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 24 Sep 2009 @ 3:36 AM 

General McChrystal has spoken to the press about his assessment and the resulting debate within the administration, saying that he welcomes debate of the way forward and is unequivocally not considering resigning. I wouldn’t expect him to say anything else. Remember, the specter of resignation was not raised by the General, but reportedly by officers close to him. If General McChrystal spoke of resignation, it would be repeating the same gaff that got another General fired in Korea lo these many years ago.

The General is not insubordinate. He’s not going to be insubordinate in the press, either. He’s not going to challenge the President’s authority to make decisions. He has made his assessment. He has made his decisions about the way forward. He has prepared any requests for further resources that he deems necessary. There is no reason to respond to any decisions prior to their announcement. He also recognizes that the President has to do his due diligence.

“A policy debate is warranted,” McChrystal told the Times. “We should not have any ambiguities, as a nation or a coalition. At the end of the day, we’re putting young people in harm’s way.”

What I can tell readers is exactly what I told them yesterday. There is a lot more to say, in detail, about the things that we have learned as a nation, as an Military, as an Army and as counterinsurgents about what we are doing in Afghanistan. At this point in the conflict, a decision has to be made. The public is playing a role in that decision. We are only as agile and strong as our slowest and least agile member, and once again the public is proving to be that weak sister. They do have influence, and they are exerting a negative influence at a critical moment. It’s as if the public were suddenly pressuring FDR to pull out of the Pacific in WW-II, urged by “thinkers” who prognosticate (mostly from civilian standpoints) that “island hopping” is a failed strategy.

It’s not all their fault. The public is like a crop of mushrooms; they are kept in the dark and fed fecal matter. The organizations whose jobs are to inform the public, the press and the rest of the mainstream media, cannot be relied upon to provide anything close to an accurate picture of the conflict or the conditions which result in an insurgency in a formerly failed state struggling to become a real nation. There is plenty of truth out there, but the major networks and news organizations will never present it. No one is painting anything like a complete picture of the situation on the ground here or the things being done to resolve issues.

General McChrystal is right; putting people in harm’s way needs to be thought through. He has done his thinking. It takes courage to face fire, but it takes another kind of courage to tell young Soldiers and Marines to go and face that fire. We need leaders with courage. They may not face the pain of a bullet’s strike, but they face another kind of pain. They need to to have the courage to face that pain. Leaders without courage are less than useful at a time like this. Those who advocate using “surgical” techniques in place of such risks are not demonstrating the kind of courageous leadership that is needed in such “interesting times.”

Al Qaeda and the Taliban are counting on just that trait. They are counting… betting their futures… on our less than positive national traits to come bleeding through the “colors that don’t run.” Those “colors that don’t run” are what we see. Many others see a purplish-pinkish smear that has all run together, because in their appraisal, those colors have run plenty.

We are judged by friend and foe by what we do, not what we say. Our colors are beginning to run as the people of the United States begin to listen to the wheezing fat kid in the backs of their skulls in growing numbers. We see the polls over here. The President sees the polls and his judgment is more affected by them than many previous Presidents. Some applaud that condition. I ask for courageous leadership to be shown here. If the weaker strands begin to fail, then the leadership need even more courage to make the decisions that will demonstrate that our word means something. It’s not a pride issue; it’s a trust issue. We have not proven ourselves trustworthy. We must prove that we have learned that once we begin a project, especially one of this magnitude, all excuses as to why it’s okay to quit and walk away only sway our own minds, not those of the rest of the world. Respect for our word is as important in the world as it is when you walk into a bank asking for a loan and they point out that you defaulted on your house. You wish that they would ignore that, but they won’t.

The rest of the world won’t ignore it, either. And out here, seven years is like ten minutes. That default doesn’t roll off of our credit report so easily. We can explain and explain why it’s not our fault, but the default on Vietnam will not go away until we have shown that we have learned the real lessons of that conflict. Not living up to our word is only one lesson we didn’t learn. If you read the rest of the assessment, you will find that a lot of lessons have been learned. Just as the new captain goes to turn the ship, everyone wants to man the lifeboats.

I stand shaking my head.

Perhaps I need more faith in the American people just like they need more faith in the unproven General and the behaviors he is enforcing here. Perhaps I need to have faith in the leadership who seems to waver, that there is real courage there inside, the kind of courage to face pain and risk loss. Perhaps there is greater understanding that refusing that pain and protecting the self is not smart, it’s failure. Perhaps there is broad understanding that another mark in the “L” column brands that “L” on the forehead of every American, just as the stain has not completely faded from the last failure.

Perhaps.

In the meantime, there is a decision to be made. Ultimately, it falls on the shoulders of one man who desperately sought that mantle and now wears it. I would expect General McChrystal to say nothing else but what he said to the Times. He has cleared the path for courage to be shown, for our good faith and credit to continue to build. There are many who would cheer our failure, who plead for cowardice. Cowards have latched onto the words, “mission creep” that the President uttered this past weekend. They continue to pressure the President to turn from the hard, exhausting and painful; to embrace the softer, easier path to ruined credit. The President sees, on one hand, a General with a realistic appraisal of a tough situation and a plan to overcome the difficulties, but not without pain. On the other hand he sees the throng with icepacks on their heads, their feet clean of the dust of the ancient land, pleading for him to take that easy path to promised ice cream, to turn from responsibility.

A turning point is reached; the jumping off place. Tension builds as the one man who has taken on the mantle of leadership ponders our course as a nation and the letter we will all wear for decades. The General has spoken and stands waiting. The voices of the icepack-adorned throng grow shrill and strident, wailing and pleading for a man to ease their suffering by turning tail and fleeing from the pain. Advisers with plans of their own beg for the ear, promising less pain and offering mythic Rambos and robots to solve all of his woes, minimizing his pain while giving the illusion of commitment. Still, in the end, one man decides. Courage or cowardice? Risk or safety? Sweat or ice cream? Keep the national word or default and blame the previous signatory, convincing himself that the rest of the world cares who gave our national bond for it to be broken later? In this moment we either continue to redefine our national character or we admit that our weak character was not an anomaly but who we really are. It is now up to one man who sought that responsibility.

We, embroiled in the dust, each fighting in his or her own way, can only watch as our future history is formed before our eyes, our voices gelled into only one man who speaks for us all to the President.

I wouldn’t have expected for him to say, in this moment in time, anything else.

Tags Categories: Uncategorized Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 24 Sep 2009 @ 03 36 AM

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 23 Sep 2009 @ 11:05 AM 

GEN McChrystal’s assessment has now been “leaked.” Now what? For some time now, it has seemed that the tide of public opinion has been turning against the “Good War.” Why do you think that is?

Because suddenly everyone has realized that Afghanistan is a complex, dynamic situation. It is what analysts call a “wicked problem.” Everyone thought that Iraq was complicated and that Afghanistan was more simple. Now that people have really taken a look at Afghanistan, they realize that it is not so simple. In many ways, it is more complex than Iraq. It makes people’s heads hurt.

Not being able to make sense of the problem, they figure that nobody can, and that’s when the pessimism of the public takes hold.

A few words of caution: First, the American public has nothing of the real story of Afghanistan presented to them. The only brave reporters in the country are busying themselves with covering combat. The rest remain in Kabul, running stringers of dubious quality and unknown affiliations. For the first time, today, I was asked by a civilian, “Why is none of the good stuff that we are doing getting told back home? Why is the press ignoring the real stories here?”

I cannot answer that question in a way that sounds even vaguely like I feel that the mainstream media has a clue. Media people are allowed to attend the Counterinsurgency Training Center. Damned few take up the offer. How can a press corps even pretend to know what they are talking about when they don’t do their best to understand the reasoning, the doctrine, the strategy behind what they are seeing? Most of them, a select few exempted, have no idea what they are looking at when they watch the military do anything beyond brushing their teeth. Not only that, but they don’t try.

What does this have to do with GEN McChrystal’s assessment? Well, the General points out a few things that are being glossed over back home. First, the Afghans want us here. He quotes General Wardak in his report as saying just that. Wardak also notes that the time is ripe for success. The raw material for a comprehensive and integrated approach to the counterinsurgency is building in Afghanistan, and for the first time, we are hearing that the American public is now tilting against this theater. Amazing. What timing. Americans, like my beloved but hapless Bengals, have a particular talent ever since the early seventies for snatching defeat from the jaws of success. It is quite possible for us to succeed in Afghanistan. The situation is far from ideal. It is serious, and that is our fault. No doubt. But it is not hopeless.

I am still digesting the report; but having seen the followup briefings, where the story unfolds further, the assessment is no surprise. I cannot discuss the briefings on where, specifically, the General plans to take this, but I can tell you that he is not tolerating among our leadership here the kind of pessimism that runs rampant in our homeland. We cannot afford to let it make our heads hurt. It is our job to handle the wicked problem. There are some very determined people involved here. Now we are seeing determined, hopeful people who don’t wear uniforms bringing their talents to bear where they should have been years ago. It is not too late, and the General states this clearly. Now is the time; not to double down just to be doubling down, but to learn, adapt and take our performance of real counterinsurgency to the next level.

President Obama has, somehow or other, wound up with the “Dream Team” on the issue of Afghanistan. Just as Al Qaeda has shifted resources from Iraq to Afghanistan, so have we. Many of the people who sharpened their claws in Iraq have been shifted over to Afghanistan, and the good war has taken on a primacy of effort that was lacking when I first arrived in April of 2007. While still sparsely resourced, people who know how to do stability and counterinsurgency operations have begun to come into the country, and they are having an impact. GEN McChrystal has got some wicked smart people working for him on projects large and small that will make a positive impact on this country.

Now the President, swayed by the possibility of an unpopular decision, begins to waffle. This is not the right time to waffle. This is the time to be decisive.

I was recently thanked by a foreign officer for something I said to a group of American officers. I told the American officers that the rest of the world views us as the big fat rich kid on the world playground. We want everyone to like us, and are heartbroken to discover that a few don’t. We are easily aroused and like to throw our weight around. We think that what we think is going to be the most important thing on everyone’s agenda. We are not afraid to fight, and we have heavy hands. God help you if we catch you with a punch; few can withstand a beating from us. But, we are clumsy. We can be hurt, and we have no stamina; no real will. If we can be made to bleed a little, and if we can be run in circles for more than a little while, we tire easily. We have the propensity, when things get tough and we get a little winded, to take our ball and go home. We are prone to quitting. We have quit before, and we are more than likely to quit again. The Taliban know that, and the Afghan people know that. It is part of the insurgent song to the people, a message designed to keep them on the fence, unsure of which way best suits their interests. If they commit to the government being helped the by the fat kid, and the fat kid runs away to mope, they can die. Many dare not commit. Many who have committed in the last eight years have paid the price with their lives as we have moved into an area, cleared it out and announced that the bad times were over. As the good-intentioned patriots emerged to help heal their communities, we have left their damaged communities with nothing to guarantee security. Our focus was on developing the Army, after all. The Police? Nobody wanted to work with them, to improve them. Yet we left those communities in their untrained, ill-led hands and scampered off in search of more Taliban to chase. The Taliban returned to those communities and killed those who had stood up in their absence. It is a phenomenon we call “mowing the grass.”

We have mowed a lot of grass. Many would-be patriots have died as a result of our inability to grasp the importance of a comprehensive, integrated approach to assisting in the rebuilding of a society damaged to its core by over thirty years of warfare and upheaval, suffering from a chronic insurgency. We are world famous for abandoning those who we had told, “We will not abandon you.”

The foreign officer thanked me for saying what all of the Coalition and Afghan partners were thinking. They were afraid to raise the point, though; because we can be an ill-tempered lot when our assumptions about ourselves are challenged. To those men, it just isn’t worth it to hold up their mirror for us to look at. It’s like when someone who really doesn’t care about you lets you walk around with spinach in your teeth.

The fat kid is wheezing now. We are faltering, cocooning, withdrawing within ourselves and our head hurts from the complexity of it all. We want to quit. We want to take our ball and go home. We will cede this area to instability and leave, like we are leaving our debt, the mortal threat for our children to handle. It’s all just too much for us to bear.

Who would have thought, four years ago, that of the two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, that the one where we would tire out and be losers would be Afghanistan? When Obama made Afghanistan the “good war,” and when he called Afghanistan a “war of necessity,” you would have expected firm, decisive movement. Initially, that is what was shown. He went along with firing McKiernan and replacing him with McChrystal, whose vision and leadership has shaken the “same old, same old” sensibilities of the Afghanistan mission. GEN McChrystal promises, through his actions and initiatives, to do things that have never been done in Afghanistan. Now, the President is poised to force the resignation of this leader, which will be the political death of his administration. But he will leave the General no recourse if he fails to resource the mission properly.

In the meantime, back home, ill-informed people who knew nothing about Afghanistan at this time last year other than it wasn’t Iraq and it was where Osama was when the World Trade Center crashed to the ground, have had the chance to learn a little more about this ancient land. What they learned was that it wasn’t so simple. It wasn’t so easy. It made their heads hurt. It is a wicked, dynamic problem, and it makes heads hurt. They stare and stare at the picture, but they just can’t see the damned dolphin. So, their answer is to quit. They begin to waver. President Obama, the most politically sensitive president I’ve ever seen… a veritable political weather vane, senses the wind shift… and dissembles accordingly.

The news today is that the President is considering a plan brought forth in the spring by another great military leader and strategic genius. It is certainly cheaper, and is likely to prove enormously popular with the waffles back home. It actually involves fewer troops in Afghanistan, a great reliance on drone strikes and Special Operations raids in Pakistan (boy, I bet that makes the Pakistanis happy!) That sounds as effective as lobbing 63 cruise missiles at a few mud huts. Not like that’s ever been done before.

Meanwhile, cheerleaders all over Washington and parts of the press are laying it on thick in a bid to win their agendas. They are the part of the fat kid’s mind that tells him that he is afraid, that he is tired, that nothing is worth it. I’ve watched the voices become strident. “This is a long, steep hill,” the voice in his head tells the fat kid, “you can quit any time you want. Let’s go have some ice cream. You know it’s hard, and you’re sweaty, and you’re tired. Your head hurts. This wasn’t all easy like you thought. It’s too hard. Ice cream sounds good. Let’s go get some ice cream and watch American Idol.”

We are the big, rich, fat kid. We talk a big story, but our word isn’t worth a plugged nickel. That’s what Omar means when he says, “The Americans have the watches, but we have the time.” He knows us well enough to know that we are quitters.

For those of you who are tracking, remember that you are not even getting half of the story of what is actually happening over here. As for how to deal with the, “My Head Hurts” crowd, just tell your fellow citizens to take some Advil and stand by. The next move is Obama’s, and it will determine the immediate future of my mission in Afghanistan, my son’s future, and how long we will stay the fat, rich kid who talks big and runs away when the other kid hits back.

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Categories: Afghanistan, AfPak, analysis, COIN, development
Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 23 Sep 2009 @ 11 05 AM

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 09 Sep 2009 @ 11:43 AM 

The Counterinsurgency Training Center – Afghanistan is growing, and its role in propagating the doctrine of counterinsurgency, or COIN, across many organizations is growing. Students of counterinsurgency from every branch of the United States Military, all of our NATO and Coalition allies, and most importantly Afghans from government, the Afghan Military, Afghan National Police and even non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) are being trained in counterinsurgency every week. Some of this training is conducted on site at the CTC-A, while other training is carried directly to the units and organizations in the field.

The curriculum is reviewed each month in a constant process of refining the presentation of materials to keep the training relevant to the current conditions in the theater. New tools are reviewed carefully for applicability. Pathways to better integration with civilian and military organizations and capabilities are sought, examined carefully, and advice is given on implementation. Partners are discovered, encouraged, educated and assisted. Relationships are cemented and expanded to include new organizations and capabilities. Lastly, through discussion and interface during training including diverse groups, personal contacts are forged that continue to drive productive partnership development.

Innovative doctrinally-based approaches to counterinsurgency training and implementation are being developed and fielded in conjunction with other organizations. Methods for operationalizing doctrinal frameworks and concepts are being sought, developed, tested and fielded. The CTC-A is a center for COIN thought that does not depend on solutions being pushed forward by offices in the United States, with solutions tuned to the specific environment of Afghanistan. The staff at the CTC-A are constantly learning, acquiring as much knowledge as possible to drive insights into such developments.

In that spirit of continuous education and professional development, an Honorary Library has been established at the CTC-A. Donations of books are sought which will be available to students and staff alike to spur further learning about counterinsurgency, history (especially Afghan and Central Asian history) and related topics. It is very easy to donate and become a part of this learning. Simply follow this link and the name of the wish list is “COIN Library – Kabul.” Donations of used books from the wish list can be mailed to:

COIN Library
c/o Scott Kesterson
CTC-A
Camp Phoenix
APO AE 09320

Your contributions will help to keep the minds of the counterinsurgent trainers and students bright as they work together to resolve a very complex insurgency. This is a way that you can support forwarding counterinsurgency doctrine, training and implementation in Afghanistan and have a direct impact on the success of the mission here. Please consider making a contribution to the fight and arming counterinsurgents with knowledge. Sometimes, a counterinsurgent’s best weapons do not shoot.

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Categories: Afghanistan, COIN, COINdinistas, development, doctrine
Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 09 Sep 2009 @ 11 49 AM

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 05 Sep 2009 @ 10:32 AM 

You are unlikely to see a strong reaction from the Marines on the publication of a the photograph of a mortally wounded LCpl Bernard. There are a number of reasons for that, I think. I must add first that I am surprised that they are not upset that the family of one of their fallen was totally disregarded in this action. I always thought that the Marines were family, and that the family of their family was, well, family. They are probably going to remain out of the fray, though. One of those reasons is that they don’t have to.

Plenty of others will raise a cry and hue for them. My initial reaction was powerful and gut-level; but then it’s time to look at the reaction and the reasoning behind it. First, the disregard for the family’s well-known wishes was disregarded. It was weighed against the standards that the AP finds important and, in the end, found less compelling than their business interests. Cold? Indeed; but there was a reason that the approval was first sought. The AP was seeking validation from the family. The AP never really cared if the response was negative. This means that the approval of the family would have added some value to the AP’s angle on this; but they were so willing to go without approval that they were willing to disregard a direct request from the Secretary of Defense, who asked them not to publish it.

They weren’t willing to take a “no,” but there was a reason that they wanted the validation of the “yes.”

While it could be claimed that we have abrogated our own rights to privacy simply by raising our hands, why do we sign press release authorizations… or not… when we do our processing to go to a combat theater? While that release is not intended for such situations, if we’ve abrogated our rights, then why do they need a release? The Dover policy is all about the right of privacy that is recognized for families. We volunteered for service in a time of war. There is not a single one of us who were drafted into the military. In return, we expect to be given some consideration. There are reasons why we feel that we need it.

These reasons were illustrated by the Huffington Post, who blew the picture up all over their home page. The HuffPo doesn’t care a bit about the tragedy of sacrifice in war; they want web traffic. It is their be all and end all; and they will get it. If you feel the spirit move you, by all means look… but I would prefer that you didn’t. It is harlotry, pure and simple. We should put up a sign: Please Do Not Feed the Whores. While driven by prurience, greed and general sluttiness, the HuffPo is also significantly slanted politically; no friend of Soldiers or Marines; unless you happen to be mortally wounded and therefore useful to the crowd that HuffPo caters to. Then you are to be blown up to gigantic proportions and your death agonies exulted over by those who hate you for who you are and what you died for.

And they have been. LCpl Bernard has been exulted over in his death agonies, something that many of us know would happen to us if our mortally wounded images were displayed. We didn’t join and risk being mortally wounded just so some schmuck could use the image of our sacrifice against what we believe in. We’re not claiming impunity against being photographed or filmed in the conduct of our duties. Hey, if you catch us doing something wrong, then show it. Good, bad or indifferent… show it.

Of course, there is a tremendous amount of good that goes on here, too. Damned little of that get shown, either. This war is not exactly the triumph of journalism. Journalism as it was once known is actually quite dead. Most of the journalists stay in Kabul and send out stringers. The same happened in Iraq. There is not a lot of journalism being practiced, and then a photographer gets “the money shot.” The AP, or pretty much any legacy media outlet is going to use it. They will take the hits on their websites and the gory horror of death selling papers for them. And the HuffPo’s of the world will blow up a young American’s death throes so that all those who oppose what the young man was doing can cry out with glee and babble on about how he deserved to die. This is heinous, and it is anathema to those of us who risk all to do this job. Now we risk not only our lives and ultimate pain for our families, but we risk disrespect from our own countrymen, who when media was more limited would never be tolerated exulting over the death of a Marine. But media is cheap now; so are a lot of the outlets.

Death is a private moment. It is also tremendously painful for our families. LCpl Bernard’s parents could have lived the rest of their lives without seeing that photograph. Not only have they seen it, they have lived to see their son’s death greeted with glee by some of their fellow citizens.

Our country is breaking faith with us… and that’s the point of the exultation. By dragging this young Marine through the streets of virtual Mogadishu, the Somalians of HuffPo and their exulting netskinnies are breaking faith with the military and they are doing it purposefully. LCpl Bernard never did a thing to deserve that. He deserves respect and gratitude. His parents, whose son lies forfeit on the altar of liberty, are subjected to his being dragged triumphantly about the internet by clannish internet warlords.

Nice.

We are volunteers all. We deserve to be treated with respect or, failing that, we refuse to be disrespected. We cannot accept this type of abuse again. We need to demand that our leadership put safeguards in place to prevent this and protect us when we have been rendered vulnerable due to wounds. Losing our lives is one thing; having it rubbed in the faces of our wives, parents, or in my case, children is not something that we should ever have to worry about. We should call on Secretary Gates to review the policies. There is room for give and take. He gave them Dover; give us now our dignity. People who we capture are given more dignity than we are while our own citizens can virtually dance on our suffering and dying bodies.

I would recommend a policy that, like Dover, any images of an American servicemember that involves loss of life, limb or eyesight should require approval of the servicemember or in the case of death or incapacitation, a designated family member. The world has changed. In a digital world we have the ability to ask each and every time; and it should be done. The rights of each end where the rights of others begin; that includes the press. They obviously cannot be expected to hold themselves to any ethical standard.

Or is respect for our service only lip service itself, sold cheaply to the nearest harlot upon demand?

It’s time to start flooding Secretary Gates’ office with demands for such protection from the Virtual Vultures of Mogadishu.

Tags Categories: Uncategorized Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 05 Sep 2009 @ 10 32 AM

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 04 Sep 2009 @ 10:51 AM 

The Associated Press did something absolutely heinous today, but before that a photographer did something absolutely heinous. Without either one of them, the fiasco of today would never have happened. Today the AP decided to publish a photograph showing a mortally wounded Marine struggling for his life on the battlefield.
they claim high-minded purpose.

NEW YORK — The Associated Press is distributing a photo of a Marine fatally wounded in battle, choosing after a period of reflection to make public an image that conveys the grimness of war and the sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.

Bullshit.

It’s about money, folks. Pure and simple. The same thing for Julie Jacobson, the photographer who was embedded with the Marines the day that LCpl Bernard was mortally wounded. Let’s see how she justifies this:

Later, when she learned he had died, Jacobson thought about the pictures she had taken.

“To ignore a moment like that simply … would have been wrong. I was recording his impending death, just as I had recorded his life moments before walking the point in the bazaar,” she said. “Death is a part of life and most certainly a part of war. Isn’t that why we’re here? To document for now and for history the events of this war?”

Bullshit.

She thought of the pictures she had taken and “$” came to mind immediately. “Jackpot!” her mind screamed instantly. She got paid for that picture, and she will continue to get paid for it for some time, especially after the furor that erupts. What would have been wrong for her was to set aside her money and an imagined chance for a Pulitzer. Such selfishness and what a ridiculous attempt to couch it in ethical terms. Personally, she better hope that she never, ever runs into me or the most lightly she will come off from it will be ringing eardrums. Those poor Marines who saw her pictures later had no idea that she would be part of dishonoring LCpl Bernard’s father’s wishes, against DoD policy.

