February 16, 2010
Thirty-nine years ago this spring I was in Vietnam, busy sending non-stop dispatches back home about how well the war was going for the good guys. When a year later the North Vietnamese took Quang Tri in the north and were about to attack Hue, Bill Buckley send me a cable asking for one thousand words on whether Hue could hold out this time. In 1968 the old imperial city had fallen to the Viet Cong and every priest, doctor, and community leader had been slaughtered by them. The Marines had retaken it at great cost and now forty NVA divisions were rumored to be advancing down from the north. I caught a flight from Da Nang on a Chinook and was there in no time. Everyone was on edge but the attack never materialized. I cabled my copy announcing the end of the war and pronouncing victory for Uncle Sam and the South Vietnamese republic. Bill sent me a nice telegram telling me that he was happy to see me leave that “miserable place” and looking forward for a piece about Americans in Paris. Three years to the day of the Hue non-event, Bill rang me in Athens and asked if I could get back into Saigon as soon as possible. I rushed to the South Vietnamese consulate where I had contacts, but in the four days it took for the visa to come through, there was no more Saigon and no more South Vietnam.
Well, the United States never understood the realities in Vietnam and it does not understand the realities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Iran, and so on. Which means as Uncle Sam and his few western allies gear up once again for a new round of fighting terrorists, they will have as little effect as they have had the last eight and a half years since 9/11. Here are the facts, this time without the American embassy’s brainwashing of 39 years ago. Iraq is a disaster, the surge a failure, and Bush’s exercise in nation building a total washout. No one doubts America’s ability to overwhelm other countries with its military might. But that is not the same as using US troops as part of a larger strategy to solve political problems. Fixing Iraq has always been more about politics than military matters. An ignorant George W. Bush followed Winston Churchill’s folly when as Colonial Secretary in 1920 he created an artificial country forcing three radically different peoples to combine under a single ruler. Both Churchill and Bush were under the sway of Zionists, the former for money (he was deeply in debt and was let money by Jewish bankers), the latter influenced by the neo-cons of his administration. As I write this, bombings and terrorism are ripe. The upcoming elections are a farce, as more than 500 prominent Sunni candidates have been disqualified by the ruling Shia–dominated Maliki government. The Militias have not been disarmed and the local Kurdish army, the Peshmerga, is holding the north separate. Which means the whole endeavor of the surge—the political, economic, and military rapprochement between the major Iraqi groups has conspicuously failed.
Afghanistan. Obama relies on hypnotic language that can easily be applied to Somalia or Yemen as Afghanistan. It conjures nightmares of failed states and offers remedies of nation-building and counter insurgency. It assumes that Afghanistan is predictable. It is not. Afghan tribal groups lack the coherence of even Iraqi Sunni tribes. There are no mass political parties and the Kabul government lacks the legitimacy, the base or strength of the Iraqi administration. It is a corrupt regime which has enriched itself through the narco-trade and Uncle Sam’s billions. The Taliban portrays the Kabul government as US slaves, and exploits the religious resistance that the West fostered in the 1980’s against the Soviets. What is needed to defeat the Taliban is a state, but you cannot build a state without defeating the Taliban. The US and Nato are seen as an infidel occupying force, and Washington is whistling Dixie if it thinks otherwise. The Afghan military has no literacy levels to administer a modern army, its loyalties are suspect at best, and its padded battalions of ghost soldiers are paid by Uncle Sam and go straight into the pockets of corrupt commanders.
Yemen is yet another disaster. President Saleh’s government is corrupt, unable to keep tribal leaders happy, and the country is ripe to go the way of Somalia. Yemen is a family corporation which is bleeding red ink. Saleh’s first priority is to stay in power and to be succeeded by his son. End of story, as they say.
So, what is to be done? Easy. Get the hell out of foreign entanglements, bring the troops home, tell Israel and the neo-con press to go to hell, and think of what the country can do for its own people for a change.
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