Wednesday :: May 31, 2006

Striking The Matches

by pessimist

Abraham Lincoln once told a tale of a man who had been tarred and feathered and was being run out of town astride a rail. Abe said that when the man was asked how he felt about this event, the man replied "If it wasn't for the honor of the thing, I'd rather walk!"

One has to wonder if our deceased veterans wouldn't have something similar to say if they were asked about those claiming to honor their sacrifices. Would they want to have died defending the indefensible?

The record of our military is hardly spotless when it comes to atrocities. It was the official government policy applied Native Americans, who were often killed by American soldiers no matter what their age or gender in order to rid the Plains of hostile tribes so they could be "made safe for democracy". This policy was also applied to the Philippines after they were taken from Spain, and for the same reason.

Certainly, in a war zone, civilians are at great risk. But should they be officially designated as targets? It has come to light that it was official U.S. policy to shoot Korean refugees, for example:

More than a half-century after hostilities ended in Korea, a document from the war's chaotic early days has come to light a letter from the U.S. ambassador to Seoul, informing the State Department that American soldiers would shoot refugees approaching their lines. The letter dated the day of the Army's mass killing of South Korean refugees at No Gun Ri in 1950 is the strongest indication yet that such a policy existed for all U.S. forces in Korea, and the first evidence that that policy was known to upper ranks of the U.S. government.

This policy never worked as intended, and the most recent example previous to Iraq should have been a lesson that deliberately targeting civilians is wrong.

Grim echoes of Vietnam in Iraq massacre
By Rupert Cornwell
Tuesday May 30, 2006

To Americans of a certain generation, the news this weekend must have seemed dreadfully familiar: an endless war, whose rationale is ever harder to understand, a group of soldiers enraged by the loss of a comrade to an invisible enemy, running amok and exacting revenge on civilians, whose only crime was to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My Lai was proof of the ghastly things that can happen in wars fought by young troops who have lost close friends to an enemy they cannot see, in another skirmish in a conflict seemingly with no end, where every victory is fleeting, which unfolds amid a civilian population whose language the young soldiers cannot speak, whose true sympathies they cannot fathom.

Today, the name that threatens to besmirch an entire war is Haditha, northwest of Baghdad, deep in the Sunni triangle. Haditha could be devastating on three scores.

* It can only further erode the trust of ordinary Iraqis in the invaders who were supposed to bring them peace and democracy.

* Second, it could eat into public affection for the troops - one of the most pernicious legacies of the Vietnam War. Today, no American will speak ill of soldiers in Iraq. But now, who knows?

* Most important, Haditha could affect the US prosecution of the war. The incident has come to light when public opinion has already turned against it.

"This will be very, very bad for America," [a] former Marine Vietnam veteran said. "This is the kind of war when you have to win the hearts and minds of the people.

"And we're set back every time something like this happens. This is worse than Abu Ghraib."

My Lai helped destroy a country's faith in its military and the judgment of its leaders. Thirty-seven years later, Haditha may do the same.

The saddest thing about Haditha is that it is seen as only the beginning of a litany of tragedy:

Haditha is Just the Tip of the Iceberg, As My Lai Was in Vietnam
[adapted from a BUZZFLASH GUEST EDITORIAL - all errors mine - p]
May 29, 2006

[W]hy is George W. Bush -- a man who has done great harm to our military, put our soldiers in harm's way for a fool's dream, and authorized crimes against humanity -- still in office and not in a docket? The war crimes committed everyday in Iraq run up to the desk of George W. Bush.

Alas, the massacre at Haditha -- in which women, children and men -- were executed by U.S. Marines will be the My Lai for Iraq. My Lai was only the tip of the iceberg in Vietnam. It was one atrocity among many, but it was the one where the soldiers got caught.

[T]he people who put them in an untenable position should be legally charged for war crimes -- and for misleading the men and women of the U.S. armed forces and the American people. [T]he real people who should be tried and sentenced are Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush and Rice. They, like Kissinger, Nixon and Johnson, put the Marines in this modern version of Dante's inferno for reasons that defy logic and honesty.

Haditha was not an isolated incident. Haditha was not an aberration. It is the rule of conduct in Iraq, not the exception, as was the case in Vietnam. The Pentagon tried to cover it up for months, according to Congressman John Murtha.

Despite Bush's tiresome and dishonest lofty rhetoric of contrived patriotism and ironically phony words of his love of freedom, the reality on the ground in Iraq is seen in the indiscriminate torture and killings carried out by U.S. troops or their Iraqi militia proxies. Abu Ghraib, Falluja, Sadr City, Ramadi: These are just a few locations where "everyone was a Muj (insurgent)," just as in Vietnam, every civilian was a Viet Cong sympathizer, once they were dead.

BuzzFlash does honor our troops this Memorial Day. They deserve better, much better, than the failed and criminal leadership that sent them to a war that they could never win. Now, they are just there as sitting ducks because the Bush Administration doesn't want to "lose face" or appear "unmanly" by bringing these soldiers home to safety.

Think about this question when you are horrified by Haditha. Bush said that their mission was accomplished several years ago. They deserve to be home, now.

[W]hat are they still doing in Iraq?

The official lie - er, reason given for our troops remaining in Iraq is to provide stability and security for a new democracy. This is the same excuse offered for our troops remaining in Kabul [from 5/4/06]:

KABUL, Afghanistan - President Hamid Karzai swore in 20 members of his new Cabinet in Afghanistan's latest step toward democracy, as a top NATO commander warned of stiff security challenges ahead from an eruption of suicide attacks by Taliban militants. By November, some 21,000 NATO soldiers are expected in Afghanistan as the alliance gradually assumes command of all international forces from U.S. troops, who will continue anti-terror operations in Afghanistan, particularly along the porous Afghan-Pakistan border.

Only the American media can't see that there is something rotten in the state of Afghanistan. This from Canada:

Corruption clouds coalition achievements in Afghanistan
by Bill Kaufmann
May 15, 2006

As Donald Rumsfeld or Gen. Rick Hillier might say, you go to war for the scumbags you have, not the ones you want.

As our troops in Afghanistan fight for freedom, democracy and to exorcise the wimp factor that's long plagued Canadian politicians, it's time for some dispatches from the front. Unfortunately, they're uncomfortable realities not likely to be conveyed by our politicos making cameo appearances in Afghanistan -- trips made surely not to boost their polling numbers, but to buck up the morale of the troops whose spirit we're assured is always rock-solid.

Some of whom and what those men and women are fighting for might partly explain why our open, accountable federal government has banned media images of returning caskets.

Just as is policy in the United States.

But I digress.

The plight of women [in Afghanistan] remains dire, with girls being sold into prostitution while constitutional provisions enshrining their rights are ignored out of hand. Female MP Malalai Joya was physically assaulted in Parliament by colleagues when she dared raise the criminality of some members of the Afghan anti-Soviet resistance.

"They don't believe in democracy. They don't believe in women's rights," Joya told the U.K.'s Times newspaper.

Late last month, the Christian Science Monitor reported corruption among an Afghan government Canadians are dying for is so rife, some members collude with the Taliban. Paraphrasing Afghan government officials, the paper states "many villagers have little incentive to co-operate when they see government representatives siding with the enemy."

When they're not directly aiding the ousted extremists,
the corruption is playing into the rebels' hands by reminding Afghans
why the Taliban came to power in the first place.
Why, that sounds even more treasonous than journalists reporting unpatriotic inconveniences.

Numerous chiefs of police and governors use their offices and even foreign military muscle to settle old scores and to blackmail, while drug trafficking is often part of the equation, states the CSM article.

Meanwhile, a U.S. government commission earlier this month warned of rising religious persecution in both Iraq and Afghanistan -- the latter nearly five years after the Taliban was deposed, partly in the name of ending such extremism.

The case of Christian convert Abdul Rahman, who fled Afghanistan to save his life, has been called a tip of the iceberg in the persecution of Christians in the liberated country. The Afghan constitution -- praised by George W. Bush -- has been cited as empowering such oppression.

This is what Canadian soldiers,
hailing from a mainly Christian country,
are finding themselves aligned with.
An abiding rationalization is that change can't be expected overnight, but it will come. Let's hope so, given our troops are being blown into bloody pulp and maimed physically and mentally in what our country has chosen as its marquee foreign policy thrust.
It's just as likely we'll have to lower our expectations,
as the U.S. has so predictably done in a shattered Iraq.

Based on this report from The Times of London, one has to wonder if Afghanistan is now shattered as well:

On the spot: 'Crowd wanted to skin us alive'
May 29, 2006

Tim Albone, correspondent for The Times in Kabul, was caught in today's riots which he believes could mark a turning point in the Afghan's relations with coalition forces.

"I've spoken to friends who work in Iraq and they say that there was one day when it all changed. That could be the case here.

"I've been in Kabul for nine months and there has never been anything like this before. There is a real feeling in the air that today Kabul changed.

"We tried to get out to where the accident happened on the outskirts of the city. I went in an Afghan car with a translator and photographer. We managed to get to within about a half-hour drive of where the accident happened and could hear gunfire. We stopped to ask what was going on.

"The mob crowded around the car and people were shouting: 'Let's get them - let's skin them alive'. [I]t was angry teenagers - kids who have got nothing else to do. They are angry because they see all of the money being pumped into Afghanistan but still have no jobs.

They are angry at the Americans
who they see driving around as if they own the place
and who appear to have caused this accident
and then tried to drive away.

"The Americans are saying that this was just one day of unrest, but I was speaking to one guy and he was shouting: 'Death to America - death to Karzai...' There is a growing mood that the locals want the Americans to leave but that is simply not possible at the moment."


They have realised that they can take on the police and take on the Americans - they could easily do it again.

Now that this 'accident' has exposed the hostility directed toward Americans in Afghanistan, one has to wonder about the awareness of the Bush regime. The US government may think that things are just ducky in Afghanistan, but in neighboring Pakistan, there is a great deal of unease concerning Afghanistan - among Pakistanis. This next op-ed piece predates the recent unrest in Kabul:

Democracy and the US
VIEW: IM Mohsin

April 28, 2006

As US/Allied occupation of Iraq turns into a nightmare and there are increasing reports of a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, US feels insecure about its vital interests in the region. To win greater Muslim goodwill in Middle East and Central Asia the US should use its good offices to ... pressure authoritarian regimes, surviving on its support, to make room for genuine democracy, [f]or suppression of mainstream political parties forces more and more people into joining extremists.
The present situation defies an accurate description. Afghanistan remains occupied but the government is democratic.
President Hamid Karzai claims legitimacy on the basis of elections devised and facilitated by occupation forces. Regarded as a proxy of the occupying-power, President Karzai faces all kinds of problems. The security situation is so bad that Kabul appears to be the Belfast of its worst days. The president is reportedly dependent on the US for his own protection. Even troops at the Bagram base feel jittery on account of the obvious popular hostility.

In a recent article, Clinton-era Ambassador Richard Holbrook has endorsed the Bush administration's professed policy of prolonged occupation of Afghanistan. He is welcome to his opinion but the sum and substance of his argument appears to indicate a disregard of Afghan history.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, basking in the sunshine of becoming the only superpower, the US had abandoned the Afghans, as well as Pakistanis, who had been instrumental in ending the Cold War. [S]eeing the beginning of the end of its arch-adversary, the US dissociated itself from the people in whose name it had been fighting. The US withdrawal from the country was so hasty that the Afghans as well as Pakistanis felt let down.

The US and its allies had mobilised Muslim fighters from all over the world to defeat the Soviet Union. Despite sharing this objective with the US they operated as groups of mujahideen. Apparently, the unity inspired by the jihad was purely anti-occupation. [B]eing a tribal society, the Afghans groups failed to evolve an understanding on post-occupation state structures. Once the enemy withdrew, the mujahideen groups plunged the country into a civil war that eventually led to the emergence of the Taliban.

Predicating an assessment of the Afghan people on the brief acceptance of the Taliban regime can make one lose sight of important aspects of the situation. Very few liked that extremist version of Islam and some Afghans offered brave and tenacious resistance to the ousted regime despite enjoying little international support.

The neo-cons who managed to rally public support for their blunders after 2001 have now resorted to blaming Pakistan for not doing enough. The government in Kabul assumes a similar position to ensure its survival.

Towards Afghanistan's east, Pakistan, too, needs genuine democracy. A new chief of army staff should be appointed to separate the army from [the gopvernment]. A national government, including representatives of all mainstream parties, may be necessary to guarantee free and fair elections.

But the US government blithely ignores the drop in temperature as the Ship of State approaches the iceberg. This from a conservative Democrat:

Let's not lose Afghanistan again
May 26, 2006

Tom Lantos, a US representative from California, is the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee.

AFGHANISTAN, the launchpad for Al Qaeda's 9/11 terrorist attacks, is slowly sliding toward instability. US and international forces, with their mandate to protect the country, are stretched impossibly thin.

[T]he goal of a stable, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan is still gravely threatened. A resurgent Taliban, increased terrorist attacks, slowed reconstruction and development, and rising opium poppy growth are reversing the tide of success. The risk of losing Afghanistan increases with each passing day. In the last year, deadly attacks have risen by more than 20 percent. Such assaults have killed or injured more US, Afghan, and coalition soldiers, civilians, and aid workers than in the previous three years combined. Heroin production has soared, now constituting nearly half of the Afghan economy, enriching warlords and terrorists alike while fostering government corruption.

US plans to withdraw 3,000 troops are widely interpreted in Afghanistan as the beginning of the end of America's tangible commitment to the country's new freedom, even though more NATO troops are arriving. To counter this concern, the United States and NATO should at least maintain current force levels. For now, the yardstick of international commitment is the number of international boots on Afghan soil, and American boots count the most. Given doubts in Kabul (and in Washington) that the NATO units replacing US troops in the restive south and southeast will do more than hunker down in protected enclaves, it is important for Afghan allies and enemies alike to believe that America will remain there in strength.

If the United States doesn't want to lose Afghanistan again, its long-term political, economic, and military commitments must be beyond question.

And yet, seemingly following Rep. Lantos misguided advice, the arrogant behavior of the US military in Afghanistan has fomented the beginning of the end of US involvement there:

Kabul Riot Triggered by Coalition Truck Malfunction
Steve Marshall, KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO
29 May 2006

At least 5 people are dead and 60 injured in a riot in the Afghan capitol of Kabul, which was sparked by a deadly traffic accident involving U.S. troops. Witnesses said the incident began when a convoy of at least three U.S. Humvees entered the city and hit several civilian cars in rush-hour traffic jam.
"The American convoy hit all the vehicles which were in their way.
They didn't care about the civilians at all,"
said Mohammad Wali, 21, a shopkeeper.
As the violence escalated, hundreds of marchers descended on the palace of President Hamid Karzai, shouting "Death to Karzai! Death to America."

That doesn't sound to me like the Afghan people think much of the president George Bush has given them to lead them toward freedom and liberty, does it? Why would the Afghan people be so ungrateful? Maybe it has to do with how US forces show them great disrepect:

8 killed in Afghan rioting
May 29, 2006

Afghans often complain about what they call the aggressive driving tactics of the U.S. military. Convoys often pass through crowded areas at high speed and sometimes disregard road rules. The U.S. military says such tactics are necessary to protect the troops from attack.

I thought Afghanistan was a successful democracy! Why would US troops be in danger of attack in such a place?

