Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Velvet Junta

Time magazine’s Joe Klein observes that the leak of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s report on Afghanistan to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post was “a serious breach of conduct by someone, possibly in the military (or a supporter the military's position). This was an effort to lobby a quick decision on troop strength.”

It wasn’t a breach of conduct exactly; it was a sanctioned leak. As journalist Gareth Porter notes, the fact that the copy of the report published online by the Post was heavily redacted indicates it was specially prepared to release to the press.

The document’s release was merely the latest volley in the Pentagon’s unrestricted information warfare campaign to coerce its new commander in chief into supporting a never-ending “long war.” A showdown between President Obama and the Pentagon has been coming for some time, and it looks like high noon is upon us.

George W. Bush gave Gen. David Petraeus and the rest of the four-stars who signed on to support the Iraq surge (Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. Ray Odierno, Gen. George Casey, etc.) virtual control of U.S. foreign policy in April 2008 when he announced that Petraeus would make the call on troop levels in Iraq. John McCain would have given them the same latitude if elected, but when it became clear he probably wouldn’t win, the Pentagon and its supporters in Congress and the media began a drumbeat that signaled they expected the incoming Democrat to continue letting them run the show.

The long war mafia made clear its opposition to candidate Obama’s campaign promise to establish a timeline to draw down the Iraq war. Even after Obama had assumed office, Odierno, commander in Iraq, stated publicly (through Petraeus’s hagiographer Tom Ricks) that he expected to keep 30,000 more troops in Iraq through 2014 or 2015, well after the December 2011 exit deadline called for in the Status of Forces Agreement.

Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, has been a leading chanter of the mantra that says we must stay committed in Afghanistan. In a recent Joint Force Quarterly article, Mullen wrote, “The most common questions that I get in Pakistan and Afghanistan are: ‘Will you really stay with us this time?’ ‘Can we really count on you?’ I tell them that we will and that they can.”

In a recent appearance on Al Jazeera, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, "both Afghanistan and Pakistan can count on us for the long term."

Every American should be stunned that our top military leadership made these kinds of foreign policy commitments without so much as a by-your-leave from the president or Congress. This is a velvet-fisted version of the kind of military junta we’d expect to see in a banana republic.

The warmongery’s information campaign against Obama heated up in a Sept. 18 McClatchy article titled “Military growing impatient with Obama on Afghanistan.” The article said the military is complaining that, “the Obama administration is sending mixed signals about its objectives there and how many troops are needed to achieve them.” McClatchy’s information came from unnamed “officials” and “senior officers” in Kabul and Washington, who hinted that McChrystal might resign if he doesn’t get his way on additional troops. If you haven’t caught on by now, “unnamed officials” are not, for the most part, whistle blowers. They’re information operatives whose job it is to trickle propaganda into the media and make it sound like “news.”

Woodward’s Sept. 21 Post article led with McChrystal’s warning that without further troops, the eight-year conflict "will likely result in failure." This appeared on the heels of Obama’s Sept. 20 Sunday telethon during which he said, “I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or . . . sending a message that America is here for the duration."

Congressional hawks joined the attack on the commander in chief. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that "any failure to act decisively in response to General McChrystal's request could serve to undermine the other good decisions the president has made.”

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that he was "deeply troubled . . . by reports that the White House is delaying action on the General's request for more troops" because “the longer we wait the more we put our troops at risk."

John McCain told CBS’s Early Show that the longer it takes to send more troops to Afghanistan, "the more Americans will be put at risk." (Do you think maybe these guys get their talking points from the same neoconservative think tank?)

It never occurs to the likes of McConnell, Boehner and McCain that the best way to put American troops at risk is to commit more of them to combat without thinking about why you’re doing it.

Obama said that he would only approve another escalation if he has "absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be." McChrystal’s report is incoherent on the subject of strategy.

It says, “We must conduct classic counterinsurgency operations” and states that success depends not on “seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces” but on “gaining the support of the people.” That’s laughable in light of the fact that classic clear-hold-build counterinsurgency operations involve seizing terrain and destroying the insurgent forces that occupy it.

The notion that we can separate the Afghan people from the insurgents is as ludicrous as the idea of invading Mexico to separate the Hispanics from the Latinos. Nor can we pretend to be the good guys when the Karzai government we prop up is as bad or worse than the insurgents. McChrystal admits that Afghans have “little reason to support their government.”

