Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gen. McChrystal and His "Retail War"

When, in June, Stanley McChrystal found himself on the brink of taking over as general in Afghanistan, he declared the Afghan war to be "winnable." Now that he's at the helm, he's not so sure. The enemy is starting to morph, and demonstrate what he calls greater resiliency. The battlefield looms larger, and the entire scenario has, not surprisingly, a been there, done that feel to it.

Just one month into McChrystal's command, and NATO forces have suffered their deadliest month. The general is quickly coming to see the word "surge" in counterinsurgency. He now contends that the 68,000 troops expected to be in place by year's end will not be nearly enough to win the war. Is this any different than what we heard in the lead-up to the six year, and ongoing, occupation of Iraq?

The general says he wants to win back the trust of what he calls the "population," and put an end to civilian casualties, but he has yet to distinguish between civilian and insurgent. He asserts that the insurgents are a stubborn bunch, and that any hope for a quick exit may be put to be put to rest.

"I think we're talking months for this to play out," McChrystal told a group of reporters including one from The New York Times, and that the "key" to any success in the region is "Afghan responsibility to the fight." Again, one has this been there, done that feeling.

There are times when names like "Taliban" and "Al Qaeda" are almost indistinguishable from one another.. This is daunting, and troublesome, as is the fact that in one region, in,particular, Helmand province, the number of marines outnumber that of Afghani soldiers by a margin of nearly eight to one.

Oh, yes, and you might wish to consider, too, that Helmand province is an area renowned for poppy farmers where the Taliban, bandits, and Kandahar police are equally invested in the opium trade.. The farmers pay poppy taxes to the Taliban, and the government also profits.

Opium is big business, and 92% of the opium in the world comes from Afghanistan, but the real dividends come from international smuggling. "The opium was taken to laboratories in the east on the border with Pakistan, refined, and made into heroin," according to The Guardian, UK., and 90%of the heroin sold on British streets comes from Afghanistan. Reportedly, too, something like 80% of the world's heroin comes from Afghanistan which may explain why it seems to be taking so long for U.S. forces to hunt down, and capture, Osama bin Laden on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Didn't we declare it game over when we supposedly toppled the Taliban regime back in 2001? Yet, now we have a new president who seems to think we can do business with what he calls "moderate Taliban." If the Taliban are "terrorists," is it possible to be a moderate terrorist? Is this not an oxymoron? Or, is what Obama calls "moderate" those who work with Afghan police in Kandahar and elsewhere to collect taxes on the opium farms?

But, then, who are the insurgents? The Taliban who want to protect equity in their cash crop? If we're going to label the Taliban in the Helmand valley "terrorists," then we might as well label the government that works with them to collect taxes from poppy farmers insurgents. So, then, we're fighting the Afghan government in Afghanistan not just the Taliban which, in the end, makes us the same as any other garden variety occupying force like Great Britain or the Soviets.

According to an article, back in 2004, in Global Research, "In the wake of the 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan, the British government of Tony Blair was entrusted by the G-8 Group of leading industrial nations to carry out a drug eradication program." And, instead of eliminating the crop, cultivation of opium poppy has skyrocketed. What's more, "One of the 'hidden' goals of the war was to restore the CIA sponsored drug trade to its historical levels and exert direct control over the drug routes."

No matter how you slice, it, it defies logic that the so-called insurgency, and Taliban extremists, are so firmly embedded that not even the 82nd Airborne can take them out of their caves on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan? Are we to believe that more than 20,000 U.S. servicemen can't eradicate what amounts to a small tribe of terrorists, who probably can't even get a signal, or can it be, instead, that the U.S. government is distracted by Afghanistan's greatest asset of all, heroin? When a former vice president, Dick Cheney, has to resort to mob tactics, is it really too far a stretch to think that mob booty might also be involved?

Arguably, in any war, it's easy to lose track of why we're there. This particular military exploit is no exception. Some might say we're taking the war on drugs to a whole new level.

Still, others might insist it's not like the U.S. is the first country to invade Afghanistan. It's not like it was virgin territory, The British tried three times to control the region between 1839 and 1919, and failed except, of course, that 90% of the heroin on the streets in England comes from the region. And, then came the Soviets, in 1979, and they, too, left without booty.

By now, it should be abundantly clear what our objective was in invading, and occupying, Iraq, and who made the greatest profit==big oil, even former Federal Reserve chair, Alan Greenspan, cops to it. Likewise, it should be equally obvious what brought us to Afghanistan and the Helmand province, in 2001. This is a war not about oil, or empire building, per se, about controlling the world's greatest supply of heroin. Some wars make heroes, others make heroin.

Obviously,, we can no more expect to hear the truth about our Afghanistan offensive from an Obama White House than we did about the massacre of 2,000 Afghanis under another president, George W. Bush. The truth is not a cash crop.

Generations from now, people will look back at this era, wince, and think we may not have succeeded at capitalism, but we did a hell of a good job at covering up.

We can count on a general, Stanley McChrystal who, during the period when he steered the military's Joint Special Operations Command, earned praise for terrorist hunting at broadband speed, but given his desire for a speedy surge, the operation in Afghanistan may someday come to be known as "McChrystal meth."

But, we must concern ourselves more with McChrystal's math, especially given his talk about growing the Afghan army to nearly 50% more than the number of troops LBJ committed to Vietnam. In all likelihood, U.S. troops, not Afghanis, will be the ones to tip the scale at more than 100,000.

And in this, the heaviest month of allied casualties when the commander in the region, General McChrystal, asserts we are in the region to protect the population from being "coerced at midnight by an armed man who shows up and threatens them," we must ask whose uniform that armed man is wearing---odds are eight to one, it's more likely to be that of an American marine.

Finally, we must look warily at any general who refers to a bloody battlefield as "a retail war;" a term like that is eerily reminiscent of another chilling phrase "collateral damage." We must also ask what it is that is being retailed, and who the other collateral damage is. Indeed, every youngster who overdoses on heroin, both here and the UK, is a fatality of this war.

Moreover, the mercantile, and banking, images don't begin to obscure the fact that, ultimately, the difference between a retail war and a wholesale war is that a retail war is far more expensive, both in terms of monetary and human resources.

For, in the end, it isn't Al Qaeda or the Taliban, but human greed that is the enemy.