Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Petraeus spins; democratic decision making in trouble

Our favorite spinning general is in Washington selling the Afghanistan war: Petraeus: 'We Have To Remember Why We're There' according to the headline on the story at TPM. I think he needs new writers.

I think I know why we went into Afghanistan in 2001: somebody had to pay for the carnage of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden was there, at least so we thought. But we couldn't catch or kill the guy, possibly because Bush and Rumsfeld were into doing war on the cheap. Why we've been there ever since I have no idea. Neither Bush nor Obama has made a case for us hanging around killing Afghans after the criminals we were looking for escaped. But our troops and our allies have stuck around. Afghans don't much like this, so they pick off foreigners when they can. So far, over 1400 US troops have died there, along with 800 or so allied NATO fighters. We still don' know why.

Just last week, the President of Afghanistan asked us to go away. You may not have read it, but here's the story from Voice of America News:

Karzai Tells NATO Fight is Not in Afghanistan
...The Afghan leader said his government has shown NATO that the terrorists and militants are not in Afghanistan, but instead are hiding in neighboring Pakistan.

The French news agency quoted Mr. Karzai as saying that Afghans are a tolerant people but now "our tolerance has run out."

Guess we aren't "nation building" that fellow's government. Or if we are, we're not paying attention.

Our government is also not paying attention to its own citizens. The Washington Post reports today: Poll: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say Afghan war isn’t worth fighting. But the spinning general says we'll be there for years, perhaps with a cosmetic pull back in June, but probably in force at least through 2014 if not longer.

Washington elites of both political parties are determined to keep killing Afghans and US troops as long as it takes in order to ... well, there's no ready answer to that empty blank. What most of us think about the war simply doesn't matter. They go on with these fruitless wars as long as we let them and they have no fear of suffering any time soon for their enthusiasm for sending other people to die. The notion that war is something we do together as a people is dead -- our betters decide for us who we fight and we pay in wasted treasure and in some unfortunates' blood.

This is possible largely because, as a result of popular disillusionment with the Vietnam war, the country created the "All Volunteer Force" -- a standing army of professional soldiers who had contracted to kill on orders. The reasons why people find themselves in the military are complicated -- there's no question that patriotism and idealism are part of a mix that also includes lack of civilian options and misplaced machismo. There also can be no doubt that these lingering, unpopular, inexplicable small wars would be impossible with a draftee force. If random young citizens had to go, the rest of us would be screaming bloody murder.

As it stands, democratic participation in deciding where we fight is neutered; two thirds of us can want a war ended and Washington presses blithely on.

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