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

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail