Admitting Defeat in Afghanistan: American “State-Building” Fails Again

BY JOHN CLAMP

Photograph Source: The U.S. Army – Public Domain

So Rudyard Kipling’s arithmetic came to pass after all. ‘Strike hard who cares—shoot straight who can/ The odds are on the cheaper man.’ The U.S. has thrown in the towel. Another ‘superpower’ is set to depart Afghanistan. The symbolic date of September 11 is meant to have a ring of finality to it. It should: a trillion dollars later, the United States has failed in all its war aims.

Eschewing historical and scholarly knowledge, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was their first mistake. However impelled you feel to invade the fulcrum state, you should always count to ten. Some units entering the country will have passed Gandamak, where a British army was massacred in 1842. Few American soldiers will have noted the landmark.

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North Korea is Back on the US Agenda

BY MEL GURTOV

North Korea is rattling America’s cage again. It sent a reminder call when it recently fired off multiple short-range missiles after denouncing Washington for going forward with joint military exercises with South Korea. A few days later the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name for North Korea) launched two new tactical guided ballistic missiles, in defiance of a UN ban. Some experts say the ballistic missiles, which have a high degree of maneuverability, could potentially be fixed with nuclear or biological weapons and thus pose a new danger to South Korea.

My analysis is that the missile tests reflect North Korea’s impatience with the US to produce a negotiating position that isn’t a repeat of the usual US approach: you eliminate your nukes, then we’ll talk about rewards. The Biden administration reportedly has tried to contact Pyongyang about talks, but Kim Jong-un’s powerful sister, Kim Yo-jong, dismissed the idea, saying that if the Biden administration “wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink.” The comment was widely interpreted here as a warning, but I contend her message was, “If you want to start talks, offer something different from sanctions, nuclear threats, and military exercises with South Korea.”

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Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam Revisited

BY MARK ASHWILL

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

…The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 1967

Enough has been said, here and elsewhere, about the contents of the bestselling book Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (KATM) and the meticulous archival and field research on which it is based. It is a brilliant–a word I use sparingly–work about one of the most tragic periods in Vietnamese and US history. On the occasion of the 46th anniversary of the end of the US War in Vietnam, it’s worth revisiting the value of KATM’s singular contribution to the world’s knowledge about what the US did in and to Vietnam and its people.

In his spot-on review, Vietnam: A War on Civilians, Chase Madar sums up the war, as portrayed in KATM, thus: “The relentless violence against civilians was more than the activity of a few sociopaths: it was policy.” The same could be said of over 400 years of US history, both domestically and internationally, from 1607 to the present, especially for non-whites.

KATM, published eight years ago, is without a doubt the most emotionally wrenching book I have ever read. This might also have to do with the fact that the subject matter is intensely personal for me. I still have vivid recollections of many of the scenes author Nick Turse describes in excruciating detail. I am haunted by them.

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Might You Have Been a “Good German”? Have You Been a Good American?

by Jaime O’Neill | April 8, 2021


I surely am not only one who has devoted some idle moments thinking about how I might have behaved had I been a German in Germany during the rise of Hitler, wondering if I would have had the courage to speak out as the oppression settled ever more heavily on that nation. I’ve read quite a few narratives about people who tried to resist, about the young people in the White Rose resistance movement, for instance, and about solitary subversives who made small but very dangerous attempts to gum up the works.

What would I–and what would you–have done if you saw Jews being loaded on trucks while being spat upon by your fellow citizens? What would you have done if you lived down wind of one of the gas chambers and listened to the rumors neighbors were sharing about the not-so-secret activities being carried on so close to where you lived?

When I was younger, I liked to think there was little I wouldn’t have done to stand against the Nazi horrors. Now, I’m not so sure. I remind myself that I engaged in resistance against the war in Vietnam, and that I was already a husband and a father when I was doing that. I tell myself, and I told myself, that protesting against my government was a duty I had to the future, and to my kids.

But, as bad as that war was, and as paranoid as many of us felt about FBI operatives working undercover, and agents taking our pictures at demonstrations, most of us were idealists not at all ready to believe our country was actually going to come after us, then drag us off to be tortured. Still, there were episodes and anecdotes of violence against those who bucked the system. Civil rights workers were terrorized and some were killed. Anti-war activists were constantly being warned that we were putting our futures at risk. Skulls were cracked, limbs broken. The Alameda Sheriff’s Department (aka “The Blue Meanies”) were known to shoot buckshot at the heels of demonstrators fleeing gas attacks knowing that the pellets would ricochet off the sidewalk and into the legs and buttocks of the peaceniks.

At a demonstration in Berkeley one bright day in the mid-60s, my wife and I joined a few thousand other marchers for a walk through largely friendly turf on our way to a rally-against-the-war. People lined the streets, mostly applauding as we passed. Among them I saw a former English teacher who waved me over. Though she said that she, herself, opposed the war, she felt it unwise for me, a young man with a family, to be jeopardizing my future by making my dissent public. “People are collecting information on people who oppose the war,” she said, “and you might find it hard to get a teaching job in the future.”

I told her I wasn’t worried, and that she should join us. She didn’t, though she assured me that she was with us in spirit. But I was worried. I had a responsibility to my conscience, of course, but that hadn’t turned out to be an uncomplicated matter. I had a responsibility to my family, too, also a matter of conscience. Was I being irresponsible by opposing the war, or would I be irresponsible, even to my children, if I didn’t?

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