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Restrepo: Gratuitous PTSD from Afghan Hamburger Hill

Troops ream Afghan elders,
“Stop Taliban-money kills!"
OUR soldiers kill, why?

We never find out from this movie. We never hear any of them ask, either.

Fly-on-the-wall, or rather, on-the-craggy-rock-surface reality.

I appreciated this film. The filmmakers risked their lives, the same way the soldiers were risking theirs. I can understand the risk, admittedly monstrously awesome, the movie makers took for their art. As for the soldiers risking their lives over there? I have more trouble fathoming the soldiers’ risk (aside from authoritarian-following, trapped within the military matrix, betrayed by the ruling class rat bastards of the United States reasons. Excuse my French.)

Dropped into an insane, PTSD-creating environment, not for a minute but for 15 long months for the soldiers. A psyche-altering, along with possibly, even probably, life-ending, predicament. (One soldier said into the camera early on, “I’m gonna die here!”)

If you manage to escape with your life, what has it done to your sanity?

To kill Taliban soldiers in this particular war zone. This is counter-insurgency warfare. To win the hearts and minds of the citizens of the invaded countries? Why would the U.S. possibly think it could do that with its amoral corporate agenda?

The U.S. is losing the hearts and minds of its own people, I mean here in the U.S. Why does it think it can win the hearts and minds of a foreign country it is devastating out of its addiction to imperialism and greed?

The U.S., its ruling elite, imho, has lost its collective mind. It lost its morality long ago.

Why are we over there? If you think it is for American self-defense, raise your hands? No one.

If you think it is for helping the Afghan people, raise your hands? No one.

If you think it is because it is an illegal war to gain land and oil, to break the hearts and minds of a people in order to exploit their resources, you get a big fat Pentagon gold star.

If you think it is also about the American collective ego, at least the ego of the political and military ruling class, that even though the war(s) were illegally and incompetently waged and fought, WE must score a WIN to save face (though this President was too easily corrupted to embrace the opportunity he had to NOT assume responsibility for these amoral wars and bring them to a sane close which was the mandate of the people he was elected by) you are right.

The chickenhawks (you know, like the Thomas Friedmans among so very many) far from the threat of death, bloviating all over the soundstages of Meet the Press, etc., must bullshit on with the audacity to make more young soldiers gratuitously end their lives or be psychologically traumatized probably forever by being threatened by or killing others.

These same chickenhawks doom those (apparently even more expendable than the soldiers in their colossal hubris) heart-breaking (to non-Americans, anyway) legions of citizens of our invaded/occupied countries to death or devastation.

18 American soldiers on average commit suicide every day one poll reports. American heirarchy apparently not heeding such a tragic message sent. Like an addict parent, who can’t give a sh*t about his or her insanely-in-pain child. MASSIVE NEGLECT!!! Young adult soldiers and those foreigners (who really aren’t, they are the actual residents over there, the Americans are the foreigners, but the soldiers on screen were existing in a narcissistic bubble as are most likely the vast majority of the American audience watching the movie) are expendable to power and control addicts. The patriarchy. The dysfunctional and deadly American patriarchy. Willing to sacrifice anyone, anywhere, any time. Except for members of its own tiny gated crony-community. Like, for one example, the millionaires' club a/k/a the U.S. Senate. Ends justifies the means, right? And the ends are the payoffs for their own hubris, power-hunger and greed. Oh yeah, and job security. God forbid a Congress person exercised integrity and lost his or her lobby nest eggs to actually fulfill the oath of office he or she originally took.

Within this movie, male bonding in the face of death? Yes. Soldiers performing their deadly duties, motivated solely by the instinct to keep themselves and their buddies alive? Yes.

50 soldiers lost their lives securing this “death valley” which, after this company’s deployment, was soon lost to the Taliban once again.

Ever see the movie Ground Hog Day? This was the PTSD version.

How many oldsters, women and children were killed in their crazymaking assignment of tracking down the mysterious specters of Taliban and Taliban-hired fighters? Five that we saw on-screen for a second. Undoubtedly many more. That was not the focus of the film, but if you have a shred of conscience the question would haunt you as well as the plight of the soldiers.

Watching the young soldiers insist to the Afghan elders that they were their allies. When alliance with the troops was a death sentence from the Taliban for the villagers. Hello? What were the soldiers seriously offering them? Not security. A future? A present? Lose/lose scenarios the consequences faced not by the “deciders” of such surreal scenarios but by their victims all around.

Watching the young soldiers try to convince the elders how wronged the troops were being, threatened by villagers paid by the Taliban, and paid, by the way, not well and not respectfully, to fight against the Americans.

