FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Matthew Hoh Speaks Truth to Power

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

More articles by:

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 20, 2020
Katie Fite
How the Military is Raiding Public Lands and Civilian Spaces Across the Western Front
Nicholas Levis
Bloomberg is the Equal Evil
David Swanson
Shut Down Canada Until It Solves Its War, Oil, and Genocide Problem
Thomas Knapp
Freedom for $5.30…and This Time Mexico Really is Paying for It
Nick Pemberton
Mr. Sanders: Would You like Your Coffee Without Cream, or Without Milk?
Rachel M. Fazio
A Trillion Trees in Rep. Westerman’s Hands Means a Trillion Stumps
Jeff Mackler
Break With Two-Party Capitalist Duopoly!
Rebecca Gordon
Impunity Guaranteed for Torturers (and Presidents)
Jacob Hornberger
The CIA’s Role in Operation Condor
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Let Rome Burn
Jen Pelz
Reforming Expectations to Save Western Rivers
Maria Paez Victor
Canada Trapped By Its Own Folly
stclair
Pardoning Julian Assange: Trump, WikiLeaks and the DNC
Mel Gurtov
Poor Bill Barr
February 19, 2020
Ishmael Reed
Social Media: The New Grapevine Telegraph
David Schultz
Bernie Sanders and the Revenge of the Superdelegates
Kenneth Surin
Modi’s India
Chris Floyd
Which Side Are You On?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Hysteria Isn’t Killing Nuclear Power
Dave Lindorff
Truly Remaking Social Security is the Key to Having a Livable Society in the US
ANIS SHIVANI
Bloomberg on Bloomberg: The Selected Sayings of the Much-Awaited Establishment Messiah
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Occupations: The UN Business “Black List” and Israel’s Settlements
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Case: Critical Moment for the Anti-war Movement
Howard Lisnoff
The Wealth That’s Killing Us Will Save Us: Politics Through the Looking-Glass
Yves Engler
Canada, Get Out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS
Nick Licata
The Rule of Law Under Trump
Sam Gordon
A Treatise on Trinities
Nino Pagliccia
Open Letter to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Lima Group Meeting
John Kendall Hawkins
Just Two Kings Talking
February 18, 2020
John Pilger
Julian Assange Must be Freed, Not Betrayed
Peter Harrison
Religion is a Repeating Chapter in the History of Politics
Norman Solomon
The Escalating Class War Against Bernie Sanders
Conn Hallinan
Irish Elections and Unification
Dean Baker
We Shouldn’t Have to Beg Mark Zuckerberg to Respect Democracy
Sam Pizzigati
A Silicon Valley Life Lesson: Money That ‘Clumps’ Crushes
Arshad Khan
Minority Abuse: A Slice of Life in Modi’s India
Walden Bello
China’s Economy: Powerful But Vulernable
Nicolas J S Davies
Afghan Troops say Taliban are Brothers and War is “Not Really Our Fight.”
Nyla Ali Khan
The BJP is Not India, and Every Indian is Not a Modi-Devotee
Binoy Kampmark
Buying Elections: The Bloomberg Meme Campaign
Jonah Raskin
Purgatory Under the Patriarchy
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Herakles in the Age of Climate Chaos
Bob Topper
The Conscience of a Conservative
John W. Whitehead
We’re All in This Together
Gala Pin
Bodies in Freedom: a Barcelona Story
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail