Restrepo

By Daniel Holz | September 5, 2010 7:52 pm

A few weeks ago I watched the film Restrepo. It’s a documentary about a platoon of US army soldiers in Afghanistan. Documentary doesn’t do justice to the film. It has no voice-overs. There’s no plot or point, per se. The film follows the soldiers from just before deployment, through their year-long tour at the most dangerous and remote outpost in Afghanistan (the Korengal Valley), to their departure from the country. The movie is a strange mix of Hurt Locker, Platoon, Three Kings, and Jarhead. What makes this movie different from any other I’ve seen, however, is that it is all real. This is filmed up close and personal. The camera was in the middle of everything. The gunfire is real. The bombs are real. When people die, they stay dead.

restrepo1After the movie one of the directors (Tim Hetherington) and one of the main “characters” (Major Dan Kearney) got up on stage for an interview and Q&A. It was jarring to suddenly see the Major, in person and in civilian clothes, after having spent a year with him in Afghanistan. There were a few clear take-home messages.

  • The main “accomplishment” of the platoon, which was much heralded, was the establishment of an outpost (named “Restrepo”, in honor of a fallen comrade) on a strategic hill, less than a kilometer farther down the valley than the main staging area. This past April, the hard-won outpost was abandoned.
  • The (British) director went out of his way to commend the US military for allowing them full access. He claims that there was no editing or censorship of the film, and that the US military’s policies towards the media are better than any other nation with which he’s had experience, including Britain, Germany, and Russia.
  • There are scenes showing marines discussing issues with Afghani Afghan elders, and it is entirely apparent that neither side trusts the other. The marines simply do not belong in the valley. They are not welcome. They are not wanted. It is unclear what is being accomplished. And lives are at stake.

One of the most poignant moments of the evening was the last question. A woman (who in many ways was the quintessential representation of Santa Fe) asked (in a fairly emotional tone) how the Major lives with himself, knowing that he has killed Afghan children (as we had just witnessed on screen). The woman argued that the life of a soldier is not “as valuable” as that of a child, and that she was disturbed by their disregard for young Afghan lives. The Major’s answer was clear and unapologetic. He has no trouble sleeping at night, and he feels good about whom he sees in the mirror. His job is to protect his soldiers. He agonizes about decisions that may involve “collateral” damage (e.g., ordering a helicopter strike on a house), but his job and duty was to try to make the valley safe. In the long-run the goal was to allow a road to be built through the valley, thereby bringing more economic development, and making it a safer and healthier place for the civilian population to live. He did the best he could to make this happen at minimal cost. But it is war, and casualties are inevitable.

The film leaves one with a feeling that the whole situation is hopeless. Why are we still there? The director, a self-described “left-leaning liberal”, urged against a knee-jerk reaction and in favor of a deliberate approach, where the consequences of our actions are anticipated. He pointed out that the 17,000 civilian deaths to date in Afghanistan are significantly less than the 400,000 deaths estimated from Taliban rule, and a tiny fraction of the million deaths which resulted from the Soviet invasion. If we abruptly pick up and leave, the country will no doubt plunge back into civil war and Taliban rule, and things will get much worse for much of the civilian population. Instability in the region will, eventually, impact the developed world, even those of us sitting in cozy movie theaters. So what is to be done?

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  • Noam Chompsky

    What is to be done? The Americans need to remember why they are there: to prevent a recurrence of 911. You should therefore terminate the relevant people with extreme prejudice and then get out. You should ignore international opinion: everybody hates you and nothing you do or don’t do will change this. In particular you should abandon the strange notion that the people of Afghanistan [and Pakistan] are your friends. They aren’t, and won’t be as long as you are infidels. They are your enemies and should be treated as such.

  • OXO

    What’s to be done?

    Get out. It’s not your country. The Taliban didn’t blow up the twin towers. It’s nothing to do with them.

    Stop acting like you own the world. Damn Yanks.

  • Gonzo

    @OXO what a knee jerk reaction that is? What do you think is going to happen in Afghanistan if the U.S just up and pulls out? Flowers? Rainbows? No. The author of the piece is entirely correct: “the country will no doubt plunge back into civil war and Taliban rule, and things will get much worse for much of the civilian population.” What a callous world you must live in, where your hatred for one nationality outweighs the human nightmare your advocacy would create.

