Wednesday 23rd of January 2019

changing tactics...

changing tactics...

Reports have surfaced recently that the White House is instructing its senior diplomats to begin seeking “direct talks with the Taliban.” It’s a measure that would have been unthinkable at the start of the Afghanistan war yet today it’s long overdue. Despite the criticism it’s elicited, such talks offer the best chance of ending America’s longest and most futile war.


While there is broad agreement that American leaders were justified in launching military operations in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, it’s painfully evident after 17 years that no one has any idea how to end the fighting on military terms.

Possibly the biggest impediment to ending the war has been the definition of the word “win.” General Stanley McChrystal said in 2009 that winning in Afghanistan meant “reversing the perceived momentum” of the Taliban, “seek[ing] rapid growth of Afghan national security forces,” and “tackl[ing] the issue of predatory corruption by some” Afghan officials.

Nine full years and zero successes later, however, Lieutenant General Austin S. Miller, latest in line to command U.S. troops in Afghanistan, defined as America’s “core goal” at his confirmation hearing that “terrorists can never again use Afghanistan as a safe haven to threaten the United States.”

The reason McChrystal failed to end the war—and Miller will likewise fail—is that these objectives can’t be militarily accomplished.Predicating an end to the war on such is to guarantee perpetual failure. A major course correction is therefore in order.

Keeping 15,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan does not, in any way, prevent terror attacks against the United States from originating there—and for this lack of success we will pay at least $45 billionthis year alone. The real solution is therefore to withdraw our troops as quickly as can be safely accomplished rather than throw more of them into a fruitless conflict.

I personally observed in 2011 during my second combat deployment in Afghanistan that even with 140,000 U.S. and NATO boots on the ground, there were still vast swaths of the country that were ungoverned and off-limits to allied troops.

Meaning, at no point since October 2001 has American military power prevented Afghanistan from having ungoverned spaces. What has kept us safe, however—and will continue to keep us safe—has been our robust, globally focused intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that work in concert with the CIA, FBI, and local law enforcement to defend our borders from external attack.

Many pundits claim that if the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan then chaos will reign there—and that is almost certainly true. But that’s how we found Afghanistan, that’s how it is today, and—wholly irrespective of when or under what conditions the U.S. leaves—that’s how it will be long into the future until Afghans themselves come to an accommodation.

The question U.S. policymakers need to ask is which is more important to American interests: the maintenance of a perpetually costly war that fails to prevent any future attacks, or ending America’s participation in that war?

 

READ MORE:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/its-past-time-to-withdra...

 

Gus cartoon at top from 2012

we gotta get out of this place...

 

The veneer of civilisation...

Many of the men and women we interviewed for We Gotta Get Out of This Place had never talked about their Vietnam war experience, even with their spouses and family members. But we found they could talk about a song — “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”, “My Girl”, “And When I Die”, “Ring of Fire” and scores of others. And the talking helped heal some of the wounds left from the war.

When we began our interviews, we planned to organize it into a set of essays focusing on the most frequently mentioned songs, a Vietnam Vets Top 20 if you will, harkening back to the radio countdowns that so many of us grew up listening to.

Well, it didn’t take long for us to realize that to do justice to the vets’ diverse, and personal, musical experiences would require something more like a Top 200 — or 2,000! Still, we did find some common ground. These are the 10 most mentioned songs by the Vietnam vets we interviewed. Realizing, of course, that every soldier had their own special song that helped bring them home.


1. We Gotta Get Out of This Place by The Animals

(1965; No. 13 Billboard Hot 100)

No one saw this coming. Not the writers of the song — the dynamic Brill Building duo of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil; not the group who recorded it — The Animals and their iconic lead singer, Eric Burdon; not the 3 million soldiers who fought in Vietnam who placed extra importance on the lyrics. But the fact is that We Gotta Get Out of This Place is regarded by most Vietnam vets as our We Shall Overcome, says Bobbie Keith, an Armed Forces Radio DJ in Vietnam from 1967-69. Or as Leroy Tecube, an Apache infantryman stationed south of Chu Lai in 1968, recalls: “When the chorus began, singing ability didn’t matter; drunk or sober, everyone joined in as loud as he could.” No wonder it became the title of our book!


Songs Vietnam Veterans Remember Most

 

Read more:

 

https://www.thirteen.org/blog-post/top-10-vietnam-songs-veterans-playlis...

 

See also: NO NEW PROTEST SONGS...

 

 

 

 

the end of wars?...

If we consider the war in Syria not as a singular event, but as the culmination of a world war which has persisted for a quarter of a century, we have to ask ourselves about the consequences of the imminent end of hostilities. Its completion marks the defeat of an ideology, that is to say globalisation and financial capitalism. The people who have not understood this, particularly in Western Europe, are defining their own exclusion from the rest of the world.


World wars do not only end with a winner and a loser. Their termination defines the contours of a new world.

The First World War ended with the defeat of the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. The cessation of hostilities was marked by the elaboration of an international organisation, the League of Nations (LN), tasked with abolishing secret diplomacy and settling any conflicts between the member-states by arbitration.

The Second World War ended with the victory of the Soviet Union over the Nazi Reich and the Japanese Empire of hakkō ichiu [1], followed by a frantic chase between the Allies to occupy what was left of the vanquished Coalition. It gave birth to a new structure, the United Nations Organisation (UNO), tasked with preventing new wars by establishing international Law around a double legitimacy – the General Assembly, where each state has a voice, irrespective of its size, and a directorate composed of the five main victors, the Security Council.

The Cold War was not the Third World War. It did not end with the defeat of the Soviet Union, but by its collapse in and onto itself. It was not followed by the creation of new structures, but by the integration of the states of the USSR into pre-existing organisations.

The Third World War began in Yugoslavia, continued in Afghanistan, Iraq, Georgia, Libya and Yemen, and ended in Syria. Its battle-grounds were confined to the Balkans, the Caucasus and what we now call the « Greater Middle East ». It has cost the lives of countless Muslim and Orthodox Christian populations, without spilling over too much into the Western world. It is in the process of drawing to a close since the Putin-Trump Summit in Helsinki.

The profound changes which have transformed the world over the last 26 years transferred a part of the power of governments towards other entities, both administrative and private – and also vice versa. For example, we saw a private army, Daesh, proclaim itself a sovereign state. Or again, we watched General David Petraeus organise the most voluminous arms traffic in History when he directed the CIA, and then continue it after his resignation on behalf of a private company, the hedge fund KKR [2].

This situation may be described as a confrontation between, on the one hand, a transnational ruling class and, on the other, the governments responsible to their people.

Contrary to the imputations of propaganda, which attribute the causes of war to immediate circumstances, the true causes are to be found in rivalries and in deep-seated, ancient ambitions. States take years to challenge one another. Often, it is only with the passage of time that we are able to understand the conflicts which devour us.

For example, very few people understood what was happening during the Japanese invasion of Manchuria (1931) and waited until the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Germany(1938) to understand that it was racist ideologies which provoked the Second World War. Identically, rare are those who understood that by the war of Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992) the alliance between NATO and political Islam opened the way for the destruction of the Muslim world [3].

And today, despite the work of journalists and historians, many people have still not understood the enormity of the manipulation of which we have all been victims. They refuse to admit that NATO coordinated its Saudi and Iranian auxiliaries on the European continent. And yet this is a fact which is impossible to contest [4].

Similarly, they refuse to admit that Al-Qaïda, accused by the United States of having perpetrated the terrorist attacks of 9/11, fought under the orders of NATO in Libya and Syria. And yet this is another fact that is impossible to contradict [5].

The initial plan, which was intended to set the Muslim world against the Orthodox world, became transformed as it unfolded. There was no « war of civilisations ». Chiite Iran turned against NATO, which it had served in Yugoslavia, and allied with Orthodox Russia in order to save multi-confessional Syria.

We must open our eyes to History and prepare ourselves for the dawn of a new world system in which certain of our friends of yesterday have become our enemies of today, and vice-versa.

In Helsinki, it was not the United States which drew up an agreement with the Federation of Russia. It was the White House alone. Because the common enemy is a transnational group which exercises authority in the United States. Since this group considers itself, and not the elected President, to be the representative of the USA, it did not hesitate to immediately accuse President Trump of treason.

This transnational group has succeeded in making us believe that ideologies are dead and that History is finished. It presents globalisation, in other words Anglo-Saxon domination by way of the extension of the US language and life-style, as the consequence of the technical development of transport and communication. It assures us that a single political system is the ideal for all humanity - democracy (in other words « government of the People, by the People, for the People ») - and that it is possible to impose this ideal by force on all humanity. Finally, it presents the freedom of circulation of people and capitals as the solution to all problems of labour and investment.

However, these assertions, which we all accept in the course of our daily lives, do not stand up to a minute of thought.

Behind these lies, the transnational group has systematically worn down the Power of states and amassed fortunes.

The side which will be the victor of this long war defends, on the contrary, the idea that in order to chose their destiny, people must organise themselves into clearly-defined Nations, based either on a land or else on a common history or project. Consequently, it supports national economies rather than transnational finance.

We have just experienced the World Football Cup. If the ideology of globalisation had won the war, we should have supported not only our national team, but also the teams of other countries according to their membership of our common supra-national structures. For example, the Belgians and the French would have had to support one another mutually by waving the flag of the European Union. But this did not occur to a single supporter. This fact shows the chasm which separates the propaganda with which we are force-fed and which we repeat, and our spontaneous behaviour. Despite appearances, the superficial victory of globalism has not modified what we are.

It is obviously no coincidence if Syria, where the idea of a state was first imagined and developed several thousand years ago, is the land upon which this war will end. It is because they benefited from a true state which never stopped functioning that Syria, its people, its army and its President were able to resist against the most gigantic coalition in History, constituted by 114 member states of the United Nations.

Thierry Meyssan

Translation 
Pete Kimberley

 

Read more:

http://www.voltairenet.org/article202215.html

 

embassy-ing...

According to the Fars agency, following a meeting between the chiefs of the Emirati and Syrian intelligence services — generals Mahamat Al-Chamsi and Ali Mamlouk — the decision to reopen the UAE embassy in Damascus was approved.

 

The Emirates have already reopened an air link with Damascus.

 

Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the youngest son and strongman of the country, has decided to be ahead of Westerners in this regard.

 

At the initiative of the United Kingdom and France, almost all embassies in Syria were closed at the beginning of the war.

 

Read more:

http://www.voltairenet.org/article202242.html

 

Translation by Jules Letambour. Read from top.

turning the war into a private affair...

White House national security adviser John Bolton stated on Sunday that he is interested in a proposal by Erik Prince - founder of private military company Blackwater - to shift the prosecution of the 17-year US war in Afghanistan away from the Pentagon to private mercenaries.

Bolton — an appointee of US President Donald Trump like Blackwater founder Prince's sister US Secretary of Education Betsy Devos — made his remarks earlier during an ABC.com weekly news program.

The top White House advisor's comments follow reports that Trump has allowed for the possibility of placing for-profit mercenary companies in charge of shoring up the increasingly unpopular US-supported Afghan government of former American citizen Ashraf Ghani, instead of using armed Pentagon ‘advisors.'

Asked about the likelihood of mercenaries prosecuting America's many wars abroad, Bolton averred, saying only that, "there are always a lot of discussions," cited by The Hill.

"I'm always open to new ideas," the noted warhawk added, however, although he was careful not to second-guess his boss.

"I'm not going to comment on what [Trump's] thinking is. That'll ultimately be the president's decision," he quickly noted.

Trump is said to be interested in Prince's offer to privatize the US war in Afghanistan, according to reports.

 

Read more:

https://sputniknews.com/military/201808191067321331-Bolton-Open-to-priva...

he did not make it home...

NORTH OGDEN, Utah — The call had come again. Brent Taylor, the mayor of North Ogden and a major in the Utah National Guard, would be going to Afghanistan for his fourth deployment.

He told his constituents about it on Facebook in January, leaning into the camera to explain that he had been called to serve his country “whenever and however I can” and that he would be gone for a year, as part of a team helping to train an Afghan Army commando battalion. “Service is really what leadership is all about,” he told them.

He said goodbye to his wife, Jennie, and their seven children, and turned over his municipal duties to his friend Brent Chugg. “You need to keep safe,” Mr. Chugg told him. “I will,” Major Taylor replied.

He did not make it home. Major Taylor, 39, was killed on Saturday in an insider attack, apparently by one of the people he was there to help.

 

Read more:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/04/us/utah-mayor-killed-afghanistan-brent-taylor.html

 

Read from top...

 

Sad case of misplaced "duty". Condolences to the family. After more than 17 years of US war in Afghanistan, isn't it time to revise the plan for this country that has been at war for the best part of the last 40 years? It took nearly 10 years for the Russians to quit. The Soviet–Afghan War lasted over nine years, from December 1979 to February 1989, while trying to protect the new budding socialist government in Afghanistan. The Russians were fighting against the Taliban (then called Mujahideen) who were helped by the CIA to destroy such "socialism" in Afghanistan. Eventually the victorious Mujahideen became the Taliban who are now fighting their partner in crime, the USA. Like the German in Poland or France during WW2, the USA is not seen as a "liberator" but as an occupier. So, what is the duty of an "occupier"?... Teach locals how to occupy their own countries? Teach them how to eat Macburgers without spilling half the sweet buns on the floor? I know it's a bit more complicated than this, but the rigmarole of the US elections, past and present, are no education material to be proud of... 

no idea where they are...

  • Seth Harp is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone.

  •  

The largest American military base in Syria covers more than five hundred acres, but it can’t be seen from the road. When I visited in mid-October, on the condition that I not reveal the exact location, I thought my taxi-driver had brought me to the wrong place. All I saw were a few Kurdish soldiers standing around a barricade. But, past the checkpoint and up a hill, a vast encampment spread out before us. The perimeter was constructed of dirt berms, sod-filled gabions, and razor wire. The runway was more than a mile long, and sunk below grade, so that planes would seem to disappear as they landed. There were hastily constructed wood buildings, huge clamshell tents, stacks of shipping containers, rows of white trucks and sport-utility vehicles, prefabricated trailers housing showers and latrines, and a dusty athletic field where soldiers were jogging around a track in the desert twilight.

Inside the main gate were soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, and many others in civilian attire wearing sidearms or carrying assault rifles. Quite a few were women. Everyone looked well fed. There was a telecommunications tower, and the Wi-Fi was the best I’d had in weeks of reporting around Syria. A small store sold cigarettes, snacks, candy, energy drinks, and protein powder, as well as cheap souvenirs like kaffiyehs and fake daggers. For fifteen dollars, I bought a sweatshirt that said “Syriagonia” instead of Patagonia.

The American intervention in Syria, now in its fourth year, began as a small Special Forces mission of the kind the Pentagon is currently running in a dozen countries. In the fall of 2015, when President Barack Obama deployed fifty commandos to advise the Syrian Kurds in their war with the Islamic State, his Administration denied that he was breaking his promise not to put “boots on the ground.” “We have run special ops already,” Obama said, “and, really, this is just an extension.” Since then, the number of military personnel in the country has steadily grown, first to two hundred and fifty, then to five hundred, then to two thousand, and there’s reason to believe the true figure is now twice that. (During a press briefing in October, 2017, an Army general let slip that the number was four thousand.) Congress has not authorized military action in Syria, nor is there a United Nations mandate permitting the use of force. Nevertheless, over the last three years, the mission has morphed into something more like a conventional ground war. The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia. Four U.S. service members have died in Syria. But, because Operation Inherent Resolve, as the Pentagon calls its mission here, falls under the authority of the Joint Special Operations Command, known as jsoc, basic facts are kept classified, including the cost of the mission, the units involved, where they are located, and the number of wounded, which is believed to be substantial.

The stated purpose of the operation, which also comprises western Iraq, is to defeat the Islamic State. Under Obama, an American-backed, Kurdish-led coalition of militias known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., seized isis territory through 2016, in large part thanks to American airpower, which decimated isis positions in advance of the Kurdish infantry. The S.D.F. had the Islamic State’s capital city, Raqqa, surrounded by that winter, but the offensive stalled when Donald Trump took office. Trump, whose family has financial ties to Turkey, was then currying favor with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is violently hostile to ethnic minorities, especially the Kurds. For three months, Trump’s generals tried and failed to come up with an alternative plan. In the end, Trump quietly doubled down on Obama’s strategy and upped the number of commandos, sent conventional troops, including marines, and reinforced the S.D.F. with weapons and vehicles. Raqqa fell to the S.D.F. in October of 2017, and the Islamic State ceased to exist as a territorial polity.

Today, the American commandos and marines are down the Euphrates River Valley in Deir Ezzor, supporting the S.D.F. in a final offensive against the last pocket of isis territory in Syria. Meanwhile, the Assad regime, freed from having to fight the Islamic State on its own, is on the verge of defeating the remaining Sunni rebels in Idlib. Turkey is still a wild card, but the once-cluttered battlefield map is increasingly divided between just two coalitions: the Russia-Iran-Assad alliance, in control of two-thirds of the country, including Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs, and the American-backed S.D.F., in control of the rest, including Raqqa. That raises the possibility of a negotiated peace, given that the Kurds and President Bashar al-Assad have never declared war on each other, and the United States and Russia have no interest in clashing militarily. The American government’s two declared goals in Syria are to defeat the Islamic State militarily and to usher Assad out through some kind of political transition. The first is nearly accomplished, but the second is off the table, according to the Russians, who are in a position to dictate what happens in Damascus. It might make sense for Trump to simply declare victory against the Islamic State and walk away, except for one thing: Iran.

Apart from Russia, Iran has been the Assad regime’s biggest backer since the war began. The Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force are spearheading a large contingent of Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries in Syria, and Iran-aligned Hezbollah has also thrown in with Assad’s Army. For the most part, the Shiite coalition’s war on the Sunni rebels has taken place west of the Euphrates, separate from the Kurds’ war with the Islamic State. But there have been isolated incidents of American forces shooting down Iranian drones, or bombing Shiite militiamen, especially around the al-Tanf border crossing with Iraq, where jsoc has an outpost to block Iranian access to the Baghdad-Damascus highway.

This past March, Trump announced that American personnel would be withdrawing from Syria “very soon.” In April, following the resignation and felony guilty plea of his first national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, and the firing of his replacement, H. R. McMaster, the office fell to John R. Bolton, an unrepentant architect of the Iraq War. Earlier in the year, Bolton had said on Fox News, “Our goal should be regime change in Iran.” A month after Bolton joined the White House, the Trump Administration reneged on the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions meant to strangle the Iranian economy. Brian Hook, a Bolton aide during the Bush Administration, is now Trump’s “special representative for Iran.” James F. Jeffrey, a diplomat who served as Bush’s chargé d’affaires in Baghdad, is now the “special representative for Syria engagement.” On September 6th, Jeffrey announced that Trump had agreed to keep U.S. troops in Syria indefinitely.“We are not in a hurry,” he said. On September 22nd, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani spoke at an Iran Uprising summit held in Manhattan. “I don’t know when we’re going to overthrow them,” he said. “It could be in a few days, months, a couple of years. But it’s going to happen.” On September 24th, Bolton confirmed to reporters in New York that American troops would not withdraw from Syria until all Iranian forces were gone, including Iranian “proxies and militias,” which could describe any number of armed groups, including the Assad regime itself. He went on to call Iran a “rogue regime,” and released a National Security Council document designating Iran the United States’ top counterterrorism priority. On September 28th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered the evacuation of the American consulate in Basra, in the far south of Iraq, based on the questionable claim that it had come under rocket fire from Iranian militias. This redux of the Iraq War road show culminated on September 25th, when, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly—at the same lectern where Bush threatened Saddam Hussein, in 2002—Trump said, of Iran, “We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons.”

