Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


MR PINK, MR WHITE AND BOTTOM
November 18, 2010 9:45 AM   Subscribe

'This is the very odd story of the events that led to a horrific mass killing of Afghan civilians by coalition forces in August 2008.' 'It is the story of the Americans and the British striding into the fairy wood only to find themselves spun around so much by the Afghans that they do not know who is the enemy and who is a friend any longer. And they come out with a donkey's head. But on the way they kill 90 innocent people.'

'In the wake of the civilian deaths there was outrage not just in Afghanistan but in Britain and America. The American forces were portrayed as disastrously incompetent.

But the truth behind the massacre reveals something completely different.

The American forces are not incompetent. They are being used as weapons in a war that they don't understand.

The investigation makes it clear that the US forces are not simply blundering around in a society they don't comprehend - as many in the anti-war movement argue. The reality is far more complicated.'

'Which raises the question - who are we really fighting in Afghanistan? Do we, and our leaders really know?'
posted by VikingSword (29 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
.........................................................................................
posted by kitchenrat at 10:06 AM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I oppose the use of a beautiful still from one of my favorite films, the 1935 "Midsummer Night's Dream", in association with America's kill-crazy blood orgy in Afghanistan. That war is not like "Midsummer Night's Dream", it is not like "Reservior Dogs", it is not like "Alice in Wonderland". The war in Afghanistan is a great, curling tsunami of SIN.
posted by Faze at 10:07 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


who are we really fighting in Afghanistan? Do we, and our leaders really know?

No.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:11 AM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


it is not like "Reservior Dogs"

Well, it is apparently a little like Reservoir Dogs...
posted by hermitosis at 10:12 AM on November 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Americans announced they had killed between 30 to 35 Taliban. They said that only 5 to 7 civilians had died.

But then the United Nations investigated and a week after the attack they said 90 civilians had been killed - the majority of them women and children.

The US military responded by saying the villagers were fabricating the evidence. They were spreading Taliban propaganda.


They hate us for our freedom.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:15 AM on November 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


I read the following from the Embassy Bombing entry at WikiPedia via another MetaFilter post:
According to journalist Lawrence Wright, the Nairobi operation was named after the Holy Kaaba in Mecca; the Dar es Salaam bombing was called Operation al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, but "neither had an obvious connection to the American embassies in Africa. Bin Laden initially said that the sites had been targeted because of the 'invasion' of Somalia; then he described an American plan to partition Sudan, which he said was hatched in the embassy in Nairobi. He also told his followers that the genocide in Rwanda had been planned inside the two American embassies."

Wright concludes that bin Laden's actual goal was "to lure the United States into Afghanistan, which had long been called 'The Graveyard of Empires.'"According to a 1998 memo authored by Mohammed Atef and seized by the FBI, around the time of the attacks, al-Qaeda had both an interest in and specific knowledge of negotiations between the Taliban and the American-led gas pipeline consortium CentGas.
I wonder how many more times we'll have to learn the lesson that adding guns and violence to any situation rarely make things better. bin Laden is alleged to have spent only a few million on 9/11, and we're on track to spend 3 trillion by the end of 2017.

Getting back to the story itself, this is where my stomach turned:
The US military said that their finds [that few civilians were killed] were corroborated by an "independent journalist" who was embedded with the US force that had attacked Azizabad.

He was Oliver North - famous for the Iran-Contra scandal - and now working for Fox News.
Their source is a man who was convicted of treason for illegally selling weapons to sworn enemies? Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. I mean, you just can't make this stuff up.
posted by notion at 10:18 AM on November 18, 2010 [9 favorites]


The American forces are not incompetent. They are being used as weapons in a war that they don't understand.

You know, if your enemy is directing who you should shoot at, I'd say there is a lack of competence in waging war there.
posted by yeloson at 10:22 AM on November 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


The western military and their powerful bombs are being ruthlessly manipulated by different groups in Afghanistan. All the Afghans have to do is go to the Americans and describe someone as "Taliban" and they will be annihilated.


or


The western military and their powerful bombs are being ruthlessly manipulated by different groupsrich people in Afghanistanthe United States. All the Afghansassholes have to do is go to the Americans and describe someone as "Taliban" and they will be annihilated.



The theme is the same. You have a group of honorable young men who want to save the world and their youthful vigor is exploited on all sides.

I support our troops. I want them home, safe, sound, and out of the control of self-serving dickheads.

This tale is Maltese Falcon meets Rules of Engagement (2000 film) meets Basic (shitty film). Too many twists, and if it's hard for a journalist outside the heat of battle to sort through in his free time, I sure as hell don't want our men stumbling through it, and I'm tired of reading about the women and children caught in the crossfire.

Let us leave this wasteland of empires and go back to making awesome rock albums, folks.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:22 AM on November 18, 2010


They decided to call him Mr White III

And Mr White III replaced all the guards who had been killed in Azizabad with their brothers.


