Multiple Choice 20 QUESTIONS About the War in Afghanistan
(554 Obama-dumping days until 2012 election-Hugh's Obama's Scandals List)
1. What country does the vast majority of terrorists in Afghanistan come from?
“The U.S. war in Afghanistan is a terrorist enterprise. By employing these tactics of terror, the Pentagon seeks to force Afghan peasants to end their resistance to foreign occupation. They are succeeding in creating oceans of suffering among people, most of who have never heard of the World Trade Center or the September 11 attacks. In fact, a 2010 survey conducted by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) showed that 92 percent of 1,000 Afghan men surveyed in Helmand and Kandahar provinces knew nothing of the hijacked airliner attacks in 2001.”(Brian Becker)
2. Why are we at war in Afghanistan?
a) to fight outbreaks of international terrorism
b) to better the lives of the Afghan people
c) “to create a network of permanent military bases in an energy-rich region”… (Brian Becker) and “to further the geo-strategic and profit aims of a ruling financial elite by asserting American hegemony over the energy reserves of the Caspian Basin and the pipeline routes to funnel them to the West” (Bill Van Auken)
3. Who bears the cost of the War in Afghanistan?
a) US corporate elite
b) US politicians
c) American working class people along with their sons and daughters serving and dying or being physically and psychologically injured over there. In addition the surreally high cost of the war depletes money for jobs, social services, education or health care for them. (Van Auken)
4. How many al Qaeda members are said to be in Afghanistan presently?
c) a handful (Van Auken)
5. How many armed Afghan groups resisting the occupation have been linked to overseas acts of terror?
c) none (Van Auken)
6. Since the Afghanistan War began, 1,562 American troops have lost their lives in Afghanistan, together with another 874 British, Canadian and other foreign troops. How many of that toll has taken place over the last two years, since Barack Obama took office and organized the “surge”.
a) No additional deaths since Obama took office.
b) A quarter of that number occurred since Obama took office.
c) More than half of those deaths occurred since Obama took office. (Van Auken)
7. In 2010, 171 of all the casualties brought to the Landstuhl US military hospital in Germany underwent amputations, 11 percent of the total, while 61 of those wounded soldiers lost more than one limb. The rate of multiple amputations suffered by troops changed at what rate between 2009 and 2010?
a) stayed the same
c) tripled (Van Auken)
8. Among the recent casualties in Afghanistan is Capt. Joshua McClimans, who was killed last Friday when Afghan resistance forces fired on a forward operating base in Khost province, where he worked as part of the medical team. A native of western Pennsylvania, he left behind a wife, a young son and a step-daughter. Among the comments posted on his death in the local newspaper what was the response of his uncle?
a) "He died for a good cause."
b) "We are grateful his country appreciated his worth."
c) [He] wrote that his nephew “only did the tour to better himself and his son, but instead it cost him his life.” He added, “I just wish that this government would get their s--- together and stop all of this stupid fighting for other countries. There are people in our country that could use our help with all of the money we are spending…. Josh did not deserve this and neither does our family.” (Van Auken)
9. A recent civilian-death atrocity in Afghanistan was a US air strike last month that slaughtered nine children, ages seven to 13, as they collected firewood. General Petraeas publicly apologized (as later did Obama). Mohammed Bismil, the 20-year-old brother of two boys killed in the strike, said in a telephone interview:
a) “Thank you for caring."
b) “Accidents happen.”
c) "I don't care about the apology. The only option I have is to pick up a Kalashnikov, RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] or a suicide vest to fight." (Van Auken)
10. Last year on average how many Afghan civilians were killed every single day according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (said to be a conservative estimator)?
The United Nations reports that 2010 was the deadliest year of the war for civilians of the decade-long war, and targeted killings of Kabul government officials are at an all-time high. Petraeus often seeks to deflect this point by citing insurgent responsibility for the vast majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, but that is largely beside the point. As his own field manual makes clear, reducing the number of civilians killed by your forces is insufficient according to COIN doctrine. If you can't protect the population (or the officials within the host nation government!) from insurgent violence and intimidation, you can't win a counterinsurgency. (Van Auken)
Petraeus and Gates like to talk around this blatant break in his own strategic doctrine by narrowing the conversation to what they call "security bubbles." In his recent remarks following his trip to Afghanistan, Gates spoke of "linking zones of security in Helmand to Kandahar." But those two provinces have seen huge spikes in violence over the course of the past year, with attacks initiated by insurgents up 124 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Today's New York Times explains one of the main reasons for these jumps in violence as U.S. troops arrive in new areas:
"[G]enerals have designated scores of rural areas 'key terrain districts.' The soldiers are creating, at cost of money and blood, pockets of security.
"But when Americans arrive in a new area, attacks and improvised bombs typically follow -- making roads and trails more dangerous for the civilians whom, under current Pentagon counterinsurgency doctrine, the soldiers have arrived to protect." (Derrick Crowe)
10. How does the majority of Afghanistan people feel about the regime led by Hamid Karzai (which in turn influences their attitudes toward the US enablers of his rule).
a) “Heckuva job, Hamid!”
c) enraged and demoralized over its corruption, incompetence and gross abuse of the population
“If we were looking for a legitimate government in Afghanistan, it's crystal clear that we backed the wrong horse. Hamid Karzai and his family are neck-deep in any number of corruption scandals, the most glaring of which involves the largest private bank in Afghanistan and a sweeping control fraud scheme that has already resulted in unrest across the country. (That scandal, by the way, is likely to result in a U.S.-taxpayer-funded bank bailout for Kabulbank, according to white-collar crime expert Bill Black.) The Karzai administration is an embarrassment of illegitimacy and cronyism, and the local tentacles of the Kabul cartel are as likely to inspire people to join the insurgency as they are to win over popular support.” (Derrick Crowe)
11. According to the counterinsurgency calculus of Gen. David Petraeus, the US Afghanistan commander and soon-to-be CIA director, each civilian death recruits how many new fighters for the armed resistance?
c) 10 (Van Auken)
12, Re the 4/25/11 Kabul airport (which was supposedly secure) killings in which Ahmad Gul, a 48-year-old Afghan veteran pilot, who had first been trained 20 years ago in an Afghan air force created under Soviet tutelage was killed after methodically killing eight US troops and a civilian contractor. What does this say about the shift in the nature of the insurgency?
a) It was tragic but a rarity. No shift.
b) There is no increase in such occasions. Taliban resistance is what our military is concerned about.
c) It was the seventh and deadliest such attack this year on American or other foreign occupation troops by a member of the US-trained Afghan security forces or someone dressed in their uniform. The Americans killed in the attack were airmen assigned to train the fledgling Afghan air force, which consists of less than 50 aircraft, helicopters and transport planes which are largely confined to routine transport missions.
The Taliban said that it was responsible for the attack, but Afghan officials dismissed the claim.
The alternative explanation is significantly worse. After nearly 10 years of occupation, broad sections of the Afghan population who have no connection with the Taliban are seething with hatred for US and other foreign troops, and this is finding deadly expression in attacks by members of the security forces who are supposedly Washington’s allies.
There have been 20 such incidents of men in Afghan security force uniforms turning their weapons on US and other foreign troops since March 2009, four of them taking place this month.
Wednesday’s incident was the most deadly in terms of US troops, but follows a similarly horrific attack on April 16 at a base in eastern Laghman province, where an Afghan soldier strapped on an explosive vest and blew himself up, killing six US soldiers, four Afghan troops and an interpreter.
These attacks have a devastating effect on the morale of American forces in Afghanistan and call sharply into question the purported strategy of the Pentagon and the Obama administration of preparing a US withdrawal by training Afghan security forces to take the place of the foreign occupation. (Van Auken)
The Der Spiegel photographs [kill team victims] also help to explain why the American war in Afghanistan can probably never be “won,” in my view, just as we did not win in Vietnam. Terrible things happen in war, and terrible things are happening every day in Afghanistan, as Americans continue to conduct nightly assassination raids and have escalated the number of bombing sorties. There are also reports of suspected Taliban sympathizers we turn over to Afghan police and soldiers being tortured or worse. This will be a long haul; revenge in Afghan society does not have to come immediately. We could end up not knowing who hit us, or why, a decade or two from now. (Seymour Hersch)
Once you know all this, and once you have seen the "kill team" photos, you will understand more clearly why Afghans have turned against this occupation. The Karzai regime is more hated than ever: it only rules through intimidation, corruption, and with the help of the occupying armies. Afghans deserve much better than this.
