“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, July 05, 2008


LI noticed, with resignation, that the press largely ignored Ahmen Rashid’s book on the war in Afghanistan. It came out last month, and we reviewed it in the Statesman. There must be other reviews around somewhere, but I haven’t seen them. This is because s Rashid handily dispatches the media woven legends of the war, and shows how appallingly the Bush administration conducted the war in 2001 – 2002, guaranteeing its continuance and expansion. The latter point is never, ever expressed with any energy in these here States. Over the years, I have developed a sort of instinct about the lines that separate the serious from the never spoken in this country that arises from the comments sections in political blogs. One thing that leads to complete lack of response – to silence – is to mention what happened in Afghanistan in 2001-2002. Luckily, campers, LI does have notes – on this very blog! – recording the deadly propaganda offensive. Our fave piece of thumbsucking vis-a-vis Afghanistan came from Jack Shafer at Slate. On the eve of the Iraq war (March 27, 2003) Shafer, a gung ho journalist who would really, really have liked to have been there, bullets whizzing by his head, but, sadly, had instead to take up the burden of informing us folks at home of our superduper victories, criticized the late Johnny Apple, a NYT reporter who had apparently worried that we were getting into a quagmire in Afghanistan, with a contrarian bolletino that was stuffed with the narrative the press stuck to for years:

“Apple's fear that dropping bombs on civilians wouldn't "win Afghan 'hearts and minds' " and that the country would prove ungovernable even if the United States won turned out to be unfounded. Two weeks after his comparison of Afghanistan to Vietnam, the allies liberated Kabul, and 16 months later the place is at least as governable as San Francisco.”

Now, that Shafer thinks that if American bombed him, eviscerating his wife, burning the skin off his children, destroying his property, and perhaps incapacitating him for life, that he'd cheer them on, is a view that radiates from an inability to imagine that is so deep, has been nourished so long by a predatory lifestyle, that it can well be called a form of moral autism. To put Shafer’s screed in the proper perspective of evil, hubris, and warmongering, this is from the Slate of June 17,2008:

What is going on in Afghanistan?
In the past week, Taliban fighters staged a prison raid and freed at least 1,000 of their brethren. Soon after, they mounted offensives on seven villages and are moving in on the southern stronghold of Kandahar. One of the fiercest Taliban leaders, Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, a major U.S. ally during the days of resistance to Soviet occupiers, is bringing in foreign jihadists from all over the region to help his cause.
Meanwhile, Taliban attacks are up considerably from last year despite increases in NATO and Afghan troop levels. Gen. Dan McNeill, who recently finished a 16-month tour as NATO commander in Afghanistan, said last week that we need 400,000 troops to control the country. There are now just 110,000 (including 58,000 from the still-green Afghan National Army) and few prospects for recruiting many more—none for remotely approaching McNeill's desired head count.

Shafer wasn’t mislead by the subtle Bushies, but, instead, was one of the misleaders. He wrote well after the failure at Tora Bora, after the failures of the Anaconda campaign, after Kunduz. Kunduz? Rashid has a passage about the Kunduz airlift in his book. I’d bet 99.9 percent of the American population has no idea what that is. I’ll quote my review:

“The trouble began in the early phase of the war the press celebrated, back in 2001. Osama bin Laden's escape from Tora Bora has been well documented; Rachid notes that "Pakistani officers ... were amazed that Rumsfeld would not even put 1,000 U.S. soldiers into battle," and concluded that America was not serious about the war. This reaffirmed Musharraf's belief that the Americans would grow tired of Afghanistan and allow it once again to fall to forces more pliable to Pakistani ministrations, namely, the Taliban.

Less noted was another great escape. In Kunduz, in the northeastern part of Afghanistan, the U.S. surrounded 8,000 Taliban, Arab and Pakistani forces in November 2001. The Pakistanis were ISI, Pakistan's secret service, who were fighting with their Taliban allies against the Americans. At Musharraf's request, the Americans allowed Pakistan to send in two planes and airlift its people out. It's unclear who, precisely, was evacuated, but according to Rashid's sources, "Hundreds of ISI officers, Taliban commanders and foot soldiers belonging to the IMU (an Uzbekistan guerilla group) and al-Qaeda personnel boarded the planes."

So, I was pleased that someone was dispatched from the Olympian heights of the NYT to interview the guy.

It is still a bit of a kid glove interview. It doesn’t deal with what Rashid shows of Rumsfeld’s dealing, for instance, with Afghanistan, for which he should certainly be on trial right now. But it actually acknowledges he exists. Amazing!

1 comment:

northanger said...

glister. i got to contrarian bolletino & thought of that.

The chaos current, what was it that turned the heads of so many but a mere shallow surface glamour which has now lost its glister leaving those who scrambled after it forced to affect the proud indifference of a wooden marionette professing not to need its strings, that the tugs from above, which grow weaker by the hour, just happen to coincide with where it has every intention of going anyway, and on saying so it flops down in a defiant heap in the corner in a vain effort to prove its point. —Joel Biroco, Editorial? (KAOS 13)

It is ironic that, and for no reasons that can be causally attributed to the Gregorian Calendar, we do seem to be approaching a time in which Occidental civilisation must transform or perish. Ecological factors are of course paramount in this, both in their environmental and social aspects. It could well be that this genuine point of crisis and opportunity could be obscured, rather than enhanced, by the Millennial Experience. The need for genuine change may well be ignored in the clamour for more glamourous forms of intervention—people will await the Second Coming, or the Age of Aquarius, and all the time the hole in the sky will be getting bigger and the rain forests smaller. By the time the whole thing plays itself out, it could be too late to solve the real problems—which would compound the irony, and quite remove it from the zone of humour. —Norman Jope, The Brink (KAOS 13)