Thursday, December 30, 2010

Myths About Aghanistan; US No. 1 in Killing Civilians

From: [] On Behalf Of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks
Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 11:07 PM
Subject: [MPC] Something to Share w/Folks Who "Don't Know Much About the War." + Excerpt of Allan Nairn Interview

Hello friends,

OK, so some of us eat, breathe and live politics. We catch the news daily, at least, and seek out alternative sources, not just network news or NPR.

We're against this crazy Afghanistan War and we know just why.

Many others don't like the war, and, depending on how the poll question is asked, may be counted as an anti-war respondent, but are generally clueless about the details.

Folks in the latter group are more numerous and much more easily swayed by pro-war propaganda.

Here's a post you might want to share with these friends from historian Prof. Juan Cole of the University of Michigan that addresses some of the common myths regarding the Afghan situation. Note that it has lots of embedded hyperlinks, so if you get your e-mail plain text, you might want to access the original at:

I am also pasting in a significant length excerpt of an interview Amy Goodman did today with investigative reporter Allan Nairn on Democracy Now! It's excellent stuff [on US No. 1 in Killing]. Visit to read, listen to or watch the whole thing.

As always, if you find this info useful, please pass it on.

All the best for a more peaceful, just and sustainable 2011,
Mark Haim


Top Ten Myths about Afghanistan, 2010 by Juan Cole Posted on 12/27/2010 by Juan
10. “There has been significant progress in tamping down the insurgency in Afghanistan.”
Fact: A recent National Intelligence Estimate by 16 intelligence agencies found no progress. It warned that large swathes of the country were at risk of falling to the Taliban and that they still had safe havens in Pakistan, with the Pakistani government complicit. The UN says there were over 6000 civilian casualties of war in Afghanistan in the first 10 months of 2010, a 20% increase over the same period in 2009. Also, 701 US and NATO troops have been killed this year, compared to 521 last year, a 25% increase. There were typically over 1000 insurgent attacks per month in Afghanistan this year, often twice as many per month as in 2009, recalling the guerrilla war in Iraq in 2005.
9. Afghans want the US and NATO troops to stay in their country because they feel protected by them.
Fact: In a recent [pdf] poll, only 36% of Afghans said they were confident that US troops could provide security. Only 32% of Afghans now have a favorable view of the United States’ aid efforts in their country over all.
8. The “surge” and precision air strikes are forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Fact: The only truly high-ranking Taliban leader thought to have engaged in parleys with the US, Mulla Omar’s number 2, turns out to have been a fraud and a con man.
7. The US presence in Afghanistan is justified by the September 11 attacks.
Fact: In Helmand and Qandahar Provinces, a poll found that 92% of male residents had never heard of 9/11.
6. Afghans still want US troops in their country, despite their discontents.
Fact: one poll found that 55% of Afghans want the US out of their country. And, the percentage of Afghans who support Taliban attacks on NATO has grown from 9% in 2009 to 27% this year!
5. The presidential elections of 2009 and the recent parliamentary elections were credible and added to the legitimacy of Afghanistan’s government.
Fact: Karzai stole his presidential election and the parliamentary elections were riddled with fraud. One fourth of the votes for parliament this fall had to be thrown out because of suspected ballot fraud, and 10 percent of victors were unseated for serious irregularities.
4. President Hamid Karzai is “a key ally” of the United States.
Fact: Karzai has repeatedly threatened to join the Taliban. He has also admitted to being on a $2 million a year retainer from Iran. All he has to do is cozy up to North Korea for a trifecta!
3. Shiite Iran is arming the hyper-Sunni, Shiite-hating Taliban in Afghanistan.
Fact: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates told Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini last February “that intelligence indicated there was little lethal material crossing the Afghanistan-Iran border.” This according to a wikileaks cable.
2. Foreigners are responsible for much of Afghanistan’s fabled corruption.
The trail of big corruption usually leads back to people around President Karzai. Karzai insiders bankrupted a major Kabul bank with their shenanigans, forcing the government to bail it out. A significant portion of the $42 million in medicine given by the US for Afghan soldiers this year has disappeared and the Karzai-appointed official concerned has just been fired. US officials have alleged that Karzai’s brother in Qandahar has run interference for illegal businesses and the drug trade.
1. The US is in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda.
Fact: CIA director Leon Panetta admitted that there are only 50-100 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan! The US is mainly fighting two former allies among the Mujahidin whom Ronald Reagan dubbed “freedom fighters” and the “equivalent of America’s founding fathers:” Gulbaddin Hikmatyar and his Hizb-i Islami, and Jalaluddin Haqqani and his Haqqani Network. These two organizations, which received billions from the US congress to fight the Soviets in the 1980s, are more deadly and important now than the ‘Old Taliban’ of Mulla Omar. The point is that they are just manifestations of Pashtun Muslim nationalism, and not eternal enemies of the United States (being former allies and clients and all). Hikmatyar has roundly denounced al-Qaeda.

Four articles in The Nation (Jan. 3, 2011): The Editors, “Military Madness”’; Anatol Lieven, “How the Afghan Counterinsurgency Threatens Pakistan” (“Our war has turned many Pakistanis against the West and their own government.”); Barbara Koeppel interview of Matthew Hoh, “Matthew Hoh’s Afghanistan: An Insider Talks”; Michael Cohen, “Tossing the Afghan COIN” (“The US military’s new counterinsurgency turns out to be the same old brutal game.”)



Allan Nairn: As U.S. Loses Its Global Economic Edge, Its "One Clear Comparative Advantage is in Killing, and It’s Using It"
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it is a tall order to talk about the role of the United States in the world today, but why don’t we start right there?
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, now, as the U.S. is losing its edge economically, it has one clear comparative advantage. And that’s in killing. And it’s using it. Obama has increased the attacks on Afghanistan, Pakistan. Brookings Institution last year estimated that for every one militant, as they put it, killed in Pakistan, the U.S. drones kill 10 civilians. And they said that was OK; they defended the U.S. policy. General Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA, also the National Security Agency, also former director of National Intelligence, said that our default position is to kill our adversaries, referring to the use of the drones. Harold Koh, who’s the legal adviser for the Justice Department, earlier this year at a State Department briefing on the results of the review conference on the International Criminal Court, described the international legal environment that the U.S. had helped shape. And he said this: "No U.S. national can be prosecuted for aggression. We ensure total protection to our American forces and other nationals going forward." So, in that situation, the U.S. defines who the adversaries are. The default U.S. position is to kill the adversary. When you kill the adversary, you kill 10 civilians. What are the survivors, the loved ones of those civilians, supposed to do, when the international legal system is rigged so that there is no peaceful redress, so they have no place to go? It’s unjustified. It’s terrorism by the U.S. law’s own definition.
But it’s also ominous for Americans, especially ominous in a historical moment where the U.S. is losing its edge. Right now it still has the massive military advantage, but how long is that going to last? Other countries have more people to field as troops. Other countries can manufacture weapons more cheaply. The U.S. still has the edge in military technology, but in today’s information age, that can’t last very long. So, if the appeal to decency can’t wake up Americans and make them say stop, maybe the appeal to self-interest and fear can do it.
Imagine a moment not too far in the future—some of the technical magazines just started writing about this—where foreign countries would have the capacity to put drones in the skies over New York, over San Diego, over Alabama, over Chicago. How would Americans feel about that, when the discretion on whether to push the button on the missile and launch it at anyone—at anyone in the U.S.—a member of Congress, a member of the President’s staff, a GI, someone walking down the street—when that discretion lies with someone in some foreign capital, some commander? And imagine how Americans would feel if those overseas controllers of the drones flying in the skies over the U.S. decided to apply American standards; if they decided to apply the Brookings standard that says, OK, if we target one American military planner and we kill 10 civilians, that’s OK; if they decide to apply General Hayden’s standard that, well, it’s our default position to kill these adversaries; and if they decide to apply the U.S. State Department standard, which says no matter what we do, we can’t be prosecuted. That’s the situation that the U.S. is setting up. And it’s going to be increasingly dangerous for Americans as time goes by.
AMY GOODMAN: The international soldier death toll in Afghanistan is, well, I think, as of this broadcast, around 709. Almost 500 of those are U.S. soldiers. It’s the deadliest year in what? We’re coming—we’re in the 10th year, the longest war the U.S. has been involved in, ongoing work, in the history of this country. What about Afghanistan, what you feel needs to be done?
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, it’s interesting that you mention the killings of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. To me, one of the most interesting points that’s made in the documents released by WikiLeaks came out in some of the earlier releases, particularly the Iraq war logs. If you read those, you see that when the U.S. military is reporting on U.S. killings of civilians in Iraq or in Afghanistan, they almost always say, "Well, we did it to protect our forces. Some of our soldiers came under fire. We responded. And we wiped out the house." In some cases, they end up wiping out the whole village compound. "And that’s why those civilians were killed." Or, "There was fire from the ground. Our men were in the air in a helicopter. We returned fire. It turned out that it was a wedding party on the ground, and they were shooting their guns in celebration. But we did it with the intent of protecting our forces."