McChrystal says he sees no sign of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. So, his argument goes, in order to disrupt al-Qaeda terror network, we need 45,000 more troops to occupy a country al Qaeda is not in to make sure it doesn’t come back. And what exactly is this al-Qaeda juggernaut we’ve come to quake in fear of? As former CIA officer Philip Giraldi recently noted, “An assessment by France’s highly regarded Paris Institute of Political Studies [suggests that] Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda has likely been reduced to a core group of eight to ten terrorists who are on the run more often than not.”

If McChrystal and his allies get their way, we’ll have deployed over 135,000 troops to Afghanistan—on top of the roughly 130,000 troops still in Iraq—for the purpose of rounding up fewer than a dozen bad guys. Daffy Duck and Wiley Coyote could come up with a better strategy than that. Our military leadership and its supporters are a thundering herd of buffoons whose only real objective is to keep the cash caissons rolling and the gravy ships afloat and the wild blue budget sky high.

Now that Petraeus and Mullen have officially endorsed McChrystal’s re-escalation strategy, the pro-war echo chamber will kick into warp drive. If Obama can stand up to America’s militaristic madness, he’ll be the first president to successfully do so since Dwight David Eisenhower, who ended Douglas MacArthur’s botched Korean War and who warned us in his 1961 farewell speech against “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” that our military industrial complex would create.

Here’s hoping Barry turns out to be a lot like Ike.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. As TomDispatch pointed out today, Teflon Dave has been keeping a low profile on the whole Afghanistan thing, in the U.S. anyway.

    But he's been busy in London, as this piece from the Times on September 18th showed.

    "The region under my command consists of 20 countries, from Egypt in the west to Pakistan in the east, and from Kazakhstan in the north to Yemen and the waters off Somalia to the south...",

    Under his command? Damn, I thought all those countries had citizens and governments, those that hadn't been invaded or destabilized, that is. Did anyone tell them that Petraeus Caesar had moved into town?

    The sooner they can say "Hail, Caesar; and farewell!" the better.

    But this next bit is the most fawning, squirming, cringing bit of posterior bussing I have ever seen.

    I suggest you keep a bucket handy.

    "If Cecil Rhodes was correct in his wonderful observation that “being an Englishman is the greatest prize in the lottery of life”, and I’m inclined to think that he was, then the second greatest prize in the lottery of life must be to be a friend of an Englishman, and based on that, the more than 230,000 men and women in uniform who work with your country’s finest day by day are very lucky indeed, as am I." .

    Excuse me. Must dash. I suddenly feel very ill.

  2. It's time to Truman McChrystal and throw in Petraeus for good measure.

  3. Commander,
    I wish I could share your limited optimism on President Obama. However, what I'm reading in HuffPost this morning are the following headlines: "McChrystal: Afghanistan worse than I Thought" and "Obama to declare that Iran has a Secret Nuclear Facility".

    That McChrystal would sit down with 60 Minutes, and "freewheel" and not the Congress, (under oath) is interesting. That we "just discovered" a new super-secret nuclear facilty in Iran is even more interesting, considering the spy-eyes in the sky we have had over there for many years.

    Damn, I really, really, do hate it that Rahm Emanuel is running the White House, and i.e. the President.

    Yep, I really do wish I could share your hope, but I have more and more doubts every day about what this President opposed to what he actually does.

  4. As of this morning things are getting interesting.


  5. What's with this whole "unknown" uranium enrichment plant in Iran?
    This one has more that a passing stench rising from it. What are they doing with all that satellite surveillance if they couldn't pick this one up? Give me a break.

    First, Gareth Porter reported that El Baradai was warning that the security reports from Iran covering 2001-2003 were were false - not that Iran had falsified them but that someone had. Gee! I wonder who would do a thing like that?

    The Coalition of the Duped have been refusing to speak to Iran about anything for ages, going around with their pointy little fingers stuck in their point little ears chanting, "Nah, nah, nah. I am not LIST-ening."

    Now the new three amigos, Obama, Brown and Sarkozy, herinafter known as See No Truth, Hear No Truth and Speak No Truth, have photo-ops with dour faces and corrugated brows, denouncing the terrible perfidy of Iran when the three of them plus Israel could wipe out the world this minute with their combined nuclear stockpiles.