However, this does not mean more Afghans are supporting the reactionary so-called resistance of the Taliban. Instead we are seeing the growth, under very difficult conditions, of another resistance led by students, women and the ordinary poor people of Afghanistan. They are taking to the streets to protest against the massacre of civilians and to demand an end to the war. Demonstrations like this were recently held in Kabul, Marzar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and Farah.
This resistance is inspired by the movements in other countries like Egypt and Tunisia – we want to see "people power" in Afghanistan as well. And we need the support and solidarity of people in the Nato countries.
Many new voices are speaking up against this expensive and hypocritical war in Afghanistan, including soldiers from the Nato armies. When I last visited the UK I had the honour of meeting Joe Glenton, a conscientious objector who spent months in jail for his resistance to the war in Afghanistan. Of his time in prison, Glenton said: "In the current climate I consider it a badge of honour to have served a prison sentence." (Malalai Joya)
13. How many US Air Force and Navy warplane close air support “sorties” were flown last year alone? How many bombing and strafing runs were made in January alone of this year as compared to January 2010?
a) hundreds of close air sorties
b) thousands of close air sorties
c) 35,000 close air “sorties” and the bombing and strafing runs set new records with every month. In January 2010 there were 157 attacks. In January 2011 there were 387. The Pentagon is now waging a fullout, “massive” air war! (of course, massive air war means more “collateral damage” a/k/a slaughter of civilians). (Van Auken)
14. How does Petraeus present the current status of the War in Afghanistan to Congress? How does most of Congress posture about the War in Afghanistan?
a) The war is going badly. Escalation is not working.
b) Civilian casualties are still profound.
c) "Let me make a couple of predictions about Petraeus' testimony based on experience. He will attempt to narrow the conversation to a few showcase districts in Afghanistan, use a lot of aspirational language ("What we're attempting to do," instead of, "What we've done") and assure the hand-wringers among the congressional hawks that he'll be happy to suggest to the president that they stay longer in Afghanistan if that's what he thinks is best. Most importantly, he will try to keep the conversation as far away from a high-level strategic assessment based on his own counterinsurgency doctrine as possible, because if Congress bothers to check his assertions of "progress" against what he wrote in the counterinsurgency manual, he's in for a world of hurt."
To meet this prerequisite for a successful counterinsurgency strategy, the administration promised a "civilian surge" to accompany the military escalation. But the March 8, 2011 edition of The Washington Post shows that the civilian surge has so far been a flop that's alienating the local population:
"Efforts to improve local government in critical Afghan districts have fallen far behind schedule...according to U.S. and Afghan officials familiar with the program.
"It is now expected to take four more years to assess the needs of more than 80 'key terrain' districts where the bulk of the population lives, based on figures from Afghan officials who said that escalating violence has made it difficult to recruit civil servants to work in the field.
"...Of the 1,100 U.S. civilian officials in Afghanistan, two-thirds are stationed in Kabul, according to the State Department.
"'At best, our Kabul-based experts simply reinforce the sense of big government coming from Kabul that ultimately alienates populations and leaders in the provinces,' a former U.S. official said."
As with the military side of the equation, the civilian side of the strategy is so badly broken that it's actually pushing us further away from the administration's stated goals in Afghanistan. (Derrick Crowe)
As for Congress:
At these moments, the money-gouging corrupt politicians of both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C.—from Tea Party Republicans to most Democratic Party politicians—mainly put aside all differences to join the chorus of the holy condemning the targeted demon as the troops are assembled, the war planes take to the skies and the cruise missiles crash into their targets. They are patriotic to the Empire and realize that their privileged and pampered employment as the “people’s representatives” can be quickly ended if they resolutely defy the war makers and their mass media propaganda machine. They, too, can be demonized if they step too far out of line. (Brian Becker)
15. In an April 16th article in the Washington Post about the surge and the counterinsurgency program in Afghanistan one soldier had this to say about negotiating security pacts with Afghanistan tribal elders:
a) "It’s a piece of cake."
b) "It’s not easy. We have to win their hearts and minds with as much patience as possible."
c) “You can’t just convince them through projects and goodwill,” another Marine officer said. “You have to show up at their door with two companies of Marines and start killing people. That’s how you start convincing them.”
