The Antiwar Movement and the “Good War”

On one day in mid-August, Taliban forces in Afghanistan carried out their most serious attack in six years, mounting an all-night strike on a U.S. military base in the eastern province of Khost and a fierce assault on French forces east of the capital.

The Khost offensive targeted one of the largest foreign military bases in the country and was eventually repulsed, but the attack on French forces by 100 Taliban insurgents killed 10 French soldiers and wounded 21 more. Together, the attacks are the latest expression of the growing confidence and competence of the Taliban and the growing ferocity of the fighting in America’s “other war.”

Since the beginning of July, 70 coalition troops have been killed in Afghanistan, compared to just 31 U.S. troops killed in Iraq during the same period. Already this year, 192 NATO troops have been killed in Afghanistan, compared to 232 killed in all of last year, which itself was the deadliest for NATO troops since the war began in 2001.

At the same time, other developments in and around the region–the resignation of Pakistan’s ex-president Gen. Pervez Musharraf and the Russian thrashing of Georgia’s U.S.-backed military–have illustrated starkly that a new balance of power is taking shape, dealing a setback to U.S. ambitions.

This makes the stakes for the U.S. in Afghanistan higher than ever–and simultaneously places new demands on the U.S. antiwar movement.

Since 2003, the antiwar movement has anchored itself in opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq, which was generally understood as a “war of choice” undertaken by the Bush administration. But the movement has been at best muted in its criticism–and at worst actually supportive–of the U.S. war on Afghanistan as a “legitimate” targeting of al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden following the September 11, 2001, attacks.

But in fact, the U.S. didn’t invade Afghanistan to “bring the perpetrators of 9/11 to justice” or to “liberate Afghan women from the Taliban.”

In truth, the U.S. had long sought an accommodation with the Taliban. As one U.S. diplomat put it in 1997, “The Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis. There will be Aramco [the oil consortium], pipelines, an emir, no parliament and lots of Sharia law. We can live with that.”

From the time that it took office, the Bush administration had been negotiating with the Taliban to enlist it as a regime friendly to U.S. interests and able to provide a bulwark against Russian and Chinese influence. At one point in negotiations, U.S. representatives tired of the slow pace and threatened Taliban officials, saying “either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs,” according to a book by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie.

When the 9/11 attacks happened, it became the perfect rationale for imperial aggression that the U.S. had already contemplated.

The material and geopolitical interests that underpinned the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan are the subject of increasingly blunt discussions within the foreign policy establishment.

As Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1999 to 2001, wrote in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs:

As the war enters its eighth year, Americans should be told the truth: it will last a long time–longer than the United States’ longest war to date, the 14-year conflict (1961-75) in Vietnam. Success will require new policies with regard to four major problem areas: the tribal areas in Pakistan, the drug lords who dominate the Afghan system, the national police, and the incompetence and corruption of the Afghan government.

An August 21 New York Times editorial makes the case even more plainly:

More American ground troops will have to be sent to Afghanistan. The Pentagon’s over-reliance on air strikes– which have led to high levels of civilian casualties–has dangerously antagonized the Afghan population. This may require an accelerated timetable for shifting American forces from Iraq, where the security situation has grown somewhat less desperate.

NATO also needs to step up its military effort. With Russia threatening to redraw the post-Soviet map of Europe, this is not time for NATO to forfeit its military credibility by losing a war. Europe does not have a lot of available ground troops either. But it needs to send its best ones to Afghanistan and let them fight.

Afghanistan’s war is not a sideshow…Washington, NATO and the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan must stop fighting it like a holding action and develop a strategy to win. Otherwise, we will all lose.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama is already promising to implement precisely this plan, calling himself a “strong supporter of the war in Afghanistan” and pledging to withdraw forces from Iraq in order to send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan.

Those forces in the antiwar movement that don’t include opposition to the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan are at risk of being made irrelevant by the dedication of increasing amounts of U.S. military firepower and personnel to the “good war.”

The movement needs to create a political consciousness about the occupation of Afghanistan so that it will be possible to mobilize the social forces–communities, neighborhoods, students, workers and U.S. troops–necessary to force the U.S. to withdraw.

Failure to do so will mean that the further the occupation of Iraq fades in the media and from American political discussion, the more difficult it will get to mobilize sufficient numbers to compel the U.S. to exit both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The case is straightforward. U.S. disregard for civilian life, human rights, democracy and the lives of Afghan women has been shocking. Marina, a member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, can’t use her last name for fear of assassination, but she recently told journalist John Pilger:

We, the women of Afghanistan, only became a cause in the West following September 11, 2001, when the Taliban suddenly became the official enemy of America. Yes, they persecuted women, but they were not unique, and we have resented the silence in the West over the atrocious nature of the Western-backed warlords, who are no different. They rape and kidnap and terrorize, yet they hold seats in [U.S.-backed Hamid] Karzai’s government.

What the U.S. really wants, says Tariq Ali, is “to construct an army able to suppress its own population but incapable of defending the nation from outside powers; a civil administration with no control over planning or social infrastructure, which is in the hands of Western NGOs; and a government whose foreign policy marches in step with Washington’s.”

It’s an encouraging sign that the leadership of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) sent an August 14 e-mail to its members organizations to encourage discussion about the issue of Afghanistan, given its growing importance for U.S. war aims. In it, UFPJ quoted from its own national assembly resolution passed last summer stating that “our movement has been too silent on Afghanistan, and UFPJ must take leadership to expose the horrors and costs of this engagement.”

But during the last year, UFPJ has done very little to rectify this “silence,” and the August 14 e-mail doesn’t show any sign of exercising “leadership to expose the horrors and costs” of the occupation of Afghanistan. Instead, the e-mail poses a series of questions without making any case whatsoever.

And some of the questions are framed in a way that leaves the door open to continued support for U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, such as “Should the peace movement support U.S. military forces in a policing role, rather than counter-insurgency role?” and “Was a military invasion of Afghanistan an appropriate reaction to the September 11 attacks?”

In addition, UFPJ continues to orient its efforts on influencing Congress rather than exposing Congress’ commitment to pursuing U.S. global hegemony. As disastrous as this strategy has been in ending the U.S. war on Iraq, it will be that much worse in the case of Afghanistan, considering that support for the war in Afghanistan is an article of faith within the Democratic Party.

GI organizations such as Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) face a similar set of challenges.

To date, IVAW has not taken an official position on the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. Indeed, it appears that one current within IVAW feels that adding opposition to the U.S. war on Afghanistan to its mission would hurt its ability to recruit among active-duty troops–because, the argument goes, there is more support within the military for the war on Afghanistan than the war on Iraq.

But with increasing numbers of troops being sent to face fierce fighting in Afghanistan, the opposite is true. If IVAW doesn’t address the despair, anger and disillusionment of U.S. soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, vets and active-duty troops will go elsewhere for a way to express their antiwar views.

For soldiers gripped by the senselessness of their mission and a desperate drive for self-preservation, Afghanistan presents a situation at least as harrowing as Iraq. As an article earlier this year in the New York Times Magazine reported:

As hard as Iraq was, [Capt. Dan Kearney] said, nothing was as tough as the Korengal [a valley in Afghanistan]. Unlike in Iraq, where the captains and lieutenants could let down their guard in a relatively safe, fortified operating base, swapping stories and ideas, here they had no one to talk to and were almost as vulnerable to enemy fire inside the wire as out…

So what exactly was [Kearney’s] job out here? To subdue the valley. It’s a task the Marines had tried, and then the soldiers of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division–a task so bloody it seemed to drive the 10th Mountain’s soldiers to a kind of madness.

Kearney’s soldiers told me they’d been spooked by the weird behavior of their predecessors last May: near the end of their tour, many would sit alone on the fire base talking to themselves. Privates disobeyed their sergeants, and squad leaders refused to step outside the wire to show the new boys the terrain. No one wanted to be shot in the last days of his tour.

Facing hostility from civilians weary of being killed by errant U.S. airpower and the constant anxiety of waiting for the next insurgent assault, the conditions breed the perfect atmosphere for both war crimes and paralyzing post-traumatic stress disorder–both of which are vividly described in the Times magazine article.

In the months after the 2008 election, the ability of the antiwar movement to respond clearly to the growing focus of U.S. military might on this region will be of critical importance.

In 1991, the political establishment declared a “new world order” in the wake of the collapse of the USSR. But today, U.S. economic weakness and military blunders in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that the U.S. faces a “newer world order,” marked by increased instability, new crises and new strategic competitors, especially in Asia.

Our movement must develop the political understanding to analyze these developments and respond with a loud and clear opposition to the foreign policy of a government that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. aptly characterized as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

Eric Ruder writes for Socialist Worker where this article first appeared. Thanks to Alan Maass. Read other articles by Eric, or visit Eric's website.

24 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Erroll said on August 23rd, 2008 at 10:05am #

    To follow up on Eric Ruder’s point, the antiwar movement should make itself heard on the issue of Afghanistan by being as vociferous as possible at next week’s Democratic convention by telling Obama and the rest of the Democrats [if the protesters can somehow be seen and heard from their chicken wire enclosures which will be about 300 yards away from the convention itself] that the United States military should not be dropping 500 lb. bombs on innocent civilians in Afghanistan. Obama should stop pretending that he is an antiwar candidate when his recommendations to send even more troops into Afghanistan give overwhelming evidence that he is not.

  2. cg said on August 23rd, 2008 at 12:08pm #

    Speaking of “errant US air power,” there seems to be some confusion, questions as to who really killed and wounded those French troops…

  3. Donald Hawkins said on August 23rd, 2008 at 2:48pm #

    I just read that two cities will be virtual fortresses at the Democratic and Republican conventions. They will have airplanes, helicopters, barriers, fences and thousands of police officers, and Secret Service agents. 1,000 National Guard troops in Denver will help and air cover the North American Aerospace Defense Command, based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

    Obama do you read DV? During the convention as you are inside the center and all the grand speech’s are being made and you hear yes we can and the music is playing loud for all to hear remember outside maybe 20 thousand or more people will be trying to use what is know as free speech with signs that say stop the war or stop the warming and maybe a few that say just peace. They will be doing this under the careful eye of airplanes, helicopters, barriers, fences and thousands of police officers, and Secret Service agents. 1,000 National Guard troops. Just an idea but how about you Obama think outside the box and go outside in the fresh air and talk with those people. Now granted these people outside are not soccer mom’s or baby boomers and I’ll bet not to many Republicans but mostly younger folk who are idealistic and rightly so who are fighting back in what they see as injustice, insanity and many probably can’t explain what they feel but know something is wrong they feel it. Just maybe if you did do this you might see a young black man kind of like yourself a few years ago who got a little to close to the barrier and is being hit with a club and vice president Cheney is watching this on TV and thinking to himself you will produce you will consume you will produce you will consume you will work for minimum wage you will work for minimum wage you will listen to your leaders you will listen to your leaders we make the rules we make the rules. These people outside the center many of them will go on to become engineers, scientists, teachers and maybe even President maybe if you and many more can make some hard choices now very hard choices. Last night on the Discovery Channel they started there series on climate change and way’s to slow it down. There was this one scientist who won the Nobel prize a young scientist who was on a rope measuring the speed of the melt water on the Greenland ice sheet and the man with him asked him what do you think on the scale and all he said was 11. It’s time to stop pretending and go for it. Come on think outside the box and go outside and talk with all the people.

  4. Giorgio said on August 23rd, 2008 at 3:57pm #

    The “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” Indeed!
    And this is the greatest understatement of the century, too!

    Why doesn’t the American soldier just uses that little bit of grey matter he’s got left between his ears and refuse to fight by telling their top brass to get lost? In the same way that Muhammed Ali refused to fight in Vietnam because “NO Vietcom ever called him a NIGGER!”
    What did the Afghans insult them with to deserve this willful decimation?

  5. Brian Koontz said on August 23rd, 2008 at 7:26pm #

    The antiwar movement isn’t serious. They want imperial benefits but without the war part of it – so they support NGOs, “diplomacy” and economic terrorism and deride war as “bloody”. There’s never any serious antiwar movement from within an imperial society.

    A serious movement instead of being anti-war would be anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, which are the things that inexorably lead to war.

    There’s really no point in criticizing a non-serious movement.

  6. Deadbeat said on August 23rd, 2008 at 7:48pm #

    I think part of the reason why the “anti-war” movement is quite on Afghanistan is that there is a faction on the Left that supports Cynthia McKinney. These “leftist” are mum because McKinney voted for the War in Afghanistan and they would look like hypocrites if they were to bring it up. The McKinney supporters are apparently are not attempting to hold her accountable for her vote. Also we know that the “anti-war” movement diffused in order to avoid confronting that little matter of Zionism. So that leads to a great deal of question regarding the Left’s actual motivations and silences about the War in Afghanistan.

    Had the Left truly confronted Zionism, not acquiesced to the 911 hysteria, and abandoned the energized massed who got engaged in the anti-war movement well we may not have an Obama/Biden ticket to contend with.

    “We are all Zionists now”
    — Joseph Biden

  7. Max Shields said on August 24th, 2008 at 6:57am #

    Deadbeat, I know of no one who supports McKinney who thinks the US should be in Afghanistan – or in anyone of the nearly 800 bases the US occupies across the planet.

    So, while no one is disavowing McKinney’s vote, no one is using it, like you, as the basis for undermining one of two most powerful peace peace advocate voices during this election cycle.

    The “anti-war movement” was undermined by a mix of a system which knows how to take hundreds of thousands of protesters and make them TOTALLY INVISIBLE and because there is no draft and the American youth generation (as opposed to the ’60s) think voting for a faux progressive “anti-war” candidate is about as much protest and democracy they can muster up.

    Most of the “real” protesters are middle to late middle agers that have lost much of their verve and so are pretty much ignored by the power elite as a meaningful threat.

    But Deadbeat you can keep beating the same old tired drum about “anti-war leftiests” and McKinney’s vote on Afghanistan. I’m sure you will over and over and over.

    At bottom, in my opinion, “anti-war movements” have never really worked because they don’t get to the root cause. Instead it becomes about a particular war, and not the very engine that sets up the next one. A movement that takes on the system, head-on, and deep, is what is called for. War is a symptom of a persistent imperial world view that creates a win/lose grab for scarce resources.

  8. Donald Hawkins said on August 24th, 2008 at 8:06am #

    Max good one.

    Now let’s see what does this ice melt mean. That Polar bears are going to find it hard to survive, yes and we can soon go up North and get oil and gas, yes. It also means this:

    We need to get prepared for four degrees of global warming, Bob Watson told the Guardian last week. At first sight this looks like wise counsel from the climate science adviser to Defra. But the idea that we could adapt to a 4C rise is absurd and dangerous. Global warming on this scale would be a catastrophe that would mean, in the immortal words that Chief Seattle probably never spoke, “the end of living and the beginning of survival” for humankind. Or perhaps the beginning of our extinction.

    The collapse of the polar ice caps would become inevitable, bringing long-term sea level rises of 70-80 metres. All the world’s coastal plains would be lost, complete with ports, cities, transport and industrial infrastructure, and much of the world’s most productive farmland. The world’s geography would be transformed much as it was at the end of the last ice age, when sea levels rose by about 120 metres to create the Channel, the North Sea and Cardigan Bay out of dry land. Weather would become extreme and unpredictable, with more frequent and severe droughts, floods and hurricanes. The Earth’s carrying capacity would be hugely reduced. Billions would undoubtedly die.

    How long has there been ice in the North about 16 million years. How long have human’s been on Earth about 250,000 years give or take a few years. What the man wrote from the Guardian is it true, yes and unfortunately to late to stop many of those effects of climate change. There is still time but not much as James Hansen said if we start now and go for it we will be cutting it close. It can be done but will take imagination, focus and hard work not clever that you see from many clever is not going to get it. All clever does is keep people in pretendland. Last night on the Discovery Channel they started there series on climate change and way’s to slow it down. There was this one scientist who won the Nobel prize a young scientist who was on a rope measuring the speed of the melt water on the Greenland ice sheet and the man with him asked him what do you think on the scale and all he said was eleven. It’s time to stop pretending and go for it. Think 450 ppm of CO 2 in the atmosphere after that playing the back nine probably not in the cards.

