Mission of Ignorance

Right up
there with "our mission," in the pantheon of sacred foreign policy
mumbo-jumbo, is "training Afghan security forces," that endless,
multibillion-dollar prerequisite for our departure from the country.

We've been
training a local army and police force for eight years now to take on
the good and noble task of defending U.S. interests. Yet: "What is
there to show for all this remarkably expensive training?" writes Ann
Jones at TomDispatch. "Although in Washington they may talk about the
90,000 soldiers in the Afghan National Army, no one has reported
actually seeing such an army anywhere in Afghanistan. . . .

"My educated guess is that such an army simply does not exist."

implications of this possibility - that we're kidding ourselves, lying
to ourselves, hemorrhaging our national treasury on pie-in-the-sky
strategic objectives - are so troubling that we'll never face them as a
nation until every last avenue of denial has been exhausted. I fear
we've still got a long way to go in this regard.

in the game, the Bush White House actually boasted that it was no
longer fettered by reality. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we
create our own reality," an unnamed White House spokesman famously
crowed. The "Afghan army" is one of the results of this
hubris-that-passeth-all-understanding - this attempt to turn desperate Afghan men into junior American warriors.

Jones writes of visiting training fields near Kabul, where Illinois National Guardsmen - "big,
strong, camouflaged, combat-booted, supersized American men" - put
Afghan trainees through the paces. "Keep in mind," she writes, "Afghan
recruits come from a world of desperate poverty. They are almost
uniformly malnourished and underweight. Many are no bigger than I am
(5-feet-4 and thin) - and some probably not much stronger. Like me,
many sag under the weight of a standard-issue flak jacket."

Keep in
mind also, she notes, that the Afghans have a warrior tradition. They
defeated the Soviets 20 years ago; free of the massive weight of the
equipment and ammo U.S. soldiers carry, they can traverse the
mountainous terrain of their own land with ease and efficiency. The
Taliban, of course, fight within this tradition now, with great
success, but no matter: "The U.S. military is determined to train (the
Afghan recruits) for another style of war."

happens, she says, is that the poor Afghans, who can get no other work,
sign up for military training, become certified as soldiers, desert,
then sign up for the training again under different names. Taliban
members also take the training, then use the skills they learned
against U.S. and NATO forces.

And, oh
yeah: "When I visited bases and training grounds in July," Jones
writes, "I heard some American trainers describe their Afghan trainees
in the same racist terms once applied to African slaves in the U.S.:
lazy, irresponsible, stupid, childish, and so on."

Well, hmm.
Some kind of American vision has come to fruition here, and it is all
too familiar. The Bush-era neocons who were creating their own reality
were merely remaking portions of the Middle East and Central Asia along
the established, culturally obtuse lines of the colonialism of
yesteryear, pumped up with American pop-culture machismo in the style
of Rambo and G.I. Joe.

"mission" in Afghanistan is a potent blend of arrogance, ignorance and
power, and the pretend army we keep creating, over and over, out of the
malnourished and dispossessed locals, is an example of the
dysfunctional society such a mission inevitably births. It's what a
different generation of war criminals birthed in Vietnam.

And we are
not yet at the stage of reflecting and regrouping. The Obama
administration, despite its mandate to dismantle the Bush era and reel
in the neocon arrogance the previous administration loosed on the
world, is pursuing the flawed vision it inherited. We continue to stomp
across Central Asia with utter ignorance of the culture and people we
purport to be liberating, bringing with us the worst of who we are. We
have absolute faith in our latter-day manifest destiny and the
three-word religion that sustains it: Might make right.

Such a
religion is also called the myth of redemptive violence. It is
history's oldest, simplest, most pervasive myth, and its influence is
stronger than ever among the American ruling class, having embedded
itself in the war economy to which this class is beholden. Humanitarian
aid? Food? Health care? No way. These are not part of the myth.

They may be
common sense to an adult, but as theologian Walter Wink writes: "There
is no rite of passage from adolescent to adult status in the national
cult of violence."

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