Why Are We In Afghanistan?

In 1967 Norman Mailer released a novel titled Why Are We In Vietnam? This exercise by Mailer is the story of a couple 18 year-old Texans off on a hunting trip with their wealthy fathers. The quartet are consumed with an overload of braggadocio and testosterone. The story of the trip, which is full of whiskey and tales of past sexual conquests, racial slurs and assumptions of American exceptionalism, is told through the eyes of one of the younger men. It is obviously meant as a psychological metaphor for why the US fought in Vietnam. Like the film The Deer Hunter and a number of other films having to do with killing America’s enemies, the nature of US machismo and its curious confusion with racism and homophobia, Why Are We In Vietnam? puts forth the proposition that not only is the rugged individualism of the white-skinned pioneer essential to the myth of the US conquest of the North America continent, it is also essential to the expansion of US capitalism as well.

If one explores this idea in the context of recent history both on Wall Street and in Washington’s current overseas adventures, it become clearer why very few folks in Imperial Washington — though not in the rest of the country — want to get out of Iraq or Afghanistan. The projection of military power overseas becomes compensation for the shrinking economic power of Wall Street. Liberal and right-wing believers whose stock in the church of capital has fallen can still feel good about themselves as long as their mission continues overseas against the Muslim and peasant hordes. As for the heretics within, let the loudmouth preachers of right wing radio condemn those citizens to the mercies of the angry white men and Sarah Palin — their Joan of Arc. Once the heretics have been burned at the stake of right wing rhetoric, the armies of the right will end their Tea Parties, pick up their weapons and take back the White House, installing a white person back in the Presidential bedrooms. Once done, that black man who’s in those bedrooms right now would no longer be a threat, having been emasculated just like a Scottsboro Boy.

So, while Mr. Obama (that black man) ponders whether or not he should continue the US projection of power into Afghanistan begun by his predecessor, Texan George Bush, or pull out, one wonders if Obama is part of the hunting party on par with the plantation’s generals or is he just the guy who must retrieve and dress the kill?

If he accepts General McChrystal’s call for more troops and the consequent increase in bloodshed, does Obama then become a trusted equal to the generals or the Pentagon’s Stepin’ Fetchit? If he rejects this and future calls to escalate this fruitless war, will he be sent back into the kitchen to wait for the bell telling him to bring out the next course or will it represent a defeat for the current crop of General Custers?

Then again, there’s the Biden option. This proposal would repackage the war in Afghanistan under its original wrapping as part of the “war on terror.” This repackaging would require a bit of convoluted convincing since national security adviser Ret. General James Jones told the media that “fewer than 100 Al-Qaida (the bogeymen of Islamic terror) are operating in Afghanistan.” Of course, the hawks in DC counter this statement with the argument that it is precisely because there are US troops in Afghanistan that Al Qaida’s strength has diminished. However, the fault in this line of reasoning can be found in the supposition of its supporters that the Taliban must be defeated to keep Al Qaida on the run. Why? Because at the same time that Al Qaida’s activities in Afghanistan have diminished, the strength of Taliban and other resistance forces have grown. In other words, even though Al Qaida forces have almost ended operations in Afghanistan, the resistance to western occupation has grown.

Then there’s the question of Pakistan. In recent weeks, US officials have begun to suggest the existence of a Taliban formation in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan. Furthermore, US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson and a junior US diplomat — Deputy Head of Mission Gerald Feierstein in Pakistan — have threatened US air strikes on the city of Quetta where this grouping — called the Quetta shira by western media — are supposed to be quartered. These threats have been met by calls for the expulsion of these diplomats in at least one Pakistani media outlets. If US troop numbers are increased in Afghanistan, the staging of a ground invasion into Waziristan or Baluchistan or air strikes not carried out by drones launched in Nevada becomes that much easier. If changing the situation in Pakistan is a dominant reason for the current debate over mission and troop numbers in Afghanistan and the battle in Afghanistan is considered just part of that equation, then there is little doubt that US troops will remain in that country for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the likelihood of their numbers increasing becomes even greater. On Monday Obama said withdrawal from Afghanistan wasn’t an option. Bearing in mind Lao Tzu’s observation that he who rejoices in victory delights in killing, this writer awaits.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

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  1. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on October 9th, 2009 at 8:30am #

    One does not go to war in order to conquer a land or part of a land, occupy it, skirmish in it for yrs, and then leave it.