The officer was discussing how the U.S. strategy succeeded in the signing of a security pact between elders of the Alikozai area in southern Afghanistan and the U.S.-backed Karzai government.
Many hundreds of young men from the Alikozai area were killed in an onslaught by U.S./NATO troops in months leading up the agreement, according to the Washington Post account.
“We started stacking bodies like cordwood,” said an officer in Sangin, who like other Marines asked for anonymity to speak frankly. “And they came to a point where they said, ‘Holy [expletive], there aren’t that many of us left.’”
The Washington Post is an enthusiastic supporter of the expanding war in Afghanistan. The newspaper editorial policy insists that the war is necessary for an improvement in the lives of average Afghans.
Like other U.S. corporate-owned media outlets, the Post pretends that the U.S. counter-insurgency strategy is aimed at winning the hearts and minds of impoverished Afghan villagers. Its own reports about war strategy, however, reveal that the Pentagon cares as much about Afghan villages as it did about those in Vietnam that were razed and burned by U.S. troops to “save them” from falling under the control of Vietnamese communists. (Becker)
17. What is the estimated cost of the War in Afghanistan?
a) $1 million a week
b) $500 million a week
c) $2 billion a week
The costs of this pile of failure are huge. It costs us $1 million per troop, per year to maintain our occupation of Afghanistan. That's $2 billion every week. Politicians at the federal level are contemplating ugly cuts to social safety nets, while politicians at the state level are already shredding programs that protect people suffering in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In this context, the admonitions from the White House and the Pentagon to be patient while this misbegotten strategy limps along the progress-road-to-nowhere seem perverse. The American people have been patient for roughly a decade now, but that patience has run out. (Derrick Crowe)
18. What is the current situation concerning US dollars in Afghanistan being extorted, entering the black market or even supporting the insurgents killing our own troops?
a) After almost a decade there is an efficient structure for the funding of taxpayer dollars which enhances the lives of the Afghan people.
b) After almost a decade there is accountability and austerity-mindful monitoring of funds going to Afghanistan and contractors there.
c) From Talking Points Memo:
After nearly a decade of mismanagement, theft and fraud, the U.S. military still hasn't found a way to staunch the flow of what is likely hundreds of millions -- if not billions -- of dollars in lost fuel in Afghanistan, some of which is sold on the black market and winds up in Taliban hands, a TPM investigation has found.
...When TPM asked Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), a longtime member of the defense spending panel, about the fuel losses on Wednesday, Moran was well-versed on the topic, noting that he and other members of the committee had received private briefings by defense officials about the thorny security, logistics and corruption issues posed by the fuel theft.
Over the years, the transport of the fuel into the country at times has involved agreements to siphon a portion to outside parties in order to guarantee safe passage of the trucks, Moran said, and some of that fuel has ended up in enemy hands.
This same news story also included mention of a report from last year that showed that U.S. taxpayer funds funneled through protection rackets was one of the insurgents' most significant sources of funding:
...A House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee investigation last year revealed that the companies under the host-nation contract often paid private security contractors to ensure safe passage through Afghanistan. The security contractors, in turn, made protection payment to local warlords in exchange for their agreement to prevent attacks.
Even completed big-ticket completed projects intended to win hearts and minds for the coalition have resulted in new funding streams for insurgents. From Yahoo! News:
By pumping more than $100 million into a hydropower plant, the United States sought to improve the lives of Afghans and win the hearts and minds of tribesmen and farmers who might otherwise turn to the Taliban insurgency. Instead, a prominent outside Pentagon adviser argues, the bungled boondoggle ended up funding the insurgents while doing little to help the United States end the war and bring troops home.
With our money fueling the insurgency and our killing of civilians driving more people to join the Taliban's side every week, it's little wonder that the insurgency continues to grow in size and sophistication. But that brings us back to that calculation, the one that put those nine dead boys in the column titled "Acceptable Losses." With official promises that more troops would lead to more security for ordinary Afghans having collapsed so badly that they read like a bad joke, what could possibly justify this continued bonfire of lives and resources in Afghanistan? The war's not making us safer and it's not worth the cost. Dragging this out until 2014 won't change that one bit. (Derrick Crowe)
19. What happened to the “kill team” brigade scandal?
a) serious prosecution down the chain of command
b) serious exploration of what created the homicidal sadism among these troops
c) denial and minimization in protection of the officers
An Army investigation into officers in charge of the brigade involved in murdering Afghan civilians for sport last year concluded that its commander had no responsibility for the atrocities.
