I’M OUTTA HERE!!!

               I’m outta here!   With those words comedian Dennis Miller would finish his delivery of The Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. Well, I want to say that now and I want to have over 300 million Americans join me in doing so. Where will we not be if I have my wish? Why that resort paradise of Afghanistan, that’s where.

                We invaded that flea bitten,  mountainous, ungovernable non-nation on October 7, 2001, 26 days after 9/11. Now we are 9 years, 2 months, and 14 days post 9/11 and our reason for being there, if legitimate at all to begin with, has long since reached it’s expiration date whch was tripped the day Osama Bin Laden packed up his wives, his minions and his camcorder and vacated his luxury digs in Casa de Cave for the safety of the relatively more tropical Pakistan. There he is ensconced with all the comforts he requires. And that comfort is the protection of the Pakistani government to whom we have given billions and whose citizenry remains singularly unimpressed. See this:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/23/AR2010082305476.html

           Asif Ali Zardari is Pakistan’s President and no rube he. As a billionaire he should be right at home with many American politicians. But you wonder how much control he has or how much he truly desires to curry favor with the U.S. while Bin Laden maintains his sanctuary there.

             But no mind, we’re still chasing around Afghanistan not looking for Bin Laden. Or it could be that we are like parents playing hide-and-seek with their kids, going all over and pretending not to find the little rug rats when we knew where they were all along.

               Now we are engaged in continuing action that kills our troops, destroys our equipment, and swallows our money. Nothing new for Washington but what makes this situation distinct is that it has become farcical in the best traditions of Moliere and Chekhov though not yet descending into the pure slapstick of The Three Stooges.

                  How is this you ask? UMOC 193 you must give us examples or lose your credibilty. Not to worry, Yak Breath, examples galore exist.

                  If you recall in All The Presidents Men Woodward and Bernstein, as they got deeper and deeper into the Watergate scandal, realized that they must “follow the money”. Let us do the same.

                 In 2001, prior to 9/11 and prior to our invasion, the United States in the infinite non-wisdom of our relentless and logic-less WAR ON DRUGS, we began paying the Taliban for their own anti-poppy campaign. So when we invaded trying to eradicate that same Taliban we were biting the hand we fed. See this:

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3556

              Then a Congressional report in June of this year revealed that money used to secure protection for truck convoys delivering materiel in Afghanistan for the military was ending up in the hands and backyard buried cookie tins of Taliban leaders. Now who represented the greatest threat to these convoys? Don’t know about you but my guess is that it would be……THE TALIBAN! I have a strange feeling Joseph Heller could rewrite Catch 22 using this scenario.

            As this story by ABC news points out, this arrangement is akin to the traditional Mafia protection racket. I guess Tony Soprano never stopped believing in his warped version of the American Dream on his Journey to advise the Taliban leadership.

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Afghanistan/united-states-military-funding-taliban-afghanistan/story?id=10980527

                  Now after word that there were ongong talks with the Taliban to reach some accommodation with the official government and NATO forces, it seems the Taliban representative was actually an impostor who somehow milked his negotiating partners for wads of cash.

Afghan intelligence later determined that the visitor was actually a shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta, he said.

“This shows that this process should be Afghan-led and fully Afghanized,” Daudzai said. “The last lesson we draw from this: International partners should not get excited so quickly with those kind of things. . . . Afghans know this business, how to handle it. We handle it with care, we handle it with a result-based approach, with very less damage to all the other processes.”

               Ah…..the British are responsible. Apparently they let their guard down with all the hubbub of the Kate Middleton news. Kinda makes you feel that if we hadn’t already done so, we should kick their ass out of our country. Here’s the rest of that story:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/25/AR2010112503577.html

                As an aside here, it is clear that our adventure in Afghanistan began under President George W. Bush. The move had broad popular support coming on the heels of 9/11 and with the seeming rout of the Taliban. But Bin Laden escaped, the Taliban resurged,  and now it’s as if we are on a scavenger hunt where trinkets are amassed with no real objective.

                 President Obama stepped in without missing a beat and has increased troop levels while promising an early withdrawal. What that means, exactly, is nebulous. In any event before we leave our intent is to ensure that Afghanistan has a stable government. To do that clearly means that it must be able to maintain its own security. To that end one of the missions of U.S. troops is to train Afghan police so they are prepared to assume the responsibility of security. That mission is encountering more twists and turns, road blocks and missteps than the Blues Brothers’ mission from God.

            Christopher Beam of Slate.com spent time earlier this year with American troops engaged in this mission. Perhaps the following two paragraphs from his report will illustrate the obstacles impeding their success.

Every morning at Police Substation 5, two Afghan children come in and collect the trash, presumably to resell. They don’t sort out the bottles and cans. They take everything, down to the last Nutri-Grain wrapper. “They’re the hardest-working people around here,” says Lt. Jason Walter, the top-ranking officer in 1st Platoon. It’s not so much a compliment to the kids as an insult to the Afghan police. The MPs are supposed to be mentoring the ANP, but the relationship feels strained, to say the least.

“There are four things you can swear about anybody here,” says Staff Sgt. Ronald Ketterman, gesturing toward a room full of Afghan policemen. “They take bribes, they lie, they fuck each other in the ass, and they steal. If you wake up in the morning and just assume that is as gospel as the beard on your face, you’re gonna do well.”

                  Here is the link to the entire four part series:

                  http://www.slate.com/id/2270853/

                  While there are farcical elements at play, this exploit like all wars, is ultimately tragic. To date more than 1400 American troops have died in Afghanistan.  http://icasualties.org/oef/ The most famous of these casualties was former NFL player Pat Tillman who I wrote about. https://umoc193.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/tillman-vs-mcchrystal/   His story itself is part farce, part tragedy. May he rest in peace.

                 Wednesday night Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta was a guest on David Letterman’s show. He has just been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan, the first living soldier to be so honored from that conflict. He was amazingly both soft-spoken and self-effacing. His account of what he did to merit the medal was straightforward but riveting. He is the epitome of the type of soldier you want fighting on your side.

               But the circumstances where such valor is demonstrated necessarily entail death. In Sgt. Giunta’s case that meant not only some of his comrades but also, of course, the enemy. That is a sad commentary on a situation which is so laughable in many ways, exhibiting neither rhyme nor reason. While we appreciate the service of Sgt. Giunta and those whose sacrifices large and small mean they are merely performing their duties, we need to redirect that service to something of genuine value to this nation. Will you join me in declaring “I’m outta here”?

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