    So, my answer is firm: US/nato is there to posses it in myriad manners and not just via permament occupation; aka, military bases, spy agencies, and other forces.

    US/nato may not be even be a tad against taiban mad; the wicked alliance may even welcome it.
    We know for certain that US/israel/nato welcomed over 60 yrs any military retaliation by pal’ns.
    To ensure pal’n retaliation, isr had engaged in numerous provocations; too well known to list now.
    Resistance or no resistance, once christian nations; or rather, their respective leaderships, have designated pal’n utter destruction, palestina as we knew her, will never rise again.

    The same fate awaits afgh’n, and iraq. Let’s face it: euros may have been happy with americas and parts of other continents but that no longer suffices.
    To thrive, euros now want all of the planet. But wld anyone be that stupid having that much power not go for the ultimate?

    After all history is not a mystory; it’s clear: all wars are waged for land and everything that is in and on it; it may or may not include it’s people nor winning their hearts and minds.
    But i don’t think anyone actually thought that the shiboleth was true????!
    As palestina proves, christian lands went to war against palestina with intent to make pal’ns hate them.
    For that was profitable for them. Is it any different in iraq or afgh’n?
    Or does one think that the uncle is a bit sad over a loss of lad? tnx

  2. dan e said on October 9th, 2009 at 5:07pm #

    for once I find myself on same page as BB, up to a pt anyway.

    Pepe Escobar’s mot “Pipelinestan” is so elegantly clever that it took me a while to realize its incompatibility with the facts and its compatibility with the Zionist Version as pimped by Stephen Zunes, Antonia Juhacz, Noam Chomsky and even ANSWER Coalition honchae such as the Beckers et al.

    The US military cum “Intelligence” operations in Afghanistan have nothing to do with anything that can be gained from the soil or the population of that unfortunate country itself. The real underlying reasons the Zionist Power Config masters of the US State Apparatus ordered Bush & Co to invade & occupy Afghanistan are three, of which the most important has to do with Pakistan. The fact that this Muslim country’s Muslim military possesses a small nuclear capability is absolutely intolerable to any self-respecting Zionist; even sans the nuclear weapons, any large Islamic country, even the most impoverished, stands as a potential obstacle to the achievement of full “security” (aka full-spectrum dominance) for “Eretz Yisroel”. So Pakistan must be broken up, balkanized and disorganized, denuded of infrastructure etc etc, given the Iraq Treatment.
    The second reason has to to with the envisioned dismemberment of China. A third is the desire to punish the puritanical fanatic Taliban for disrupting the highly profitable Opium industry, which had since the eviction of Soviet influence been in the hands of persons with ties to the CIA, which is to say the Mossad since it is impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.
    If this statement seems farfetched to any of DV’s younger readers, let me refer you to Alfred McCoy’s “Politics of Heroin in SE Asia”, plus any biography of Charles “Lucky” Luciano.
    It was probably also seen as convenient to make a show of going after Osama Bin Laden in a place where it would be impossible to find much less capture him.
    The point is, “Oil” had nothing to do with it. If US “Big Oil” interests had wanted to build a pipeline bad enough to carry out occupation of the country, after eight years they would have built it. All the talk of “a war for Oil” is nothing but a diversion, just as it has been with reference to Iraq. Such tales belong down the toilet with nonsense about “WMD” and Iran’s fictitious nuclear weapons program.

  3. Deadbeat said on October 9th, 2009 at 6:34pm #

    All the talk of “a war for Oil” is nothing but a diversion, just as it has been with reference to Iraq.

    Very true and as you list… the Zionist Version as pimped by Stephen Zunes, Antonia Juhacz, Noam Chomsky and even ANSWER Coalition honchae such as the Beckers et al. has thoroughly corrupted and misdirected the Left to the point of ineffectiveness and ineptitude.