FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Matthew Hoh Speaks Truth to Power

by GARY LEUPP

There are currently about 124,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 65,000 in Afghanistan. There were 142,000 in Iraq and 31,000 in Afghanistan when Bush left office.

By my count, that’s 16,000 more imperialist troops occupying foreign territory, being where they shouldn’t be, meeting with resistance, getting killed under President Obama than under Bush.

Obama approved an additional 21,000 troops for Afghanistan in March and it was recently announced that he’s approved another 13,000 which will soon bring the total Afghan deployment to 99,000. General Stanley McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is asking for still more.

Always posturing as the judicious centrist reconciliatory figure (partly as a defense against vicious unprincipled rightwing attacks) Obama shown every indication that he will stay the course in Afghanistan. Whether it’s 13,000 more or 40,000 more, he will keep U.S. soldiers there, fighting an increasingly determined Pashtun-nationalist enemy flourishing not only in Afghanistan but in Pakistan.

It is an enemy that, intelligence analysts agree, becomes stronger in proportion to the international forces sent against it. The latter are like gasoline thrown on fire. Matthew Hoh knows this.

Hoh, a  former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq,  uniform service at the Pentagon, and State Department employment in both Iraq and Afghanistan, became the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province last July.

There the 36 year old, according to a letter he wrote to the State Department’s head of personnel, “lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan.”
“I have doubts and reservations,” he wrote, “about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”

The Washington Post paraphrases Hoh as stating in the letter that “many Afghans. . . are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there — a growing military presence in villages and valleys where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt, U.S.-backed national government is rejected. While the Taliban is a malign presence, and Pakistan-based al-Qaeda needs to be confronted. . . the United States is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off civil war.”

With his letter, Hoh becomes, as the Post puts it, “the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.”

According to the Post, “The reaction to Hoh’s letter was immediate. Senior U.S. officials, concerned that they would lose an outstanding officer and perhaps gain a prominent critic, appealed to him to stay.  U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry brought him to Kabul and offered him a job on his senior embassy staff. Hoh declined. From there, he was flown home for a face-to-face meeting with Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Holbrooke offered him a job, asking why, “if he really wanted to affect policy and help reduce the cost of the war on lives and treasure,” he shouldn’t be “inside the building, rather than outside, where you can get a lot of attention but you won’t have the same political impact?”

Hoh accepted Holbrooke’s offer, but gave the matter some thought, then turned it down. Instead of working “inside” he is going to speak out against the war publicly, because, as he puts it: “I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, ‘Listen, I don’t think this is right.’”

“I’m not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love,” he says,  emphasizing, “I was never more happy than when our Iraq team whacked a bunch of guys.” (Curiously, he seems to see that war, or at least his part in it, as the “good” war contrasting with the wrong cause in Afghanistan.) “I realize what I’m getting into . . . what people are going to say about me,” he says. “I never thought I would be doing this.”

But here he is, first U.S. official to resign in protest of the Afghan War, following the submission of an articulate critique with which Holbrooke himself had to state he largely agreed. And now he plans to make that critique public and ask people to raise their voices in protest.

This is as 47% of the people tell pollsters the war in Afghanistan’s not worth fighting, in a month producing the heaviest U.S. death toll in 8 years of war and occupation. That must trouble the advocates of acceleration even as they rest assured that Obama will stay the course in what he calls a “war of necessity.”

I notice Hoh is a Tufts University graduate. I’m sure a lot of us on campus are proud of him.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail