By Kenneth J. Theisen
In an effort to sell the U.S. war of terror to the Muslim world, Secretary of War Robert Gates engaged in an interview with the Al Jazeera network on September 4, 2009. The interview is going to be broadcast for a week by the network. Al Jazeera is the mostly widely viewed TV network in the Muslim world. This latest move is similar to previous efforts of President Obama, who has attempted to convince the Muslim world that U.S. imperialism is good for the people of the world. Obama has directed speeches at the Muslim population in these efforts. But despite all the hyped lies, the world’s people can see the reality of imperialism for themselves.
But let’s look at this latest sales pitch on behalf of U.S. hegemony.
“War of necessity” Requires the Afghan People Pay the Cost
Gates was asked about his concern regarding Afghanistan. As should be expected, he immediately tied the U.S. 2001 invasion and the eight years of war there to 9/11. He stated, “…it was from Afghanistan that the attack on us was launched and that the Taliban did not just provide a safe haven for al Qaeda but actively cooperated with them, colluded with them and provided them with a worldwide base of operations.” It is standard operating procedure within the ruling class to justify the entire U.S. war of terror as purely a “defensive reaction” to protect Americans. This is in keeping with Obama’s description of the continuing and escalating war in Afghanistan as the “war of necessity.”
But Gates was confronted about the cost to the Afghan people, particularly about the recent air strike massacre in Kunduz where many civilians were killed by bombs dropped by U.S forces.
Gates expressed, “regret [for] any loss of innocent life in Afghanistan…And one of the central themes of General McChrystal’s new approach in Afghanistan is significant change in our tactical approach to try and minimize the number of innocent civilians who are killed.” Gates is referring to the so-called new counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy that is being employed by the U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, who previously headed the military’s special operations forces, was brought into head the U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan in May 2009.
McChrystal’s special talents for directing killing on behalf of his masters were seen as essential. But Gates and McChrystal only regret that the loss of innocent lives makes it more difficult for the U.S. to succeed in Afghanistan. Gates admitted as much when he said, “… civilian casualties are a problem for us, and we are doing everything conceivable to try and avoid them.” U.S. imperialism has sacrificed millions of innocent lives in its pursuit of hegemony and it will continue to do so as long as it exists.
The U.S. is not pursuing imperialist interests in Afghanistan?
The interviewer asked Gates about the long tradition of the Afghan people in resisting the domination of foreign powers. Gates, with a straight face, answered, “ I think that the historical rejection of foreign powers has been because the Afghan people have come to see those powers, whether it’s Britain or the Soviet Union or anyone else, as being there for their own imperial interests rather than being there in the interests of the Afghan people…What our principal interest is in, is in giving Afghanistan the capacity to protect its own people and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a center of violent extremists again. And then we’ll leave.” So the Russians, the British, and others were pursuing their imperial interests, but not the good old USA. I’m sure that lie went over well with the viewers of Al Jazeera.
COIN strategy and the escalation of the war
Gates was also asked about U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. Gates lied and said, “We are not yet beginning to think about significant additional troops in Afghanistan. The next step for us is to evaluate General McChrystal’s assessment of the situation that he has found and the way he intends to implement the president’s strategy going forward. And once we’ve done that, then we will look at the question of whether additional resources are needed to achieve those objectives…I haven’t made up my own mind at this point in terms of whether I think more forces are needed.” While it may be true that Gates has not yet made up his mind, the fact is that the question of troop levels has been discussed and debated for months, if not longer, within the Pentagon which he heads.
Gates also failed to mention that the COIN strategy is troop intensive. General McChrystal just finished a review of Afghan operations and presented that review to Gates and Obama just last week. This review set the political groundwork for a troop increase request within the coming weeks by McChrystal.
One reason that Obama is likely to approve an additional troop request is that the “successful” implementation of COIN strategy requires the introduction of many more U.S. troops into Afghanistan. That COIN strategy is troop intensive is confirmed by the Army’s new COIN manual, written in large part by General David Petraeus. To quote the manual: “No predetermined, fixed ratio of friendly troops to enemy combatants ensures success in COIN. The conditions of the operational environment and the approaches insurgents use vary too widely. A better force requirement gauge is troop density, the ratio of security forces (including the host nation’s military and police forces as well as foreign counterinsurgents) to inhabitants. Most density recommendations fall within a range of 20 to 25 counterinsurgents for every 1000 residents in an AO. Twenty counterinsurgents per 1000 residents is often considered the minimum troop density required for effective COIN operations; however as with any fixed ratio, such calculations remain very dependent upon the situation.”
In 2003 the U.N estimated the Afghan population at nearly 24 million. At 20 troops per 1000 Afghan residents that would require 480,000 allied troops to meet the minimum density recommendation of the COIN manual. At 25 troops it would take 600,000 troops. Obviously to reach these numbers would require a massive troop escalation.
Petraeus is head of Central Command (CentCom) and is McChrystal’s boss. He implemented COIN strategy in Iraq and that is one reason he was selected to head CentCom which is in charge of U.S. military operations and strategy in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other areas in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Expansion of war into Pakistan
After answering several questions about Afghanistan in the interview, Gate’s attention turned to Pakistan. The U.S. war of terror has expanded over the Afghan Pakistan border and has escalated into civil war within Pakistan, causing much suffering for the Pakistani people. The Obama administration has also greatly increased the number of missile strikes across the border into Pakistan, increasing the loss of innocent lives within Pakistan. Since 9/11 the U.S. has provided over $11 billion in military aid to the Pakistan military to bribe it into allying with the U.S. in the war of terror.
Gates stated that Pakistan is part of the regional problem for the U.S. He then said,
“…Afghanistan and Pakistan can count on us for the long term.” In other words, both countries will be subjected to the U.S. war of terror for a long time.
Israeli nuclear weapons good, Iranian nuclear program bad
Gates was asked about Iran during the interview. He referred to Iran as “a challenge for the United States.” He stated that “the way to deal with the Iranian nuclear program at this point is through diplomatic and economic efforts.” He then made a not-so-veiled threat when he said, “one of the pathways to getting the Iranians to change their approach, on the nuclear issue, is to persuade them that moving down that path will actually jeopardize their security, not enhance it”
The interviewer then asked, “Why doesn’t the West start with Israel, who is known for sure to hold and to possess nuclear weapons, rather than with the Iranians, who are suspected of having these nuclear weapons?”
Gates then used bait and switch in his answer to avoid the question. He responded, “It is the Iranian government that is in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions with respect to these programs. And so the focus needs to be on the country that is thwarting the will of the international community and the United Nations.” He did not mention all the U.N. resolutions that the Israelis have avoided or all the vetoes the U.S. has used in the U.N. to protect the Israelis from obeying the will of the international community.
Despite the fact that Israel has scores, if not hundreds, of nuclear weapons, Gates blamed Iran for the possible start of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. He claimed, “The truth of the matter is, if Iran proceeds with a nuclear weapons program, it may well spark an arms race, a real arms race, and potentially a nuclear arms race in the entire region…” But then it is okay with the U.S. that Israel, as a military outpost for U.S. imperialism, has nuclear weapons. The U.S. has never had any problem with hypocrisy.
U.S. propaganda will continue
We can expect that Obama, Gates, and other U.S. top officials will continue to conduct propaganda aimed at the Muslim world. Such propaganda is just one of many imperialist tools. During the Bush regime this was done in a more heavy handed way. But just because the Obama administration is a little slicker, does not mean that we should support or believe this propaganda. While the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan were started by the Bush regime, they are now being carried forth by the Obama administration.
These are all part of the U.S. war of terror. Their imperialist nature did not change on January 20th when Obama became the new commander-in-chief. These wars will not end any time soon, unless a mass movement is built to force the U.S. to withdraw. Anything short of that will allow the wars to continue and likely expand, along with the death and destruction that goes with them.