Saving Face in Unwinnable War

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Toronto Sun

Saving Face in Unwinnable War

Sinking in debt and no closer to victory, heads may roll as the U.S. and NATO wrap up their pointless Afghan adventure

Fire-breathing U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his Special Forces "mafia" were supposed to crush Afghan resistance to western occupation. But McChrystal was fired after rude remarks from his staff about the White House.

A more cerebral and political general, David Petraeus, replaced McChrystal. Petraeus managed to temporarily suppress resistance in Iraq.

Last week, the usually cautious Petraeus vowed from Kabul to "win" the Afghan War, which has cost the U.S. nearly $300 billion to date and 1,000 dead. The problem: No one can define what winning really means. Each time the U.S. reinforces, Afghan resistance grows stronger.

Afghanistan is America's longest-running conflict.

The escalating war now costs U.S. taxpayers $17 billion monthly. President Barack Obama's Afghan "surge" of 30,000 more troops will cost another $30 billion.

The Afghan and Iraq wars - at a cost of $1 trillion - are being waged on borrowed money when the U.S. is drowning in $13.1 trillion in debt.

America has become addicted to debt and war.

By 2011, Canadians will have spent an estimated $18.1 billion on Afghanistan, $1,500 per household.

The U.S. Congress, which alone can declare and fund war, shamefully allowed U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Obama to usurp this power. A majority of Americans now oppose this imperial misadventure. Though politicians fear opposing the war lest they be accused of "betraying our soldiers," dissent is breaking into the open.

Last week, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele let the cat out of the bag, admitting the Afghan war was not winnable. War-loving Republicans erupted in rage, all but accusing Steele of high treason. Many of Steele's most hawkish Republican critics had, like Bush and Dick Cheney, dodged real military service during the Vietnam War.

Republicans (I used to be one) blasted McChrystal's sensible policy of trying to lessen Afghan civilian casualties from U.S. bombing and shelling. There is growing anti-western fury in Afghanistan and Pakistan over mounting civilian deaths.

By clamouring for more aggressive attacks that endanger Afghan civilians and strengthen Taliban, Republicans again sadly demonstrate they have become the party and voice of America's dim and ignorant.

Obama claimed he was expanding the Afghan War to fight al-Qaida. Yet the Pentagon estimates there are no more than a handful of al-Qaida small-fry left in Afghanistan.

Obama owes Americans the truth about Afghanistan.

After nine years of war, the immense military might of the U.S., its dragooned NATO allies, and armies of mercenaries have been unable to defeat resistance to western occupation or create a popular, legitimate government in Kabul. Drug production has reached new heights.

As the United States feted freedom from a foreign oppressor on July 4, its professional soldiers were using every sort of weapon in Afghanistan, from heavy bombers to tanks, armoured vehicles, helicopter gunships, fleets of drones, heavy artillery, cluster bombs and an arsenal of hi-tech gear.

In spite of this might, bands of outnumbered Pashtun tribesmen and farmers, armed only with small arms, determination and limitless courage, have fought the West's war machine to a standstill and now have it on the strategic defensive.

This brutal David versus Goliath conflict brings no honour upon the western powers waging it, including Canada. They are widely seen abroad as waging yet another pitiless colonial war against a small, backward people for resource domination and strategic geography.

Most Afghans yearn for peace after 30 years of war. But efforts by the government of Hamid Karzai, Taliban and Pakistan to forge a peace are being thwarted by Washington, Ottawa and Afghanistan's Communist-dominated Tajik Northern Alliance. India stirs the pot in Afghanistan while rebellion seethes in Indian-held Kashmir.

The heretical Republican Steele was speaking truth when he said this ugly, pointless war is unwinnable. But Washington's imperial impulses continue. Too many political careers in the U.S., Canada and Europe hang on this misbegotten war. So, too, does the fate of the obsolete NATO alliance that may well meet its Waterloo in the hills of Afghanistan.

Eric Margolis

Columnist and author Eric Margolis is a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World

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