‘Nother ‘Nam

October 30, 2011

“To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past.
“To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism.
“To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”
— Walter Cronkite, February 27, 1968

Uncle Walter could have most-easily been talking about Afghanistan, where yesterday 12 US peoples were killed in Kabul when a suicide bomber struck a vehicle in a NATO military convoy.
Four Afghans, including two students, were also killed.

In the US, at least a baker’s dozen of mothers will be weeping in unimaginable sorrow — a continuing grief that apparently has no end, even as a big majority of Americans now oppose the Afghan war, a conflict which started right, but has become a beyond-Halloween horror show.

(Illustration of Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman I‘ found here).

The Afghan war has morphed into a terrible stalemate, the dying of more US military service people will continue unabated if the war continues on its current path, and there ain’t no indication it won’t.
According to the CNN story, four US GIs and eight US contractors were killed in the blast — first reports told of five American soldiers dying, but later released word one of those was Canadian.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident — a suicide driver/bomber drove a Toyota packed with 1,800 pounds of explosives into an armored bus, called a RhinoRunner (typically a 13-ton vehicle described by its builder as “The Toughest Bus on Planet Earth”).
Well, not so much against a Toyota packed with exploding shit.
And WTF this: Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Kabul, said the incident is indicative of an attack where a suicide bomber will “drive up and down the roads waiting for a target.”
Apparently, an opportunity kind of approach.

Also on Saturday, 10 Australian soldiers were fired upon by a trainee Afghan soldier in Kandahar Province, killing three and wounding seven — an interpreter was also killed.
The shooting occurred at a morning parade, and despite it all, the shooter was said to be a rogue soldier, yet he had been in the army for three years.
Meanwhile, one incident didn’t pan out when a female suicide bomber was stopped outside a branch of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in northeaster Afghanistan, on the border with Pakistan, and then detonated her package, injuring five people, two civilians and three security officials — she was the only fatality and had awaited for hours at a nearby female-only bus stop before attacking.
A casual-like oddity, huh?
And this was just Saturday.

The whole theater of war has become infected — some ‘major‘ incidents:

— Sept. 20: An insurgent with a bomb wrapped in his turban assassinates former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading a government effort to broker peace with the Taliban.
The explosion kills four bodyguards and also wounds of a key presidential adviser working to lure Taliban fighters off the battlefield.
— Sept. 13: Taliban insurgents fire rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles at the U.S. Embassy, NATO headquarters and other buildings, killing seven Afghans in the coordinated daylight attack.
No embassy or NATO staff members were hurt.
— Aug. 19: Taliban suicide bombers storm the British Council, the U.K.’s international cultural relations body, killing eight people during an eight-hour firefight as two English language teachers and their bodyguard hid in a locked panic room on the anniversary of the country’s independence from Britain.
— Aug. 6: A CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashes in eastern Wardak province after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing 30 U.S. special operation troops, a translator, and seven Afghan commandos.
— June 29: Nine insurgents armed with explosive vests, rifles and rocket launchers storm the InterContinental Hotel in Kabul, killing at least 12 people and holding off NATO and Afghan forces for five hours.

— Feb. 26: Suicide attackers strike two residential hotels in Kabul, killing 20 people, including seven Indian nationals.

And in September, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the head of US training for the Afghan military reported (from Wired‘s Danger Room blog): Two years of an accelerated effort to train Afghans to take over that fight, at an annual cost of $6 billion. And not a single Afghan army battalion can operate without assistance from U.S. or allied units.
Which would explain why the guy who shot and killed the Australians, supposedly a three-year veteran, was still considered a trainee.
Not only that, 1.4 percent of Afghan cops and 2.3 percent of Afghan soldiers walk off the job every month, which led Caldwell to say that if “left unchecked [attrition] could undo much of the progress made to date.”

Instead of truth, US peoples get bullshit.
From Time magazine:

Last week, the Pentagon sent Congress its required semi-annual assessment that said a “firm foundation” exists to shift responsibility for defending the country from foreign to Afghan troops.
“After five consecutive years where enemy-initiated attacks and overall violence increased sharply each year (example, up 88 percent in 2010 over 2009),” the report noted, “such attacks began to decrease in May 2011 compared to the previous year and continue to decline.”

In the latest CNN/ORC International Poll released Friday, 63 percent of US respondents opposed the war:

But that opposition is not a reflection of the original decision to get involved in Afghanistan a decade ago,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
“It’s what Afghanistan has turned into in the subsequent decade that has soured Americans on the war effort there.”
The survey indicates that 57 percent say it was not a mistake to send military forces to Afghanistan in October 2001, several weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks.
But according to the poll, 58 percent now say that the war in Afghanistan has turned into a situation like the U.S. faced in Vietnam, six points higher than the number who felt that way a year ago.

The horror is that ordinary US peoples can’t do a thing about it.

Nowadays, we’re not as naive and ignorant as we were in February 1968, when Cronkite gave his grim assessment of the Vietnam war — LBJ’s supposedly infamous retort: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost America” — but then again, there wasn’t a Fox News in them days either.
The situation in Vietnam had been highly-altered in 1968 by the Tet Offensive, which was just winding down when Uncle Walter rendered his editorial, and had changed the landscape of how US peoples viewed the grinding conflict.
From Gallop polling via PBS, Americans responded to the question, “In view of developments since we entered the fighting in Vietnam, do you think the U.S. made a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam?”
The results — in August 1961, 61 percent had said “no,” it was not a mistake, and by February 1968, that number had dropped to 42 percent, and by May 1971, only 28 percent.
And most-telling from those polls, however, was from a secondary question of ‘Proportion classifying themselves as “hawks”‘ — before the Tet offensive, the amount was 60 percent, after Tet, them hawks had flown down to 41 percent.
Disaster compounded by lies will change attitudes.

And with that current CNN poll of 63 percent of respondents opposing the Afghan war, it led to UK’s ultra-right-wing The Daily Mail dishing President Obama for both the war, and, the floundering health care system, comparing the two to a horrific 2012 election: It is difficult to imagine the re-election of a president whose No. 1 foreign policy and No. 1 domestic policy both flopped while unemployment rose.
Of course, no one on the right ever, never brings up the Iraqi war, which actually doomed the Afghan effort and put the US in the quagmire it finds itself today.

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