    Head-on and beyond and soon.

  9. sk said on August 24th, 2008 at 8:10am #

    In the case of Afghanistan, the minds of quite a few are anesthetized by strategic deployment of 500 year old tropes that undergird the discourse of “Humanitarian Imperialism”.

  10. ddjango said on August 24th, 2008 at 10:03am #

    As long as the “anti-war” movement is selective, there is no anti-war movement. It is only “anti-THIS-war-or-THAT war”.

    At the moment of the 2001 incidents in NYC, Arlington, VA, and Pennsylvania, the United States as a nation had an opportunity to reflect on its character, its very soul, and begin to change, for the first time, into a truthful and honorable leader.

    We squandered that chance. As was the plan, I believe, the Left was emasculated and functionally silenced once and for all. Those of us who said, “Wait. Talk. Discover. Take the highest road” were called pariahs, traitors, and weaklings.

    Our courage has failed. There were so few who demanded the truth that now that the truth is so evident, we are moribund.

    I criticize the Right less than Left, because the Right’s actions were to be expected. The Right wages war because it believes in war. The Center used to wage war because it was afraid of being called “unpatriotic”. The Left is flaccidly impotent, period.

    There is no more country to defend. The Left has not been betrayed, it has betrayed itself. We do not even have a “lesser of two evils”. The directional labels mean nothing – we are fully in a post-political era.

  11. Max Shields said on August 24th, 2008 at 1:55pm #

    ddjango, I think there is much more to this story than some “left” betraying themselves.

  12. Deadbeat said on August 24th, 2008 at 3:15pm #

    But Deadbeat you can keep beating the same old tired drum about “anti-war leftiests” and McKinney’s vote on Afghanistan. I’m sure you will over and over and over.

    And Max rather than examining why the Left has betrayed their “principles” you’d rather swept the issue under the rug with ad-hominum fallacies rather than explanation.

    It must be real difficult for you Max to explain why the anti-war movement has continuously obscured the influence of Zionism among the ranks of the Left and that the Left would have rather diffuse the movement in order to maintain that obscurity.

    Also Max it must be difficult for you to explain why a certain faction of the “Left” is not holding Cynthia McKinney accountable for her vote for the invasion of Afghanistan. Interestingly the DEMOCRAT Barbara Lee voted against the resolution.

    This has been my point that you’d rather attack than discuss. The point is that the Left has not only displayed inconsistencies but has BETRAYED their profess principles. That BETRAYAL of principles is WHY there is a Obama/Biden today and not a Nader with a firm institutional structure that can sustain itself AFTER the election.

    Despite the anti-war movement weak sinews to the minority communities, ORDINARY people got involved and what did the Left do? Diffuse, obscure and betray. That monumental moment and opportunity was LOST.

    Thus because the Left FAILED to construct solidarity with the anti-war movement and FAILED to EXTEND the anti-war movement into minority communities the movement was constricted. Think about what could have occurred had the anti-war movement branched into the Latino community for example in reaction to the Sensenbrenner bill to resist the racist anti-immigration wave.

    Yet the Left today offers NOTHING. Especially folks like you Max prefer to make excuses for the Left and would rather not deal with the realities of the real core problems of the Left. The core problem of the Left; their lack of adherence to principles especially when it comes to challenging Zionism as constructed in the U.S. (and you yourself has written incessantly using strawmen and poison the well fallacies to obscure the issue) clearly indicated a RED flag that retards solidarity which is vital for any REAL change to occur.

    Thus as a means of avoidance the result is to shift the issues towards the “Democrats”. Yeah we all know and understand what the Democrats stand for. But the REASON why the Democrats has strength is DUE TO THE LEFT!