"Today's demonstration is because Americans killed innocent people. We will not stop until foreigners leave the city. We are looking for foreigners to kill," one protester in his late 20s, Gulam Ghaus, said near where rioters burned a police post.

What ingrates! King George gives them democracy, and look at how they use it!

Pay attention to how the official lies - er, explanation, changes in the several stories which follow.

The coalition said at least one person was killed and six injured in the crash, but police said at least three people were killed and 16 injured. A Kabul police chief, Sher Shah Usafi, said another person was killed when U.S. troops fired into a crowd of stone-throwing protesters soon after the crash. Col. Thomas Collins, a coalition spokesman, confirmed there was gunfire at the scene, but said coalition personnel in one military vehicle only fired over the crowd.

That isn't what George's friends in India think:

United States troops fire on Kabul demonstrators, kill seven

American troops based in Kabul have killed between four to seven people on Monday when they opened fire on a crowd of Afghans demonstrating after an accident involving a coalition military vehicle, the reports said. An intelligence official who did not want to be identified said initial reports were that seven people had been killed and nine wounded in the incident in the north of the Afghan capital.

According to The News, people became enraged after the accident and started pelting the vehicle with stones, the photographer said. The troops responded by opening fire, he said, adding that he had seen four dead bodies. The troops left the area but the group of demonstrators swelled to about 500, with some of the men carrying one of the dead on their shoulders and chanting, "Death to America, Death to (President Hamid) Karzai."

The Korean media is also reporting that shooting of rioters happened, but it isn't clear to them by whom:

Traffic Accident Leads to Anti-American Riots in Afghan Capital, 4 Killed
May 29, 2006

A number of witnesses say they saw U.S. soldiers open fire, while others claim local police were responsible for the casualties..

Surprisingly, this article (sourced by VOA News) admits that the possibility that Hamid Karzai's days af American puppet - er, president of Afghanistan, just might be numbered:

The unrest has prompted widespread concern that President Karzai's government could be losing popular support throughout Afghanistan. Afghan security forces and NATO peacekeepers, many of them in tanks, have been deployed throughout the city. The incident comes as Taleban insurgents maintain their latest offensive, targeting foreign and national forces around the country.

The media of Killer Attack Lap Poodle First Class Tony Blair seems to share that assessment:

US crash sparks Afghanistan riot

This is the first time there has been such an angry outburst against the US coalition and emotions are still high, says the BBC's Alastair Leithead in Kabul.

There are conflicting reports over whether the US troops in the military convoy fired into the crowd. The US military said there were "indications" that at least one of the vehicles in the convoy "fired warning shots over the crowd". Some eyewitnesses say the US troops shot at protesters, while others say it was the Afghan police who came to the aid of the under-siege convoy. Some say it was both.

The Chinese media (controlled by their government every bit as much as America's is controlled by governing corporate interests) seems to believe that US troops killed Afghans:

Afghans: Death to America

A commander with the city's traffic police who was at the scene said he also saw U.S. forces firing on protesters. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

There is evidence presented that there was shooting into the rioting crowd, but not necessarily by US troops:

An AP reporter said he saw about 10 Afghan police firing into a crowd of about 50 demonstrators, and that U.S. troops had already left the area.

But you are left to draw your own conclusions:

AP Television News video showed hundreds of angry young men hurling rocks at what appeared to be three U.S. military trucks and three Humvees as they sped from the area after the crash, their windscreens cracked by the stones. A center-mounted machine gun on one of the Humvees was seen firing into the air over the crowd as the vehicle sped away. The video also showed an Afghan man apparently hurt in the riots lying on the ground, being comforted by others around him.

Just like in many US cities, the local government proceedings are broadcast to the people. What kind of a 'democracy' prevents the elected representatives of the people from having their say?

State television cut transmission of a live broadcast of parliament when one angry lawmaker interrupted the proceedings to protest the incident. "I have seen the incident. ... I come from that area and I have to tell you," Taj Mohammed Mujahid shouted before the house speaker ruled him out of order and the screen went black.