The young Marine’s father had asked not once, but twice, for the picture of his mortally wounded son not to be whored out for money. But his pleas fell on the deaf ears of whores who heard only the ringing of registers and saw the sparkle of money. In the information age the press is hurting for money, and this was a jackpot.

Bernard’s father after seeing the image of his mortally wounded son said he opposed its publication, saying it was disrespectful to his son’s memory. John Bernard reiterated his viewpoint in a telephone call to the AP on Wednesday.

“We understand Mr. Bernard’s anguish. We believe this image is part of the history of this war. The story and photos are in themselves a respectful treatment and recognition of sacrifice,” said AP senior managing editor John Daniszewski.

I’m going to state right now and unequivocally that I do not want for any pictures of me published that show me in any condition other than upright and breathing normally. All else is punishable by whatever violence I can visit upon you in whatever condition I am in. I want to write the most vile curses I can at this moment in my anger for a man who justifies going against the wishes of the family. I want that man fired, and I want for him to never work in his chosen field ever again. I want that photographer fired, and I want every individual who was in the chain all the way up to Daniszewski fired as well. There is one simple rule; your wishes mean nothing compared to the wishes of the family. Period. They make the sacrifices, not you. Their sacrifices and how they wish them to be dealt with are theirs, and not yours to make whatever statement (along with your money and a name for yourself) you care to claim to be making. I curse all you who were involved with this and I am your sworn enemy for life. I will never forget you and it will never be safe for any of you to be within range of me.

There is also complicit shame for the newspapers and other outlets that were the Johns in this case, paying a little to get the thrill of providing “news.” Bullshit, bullshit and triple bullshit. It’s really hard to convey how pissed off at journalists I am right now.

This week a journalist was overlooked in a briefing that contained some slides marked “secret.” Immediately following the briefing it was realized that not only had she been present, but had taken careful notes. She was asked not to publish any of the information… but that was worth money to her, so she fought tooth and nail over it. What she saw was not a revelation, but to her, it was a scoop. The red letters at the bottom of the slide meant not responsibility to her, but dollars and reputation. It didn’t matter one whit to her about the security of her country, Afghanistan or any other NATO or Coalition country. Not a bit. She wanted to make a name for herself and make some money. Had she been concerned for security, there would have been no question whatsoever… but that wasn’t her attitude. It was all about her, not about anyone else’s needs.

So it’s not just one lousy self-justifying photographer and one grubbing AP manager. No, this is bigger than them. If 95% of journalists in Afghanistan got their hands on the plans for a war-winning operation, it would be in the New York Times the very next morning.

You see, this war is all about them. It’s not about the truth. It’s not about considerations for decency or ethics or honest reporting. Most of them don’t even know what they’re looking at. Most of them don’t care. They look at it through their ignorant eyes and report as if they were children explaining a physics experiment. They don’t know what right looks like, and so everything’s a mess even if it isn’t.

God help your family if they get a shot of you in extremis. God help your father or mother, your wife, brother or sister if they want to protect your dignity and the privacy of your family, because the press itself is just that damned important, and so is their precious money. I don’t care who did it; every single journalist is now dogshit in my book. Every one. I wasn’t too fond of the media whores this morning when I got up, but now I hate every one of the bastards.

Keep the hell away from me. There are only two in this whole country that I want within a mile of me, and neither one of them would dare to take my picture if I was that messed up. They have respect and decency. Make that three. CJ Chivers would probably not do it. The two I know who would not are Scott Kesterson and Michael Yon. The rest, including and especially Julie Jacobson can go straight to Hell. If I was injured and that bitch tried to take my picture, if I had the strength I’d shoot her before I died. We could both explain our actions seconds later to the Almighty.

Profiting from the death of another human being at the expense of that man’s dignity and against the wishes of his own family… hmmmm.

I think I’d soon be on my way to Fiddler’s Green, but she’d be on her way to Hell; and so I’ll end this post with a wish to her and her boss for Godspeed on their way there.

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Categories: Afghanistan
Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 04 Sep 2009 @ 10 51 AM

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 04 Sep 2009 @ 5:57 AM 

A blogger friend, military supporter whose husband has served in this war, asked what victory looks like in Afghanistan. It’s a good question, and one that I think is probably in more minds than just hers. So I’m going to take a whack at answering it.

First, I never really think in terms of “victory.” There will be no grand surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship in this conflict. Insurgencies don’t die in a horrendous bright flash of light and culminate in a giant sigh of acceptance of defeat. They dwindle and starve, become a criminal problem, and finally fade out largely from lack of interest. Twenty years from now, former insurgents will own shops and other businesses and live relatively obscure lives here in Afghanistan. Some may even be in government. No, I don’t use the word victory. The words that we use are important, and they are powerful. They evoke images. Americans love victory, even as they love the underdog, most Cincinnati Bengals fans who don’t even bother to show up to games by mid-season demonstrate that the underdog appeal fades in the face of repeated defeat.