    The Obama phenomenon has attracted the very people the LEFT attracted in 2003/2004. However because the LEFT created this void opportunistically being filled by Obama the Left complaints falls extremely FLAT and IMO the Left has positioned itself for a severe backlash should Obama lose.

    “Leftist” like you Max and to be fair and balanced Glen Ford are using critiques of Obama not as a way to inform and to educate but to avoid dealing with the contractions and betrayals committed by members of of the Left and IMO are phonies.

    The critiques are sanctimonious and reactionary condemning the voters for even considering Obama as an electoral choice. They paint Obama as a “pied piper” offering “hope” to a mindless public. But when that narrative is contrasted with the betrayals and failure of the Left then the people are responding logically and practically. That is the perspective Max that you MUST attack in order to continue to obscure and camouflage the contradiction of the Left and why the Left is marginalized in the United States.

    Clearly I’ve raised valid issues regarding McKinney and clearly it gnaws at you because you have to deal with your own inconsistencies and defend your inconsistencies.

    “We are all Zionists now” — Joe Biden.

  13. bozhidar balkas said on August 24th, 2008 at 4:21pm #

    had any protest thus far even detered any war let alone prevented or stopped it once it was under way?
    and a war by a superpower like US especially so?
    the Left in canada, even tho it consist proportionately of much more leftists than the Left in US, cannot prevent canadian aggressions.
    the Left in canada and US needs the Right badly.
    so, i suggest we not bash the left in US when the Right is, is it, 90% for wars.
    let’s face it! it may be that the US war planners have taken into account the Left’s protest against invasion of iraq. the planners also knew that US is to stay in iraq for decades.
    thus have expected opposition to the occupation of iraq. most likely they have counted on peaceful protest.
    and a peaceful protest by about 5% of pop means what? it means what we see today: success for the ruling class and failure for 95% of US citizens.
    if we can fully educate the losing 95%, we may be able to gather courage/hope to do more than just talk/peacefully protest.
    more is needed than that. thank u

  14. Dave Silver said on August 24th, 2008 at 5:20pm #

    UFPJ has been part of the problem for about 3 years not just the past year. It’s opportunist and follow the Democrats and not supporting the Resistance in Iraq for example. However there is the ANSWER Coalition
    whose actions and statements are and were anti-imperialist

  15. Giorgio said on August 24th, 2008 at 8:21pm #

    Brian Koontz,

    You’ve said it beautifully,
    “There’s never any serious antiwar movement from within an imperial society. They want imperial benefits but without the war part of it”
    i.e. without getting killed in the process.

    If the Iraq invasion had not spilled one drop of American blood there would not be a Cindy Sheehan around protesting…
    There would be congratulations all round:
    Aren’t we just too smart for them? We killed sand-niggers by the thousands and not a single casket with one of our boys in it as yet arrived home! Isn’t it GREAT !?

  16. cg said on August 24th, 2008 at 8:53pm #

    Like Kosovo.

  17. Richard Posner said on August 24th, 2008 at 10:12pm #

    As Mr. Koontz has said:
    “A serious movement instead of being anti-war would be anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, which are the things that inexorably lead to war.”

    Capitalism and fascism are hand in glove. Unless the blight of capitalism is completely exterminated, war and death will remain the primary source of profit for the fascist corporatocracy.
    “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”
    –Benito Mussolini

  18. AJ NAsreddin said on August 25th, 2008 at 4:38am #

    The Afghanistan situation is bad on so many levels. If and when the US et al pull out, what will be left? Pull out now, and apart from not getting the pipeline, the world would be left with essentially a Wild Wild Central Asia. The limited understanding of Islam by most of the Afghans will be fertile ground for Islamic freaks sharing the same myopic world view as the Taliban. This is, of course, one of the scariest thoughts for Americans. Get out of the land of the boogieman and the boogieman might come and get you again.

  19. Lloyd Rowsey said on August 25th, 2008 at 7:10am #

    Hey, Max. Great to read the-good-Max-is-still-here in your first post above. The poster I used to read to ease my mind. And the global warming thing? Sometimes a reader gets the impression everyone “on the Left” would be in agreement if there were no timeline. But What about THIS week? And the bodies of IVAW protesters, and others, on the line in Colorado? More melted ice in the Artic than blood in the streets, near Rocky Mountain High? Yeah, quite likely.