Did the soldiers never ask themselves what they were soldiering there against the Taliban and Afghan resisters for? Was their role, paid by the rat bastard corporatist-cronied political and military ruling class using citizens' tax dollars, more legitimate, righteous and superior?

The troops knew or learned when they got there they were not there for American self-defense. The troops knew or learned when they got there they were not seriously there to help the Afghan people.

They were living avatars in a most dangerous game for the rat bastard U.S. military and political elite!

Excuse my French.

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basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

Right - alliance with the US means death for the tribal elders. Lack of a US presence means death for the women and children of afghanistan.

Things are a bit more morally complicated than your post lets on.

Submitted by PA_Lady on


The Feb. 12 nighttime raid [by US Special Forces] left three women — two of them pregnant — and a local police chief and prosecutor dead.

The U.S. military says American and Afghan forces accidentally killed a child during a raid on a Taliban compound in eastern Afghanistan.

US troops opened fire on a passenger bus travelling on a highway in the Zhari District of Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province early Monday morning, killing at least four people, including a woman and a child.

In a statement e-mailed to the news media, Mr. Karzai condemned the weekend attack [by US and Afghan forces] and said the dead had been civilians, eight of them schoolboys.

Jessica Barry, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that when an aid team reached the scene of the air strikes "there women and there were children killed, it seemed they were trying to shelter in houses when they were hit".

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

under the Taliban because it's illegal for a woman to hold a job, even if she is single and has no support, that's a preferable outcome? I don't get that. Then, of course, women can't get medical care, nor can they be educated.

I just think your position is morally indefensible. We broke Afghanistan back in the seventies and what's happened to them since then is our fault. Counter-insurgency is a way to try and put it right. We're rebuilding infrastructure.

I don't know a single feminist who has spent time in Afghanistan who agrees with your position. When I read your post, I just read one more person valuing men and their perogitives over women and children, I think it's morally critical that we stay.

This sounds to me like the cries against Clinton's involvement in the Balkans even though our intervention there saved thousands of innocent Muslim lives.

Submitted by PA_Lady on

Yousaid that lack of US presence meant death for women and children, and I pointed out that women and children are still dying, but because of US forces.Is spending every single day under threat of death via US forces better than spending every single day under threat of death via Taliban forces? Personally, I see both of those as terribly wrong.

Nine years into this war, and Afghani women still have the lowest life expectancy in the world, and Afghanistan still has the highest infant mortality in the world. How, exactly, have things improved?

I agree that it is a mess of our own making. So, what can we do to fix it? What steps can we take to rebuild Afghanistan? Maybe I'm just pessimistic, but I honestly don't see how it can be done by the US, especially not by the US military. Other countries, ones the Afghani population trusts, may have better luck because they aren't carrying the baggage of negative associations that Americans do.

As a future sociologist, I have to wonder what right we (we meaning Americans, Westerners, non-Afghans) have to impose our version of "the right thing" on their culture? Why should the Afghan population have to accept our values? Are ours the only ones that matter?

On the other hand, as a feminist, I absolutely agree with your position that the women of Afghanistan should have the same rights and freedoms as you and I, and I believe we must take action to make that a reality for our Afghan sisters. But how does the mainly-male US military accomplish that?

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

from what is known as a "kill-centric" strategy (which Bush employed) to the counter-insurgency strategy that we're now employing. We aren't fighting over there as we were while Bush was in office.

Counter-insurgency changes the dynamics of engagement. Sadly, more US soldiers will die (I have a stepson who has served in Iraq and has worked in Afghanistan), but that will happen because we aren't killing everything that moves. The insurgents inevitably up their attacks on the local populace, but that drives the wedge deeper between the insurgents and the local population. That allows us to move in and do our work. We've dramatically decreased the number of deaths that we cause and we're increasing our support to their infrastructure. We're making it easier to farm, and go to school.

I utterly reject the idea that making sure that the Taliban aren't going to have the opportunity to beat, starve, and deprive women of medical care and education one more time is us forcing our values on them. I don't know how a thinking person could utter that rightwing meme. Honestly, it's a morally deplorable thought.

We may or may not be successful ultimately but I think it's immoral to not try and we have just begun our counter-insurgency efforts. A lot more women and children will die if we leave. I'm opposed to that.

Submitted by PA_Lady on

The insurgents inevitably up their attacks on the local populace, but that drives the wedge deeper between the insurgents and the local population.

Really? This is your "morally defensible" position -- that "hey, well, more people will die but it's all good because eventually the counterinsurgency program will work."

