has changed significantly over the past couple of decades.

Technically, if Australia does not make attempts to prosecute these three individuals, they could be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court. Indeed, these charges ended investigations by the ICC over the incident.

While such a trial would have been highly unlikely given the ICC is currently busy and completely overwhelmed with other matters (namely human rights abuses in Africa) it would not have been impossible.

If Australia is to boast a legitimate system of military justice, it must allow an independent process of military justice to occur. Our international obligations to the ICC and to the Geneva Conventions require Australia to prove that it has the capacity, and the willingness, to prosecute Australians for actions that occur during armed conflict overseas.

We must also consider the basic purpose behind our mission in Afghanistan in the first place, part of which is to assist in building a capable Afghan National Army, but also to support the Afghan people.

ADF members, via the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) they sign before deployment, are immune from Afghan law. Afghan citizens may know that the foreign troops occupying their country can not be subject to Afghan laws. As such, they must be offered faith that justice has the opportunity to be served elsewhere.

According to military justice academics I recently spoke with, ADF members are not ignorant to the legal ramifications that can potentially follow their actions overseas. As well as signing the SOFA, they are also made aware of Australia’s international obligations and the Defence Force Discipline Act.

The three soldiers face several military-related offences under the Australian Defence Force Discipline Act, including dangerous conduct and failing to comply with a lawful general order, as well as prejudicial conduct. One soldier has been charged with manslaughter, a charge that is known as a "territory offence" and interpreted and prosecuted under ACT criminal law.

It is still unknown exactly how these charges will be heard, given the Australian Military Court that would have dealt with these charges was found to be unconstitutional earlier this year.

However, again, as military justice academics reiterated with me this week, the priority will be to ensure that the balance between an independent, fair, civilian-like process can be justified against the desire to ensure the charges are adjudicated by military peers -- individuals who can relate to the context of armed conflict or, as Abbott put it yesterday, can relate to "acting under fire in the fog of war".

Should a custodial sentence be handed down, we must also consider that it’s likely it will be served outside the regular framework of the civilian prison system. ADF members are commonly sent to the Defence Force Correctional Establishment, located at the Holsworthy army based in Sydney. If they are stripped of their rank, it’s possible they will be given the opportunity to re-train and be rehabilitated back into regular work within the ADF.

While the facts of the case are largely unknown, and it would be unwise to speculate, the incident resulted in the deaths of six people, some of them children. It goes against every basic principle of justice not to investigate exactly what occurred.

Thus far, McDade has proven her capacity to effectively make the independent decisions that a director of prosecutions should. To request that our government intervenes would be a significant step backwards for a system that is necessary to not only protect our international obligat
ions, but to also maintain the integrity of our armed operations overseas.
posted by wilful at 7:51 PM on October 12, 2010


And this is the other thing. "Stabbed in the back" wtf. Abbott - repugnant dog that he is - is essentially saying that because they're soldiers, anything goes. If they have committed a crime they should be tried in court.
posted by smoke at 8:07 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


well smoke, the place I kinda hoped the conversation would go was in relation to what special rights soldiers do have, when acting in our name, to kill people on our behalf.

I find the lack of empathy for the children murdered in this case to be unsurprising, but saddening. It’s probably true that the insurgent brought it upon himself to a very great degree. But how long a leash to we give our troops? They initiated the contact, they appeared to know it was a single person and that there were civilians there, but who are we to judge when we’re not getting fired on?

The whole misogyny thing and the ‘presumption’ that civilly trained legal staff can or cannot prosecute serving troops is another aspect that is awful to unpack as well.
posted by wilful at 8:28 PM on October 12, 2010


My personal theory (backed by no evidence whatsoever; only a feeling for how organisations operate) is that an incident would have to be pretty fucking bad for charges to be laid, and the reality was probably much worse than the official line lets on.

Like with the police - an off duty copper gets pulled over for speeding: no worries, mate, move along. Pockets some drugs from a raid? Maybe gets a talking-to from the officer in command of his station. Runs an illegal betting ring? Discreet internal investigation, maybe a quiet resignation. Accidentally tasers a footy fan to death? Public inquiry. Shoots a crazy to death on a beach who posed no real threat? OK, THAT might end up in the courts, but still stands a good chance of acquittal, especially if the other coppers pull ranks & they're the main witnesses.

Plenty of innocents are killed daily in Afghanistan & Iraq. Most of the time it just seems to be shrugged off as wrong-place-wrong-time collateral damage. Soldiers can also make mistakes in the heat of the moment; no problem, shit happens.

But for an incident to get past "shit happens" to "maybe I should tell the Lieutenant about this" to "maybe I should escalate this to the Colonel" to "maybe I should hand this to Internal Investigations" to "this is a matter for Legal Services" to "hm, wonder if we have sufficient grounds for a trial" to "right, let's prosecute!" I think it's almost guaranteed for it to be a really serious breach - like "hey, mate, dare you to lob a grenade into that school! It'll be a hoot!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:38 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


the ‘presumption’ that civilly trained legal staff can or cannot prosecute serving troops

I agree with this presumption. You want them to be aggressive & adversarial, not civil.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:41 PM on October 12, 2010


The idea that there is some kind of "ledger", and the we "owe" you for saving us from Japan..."

...is something you concocted, not me. (Nice quotes by the way. Too bad I didn't say them.)

But is there a history between the US and Australia? Yes, there is. Not always a good one, to be sure, but by and large, beneficial to both countries.

For you to bring up that it was never the Japanese intent to invade overlooks the fact that a lot of this debate regarding invasion or no invasion is a relatively recent form of historical revisionism... much of it fleshed out in just the last decade. It is pretty clear that the eventual goal of the Japanese was to conquer Australia, but only in a decisive manner, by either cutting it off entirely and forcing its surrender, or in the form of a total invasion and occupation, as opposed to limited coastal control and a China-like resistance scenario. In any event, it's a rather moot argument to make against existing security agreements that both countries have shared for many decades.

And rightwinger?! Hardly.

But hey, you have righteous indignation of your own creation. Good for you!
posted by markkraft at 9:55 PM on October 12, 2010


mark kraft, as I said at the time, I didn't think you were a right winger. There were just two things that set smoke off, which suggested to him, me and others that you don't know anything much about Australia.
1. "our 9/11" (well it would be our 11/9, but anyway) no, wrong, fail. We're not in Afghanistan, or Indonesia, or anywhere, just because some little fucktard, subsequently shot by Indonesian police, decided that murdering people was a valid religious point.
2. "tangible and implied" obligations. No, that's resented, we really don't owe the US anything, we've more than paid that debt back thankee very much.

And I'm not sure you know what you're buying into re the Battle for Australia.

More generally, if I can be the thread police, this is getting off topic.
posted by wilful at 10:25 PM on October 12, 2010


And I'm not sure you know what you're buying into re the Battle for Australia.

Nor would the Japanese, I'm sure.

The saltwater crocodiles, though, would've thought all their Christmases had come at once.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:00 PM on October 12, 2010


Mark: Scare quotes.
posted by smoke at 11:28 PM on October 12, 2010


The people we are fighting are not evil.

Butchering people in the soccer stadium, closing the girls schools, genocide against minority populations. These are things the Taliban leadership put on the country during their reign of terror. Not every Taliban is evil but Muhhamed Omar and a few of the top leadership are as bad as Pol Pot. It should be noted while 1200 afghanis have died this year 800+ at the hands of Taliban, tens of thousands were being killed previously during the Taliban time.
posted by humanfont at 1:13 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


humanfront read the links I provided. The people we are fighting are not mullah omar. Your average "Taliban" is a teenage kid; most likely Pashtun. You can't continue with the drama llama act and expect people to take you seriously.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:08 AM on October 13, 2010




Butchering people in the soccer stadium, closing the girls schools, genocide against minority populations. These are things the Taliban leadership put on the country during their reign of terror. Not every Taliban is evil but Muhhamed Omar and a few of the top leadership are as bad as Pol Pot. It should be noted while 1200 afghanis have died this year 800+ at the hands of Taliban, tens of thousands were being killed previously during the Taliban time.

And before they had hurt America's ego, we plainly and straightforwardly didn't give a shit. You could slaughter a thousand Afghans a week through starvation and hunger before 9/11 and it wouldn't even make page six. The Taliban brought stability to a nation in the middle of nuclear powers, and as long as they stayed in their box, we'd do a little meaningless diplomatic tapdancing, and nothing beyond that. That's in spite of the fact that the turmoil in Afghanistan can be directly traced to our decision to wage a proxy war against Russia by arming insane Islamic fundamentalists to the teeth with training and weapons from the CIA, to the tune of 500 billion dollars in the 80s. The reason Afghanistan has no infrastructure is because it's been invaded by the West since the 1800s. It's a victim of geopolitical battles between Britain, Russia, and the United States. They also made an easy scapegoat for 9/11.

Furthermore, no one cares about the women and children, unless they sit on top of oil, or are possibly terrorist adjacent in the post 9/11 world. And even then accidentally blowing them up or shooting them in the face is treated like spilled milk, while honor killings -- which occur in allied nations like Pakistan and even in America -- are somehow affronts to human dignity, and justification for shooting and blowing up thousands more innocent civilians.

Nine million kids a year die from preventable diseases right through the present day. We're on track to spend about 2.4 trillion dollars on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, from 2001 through 2014. How much aid will we send to the dying children? Less than 25 billion. Half of American politicians even bitch about spending $400 million a year supporting the UN. So, either African babies are worth tiny fractions of Afghani babies, or American foreign policy is indifferent to human suffering that falls outside of geopolitical goals.

The bullshit facade of righteous indignation for the women and children carries ZERO water. It's not even bucket shaped.
posted by notion at 11:34 AM on October 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


*starvation and murder before 9/11
posted by notion at 11:35 AM on October 13, 2010



And before they had hurt America's ego, we plainly and straightforwardly didn't give a shit. You could slaughter a thousand Afghans a week through starvation and hunger before 9/11 and it wouldn't even make page six.


I don't know about p. 6, but The New Yorker ran a very long piece by Seymour Hersh about the Taliban, right about the time the giant buddha statues and it was some freaky-ass shit.

So, people cared. Not enough to invade a Muslim country though.