Whether or not US troops actually shot any Afghans is not going to matter one bit. The fact that someone representing the government of Afghanistan shot someone will be sufficient cause for accusation, inspiring protests against the country which occupies their land.

Firing kills several Afghanis
By Yousuf Azim
May 29, 2006

"A number of our citizens have been martyred and a number of them have been wounded," Yunus Qanuni, president of the lower house of parliament, told the assembly.

"People are very angry," said resident Samad Shah.

The Thai and Japanese media are also willing to make similar reports:

Protesters shouting "Down to America!" threw stones and burned cars.

The media of our 'petroleum pal' Gulf States chime in:

Violent protests rock Afghan capital
29 May 2006

Eyewitnesses said that US forces opened fire on protesters who had gathered, as had Afghan forces who had come to help the the US troops. An AFP photographer at the scene of the accident on Monday morning said US troops opened fire and killed at least four people. He said two men were shot dead next to him, and two other bodies were found after the burst of gunfire. Several were wounded.

[A] Kabul police chief, Sher Shah Usafi, said at least three people were killed and 16 wounded in the crash. US forces killed one person and wounded two when they fired on the protesters, he said.

Deaths feared after Afghans riot after US troops kill four
Waheedullah Massoud, AFP
May 29, 2006

KABUL -- Riots and gunfire broke out in the Afghan capital on Monday with people feared dead in violent demonstrations that erupted after US troops shot dead at least four civilians, witnesses said. The unrest erupted after US troops shot dead at least four people when they opened fire on a crowd of Afghans after a traffic accident with a US military vehicle.

Mohammad Shoib, an eyewitness, said that he had seen Afghan soldiers shoot dead two rioters trying to break through a police cordon and move into an area that includes the presidential palace and UN offices.

An intelligence officer who did not want to be identified said that initial reports were that seven people had been killed in the shootout with the US soldiers and nine wounded. "We have absolutely no reports of coalition forces firing," said a US coalition spokesman, Colonel Tom Collins.

And yet, there was a report cited above quoting the US military saying there were "indications" that at least one of the vehicles in the convoy "fired warning shots over the crowd".

This next quote should put to rest the lie that Afghans support the puppet put over the:

About 1,000 marchers, some armed with knives, bats and old swords, torched police posts in the center of the city and a large poster of Karzai, an AFP photographer said.
One marcher said: "Where are the Americans?"

Whether completely accurate or not, the story is being disseminated throughout the Muslim world:

US Forces Fire at Afghan Protestors
( & News Agencies)

US forces on Monday, May 29, opened fire randomly at thousands of Afghans protesting a fatal traffic incident involving a US convoy. The violence erupted after one civilian were killed and three others wounded when a US military vehicle ploughed into a dozen other vehicles in the capital Kabul. Afghan police also opened fire when they came to the assistance of the US troops, according to Reuters. A Reuters reporter at the scene saw one man shot dead and several wounded people being taken away.

The incident sent hundreds of men rampaging through the streets of Kabul, hurling stones at the US convoy and smashing vehicle windows. Protesters marched on parliament and the presidential palace, tearing down a billboard poster of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, smashing windows and looting shops as they went.

"We don't accept Karzai any more as a president. We protest against him: death to Karzai!" shouted Jaweed Agha, one of the protesters.
Several hundred congregated at an intersection leading to the heavily fortified US embassy chanting slogans of "Death to America" and burning American flags.

The Muslim media isn't shy about reporting larger casualy figures:

The Kabul correspondent of the Doha-based satellite channel said at least 30 Afghans were killed and scores wounded in the deadly incident. A public health ministry official said on condition of anonymity that at least 40 wounded people had been admitted to hospitals, Reuters said.