How dare you accuse me of uttering a right-wing meme?!

It is morally indefensible to sit in your safe little home in your safe little state far away from the bombs and the guns and the drones and tell other people, other women,to do the dying because EVENTUALLY we might get this right.

I utterly reject any form of feminism that says war is necessary. War is anti-feminist. Asking other women to die for their freedom is anti-feminist. Asking other women to sacrifice their children to the war machine is anti-feminist.

Wave the white feather if you must, for whatever reasons you choose to justify it, but don't call it feminism.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

The right hates counterinsurgency - they prefer a kill-centric strategy as Bush engaged for the first eight years of this conflict. And you seem to agree with them in your opposition to COIN,

Considering what's going to happen to this nation if we pick and leave now, I don't think advocating to do so is morally defensible. It's going to be ugly however it goes, but at least at the end of COIN there is hope for a more stable nation. With the Taliban in charge, there is no hope of that. It's going to be decades of war against women and children,

Your final hysterical paragraph is totally unrelated to anything I wrote. Women and children are going to die in Afghanistan whether we stay or pull out - more will die if we leave. Action is necessary and when the opposition is armed, as the Taliban is, then sometimes armed action is necessary. Just look at the Balkans. Or was that unnecessary in your book?

COIN may not be perfect but it will lead to fewer deaths than a Taliban regime will.

So, what do you think is the reasonable thing for us to do? We pull out, the Taliban takes over, leaves women and children to starve to death, and what happens next?

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

that I didn't say anything of the things that were implied that I said. That's a problem in this thread. And I haven't done that.

Submitted by PA_Lady on

Obviously, you have some personal investment (emotionally speaking) in COIN that I don't understand and, quite frankly, don't want to.

That's fine, and you're certainly entitled to your own opinions. However, not sharing them does not make me an hysteric or a Taliban supporter, nor does it make an anti-war position into a right-wing one.

Submitted by PA_Lady on

Did the soldiers never ask themselves what they were soldiering there against the Taliban and Afghan resisters for? Was their role, paid by the rat bastard corporatist-cronied political and military ruling class using citizens' tax dollars, more legitimate, righteous and superior?

I suspect the answer would be yes, and it's asking themselves those questions that is behind the increasing rates of PTSD and suicide. We're talking kids here, for the most part. They have no experience in coping with mental trauma, and we send them off to war from high school.

I remember years ago, seeing the "Marlboro Marine" picture. The kid was just twenty when that photo was snapped and what you see in those 20yo eyes is heartbreaking. Terror, sorrow, pain, exhaustion, and enormous conflict of the soul. Little wonder the young man came home with PTSD.

Iraq or Afghanistan or any other war -- same result: if you can't rationalize in some manner what you've done, if you can't ignore the real reasons for it, you cannot survive with your sense of self intact. The real wonder then is that any soldier comes home without PTSD.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I don't think they do come back without it. I read that 50% of this country has citizens impacted by trauma. I grew up with a dad who had PTSD from WWII. And that PTSD, well, the symptoms of that give a secondary generation of PTSD to the family.

They say enduring horrifying events is one thing. But having the people in charge who have authority over your life, minimize or deny those events, even force you to repeat the trauma, is an even worse layer of trauma, that psychic trauma, than the first level physical trauma. The betrayal. The addictive narcissism of those who have power over you.

The essence of Catch 22. If you are crazy enough to want out of war you are sane enough not to be let out of war. Those who don't go crazy from an insane situation are the crazy ones.

I also forgot to mention the adrenalin addiction fostered by war shown in this film. Your own internal drug. The high of the "kill" also. And in many the horrifying guilt that will follow at least subconsciously. Or the demonizing that must ensue to justify those kills.

One soldier leader leads them in prayer... that they will be able to track down the mofos that killed their buddies. That is the prayer.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

... In Iraq when there was looting and lawlessness ... and the US soldiers were instructed not to protect citizens but to protect the oil fields over there. And Rumsfeld got on the tv and told America it was propaganda spin, that the media just kept showing the same guy stealing the same vase. Bullshitting shameless Rumsfeld. What a colossal liar, so ballsy. Yeah, that and Abu Ghraib had a few bad applies, not that there was a massive torture policy implemented. Ya think that the orders to not secure the citizens of Iraq but oil oil oil from the get go might have disturbed a few Iraqi hearts and minds? And frustrated the good soldiers who had to follow orders.

Sometimes when you distill it down, it is simplistic -- about good vs. evil. The logic of the heart.

I wonder if we will be having a discussion in the near future about a blog I have written about our war with Iran, since the addiction for war, the corrupt and psychopathic US military killing machine has its momentum and a Congress that has a Pavlovian reaction to the word "terror" ... money money money for war... non-negotiable... and besides if we are distracted by war they can finish us off domestically with no crime fighting of fraud back home, send all those enforcement people out into the world against the external evil projected when the internal evil is destroying our constitutional republic.

And as for losing our young soldiers to death and PTSD, maybe the draft will be back, the rat bastards will need more young trusting spirits for the meat grinder, the hamburger hills their military daddies will send them to, and also those drones, being manufactured like crazy now, and in 40 countries, but right now US and Israel have the best ones. Again, drones can be relied on not to take a psychological hit when they kill innocent people, and when a US soldier gets killed. It won't be a buddy of the drone, and the drone operator will be 8000 miles away and there will just be some "squirters" or blips on the screen. Much more Orwellianly clean. And they are training people to see if one operator can learn to handle a whole fleet of drones, not just one. Ya don't think the chances of mistakes and more collateral damage might increase from that surreal reality, do you?

So will the plight of the women and the other people we ultimately abandon to a ferocious and cruel Taliban be blamed on the messengers of peace like me? Those damn peace people wouldn't let us finish the job. 11 million women is it in Afghanistan. We could have given each of them a million dollars and saved plenty from the graft and corruption of the war. One reporter said that we had promised the women seeds in one district... simple seeds... and they still don't have them and we lost hearts and minds over that. Seeds. Simple seeds. But war lords and drug lords.... they are rolling in money. Taxpayer money. But we couldn't get seeds to one group of village women.

I wrote that blog in one fast draft after seeing the movie, but there was a lot more I realize continues to haunt me from it.

Like the guys having to call home and worried about worrying their families and instead of honestly telling them about the horror ... assuring them they are "fine" when they so aren't. So they can't even lean out of a sense of duty to loved ones, because it is so surreal for them they are traumatized but don't want to give that horror to their families, but you can bet the ripples of pain are going out to families and especially if and when they make it home. how will they cope? Addiction? The trauma will alter their coping skills in life and their families will live on a horrifying rollercoaster of unprocessed trauma, fear, rage, frustration, bitterness, grief. Not disclosing a buddy has been killed to their own family base camp. They have only each other to rely on stuck in that nightmare. The bubble existence of the troops. Of course inspiring paranoia that is necessary to survive but also makes diplomacy between villagers all the more challenging if not impossible.

They call in one of the brass to apologize to a family for killing five of its members, women and children, and the troops see that as a big sacrifice, they brought the brass into their war zone, but is it a big deal to the traumatized family to have this man bring his "official apology"? After years over there, there is more apologizing probably which is good, but still the collateral damage. And yet mission creep, and more and more desensitization to death on the part of everyone in combat.

Courageous restraint. Asking the troops not to be hair-trigger in danger zones, but that is asking them to risk their own lives for the sake of civilians.

One conscientious objector I met said when he was in Afghanistan he was told they must out-terrorize the terrorists when it came to the villages. That was the program. Make the villagers fear the US more than the Taliban to secure the village. That was the plan. Oh, and win hearts and minds along with that.

These guys don't know who is safe and unsafe among the citizenry. Sometimes the wrong people get killed, the wrong people they round up and send to Bagram for torture and forever detention.

And yet the bloviating chickenhawks on Meet the Press talk about winning. What is winning? Stealing other people's land and oil? Controlling their country by assigning leadership to corrupt people who will deny the needs of the people but will give it up for US and Israel's and GB's "special" interests. That is the new world order our Obama is going along with. Hegemony. And keep selling those armaments to countries so that civil wars can really be deadly and the US and other imperialist nations can enter stage right and take over for its special interests when the populations are devastated. New world order, neocon style.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

I don't think that what you're advocating leads to anything but even more brutality, and that brutality will happen because of what you advocate.

We created the Taliban and destroyed the tribal system in Afghanistan. We need to make a real effort to put it back together, and if we don't make the effort (as you're advocating), then the starvation, beatings and death that follow are our responsibility. There is nothing peaceful about advocating a process that has the death of children as it's inevitable result.

I don't find this post thoughtful in the least.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

Karzai a while back to appease the conservatives permitted a wife to be raped every fourth night if she was not fulfilling her wifely duties. He is the man we are supporting. His regime is not protective of women. He is the political gamesman we have backed, with a history of oil.

Afghanistan has lost faith in us. Humanitarian considerations are not a priority to us. We are aligned with corruption so the people are lost. I don't have faith that our government is capable or inclined to honestly ... honestly ... help the people of Afghanistan.