    I am no supporter of the American effort in Afghanistan but you are guilty of the same type of hubris shown by those who launched this bloody effort in the first place, a callous disregard for human life, as well as a feeble understanding of the history that underpins U.S. operations in Afghanistan.

  • Per

    Instead of using the money on bombs, build schools, hospitals and arrange so people can earn an income, then things will stabilize. Bomb for peace? Come on. Ignorance is strength, right.

  • http://N/A Dr.Chuck1

    to Per Says; are you coherent, in taliban controlled areas this is not possible, join reality, same to OXO

  • HL

    Gonzo: “@OXO what a knee jerk reaction that is? What do you think is going to happen in Afghanistan if the U.S just up and pulls out? Flowers? Rainbows? No. The author of the piece is entirely correct: “the country will no doubt plunge back into civil war and Taliban rule, and things will get much worse for much of the civilian population.””

    The knee-jerk reaction was the invasion itself. The goal was to capture Osama, it is clear this mission is a failure so there is no point in staying there. Yes, there will be widespread bloodshed once US pulls out, but it was obvious from the very start.

    You cannot invade a country like Afghanistan, where people routinely use violence to settle everything, and build a successful democracy in a few years. Such an idea is patently absurd.

    To have a shot at creating democracy you would have to resort to a full blown colonization – which means taking over the government and crushing any and all resistance by force, including killing many civilians if that is required to pacify the population. Then you can setup proper education and hope that future generations will learn enough to be able to form a democratic government once you eventually leave. It will take many decades though and during that time terrorism will only escalate.

    Well, you could also exterminate the native population and resettle the country, that’s how US was born after all, but I doubt the public would have the stomach for it nowadays.

  • OXO

    As I said, damn Yanks think they can solve anything by sending the troops in. Afghanistan is not your country. If they want to live in total chaos, that is their choice, not yours.

    And you wonder why the world hates you..

  • Diocletian

    “disturbed by their disregard for young Afghani lives.”

    First of all, the Afghani is a unit of currency. Afghans, who should be allowed to control their own Afghan lives, are the people who live in Afghanistan.

    And they ought to be left alone. Maybe they don’t want to work in WalMart and eat at McDonalds. And anyone who thinks that the United States is a democracy or is qualified to export democracy needs to spend six months reading the real news at web sites like Information Clearing House http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/ and read some truth that you will not find on your television set. Read the articles by Noam Chomsky, Paul Craig Roberts, Joe Bageant, John Pilger, Mike Whitney, Chalmers Johnson and then when you’re ready to dismiss me as a nut case you can dismiss them as well. Start here: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article26291.htm and continue reading for at least six months. I cannot in a few paragraphs here counter the decades of brainwashing and delusion you have suffered; you have to do that yourself.

    “He pointed out that the 17,000 civilian deaths to date in Afghanistan are significantly less than the 400,000 deaths estimated from Taliban rule, and a tiny fraction of the million deaths which resulted from the Soviet invasion. ”

    So what do we call the 17,000 dead? Collateral damage? Dare we recognize that the U.S. orchestrated the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? What about the 1.5 million dead civilians in Iraq, including hundreds of thousands of children, and the four million homeless and displaced Iraqi citizens? Is this also collateral damage? Is this democracy? I call this genocide; but if you want to be really accurate, then the word is sociocide, the deliberate destruction of a society along with the destruction of a people’s sense of history and identity. Do you know that Iraq is strewn with depleted uranium dust and that tens of thousands of babies are being born with horrible deformities; that this uranium is carried in the blood of returning US soldiers whose wives are also giving birth to mosters?

    Tell me, do you “support the troops?” What does your support consist of exactly? Do you send them bullets and mittens? Do you pray for them? Do you recognize that “support the troops” is nothing but a sleazy propaganda device to trick you into supporting the wars?

    Did you vote for Obama? Are you satisfied that he has ended the war and withdrawn the “troops” as promised?

    Did you see a hijacked airplane slam into the second WTC tower on television? I’m sure you saw it over and over, for it was broadcast over and over. Did you see an airplane slam into the Pentagon an hour later? Why not? Are there no cameras near the Pentagon? Was there no warning that the plane was headed to Washington, DC? If a government supported lunatic claims that the WTC towers and WTC 7, the third building to collapse that day, were toppled by space aliens with ray beams to control the airplanes, then does that make me crazy and the government’s official story correct?

