Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Do many small wars add up to a very large one?

Posted by Charles II on May 10, 2009

Tom Hayden at The Nation, via Small Wars Journal:

In Iraq, the dark side first involved the 2003-2004 American-sponsored round-ups and torture, only leaked to the American public and media by a US guard in Abu Ghraib. In addition, as many as 50,000 young Iraqis, mostly Sunnis, have been held in extreme conditions in detention centers across the country (some of them now being released under the pact negotiated between Baghdad and Washington). Then there were the unreported, top-secret extrajudicial killings described chillingly in Bob Woodward’s The War Within, which were so effective that they reportedly gave “orgasms” to Gen. Petraeus’s top adviser, Derek Harvey. Woodward writes that these killings, in which the Pentagon was the judge, jury and executioner, based heavily on local informants, were “very possibly the biggest factor in reducing” Iraq’s violence in 2007. It is likely that death squads were carrying out the revived version of a “global Phoenix program,” as advocated by Gen. Petraeus’s leading counterinsurgency adviser, David Kilcullen, in the Small Wars Journal (November 30, 2004). Jane Mayer, in The Dark Side, confirms that Phoenix became a model after 9/11, despite the fact that military historians called it massive, state-sanctioned murder, and clear evidence that 97 percent of its Vietcong victims were of “negligible importance.”

Then there’s this cheery bit from Afghanistan:

The Bagram prison is being massively expanded as a detention facility where President Obama’s Guantánamo orders do not apply. Bagram now holds an estimated 650 prisoners who, unlike those in Guantánamo, have “almost no rights,” including access to lawyers. “Human rights campaigners and journalists are strictly forbidden there,” according to a January 28, 2009, report by Der Spiegel International.

In the central front of the war on terror:

In Pakistan, where torture and extrajudicial abuse also are prevalent, the US spent $12 billion during the past decade on a [Musharraf] military dictatorship, compared with one-tenth that amount on development schemes. These policies only deepened the Muslim nation’s anti-Americanism, alienated the middle-class opposition, and left the poor in festering poverty. In addition to these self-imposed problems, the Pentagon is engaged in a frantic uphill effort to change Pakistan’s strategic military doctrine from preparation for another conventional (or even nuclear) war against India to a counterinsurgency war against the Taliban embedded amid its own domestic population, especially in the extremely impoverished federally administered tribal areas that border Afghanistan.

The likelihood of the United States’ convincing Pakistan to view the domestic threat as greater than that from India is doubtful. Pakistan has fought three wars with India, and views the US as supporting the expansion of India’s interests in Afghanistan, where the Pakistan military has supported the Taliban as a proxy against India. The Northern Alliance forces of Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks were strongly supported by India in 2001 against Pakistan’s Taliban’s allies, and the fall of Kabul to the Northern Alliance was a “catastrophe” for Pakistan, according to Juan Cole. Since 2001, India has sent hundreds of millons in assistance to Afghanistan, including funds for Afghan political candidates in 2004, assistance to sitting legislators, Indian consulates in Jalalabad, Heart and Kandahar, and road construction designed, according to the Indian government, to help their countries’ armed forces “meet their strategic needs.”

Polls show that a vast majority of Pakistanis view the United States and India as far greater threats than the Taliban, despite the Taliban’s unpopularity with much of Pakistan’s public. While it is unlikely that the Taliban could seize power in Pakistan, it may be impossible for anyone to militarily prevent Taliban control of the tribal areas and a growing base among the Pashtun tribes (28 million in Afghanistan, 12 million in Pakistan).

The US will demand that Pakistan’s armed forces fight the Taliban, which the American military has driven into Pakistan. Pakistan will demand billions in US aid without giving guarantees that they will shift their security deployments in accord with Washington’s will. The US will make clear that it will go to extreme lengths to prevent a scenario in which Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falls into the Taliban’s hands. No one on the US side acknowledges that this spiraling disaster was triggered by US policies over the past decade.

Ironically, conservatives blame the peace movement for causing the US to lose in Vietnam, just as they are attempting to blame it for the failure of the “war on terror” that they sense is coming.

Vietnam consumed half a trillion dollars in today’s dollars, and by the time Saigon fell had already lasted, in its high intensity phase, twice as long as World War II. After 10 years of intense fighting against a poorly-equipped adversary, the South Vietnamese army, on whom we lavished money and materiel, was still not up to the task of resisting the North, and the South Vietnamese government was regarded by its own people as corrupt and murderous. But of course it was Jane Fonda who is to blame. The conservatives never stop to ask: “What would have happened if we had listened to the peace movement and, instead of committing a half million Americans to a land war in Asia, offered the South Vietnamese training and weapons so they could fight their own war… sort of like we did, in 1776?”

Similarly, if we had confined the “war on terror” to bin Laden and his merry men, we would be in a much stronger position today.

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