I am calling out the corruption of our military over there, under Bush and Obama. Obama continues to use Blackwater. Obama continues Bagram black detention and torture center. A contractors' bonanza over there. The people are not significant to the ruling classes over there or here. The oil, the land, the control.

That is my opinion and what I have gleaned from what I have read.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

to the counter-insurgency action. You can't quite focus on what I said because there really isn't a response to it. Karzai can fail and fall. Bagram can stand. And the counter-insurgency action can still succeed. The counter-insurgency is there to restore the tribal system, and to create the infrastructure necessary for the Afghan people to survive.

I'll say it again - I don't know a single feminist who has worked in afghanistan who agrees with your prescription.

Submitted by lambert on

If so, how is the tradeoff made? (This is, I suppose, another version of the tyranny of the local...)

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

and attempt to do the right thing. We've broken this. I know several women who've worked in Afghanistan and they're all horrified by the idea of us pulling out. It's never great for women there, but it'll get a lot worse quickly.

There are some people on both the right and the left who hate counter-insurgency doctrine. I reject the idea that it's something empires do when they squat on another country.

I find it really disappointing when people rail against the war without any real understanding of what it's going to like if we pick up and leave as they advocate. It strikes me as an ego-driven position. They're arguing against counter-insurgency engagement without any real care for the end result and who pays the price for it.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

your snarky tone is really getting on my nerves.

We are privileged to have a forum here to exchange ideas. Chronic condescension is immature and unnecessary.

Why don't you write your own blog about counterinsurgency?

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

I haven't condescended nor have I been snarky. I suspect the problem here is that it's never occurred to you that your position isn't pro-peace or morally defensible. Policies that lead to a Taliban resurgence, whether they arise from the right or the left, are not pro-peace.

Your post strikes me as reactionary and ego-driven. I don't hear someone that is engaged by the idea of how we make like better for Afghanis after having ruined it by a decade of anti-Soviet policy. I hear someone who thinks that are advocating peace, but doesn't seem able to focus on what would be necessary to create that. When called out, you throw up lots of chaff but cannot admit to the central horror that will transpire when we leave. And of course, you won't be the one paying the price. And that's the big reason your posts strike me as ego-driven. To my mind, you give yourself away here:

So will the plight of the women and the other people we ultimately abandon to a ferocious and cruel Taliban be blamed on the messengers of peace like me?

No one else wants to go into Afghanistan. No one. The military is required because the Taliban is armed. You just want us to pull out and leave the women and children to the tender mercies of the Taliban?

Surely, you can understand how a thinking, reasoning person would be skeptical of the morality of your position.

Submitted by lambert on

... "reactionary and ego-driven" seems pretty condescending to me (although I didn't see "snark" in the earlier post -- and if anybody knows from snark, I do).

I think you're both making great points, so if we could all dial back on the personalia just a tad?

Submitted by lambert on

... as irony that burns.

The burn may be first degree (like a cold burn; Atrios) or third degree (see any flame war).

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

your snarky tone is really getting on my nerves.

We are privileged to have a forum here to exchange ideas. Chronic condescension is immature and unnecessary.

I'm neither snarky nor condescending with her. In the first post I point out that most people regard the conflict as more morally complex than she does, but that's about it. I respond in a straight forward fashion until she misrepresents my behavior in the posts. Later, she says I'm treating her like a punching bag - which is just bullshit.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I asked you to stop with the attitude. I am not your punching bag. I have a right to my feelings and thoughts. And I did my best responding to your points. You have made your attitudes quite clear. Too bad you had to go personal.

You know, what I have said was responding to the movie and what I have read, so much about what is not working. And how both Afghanis and Americans are dying.

And watching 90 minutes worth of young men cultivating PTSD in a valley area that they ultimately lost and seemed insane to be protecting with such dysfunctional relating with the villagers. Watching them not know who is their enemy and unleash horrifying weaponry at times inadvertently at civilian targets. 50 guys died and an unlisted number of civilians and the secured area from all that blood was relinquished after so much horror -- a hamburger hill. They say there is no military solution. And yet it keeps on going.

I remember hearing years ago about the tragic suicides of scores of Aghan women and I was horrified and heartbroken. No, I don't want them to be abused by the nightmarish Taliban.

But I don't trust and respect the military, even post-Bush and with Obama. I think the over-riding motivation is self-interest still, oil oil oil and the more I read of reports like from Ann Jones, the more of a corrupt travesty it seems on the part of the U.S. The money hasn't gone for infrastructure for the population. Schools being built by contractors rather than the Afghan citizens with so much graft in subcontracting, etc. A very wealthy, corrupt ruling crony class. And the horrifying entourage of parasitic contractors.