And as far as hurting America's ego, they did a fuck lot more than that. Which I know you know, so why put things in such inflamnatory terms? I'm not asking for all USA USA USA but maybe be cognizant that a lot of people died on that day?
posted by angrycat at 2:54 PM on October 13, 2010


sorry angrycat, you're now claiming the taliban committed the world trade attacks? That's a new one.
posted by wilful at 3:09 PM on October 13, 2010


My recollection, w/o looking anything up, is that the Taliban gave Al Queda safe haven and wouldn't give them to us when we asked.
posted by angrycat at 3:12 PM on October 13, 2010


maybe be cognizant that a lot of people died on that day?

Sure, but how many degrees of separation from the 3,000 victims do we need to follow before we end up with anything like majority support for the war?

Because it seems to me that the overwhelmingly higher support for the war was from the red states - people who would've had little or no personal relationship with NY, Washington, Pennsylvania or any of the victims there.

What did the attacks mean to them, personally, other than a bruised ego and a misplaced fear that Osama would come after them in Hicksville, Tennessee, population 157?
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:25 PM on October 13, 2010


My recollection, w/o looking anything up, is that the Taliban gave Al Queda safe haven and wouldn't give them to us when we asked.

So you're saying, correct, they didn't cause the WTC attacks. So it really is about ego. Jesus christ, a national case of small penis.

And so here we are, with otherwise good men (we have no reason to doubt) throwing grenades at children.
posted by wilful at 3:50 PM on October 13, 2010


a national case of small penis

I really don't think that's called for, or helpful.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:56 PM on October 13, 2010


So, does no-one remember when the US rejected the Taliban's offer to surrender Bin Laden?

I'm pretty sure than many countries wouldn't extradite a criminal to the US if their execution was expected.
posted by pompomtom at 4:09 PM on October 13, 2010


A terrible thing happened a few years ago. It was seen on live television across the world by millions of people (and perhaps billions soon thereafter). What followed received enormous global media coverage. And yet, here we are, barely a decade later, not even able to agree on solid facts about the principal actors. I am just not sure how to make sense of this revision of history that is taking place right before our eyes.
posted by vidur at 4:29 PM on October 13, 2010


So, does no-one remember when the US rejected the Taliban's offer to surrender Bin Laden?

Oh, that'd be like when Saddam, at the last minute, rolled over and offered unrestricted access for the weapons inspectors, and instead of accepting what they said they were after all along the US changed tack & demanded that Saddam stand down & leave the country within 48 hours, suddenly making it all about regime change.

Can't let regimes agreeing to demands get in the way of military-industrial profiteering or geopolitical strategies.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:05 PM on October 13, 2010


Once you've started mobilising, and you've ordered a bunch more tomahawks, and the polls are looking good, it'd just be a downer to get what you were asking for.
posted by pompomtom at 5:29 PM on October 13, 2010


And it's silly to play chicken against a bald eagle.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:37 PM on October 13, 2010


Read your link. This is what the Taliban offered:

"If America were to step back from the current policy, then we could negotiate." Mr bin Laden could be handed over to a third country for trial, he said. "We could discuss which third country."

The Taliban were bad dudes. They gave refuge to bad dudes. The second group of bad dudes killed 3k americans. At no time did the first bad dudes say, we want to give you the second group of bad dudes.

For the record, I was opposed to the invasion of Afghanistan. I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq. But for the rather large problem of the danger of both Pakistan and Afghanistan becoming failed states, (the latter with 100 nukes floating about) I'd say pull out yesterday. I really don't know what the fuck to do. I hate war.

But I was in New York then. It hurt. It hurts.

And the small penis/u r a warmonger talk -- to me, at least -- well, that just gets this thread removed from my recent activity.
posted by angrycat at 7:02 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


except that you are a warmonger, so i guess i wont miss that.
posted by wilful at 7:41 PM on October 13, 2010


At no time did the first bad dudes say, we want to give you the second group of bad dudes.

Quite.

They asked the US to stop killing civilians, while they discussed extradition. As I mentioned, a lot of countries would balk at extraditing a criminal to be executed without trial, which was the US position at the time. It's not like there was some sort of small window of opportunity for the US to kill Afghans. It's also not like US recalcitrance was likely to (or probably even intended to) achieve the stated goal. You could always resume the killing if the talks broke down. Fairly good leverage, one would imagine. Of course, you were 'hurting', and the US public was baying for blood, so that wasn't good enough. As was mentioned above.

Fast forward a few years and you, who somehow identify as anti-war, can't even remember the particulars. Because it is entirely natural to you that the lives of Americans are more important than those of non-Americans. That the right of the US to demand the death of anyone on the planet declared a 'bad dude', for reasons satisfactory to itself, is self evident.

Against the war? Pull the other one, it's got IEDs on.
posted by pompomtom at 9:07 PM on October 13, 2010


angrycat,

Here's the deal. Right now, probably in Miami, there's a terrorist named Orlando Bosch sleeping peacefully. He has participated in terrorism against Cuba since the 1960s, and orchestrated and carried out a plane bombing that killed 73 people on a Cuban airliner according to US Government. So far, he has been protected by our "good terrorist" policy. Cuba has been asking for his extradition so that they can try him for his crimes.

Let us suppose that the Cuban military was backed by some other foreign government, and had the capability to bomb Miami at will without fear of reprisal. The US Government demands evidence for the extradition, but Cuba refuses to supply it. The US Government offers to hand Bosch over to a third party, but Cuba does not accept that as an option. Let's say they start bombing Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, and Miami, aiming for Federal and State offices of the sitting government that is not capitulating to their demands. The death toll of civilians quickly races towards 1,000 casualties.

1) In this instance, is the Cuban military a terrorist organization?
2) In this instance, should the US government concede that they don't have the power to protect their own borders and retain their national sovereignty, and hand Orlando Bosch over to Cuba after the bombing starts?

That question of "Why don't they just do what we want?" takes on entirely new meanings when it is simply reversed.
posted by notion at 11:12 PM on October 13, 2010


The people we are fighting are not evil.

My brother's fighting them. He knows what they do to women and children, to prisoners. They're as fucking evil as it comes. The Taliban represent a backward, misogynist, child-abusing, slave-trading, animal-humping, torturing, raping, murdering, executing-without-trial culture that's barely crawled out of the fucking dark ages, and the world would be better off without them.

It's all fun and games to appreciate other cultures and claim they're not evil until you're the one being raped, beaten then shot in the head in a public place for having a cassette player.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:57 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


He sees all of that from inside his armoured personnel carrier?
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:18 AM on October 14, 2010


My brother's fighting them. He knows what they do to women and children, to prisoners. They're as fucking evil as it comes. The Taliban represent a backward, misogynist, child-abusing, slave-trading, animal-humping, torturing, , murdering, executing-without-trial culture that's barely crawled out of the fucking dark ages, and the world would be better off without them.

It's all fun and games to appreciate other cultures and claim they're not evil until you're the one being raped, beaten then shot in the head in a public place for having a cassette player.

Really? Last time I checked almost every charge you level against the Taliban as evidence of their evilness happens right here in the U.S.A. everyday. Let's review shall we.

Child-abusing, slave trading

animal humping

torturing

raping

murdering

executing-without-trial

But of course it's a lot more evil when the Taliban does it and most certainly justifies the spending of trillions of dollars and the killing of hundreds of thousands of people most of whom have no connection to the Taliban or 9-11.(sarcasm)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:30 AM on October 14, 2010


Why did you leave out misogynist? [NSFW]
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:05 AM on October 14, 2010


Or backward?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:14 AM on October 14, 2010


humanfront read the links I provided. The people we are fighting are not mullah omar. Your average "Taliban" is a teenage kid; most likely Pashtun. You can't continue with the drama llama act and expect people to take you seriously.

Who is recruiting leading and directing these 16 year old Pashtun boys. Who is giving them access to explosives and explosives. How many of these poor 16 year old Pashtun innoccents are assasinating officials. How many are running drugs. How many represent the same violent culture we see in gangs everywhere.
posted by humanfont at 4:46 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who is recruiting leading and directing these 16 year old Pashtun boys. Who is giving them access to explosives and explosives. How many of these poor 16 year old Pashtun innoccents are assasinating officials. How many are running drugs. How many represent the same violent culture we see in gangs everywhere.

I totally agree, humanfront. China should invade LA to put a stop to the brutal gang violence there. For the children.
posted by notion at 7:38 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who is recruiting leading and directing these 16 year old Pashtun boys.

Read the links I provided. Mullah Omar doesn't need help recruiting. In fact, our being there makes it much easier to find recruits.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:33 AM on October 14, 2010


Aelfwine is it your view that we should leave Afghanistan and let Omar return to power in all of Afghanistan? What would the consequences of this be?
posted by humanfont at 4:48 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


,em>Aelfwine is it your view that we should leave Afghanistan and let Omar return to power in all of Afghanistan? What would the consequences of this be?

In effect very little different to the current situation in Afghanistan. Where all these bad things are happening under the 'legitimate' Karzai government.

And very similar to other parts of the world, that the US isn't quite so invested with.

Really, the only consequence that isn't immediately dismissable is that the US would feel like it had lost, had failed, hadn't brought the bad men to justice. And Obama would get the blame.

Still, better to take this medicine now I would have thought rather than some time in the future when it will have to be faced.
posted by wilful at 5:19 PM on October 14, 2010


humanfront,

Do you support Chinese PM Wen Jiabao's authority to dictate who your leader is? Why do you assume anyone else on earth should determine the Afghani government other than Afghanis?

If the Afghani people decide to submit to the authority of Omar without a massive revolution, then they have made their choice. If the Afghani state ever declares war and sends an army and navy across the oceans to attack the United States, then you could talk about military action.

Until then, Saudi Arabia should be the country punished for failing to keep their citizens from staging terror attacks on the United States. But instead of punishing that nation, or even so much as asking them to try their citizens for the crime of terrorism, we just agreed to sell them 60 billion dollars worth of weapons.
posted by notion at 5:21 PM on October 14, 2010


"Last time I checked almost every charge you level against the Taliban as evidence of their evilness happens right here in the U.S.A. everyday."

