Born again officers at the Air Force Academy were so busy proselytizing to Jews, Catholics, agnostics and atheists, they didn’t have time to worry about minor irritants like numerous rape charges filed by female cadets. The US Army tried spreading the “Word” in Iraq and then wondered why locals kept blowing them up. Now, America’s Christian soldiers – who seem to know the Bible better than they know the history of the Crusades or why the very word still infuriates Moslems – are doing the same thing in Afghanistan.
Thanks to American free-lance filmmaker Brian Hughes, who was on a Pentagon-approved and supervised trip to Afghanistan, al Jazeera-English broadcast a report showing American army officers stationed at Bagram Air Base near Kabul giving marching orders to the troops on how to reveal the light to Afghans while on patrol. Alas, few US cable systems carry al Jazeera-English so, if not for YouTube, the report would be lost in the ether.
When the Pentagon dismissed the charge by saying edited footage was shown out of context, al Jazeera responded by airing all seven minutes of raw, unedited tape showing even more-damning material that didn’t make air. Whoops!
Meanwhile, Carolyn Lochhead writing at sfgate.com reports that Congressional Democrats are willing to give Pres. Obama the benefit of the doubt right now on his Afghan policy but are signaling that their patience is not unlimited:
"The problem is not the administration's policy or its goals. The problem is that I doubt that we have the tools there that we need to implement virtually any policy in that region," (House Appropriations chairman David) Obey said.
"When I came here in 1969 I was opposed to the Vietnam war. But President Nixon pointed out that he had inherited it and deserved some time to try and make his policy work, so I decided to keep my mouth shut for a year. At the end of the year, Nixon had not moved the policy and so I began to oppose the war. I am following that same approach here."
Obey said Democrats are "giving the administration everything that they want and then some to maximize their chance of succeeding," but at the end of this year, he wants "an honest, tough-minded evaluation of the chances of success."
Obey’s concerns are well-founded. After all, before George Bush pulled American resources out of Afghanistan to fight his macho cowboy war in Iraq, Special Forces troops in Tora Bora had Osama bin Laden in their night scope sights and were ready to pull the trigger when Bush and Donald Rumsfeld ordered the unit to stand down, as the 2008 book written by an officer who was there, Kill Bin Laden, documents. Then, Bush ignored the real war on terror for seven years to focus on destroying America’s image, standing and moral authority in the world while breaking US law and international treaties.
Now, Pres. Obama has to try putting the toothpaste back in the tube.
Besides roughly 1,000 or so years of history arguing against any lasting American success, the dual problem of Afghanistan and Pakistan may be insurmountable regardless of how many “constructive discussions” special envoy Richard Holbrook has in the region or the pleasant words that get spoken today in the Oval Office when Obama meets with the two nation’s presidents.
The reality is that the problems are so complicated, only an unconventional solution – and a sudden emergence of a pair of modern day Menachim Began’s and Anwar Sadat’s to lead the two countries – is likely to produce any meaningful progress.
History – One of the Bush Administration’s countless foreign policy mistakes was thinking it could impose “democracy” on a country with no tradition of a central government responsive to its citizens. For nearly its entire history, Afghanistan has been ruled by violent, corrupt, tribal war lords who’ve never had a shred of loyalty to a central government. Moreover, Afghan children are taught to hate other tribes about the same time as they’re toilet trained so peace between various rival factions is a long shot.
Opium – It’s Afghanistan’s main cash crop. Since there are no other buyers, farmers sell it to Taliban elements that do the first cut at refining and then sell it on to European dealers. For a while, NATO troops tried burning the crop which went over well with farmers who were deprived on a living. For some reason, the US and NATO are reluctant to adopt the very successful anti-opium strategy used in Turkey: Buy the poppy crop at market rates, sell some to pharma companies who need it in medicine compounds and burn the rest. Until there is a real solution to the opium problem, there’ll be no realistic way to [a] clamp down on the Taliban and its ability to use drug money to buy arms and [b] obtain the allegiance of Afghan farmers.
Corruption – Karzi. Nothing more need be said except it’s been ubiquitous in Afghanistan for centuries.
Pakistan’s Army – Its officer corps remains divided between men loyal to the government and those who are in cahoots with insurgents; many government loyalists refuse to drop their belief that the real enemy is India, not insurgents. And despite attempts to reform it, the ISI – the military’s intelligence service – is still dominated by officers who feed information to al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Government – The government is about as popular as Michelle Bachman at a MoveOn.org meeting. It cannot deliver security, services or social reform to the vast majority of its citizens; worse, it doesn’t seem to know how to even try.
Meanwhile, with that region of the world riding to hell in a camel’s saddle, members of our Army think their real job is to convert Moslems to born again’s. No matter how smart, ingenious and creative Obama’s solutions to the region might be, none of the ideas will gain any traction as long as Afghan villagers see the US military approaching with a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other with orders to torch the poppy fields in a pocket.