I am concerned about the women over there. But I have read in some places that the women are furious with the United States in their supporting the war lords. And the civilian deaths are caused by our presence. It is a nightmare.

I do have a relative who has been deployed there and I thought of him throughout the movie. He reminded me of one of the guys on the screen.

I am going after the roots of the imperialism here and there is a call I feel to do that. And also an American exceptionalism and tunnel vision on the part of all of us ... me .... and you ... there are a lot of dimensions, granted.

And when I said peace activists would be blamed for abandoning the women, I said that because I felt it would be a cruel thing to have happen and heartbreaking to see that if and when it happens. If America walks away leaving another country devastated. The big lie of American nation-building is not nation building. If the only tool is a hammer, American military, everything looks like a nail. Our military patriarchy communicates using violence.

Many people care about human rights and the quality of life of the poor in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. Why have so few of our tax dollars gone there? Why has humanitarian support not happened seriously over there? I understand China has moved in now to an extent and is building hospitals and schools. Is this good? I hope so but an Afghani being interviewed recently said he felt they all had to gird themselves maybe for China to be the next occupier when the US left. What a nightmare.

I do care, whether you believe that or not.

Does our government really care about hearts and minds? Do they know how to begin to honor hearts and minds of citizens of another country?

I did not set up the tragedy that is presently Afghanistan. And I am angry and frustrated that my government using our tax dollars and young soldiers as cannon fodder is not behaving collectively out of principle and moral right. Amoral opportunism. I am sure there are good people over there struggling to make it work. But the bottom line from on high I honestly believe is American special interests. Bringing up humanitarian concerns now ... I would like to believe it ... and I don't trust them. Just as I don't trust them domestically.

BTW, to dismiss what I have said as irrelevant? I didn't deserve that.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

my comments as snarky and condescending. I didn't deserve to be characterized as using you as a punching bag. What I characterized as "irrelevant" was the issues that ultimately we will be attempting to out manuever in a counterinsurgency action. I find your responses to be consistently dishonest.

I won't be engaging in any more of your threads.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I am exhausted from her and from you.

I am supposed to welcome another round with someone who offends me, not just disagrees with me but insults me, on another thread? I tried my best to go the distance here, my last long share with ba I was reaching hard, and got insults and then denial to my calling her on the insults.

And you imply cat fight and supply snark as mutual failure? You can't pull off the Solomon role especially if you want that snark payoff.

Empathy would have meant something to me, not snark entertainment, but what the hey, not an orbit maybe for feelers. Maybe if one is not the lightning rod for so much projected anger it is hard to know what it is like to be on that receiving end.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

Ann Jones:

When I wrote this piece for TomDispatch in February 2007, I'd been working intermittently since 2002 with women in Afghanistan -- women the Bush administration claimed to have "liberated" by that victory. In all those years, despite some dramatic changes on paper, the real lives of most Afghan women didn't change a bit, and many actually worsened thanks to the residual widespread infection of men's minds by germs of Taliban "thought." Today, Afghanistan is the only country in the world where women outdo men when it comes to suicide.

To transfer those changes from paper to the people, "victory" in Afghanistan should have been followed by the deployment of troops in sufficient numbers to ensure security. Securing the countryside might have enabled the Karzai government installed in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to extend its authority while international humanitarian organizations helped Afghans rebuild their country. As everyone knows, of course, that's hardly what happened.

Now, a promised new American surge in Afghanistan threatens to be too much, too late. Bent on victory again, Americans are easily manipulated by false information to call in air strikes and wipe out whole villages -- men, women, and children -- even with no enemy in sight. (In 2007 alone, the U.S. dropped about a million pounds of bombs on the Afghan countryside.) Just the other day, masses of men took to the streets to protest the death of 95 civilians, including 19 women and 60 children. Masses of men once grateful to the U.S. for overthrowing the Taliban, and hopeful of American help in rebuilding the country, are now turning against the Bush administration's ever more lethal occupation.

You don't see women among the protesters because they are at home behind closed doors, confined, just as they were before the American "liberation."

The war against the Taliban took a brief intermission after that American "victory," but the war against women went on without interruption. Earlier this year Womankind Worldwide, a British nongovernmental organization, issued a report entitled "Taking Stock: Afghan Women and Girls Seven Years On." The news? Violence against women is "epidemic." Eighty-seven percent of women complain of domestic violence. Half of those cases involve sexual violence. Sixty percent of marriages are still forced. Fifty-seven percent of brides are still under the legal age of 16. What would you call this massive use of force, complete with torture, if not "war" -- an ongoing war against women.