Not as intended, state-sponsored practice, it doesn't. For the most part, you're drawing moral equivalencies with some of this country's most repulsive criminals. Ones that the powers that be cannot fully control, but still... knowing that bad things sometimes happen, regardless of the best intentions, is not the same as personally authorizing and condoning such behavior.

"Mullah Omar doesn't need help recruiting."

Which is why the Taliban never deal in drugs, never threaten death upon those who refuse to grow said drugs, and don't pay money to poor, desperate kids to pick up the gun.

"He sees all of that from inside his armoured personnel carrier?"

Considering the fact that so many of the increases in deaths for soldiers over in Afghanistan this year are directly linked to the fact that they are now patrolling outside of their FOB's, in former enemy territory, oftentimes on foot, actually meeting and working directly with locals to assist with infrastructure development and security, this is a pretty heartless, callous, thing to say in regards to a MeFi'er's brother who is actually risking his life with the intent of helping the locals.


"They asked the US to stop killing civilians, while they discussed extradition. As I mentioned, a lot of countries would balk at extraditing a criminal to be executed without trial..."

Your attacks on angrycat are unfair and uncalled for.

I was against the US sending troops into Afghanistan, specifically because there was still some degree of talk coming out of the Taliban about turning OBL over to a 3rd party for trial. However, a lot of this talk was weak and wavering... sort of a slight hint of an option they *might* agree to, but were reluctant to concretely offer... even as some of their own people were saying "absolutely not". The US were not killing civilians while they discussed extradition. And no, there was absolutely no demand that OBL be extradited to be "executed without trial", as you suggested. Indeed, had the Taliban come forward and said "we fully agree to extradite OBL for a civilian trial", it would've been very difficult, politically, for the Bush administration to say no, even if the terms weren't ideal. The fact of the matter is, the Taliban did have a few alternatives, in part because the Bush administration was never all that enthused about fighting a war there.
(Now Iraq, mind you...)

Claiming that angrycat wasn't anti-war, and that he supports his current position "because it is entirely natural (for him) that the lives of Americans are more important than those of non-Americans" is an incredibly rude and utterly unsupported position to hold. There's absolutely nothing that angrycat said that indicates a lack of value in his mind for the Afghan people.

In fact, I'm willing to say something that may sound a bit harsh; the US has an obligation, if it can, to at least give the dysfunctional Afghan state and government a fighting -- yet time-limited -- chance at achieving stability, even at the cost of more American lives. Why? Because it will ultimately save tens of thousands of Afghan lives, and give their country something like a future. It is, in my opinion, the least bad bad option available to the people of Afghanistan, who really would benefit significantly if they had, say, an army, a police force, and major development efforts, as opposed to a huge security vacuum.

One of the really big problems I see with this confrontation is that we aren't listening much to the soldiers anymore. To a significant extent, the US military has compounded this situation, by being obsessed with OPSEC and airing of internal grievances to the point where they silence the good things that soldiers have to say about their mission, while at the same time repeatedly saying things which, for one reason or another, weren't factual, oftentimes from the highest levels.

From my perspective, the best way to judge what is going on over in Afghanistan is to ignore partisan sources, and look at first-hand accounts from those actually working there. And whether you're talking about people like Rory Stewart or Greg Mortenson or a French commander who has seen big improvements and feels confident that he can turn over a large part of his command to the Afghan Army very soon, or Canadians citing concrete signs of changes in Kandahar, there really is a lot out there to indicate improvement and increased cooperation, even amidst high levels of civilian casualties, mostly caused by the Taliban.

Indeed, the latest Taliban tactics reflect the fact that they're pretty much being overwhelmed. Large attacks and group movements have given way to IEDs and assassinations... which are horrible, to be sure, but indiscriminate, cowardly, and do not make it easy to control and profit from territories. Hiding behind the civilian population also tends to cause resentment, somewhat minimizes the negative impact of searches and accidental fatalities, and leads to tipoffs that can significantly disrupt the enemy... even as they continue to lose local control and more Afghan troops arrive to help secure previously cleared territory.

It used to be that the Taliban could convincingly say that time was on their side. Frankly, I'm not sure I believe that tired cliche anymore. Increasingly, time is on the side of the Afghan people, who do not need the Taliban, and who will ultimately rule themselves.
posted by markkraft at 8:57 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


this is a pretty heartless, callous, thing to say in regards to a MeFi'er's brother who is actually risking his life with the intent of helping the locals.

I would've thought he was risking his life because it's his job; a career he willingly chose for himself - unless he signed up after the war began, specifically to help the Afghans.

My comment was snarky, sure, but was intended as more of a question - ie how does the brother 'know' about all of this? Does he speak any of the local languages? Does he have the ability to interact freely with locals, or is he contained within a "green zone" and only ever ventures out in armoured patrols? Was any of this from direct observation, or was it filtered in some way - eg stories told around the barracks or passed down from above?

The main point being that just because he's on the ground, it doesn't necessarily give him a priviliged access to the truth of the situation. In fact, in many ways you'd have good reason to be suspicious about a soldier's point of view - first, because they probably don't have the same access to media as we have, and second, because they have an emotional investment in believing that the shit they're going through is for a good cause, so it makes perfect sense that the enemy is always demonised in war.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:29 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really? Last time I checked almost every charge you level against the Taliban as evidence of their evilness happens right here in the U.S.A. everyday.

Oh, grow up. What is this, an eighth grade citizen activism class? Because that's the sort of comparison I'd expect from an enthusiastic, emotional but grossly uninformed pre-teen.

In the USA, those things are exceptions, not the rule. There are laws against them, not for them. When they're uncovered, citizens are outraged, not congratulatory. Do you see the difference?

the spending of trillions of dollars and the killing of hundreds of thousands of people most of whom have no connection to the Taliban or 9-11.

My government hasn't spent trillions of dollars. My government has sent a reconstruction taskforce to help Afghani civilians. Those people are under attack, so my government has also sent men with guns to protect them. Would you rather they were defenceless? Would you rather we just leave the people of Afghanistan to fend for themselves?

My government and yours put together haven't killed 'hundreds of thousands of people' in Afghanistan. 34K is the upper, most outside estimate for the number of civilians killed during the conflict - and not necessarily by our guys.

I haven't mentioned 9-11 once, but nice straw man.

Seriously, if that's the best you've got, give up.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:20 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The US were not killing civilians while they discussed extradition.

The first airstrikes in Kandahar were on October 7, 2001.
"A few days ago, US officials demanded that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) ban the al-Qaeda organisation, extradite Osama bin Laden and close down his camps," the Taliban foreign ministry said in a statement issued in Kabul.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has not received any evidence against Sheikh Osama bin Laden for it to examine," it said. October 6th, 2001 (source)
------

Indeed, had the Taliban come forward and said "we fully agree to extradite OBL for a civilian trial", it would've been very difficult, politically, for the Bush administration to say no, even if the terms weren't ideal. The fact of the matter is, the Taliban did have a few alternatives, in part because the Bush administration was never all that enthused about fighting a war there.

You have a terrible memory.
Thursday night, Bush demanded that the Taliban turn over all leaders of bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization to U.S. authorities, close its training camps in the country and surrender "every terrorist and every person in their support structure" to appropriate authorities. He said the demands were not open to negotiation or discussion. (source)
This is the diplomatic equivalent of "go fuck yourself." If Bush had been serious about the offer, he wouldn't attach such heinous conditions to it, or have already drawn up battled plans and approved their execution.

------

you're drawing moral equivalencies with some of this country's most repulsive criminals. Ones that the powers that be cannot fully control, but still...

How much money is invested in poor urban areas for better schools, better police protection, and better infrastructure? Is it anywhere close to a half a trillion dollars every decade? The Federal Government could at the very least stop the 100,000 rapes that occur every year in the prison system. But they don't.

------

The rest of the jingoist cheerleading is pure speculation, like this:

"We have the enemy licked now. He is beaten. The enemy cannot achieve a military victory; he cannot even mount another major offensive." -Admiral McCain, Vietnam, 1968

You might as well be an Englishman talking about how the Indians or the Irish know their place. If you think that any people will ever suffer a foreign army on their soil without fighting to the bitter end, you haven't read a page of history, or even the few that preceded 9/11.

Here's an excellent quote from the Toronto Star:
Reports of the talks come amid what Afghan, Arab and European sources said they see as a distinct change of heart by the Obama administration toward full backing of negotiations. Although President Barack Obama and his national security team have long said the war would not be won by military means alone, sources said the administration only recently appeared open to talks rather than resisting them.

"We did not have consensus, and there were some who thought they could do it militarily," said a second European official. The Europeans said the American shift began in the summer, as combat intensified with smaller-than-expected NATO gains despite the arrival of the full complement of new U.S. troops, amid rising U.S. public opposition to the war.

The United States' European partners in Afghanistan, with different histories and under far stronger domestic pressure to withdraw their troops, have always been more amenable to a negotiated settlement.
So, after ten years, losing hundreds of American lives and tens of thousands of Afghani lives, spending half of a trillion dollars, giving al Qaeda the chance to kill more Americans, failing to catch bin Laden or bring any major terrorist to trial for their crimes, destroying America's diplomatic reputation with much of the Arab world, we are finally doing what Bush refused to do: negotiate with the Taliban.

What a smashing success.
posted by notion at 1:00 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The first airstrikes in Kandahar were on October 7, 2001."

You mean the day that Enduring Freedom was launched?!

"After the refusal of the Taliban regime to cease harbouring al Qaeda, on October 7, 2001 the U.S. government launched military operations in Afghanistan. . . airstrikes were reported in the capital, Kabul (where electricity supplies were severed), at the airport, at Kandahar (home of the Taliban's Supreme Leader Mullah Omar), and in the city of Jalalabad."

Compare this to your initial statement:
"They asked the US to stop killing civilians, while they discussed extradition."

Note that your citation from Oct. 6th, 2001 mentioned only flyovers... not attacks or killing civilians. CNN from that time also specifically cites Taliban leaders saying that there were flyovers, but no attacks.

"Taliban Foreign Ministry officials tell CNN that their anti-aircraft artillery fired from three locations Saturday at a U.S. plane over Kabul without hitting it. The plane was not attacking, the ministry in Kandahar, Afghanistan, said."

