Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Heart of McDarkness

"We must incinerate them."

-- Colonel Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now

The latest bunker mentality bunk to emanate from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is that he has too many civilian contractors hoofing around on his turf. Back in June 2009, a "civilian surge" was a key component of his strategy. What made him change his mind?

Maybe his attitude adjustment has something to do with the recent announcement that five former Blackwater employees, including former president Gary Jackson and former vice-presidents William M. Mathews Jr. and Ana Bundy, have been indicted on charges of illegally obtaining automatic weapons and then lying about it. Also indicted was former Blackwater general counsel Andrew Howell. Some general counsel he turned out to be: Your honor, my clients maintain that the weapons in question only become automatic after their triggers are held in the firing position for a specified interval, therefore…

Mercenary icon Blackwater has been in legal extremis for some time. The five Blackwater Barts who went to trial in a U.S. district court for slaughtering Iraqi civilians in a 2007 incident recently got off, but only on a technicality; the prosecutor, Kenneth Kohl, did a header from the high board into the canvas by basing his case on evidence he knew would be thrown out.

Blackwater’s Afghanistan rap sheet is equally abysmal. As reported in March by Tim McGlone of the Tidewater Virginian Pilot, recently released documents show the company’s employees and their supervisors in Afghanistan are "running amok – drinking heavily, using weapons without permission, and ignoring Army protocol. " This dysfunctional environment led to the shooting deaths of two Afghan civilians by a pair of Blackwater "workers" who, prior to becoming freelance gunslingers, received other-than-honorable discharges from the U.S. military (which answers the eternal question "where do we find such men?").

Blackwater co-founder Erik Prince is a one-man rogues’ gallery. A born again self-styled soldier of fortune and son of a wealthy and influential Republican, Prince has become the G. Gordon Liddy of his generation. He has redefined "conflict of interest," acting as a participant in a CIA assassination program even as his company provided the CIA with rent-a-goons to pull jobs too dirty for even the CIA to touch.

Former Blackwater employees have filed sworn statements in federal court alleging Prince’s involvement in a host of other sinfulness: money laundering, tax evasion, using his private airplanes to run illegal guns, deceiving the State Department and other federal agencies, destroying evidence, involvement with murdering Blackwater employees who planned to provide authorities with incriminating evidence against him, and making threats of death and violence against anyone else who might be thinking about ratting him out. The affidavits assert that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life." Allegations also include Prince of running wife-swapping and child-prostitution rings. That Blackwater is accused of bribing Iraqi officials hardly seems worth mentioning.

It is worth noting that Blackwater is hardly the only mercenary outfit knocking down a piece of our woebegone war on -ism, although the company has scammed so many government contracts through paper subsidiaries that it’s difficult to tell which Murder Inc. is attached to Blackwater and which isn’t.

Blackwater’s importance is that it has been at the center of an off-the-books, outside-the-chain-of-command, and outright illegal slaughter-for-dollars operation. What’s more vital to understand, though, is that McChrystal, who now acts shocked, shocked to discover we have so many civilian contractors in his theater of operations, has been thick as a tick with all of them for a long freaking time. He was freaking commander of the freaking Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008, for five freaking years, and he didn’t just bump into the freaking mercenary hooligans from time to time, he was in freaking charge of them, and he used them to blow people away on the say-so of Dick Freaking Cheney. McChrystal is Col. Kurtz come to life and promoted to a four-star level of monstrosity.

McChrystal has also recently cried another river of crocodile tears about those poor Afghan and Pakistani kids and their moms who keep getting collaterally damaged by all the air strikes and ninja raids he’s been ordering. McChrystal has been blowing the "measure of effectiveness is civilians protected" ditty out his kazoo since his Senate confirmation hearing in June 2009, yet the most visible thing he’s done as commander in AfPak is kill civilians. Despite Pentagon rhetoric that says the key to success in Afghanistan is winning the hearts and minds of the locals, the number of Afghan civilians killed by NATO troops has doubled this year (that’s according to NATO’s own statistics, by the way).

Every time civilian casualty counts spike, McChrystal makes a Muppet show of doing something about it. He says he’s going to throttle back on the air strikes but really doesn’t, then he says he’s going to clamp down on the night raids but really doesn’t do that either. Now, he says he’s going to "review" the rules of engagement, which won’t do a pig’s moo worth of good. No matter how thoroughly he reviews the ROE, he can’t change the part that not only allows but demands that our troops defend themselves, and when the other guys start shooting, the only way for our guys to defend themselves is to shoot back.

I keep wondering how long McChrystal is going to get away with talking out both sides of his mouth, and then I remember: he’s the handpicked general of the current war president and the protégé of "King David" Petraeus, the handpicked general of the previous war president. Then I flash on Bill Murray as "Big Ernie" McCracken at the end of the film Kingpin as he maniacally shrieks, "I can do anything I want… Big Ern is above the law… what do I care?"

Lamentably, fellow citizens, the war in Afghanistan is the center of gravity of U.S. foreign policy and will be for entirely too long. "Stan the Man" McChrystal is our national heart of darkness, and his vacant, gaunt smirk is the face – or rather the two faces – of America itself.

Originally posted @ Antiwar.com

21 comments:

  1. If we have to hire mercenaries to fight our wars... they probably are wars we don't need to be in.... in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Horror! !
    The Horror! !

    ReplyDelete
  3. Not worth a pig's moo - I'll have to put that one away with my store of great phrases.

    I've never seen Kingpin but I hear that sentiment around everywhere these days. No matter what happens, nobody is called to account for anything.

    There's nothing behind McChrytal's eyes. He looks gaunt and burnt out. As for Prince, there never was. Scariest person I have ever seen.

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  4. AH, future boots for America's beloved militias. In these, the honorable discharge is strictly reserved for being black or Jewish.

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  5. maybe the government of Afghanistan and U.S are still fighting.

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  6. Military bloggers turn on their frontline hero

    Green-Beret-turned-citizen-journalist Yon said:

    “Today, I do not trust McChrystal any more than some people trust the New York Times, Obama or Bush,” Yon added. “McChrystal is a great killer, but this war is above his head. He must be watched.”

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  7. Is anybody else getting that 1914 feeling?


    Obama Revives Rumsfeld’s Missile Scheme, Risks Nuke War


    N.Korea seizes S.Korean assets, warns of war


    South Korea raises warship, finds clues on sinking


    China opens missile plant in Iran

    That last one really drives home the extent to which the non-NATO countries are banding together to resist the American bully, a fact most Americans are completely unaware of (I wonder why?). We're the good guys, after all.

    I read that Chinese purchases of American treasuries have flatlined, another fact that ordinary Americans remain blissfully ignorant of, and which will affect their live profoundly before too long, not to mention our ability to field these wonderful military assets of which we are so proud. I know this last bit well, because wherever I go in this allegedly liberal state, I hear people talking about how much they love the military and support the troops, even if they don't have a clear idea of what the purpose of it all might be (I don't either, at this point).

    I do think we might be just one Archduke away from another war, a real bastard this time, one which Americans would feel on the home front, and perhaps not just economically. I've been wondering what would happen if there were a serious split with Russia over, I don't know, an Iranian conflict, maybe?

    If Bad Vlad were to cut us off from those 800K barrels a day and that they now so thoughtfully sell us (with the Venezuelans surely right behind them), what would the reaction of our leadership be? I give Obama props for trying to repair our post-Bush foreign relations (however ineffectually), but it should obvious to everyone but the Foxtards at this point that he is a captive of forces beyond his control.

    I think, perhaps, the best we can hope for at this point is that whatever MacArthur-wannabe winds up running things doesn't have an itchy nuke-trigger finger.

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  8. Start to wonder if the US leaders dear not end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan beaause they are scared to death to get the Blackwaters back home again.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Kerstin,

    I'm not sure a few thousand more nuts with guns running around the US will make that much difference. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
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