The current state of Afghanistan's female parliamentarians reveals a lot about the real conditions of women in that country. Many of them have proven to be merely the servants of the warlords who paid for their election campaigns. On the other hand, a few, the independent outspoken ones working for change, come under relentless attack.

Malalai Joya, who famously (and rightly) denounced some of her colleagues as war criminals, was expelled and threatened with death. Shukria Barakzai, injured in a suicide bombing last November that killed six other parliamentarians, has now earned a suicide bomber of her own. She complained recently that while Parliament has sent her letters for the past three months informing her that she is the potential target of a suicide bomber, it hasn't offered to protect her....

Ann Jones, August 2008

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

The point of counter-insurgency is that you don't call in the bombers and wipe out entire villages. Somebody who writes that is missing the entire point.

After that gargantuan mistake, why even bother?

Submitted by libbyliberal on

Ann Jones 2010

“It” is counterinsurgency or COIN, which, in fact, is really less of a strategy than a set of tactics in pursuit of a strategy. Counterinsurgency doctrine, originally designed by empires intending to squat on their colonies forever, calls for elevating the principle of “protecting the population” above pursuing the bad guys at all cost. Implementing such a strategy quickly becomes a tricky, even schizophrenic, balancing act, as I recently was reminded.


General McChrystal himself played both roles. As the U.S. commander, he was responsible for killing what he termed, at one point, “an amazing number of people” who were not threats, but he also regularly showed up at Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s palace to say, “Sorry.” Karzai praised him publicly for his frequent apologies (each, of course, reflecting an American act or acts that killed civilians), though angry Afghans were less impressed.

The part of the lethal activity that often goes awry is supposed to be counterbalanced by the “sorry” part, which may be as simple as dispatching U.S. officers to drink humble tea with local “key leaders.” Often enough, though, it comes in the form of large, unsustainable gifts. The formula, which is basic COIN, goes something like this: kill some civilians in the hunt for the bad guys and you have to make up for it by building a road. This trade-off explains why, as you travel parts of the country, interminable (and often empty) strips of black asphalt now traverse Afghanistan’s vast expanses of sand and rock, but it doesn’t explain why Afghans, thus compensated, are angrier than ever.


And don’t forget the majority of Afghans in the countryside who have scarcely been consulted at all: women. To protect Afghan women from foreign fighters, Afghan men lock them up — the women, that is. American military leaders slip easily into the all-male comfort zone, probably relieved perhaps to try to win the “hearts and minds” of something less than half “the population.”

It’s only in the last year or two that the Marines and the Army started pulling a few American women off their full-time non-combat jobs and sending them out as Female Engagement Teams (FETs) to meet and greet village women. As with so many innovative new plans in our counterinsurgency war, this one was cobbled together in a thoughtless way that risked lives and almost guaranteed failure.

Commanders have casually sent noncombatant American women soldiers — supply clerks and radio operators — outside the wire, usually with little training, no clear mission, and no follow up. Predictably, like their male counterparts, they have left a trail of good intentions and broken promises behind. So when I went out to meet village women near the Pakistan border last week with a brand-new Army FET-in-training, we faced the fury of Pashto women still waiting for a promised delivery of vegetable seeds.

Imagine. This is hardly a big item like the “government in a box” that General McChrystal promised and failed to deliver in Marja. It’s just seeds. How hard could that be?

Our visit did, however, open a window into a world military and political policymakers have ignored for all too long. It turns out that the women of Afghanistan, whom George W. Bush claimed to have liberated so many years ago, are still mostly oppressed, impoverished, malnourished, uneducated, short of seeds, and mad as hell.

Count them among a plentiful crew of angry Afghans who are living proof that “it’s not working” at all. Afghans, it seems, know the difference between genuine apologies and bribes, true commitment and false promises, generosity and self-interest. And since the whole point of COIN is to gain the hearts and minds of “the population,” those angry Afghans are a bad omen for the U.S. military and President Obama.

Moreover, it’s not working for a significant subgroup of Americans in Afghanistan either: combat soldiers. I’ve heard infantrymen place the blame for a buddy’s combat injury or death on the strict rules of engagement (“courageous restraint,” as it’s called) imposed by General McChrystal’s version of COIN strategy. Taking a page from Vietnam, they claim their hands are tied, while the enemy plays by its own rules. Rightly or wrongly, this opinion is spreading fast among grieving soldiers as casualties mount.