When you give them ridiculous names straight out of the Cluedo box, it makes it much easier to picture them as the disposable meatbags you want them to be, than actual human beings.

It could have been a much bigger media mess if a bunch of Nigels or Martys were bombed to pieces.
posted by xqwzts at 10:30 AM on November 18, 2010


The US military said that their finds were corroborated by an "independent journalist" who was embedded with the US force that had attacked Azizabad.
He was Oliver North - famous for the Iran-Contra scandal - and now working for Fox News


I'm surprised he remembered
posted by fullerine at 10:39 AM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Great news. Strange how business goes on."
posted by Chuckles at 10:40 AM on November 18, 2010


My soapbox on this subject seems to be very large. I am sparing you the diatribe I started...
posted by Xoebe at 10:59 AM on November 18, 2010


Nice piece of documentary by Curtis though. The footage is well worth watching, if you didn't bother, and he is not treating the use of Reservoir Dog names as anything other than puerile foolishness.
posted by stonepharisee at 12:55 PM on November 18, 2010


When I read the description and the quotes, I said, "Hm, that sounds like Adam Curtis." Lo and behold, when I clicked the link...
posted by outlandishmarxist at 2:51 PM on November 18, 2010


Their source is a man who was convicted of treason for illegally selling weapons to sworn enemies? Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. I mean, you just can't make this stuff up.

You know, although I have an intense dislike of Oliver North, making completely unsupportable remarks about him does not help the case against the sort of things he is involved with. North was never convicted of treason. He was charged with sixteen offenses and actually convicted of accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents. Those convictions were later vacated, with the help of the ACLU. All this is documented (with sources, easily verified) on the Wikipedia page about him.

So, A on expressing your feelings about finding North mixed up in it (which feelings I share completely), F on accuracy. It's not that I want to safeguard North's reputation, but that getting the facts wrong like this makes it easy for supporters of war to dismiss your objections as the delusions. Yes, I know that many supporters of war are factually challenged or outright delusional themselves. But that doesn't mean faulty arguments will advance your interests as well, especially not when you're trying to promote truth and justice.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:53 PM on November 18, 2010


Where are all the people who normally jump in these threads and try and convince everybody that this is all somehow justified? I guess reality is finally sinking in.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:10 PM on November 18, 2010


My bad, anigbrowl. North committed treason in my opinion, but was not convicted of it.

In other news, George H.W. Bush is receiving the Medal of Freedom.
posted by notion at 6:40 PM on November 18, 2010


Oliver North is to traitor as Ronald Regan is to bumbling, senile jerk-off during his last years as President.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:10 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


who are we really fighting in Afghanistan?

The Taliban.

I can imagine you lot in WW2:

"The Italians were our enemies but now they're our friends and the French surrendered but there's a resistance and some German officer tried to assassinate Hitler and the Russiand say they're on our side but they're Commies and Churchill wiped Dresden off the map oh my God teh civilians and WHO ARE WE REALLY FIGHTING."

Much as the breathless mishmash of metaphors linked in the OP would have you believe it could be different - that it should all be straightforward and if it isn't then the people in charge must be inept - war is complicated. Always has been, always will be. Sometimes your friends are your enemies, and vice versa, and then the whole thing changes, and sometimes you knew about it beforehand, and sometimes it's a surprise. Deal with it.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:31 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


who are we really fighting in Afghanistan?

The Taliban.


Good work, you can read the news wire. Now, who were the Taliban in this story? Did we kill any Taliban here? Hand in your assignment at the beginning of tomorrow's class.
posted by shii at 8:48 PM on November 18, 2010


The part that really gets me is how much American military reports read like the Columbine Shooters' Diaries.

The Global War on Terror isn't Reservoir Dogs. It's Dude Where's My Car?
posted by srboisvert at 2:44 AM on November 19, 2010




The Taliban.

Define Teh Taliban please. Do Taliban members get a membership card when they sign up? Basically if we kill some males over the age of 12 we retroactively label them Taliban and the military leadership gets to claim some success and/or progress.

Sometimes your friends are your enemies, and vice versa, and then the whole thing changes, and sometimes you knew about it beforehand, and sometimes it's a surprise. Deal with it.

Because in WWII Himmler(Mr. White) was manipulating the Allies into attacking Hitler(Mr. Pink) therefore gaining more influence in Germany by getting sweet contracts to guard allied air bases. Sorry but industrialized nation states slugging it out in a total war situation is not even remotely comparable to a 4th gen military prosecuting an anti insurgency against a rag tag peasantry. The reality is that Afghanistan is not equal to WWII and trying to somehow equate them is inaccurate and illustrates either intellectual dishonesty or ignorance of the subject at hand.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:46 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


obiwanwasabi is not saying that The Taliban == Hitler. (S)he is saying that war is messed up and complicated and, to bring in another quote from WWII, SNAFU.