I think in terms of success or failure. The previous Afghan government, if you could call it that, was not so much governing as ruling over a failed state. So let’s talk about what success looks like in Afghanistan. We can describe it simply, but then you have to drill down to what that actually means. For starters, success in Afghanistan includes a stable government devoid of dysfunctional or disabling corruption. What does that mean? Look at our own level of corruption in the United States… don’t act like we don’t have corruption… but it’s generally not disabling. Disabling means that whatever corruption is present interferes materially and consistently with the provision of basic governmental responsibilities; what we often call basic services. It means an Afghanistan with a rising economy, dropping unemployment, a growing standard of living, climbing literacy rates and ever higher standards of education. It means an Afghanistan where there is a basic rule of law and where the citizens feel relatively safe in their homes and neighborhoods and where nearly all feel that there is some access to justice. This means that one of the basic services is security; the ability of the populace to live without threat or intimidation.

Can we do that? I think that perhaps we can. Should we do that? Topic for another post, but I am here of my own volition. I don’t like to lose any more than the next guy, and this is not just Operation Enduring Paycheck for me; so you can guess that my answer is likely positive on that one, too.

There are a lot of encouraging signs. The vanguard of the civilian surge is coming aboard. There are hundreds more on the way, and while they don’t meet the typical State Department mold, the community organizers of the Obama Campaign are finding their way to Afghanistan. Just this week I met and worked with a State Department employee of five months standing, four of which were in Afghanistan. She had worked on the Obama campaign, before that on “another candidate’s campaign,” and prior to that was, “in business.” Very well-intentioned. I could write an entire post about that one, but give us the raw material and you might be surprised where we can take this. The point is that we are beginning to develop the civilian capacity-building arm of our foreign policy apparatus.

Just as encouraging is the participation that we are seeing from Afghans in the civilian government and the military. COIN doctrine is Afghan doctrine as well. Everything that is being taught to Americans and NATO/Coalition partners coming into Afghanistan is Afghan doctrine. It is also being taught to Afghans. Tons of Afghan officers, including the very senior ones, are active participants in the dissemination of the doctrine and in planning for the rapid growth necessary in Afghan forces. I can’t brief it, because it’s not for public release, but there are certain economies of force that are being strongly considered to leverage the existing forces as cadre for rapid expansion. Growth becomes easier when you have a professional core upon which to build, and that core exists in greater numbers every day. The growth within the leadership of the ANA, including the NCO Corps, has been a huge success story here.

Afghan government ministries, Afghan NGO’s and Afghan contractors are also participants. They are also being trained and enthusiastically receiving the training in how to work across organizational boundaries to target effects based on the input and needs of local people. One of the legacies of the Taliban days is that the Taliban destroyed traditional structures that used to regulate Afghan life. Those weakened tribal and village structures are now the target of efforts to strengthen them and by doing so, return a sense of normal life forces in Afghan society. There is a significant movement afoot to leverage traditional methods of local justice. This may, on the surface, appear to be contrary to what we are used to… but in the United States, Mayor’s Courts thrive and are still in widespread use. Think of it along those lines.

Host nation support is unprecedented and growing.

The plan to add resources to the ANP also cannot be described in detail, but it is possible that a plan to move significant resources in that direction, quickly, may be approved for implementation very soon. This will also build upon lessons learned from the successful but time-consuming Focused District Development (FDD) program, as well. The ANP have lacked large-scale mentoring efforts for quite some time, and it appears possible that some horsepower may be directly applied to this most important counterinsurgent force very soon. Another reason for optimism. While months and years will be required, this is not really a long time in context. Positive results may occur very quickly. Remember, you don’t have to be the faster than the bear; you just have to be faster than the next guy. The next guy, in this case, is very small and while agile, he is actually hobbled. The people don’t like him, and only need to feel safe to push back. There are approximately 30,000 active insurgents in Afghanistan to try to subdue approximately 30,000,000 people. Another thing to remember is that while the entire country needs governance and development, there is only a serious insurgent threat in portions of the country. Some threats are actually criminal in nature, sometimes under the guise of insurgency. Lots of weapons trafficking and drug trafficking-related violence is attributed to political violence, which it is not.

Overall, we are going to temporarily construct a national security apparatus that is actually economically unsustainable in the long term. Afghanistan will only need these large forces long enough for the insurgency to be beaten back. If the other factors are addressed during this process… and we are building that capacity now… then the insurgency will begin to fade. As it fades, so long as the positive changes continue, the Afghan people will themselves be less and less likely to feel drawn to any radical ideology. Young men will find fulfillment in licit work rather than finding identity with radical leadership, and the need for such massive security forces will wane. For those who fear that a massive army will need to be sustained in perpetuity, that is usually a red herring used as a bogeyman to frighten others. It’s just fallacious logic.