    For the record, I do not support the “troops.” How can I? On 2/15/03 along with ten million others I marched in the street to demand that Iraq not be invaded in a phony search for weapons of mass destruction. Iraq had already been under daily bombardment for 12 years and had no control of its own airspace? And I am supposed to believe, because two hundred million others did, that Saddam was behind 9/11 and ready to drop nukes on the US? The so-called brave troops are nothing but criminals, as are the liars who have hijacked the U.S. government and who provide Americans with the thoughts and the opinions they want them to have.

    A lot of you people are able to think like physicists only when it comes to physics.

  • http://danielholz.com daniel

    @Diocletian (#9): Afghani->Afghan. Fixed. Thanks. As for the rest of your post, I’m confused by your main message. Are you saying we should just abruptly pick up and leave, and let the Taliban take charge? Are you arguing that this would be “best” (in any sense of the word) for the majority of Afghans?

  • ix

    I really don’t know what to do about Afghanistan at this point in time. It’s clear though that certain strategies are counter-productive. For one, demonizing the Taliban is all well and good (and there is lots they have done that fits my definition of evil) but for better or for worse, many young men are joining them in their fight against the american occupation. Negotiating with them will be the only way to get some of those men back to a normal life contributing to society instead of destroying it.

    I remember seeing a documentary (a Panorama report, I think) about the war, where american soldiers left a bunch of corpses out to rot in the night and taunted Taliban soldiers to come and bury them. It seemed to me then that an army so insensitive to the traditions and customs of the people they’re supposed to protected is not ever going to succeed in a war for the hearts and minds of the locals.

  • spyder

    I don’t think the question is so much what is to be done, but rather who is going to do what for whom? I think Daniel asked above about what would be “best” for the majority of Afghans. Well there isn’t really a majority of Afghans in Afghanistan. There are many different tribal peoples representing different sects of Islam, Zorastrianism, Buddhism, et al. The problem with the US has been that we can’t complete our mission of getting rid of Al Qaeda because we are also now at war with all of these tribal groups to one degree or another. The Taliban is at war with the Taliban for gosh sakes. \

    Currently, there are roughly 137 different US military operations ongoing in 49 countries around the world. We hear about Iraq and Afghanistan, and we do not hear about the others because they don’t inspire story. US troops are fighting on three different islands in the Philippines with three different enemies. Do they matter? We have no less than six different theaters of operations in Colombia; another grouping in Indonesia. If the goal is to allow the world to use US forces to solve all of these problems, then we stay in Afghanistan along with these others. If the goal is to significantly reduce the US footprint on the planet (some may call it empire) then we need to divest ourselves of all these operations that create collateral damage and spark distrust and eventually hatred of the US. I vote to get out. Others may vote to stay in. Either way nothing much will be changed at all.

  • réalta fuar

    The future U.S. role in Afghanistan is simple, if unpalatable to many: simply more of the same, probably for at least a decade, perhaps for much longer. Oh, troop levels will rise and fall, as will U.S. and Afghan casaulties, but to leave would simply put the civilized world at risk, once again, to those whose most fervent hope for the future is for the rest of the world to return to the 12 century, with themselves in charge, of course. A good way to put the problem in perspective is to compare the human and material cost in Afghanistan to that on the Korean peninsula, over the past 60 years. Though Korea could still go very wrong, no sane person can argue that the costs there, which dwarf by orders of magnitude those in Afghanistan, have not been worth it.

  • Alex

    “If we abruptly pick up and leave, the country will no doubt plunge back into civil war”

    What are you talking about? There already is a civil war in Afghanistan. We’re in it.

    As for whether we should stay, here’s where I stand. My country, the UK, should get out. We’re spending £5 billion a year fighting there, which if you follow the logic of our deficit cutting government, should mean we can’t afford this war, even if it is a just war. Our effort there is insignificant compared to the US effort, so even if you think NATO forces should be there, there’s no need for UK troops to be there, not when the world’s only superpower can very easily replace what they’re doing.

    Now what about the war in general? Should the US stay? Remember, we originally went in there not because of human rights abuses by the Taliban, but because of 9/11. It was predicated on self-defence. But self-defence is what you do when there’s a burglar in your house, when enemy bombers are hovering over your territory etc. Its not what you do A MONTH AFTER civilian suicidal terrorists attack parts of your country. How is that “self-defence”?

    It further should be pointed out that the Taliban actually offered to hand Osama bin Laden over if the Bush Administration would provide evidence that he was the perpetrator. Now that may have just been them stalling for time. But why should they have handed over bin Laden without due process being followed, just like it would’ve been followed had a foreign country accused a US citizen of being a terrorist. Anyway, as we all know, Bush didn’t much care for “evidence”, and so we invaded despite the Taliban’s request. It is a simple point in the laws of war that you should do everything possible to avoid war. Bush didn’t.

    Also, the war itself, just like Kosovo before it, and Iraq after, was not authorized by the UN. And AFAIK I don’t think it was properly authorized by your Congress either.

    Then we come to human rights abuses. Yes there were human rights abuses. But these were not cited when it was decided upon to invade. However, what if they had been? Well, the laws of war are pretty clear. War, for non-self defence reasons can only be justified to stop an ongoing or imminent act of genocide, ethnic cleansing etc (and even then, a peaceful solution should be sought). Was this going on under the Taliban. I don’t know, but I haven’t heard it said. Human rights abuses, yes. Genocide, no.

    So, if there was genocide or similar, then it could be “just” for NATO to stay. But only if there’s a hope of “winning”. And I hear sometimes that to do COIN successfully, you need hundreds of thousands more troops than are there currently. And thats if you don’t breed nationalist hatred of foreign troops being in their country. (In fact, it’s surely a lot more complicated than “we leave then Taliban return”. How much of what we’re fighting over there are “Taliban” anymore, and how much is actually “Pashtun nationalism”, or “narco-corruption” or something else?)

    So I conclude that the war in Afghanistan might be unwinnable (if so, that defeats any argument about staying to stop the Taliban returning, since you’d just be postponing the inevitable). And it is probably illegal, and probably immoral. I feel that more in the international political community would recognise this if after 1945, our side had prosecuted its war crimes, instead of just those on the Axis side, e.g. Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki. But as it stands, war crimes can only be committed by those not on the UN Security Council it seems.

  • Kaleberg

    The Taliban sheltered and encouraged Al Qaeda which attacked the U.S. Unlike Iraq, we had a reason to be in Afghanistan. If we had been serious, as opposed to having George W. Bush as president, we would have occupied and rebuilt Afghanistan. The problem is that it this would have required planning and cost serious money. We did this with Germany, Austria, and Japan, and it worked. Unfortunately, a nation ruled by people who think that government is the problem cannot do much, not even make itself safer.

  • Bob Torrecelli

    @Diocletian: “Read the articles by Noam Chomsky”

    If you’re still listening to anything Chomsky says you must be an idiot because all decent people stopped paying attention to him years ago when he started denying the Cambodian genocide. Talk about being in denial! Disgusting …

  • http://www.shaky.com Timon of Athens

    Diocletian said: “Read the articles by Noam Chomsky, Paul Craig Roberts, Joe Bageant, John Pilger, Mike Whitney, Chalmers Johnson and then when you’re ready to dismiss me as a nut case you can dismiss them as well. ”

    I’m very ready. Just say the word. [Hint: the word is "Chomsky".]

  • Alex

    I’m no fan of Chomsky’s, but Chomsky does not deny the Cambodian genocide.

  • C

    The basic question is “is it good to kill 10 to save 100?”. This is a blog of science, and science saids 100>10, so it seems that science saids “kill those 10 and save the 100″. Basically, “the benefit exceeds the investment”.
    But this kind of reasoning was the root of many evils. Ask any murdered, any Hitler or Stalin, they all are killing for a greater good. When a terrorist kills the people in a bus or a building, he thinks that he saves more of his people, and that anyway the killed innocents should not be counted, because they go straight in heaven.
    This kind of reasoning may lead to absurdities like taking the possessions of the top 10% richest and redistribute it to the bottom 90% poorer, killing one healthy guy and use his organs for transplants to save other 10, experimenting on people to find cures to save 10 000-1 000 000 others.

    all these Hitlers, Stalins, terrorists or invaders killing “for the better good” could look you in your eyes and say “we are the good guys”. Simply because they think they have apparently good, even scientific justifications on their sides.

    Does anybody really think that the bad guys are thinking “I am the bad guy, bwahahahaha!!!”?

  • jick

    @13 réalta fuar:

    As much as I owe my freedom to those poor American soldiers died in Korea, there’s one critical difference between Korea and Afghanistan.

    North Korea attacked first. Full scale. Which is arguably much more horrible than any crimes committed by South Korean tyrants and “anti-communist” terrorists (and I assure you, there were plenty; South Korean government murdered several hundred thousand civilians during the war). So we can justify US (and UN) intervention, and to a certain degree, we could (and did) right off occasional war crimes by American soldiers as “It’s war; shit happens.”