It’s also clear that even the lethal part of counterinsurgency isn’t working. Consider all those civilian deaths and injuries, so often the result of false information fed to Americans to entice them to settle local scores. To give just one example: American troops recently pitched hand grenades into a house in Logar Province which they’d been told was used by terrorists. Another case of false information. It held a young Afghan, a relative of an Afghan agricultural expert who happens to be an acquaintance of mine. The young man had just completed his religious education and returned to the village to become its sole maulawi, or religious teacher. The villagers, very upset, turned out to vouch for him, and the Army hospitalized him with profuse apologies. Luckily, he survived, but such routine mistakes regularly leave dead or wounded civilians and a thickening residue of rage behind.

Reports coming in from observers and colleagues in areas of the Pashtun south, once scheduled to be demonstration sites for McChrystal’s cleared, held, built, and better-governed Afghanistan, are generally grim. Before his resignation, the general himself was already referring to Marja — the farming area (initially trumpeted as a “city of 80,000 people”) where he launched his first offensive — as “a bleeding ulcer.” He also delayed the highly publicized advance into Kandahar, the country’s second largest city, supposedly to gain more time to bring around the opposing populace, which includes President Karzai. Meanwhile, humanitarian NGOs based in Kandahar complain that they can’t do their routine work assisting the city’s inhabitants while the area lies under threat of combat. Without assistance, Kandaharis grow — you guessed it — angrier.

From Kandahar province, where American soldiers mass for the well-advertised securing of Kandahar, come reports that the Afghan National Army (ANA) is stealing equipment — right down to bottled drinking water — from the U.S. military and selling it to the Taliban. U.S. commanders can’t do much about it because the official American script calls for the ANA to take over responsibility for national defense.

NATO soldiers have complained all along about the ill-trained, uninterested troops of the ANA, but the animosity between them seems to have grown deadly in some quarters. American soldiers in Kandahar report that, for their own security, they don’t tell their ANA colleagues when and where they’re going on patrol. Back in the 1980s, in the anti-Soviet jihad we supported, we trained Afghan jihadists who have today become our worst enemies, and now we may be doing it again.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

i love diversity!

BA: sorry, but i can't agree. and i have as many contacts working with "women and children" there and in the ME in general as anyone i know.

it's called "there's no way to win." ymmv, but simple put: it's only a matter of time. the US, and every other outside power, won't ever, ever be able to completely control af'stan, or change its culture. only the people who live there can. it would be great, imho, if western money stopped flowing into the country altogether, with the exception of money to help develop farming of poppies and other native/easily farmed crops that can be sold for cash.

Alexander couldn't hold it. England couldn't either. the Soviets failed. i can make this list really long, but i bet you already know it.

let me put it to you this way. you're an american taxpayer (i assume). what do you think is a better use of your limited tax dollar? helping a poor American girl to grow up healthy, have an education, get a policy related job, learn a language, and help manage aid (and i mean real aid, not the fake gravy train for cronies kind) to af'stan, or tens of thousands of dollars spent "per school child" on an afghan school that will be blown up or empty two years after it was built by our forces?

don't get me wrong: i am 100000% in favor of effective aid. long term. culturally correct. but the vast majority of the money we spend there doesn't go to that. a handful of well meaning feminists and activists who exist of the droppings of the war effort? well, i think they could do better too. we don't need a trillion dollar war to support a few of them. my next door neighbor, a woman from Afghanistan, with family in the current government, and who lost her father, brother and cousin to the Taliban and later the american invasion, agrees with me. i have to take her perspective very seriously. as well as those of the scholars, military folks and translators i know who are working there now.

compared to microloans, war is the least efficient way to change a nation's culture. that's just one thing we could be doing better, instead of bombing wedding parties and then coming in with some cash for the survivors to buy their silence, or paint a school for girls the fundies there close six weeks later.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

and children of Afghanistan to the Taliban without making an effort to begin the construction of a political infrastructure that may help sustain them.

And of course, in your final paragraph, you confuse the kill-centric policies of the Bush admin with counterinsurgency. The point of COIN is that you aren't bombing wedding parties.
Every time someone attacks COIN in Afghanistan, they always refer to the tactics employed by the Bush admin. The problems we've been having this past year are greatly diminished over the previous seven, and most of the bad behavior was on the part of Special Operations forces. That's why McChrystal finally took them under his command. I'm not sure what the status of this is now. But we are getting better and responding to the situations on the ground.

There are successful COIN actions in history. We can't make Afghanistan perfect, but hopefully, we can make it hardy enough to survive the Taliban.