The belligerent talk from Washington might be a ploy to intimidate Tehran, a calculated move to turn Trump’s unpredictable nature into strategic leverage. But the Iranians appear willing to respond in kind. On October 1st, Iran fired a volley of ballistic missiles across Iraq and struck an isis position in Deir Ezzor, not far from American troops. It was in retaliation for a terrorist attack on an Iranian military parade, but afterward, Bolton’s counterpart, Ali Shamkhani, issued a statement to the United States: “John Bolton said we should take you seriously. The commander of our aerospace forces took you seriously and landed missiles within three miles of you.” A similar incident could give Bolton and the others a pretext to convince Trump to launch a bombing campaign on Iranian military infrastructure. If Trump strikes Iran, the American forces would be engaged in a Middle East war zone that would span four contiguous countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, stretching nineteen hundred miles from Damascus to Kabul (to say nothing of Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger).

My host at the base in Syria, a genial State Department official, took me to a mess hall where we chose from a menu offering pizza, hamburgers, and fried chicken. “There’s no escape,” he quipped, glancing at a television screen where Trump was giving a speech. We took our food to go and ate in a conference room with plywood walls hung with whiteboards, an American flag, and satellite maps of Raqqa with key infrastructure highlighted in green. Most of our conversation was off the record, but he mostly stuck to the official script, updated with the most recent anti-Iranian talking points.

I pressed him on the legality of the U.S. mission. The post-9/11 statute that has provided a legal basis for a host of interventions in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and North Africa is a stretch when it comes to Syria, because the Islamic State didn’t exist in 2001 and is technically enemies with Al Qaeda. The government will argue its applicability because the two groups are so alike in ideology, but, absent a new act of Congress, on what legal basis could the armed forces confront Iran? He said something about the enemy of your enemy being your friend, which was confusing. Isn’t Shiite Iran, a perpetual foe of Sunni jihadist groups, also fighting the Islamic State? He smiled and fell back on the point that America has several objectives in Syria, the primary one being the Islamic State’s defeat.

Just inside the main gate of the base, I met five soldiers from the Mississippi National Guard. Their job was to “mirror” incoming vehicles for car bombs and check the drivers’ identification. They sat under a canopy of camouflage netting, their weapons locked but not loaded. A pair of sergeants named Jackson and Jones, wearing matching do-rags, were eating Pringles. Another sergeant, named Muñoz, and a young enlisted man called Ngo were drinking sodas, smoking cigarettes, and spitting on the ground. The sergeant in charge, a tall white guy whose name tape was covered by his body armor, told me that they belonged to the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, and were doing a nine-month deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. They had never been outside the wire and confessed to being fairly bored. I asked what they did to pass the time.

“Pretty much just stay in tune with YouTube,” Jackson said.

I asked if it felt weird being in Syria.

“I’ve kind of had this thing where I forget where I’m actually at,” Jones said. “It could be here or Kuwait or doing training in Texas or Mississippi, but it all looks the same and feels the same. Same buildings, same people, same vehicles, same equipment.”

“The only difference is the weather,” Jackson said.

“But sometimes,” Jones said, “I’ll wake up in the morning and be like, ‘Oh, shit, I’m in Syria.’ ”