Boston Globe, August 27,
By James Carroll
President Obama last week
addressed the growing problem of green on blue
attacks in Afghanistan, when members of Afghan security forces turn their guns
on their Western partners. We are concerned about this, from top to bottom, the
president said. In the two weeks before he spoke, there were seven insider
attacks, killing nine Americans. About 40 coalition troops have been killed by
Afghan allies this year. Addressing the unprecedented dangers trainers may face
from their own trainees, the president went on to say, Weve got whats called the
Guardian Angels program, a stationing of armed NATO soldiers to monitor
Afghans and protect Westerners.
This is worse than just another wrenching turn in a heartbreaking 11-year war.
Last week saw the 2,000th US death. The coalition total is almost 3,000. A
breakdown in trust between coalition troops and their Afghan partners cuts to the
quick of the surge strategy Obama embraced in 2010. The time-limited
escalation of the American effort was supposed to help Afghans summon the
competence and will to secure their own country, enabling the NATO withdrawal
in 2014. As Afghans stand up, Obama told the NATO gathering in May, they
will not stand alone.
Now, standing nearby will be a Guardian Angel ready to shoot.
As the president spoke last week, news came of a Center for Army Leadership
survey that showed three-fourths of US soldiers think the Army is headed in the
Opinionwrong direction. Twenty percent of troops serving in Afghanistan reported
serious psychological problems. This July, an all-time record 26 active duty
soldiers committed suicide (plus another 11 Reserve or National Guard members).
That is an epidemic, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress.
Confronting such symptoms, the Army Chief of Staff, General Raymond T.
Odierno, said, It is very important for us to be introspective. Yes, and with peer
counseling and other psychological support the Army tries to help individual
sufferers through deployment stress, mission drift, economic hardship, and war
zone trauma. But an epidemic-scale collapse of morale is rooted less in personal
problems than in bankrupt policy the same bankruptcy that is being laid bare
by the murderous behavior of Afghan allies. Whats needed here is the opposite of
introspection. We must look outward at the shape of the world we are creating.
The broad American public can avert its eyes from this decades historic
catastrophe, but uniformed men and women forcibly stare into its abyss the
actuality of the two unnecessary and unwinnable wars that the military has been
required to fight. The absurdity of the now-concluded Iraq war is on full display
as Baghdad, through its banks and oil markets, helps Iran avoid international
sanctions. Americans fought and died to help Iran get nukes?
What more than 80,000 US troops see up close in Afghanistan is not only the
futility of the present reconstruction and training mission, but its true character as
a face-saving charade disguising blatant leadership mistakes Bushs in starting
the war, and Obamas in expanding it. Insider attacks puncture the fantasy that
a stable and US-friendly Afghan government will ever stand up. The rationale
for Obamas war is phony, and the warriors know it.
Another profoundly upsetting phenomenon facing Americas service members is
the nations refusal to reckon with the abyss into which they have been dumped.
Support the troops? Ha! That neither Republicans nor Democrats see the crisis in
Afghanistan as a fit subject for election-year discussion, much less debate, is salt
in the wound. The president wants no attention drawn to the single largest
misjudgment of his presidency, while Romney seeks to exploit voters subliminal
unease about Afghanistan without offering any alternative strategy. In the face of
this Democratic-Republican conspiracy of silence about the war, why shouldnt
Army morale be dropping like a stone?
Guardian Angels in Afghanistan now protect coalition troops from harm. But in
biblical tradition, guardian angels have another equally important function,
which is to protect from bad decisions. Guardian angels deployed in Washington
would surely decry two more years of this.
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