Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #685 Interview [#4] with Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

MP3 Side 1 | Side 2

Introduction: Much of the show consists of a presentation of Liz and Paul’s prescriptions for what needs to be done in Afghanistan. (Listeners interested in the authors’ work are encouraged to check out FTR #’s 678, 680, 683.)

Topping off the list is the need to reduce civilian casualties. In addition to attenuating civilian casualties, the authors feel that humiliation of Afghan men must be stopped, at all costs. The sorts of abuses highlighted at Abu Ghraib in Iraq work against U.S. and NATO interests.

In addition, recruiting people with a more realistic and complete understanding is imperative (in the view of the authors).

Another change the authors believe to be imperative is the need to change the way humanitarian aid is delivered, especially structuring that aid in such as a way as to avoid graft and “skimming.” Sadly, much of the aid that the U.S. has allocated to the Afghans has been negated by corruption.

They also feel that a declaration to the “Global War on Terror” would be useful. Although Mr. Emory agrees with this as a rhetorical and diplomatic gambit, he feels emphatically that the war against the Underground Reich and its Islamist proxy warriors is essential for the survival of democracy and the Englightenment itself. To fully comprehend his position, one should examine in detail his work on the September 11 attacks, utilizing the introduction to FTR #391 in particular.

Refining the basic focus of U.S. objectives is also something the authors deem essential. In addition, the authors stress the need for international diplomacy and regional international diplomacy in particular. Forging unity of purpose and methodology is prerequisite for such diplomacy to be successful.

Further developing the need for international/regional diplomacy, the authors emphasize the importance of the resurgence of Russia and the folly of playing a game in which boxing in/denying Russia continues to be a major part of American diplomacy.

The legacy of Zbigniew Brzezinski must be negated, in their view.

Among the most important issues to be dealt with is the decisive role of the narcotics traffic in the Afghan imbroglio. The authors endorse the view that buying that country’s massive opium crop for the production of medical morphine might be a possible solution to the problem.

To the surprise of many listeners, the authors reject the notion of negotiating with the Taliban. In addition to the fact that they are proxies for the Pakistani intelligence service and military, the Taliban are unremittingly murderous and have shown no willingness to honor negotiations in the past, displaying an inclination to slaughter would-be negotiators.

Lastly, the authors caution that to “stay the course” may well precipitate the end of the United States.

The authors conclude with their vision of a more hopeful future. Seeing Afghanistan as the grave of 20th and 21st century confrontational politics, they feel that the dire events taking place in that country will lead to a more constructive and intelligent future.

Mr. Emory very much wishes he shared their optimism.

Program Highlights Include: Discussion of the use of Islamists as proxy warriors by various parties over the centuries; review of the active suppression of Liz and Paul’s work during the Soviet Afghan war; review of the pivotal role of the Pakistani military and intelligence services and military in the creation of the Taliban; review of gthe influence of U.S.-based fossil fuels companies in the Afghan imbroglio.

1. Much of the show consists of a presentation of Liz and Paul’s prescriptions for what needs to be done in Afghanistan. Topping off the list is the need to reduce civilian casualties.

“. . . Stop killing Afghans. According to the United Nations humanitarian affairs chief, John Holmes, the number of Afghan civilians killed in the first half of 2008 rose 62 percent from that of the year before. Since September 11, 2001 the United States has behaved as if it is at war with the Afghan people. It is not. American fighter jets and drones firing Hellfire missiles on rural mud-walled villages and killing innocent Afghans is more than just ineffective. Its cartoon-like simplicity paints a grotesque image of the devolution of the American political process and the ineffectiveness of high-tech, precise and surgical tactics. Even William Casey was said to have regretted the slaughter of the Afghan people in his bid to hurt the Russians. Now the United States does it without blinking. . . . If Washington’s bureaucrats don’t remember the history of the region, the Afghans do. Bitterly. The British used air power to bomb these same Pashtun villages after World War I and were condemned for it. When the Soviets used MIGS and the ‘dreaded MI24 HIND helicopter gunships to do it during the 1980’s, they were called criminals. For America to use its overwhelming firepower in the same reckless and indiscriminate manner defies the world’s sense of justice and morality while turning the Afghan people and the Islamic world even further against the United States. . . .”

Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould; City Lights Books [SC]; Copyright 2009 by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould; ISBN-13: 978-0-87286-494-8; p. 317.

2. In addition to attenuating civilian casualties, the authors feel that humiliation of Afghan men must be stopped, at all costs.

“Stop humiliating Afghan men and desecrating their homes Whoever introduced Rafael Patai’s book The Arab Mind as a guide for interrogating Muslim men through sexual humiliation should be put on trial for inciting terrorism. Anyone vaguely aware of the military’s behavior while on search-and-destroy missions in rural Afghan villages would not wonder why the countryside hs turned en masse  against the U.S. presence.”

Idem.

3. In addition, recruiting people with a more realistic and complete understanding is imperative (in the view of the authors).

Call in people with a better understanding of the problem from a diversity of the Afghan political perspective and take their advice seriously. Washington’s think tanks and a handful of elite eastern universities dominate U.S. planning in Afghanistan. Hundreds of veteran CIA and State Department personnel responsible for creating and overseeing the creative destruction of Afghan civil society during the 1980’s now share the virtues of that creative destruction with a whole new crop of eager young students. Without exception, these ‘experts’ mimic to one degree or another, an Anglo-centric view of Afghanistan that remains firmly rooted in a nineteenth-century Victorian view of colonial virtue while advancing failed ‘free market’ ideologies common to the Reagan era as solutions to the country’s problems. In a column written for the Asia Times on September 27, 2007, even former CIA bin Laden hunter Michael Scheuer cited Rudyard Kipling and The Man Who Would Be King as an excuse for why it’s so difficult catching Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Waziristan. As roadside bombs emulate the Iraqi quagmire, Taliban fighters surround Kabul and record amounts of heroin spill from the seams of Afghanistan’s porous borders, the U.S. continues to look at a British-led effort designed in London in the 1830’s to expand her Indian Empire into Central Asia as a model. It should be remembered that as long ago as 1870, that model was referred to by British statesman Sir John W. Kaye as a ‘folly and a crime.'”

Ibid.; pp. 317-318.

4. Another change the authors believe to be imperative is the need to change the way humanitarian aid is delivered, especially structuring that aid in such as a way as to avoid graft and “skimming.”

 

“Start helping Afghans in a way they can understand, see, and appreciate. The way humanitarian aid is now delivered appears designed to fail. A June 2008 article in Prospect magazine by Clare Lockhart, cofounder of the Institute of State Effectiveness with former Afghan finance minister Ashraf Ghani, described one story ‘of $150m going up in smoke,’ saying that ‘the money was received by an agency in Geneva, who took 20 percent and subcontracted the job to another agency in Washington DC, who also took 20 percent. Again it was subcontracted and another 20 percent was taken; and this happened again when the money arrived in Kabul. By this time, there was very little money left.’ The young Afghan man telling the story summed up his opinion this way: ‘We may be illiterate, but we are not stupid.’

According to Oxfam, the per capita expenditure for rebuilding Afghanistan after the Taliban defeat was $57 compared to $679 per capita in Bosnia. Despite being absurdly inadequate, ‘Only approximately 25-30% of all aid coming into the country is routed through the government, eroding its legitimacy, planning capacity and authority.’ Redirect the focus of U.S. government policy to serving local needs. Roads and irrigation to start, a viable secular education program to compete with Pakistan’s free madrassas. This is not the way Washington has been operating. As one aid person who recently worked inAfghanistan for a year explained.’ The U.S. government would be more effective if they just took the money and threw it out the helicopter window. At least that way it might have some chance of getting to the people who need it.’ Either re-governmentalize foreign aid or make U.S. contractors accountable for their actions. Contractors must be chosen based on competence not ideology or loyalty to a political party. Success must be defined by local needs, not Washington’s. Help the Afghans clean up their new government and rid the country of corruption. Military victory is meaningless without the political backup to support it and the government delivery systems necessary to support growth. . . .”

Ibid.; pp. 318-319.

5. They also feel that a declaration to the “Global War on Terror” would be useful. Although Mr. Emory agrees with this as a rhetorical and diplomatic gambit, he feels emphatically that the war against the Underground Reich and its Islamist proxy warriors is essential for the survival of democracy and the Englightenment itself. To fully comprehend his position, one should examine in detail his work on the September 11 attacks, utilizing the introduction to FTR #391 in particular.

“. . . Declare the ‘global war on terror,’ the ‘Long War’ and the ‘global struggle against violent extremism’ to be over. This will be greeted by a collective sigh of relief by most of the world, especially the American public. The ‘war on terror’ is the ‘sub-prime loan’ of U.S. foreign policy (a phony bubble waiting to burst). Although Washington remains clueless, the American people already know it. So does most of the world. Six years and billions of dollars later Osama bin Laden has barely noticed. In fact, declare all the wars to be over including the war on drugs and the war on poverty. Wars are failed policy by other means. By definition, making war is failure-the making of failure on failure. According to Sarah Sewall, director of Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, ‘The West’s use of military power in Afghanistan has been a combustible and confusing mix of doctrine and tools. Along with our NATO allies, we must think through the conceptual blurring of counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. . . Hunting high-value targets in Afghanistan is important, but we must align that goal with our broader political aims in Afghanistan and beyond..'”

Ibid.; pp. 319-320.

6. Refining the basic focus of U.S. objectives is also something the authors deem essential.

Address the conceptual blurring. Determine exactly what the United States hopes to accomplish and settle on one foreign policy as opposed to many competing goals. From the 1980’s on the United States has at once fostered Pakistan’s strategic goals for controlling Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia’s extreme religious goals for converting Asia to Islam and Unocal’s financial goals of building pipelines. Is the United States interested in a peaceful settlement to the Afghan question or just  controlling Shiite-Iranian oil for Saudi/American oil executives?

Ibid.; p. 320.

7. In addition, the authors stress the need for international diplomacy and regional international diplomacy in particular. Forging unity of purpose and methodology is prerequisite for such diplomacy to be successful.

Get everybody on the same page. If the goal is regional stability then everyone must have a role in stabilizing it. Make normalization of relationships between India and Pakistan a priority. Traditional Hindu/Muslim antagonisms fuel the jihad inclination, not to mention the nuclear ambitions of both nations. Unfortunately, the United States has used up its good offices. The U.S. military has been wounded deeply by imperial overreach. The U.S. economy is in deep debt to China and Saudi Arabia-severely weakening American leverage. Russia is becoming resurgent and increasingly  friendly with China. Even America’s closest ally, Britain, sees America’s use of unmitigated force as a conceptual failure and counter-productive. The United States cannot continue on this path indefinitely and U.S. foreign policy must be adjusted to deal with the impending reality of a global meltdown of influence and prestige.

Idem.

8. More about the need for international/regional diplomacy, stressing the importance of the resurgence of Russia and the folly of playing a game in which boxing in/denying Russia continues to be a major part of American diplomacy.

Promote a regional dialogue and invest whatever political currency Washington has left in it before it’s too late. Regional and Afghan sentiment for expelling the American/NATO military presence grows. Calls for a regional summit which includes Pakistan, India, Russia and Iran but excludes are making the rounds. The Russians have recently offered to open a transit corridor through their territory to NATO in return for full participation in the Afghan reconstruction effort. This could very well be the watershed that will determine victory or defeat for the United States. Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitri Rogozin, told Der Spiegel magazine in an interview in March, ‘We support the anti-terror campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. I hope we can manage to reach a series of very important agreements with our Western partners at the Bucharest summit.’ At the April 3 summit, France and Germany combined to thwart a Bush administration plan to allow the Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO. This can only be seen as a victory for Russia. In terminology all too reminiscent of the 1930’s, Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili had already warned ‘that a rebuff would amount to ‘an appeasement of Russia.'” But with dissension rising within NATO and the Afghan campaign on the brink of a Soviet-style defeat, the United States must rethink its rusty, old mandate for Eurasian conquest or risk losing its European allies to long-standing Eurasian realities. The United States must free itself of itspre-World War II mind-set, that transforms all diplomacy into a Munich-style appeasement and every nationalist leader into the next Hitler. Times have changed. It’s time for the United States to enter the twenty-first century finally eschew the influence of Washington’s would-be nineteenth-century imperialists. If not, the United States risks losing its place in the game altogether to Europe’s older and more experienced players. The logic is simple. Time is not on America’s side. Pakistan can no longer be counted on to do America’s bidding, even half-heartedly. The Pakistanis continue to lobby for a neutralized Afghanistan and undermine the NATO effort, turning the country into a federation of disconnected states akin to nineteenth-century British plans for colonial domination. From the Pakistani point of view, India is the problem. One gets the impression that most Pakistanis don’t even see Afghanistan out of their obsession with India over Kashmir. In the eyes of many in the ISI, it needs Afghanistan to provide what they call ‘strategic depth’-a place to hide its retaliatory nuclear weapons cache in case of an Indian first-strike. Should the United States wish to remain in the region, this should provide all the more reason for helping Afghanistan establish itself and freeing itself from Pakistani domination. As recounted in these pages, from the Afghan point of view, Pakistan has always been the problem.

Ibid.; pp. 320-322.

9. Among the most important issues to be dealt with is the decisive role of the narcotics traffic in the Afghan imbroglio. The authors endorse the view that buying that country’s massive opium crop for the production of medical morphine might be a possible solution to the problem.