    I don’t think US soldiers in Afghanistan enjoy that kind of justification now.

  • http://twothreemany.blogspot.com Kal

    “the 17,000 civilian deaths to date in Afghanistan are significantly less than the 400,000 deaths estimated from Taliban rule”

    You/the director don’t provide sources, but I really doubt those numbers are comparable. 17,000 is within the standard range for an estimate based on counting known casualties. I’m less sure about this, but I would bet that 400,000 is an estimate based on a demographic survey. We know from Iraq that these methods can give widely divergent results – compare Iraq Body Count at ~ 100,000 to Lancet at ~600,000 (and there are lower and higher numbers out there too).

  • http://twothreemany.blogspot.com Kal

    @Bob Torrecelli: Actually, you should stop listening to whoever told you that Chomsky denies the Cambodia genocide, because they were lying to you. (And FWIW, which is little, the basis for the claim of denial is actually stuff Chomsky wrote contemporary with the genocide, not something recent.)

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Gotta go with the defeatists. I count myself among the woefully naïve Obama voters who bought into the dichotomous view of Afghanistan as the unfortunate, bungled, but ultimately unavoidable war we should be fighting, while Iraq should never have happened and we needed to get out at all costs. I got it right with the latter, but didn’t appreciate how my assessment of the Iraq war was doubly true of Afghanistan. We have not had, do not, and will never have, the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people, whether a majority of them hate the Taliban or not. Meanwhile, the enemy U.S. forces are fighting, be they Taliban rebels, al-Qaeda operatives, or simply heroin traders (or some mix of all three, as the case may sometimes be) can find safe haven in Pakistan, enjoying near impunity there while they regroup to attack again. The fact that bin Laden can probably watch U.S. soldiers fight from a secure hiding place across the line on some mountain in the Hindu Kush makes a mockery of our “alliance” with the Pakistani government. Yes, innocent Afghans will die if we leave, just as they were dying before, and will many years into the future. Our temporary presence there, be it another month, year, or decade, will not substantially change that fact. The only difference it will make is to harm us proportionally to the duration we indulge in this “nation-building” fantasy.

  • Alex

    Kal, the Iraq Body Count (over 100,000 today) is not a “demographic survey”. It simply counts deaths reported in the media. It should be obvious why this would be a lower bound estimate of deaths, and, if the (second) Lancet figure is right (over 600,000 by mid-2006), then it should be lower than the true value by a long way.

    Also, for the Lancet study, those surveyed were asked to show a death certificate of those they claimed had died. 90% did.

    The Lancet figure might be wrong, but it is much more likely to be closer to the true figure than the IBC figure.

  • C

    If people would got to know and understand the others deeper, they would realize that those are not that bad as they might seem. Our ancestors’ jungle life needed quick labeling of other creatures as enemies or friends. These days we still need to be aware. The reason evolved, but our tendency to judge and label the others is still at that ancestral level, because it is not performed by objective reasoning. All the arguments gathered to support our misjudgments are justifications which gave us the impression that we really understand the problem and our decision is right. The justifications come after the decision is made, and are selected to support it.

    Every person whose actions have negative impact to the others has some justifications which not only excuse, but even glorify those actions. Look around you and you will see it. At larger scale, these justifications become ideologies. The more rooted in our traditions and habits are the ideologies, the more efficient they are.

    By interacting with others in a peaceful manner, you learn to see their dreams, and to share yours. Imagine a surprise of two warriors in opposite sides when they come close and each of them realize that the other is a human being with dreams and limitations, exactly as himself.

    We should do more in this direction, in establishing communication channels, cultural exchanges, in being sympathetic to others and confident to them, in making them sympathetic to us. Today’s technology, especially the Internet, can be a way to make people understand each other better.

    You can’t kill an enemy with a human face. To be able to kill him, you have to depict him like a monster. Learn to see his human face, and show him yours, and the war will stop.

  • RA

    Going after Al Qaeda right after 9/11 was completely justified as it was pretty evident they were responsible for the terrorists attacks.

    According to a senior General, there are about 100 Al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan, so if the purpose of the invasion was to get rid of these terrorists, I think the mission is pretty much accomplished.

    Unfortunately, the objectives of the invasion in Afghanistan have become increasingly diffuse over the past 8 years.