    I was repelled by this article’s title at first, thinking the Good War meant the one my son’s age cohorts give so much credit to The Wise Men (who also gave us vietnam) for. But no, It’s Afghanistan. I remember reading Rory Stewart’s The Places In Between two years ago. God, what a place. Stewart trekked from one side of the country to the other, with a giant killer-dog given to him by a mountain villager, and they were both repeatedly attacked or challenged by village dwellers after village dewllers. I won’t reveal which one, if either, made it home.

    You still have time for a couple of chapters. Katie C. doesn’t present until tonite, if I’m not mistaken.

  20. Max Shields said on August 25th, 2008 at 7:46am #

    The notion of the “just” or “good war” has always been the ploy of the neoliberals and their militarist/corporatist supporters. Neocons don’t seem to make much of a distinction as long as it is the US and Israel that is waging the war.

    WWII is , than viewed as an example of a “just war”. The argument is extrapolated to “but we could have “saved” more lives had we intervened earlier…” Of course this is a typical military and imperial ploy.

    The only “legal war” is one which is waged by the defender when attacked. But again, the war is not morally just because someone waged it – was the aggressor and therefore there is criminality.

    Then there is the case of the “humanitarian interventionism” which leads precipitacely to war and innocent lives lost or otherwise destroyed. Assuming a level of killing pre-dating the intervention, it has been our historical experience that interventionism (for any reason) heightens the war, ups the ante and changes the dynamics from “civil” to insurgency and guerrila warfare. Low intensity warfare is prescribed by US militarists. Deaths now reach all time highs.

    As wars have been waged over the last century (and before) the numbers of civilians killed as a result have gone up to the point where, there are few “soldiers” killed and the majority are civilians at an ever increasing rate with larger and larger numberse of them children.

    War is neither morally just nor ever legal. The cause of war has always been the same. The “system” which precipitates it (forms of imperial hegemony) must be replaced to align with the moral and legal constraints that make war a crime. Nothing short of that makes any sense.

    Discussion around “leftist” are merely red herrings which have no real bearing on the graveness of the issue.

  21. Max Shields said on August 25th, 2008 at 7:53am #

    Ironically, and tragically, “conventional war” was closer to what the authors of the UN charter had in mind and the International Court “thought” it could uphold and YET, war has never been conventional since the various treaties were signed religating it to a criminal endeavor. In fact war has become, more vicious in spite of the consciuouness that laid it out for what it was during the Nuremburg Tribunals.

  22. cg said on August 25th, 2008 at 11:32am #

    AJ, very honest and realistic points.
    The Taliban are not only a scary thought for Americans but also for Afghans and for that matter anyone who happens to bump up against them.
    Your description of the Taliban’s world view as “myopic” is very generous.
    Who is their right mind could believe any pipeline through Afghanistan will ever operate in one piece, or at all, without consent/control by the Taliban?

  23. Max Shields said on August 25th, 2008 at 12:04pm #

    AJ NAsreddin and cg

    If I understand fellas, it’s the USA who invaded Afghanistan, not the other way around. The Taliban were the US allies. Get it? We armed them. See my point?

    So, you can “fear” all you want, but Who’s in Iraq? Who as nearly 800 bases around the globe? Who bombed to hell Southeast Asia? Who slaughtered thousands in Bosnia? Who has tossed 1/2 meg bombs on civilian outposts in Somolia?

    Get it? Taliban? NO…

  24. bozhidar balkas said on August 25th, 2008 at 1:14pm #

    cg, aj,
    not a single pashtun has to date harmed/hurt a single canadian/amer in any wise whatsoever.
    i do not know of a very pious person who was beaten (or his/her country/religion was militarily attacked) who changed his/her behavior/religion because her torturer demand it.
    in decades, centries, millennia pashtuns may be a danger to the citizens of nato countries.
    evocation of perils is an ancient strategem. thank u