An indication of why there might be so much anger directed at the US in Afghanistan just might be explained with this comment:

Monday's violence comes after more than four hundred people were killed in attacks across Afghanistan since Wednesday, May 17. The US-led forces describe most of the fatalities as Taliban fighters and their supporters, a claim usually challenged by Afghans.

We aren't supposed to be noticing that things in Central and Southwest Asia are going badly. Our media keeps expressing the official line that things are getting better there, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the American government and military personnel. But that isn't the message being presented by a former member of Hamid Karzai's government:

Nation-Building on the Cheap

KABUL: Not long after the Taliban fell and Hamid Karzai became president of Afghanistan, Ali Jalalis phone rang at his Glenwood, Md., home. It was his old friend Karzai, inviting Jalali to return to his homeland and work in the new government. Jalali, who had fled Afghanistan 22 years earlier and taken U.S. citizenship, accepted. He served nearly three years as Karzai's interior minister, stepping down in late 2005 to teach at the National Defense University here. Recently, Jalali spoke with Washington Post about the hard lessons he learned nation-building in Afghanistan.

Powerful people in Afghanistan tend to attract enemies. Did that happen to you?.

There were two or three known attempts on my life, and four or five reported attempts.

The Iraq war started soon after you arrived back in Kabul. How did that war change the war you were fighting?.

There were intangible impacts -- especially the shift in attention. And the attacks against American and coalition forces in Iraq encouraged some people in Afghanistan to think, "Okay, we can do the same thing in Afghanistan."

What do you make of the announced reductions in American troops in Afghanistan, and their replacement by NATO forces?.

A drawdown in Afghanistan would send a very negative message. Already, some people in Afghanistan speculate that the United States is again abandoning Afghanistan. The Taliban and some neighboring countries are playing a waiting game, saying the United States will leave one day. Taliban commanders are often quoted in Afghanistan saying, "The Americans have the clocks, we have the time.

If, God forbid, the Afghanistan government fails, it will not fail because of the Taliban. It will fail because people do not see significant changes in their lives. Estimates are that only 6 percent of people have access to electricity, and less than 20 percent to clean water.

During the past four years, Afghanistan made remarkable progress. Still, the recovery is fragile and cannot be sustained without prolonged international assistance. By March 2006, the Afghan economy had grown by more than 80 percent since 2001, but much of that growth comes from foreign assistance and [the] illegal drug economy.

I believe the international community should realize that stabilizing Afghanistan and keeping it from becoming a failed state again cannot be achieved on the cheap.

Considering that America is becoming a failed state thanks to the veniality and incompetence of Bu$hCo, one can't hold out much hope for their client states like Afghanistan and Iraq. They are on their own, for the most part, and as the reports above indicate, they know it.

They are also learning just how limited American power really is. Sure, we can destroy entire cities from the air, but we can't destroy the growing opposition to our occupation of their nations. We aren't winning their hearts and minds, as the American Marine veteran quoted above clearly understands much better than the selected government of America does.

No matter what Bu$hCo likes to think, they cannot force the rest of the world to change their beliefs. Said beliefs will only change when it is demonstrated to them that other beliefs are clearly more beneficial for them, but treating a subjected people with disrespect and overt disdain doesn't produce that result. It will instead reinforce the beliefs targeted for change by those who don't understand them in the first place.

Such a process can only result in failure.

One has to again ask the question: Why do we continue to pursue this folly? The only answer is that we don't care enough to notice. We Americans have become so self-centered that nothing is getting through to us - not even the knowledge that our self-absorbtion is at risk. Once our delusions are destroyed, we will be so disoriented that we won't know what hit us.

This is hardly what the world's only superpower should be like.

Whether or not it was meant as stated, the US should have been an agency for good in the world. With the end of the Cold War, that opportunity was present. Unfortunately, we allowed evil to redefine the definition of good, and worse evil than that represented by the Cold War has now resulted. The prospects for a new world war are rife, and the conditions to ignite it grow worse daily.

The problem is - we're the one holding the matches.

Some of them have already been lit.

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