Was Bush forceful, to the point of being impatient and belligerent? Sure. The US was just attacked, and there were already existing indictments against Osama Bin Laden dating back over many years, so a big part of the Taliban's argument simply didn't stick. Had OBL been virtually anywhere else in the world, he would at least have been held, pending extradition.

At the same time, the Taliban were already saying things like "According to Islam, the blood of anyone who spies for the enemy or sympathizes with it in time of war must be shed."

From the Taliban leadership's perspective, the US was *already* the enemy, even before the conflict started... and any Afghan civilian who was sympathetic with their position should be killed.

The Taliban's love affair with the Afghan people continues unabated to this day. ...
posted by markkraft at 2:09 AM on October 15, 2010


In effect very little different to the current situation in Afghanistan. Where all these bad things are happening under the 'legitimate' Karzai government.

Wiiful you should go and read about the rule of the Taliban the masacres of shi'ites and the number of civilians killed each year during their rule before you make the assumption that things would be the same.

Do you support Chinese PM Wen Jiabao's authority to dictate who your leader is? Why do you assume anyone else on earth should determine the Afghani government other than Afghanis?

The United States and China are not at war. The United Nations has not authorized China to respond out of self defense with military force against the United States. The Afghani people were voting with their feet to flee Taliban rule. Over a million refugees has fled into the Northern Alliance controlled areas. Popular revolts were suppressed by the Taliban using exterme violent tactics that included public executions, rape and murder. The Harzai people were called heretics for following Shi'ite Islam and were being rounded up killed and buried in mass graves. Your suggestion seems to be that Omar and Taliban were the legitimate and popularly/freely chosen leaders of Afghanistan, yet this isn't the case. You also seem to imply that the US had no right to depose the Taliban when in fact the action was authorized under international law. Finally the only guy to ever win a popular election was Karzai, and while he likely lost his last election, the runner up was not Omar, but another anti-Taliban leader. Furthermore many popularly elected local leaders who legitimately won election have been assassinated by the Taliban.

This is the diplomatic equivalent of "go fuck yourself." If Bush had been serious about the offer, he wouldn't attach such heinous conditions to it, or have already drawn up battled plans and approved their execution.

You don't understand diplomacy. After an act like the attacks on 9-11 there was going to be war. There was no other possible action. The conversation was theater designed to disguise the timing of the start of the war or delay the American response. Anyone who doesn't understand this is simply ignorant of how diplomacy and war work.

So, after ten years, losing hundreds of American lives and tens of thousands of Afghani lives, spending half of a trillion dollars, giving al Qaeda the chance to kill more Americans, failing to catch bin Laden or bring any major terrorist to trial for their crimes, destroying America's diplomatic reputation with much of the Arab world, we are finally doing what Bush refused to do: negotiate with the Taliban.

Many key leaders of Al Qaeda have been captured or killed including the key operational planner of 9-11 (Khaleed Sheik Mohammed). Karzai and the US have been clear that they are willing to negotiate with some elements of the Taliban, but not the leadership linked to 9-11. There is a generation of commanders who have risen through the ranks of Taliban since the US invasion. Our goal is to try to divide the Taliban from their leaders.

Obiwan, if you can't speak civilly to other posters you shouldn't participate in the discussion.
posted by smoke at 3:48 AM on October 15 [+] [!]


Smoke, I find your statement outrageous and offensive. Obiwan is sharing his honest views and your attacks are simply ridiculous.
posted by humanfont at 2:24 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please, stay there and be droll. We're all terribly impressed by your insight. Leave mens' work to men.

Like I said, it *was* a question (or rather a set of questions). Thank you for answering them, but there's no need to be so aggressive, regardless of whatever manly men's work you do in Canberra, that wild unruly outpost on the fringes of civilisation.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:29 AM on October 15, 2010


"So, after ten years, losing hundreds of American lives and tens of thousands of Afghani lives, spending half of a trillion dollars, giving al Qaeda the chance to kill more Americans, failing to catch bin Laden or bring any major terrorist to trial for their crimes, destroying America's diplomatic reputation with much of the Arab world, we are finally doing what Bush refused to do: negotiate with the Taliban."

A few key points:

1> I agree with you that the US would have been better served had more effort been made by the US to negotiate for the extradition of OBL and associates. This is why I opposed sending troops in, and thought that if military action must be taken, using an airstrike / blockade "Bosnian-style" approach would be the best option, with the least cost in lives.

2> The great majority of those ten years in Afghanistan were handled with clearly insufficient resources to fight a counterinsurgency. It is only now, when our government has decided to back a time-limited escalation which is already showing verifiable improvements in key areas such as in ANA / police recruitment and retention, increased Taliban casualties, enemy leaders captured or killed, increased informant intelligence, and marked security improvements in several key areas that defeat is being proclaimed, that those opposed to the conflict are so loudly and animatedly proclaiming defeat, about a third the way into the time-limited mission.

3> Except for the fact that the US diplomatic relations with the Arab world have actually improved under Obama. The Palestinians are being treated more like an actual diplomatic and territorial entity, the position towards Israel is more balanced, the POTUS spoke in favor of the New York mosque and religious tolerance, etc.

4> The US and its allies are not more open to negotiation because they've met with resistance over the last month or so. Resistance, frankly, was to be expected. They are more open to negotiation because they see localized opportunities to peel off support from the Taliban, while simultaneously strengthening their narrative as being the reasonable, inclusive alternative, while weakening the Taliban's narrative.

In point of fact, the Taliban are loudly, aggressively denying that they are negotiating anything. And indeed, I suspect they aren't at highest levels, even as Taliban affiliates have been shown flocking to Kabul to kiss Karzai's ring.

In short, what we are seeing is a peeling off, fragmentation, and localization of the "Taliban" resistance, which isn't at all what the Taliban leadership wants. Centralized Taliban control from across the border in Pakistan is no longer very easy to pull off, after the NATO troop escalation and more aggressive, forward-based strategy. Troops and supplies get interdicted and stretched thin, leaders get killed, formerly secure power-bases are locked down by coalition troops... and those Afghan locals who are willing to take Taliban money are increasingly doing it from a short-term perspective, to strengthen their own local aspirations and affiliations, as opposed to being highly loyal in a useful, controllable way.

A lot of these splintered affiliates have already proven that they're for sale, basically. All that's left is to negotiate a price. Expect many of them to soon be collecting money from both sides, but really just helping themselves and their tribal/regional constituents... and that, in the long term, is basically what the Coalition wants.
posted by markkraft at 3:28 AM on October 15, 2010


he US has an obligation, if it can, to at least give the dysfunctional Afghan state and government a fighting -- yet time-limited -- chance at achieving stability, even at the cost of more American lives. Why? Because it will ultimately save tens of thousands of Afghan lives, and give their country something like a future. It is, in my opinion, the least bad bad option available to the people of Afghanistan, who really would benefit significantly if they had, say, an army, a police force, and major development efforts, as opposed to a huge security vacuum.

This is the problem. We have no obligation. The only obligation is the obligation of a superpower to wage un-discretionary war. That's it. If you think we are there because we want to help the Afghan people I don't know what to tell you....what ever helps you sleep at night I guess.

Mark my words we will never win in Afghanistan and we will end up killing many more Afghans than we would save in your fantasy world where we rescue the Afghan people from themselves. This is neo-colonialism, this is empire. We aren't Rome we are on an order of several magnitudes more evil and decadent than Rome could ever have dreamed of. But by all means keep believing the narratives constructed for you by the power structure. The majority people do apparently or else we would have riots on the streets until they brought the troops home.

Oh and another thing you term Afghanistan a "dysfunctional state". Afghanistan isn't a state it is a network of tribal fiefdoms. Kabul just happens to be our fiefdom and we are trying to integrate the rest of the country. This is not going to happen during our lifetimes. These types of transformations take generations and I can guaranfuckingtee you that a 30 year period of war isn't going to speed up this evolution. In fact it has probably set things back several hundred years. Sorry for rambling.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:52 AM on October 15, 2010


At the strategic level, the Taliban is fighting a classic "war of the flea," largely along the same lines used by the mujahideen twenty years ago against the Soviets, including fighting in villages to deliberately provoke air strikes and collateral damage. They gladly trade the lives of a few dozen guerrilla fighters in order to cost the American forces the permanent loyalty of that village, under the code of Pashtun social behavior called Pashtunwali and its obligation for revenge (Badal), which the U.S. Army does not even begin to understand. The advent of suicide attacks is particularly alarming. The Taliban is getting American forces to do exactly what they want them to do: chase illiterate teenage boys with guns around the countryside like the dog chasing its tail and gnawing at each flea bite until it drops from exhaustion. The Taliban, however, has a virtually infinite number of guerrilla recruits pouring out of the Deobandi madrassas and growing up in the Pashtun Afghan refugee camps in northern Pakistan. It could sustain casualties of 10,000 or more guerrillas a year for twenty years without any operational impact. Indeed, the Pashtun, who make up 100 percent of the Taliban, have a saying: "Kill one enemy, make ten." Thus, the death in battle of a Pashtun guerrilla invokes an obligation of revenge among all his male relatives, making the killing of a Taliban guerrilla an act of insurgent multiplication, not subtraction. The Soviets learned this lesson when they killed nearly a million Pashtuns but only increased the number of Pashtun guerrillas by the end of the war. The Taliban center of gravity is Mullah Omar, the charismatic cult leader, not teenage boys or mid-level commanders, and no amount of killing them will shut the insurgency down.

("Understanding the Taliban and Insurgency in Afghanistan", pg. 87-88.)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:59 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many new Taliban the topic of this fpp created?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:00 AM on October 15, 2010


Hi Markkraft,

There's no edit feature here on Mefi, so perhaps I should give you the opportunity to retract your comments. I'm not sure how to respond to:
Compare this to your initial statement:
"They asked the US to stop killing civilians, while they discussed extradition."

Note that your citation from Oct. 6th, 2001 mentioned only flyovers... not attacks or killing civilians. CNN from that time also specifically cites Taliban leaders saying that there were flyovers, but no attacks.

"Taliban Foreign Ministry officials tell CNN that their anti-aircraft artillery fired from three locations Saturday at a U.S. plane over Kabul without hitting it. The plane was not attacking, the ministry in Kandahar, Afghanistan, said."
...where you seem to be either lying, or perhaps just a bit confused. Do you, perhaps, work for the US Government?

