Saturday, April 01, 2006


Two Great Posts: One Ex-NPR and One Ex-CIA...

On Digby's Blog, Tristero points out this article, by former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes, about her observations of the unintended consequences U.S. policies and practices are creating on the ground in Afghanistan. A snippet...

The steadily worsening situation in southern Afghanistan is not the work of some ineffable Al Qaeda nebula. It is the result of the real depredations of the corrupt and predatory government officials whom the United States ushered into power in 2001, supposedly to help fight Al Qaeda, and has assiduously maintained in power since, along with an 'insurgency' manufactured whole cloth across the border in Pakistan--a U.S. ally. The evidence of this connection is abundant: Taliban leaders strut openly around Quetta, Pakistan, where they are provided with offices and government-issued weapons authorization cards; Pakistani army officers are detailed to Taliban training camps; and Pakistani border guards constantly wave self-proclaimed Taliban through checkpoints into Afghanistan.

But beleaguered Afghans have a hard time getting U.S. political and military officials to focus on these two factors, which feed on each other. U.S. personnel cling to the fictions that Afghans are responsible for the local officials who rule over them--despite the overwhelming moral and material support the United States has provided these officials--and that the Pakistani government is cooperating in the war on terror. And so the Afghan villagers, frightened, vulnerable, and disillusioned, are obliged to come to terms with the 'fairies who come at night.'

This state of affairs is so bewildering that Kandaharis have reached an astonishing conclusion: The United States must be in league with the Taliban.

Oops. Not exactly what we had in mind, but what you get with a "shoot first, don't ask questions later - not with us, against us" foreign policy outlook. Here's a comment I left at Tristero's post, followed by a comment he left in response. I'm flattered Tristero noticed, and it's nice to know that the great Tristero , actually the composer Richard Einhorn, (NYTimes article) saw the importance of my link to Robert Baer's interview. He's right, Baer's sunny disposition shines through....

U.S. military and civilian officials remain obsessed with 'Al Qaeda'

Besides this article, I read something else shocking this week regarding Queda. Robert Baer, the former CIA case officer- whose book See No Evil inspired Syriana (Clooney plays Baer's role)- wrote an article found at index.php in which he states that "queda is an idea."

This guy, like Sarah Chayes, understands places like Afghanistan and yet when you justapose his knowledge with what we're doing on the ground, with how we're misinterpreting the insurgency as 9-11-like terrorism, the unintended consequences are of this effort are terrifying. Just as Bush's question "who authorized putting the guy on pain medicine?" question trickled down into Abu Ghraib, his "not with us, then against us" beliefs typify our approaches and willingness to adapt on the ground. It's like sending a bull to kill mice in china shop, except the cost of this bull means, as Baer points out, that in the future Americans will have to retire at 75 instead of 60 when the bills come due. And that's just considering the cost in dollars. What really scares me is that we'll be paying for doesn't enhance our security, it further threatens it.

Tristero responds...

I read both his book and just read that article. Tx for the link. Glad to see he's kept his sunny disposition.

Hopefully this 'sunny disposition' is just a symptom of Baer's career path, (As a CIA Case Officer, Baer navigated places like Beirut, where a scene in his book has an ice-water veined potential operative so toughened that the polygraph he's taking doesn't register any response when bombs explode outside) and not a reflection of the hard realities of the Middle East. (Me, I'm just thrilled that the great Tristero noticed my comment! My sunny disposition is firmly intact!)

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