    And yet somehow it's Iran that's the threat.

    I'm sorry. I rarely resort to bad language, but these hypocrites bring out the worst in me. These guys are talking a load of bollocks.

    And the newspapers lap it all up (bad image, that) and spit it out on the front pages of every newspaper.

  6. Anonymous5:34 PM

    Then there is David Brook (Newly appointed Field Marshall and military advisor to the neocons) in today's New York Times Op/Ed:

    A few gems to rebutt.

    “it’s in our long-term interests to push back — and that eventually, if we do so, extremism will wither.”

    Meaningless platitude. What long term interests are the Taliban pushing?

    What is the process of pushing back on a whim like extremism?

    What is the price of that "push back" on an idea? Is military any use? What is eventually? How long? How much cost? What are the success criteria? Nothing here to sell the bones of one Prussian infantry man. Much less sell, open ended militarist occupation forever.

    Now for a scary thought:

    Afghanistan and Pakistan “could again become a safe haven to terrorists,”

    There are a few million square miles susceptible to this, where do the US start and stop. Why not use point defenses, instead of occupying the Eurasian land mass?

    “First, American forces have become quite good at counterinsurgency. “

    Wrong, no foundation unless you buy that the past 8 years has been a playtime for the US.

    Most hard to swallow: “Second, the enemy [Taliban/Al Qiada] is wildly hated.” Then why are the Taliban an issue in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

    "Third, while many Afghan institutions are now dysfunctional, there is a base on which to build. The Afghan Army is a successful institution."

    Then why are the Taliban still an issue?

    Brooks is full of it!!

    If this place were salvagable it would have been done.


  7. David Brooks is a right-wing Onanist.


  8. Let's see, 130,000 troops in Iraq, 135,000 in Afghanistan. And in the middle, Iran. Who recently announced a
    major oil find
    which may add 20 billion barrels to Iran's already hefty (136 bbl claimed) reserves. Call me a broken record, but I still insist on seeing this stuff through the lens of energy and resource depletion. It doesn't make any sense for the Pentagon to tie up this many resources to chase a ratbag of terrorists who wouldn't even make good Bond villains. It makes perfect sense if the goal is to pre-position military assets for an eventual invasion.

    The world is on the cusp of
    an oil export crisis
    , which is why countries like China and India have been scrambling to lock in long-term contracts for energy supplies, while exporting nations like Iran and Venezuela have only been too happy to accommodate them. Countries like the U.S., the U.K., and Japan, which depend on the market for their supply, are screwed over the long haul in this scenario. Which, IMHO, may help explain the frenzy over Afghanistan, a place that has nothing we need and wouldn't even make a good tourist trap if it could be tamed.

    As much as I'd like to believe that guys like Petraeaus, Odierno, and McChrystal are just witless supermonkeys who have bulled their way to the top of the primate hierarchy, I have to admit that they are probably a lot smarter than they look and are well aware of the consequences of declining flow rates from mature oil fields on the prospects for the U.S. military's continued survival (at least in its present form). And if they don't, then there are
    in military circles
    who do

    It just doesn't make sense to me that all of this is about terrorism or getting Petraeaus elected President. The recent
    steep declines
    in output from the Cantarell field in Mexico has me wondering if the trigger for military conflict over oil is right around the corner. It would only take a series of small disruptions to flow rates from one or more of our major exporters to cause a full-blown energy panic in this country, saddled as it is with a completely fossil-fuel dependent infrastructure. And then the "nuke their ass, take their gas" cohort would gain instant political traction. After that, who knows? (President Limbaugh, anyone?).

  9. Good stuff, JP. Thanks.


  10. links to an article this morning in the Wall Street Journal.... which being the journal, you already know the slant. However, if it's true, we, the UK and France, have known about all this for years (including the previous administration) and we, (the current administration) have just been waiting for the "opportune" time to use the information we have sat on for years.

    I guess the G-20 was the "opportune" time.... after we got everybody to sign onto the "no nukes" resolution at the UN.

    Heck, JP, we have always known that we aren't going to let anybody, especially the natives, keep us from getting "our" oil.

    The "Military-Industrial Complex" would starve. And, IMHO, it's about time.

    I want the military to have to have a bake sale -- to raise money for their future hardware.