The article I quoted was from October 15, 2001.

You'll excuse me for not considering CNN gospel.

My point was that, instead of the usual process of diplomatic argy-bargy to have a problematic suspect extradited, the US considers it reasonable to simply murder civilians until it gets its way. It amazes me that this is considered reasonable by so many people.

If you want to get all grumpy about the nastiness of the Taliban, it may behoove you to recall that it's the USA that put that particular pack of arseholes into power in the first place, and there was a time when Afghanistan wasn't run by religious nutters. At that time, of course, the US was happy to sacrifice the rights of Afghans to the mujihadeen, because it didn't bother Americans, and they seemed a bit pink.

Incidentally, it seems to many people that the US is governed by religious nutters. Plans to bomb the US back to the stone age seem hindered by the US's collection of nukes.

If you want to talk about the US having an obligation to the people of Afghanistan, I think that the original funding of the Taliban would be the place to start. I'm sorry if it didn't make it on to your TV until the towers came down. Your taxes were there first.

All of that said: the idea that the government of a nation (which government, nasty as it was, was previously more than acceptable to the government of the US) be destroyed, with massive civilian casualties, in order to fail to secure the extradition of a handful of accused conspirators just doesn't fly, unless you value vengeance over the lives of US citizens far above the actual lives of that nation.
posted by pompomtom at 6:28 AM on October 15, 2010


...and w/r/t the original post: could we please stop following the US into its bullshit wars. Vietnam was bad enough, and now we have reservists grenading children.

Those guys should be tried, and I hope they'll be acquitted. Not preserved from trial because they're National Supermen, but acquitted because the decisions they made were appropriate within the given parameters, even if they ended up with sucky consequences.
posted by pompomtom at 6:33 AM on October 15, 2010


Thank you for citing Prof. Johnson's paper, AElfwine. I've seen him lecture in S.F. -- he teaches over at Monterey -- and his paper from 2006 was an accurate assessment of the situation at that time. His paper wasn't ignored... it became required reading for many of those interested in Afghanistan, including the officer corps in the military. His article "All Counterinsurgency Is Local" received similar attention.

I suggest you read the conclusion he wrote to his paper:

"Without a major change in counterinsurgency strategy and a major increase in manpower, equipment. . . and especially reconstruction funding, the United States may lose this war. . . It is still possible to win -- to create a slowly growing yet stable, conservative Islamic democracy in Afghanistan, one generally free of terrorism -- but not with the current resources and tactics. . . The United States cannot do it alone. It needs not just the energetic support of NATO, but a sustained commitment from NATO to the hard business of counterinsurgency... The United States cannot repeat its post-Soviet withdrawal abandonment of the country or fob the mission off on NATO, or the results will be disastrous once again."

"This is the problem. We have no obligation."

International law would suggest otherwise.

Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land. The Hague, 18 October 1907.

SECTION III
MILITARY AUTHORITY OVER THE TERRITORY OF THE HOSTILE STATE

Art. 43. The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.


This is ultimately the basis of the "Pottery Barn Rule", that was frequently discussed in the build-up to Iraq.

"Mark my words we will never win in Afghanistan and we will end up killing many more Afghans than we would save..."

What do you call "winning"? I think the idea that we're there to "win" the war is kind of ridiculous. Admittedly, we cannot stay there permanently, as that will only provoke instability and dependency. However, if we suck it up for awhile, help clear sections in Afghanistan from Taliban control, kickstart construction, roads, and economic growth, and leave the country with its own military and police force... that's win enough for me.

Prof. Johnson's end goal is basically to have troops not on FOBs, but living amidst small towns and villages, along with NGO / reconstruction workers... guarded by ANA troops and police... until the Afghans can take over entirely. All the work our troops do will not change the fact that the eventual solution to Afghanistan is likely to be some sort of power sharing agreement between centralized forces, regional warlords, tribal leaders, and the Taliban, all having their fiefdoms... but the NATO presence and what they accomplish will still tend to make that final negotiated arrangement a better deal for the most progressive elements of the country than they otherwise would get... and that's not a bad thing. If NATO forces help to set the stage for an Afghanistan with greater potential for modernity than the Talibans, that's a win.

"If you think we are there because we want to help the Afghan people I don't know what to tell you."

It doesn't matter what I think the government's rationale is. Obviously, the POTUS wants to wind down the conflict gradually, in a politically supportable way, that doesn't leave a complete failed state clusterf*ck in his wake. I'm alright with that.

I have people I know working over in Afghanistan, who want to leave it as stable and as on the path to stability as possible. I'm more than fine with that too.

Maybe you're too concerned at this late stage of the game about why Boeing or Halliburton might want us to be there? Seems to me, they're mostly going to have to give up on this war soon enough, though, as nobody is going to want to be around to fight it after 2012.
posted by markkraft at 6:48 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Prof. Johnson's end goal is basically to have troops not on FOBs, but living amidst small towns and villages, along with NGO / reconstruction workers... guarded by ANA troops and police... until the Afghans can take over entirely.

That seems like a fantastic idea. How could it possibly fail?
posted by pompomtom at 7:02 AM on October 15, 2010


It doesn't matter what I think the government's rationale is.

Indeed.

Obviously, the POTUS wants to wind down the conflict gradually, in a politically supportable way, that doesn't leave a complete failed state clusterf*ck in his wake. I'm alright with that.

Yeah, because we can see what happened after the prior US interventions in the 80s.

Here's a hint: YOU ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE GOOD GUYS. THE CIA WILL NOT MAKE IT RIGHT. YOU CANNOT BOMB PEOPLE INTO CHRISTIAN CAPITALISM.
posted by pompomtom at 7:28 AM on October 15, 2010


"you seem to be either lying, or perhaps just a bit confused. Do you, perhaps, work for the US Government?"

No. Do you, perhaps, work for Massengil? Summer's Eve? Fleet, perhaps?!

"The article I quoted was from October 15, 2001."

Exactly. The Taliban wanted to negotiate... conditionally... essentially parroting the same "give us proof" terms they previously put forth, even though there already were warrants out for OBL's arrest relating to prior terrorist attacks... over a week after a full-scale air/ground conflict had already started.

So, when you said "They asked the US to stop killing civilians, while they discussed extradition" -- a pretty loaded, one-sided statement -- you failed to point out that they asked this a week into the conflict, that the primary targets in that time period were those directly connected with the Taliban government, and that they were told that it would stop as soon as they started the procedures to turn over OBL for trial.

Granted, Bush was an unflexible dick... but maybe they should've considered negotiating more seriously a bit earlier?!

"You'll excuse me for not considering CNN gospel."

Me neither. That said, when they directly quote Taliban leaders saying that their country had been buzzed, but there were no airstrikes before the start of hostilities, it really is pretty likely that they're telling the truth. They can slant articles, perhaps, but no major paper wants to get caught in transparent lies.

CNN fails, because they try to be balanced, when its not rationally called for... whereas, you fail, because you don't care about being balanced, nor are you particularly rational.

Claiming that the US is such a horribly murderous country, because they didn't stop a military conflict already in progress, designed to go after OBL and those who sheltered and protected him, so that they can discuss previously dismissed terms, not raised by the Taliban's leader, for not really turning OBL over in any credible way?

Hell... even if Dumya wasn't the POTUS at the time, it would still be an unfairly slanted attack.

"My point was that, instead of the usual process of diplomatic argy-bargy to have a problematic suspect extradited, the US considers it reasonable to simply murder civilians until it gets its way."

That diplomatic argy-bargy generally begins by holding the person/people in question if there's a flight risk, with extradition pending. Of course, there were already charges against OBL and several of his associates dating back to the 1998 Africa bombings and the attack on the USS Cole.

Had OBL been in your country, how long do you suspect it would take before action was taken to detain him, given reasonable suspicion of involvement in a terrorist attack? Hours or minutes?! Certainly, it wouldn't have been a month or more!
posted by markkraft at 7:48 AM on October 15, 2010


(Oh... and might I suggest that air strikes targeting the Taliban government are not the same as considering it "reasonable to simply murder civilians until it gets its way", and could, in fact, get you written off as a crank?!

Really, murdering civilians until it gets its way is what AlQaeda and the Taliban have publicly advocated -- and put into practice -- in the past.

Surprisingly enough, the US government -- and your own -- have steered clear of that policy.
posted by markkraft at 7:54 AM on October 15, 2010


Had OBL been in your country, how long do you suspect it would take before action was taken to detain him, given reasonable suspicion of involvement in a terrorist attack? Hours or minutes?! Certainly, it wouldn't have been a month or more!

He may have been arrested, but probably never handed over to the US. Under Australian law a person cannot be extradited if there is a chance they would face the death penalty:

the eligible person is only to be surrendered in relation to a qualifying extradition offence if:
(c) where the offence is punishable by a penalty of death —by virtue of an undertaking given by the extradition country to Australia, one of the following is applicable:
(i) the person will not be tried for the offence;
(ii) if the person is tried for the offence, the death penalty will not be imposed on the person;
(iii) if the death penalty is imposed on the person, it will not be carried out;
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:08 AM on October 15, 2010


The United States and China are not at war.
----
When did the Taliban declare war on the United States? None of the hijackers were from Afghanistan. If the hijackers had trained in Yemen, would we have invaded them instead?

The United Nations has not authorized China to respond out of self defense with military force against the United States.
----
The UNSC didn't authorize the attack until two months after it had started.

The Afghani people were voting with their feet to flee Taliban rule. Over a million refugees has fled into the Northern Alliance controlled areas. Popular revolts were suppressed by the Taliban using exterme violent tactics that included public executions, rape and murder.
----
So, if China bombed Tibet and Tibetans fled to northern China, does that mean that the Tibetans support China? It's likely that they fled because they knew the Northern Alliance would be protected by the US military, and they would be less likely to be blown up or shot by either side.

And I'm glad you're already admitting that we made a bad situation much worse by filling the entire country with military violence and destabilizing the de facto government. That's one of our specialties.

