FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Lie Factory

In his latest major address on foreign policy, President Obama said this:

So after I took office … we pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our training of Afghan forces.…

In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for that country’s security. Our troops will come home. Our combat mission will come to an end. And we will work with the Afghan government to train security forces, and sustain a counterterrorism force, which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe haven to launch attacks against us or our allies.…

In the Afghan war theater, we must — and will — continue to support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014.…

The Afghan war is coming to an end.

If this and the usual sycophantic news reporting is all you’ve heard lately about the war in Afghanistan, you might think things are going well, that “America’s forces are winning.”

They are not. I trust it will be no shock to say this, but people in government lie, including presidents of the United States. Even presidents proclaimed to be different from anyone else who has ever run for that office.

Afghanistan is a hellhole. Writes Conn Hallinan at CounterPunch,

Only U.S. Gen. Joseph “Fighting Joe” Dunford, head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) thinks the war on the Taliban is being won, and that the Afghan Army is “steadily gaining in confidence, competence, and commitment.” Attacksby the Taliban are up 47 percent over last year, and the casualty rate for Afghan soldiers and police has increased 40 percent. The yearly desertion rate of the Afghan Army is between 27 percent and 30 percent.

Things have gotten so bad, Hallinan writes, that gunman in Pakistan burned a NATO convoy taking equipment out of Afghanistan. He comments,

There is nothing that better sums up the utter failure of America’s longest war than international forces getting ambushed as they try to get the hell out of the country. And yet the April 1 debacle in Baluchistan was in many ways a metaphor for a looming crisis that NATO and the United States seem totally unprepared for: with the clock ticking down on removing most combat troops by 2014, there are no official negotiations going on, nor does there seem to be any strategy for how to bring them about.

But what about the legendary Obama surge of 2009? When George W. Bush left the White House, there were 38,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Shortly after taking office, Obama sent about 30,000 more. As he said at the time, “The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al-Qa’ida supports the insurgency and threatens America from its safe haven along the Pakistani border.” Then in November 2009 he announced that he would send around 30,000 more, bringing the total, the New York Times reported, to about 100,000. “There is no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum,” Obama said. The administration has always been a bit vague about the numbers, and the term “surge” has only been applied to the second deployment. In fact, Obama roughly tripled the U.S. troop strength, before later reducing it by a third. At this point, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is almost double the number present when Bush left office.

And what has been the result? Hallinan writes,

When the Obama administration sent an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan in 2009 as part of the “surge,” the goal was to secure the country’s southern provinces, suppress opium cultivation, and force the Taliban to give up on the war. Not only did the surge fail to impress the Taliban and its allies, it never stabilized the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Both are once again under the sway of the insurgency, and opium production has soared. What the surge did manage was to spread the insurgency into formerly secure areas in the north and west.

With the exception of the current U.S. commander in Afghanistan, virtually everyone has concluded that the war has been a disaster for all involved.

(This is not the first time we’ve heard this. Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis made a detailed report to that effect after spending 2011 in Afghanistan. “What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground,” Davis wrote.)

The facts don’t stop Obama from giving the same rosy reports while promising to have the troops out by the end of next year. NATO has a withdrawal treaty with the government of President Hamid Karzai (the same one who proudly acknowledges accepting buckets of cash from the CIA), but that doesn’t mean the U.S. government will have zero presence come 2015. Hallinan writes that “several thousand U.S. Special Forces, military trainers, CIA personnel, and aircraft will remain on nine bases until 2024.”

To give you an idea of how well things are going, a May 16 suicide bomb in the capital killed six Americans and 16 Afghans. As though that were not enough of a commentary on conditions there, the political wing of the group that claimed responsibility for the bombing, Hezb-i-Islami, “is a major player in the Karzai government, with its members holding down the posts of education minister and advisor to the president.”

With allies like that.… And let’s not get started on “insider attacks,” in which Afghan troops and police kill the American and NATO troops who train them.

But Americans believe all is well and peace will prevail come 2015. Not so fast, Hallinan writes.

In theory, ISAF combat troops will exit Afghanistan in 2014 and turn the war over to the Afghan Army and police, organizations that have yet to show they can take on the insurgency. One of the Army’s crack units was recently overrun in eastern Afghanistan. Given the fragility of the Afghan government and its army, one would think that the White House would be putting on a full court press to get talks going, but instead it is following a strategy that has demonstrably failed in the past.…

Part of the problem is that the call for talks is so heavily laden with caveats and restrictions — among them that the Taliban must accept the 2004 constitution and renounce violence and “terrorism” — that it derails any possibility of real negotiations.

Obama apparently is looking for a way to bring home most of the troops without the place collapsing in chaos, which would be bad for his legacy. But, as Hallinan asks, “If the United States couldn’t smother the insurgency during the surge, how can it do so now with fewer troops?”

The lesson? Fish swim, birds fly, and people who run governments lie. They will say anything to achieve their political objectives. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental.

One trusts them at one’s peril.

Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org) in Fairfax, Va. He can be reached through his blog, Free Association.

More articles by:

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail