Rolling Stone's piece on McChrystal reveals rifts over Afghanistan war

The author is a co-founder of March Forward! and a combat veteran of the Iraq war who deserted the military, refusing orders to deploy to Afghanistan in 2007.

The firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal comes on the heels of multiple victories by the Afghan insurgency against U.S. and NATO forces in the past several months.

In April, the U.S. military was dealt a crushing blow when it was forced to retreat from the Korengal Valley. Marja not only was to be McChrystal’s shining example of the effectiveness of his counterinsurgency strategy—nicknamed COIN—but would also demonstrate to the politicians in Washington and the media, that the war in Afghanistan was indeed winnable. Now, the general has referred to the area as a “bleeding ulcer.”

The Rolling Stone piece that became famous days before the magazine reached shelves has been the subject of articles and TV shows throughout the major media.

The media has focused on the disrespectful comments made by the general and his staff about members of the Obama administration. But these arrogant words directed towards the commander in chief of the U.S. military had less to do with personal feelings and more to do with the current situation in Afghanistan. Public infighting and finger pointing are characteristic of a losing battle. The White House and the Pentagon know that they cannot win in Afghanistan, but neither party can admit it.

Thousands of Afghan civilians continue to die. In the month of June alone, 83 U.S. and NATO troops were killed—the highest monthly toll since the war began nearly nine years ago. There is increasing dissatisfaction with the war at home and abroad as the U.S. military and NATO forces continue to suffer defeats and casualties grow.

The Rolling Stone piece shows another part of the equation that troubled the civilian side of the military-industrial complex. “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,” a senior adviser to McChrystal told the Rolling Stone reporter. The general’s men even acknowledged their Afghan puppet regime having no support, “[Karzai’s] been locked up in his palace the past year.”

Comments like this, much more so than the frat-boy-like remarks aimed at Vice President Biden and other members of the administration, made McChrystal a liability and created the need to have him replaced.

The war in Afghanistan cannot be won

The Afghan insurgency is armed with rifles and small homemade explosives, yet is fighting an occupying force from the most well-equipped and well-armed military to ever exist. Despite the disparate resources, the insurgency controls 90 percent of Afghanistan and continues to defeat U.S. and NATO forces across the Afghan landscape.

Moreover, a June 22 U.S. congressional report states, “The [Host Nation Trucking] contractors and their trucking subcontractors in Afghanistan pay tens of millions of dollars annually to local warlords across Afghanistan in exchange for ‘protection’ for HNT supply convoys to support U.S. troops.” The report continues, “Within the HNT contractor community, many believe that the highway warlords who provide security in turn make protection payments to insurgents to coordinate safe passage.”

Separate memos showed the contractors would occasionally work with the insurgency to shake down the U.S. military and U.S. taxpayers for more money. HNT was handed a $2.16 billion contract on May 1, 2009.

The assault in Marja, which began in February, represented the initial step of McChrystal’s latest strategy: clear major population centers, hold the area by force and attempt to build the trust of the local population until the local government could be strengthened. This process would continue city by city, or so Washington, with its colonial arrogance, believed.

The reality has proven to be much different than the colonial occupiers expected. The second city on McChrystal’s list was to be Kandahar—the birthplace of the Taliban. Recently, the U.S. military was forced to admit that “major parts of the military operation to secure Kandahar would be pushed back because it was taking longer than expected to win local support.” A clear signal that this tactic, too, had failed to give the results Washington and the Pentagon brass were expecting.

The people of Afghanistan have no intention of being colonial subjects of the United States. Forced against the wall by the anti-colonial sentiment of the Afghan people, the Pentagon has attempted to buy off the insurgency while highlighting the “effectiveness” of the surge tactics, as it did in Iraq.

The U.S. ruling class has also promoted a media campaign to label every Afghan fighter as a member of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The truth is that there are over 140 insurgent groups in Afghanistan with varying ideologies, but sharing a common hatred for the occupation.

Is there a right man for the job?

Democrats and Republicans alike have applauded the selection of Gen. Petraeus to assume the position of the ousted McChrystal. The Salt Lake Tribune stated: “The president’s appointment of Gen. David Petraeus to succeed the disgraced McChrystal was politically and militarily astute.” Similar comments filled other newspapers.

Editorials fought over the question of whether Petraeus is “the right man for the job.” There is no right man, or woman, when the job is waging a colonial-type war against the people of Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan is unwinnable.

Petraeus is widely viewed as responsible for having secured an important transition in Iraq, with the appearance of a U.S. victory and the appearance of a U.S. troop withdrawal to take place this year. He has been called on again to bring his so-called skills to Afghanistan.

The Obama administration has charged Petraeus with the job of rescuing the occupiers from the appearance of defeat, which would be a complete disaster for U.S. imperialism. The alternative is a negotiated settlement. The politicians in Washington have no principled opposition to the creation of a coalition government that would include the same Taliban forces they claim to currently be seeking to destroy.

Thousands of innocent Afghans will continue to die, as well as U.S. and NATO troops, as long as the occupation continues. Washington’s politicians will continue to send young men and women to die in a war that they know is lost; they will send them to kill in a war they know cannot be won; they will drop thousands more bombs on innocent families in Afghanistan, all so they can be in a stronger position to try to strike a deal.

Resist illegal and immoral orders!

It is in the interest of all U.S. soldiers and marines currently in Afghanistan to refuse to continue fighting so that a handful of “defense” contractors and U.S. corporations can generate super-profits. This is not a war of a necessity but a war of choice.

Thousands of soldiers and marines have deserted these wars, and many of the members of March Forward! have made this decision as well, after having been sent to fight against people who are not our enemies. The people of Afghanistan and Iraq will continue fighting against the occupation of their lands, they have nowhere else to go to escape the violence pushed onto them by Washington. You, the soldier and the marine have a place to go: back home, where the real fight against oppression exists!

We have more in common with the people of Afghanistan than we do with the politicians that send us to die so that they can live in absolute comfort. The generals, like McChrystal and Petraeus, have nothing in common with the enlisted ranks of the military. We are the boots they send to patrol at all hours of the night. We are the men and women they send home with missing limbs, full of nightmares and regret, crippled with PTSD, which they refuse to allow doctors to diagnose.

The entire officer class is spared of such sacrifices, living in air-conditioned environments full of every perk that the enlisted class is denied. These officers, with their cheap metal stars and bars on their collars, build their careers dripping in the blood of the men and women they command. They risk nothing and at the same time demand everything from us.

Without the enlisted class, these wars would end immediately. We have nothing to fear, our numbers give us strength if we act as one.

This is a war for the rich. McChrystal—who appears to be a political victim to some—will always live a privileged life. He may have been fired from a command position in Afghanistan, but there is some billion-dollar contractor across the street from the Pentagon waiting to hire him as an adviser.


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