The Harzai people were called heretics for following Shi'ite Islam and were being rounded up killed and buried in mass graves. Your suggestion seems to be that Omar and Taliban were the legitimate and popularly/freely chosen leaders of Afghanistan, yet this isn't the case.
----
So, when do we get to invade Saudi Arabia? They don't choose their government. It's a theocracy that has materially supported terrorism in the past, and the home nation of 80% of the hijackers and at least that percentage of al Qaeda. Let me know when you sign up to invade Riyadh.

You also seem to imply that the US had no right to depose the Taliban when in fact the action was authorized under international law.
----
Bullshit. What section of international law allows settlement of international disputes with war? Sure, the US can pressure the UN into declarations after they ignored them in the first place. If China gets UN authorization to invade the United States to recover the money we owe them, will that be legal under international law?

Finally the only guy to ever win a popular election was Karzai, and while he likely lost his last election, the runner up was not Omar, but another anti-Taliban leader. Furthermore many popularly elected local leaders who legitimately won election have been assassinated by the Taliban.
----
In the 70s, you'd be shilling for the Shah of Iran. In the 80s, you'd be shilling for Saddam Hussein. In the 90s, you'd be shilling for the Egyptian dictator Mubarak. In the 00s, you're shilling for Karzai. Each one a dictator propped up by secret police and CIA operations, each one anti-democratic, each one corrupt.

You don't understand diplomacy. After an act like the attacks on 9-11 there was going to be war. There was no other possible action. The conversation was theater designed to disguise the timing of the start of the war or delay the American response. Anyone who doesn't understand this is simply ignorant of how diplomacy and war work.
----
I'll let that statement collapse under the weight of it's incoherence.

Many key leaders of Al Qaeda have been captured or killed including the key operational planner of 9-11 (Khaleed Sheik Mohammed). Karzai and the US have been clear that they are willing to negotiate with some elements of the Taliban, but not the leadership linked to 9-11. There is a generation of commanders who have risen through the ranks of Taliban since the US invasion. Our goal is to try to divide the Taliban from their leaders.
----
Al Qaeda has relocated to Yemen and Pakistan. They are looking at Somalia. When we invade those nations and turn them into the next generation of terrorists, Al Qaeda will move somewhere else.

But good luck playing extremism whack-a-mole across the entire world. There are only 30 or so weak governments you'll have the pleasure of toppling at the expense of our founding principles, prosperity, and future. And all the while risking precipitating a war that spins out of control.
posted by notion at 10:40 AM on October 15, 2010


Oh... and might I suggest that air strikes targeting the Taliban government are not the same as considering it "reasonable to simply murder civilians until it gets its way", and could, in fact, get you written off as a crank?!
----
No, you may not. If killing innocent civilians is a predictable consequence of your actions, you're responsible for that action. No amount of hand-wringing, flag waving, empty sanctimonious rhetoric will change that.

Really, murdering civilians until it gets its way is what AlQaeda and the Taliban have publicly advocated -- and put into practice -- in the past.
----
We're doing it right now. And we publicly support it. And we pay the taxes to make sure it happens.

Surprisingly enough, the US government -- and your own -- have steered clear of that policy.
----
There are tens of thousands of dead Afghanis who would disagree, if they could.
posted by notion at 10:58 AM on October 15, 2010


markkraft you seem to be afflicted by myopia and tunnel vision. Your continued insistence that we should continue in Afghanistan is confusing to me.

I suggest you read the conclusion he wrote to his paper

Which apparently hasn't been taken into consideration by President Obama as he fired the General who was implementing this approach. Petraus has now returned to his tride and true strategy of counterinsurgency coupled with a sharp spike in aerial bombardment. This, as Prof. Johnson stated, is an act of insurgent multiplication. I don't understand why you quote the very end of his paper which has fuckall to do with the actual situation on the ground and everything to do with the false narrative constructed by the media and this administration. Hence my diagnosis of myopia and tunnel vision.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:05 AM on October 15, 2010


When did the Taliban declare war on the United States? None of the hijackers were from Afghanistan. If the hijackers had trained in Yemen, would we have invaded them instead?

If Yemen had failed to accept the US demands to close the terrorists training camps, stop material support for the organization responsible for the attack and refused to hand over the leadership of Al-Qaeda then yes.

The UNSC didn't authorize the attack until two months after it had started.

The UN Charter grants every member state the right to self defense. Just like when you go to the emergency room pre-authorization is not required.

So, when do we get to invade Saudi Arabia? They don't choose their government. It's a theocracy that has materially supported terrorism in the past, and the home nation of 80% of the hijackers and at least that percentage of al Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia handed over financial records of terrorists, froze accounts and ceased their assets. It arrested those with its borders that provided support to Al-Qaeda. Why would we invade them their government is cooperating with our attempts to destroy Al-Qaeda. It would not accomplish any strategic objective.

If China gets UN authorization to invade the United States to recover the money we owe them, will that be legal under international law?

Don't be ridiculous the UN Security Council would not vote to support such an action. Also this isn't even a direct comparison to the issue at hand. The United States repeatedly attacked by Al-Qaeda throughout the 90s this culminated in the spectacular attacks on September 11. This isn't about China's theoretical acts against the United States in some imagined fantasy world that defies existance.

In the 70s, you'd be shilling for the Shah of Iran. In the 80s, you'd be shilling for Saddam Hussein. In the 90s, you'd be shilling for the Egyptian dictator Mubarak. In the 00s, you're shilling for Karzai. Each one a dictator propped up by secret police and CIA operations, each one anti-democratic, each one corrupt.

This is contrary to my actual positions during the late 80s and 90s. I was actually a Middle East wonk and peace activist during my younger days. I'll bet that unlike me, you have never been tear gassed by state security forces or run for your life in a riot that broke out when the peaceful protest was met by rubber bullets. You can lecture me once you've completed your field studies.

Al Qaeda has relocated to Yemen and Pakistan. They are looking at Somalia. When we invade those nations and turn them into the next generation of terrorists, Al Qaeda will move somewhere else.

We have an international strategy to build governments in those areas capable of constraining the operational capabilities of Al-Qaeda. What's your plan exactly, go home and hope they stop attacking the United States? And by go home do you mean withdraw our diplomatic, military and economic relationships with every nation with a majority Muslim population?

There are only 30 or so weak governments you'll have the pleasure of toppling at the expense of our founding principles, prosperity, and future.

Why would you need to topple all these governments. One can work for reform of these countries by using diplomatic and economic clout to press for reduced corruption, increased transparency and respect for human rights and democracy.
posted by humanfont at 11:39 AM on October 15, 2010


Which apparently hasn't been taken into consideration by President Obama as he fired the General who was implementing this approach. Petraus has now returned to his tride and true strategy of counterinsurgency coupled with a sharp spike in aerial bombardment.

Your latest allegations are either based on near total ignorance or deliberate lies. Why should we even take you seriously at this point.
posted by humanfont at 11:53 AM on October 15, 2010


I'll bet that unlike me, you have never been tear gassed by state security forces or run for your life in a riot that broke out when the peaceful protest was met by rubber bullets. You can lecture me once you've completed your field studies.

Jebus, what's with all the macho dick-waving in this thread?
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:55 AM on October 15, 2010


This is contrary to my actual positions during the late 80s and 90s. I was actually a Middle East wonk and peace activist during my younger days. I'll bet that unlike me, you have never been tear gassed by state security forces or run for your life in a riot that broke out when the peaceful protest was met by rubber bullets. You can lecture me once you've completed your field studies.

So what happened? Now you support never-ending war in the middle-east and where ever terrorists may roam? Because that's the outcome of the strategy and policies you are supporting.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:56 AM on October 15, 2010


humanfront, you made the same 180 Hitchens did. Your rational reaction to the terrorist attack on 9/11 was changed by the success of the attack, not by the fact that we were attacked again by al Qaeda. If the towers had not fallen, we wouldn't be having this discussion, but you have decided that your American ego is more important than any principles you used to have.

Our support of Israeli colonialism still stands. Our material support of anti-democratic regimes throughout the middle east has increased, not decreased, since 9/11. The military adventurism and foreign policy that created the Taliban in our proxy war with Russia, that created the Revolutionary Guard in Iran after we suppressed their national will for almost 30 years, that created Hezbollah when we supported Israeli invasions in Lebanon, that created Hamas after we rejected the PLO, that supported Saddam Hussein after we decided we disliked Ayatollah Khomeini even more, that supports the dictator Mubarak in Egypt, that brought us back to Iraq to clean up our mess from a decade earlier which only made everything worse, that supports theocracy in Saudi Arabia, that supports murdering Kurds on on side of the Turkish border but not the other, are all still in full effect.

Those policies will continue to create more terrorism while we have a quarter million of our soldiers engaged in colonial housekeeping in the Middle East. You can't demonstrate a single principle that our foreign policy contains, except for one: Whoever follows American orders will be free from criticism, regardless of what they do to their own people. We did it with the Taliban when we called them Freedom Fighters in the 80s. We did it with Saddam Hussein. We did it with the Shah of Iran. We continue to do it in Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Syria, to name a few. The moment the Iraqi government decides to dismantle the oil contracts that were handed over to American companies, you'll see what we think about democracy. If Afghanistan miraculously ends up with a democracy, you'll see what we think about that if they vote the wrong way in an election like the citizens of Gaza.

Our current foreign policy, in Iraq alone, represents the seventh time the United States has tried to direct regime change through the CIA or outright invaded. Afghanistan has been a victim of western military invasions and interference on five separate occasions stretching over the last 200 years. Each time there is some apparatchik like you, saying that this time is different; this time it will be a success.

And every time, the ideas of those suckling at the teat of pigs who worship warfare have been dead wrong.
posted by notion at 1:34 PM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ubirovias, Notion and Aelfwine, I have a degree Middle Eastern studies issued by a repected university staffed by a diverse set of well known scholars. My studies included coursework and research in the regions we are discussing. I say this not to wave my dick around but because you seem to feel the need to educate me. Perhaps instead of insisting on educating me you should ponder why I think your proposed solution will lead to a bigger humanitarian disaster and extend the cycle of violence for another generation. I hope you think about this a bit before you continue to call me names.