    I think that now, Afghanistan is about control of Central Asia. All these arguments in favor of human rights and democracy and what not are simply used to make us little people feel good about ourselves. The U. S. does not want to leave for the same reason Alexander, Great Britan, the Soviet Union all wanted to invade Afghanistan (or Central Asia) throughout history. This place is too valuable from the geopolitical point of view (think of gas/oil pipelines going through Central Asia).

    Here is what I think will happen: The U. S. will never get rid of the Taliban. My guess is that they will try to find one of the “less bad” Taliban leaders and will negotiate with him, perhaps booting the central Afghan government in the process. After this, the Taliban and the U. S. will form a de facto aliance, with neither side fully acknowledging the fact that they depend on one another.

    After this negotiation the U. S. will establish permanent outposts as it has done with the other 120 countries it has invaded (voluntarily or involuntarily).

    Perhaps in 10 years or so, the U. S. will then use this outpost to stage the invasion of the real deal: Pakistan.

  • OXO

    Here’e the real reason the US will be in Afghanistan for a very long time.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/afghanistan-may-have-disco-2010-8

  • clayton

    I wouldn’t sacrifice my life nor the life of my child for anyone else’s economic development. Nor would I ask anyone else to sacrifice their lives or the lives of their children for my economic development. Interesting, disgusting, and sad that that rationalization is simply tossed out and accepted as justification for warfare.

  • Anonymous_Snowboarder

    @OXO 1.8 billion bbl (estimate) in a shithole like Afghanistan is not worht getting excited over or spending billions of dollars on military actions. Do the math ok? And you seem to think the US just sets up shop, pumps the oil out and it goes to the US Treasury. And as to why we are their, you are kidding right? The Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11? They provided safe haven for many years to UBL and Co. Are you saying they didn’t have the power to toss them out while they could meanwhile slaughter 100s of thousands of Afghans? Yeah ok.

  • chemicalscum

    You USians are such historical ignoramuses.

    Have you not heard of the “Great Game” ? This is a struggle for hegemony. An action of Empire. The evil empire (the US) is afraid of who will fill the vacuum when it is finally kicked out by the Afghans just as the British and Russians were.

    Will it be China or Russia or worse for the US Empire an alliance of the two of them. China is building a road through Pakistan to gain access to the Indian Ocean. Russia has its links to the Northern warlords. What happens to the US plans for the oil pipeline to the Central Asian republics when the US pulls out? Will the US, Russia or China dominate the Central Asian republics and their oil?

    These are the questions the Empire’s policy wonks are really asking. They couldn’t care a fart in hell for the Afghan people, except in how much it effects these issues of geopolitical realpolitik.

  • Diocletian

    @daniel – thank you for reading. Certainly just leaving asap would be best for one and all, but that will not happen. The reasons for being in Afghanistan are several, and all are ugly: money of war, control of oil and minerals – as much depriving them to others as in having them ourselves – the destruction of people’s sense of identity and history so that they can never form a viable society again, the establishment of numerous military bases for control in an economically dynamic region, control of the heroin and poppy industry, protection of the dollar as world reserve currency – the list goes on.

    People join the voluntary military under economic pressure, and that among other reasons is why the unemployment rate will be kept very high indefinitely. When you come to understand that the myths about the “greatness of America,” its good intentions and its freedom are as phony as Saddam’s WMDs, then you come to see that the US is truly just a big crime organization, enriching a super-wealthy elite at the expense of the world for decades, but now at the expense of middle class and poor Americans too. Goodbye, for example, to Social Security, hello to forced payments for crappy health plans that don’t cover what ails you, goodbye to the nation of inventors and innovators we once were.

    But one point I meant to make is that the war – actually the occupation – is like the aggression in Vietnam in that it is intended to never ever end. It has been demonstrated that for each civilian that is killed, 3-5 others become radicalized and join the Taliban. This is not incompetence on the Americans’ part; this is intended and it is a part of the successful plan in Afghanistan. New additions to the “terrorist” ranks are necessary to fuel the war, and the US planners know this. Obama did not receive the peace prize for being an idiot – he received it for following orders!