Address the issue of illegal narcotics from where they originate and not to suit Washington’s needs: To the poor Afghan farmer, the decision to grow opium poppy is a matter of economics. Without adequate roads to carry farm produce to market and without adequate security to police what roads there are, planting poppy is his only chance for survival. Subjected to crop eradication by chemical spraying that sicken his children and kill his livestock he is easily recruited by Al Qaeda and the Taliban to fight the central government and its American backers. Intent on reestablishing themselves as the single most powerful force in the government, Pashtun Taliban will continue to fight and poor Afghan farmers in the tribal areas will continue to support them. As long as the United States continues to legitimize Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara warlords at the expense of Pashtun goals, the Taliban will continue to be viewed by the injured Pashtun population as an army of national pride. Unless the West adapts to this local reality, it will lose. . . . A proposal by the Senlis Council, an international policy think tank which operates in Afghanistan as a nongovernmental organization, would see the conversion of Afghan opium into medicine, with the ultimate beneficiary being the rural Afghan villager. According to their proposal, the Senlis Council ‘would see village-cultivated poppy transformed into morphine tablets in the rural communities of Afghanistan by bringing the important added value of the transformation of poppy intomedicine at the local level. This would address the current world shortage of these pain-relieving medicines.’ Together with programs to legally purchase Afghan opium directly from growers for international pharmaceutical use, engage professional organizations like LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition for advice in creating a system of regulation and control of production and distribution.

Ibid.; pp. 322-323.

10. To the surprise of many listeners, the authors reject the notion of negotiating with the Taliban. In addition to the fact that they are proxies for the Pakistani intelligence service and military, the Taliban are unremittingly murderous and have shown no inclination to honor negotiations in the past, displaying an inclination to slaughter would-be negotiators.

Much has been written about negotiating with the Taliban insurgents as a way to stop the fighting. Well-meaning peace activists have recommended reviving the practice of parsing between Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Some recommend engaging the Taliban as the United States engaged the Soviet Union, Communist China, or Tony Blair engaged the Irish Republican Army. Aside from not delineating between Pakistani Taliban and Afghan Taliban and that both use terrorist methods, such recommendations ignore the reality that the Taliban were expressly created ‘as a kind of experimental Frankenstein monster,’ by the CIA and Pakistani ISI to invade Afghanistan. That mission has not changed. More importantly, such recommendations wrongly pain the Taliban as an indigenous tribal force bent on bringing peace to a troubled land. If the Taliban’s pre-9/11 reputation for murder, drug dealing, assassinations, child kidnapping and mass abuse of women were not enough, a recent peace-making effort in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province provided an up-to-date assessment of the consequences of negotiating with the Taliban: ‘The bodies of 22 members of a government-sponsored peace committee were found dumped near South Waziristan yesterday. . . .The peace committee was attacked by supporters of Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban. . . . The killings occurred after the Pakistani Army negotiated a cease-fire with Mehsud’s forces earlier this year and pulled its soldiers back from Mehsud’s territory in South Waziristan.’

Another view currently making the rounds in Europe lays the groundwork for a NATO pullout of Afghanistan by arguing that since ‘no government put in place by foreign troops . . . can be considered a legitimate government,’ and since ‘other Pathans, inside Afghanistan, who are not religious fundamentalists, and the Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks . . . will not defend themselves, there is nothing the foreigners can do to save them from their countrymen.’ ‘The Taliban in Afghanistan are not the Russian army, overrunning Afghanistan with tanks and helicopters, or an invading British colonial army. If they were, the problem would be simple.’ . . . If any negotiations are to be conducted, they must begin with the state within the state sponsors of this Taliban terror, Pakistan’s army and its Inter-Services Intelligence branch. It is this institution, which from 1973 on has played the key role in funding and directing first themujahideen battle plan and then the Taliban. It is Pakistan’s army that controls its nuclear weapons, constrains the development of democratic institutions, trains Taliban fighters in suicide attacks and orders them to fight American and NATO soldiers protecting the Afghan government. Nothing can be accomplished without neutralizing them as a subversive influence and turning them toward the task of nation building.

President Obama must restore belief in civil society and protect the mechanisms by which civil society is grown and maintained. In Afghanistan, that means reaching to moderate Afghans to oppose anti-statist Islamist authority. Given the history of U.S. involvement, this will not be easy. But the conceptual framework must be built  for a radically new kind of engagement away from the Islamist extremism of Taliban-like organizations. . . .”

Ibid.; pp. 323-324.

11. Lastly, the authors caution that to “stay the course” may well precipitate the end of the United States.

“. . . If President Obama is to save Afghanistan and the United States itself from the impending tipping point, it would be wise to follow the advice of David Walker, comptroller general of the United States. Warning that the United States government was paralleling the decline and fall of the Roman empire, Walker described the country in an August 2007 interview with the Financial Times as being on a ”burning platform,’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic health care under-funding, immigration and overseas commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon.’”

Ibid.; p. 325.

12. The authors conclude with their vision of a more hopeful future. Seeing Afghanistan as the grave of 20th and 21st century confrontational politics, they feel that the dire events taking place in that country will lead to a more constructive and intelligent future.

Mr. Emory very much wishes he shared their optimism.

 

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