Also since you asked Mid East peace wonk is a difficult career choice with very low wages and limited job opportunities. There are also substantial continued costs to continue to build ones academic
credentials. The result was that I was forced to seek temporary employment in an unrelated field. One thing lead to another as it often does in life and eventually temporary became my career. One day perhaps I'll find my way back.
posted by humanfont at 9:52 PM on October 15, 2010


Hey, I don't see anything dick-wavey about referring to your credentials; I'm sure we all have a high degree of respect for education around here. I'm mostly just hanging about & following the discussions on all sides with interest, although I'm naturally a peacenik & therefore favour those arguments - in a way that I'll be the first to admit is quite confirmation-biased.

The dick-waveyness comment was only in response to the "get back to me when you've done your fieldwork" because you've faced the teargas & rubber bullets (which didn't have the tiniest bit of logical relevance to anything that I could see) - a continuation of obiwan's bizarre implication that only Real Men doing Real Work by putting themselves in harm's way (whether by choice or accident) can have a legitimate perspective, and anybody else is an effete & gutless armchair analyst who should let the big boys get on with their important big boy business.

Interestingly, my main exposure to people in the armed forces comes every ANZAC day, when my local pub is inundated by lesbians in uniform from the three arms of the forces. If I dared, I'd ask them whether they get satisfaction from being Real Men, but I can't see a whole lot of good coming from it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:57 PM on October 15, 2010


"some apparatchik like you. . . suckling at the teat of pigs..."

Spoken like a true mullah!
posted by markkraft at 8:51 AM on October 16, 2010


>Which apparently hasn't been taken into consideration by President Obama as he fired the General who was implementing this approach. Petraus has now returned to his tride and true strategy of counterinsurgency coupled with a sharp spike in aerial bombardment.

>Your latest allegations are either based on near total ignorance or deliberate lies. Why should we even take you seriously at this point.

No, not based on ignorance just the facts. Here is General McChrystal's strategy. Petraeus has ignored the warnings in Johnson and Mason's paper which I linked to. He has also ignored McChrystal's recommendations for a new strategy which seemed to take into consideration the aforementioned warnings. As for my assertion of increased air-strikes I can only present the following evidence and ensure you that my assertions are not lies or based on ignorance.

Gen Petraeus turns up the heat on Pakistan, Afghanistan

Petraeus Ushers in Dramatic Increase in Afghan Air Strikes
700 Separate Attack Missions in September Alone


Petraeus Launches Afghan Air Assault; Strikes Up 172 Percent

5 ways Petraeus changes Afghanistan
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:03 AM on October 16, 2010


What's the difference between an apparatchik & a New Guinea chick?

One suckles at the teat of pigs; the other suckles pigs at the teat.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:40 AM on October 16, 2010


I suspect the new model for 2011 will be "We need to keep drone bombing in Pakistan to keep its nukes away from Islamic extremists."

That might depend on how this goes:

Inside the Lawsuit That Could Ground Deadly CIA Predator Drones: A new lawsuit alleges that Predator drone targeting software was pirated, and emails obtained by Fast Company suggest the CIA knew it was sub-par.
posted by homunculus at 2:34 PM on October 16, 2010


Spoken like a true mullah!

A mullah on "our" side or on "their" side? I guess it depends on the year, right?
posted by notion at 8:58 PM on October 16, 2010


Much of the mujahideen ended up fighting the Taliban in the Northern Alliance.

Aelfwine your statistics are not a measure of successful implemtation of a strategy. The number of airstrikes is not a meaningful number in and of itself. For example this year we are engaged in a long delayed offensive in Kahndahar. So no one should be surprised that airstrikes and missions are up over last year. McChrystal had been forces to delay this offensive after the problems in Marjah. Petraus actually delayed this operation again when he took command.

The fact is at this point it is simply to early to tell if Petraus will be successful in quelling the insurgency. The negotiations in Kabul are positive, as was the recent election. At the same time Marjah is still a mess. The Pakistanis released a major Taliban leader and have held up some shipments. Thpugh a new rail line is opening in the north which will allow stuff to come in by rail to Masir-e-Sharif all the way from Turkey.
posted by humanfont at 9:23 PM on October 16, 2010


Progress in Afghanistan.

The US military is withdrawing into superbases in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Within a few years, just as they watched Sunni and Shiite death squads exterminate each other in Baghdad, they will watch as the Taliban takes back Afghanistan, except for a few urbanized areas. Once both sides are done killing each other off, the violence levels will drop and we'll call it success, pack our bags, and wait for the next colonialist adventure to take shape.

And all of it for nothing but saving face.
posted by notion at 11:21 PM on October 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The number of airstrikes is not a meaningful number in and of itself.

Really? I would think that all the dead Afghani's would say different. More importantly, to our efforts to quell the insurgency, I bet it is pretty damn meaningful to all of the dead's male relatives.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:03 AM on October 17, 2010


Notion our combat troops are out of Iraq having been replaced by Iraqi military units who have become increasingly able to provide local security. We are now at the phase in that low intensity conflict where the institutions of the state must maintain as build security, trust and authority. The next phase is to begin shrinking the size of these superbases as we wind down operations between now and 2012.

Contrary to your claims regarding Afghanistan soldiers are not being consolidated into superbases. There are some regions where we are transitioning to Afghan National Army leadership, but in places like Hemland, Kahndahar,etc where the major fighting it taking place we are moving to spread out.
posted by humanfont at 9:03 AM on October 17, 2010


You are dreaming.
McChrystal’s staff apparently defined these as “neutral” so as to include populations in districts where US and NATO forces have carried out operations aimed at clearing the Taliban and are now the subject of attempts to change their political views.

Earlier this year, however, an ISAF official familiar with the assessment on which the command was basing its plans clearly included those same districts among those in which the Taliban were regarded as having gotten popular support. The official told Inter Press Service in an interview in late January, “We have a system of 80 districts where Taliban influence is strongest, where people support the Taliban for whatever reason.”

That set of 80 districts that are the most pro-Taliban in the country is the same set of 80 “Key Terrain districts” defined in the new Pentagon report as “areas the control of (and support from which) provides a marked advantage to either the Government of Afghanistan or the insurgents”.

...

Although McChrystal seemed to reject the idea that the Taliban had broad political support in his initial assessment last August, an “integrated campaign plan” jointly agreed by McChrystal and the US ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, that same month hinted strongly at such support in Pashtun areas.

The campaign plan document concluded, “Key groups have become nostalgic for the security and justice Taliban rule provided.”

McChrystal’s announcement earlier this year that ISAF would establish a “contiguous security zone” which would include the bulk of the population of Helmand and Kandahar provinces may have been a response to the recognition that the Taliban had formed its own zone of political dominance in southern Afghanistan.

However, given recent evidence that foreign troops have been unable to clear insurgents from Marjah, and that local leaders and elders in Kandahar are opposing US military operations in and around the city, that objective now appears to be well beyond the reach of US and NATO troops.
The Taliban has not only advanced in Afghanistan, but now occupies a significant corner of Pakistan where it is the de facto government as well. Since the entire country is now just trying to stay alive after the floods, I doubt they are going to make much progress in the near future, as sectarian violence continues to rise during the displacement of refugees.

The Taliban may be a brutal regime with barbaric tactics, but the local populace seems to think they are better off under fundamentalist Islamic rule than being randomly killed and attacked by people they consider to be Christian invaders. The ISAF is incapable of providing security, has not progressed in nearly 10 years of occupation, and every country in the coalition is under enormous pressure to leave the failed war already.

If you think that thirty thousand more troops who still have no local support is going to make a difference, except for a small area surrounding the capital, occupied by a politician that everyone regards as a puppet, I'm really at a loss for words. The only thing that's happening now is an opera bouffe intended to provide the illusion of success so the military commanders can protect their precious, precious egos at the expense of more human lives.
posted by notion at 10:14 AM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


occupied by a politician that everyone regards as a puppet

Maybe, but even this alleged puppet doesn't seem to think very highly of some of the occupying forces - Afghanistan bans security firms:

Afghanistan has formally banned eight foreign private security firms, including the controversial company formerly called Blackwater, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai says.

The Afghan government announced in August that it was giving security firms working in Afghanistan four months to cease operations, potentially hitting hard efforts by NATO-led troops fighting a nine-year insurgency in the country.

There are fears the measure could create huge problems for the military and other international entities that depend on the estimated 40,000 employees of private security contractors [...]

Karzai had accused the security companies of running an "economic mafia" based around "corruption contracts" favoured by the international community.

He has said the firms duplicate the work of the Afghan security forces and divert much-needed resources, while Afghans criticise the private guards as overbearing and abusive, particularly on the country's roads.

posted by UbuRoivas at 1:58 PM on October 17, 2010


Back to the topic: Our army is at war over the prosecution of commandos.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:29 PM on October 17, 2010


What a cockknuckle Paul "miracle water" Sheehan is.

if the commandos are convicted, the Gillard government will need to reintroduce national service, because nobody will be joining the army except people who want careers as lawyers

Back in the late 1990s in my State there were almost identical squeals of outrage from the journalistic supporters of the hard-done-by, front-line Kings Cross detectives and NSW Special Branch when the Government established the Wood Royal Commission into police corruption, as if dragging endemic corruption and violence into the light would stop people wanting to become cops. We sacked a lot of bent cops, retired even more useless ones, and sent a fair number to prison.

It's been one of the best things to happen in politics in my State in my lifetime.

Troglodytes like Tim Priest and Miranda Devine and Paul Sheehan still drag their knuckles up to their keyboards to argue that the Government went too far in getting rid of experienced police back in the early 2000s---as if it were worth turning a blind eye to crooked, brutal cops as long as they keep crime down and provide good copy. It's as if they can't see the logical corollary: if exposing lawbreaking is supposed to diminish recruiting, for what do they think people join? If they think prosecuting soldiers for disobeying orders will stop the Army meeting its targets, just what kinds of unhinged people do they want to join the ADF?

Accountability, responsibility and discipline are drawcards for recruitment. If Sheehan's arguing that troops should have licence to fight as they please instead of according to their orders he's postively in favour of indiscipline. What a scumbag.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:57 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


My goodness, Paul Sheehan. And what a writer too - "suppressed consternation".

A widely held view has formed within the military community that the Australian deployment in Afghanistan has been compromised by rules of engagement that reflect the Gillard government's desire to avoid civilian casualties.