The Afghan war is not unusually mixed up as wars go, especially not counterinsurgency wars. This kind of situation has happened many times, in many different wars, and will continue to happen into the future. I interpret obi's argument as saying that if you don't like this kind of uncertainty, then you're not particularly against this war, so much as that you're against war in general. Which is a fine thing to be against, of course, but it does behove one to make a more generally pacifist argument, rather than pleading Afghan exceptionalism.

Incidentally, I don't read the linked article as being particularly against the Afghan war. It's simply a clear-minded piece of investigative journalism pointing out that both 'sides' of the public debate critically misinterpreted this event by trying to shoehorn it into their existing narratives. Which is bad, as obi obliquely points out.
posted by Dreadnought at 7:27 AM on November 19, 2010


I interpret obi's argument as saying that if you don't like this kind of uncertainty, then you're not particularly against this war, so much as that you're against war in general. Which is a fine thing to be against, of course, but it does behove one to make a more generally pacifist argument, rather than pleading Afghan exceptionalism.

Which is a fallacious argument if that is in fact what obi was arguing. Being against "uncertainty" and being prowar are not mutually exclusive. Furthermore being against this war does not equate to being a pacifist or even to an argument of "Afghan exceptionalism". Being against the Afghan war has nothing to do with whether one is troubled by the "uncertainty" inherent to all counter insurgency operations. It has everything to do with whether one can morally justify our military activity in a country which hasn't attacked us and poses no existential threat to our continued existence.

The Taliban didn't attack us on 9-11. According to our own intelligence officials there are only around 100 al Qaeda fighters left in Afghanistan. That number comes from the end of 2009 so after all the bodies piled up since then one would hope that that number is now significantly lower. If not than that would be a much more damning piece of information which would point to our military's incompetence; forgetting for the moment that they are repeatedly being used by the Afghans to settle scores and/or enforce individual war lords power bases.

It's simply a clear-minded piece of investigative journalism pointing out that both 'sides' of the public debate critically misinterpreted this event by trying to shoehorn it into their existing narratives.

Really? The only side I see doing any shoehorning is the pro war side as this event fits perfectly into many antiwar "narratives" that I have been exposed to.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:12 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


"...'Inelegance' was used in place of 'intelligence,'", indeed.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:37 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


From what I have seen so far here, there are incredible resources, deep understanding and unbelievably intelligent and dedicated people working on this. That's the top layer.

Then there is a huge layer of people whose involvement carries about the same amount of dedication, insight and risk as any office job in the United States.

Under that is the smaller layer of people who are responsible for the execution of the strategy created by the top layer.

I'm in the middle layer, and I hear a lot of loose talk about how to deal with the situation.

To say Americans are naive is not quite accurate, though. I've seen RAND studies (these are online, by the way) that describe tribal politics in provinces down to the sub- sub- sub-tribe level in mind-numbing detail. On the other hand, I've seen people make decisions almost guaranteed to cause hard feelings because they had zero understanding of what they were doing.
posted by atchafalaya at 8:44 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've posted this before in another related thread but it bears repeating. Again this is putting aside for the moment the entirely different problem of Afghan "gangsters" using the U.S. military as unwitting enforcers. This paper paints a very alarming picture of what the impetus of your average "Taliban" actually is. Hint: it has nothing to do with waging jihad against the U.S. and everything to do with a code of honor and an obligation of revenge. The atrocity outlined in the fpp created many more Taliban than it killed and is indicative of our SOP in Afghanistan now that Petraus is at the helm.

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.)

Also this development does not bode well for cutting down on civilian casualties. Neither does the sharp increase in air strikes since Petraus has taken over. Of course this was to be expected and shows an alarming lack of understanding of the Afghan situation by President Obama.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:24 AM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


> From what I have seen so far here, there are incredible resources, deep understanding and unbelievably intelligent and dedicated people working on this. That's the top layer.

That's a... very bizarre reading of these links. I read the original article and most if not all of the links, and the best I can say is that some of these people are well-meaning.

Can you give us an example of someone's "deep understanding", from one of these links? Who are these "unbelievably intelligent people" you are talking about?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:32 AM on November 19, 2010


I'm not talking about the links. I'm in Afghanistan at the moment, and first heard of this story a couple of months ago. I'm trying to respond to what I read in the article and in the comments while a.) Not getting my ass handed to me and b.) Not turning this post into my blog. Not that I have a blog.

I chime in on these posts to try to share what little I know because there are a lot of thoughtful people who come to this site.
posted by atchafalaya at 6:17 AM on November 21, 2010


« Older Vintage photos of women in sport. "At the turn of ...  |  Antimatter atoms produced and ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments