A Terrible Tale Nearly Forgotten

April 1, 2011

In the face of so much bad shit going on right now — even another US theater of war in Libya — the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan is taking a deep-back seat on the runaway bus of a 24-hour news cycle.
However, death is still there as six US GIs were killed Tuesday in eastern Afghanistan during a major operation against insurgents, but Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division claims the war is A-Okay: He said morale remains high for the troops from the storied division, who have suffered their deadliest year in combat since Vietnam. “They’ve been able to look over the last 10 months and look at the accomplishments they have had, the difference they have made in the lives of the Afghan people,” he said.
Reality begs to differ.

(Illustration found here via Google Images).

According to an Associated Press tally, at least 1,408 US servicemen have died in Afghanistan since the conflict started there in October 2001 — 10,749 have been wounded in action.
And it seems to be getting a bit hotter: An American GI was killed just about every day in March.
Intertwined in death are Afghan peoples — seven civilians, including some children, were killed over the weekend in a NATO airstrike: Brigadier General Tim Zadalis, ISAF Joint Command Director of air plans and team leader, expressed “deep regret” over the incident, and pledged to “apply what we learned in this assessment in future operations as we strive to eliminate civilian casualties.”
Not working too well — a UN report indicates a 15 percent increase in Afghan civilian deaths in 2010 when compared with the previous year.
And the bender is that although many of those deaths came directly/indirectly by insurgents/Taliban, the Afghan look at the situation bit different: Though the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan in NATO and Afghan military operations have fallen in recent months, they evoke much greater anger among the Afghan population than the ones caused by the Taliban attacks.
And from Press TV: UNAMA reports that 2010 was the bloodiest year since the war began in terms of the civilian death toll. Civilian casualties increased by 31% since last year. The number of children killed in the war is up 55 percent from last year.

A result of Gen. David Petraeus taking command.
Jason Ditz at antiwar.com offers this:

This comes as several reports affirm that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Petraeus’ predecessor, had actually reduced the number of killings by a measurable amount, even as the Obama Administration escalated the war to new heights.
McChrystal had made the reduction of civilian deaths a top priority, banning air strikes near civilian populations and sharply curbing night raids.
Since taking over Petraeus has removed most if not all of the restrictions, and the deaths have predictably soared.

Yet in a historical perspective the Afghan war can’t be won — an iron law of human conflict: most people hate foreigners coming to their country and trying to force them to change their way of life for a better and wiser one.
The place ain’t called the ‘graveyard of empires‘ for nothin’.

There is no winning there.
A Melbourne, Australia, Baptist minister, husband and father of three took a recent trip to Afghanistan to see how the so-called “good war” was holding up after a near-decade.
Via the Australian Broadcasting Company:

Afghanistan has from the very beginning been sold to us as “the good war.”
Yet precious little information about the situation on the ground is allowed to filter through to the Australian people.
With a Defence Department which routes everything through its PR department, I decided to travel to Afghanistan to see for myself.
What I saw and heard there belies most of what we are told by our government.
No one — it seems — in Afghanistan supports the Karzai government, with the exception of government officials and the military.
Karzai is seen as entirely corrupt and out of touch with everyday people, and his warlord Parliament are only interested in their own wealth.
People just get on with their lives, resigned to this veneer of democracy being impenetrable for the ordinary Afghan, with no expectation that these criminals will represent their interests.
The only thing stopping the government from being entirely irrelevant is the amount of aid money which flows straight into their pockets, a source of anger for ordinary Afghans.
As a result, even aid has become suspect in Afghanistan — so much of it is militarised, tainted by partisan interests or stripped bare by corruption that only the bravest, most foolish and most desperate are willing to receive it.
Meanwhile, according to a World Health Organisation worker at my hotel, there is nothing stopping the open sewers in the streets of Kabul from running into the water supply.
There is no sanitation, and he is shocked a massive outbreak of cholera has not occurred.
Additionally, the poor air quality in Kabul kills 3000 people a year through respiratory disease.
Unemployment is at 40%, and people still have to survive on an average wage of $200 per year.
Meanwhile, security contractors earn up to $350 per hour.
Afghans see this disparity and understandably conclude we are not there to help them.

Fairly shitty, huh?

Yet, the US will hammer on.
An example of the major problem with war making in this modern era is that the official line is awash in bullshit.
And President Obama was supposed to keep all this shit in the public eye, but how can this be when even an award ceremony for being open was held in secret..

On Monday President Obama received an award for transparency, which ironically was given to him during a closed, unannounced meeting. Bestowed upon the President from a group of transparency advocates, the ceremony took place in secret, even though — as of two weeks ago — it was supposed to be open to the press.
According to Politico, the meeting was “inexplicably postponed” and rescheduled without notice for Monday “without disclosing the meeting on [the President’s] public schedule or letting photographers or print reporters into the room.”

Miller (Ellen Miller, director of the Sunlight Foundation) said the president’s open government directive had made the open government community hopeful after years of secrecy from the Bush administration, particularly because the government promised things like data audits of federal agencies and the publishing of high-value government data sets for public use that have yet to come to fruition.

An award touting this administration as transparent does nothing more than underscore its total lack of transparency.
And even if the Obama administration were to have stayed true to its promises of openness, many question whether that calls for an award.
Steve Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, does not seem to think so.
He remarked on the lack of necessity for the award, “I don’t feel moved today to say ‘thank you, Mr. President.'”

And so we’re stuck like a pig in the muck — un-winnable and unmovable.

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