    I am saying that the whole government and all the institutions of the United States are hopelessly corrupted and that the standard of living and political rights and personal opportunities of the people are going to collapse. It is easy to corrupt an entire society when the top rulers stuff all lesser offices with corrupt and immoral bullies and persecutors. The elite power brokers – the captains of the big corporations who control all the senators and representatives with their money and who make the careers of shallow punks like Obama and fill public offices with bullies have set up a system that attacks the standard of living as well as the dignity and personal rights of Americans and by various ruses transfers all their money from their labor to their own pockets and evil enterprises. The country is becoming a more and more unpleasant place to live. The mendacity alone is enough to sicken people. It’s a huge upheaval, but I have just begun preparations for leaving for S. America. The future here in the US is really frightening. I expect a huge genocide in the US, tens of millions will be killed. I know it sounds wild and unbelievable, but people are angry, hateful and they will approve of a genocide just as Germans did. And be prepared for a whole lot of new third world enemies to hate and fight all the better to keep you minds off any dangerous ideas.

  • Diocletian

    Why do you ask me what is best for Afghanistan? Ask an Afghan. You might be the first.

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  • http://kforcounter.blogspot.com Cody

    What is to be done? I think we should have bought Afghanistan. It would have been cheaper, and people like you a lot more when you are giving them lots of money than when you are blowing them up.

    I’m half joking, but only half.

    I figure the basic premise is this: if you want someone to behave a certain way, it’s better to seduce them than it is to bully them. And economic progress is very seductive, just compare how reluctant Americans are to join the Army, versus how willing certain poverty-stricken people are to blow themselves up (in say Palestine/Israel or Iraq or maybe other places; Pakistan/Kashmir?). And in support, look at what Japan and Germany did economically after the second great war, (with a little help from their friends, including us). I know it’s more complicated than I say, (religious fundamentalism appears to play a significant role in suicide bombings, though religion too seems lessened by economic progress), but seriously, the amounts of money that we spend; hundreds of billions of dollars and Iraq has less infrastructure than when we started… that’s just bad business. Us capitalists ought to be ashamed! (I’m probably more of a socialist myself though.)

  • réalta fuar

    @20 jick Thanks for acknowledging the debt to U.S. soldiers in Korea (and, I’m sure, to those of other nations who died keeping South Korea from looking like North Korea does today). It was a long, hard slog there and it’s not over yet. But you forget that Afghanistan, thru Al Qaeda, which was shielded and supported by the Afghan government at the time (as much as you can say there’s EVER been an Afghan government in the last century) DID attack the U.S. first. If the U.S. pulls out now it’s incredibly obvious that they or possibly WORSE anti-civilization forces will simply fill the power vacuum once again. It’s also obvious that the U.S. presence there is NOT about hegemony (we had no interest in even the human rights violations there before we were attacked) or about oil or other resources (the war there has cost the U.S. incredibly in lives and treasure). And I hope that even the neo-cons weren’t stupid enough to think that the U.S. was ever REALLY going to profit from Iraqi oil, as it was obvious that was never going to happen (though they were and are pretty damn stupid, so I’m not sure that wasn’t the case).
    I know it wasn’t your comment, but the U.S. is NEVER going to invade Pakistan, they have nuclear weapons, duh! Though it’s certainly true that because they have nukes, AND their own pervasive anti-civilization forces, that Pakistan is almost certainly the most dangerous threat the civilized world currently faces (and please, no idiots saying that the U.S. fills that role).
    The U.S.presence in Afghanistan is one of those lesser evil situations that happens all the time in the real world. I’m reasonably confident that no sane American (the bushies and war mongers there are definitely NOT sane) likes this situation any more than I do.

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  • chris

    what to do? how about just leaving the country?

  • http://twothreemany.blogspot.com Kal

    “Kal, the Iraq Body Count (over 100,000 today) is not a “demographic survey”. It simply counts deaths reported in the media. It should be obvious why this would be a lower bound estimate of deaths, and, if the (second) Lancet figure is right (over 600,000 by mid-2006), then it should be lower than the true value by a long way.”

    I’m way late, but, uh, that’s exactly my point. If you do happen to see this, re-read.

  • Bob Torrecelli

    @Kal: “Actually, you should stop listening to whoever told you that Chomsky denies the Cambodia genocide, because they were lying to you.”

    Um, no, actually, they weren’t, & I resent the dissing of my sources & my own investigations, for that matter, but it’s obvious that you’re in a state of denial so there’s nothing I can say that will make any difference.

    ” (And FWIW, which is little, the basis for the claim of denial is actually stuff Chomsky wrote contemporary with the genocide, not something recent.)”