Colonel Harry D. Tunnell IV was found to have pursued an aggressive “strike and destroy” strategy, but the Army determined it bore no “causal relation” to the rampant criminal activities of soldiers in the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division while they were stationed in Kandahar province.
Generals serving over the commander at FOB Ramrod complained that Tunnell “butted heads with superiors,” the Washington Post reported, and in particular with British Major Gen. Nick Carter, then overseeing operations in southern Afghanistan. Tunnell openly mocked the counterinsurgency strategy to “win hearts and minds” of the population. The brigade’s motto was “Strike—Destroy.”
As the base sustained heavy casualties, Tunnell directed forces to conduct “counter-guerrilla” operations during patrols, focusing on raids into the small farming villages and lethal force. Der Spiegel cited testimony in the report that “Tunnell himself had spoken about ‘small kill teams,’ who were supposed to ruthlessly hunt down the Taliban.” One soldier quoted in the report characterized the policy after Tunnell outlined the strategy: “If I were to paraphrase the speech and my impressions about the speech in a single sentence, the phrase would be: ‘Let’s kill those motherfuckers.’”
The probe, completed in February by Brig. Gen. Stephen Twitty, recommends Tunnell be issued only a letter of admonition. Twitty recommends that two junior officers receive letters of reprimand, a more serious penalty in terms of the possibility of career advancement. Tunnell is currently working at an Army base in Kentucky.
The report was kept confidential and separate from on-going courts martial against five members of the unit accused of war crimes.
Last month, Spc. Jeremy Morlock was sentenced to 24 years in prison for participating in the murder of three unarmed Afghan civilians between January and May 2010. The 23-year-old soldier was also found guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to cover up the killings, along with illegal drug use.
Four other soldiers—29-year-old Spc. Michael Wagnon, 22-year-old Spc. Adam Winfield, 19-year-old Pfc. Andrew Holmes, and the accused kill team ringleader, 26-year-old Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs—have also been charged with murder. Seven other unit members are charged with lesser, related crimes, including collecting thousands of photographs and videos of the killings and keeping body parts as trophies.
Because the case threatens to provoke public outrage against the military occupation, both within Afghanistan and in the United States, the Army has sought to suppress details of the killings. On March 27, Rolling Stone magazine published 18 photographs and two videos alongside a lengthy exposé of the kill team’s activities. (See, “Rolling Stone publishes photos of US war crimes in Afghanistan”)
The material makes clear that far from being the product of a few low-ranking “rogue soldiers,” as the Army insists, the atrocities were widely known about and encouraged by the culture of the military.
Moreover, the material strongly suggests that the charge sheet in the kill team case represents the tip of the iceberg, with some photos documenting mangled, unidentified corpses and bound bodies propped up before Stryker vehicles belonging to other platoons. Army documents obtained by Rolling Stone describe incidents in which soldiers lobbed grenades from their Stryker vehicles into heavily populated areas to make it appear the unit had come under attack, then opened fire on civilians.
The report on Tunnell also contains details of rampant drug use and sadism among soldiers at the base. According to the Washington Post, Col. Twitty found that “soldiers killed chickens and dogs for sport, and that one platoon member negligently fired a grenade launcher, destroying a protective barrier” at the base. “Soldiers also regularly scrawled the word ‘Crusader’ on portable bridges over Afghan irrigation ditches.”
Military brass was well aware of the “counter-guerrilla” strategy being pursued at FOB Ramrod. The military newspaper Army Times carried a report on Col. Tunnell’s leadership on December 21, 2009, just a few weeks before the first murder for which the soldiers are charged in the kill team case. (Naomi Spencer)
20. What is the most realistic take on the War in Afghanistan?
a) It is a necessary war
b) It is the “good” war
c) " ...they're conscripting tax money that we send to D.C. every year for the purpose of building our nation together into policies that we don't support and which kill people for whom we feel no malice. In fact, the strategies and tactics are so ill-conceived that they're putting our money into the hands of insurgents who kill U.S. troops. (Derrick Crowe)
(ANSWERS ARE ALL C)