Petraeus’ Lies and Failure Mount — Toward Ever-Greater Career Success

Where Gen. David Petraeus goes, lies follow. Or maybe he’s the liar. We probably can’t expect the truth from a man in the military for as long as he’s been.

The 37-year veteran, retiring this week, is credited by the stenographic media with cutting violence in Iraq — something that happened but for which he is in fact not responsible; and cutting violence in Afghanistan — something that never happened at all.

Iraq is the annoying lie, since everyone still believes it and even the “opposition” president flipflopped on it. But it is a simple one to bust because we have so many evidences. As I wrote last year:

1) Sadr ordered his men to stand down, apparently sickened by the recent violence between his followers, and other Shi’ites and the government.
2) The Awakening (Sahwa) councils, Sunni groups who were revolting against al-Qaeda-in-Iraq’s senseless slaughters, began receiving large sums of money from the US to only fight AQI, and not US troops as well, as they had been doing. The verdict is yet out on what happens when the money stops and Maliki, or whoever is in power, decides to turn on this now-well-trained movement.
3) This is the big one: the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad was essentially complete. No more violence was necessary for many partisan sectarians.

So yes, violence in Iraq did for a time enter a comparative lull. It of course subsequently ramped up again briefly in 2008, though with different targets. And then until recently, it had been lower than any time since the invasion. Could the fact that there are the lowest number of troops there than ever have had anything to do with this? Gosh! Whoever could have been saying the whole time violence would drop as American troops left? It’s so hard being so right so often and not being in charge. Really.

Now I don’t mean to imply that Iraq is at peace. No, it turns out Iraqis aren’t fooled by the mere relabeling of combat troops as “advise and assist” agents. They still consider their country to be militarily occupied, and now Shi’ite militias have apparently been stepping up attacks on US troopslike they said they would. It’s cool though, it gives the US an excuse to blame Iran for something else.

But seriously. It can’t not be obvious to all involved that Iraqis just want the occupiers out. There was never any need for Petraeus’ “counterinsurgency” voodoo. The only magic needed is a disappearing act.

In Afghanistan, it is claimed Petraeus quashed steadily rising violence through yet more of his much-vaunted counterinsurgency tactics. In reality, he simply repealed ousted Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s “try not to kill as many civilians” doctrine when he was given the job of commander by a desperate and uncreative President Obama. In July this year, Gareth Porter reported that despite the troop surge and Petraeus’ dusted-off COIN theories, Taliban attacks and US casualties surged in Afghanistan. This was before July became a hideously bloody month and yet was still eclipsed by August — the deadliest month ever for US troops and God knows how many Afghan civilians. Yes, a true hero, our Commander.

But that’s not all. At his pompous farewell speech before he becomes America’s chief snoop, he warned against cutting the Pentagon budget “too deeply.” The comment is absurd as nobody has discussed actually cutting the Pentagon’s budget, only slightly reducing the rate at which it expands. But a man who thinks all the world’s problems are solved by war can’t imagine not giving ever-larger shares of public treasure to the one bureaucracy he considers to define, order, and protect civilization itself.

This, with Petraeus’ penchant for perjuring himself in front of the Congress — though there are no consequences for an heroic general — makes it obvious this “suck-up” is never, ever to be trusted. His lies and those of his sycophants are breathtaking.

Petraeus is a disgrace of an American. Which is why he’ll probably be waterboarding us all in 2016.

Addicted to Militarism, Despite Repeated Failures

Richard Falk has an insightful and somewhat dispiriting piece at al Jazeera called “Why the Afghanistan War Won’t End Soon.” He writes about the prescience of the so-called ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ (once referred to as “sickly inhibitions against the use of military force”), and about the systematic tendency for America, as the planet’s military superpower, to aggressively apply military solutions to non-military problems. I was reminded of the opportunity to avoid unnecessary war after 9/11 by treating the attacks as a criminal act instead of an act of war (how many lives and dollars would have been saved, how many laws never broken…). But Falk focuses on conflicts like Afghanistan, say, which have available solutions towards ending war but which are treated to the Petraeus counter-insurgency magic described by Falk as “gradually expanding the war by means of a surge of troops combined with a ten-fold increase in drone attacks” with little regard for civilian casualties. Why the insistence on applying ineffective and destructive militarist solutions when they are not applicable?

Why do intelligent people persist in doing stupid things? If we had a completely convincing answer to this question we would have a far clearer understanding of the dysfunctional underbelly of US/NATO foreign policy.

To get such clarity, we probably need to delve into the collective unconscious of the warmakers, but even without such Freudian probes, there are some obvious dark forces at work in the West. For Europe especially, but also the United States, there is a definite nostalgia for the colonial period when military intervention was efficiently triumphal and conspicuously rewarded with prestige, markets, and resources. There lingers in the West a sense that there must be a way to restore those happy days of global ascendancy despite the formal elimination of colonial rule. Closely connected with this residual imperialism, given some credibility by way of economic globalisation in the 1990s, is the parallel adherence to the realist belief that it is military power that continues to shape world history.

What follows from this search for explanations is what might be described as ‘militarism,’ here defined as the compulsive or addictive reliance on hard power for conflict resolution that is not altered by repeated experiences of failure.

[…] Whether American militarism is better regarded as insanity or addiction is not so significant, but that its compulsiveness discourages a proper diagnosis and cure is a distressing reality. It has led to a succession of prolonged bloody confrontations that bring misery and encourage extremism.

Add to these explanations the fact that the last decade has seen a truly unique expansion of military capacity and defense industry booms, all of the most readily available (and profitable) tools are military in nature. So no wonder that is the most popular and proximate diagnosis.