    Of course. I’m aware of that & that’s when I found out about it. It was a little over 20 yrs. ago or so. It was also around that same time that the New York Review of Books stopped publishing his articles. I’ll give you 3 guesses as to WHY they decided to do that.

  • http://www.sievemaria.com SieveMaria

    It is a civil war and the Taliban are part of the will of the Afghani people. It is the poor companies that are selling war products that will suffer when we leave – we must not forget them.

  • Brian Too

    The danger of a place like Afghanistan is that all our effort, all our blood (and theirs) may not come to anything. My father participated in peacekeeping in the Kashmir 40 years ago. It’s amazing how little has changed there in all that time.

    Only if Afghans themselves want civilization and modernity, and are willing to put their lives on the line (en mass, not in ones and twos), will it happen and stick. Then and only then will life in Afghanistan change.

    I frankly don’t buy the argument that America/The West wants Afghan resources. Uh what resources? What exactly does Afghanistan have? Afghanistan as it stands is a broken heap of rubble. Build something and it gets blown up. Even if there are undeveloped geological resources (I saw the assessment, mostly wishful thinking if you ask me), or there’s a theoretical political advantage to controlling the territory, it doesn’t hold much water.

    The Cold War is over. The Great Game ended long ago. The Soviets pulled out because they could neither hold the territory nor stomach the cost. The same will hold true of the current effort. In the end Afghanistan will be left to the Afghans. If a barbarous domestic regime returns it will be due to a failure of will and imagination of Afghans, more than anyone else.

    What do you think the story of the Taliban is? What’s their strongest recruiting tool? “These foreigners are invaders and usurpers. They come to take our land, our women, our resources. They are colonizers and occupiers.” What’s our strongest counterargument? Set a departure date, and then stick to it. Leave on schedule as announced. Be reasonable, but make it clear that there’s an end to the high levels of intervention and assistance.

  • http://rjdodds@hotmail.com rdodds

    I’m still going to watch ‘restrepo’, and admire the bravery regardless of the situation. I read all the posts, and am amazed at how wrapped up ppl are (including myself) in worldly issues, current affairs, historical figures, etc. Sure corruption is rampant and causing many efforts go in vain, but who is going to straighten it all out? The real unsung hero’s are the ones who are trying to tackle the corruption, at whatever level of gov’t or community it may be at. I say this realizing how feeble my own efforts in standing up for whats right have been. I could go on and on surmising about various nations, present day intentions, and what might happen in a year or 2, but here’s whats been laid out for us all to know, the end of it all.

    The First Assyrian (led by the King of the North) is made up of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians. This confederacy will be fortified likely by Russia. (Dan. 8:24) but not supported when the Lord destroys them. (Dan. 11:45)

    The Lord will use this confederate power to not only destroy the apostate Jews in the land (approx. 12 million destroyed in a few days)  but will also have the King of the North betray a part of his own confederacy and partially destroy: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians. (Ob. 7-9; Dan. 11:41; Is. 10:5-9; Jer. 25:15-33) – other verses are seen on the attached file.

    The first Assyrian will also punish Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia who were not confederate. The remains of the latter two (Libya and Ethiopia) join with the last Assyrian confederacy. (Ez. 38:5)
    The remains of these punished nations will be dealt with by Israel (12-tribes) led by the Lord at 1335 days at the beginning of the Millennium as they take the land promised to Abraham so many years before. (Is. 11:14; Zech. 14:14-15)

    The Edomites and Palestinians will be completely destroyed without any remains (Ob. 18; Jer. 49:10, 13) and (Zeph. 2:4; Ez. 25:12-17) while Ammon and Moab will pay tribute to Israel and be very weak (Is. 16:14; Jer. 48:47; 49:6)

    This leaves Turkey, Iran and Arabia (also Ethiopia and Libya) to join with Russia making up the Last Assyrian confederacy.  They are not the rod of Jehovah but come on their own to plunder and take spoil. Their approach to Jerusalem as described in Is. 10:25-33 is very dramatic. They get to within  a mile of the city before the Lord who is there with His people (all 12 tribes) roars out of Zion and destroys them with earthquake, hail etc. (Ez. 38:22; Is. 29:5-6; Zech. 14:12-13)

    These nations are aligned now. Turkey is denouncing the US and joining efforts with Iran. Turkey has elections in 2011 which may move them further along in this direction. Also with the US leaving Iraq the first amalgamation of the first Assyrian confederacy will likely accelerate to accomplish their mutual efforts against the Jews and other nations.

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