One of our Achilles heels is public opinion. During the elections, many gravitated towards the “good war” versus “bad war” line of thinking. Many of those folks were simply setting up a straw man. Another thing to take into consideration was that the overwhelming majority of the population knew little about Afghanistan. Our networks were flooded with Iraq doom and gloom. Now those same people who held up the “good” vs “bad” argument are openly questioning Afghanistan.

That’s because it makes their head hurt.

Afghanistan is a complicated environment. Major and minor ethnic groups abound. Tribal rivalries go back centuries. There are over three thousand distinct insurgent groups in Afghanistan. They are linked into confederations of varying degrees of cohesiveness. There are rifts and alliances and more rifts and alliances. These provide many opportunities to leverage cracks… and many opportunities for headaches. For many, who otherwise appear to be very intelligent people, it just makes their head hurt. Unable to comprehend, they prognosticate in the only direction they can. Lots of that from talking heads who know little about actuality in Afghanistan lately. These hurt-headed failures do influence, though. Sadly, some just can’t say that they are ignorant and don’t really need to be involved in the discussion. Sadder still is their inability to listen to or take seriously those who do see and do know, apparently because of some academic sense of superiority or well-developed ego. We’ve all known those types, and the foreign policy wonkworld certainly abounds with them. Their keyboards are aflame with addlepated hammerings this year.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Afghanistan is not Iraq. No question. But there is a similarity. COIN was not executed perfectly in Iraq. The surge didn’t do everything right down to the last detail. But what happened was amazing. Some will ascribe the changes in that country during the time surrounding the surge to be the result of nearly anything but the application of some very basic COIN principles, but that’s driven, often, by personal politics and disingenuous motives. What happened, at least in part, was that even imperfect application of population-centric tactics on a large scale led to disproportionate reactions within society. Positive reactions. We lost momentum in Afghanistan for a number of reasons, but the people here truly want to see us regain it and begin providing hope again. I think that it will take less to switch that momentum than the blithering heads would ever think. They will ascribe it, again, to nearly anything other than acceptably applied COIN, but that doesn’t matter. The proof is in the pudding.

One more key; the Afghans really need to know that we are here for the long haul with them. Our history in the past half century doesn’t bear this out, but it’s time to show the world that we can keep going even when our head hurts and helping ourselves means helping someone else first. There are a lot of Americans who resent spending a cup of urine to extinguish a flaming neighbor, bewailing whatever other purpose they may have had for that cup of urine. Think about how those people feel when it is tax dollars they could be using for some pet project. We’ve got lots of those types, too. They often have headaches and think themselves truly brilliant analysts, too. Don’t even get me started about how they pretend to give two shits about my life or my family, though. They don’t. That’s just political fodder for them. The Afghans need to know that we are not quitters any more; that our word actually means something. The meaning of a person’s word has lost something in our society, but not in theirs nor in the eyes of the rest of the world.

The partnering of units remains to be seen. There are concerns that the American Regular Army units will revert to the same old behaviors that they had in the past; abusing their Afghan “partners” as the equivalent of their own pissboys. These units have received some basic COIN training, but there will be another factor, and that would be the Mc-Rod Factor. McChrystal and Rodriguez are serious about enforcing the application of their plan… that Afghan forces are going to lead and the Americans are there as a multiplier. It will only take a few bell-ringers to correct the old ways. Neither impresses me as a man to spare a career in the presence of failure to execute his orders.

Lastly a reason for optimism is the total lack of traction of failed ideas such as strict reliance on “CT” or counter terrorist operations. Discussions which contain references with suggestions to abandoning population-centric concepts for a strictly CT approach are the equivalent of discussing the merits of a football bat. It’s like asking if someone thinks that roughing the passer should be called more strictly during the World Series. Just roll your eyes and know that you’ve just heard from someone who has as much credibility in the current fight as a gelding on a stud farm. No one here on the ground is able to open their mouths and make such ridiculously inane noises. I think it’s happening back home on a regular basis, but no worries; no traction whatsoever where COIN meets the real world.

Afghanistan won’t look like a Mini-Me version of the United States. It will look like a war torn country with hope, though. Success looks like Afghans making plans to access their sub-soil resources in partnership with companies who don’t just buy the rights to a seam of ore. It looks like a court system that functions in such a way that Afghans feel that if they have a dispute, no one can buy the decision. It takes a while to come from the 19th century to the 20th, much less the 21st. We have to understand that success in Afghanistan doesn’t look like perfection; it looks like positive momentum and a lack of interest in further insurgency. There will be die-hards, but the police will be tracking them down. Success looks like most people not having time to listen to radicals because they are either on their way to work or on their way home from school. There is a lot to do to get there, but with the buy-in we’re seeing from the Afghan Army, Police and civil Ministries, as well as the civilian and NGO surge, there’s a sense that the momentum can be regained.

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