Gen. Allen: Afghanistan ‘Graveyard’ Swallows Another Career

john_allen-300x199This week Marine Corps General John Allen joined a long and lamentable list of American leaders who have succumbed to the ancient affliction that conventional rhetoric has deemed the “graveyard of empires.” He is not the first, but given that the United States seems to be on a real trajectory — finally — for an exit out of Afghanistan, Allen may be the last who have broken vaunted career trajectories on the jagged cliffs of this war-ravaged land. A place, many say now, we should have left years ago rather than toiled away and spent so much blood and treasure to recreate, unsuccessfully,  in our own image.

That image has taken quite a thrashing since U.S forces first invaded this Central Asian tinderbox to destroy the Taliban, which sadly, Washington helped to birth 20 years earlier (at that time, it was the Soviets’ turn to crash and burn). What had been widely understood, right or wrong, as a mission to avenge 9/11 and to prevent another one from happening, quickly evolved into something not so easily defined: controversial, elusive, corruptive and dangerous. The U.S and allied partners dragged into this quagmire have lost 3,257 lives since 2001. Meanwhile, there is still no official count of the thousands of Afghan civilians killed or ultimately displaced by the 12 years of fighting. They, too , have been sucked into the sands of time, but no, not forgotten.

When Allen first took over command in 2011, he had big boots to fill in the person of Gen. David Petraeus, whose mythology far outsold his actual performance as commander of U.S and coalition forces in Afghanistan. If a frustrated, uninspired, reactionary tour marked by continued American casualties and no clear light at the end of the tunnel was the bar set by Petraeus, Allen certainly met it. However, Allen beat Petreaus on the time it took for him to first announce his retirement from the post  (last spring) — eight months into his commission.

And also like Petraeus, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal before him, Allen is ending his government career not unscathed by the taint of shame and embarrassment. He was caught up in the scandal that brought Petraeus down. Though a recent Pentagon report eventually found no conduct “unbecoming to an officer,” the married Allen took a big hit last fall when it was revealed that he had exchanged hundreds of emails (some supposedly racy and flirty) with a married Tampa socialite who spent a great deal of time cultivating self-interested relationships with top Army officers, including Petraeus. That whole tawdry tale was exposed when she went to the F.B.I complaining of threatening emails, which we now know to have been sent from the married Paula Broadwell, an acolyte and biographer and mistress of the married Petraeus.  So it wasn’t bullets nor battlefield defeat that brought these men down — including McChrystal who, in the rarefied air of his insulated world of self-importance and bravado, dressed-down the president and his men to the wrong reporter — it was hubris.

To say Allen’s surprise retirement from the Marines had nothing to do with all of this would be to ignore everything that had come before. He is walking away from a prestigious new commission as head of NATO. Ending his career here, right now,  is a curious decision.

Afghanistan is a timeless epic that unfolds in ways that only Shakespeare could do justice. And not only generals: a host of diplomats, from Ryan Crocker to the late Richard Holbrooke, have tried in vain to exercise onto this foreign land what on the outside world would’ve been considered peerless skills of statecraft, politics and negotiation. Dashed hopes, even death, was all it wrought.

There are so many reasons why the U.S did not “win” Afghanistan, but in this context it has certainly become a place where men who thought it would be a step toward both personal and career fulfillment, found it to be a graveyard instead.

Ban Weaponized Drones from the World

From Roots Action:

Meticulous researchers have documented that U.S. drones are killing many innocent civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Drones are making the world less stable and creating new enemies. Their remoteness provides those responsible with a sense of immunity.

Weaponized drones are no more acceptable than land mines, cluster bombs, or chemical weapons. The world must renounce and forbid their manufacture, possession, or use. Violators must be held accountable.
Continue reading “Ban Weaponized Drones from the World”

Action Item: Civics 101 — Cutting Defense Means? Not Voting for $642.5 Billion for the Military

Carolyn Eisenberg and Gael Murphy sent this late last night. Please share. Eisenberg and Murphy are co-conveners of the United for Peace and Justice Legislative Working Group.

By Carolyn Eisenberg and Gael Murphy

Some readers probably heard on the news how the Democrats were hopping mad when the House Republicans voted recently to overturn the “sequester” on the Defense budget, enacted at the end of the year as part of the deficit reduction deal. With that money restored, House Republicans cheerfully went about their business of making up the difference by slashing food stamps, Medicaid for children, federally supported Meals-on-Wheels for the elderly and other vulnerable programs. Democrats were united in opposing this move and promptly incorporated it into the campaign narrative of hard-hearted, mean-spirited Republicans, whom they are determined to challenge and expose come November.

But one odd thing occurred last week. In the House Armed Services Committee, when the Republicans put forward a sequester- busting $642.5 billion for the 2013 Defense Authorization bill, Democrats on the Committee overwhelmingly supported it in a lop-sided vote of 56-5.
Continue reading “Action Item: Civics 101 — Cutting Defense Means? Not Voting for $642.5 Billion for the Military”

Duh, Winning! (Hearts and Minds Edition)

From Three Against Hitler, by Rudi Wobbe and Jerry Borrowman:

Near our home was a shoe store, owned and run by a Jew. Even before 1933 his store windows and swastikas had been painted on the walls and door. But, after the “takeover,” the Nazis demolished his store in broad daylight. They broke all the windows, threw the merchandise onto the sidewalk, and dragged the proprietor and his wife and two children into the street. They started beating and cursing them, all the while calling them dirty names and shouting that they weren’t fit to live among the exalted German, Aryan people. The greatest indignity of all is that after the family was lying in the gutter in agony, the Nazis urinated on them. I was only seven years of age when this took place, but I remember it vividly.

From Afghanistan:

From Pamela Geller, quoted in the Houston Chronicle [h/t — Eric Dondero]:

I love these Marines. Perhaps this is the infidel interpretation of the Islamic ritual of washing and preparing the body for burial.

In future dictionaries, a “geller” will be defined as “a near-perfect intersection of abject stupidity and irredeemable evil.”

[cross-posted from KN@PPSTER]

Puppets breaking strings?

As the Iraqis find the back-door to getting U.S. troops out of their country, is Afghan President Hamid Karzai trying a different tack – – –

"God forbid, if a war breaks between Pakistan and America, we will side (with) Pakistan," Karzai said, according to a transcript released yesterday by his office. –Karzai Says Afghanistan Would Help Pakistan Against U.S. Attack – Businessweek

VIDEO: Karzai vows to support Pakistan vs. U.S. if war

Are the puppets breaking their strings?