How truly terrible of Gillard, desiring to avoid civilian casualties. Is that why I voted for her?
posted by wilful at 9:41 PM on October 17, 2010


Generally a pretty good comments thread in response to that article though.

Better than here.
posted by wilful at 9:44 PM on October 17, 2010


...aaand here's the Australian Defence Association (ADA), the soldiers' quasi-union-quasi-professional-association, my bolding:
it is frankly nothing short of appalling that inaccurate and often sensationalist media coverage of the February 2009 incident in Afghanistan is causing so much public confusion and even ill-informed political comment. Even many war veterans, who were assumed to have a better understanding of the laws and accountabilities involved, seem confused. Much media reporting and especially commentary is grossly misleading about the legal and operational contexts, and nature of the charges, and indeed concerning the most basic facts about the incident they stem from.
The ADA has been advising all its military and civilian members not to sign either of the two petitions against the charges being circulated on the World-Wide-Web. Based on erroneous media reporting and perhaps on ill-informed partisan comment, both petitions at best are based on assumptions that are either not true or that need to be tested in court to find out if they are true. Both petitions also seriously misunderstand and misquote the law applying and indeed the history of the ADF in previous wars.
Even more importantly, the poor media coverage, and especially the confused and inflammatory nature of the petitions, will not actually help the three personnel facing charges. Indeed, they risk making their trial a political and emotional travesty, rather than the fair and objective court martial they need to clear their names once and for all.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:46 PM on October 17, 2010


Accountability, responsibility and discipline are drawcards for recruitment.

Amongst certain personality types, maybe. Personally, I decided at an early age that I could never tolerate the risk of having an idiot ordering me around with little or no ability for me to disagree or dispute their decisions, so have always aimed for maximum possible possible autonomy.

I think this came about in 1st year cadets, when my officer was doing his moronic best to explain why true north is different from magnetic north: "It's because the continental plates shift over time, so Australia doesn't point north anymore..." - imagine that level of analytical ability deciding matters of life & death. No, thanks.

But yeah, they're valuable traits in the military, and a number of commentators on the SMH story point out that if we are ostensibly installing the RUle of Law & separation of powers in Afghanistan, it makes sense that our own people should be held to the same values that we are attempting to encourage in Afghan institutions.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:05 PM on October 17, 2010


No reason to stay in Afghanistan.

Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Greens party (which the minority government needs for support) has his say in the Parliamentary debate he negotiated with Prime Minister Julia Gillard (who thinks we should stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years):

“I think we have got our priorities wrong as far as Afghanistan is concerned. Ultimately every people has a right to govern itself.”

“We bombed and went into Afghanistan because of al-Qaeda and they're out of the country now,” the Senator said.

“We're so late in doing the honourable thing by our troops … and that is to debate the reasons for them being there,” Senator Brown said [...]

The Senator also argues that Afghanistan could develop quickly if foreign troops withdrew and military spending was instead diverted to aid.

“If the US was to reverse the order of spending … I think we'd find Afghanistan would be a far better country and it would modernise quickly.”

posted by UbuRoivas at 5:46 AM on October 19, 2010


No, Tony Abbott says that we have to stay in Afghanistan to honour the war dead.

Blood for the blood god!
posted by wilful at 6:49 PM on October 19, 2010


What happened to ANZAC Day? Beer's gotta be better than blood.

(unless Abbott's a vampire?)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:15 PM on October 19, 2010


"Progress in Afghanistan."

Citing an old video from before the current surge operation, relating to the Korengal Valley area, as covered in Restrepo, as proof of the unsubstantiated claim that the US is withdrawing into superbases in Afghanistan?!

I know people in Afghanistan, who aren't in superbases and are hardly withdrawing.

While I imagine that they would understand why it was the wise thing to leave that little outpost in the Korengal if there wasn't enough armed force available at the time to secure the whole valley, I suspect they would tend to disagree with your assertion that they're withdrawing into superbases.
posted by markkraft at 11:39 AM on October 25, 2010


"If you think that thirty thousand more troops who still have no local support is going to make a difference"

Except it's not just 30,000 more troops. NATO force levels also went up, as did ANA, Afghan police forces, security personnel, etc.

The military functions on a "tooth-to-tail" ratio... frontline troops vs. infrastructure. And if you take a look at the forces they sent in, there's a whole lotta tooth, and LOTS of Marines. The effective combat force could easily be twice what it was last year, with a similar increase in forces available to hold territory once cleared.

You can even get a sense of that in the casualty figures, because while casualties have gradually decreased from the record levels earlier this year, down to below 2009 levels... 18 Marines died this month, which is the highest level for 2010.

While that's unfortunate, it's hardly unexpected. You don't send people out to secure former Taliban territory without getting some killed. So while casualties seem to be on the decline, the brunt of them are being born by those on the frontlines of the combat. Half of the US combat fatalities are taking place in either Khandahar or Helmand... which is where you'd expect them to be, considering.

Even saying "no local support" -- without citations -- is a completely ridiculous statement. The internal polls of the Afghan people completely poke holes in that assertion. To me, it shows that you're not following what's going on on the ground, where there have been record numbers of Taliban leaders killed or captured, with most of them based on intelligence from locals. You don't get that kind of intel without some degree of local support.

"The Taliban has not only advanced in Afghanistan"

An advancement, without a citation. How very impressive!

The only actual citations that can be made for any post-surge Taliban advancement is increased instability in the north, in large part because that's where NATO troops currently aren't. There's no evidence of strong Taliban traction there, however. Indeed, it looks like whatever opposition there is localized, fragmented, and can be mopped up or bought off fairly easily, perhaps over the winter, when the Taliban are traditionally less active. (Don't expect the Marines to take the Winter off. It's not going to happen this year, certainly.)

As for the cited Taliban influence in Waziristan, the fact is, the Taliban have been under a lot of pressure there, and they are even threatening to flee Pakistan to Afghanistan, and seek out a shelter agreement from President Karzai. This helps to explain why so many within the Taliban are willing to negotiate right now.

"The Taliban may be a brutal regime with barbaric tactics, but the local populace seems to think they are better off under fundamentalist Islamic rule"

Except, again... they don't. In a recent poll of Afghans specifically in the two very divisive provinces of Khandahar and Helmand, 72% favored an elected government compared to only 24% support for Taliban rule. 57% supported education for girls, compared to 38% opposed. 72% felt that the local jirgas were being effective in their community... which is important, as that's a key factor of the Coalition strategy. In a poll of who the locals in Helmand and Khandahar trust, only 9%-13% trust the Taliban most. Support for the government, army and police, and tribal leaders were all substantially higher... and the people doing these polls aren't exactly pro-US government.

So, while I can understand your opposition to war and occupation, and even your opposition to this war... especially considering how it was left to fail, under-resourced for damn near a decade, with no clear strategy for turning it back over to the Afghan people, we're ultimately debating not whether a war can be won, but whether a country can be turned over to its own people in a way that is more safe and peaceful than leaving a huge security vacuum.

Just because you don't agree with something in principle, doesn't mean that it's proper to oppose it in a way that's untruthful, irrelevant, and lacking facts, or that the general goal can't be successful, even if you don't support the means to the ends.
posted by markkraft at 2:00 PM on October 25, 2010


Except, again... they don't.

Aren't you comparing different models of government by Afghans - when the original point was "even the Taliban are seen to be preferable to an occupying force"?

Oh, but we're just stabilising the country, so we can hand over and leave, right?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:22 PM on October 25, 2010


Well, to be clear, you said that the Taliban were better than "being randomly killed and attacked by people they consider to be Christian invaders".

That's not permanent occupation you were citing as an alternative. It's a radical propagandist slant on the true reality... the one where the Taliban intentionally threaten, maim, and kill far more Afghan civilians than NATO forces ever have.

I know the argument is that the war will never end, because each civilian NATO unintentionally kills just provokes more enemies. But what about the converse?

Why aren't you willing to say that the Taliban, by killing far more civilians than a coalition force that is finally making it clear that they won't be some sort of indefinite occupying power... that the Taliban will ultimately be the ones opposed by the locals?


"Oh, but we're just stabilising the country, so we can hand over and leave, right?"

Yes, precisely. We will turn over our bases to the local army and police, just as we've been doing in Iraq.

You seem to be upset about the building of secure local military bases... even though, as the article says, the great majority are for small local units scattered around local communities. Longterm buildings, perhaps... but ones that will be used by -- and turned over to -- the ANA forces and police.... and ones that will be a safe place to train and recruit local Afghans to take on the challenges of their future.

Really, if you were going to complain about longterm buildings for a permanent occupation, perhaps you should've brought up such arguments back in 2003? Doing it now after most of those longterm buildings in Iraq have been turned over just makes you look kinda nutty.
posted by markkraft at 3:10 PM on October 25, 2010


Well, to be clear, you said that the Taliban were better than "being randomly killed and attacked by people they consider to be Christian invaders".

No, that was somebody else who said that, although I don't disagree.

perhaps you should've brought up such arguments back in 2003?

Like, attending every anti-war protest I could, annoying all my friends & family by bombarding them with articles about how wrong these wars would be, or even writing to the Queen, on the basis that the Prime Minister's decision to go to war was unconstitutional & that the Governor General should step in and do something to make the decision more democratic & accountable to Parliament? Are those the kinds of arguments you mean?
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:38 PM on October 25, 2010


Actually, no. I did the same things, because both conflicts were avoidable, especially as ground conflicts. That said, I do see the benefit of leaving Afghanistan with some degree of security and some degree of civilization in Kabul and the north, rather than decades more of civil war... and if it costs US lives, well, I know people there who want to be there and believe in what they are trying to do. .. because the Taliban really are pretty Allahawful.

My specific point was that complaining about "permanent buildings" even as we're turning them over to the Iraqis doesn't make much sense anymore.

The fact is, when you're being threatened by IEDs, you want to build as strong as possible, with as much steel and concrete as you can get. Besides, non-permanent military facilities burn really well. (FOB St. Michael in Mahmudiah, for example.) Crappy electrical wiring plus ramshackle wooden barracks plus petrol don't mix.
posted by markkraft at 8:38 AM on October 26, 2010


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