And there’s a certain logic to that. If you’re a soldier and you’re in combat, naturally you want to protect yourself and protect your friends, and you will do everything possible to do that, including killing someone who you think, who you speculate, might be firing at you or might potentially fire at you. So that inevitably sets up a situation where when you send troops into a country in a hostile situation, when you invade a country, that means—really it means, in a practical sense—that in order to protect your troops, you have to kill civilians, you have to kill them in large numbers. And that’s what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan. That’s what it did in Iraq. And that’s what it’s setting up to do in a series of other places. It’s an inevitable result of the initial act, of the initial act of invasion, and, in legal terms, what is often the initial act of aggression.
AMY GOODMAN: In Pakistan, you were talking about the drones, and we just read this headline about U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killing at least 33 people over the last two days. On Tuesday, drones struck a pair of sites in North Waziristan, killing 15 people. Separate attack Monday, 18. U.S. has carried out more than 116 drone attacks this year, more than double the amount from last year. I think the figure of some poll taken in Pakistan, about 59 percent of the people of Pakistan feel the United States is the enemy, yet the United States is pouring billions of dollars to shore up the government of Pakistan.
ALLAN NAIRN: Yeah. That poll would actually suggest that maybe the U.S. image is improving a little, because there have been some other polls where it’s like 70 and 80 percent of Pakistanis saw the U.S. as the main enemy.
What the U.S. is doing with the Pakistan military is remarkable, especially when you compare it with the Iran nuclear situation. The U.S. is saying that, well, maybe we’ll have to invade Iran, or maybe we’ll have to let Israel invade Iran, because Iran is developing nuclear weapons and Iran is a hostile Islamist regime. Well, the U.S. also says, as documented further in the WikiLeaks releases, but it’s said this publicly, that the Taliban in Afghanistan and also the—what are called the Taliban and their allies of Pakistan are backed by the Pakistani military, are backed by the ISI, the Inter Services Intelligence. That is the same Pakistani military that controls the nuclear weapons that Pakistan already has. That is the same Pakistani military that is receiving billions upon billions of dollars in U.S. aid. Yet the U.S. is not saying, "Oh, we have to cut off that Pakistani military. We have to invade Pakistan, because they’re backing the Taliban."
So, the solution for Iran possibly getting a nuclear weapon is to invade Iran. The solution for Pakistan actually having a nuclear weapon and actually backing the Taliban is to give more money to Pakistan. There’s no underlying logic to it, except the logic of sustaining war, of sustaining conflict, of sustaining tension, of having an ongoing drama that provides the top politicians, like Obama, like Bush before him, a chance to prove their toughness, a chance to boost their popularity, and which sustains the vast military complex that chews up so much of the U.S. economy. Once you get beyond that, you can’t come up with a coherent explanation as to why the U.S. should be doing that.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think the U.S. should do right now with Afghanistan?
ALLAN NAIRN: Pull the troops out. The only legitimate role would be if you could find a way—and it’s not easy now in a state, in a place that is so devastated and corrupted—if you could find a way to pump in money that would serve as a kind of reparation for the damage that the U.S. has done to Afghanistan and maybe have that money go to rebuild houses and feed hungry people. That would be a justified U.S. role. But the military, the intelligence people, just get them out. They are only making matters worse. They are only making matters worse for the civilian population of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they’re also only making matters worse for Americans, who worry about being bombed when they’re on an airplane, who worry about car bombs in Times Square. Anyone who seriously looks at this sees, and often says and often writes, that this creates more animosity, more people who want to attack the U.S. So get out, and you save more lives on the ground there, and you also diminish the danger to Americans.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to award-winning investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn. His articles appear online at

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" Afghanistan, we see civilian casualties continue to be going up. And we’re fighting a local movement. We’re fighting the Taliban. Al-Qaeda is not in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda is in Pakistan. It’s in Yemen. It’s in internet cafes, in slums around the world. So it makes no sense that we have this massive military footprint in Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda isn’t, as opposed to Pakistan or Yemen or elsewhere, where they are. Not that we should invade Pakistan or Yemen, obviously. But even by our own military logic, what the hell are we doing in Afghanistan...." Nir Rosen, interview on Democracy Now! 11/10/10
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