~ Clyde Collins ~

     PFC Donald Duty, inspiration specialist, was sliding along a pink-painted wall of a hall of Tripler Army Medical Center on his way back to the Poetics Lab, after having accomplished another mission, when he became engulfed in ~ the blues.

     He was tired of having to tiptoe around pregnant women racked with the pain of Eve, the teeter-tottering elderly, and wheelchair victims involuntarily acquainting themselves with the slow lane (after having broken their bones in the fast lane).

     He was oh sooooooo tired of working indoors day after day and the "soothing" color of pink.

     Duty was duty-ed out.

     So the mind of Duty faded from the scene and disappeared into a dream ~ the kind of dream a person dreams with eyes open ~ lasts maybe two minutes ~ ends when maybe soomebody waves a hand in front of the dreamer's face and says, "Wake up!"  In this moment, the young inspiration specialist, as he walked along the TAMC hallway, dreamed about being in the infantry ~ the mighty, mighty infantry!

     He dreamed about singing cadence in harmony with a platoon of "real" soldiers bursting at the seams with espirit de corps while marching through a country villa; the physical exhilaration of digging a fox hole or erecting a tent; and sleeping in the woods with the best music on earth ~ nature's...


     Duty dreamed of working up a true sweat, crawling in the mud, getting good n' dirty and spitting chewing-tobacco juice while learning what every red-blooded American male ought to know ~ combat/survival skills ~ and learning to know them like the back of his hand.

     And while beating the bush, living a life that's real fun because its real tough, oh boy, wouldn't Duty shout some wildly colorful curses.  With a burr in his pants and a mosquito bite on his nose, Duty would truly be walking poetry ~ in the infantry!

     Back in the labyrinthine halls of Tripler, Duty's floating feet came to an abrupt halt.  He blinked and turned around.  That girl he had just passed ~ a patient ~ she had her bathrobe all tangled up in her portable IV pole.  Standing alone, she was trying to put the robe over her pajamas ~ not faring too well, seeing as she had an IV tube attached to her wrist.

     Duty retraced his steps and said to her, "Uh, want some help?"

     The girl ceased her trembling efforts and, like a neon light, blushed with a sudden smile.  Duty helped her out.

     "Thank you so very much!" she said.

     "No sweat," said Duty ~ and he continued on his way to the Poetics Lab, committed to the job that awaited him there.



art above:

James Warhola

Diego Simone

Tomasz Maronski




A Conservative Perspective:

Afghanistan Still Worth Winning

from the editors of War On Terror News ~ March 12, 2012


      I may be the last to argue in favor of Victory in Afghanistan.

    In 1993, Osama thought he understood the lesson: America would back down from a fight, if they just killed a few of Our Troops.  He had learned the lesson from Viet Nam, and from Somalia.  In both cases, Our Troops had delivered America Great Victories, but the politicians had managed to defeat Our Troops.  There was a point in 2006, 2007, and into 2008, where it looked like the politicians would pull a defeat off in Iraq too.  In a sense, they did.  General Petraeus was able to pull Victory out of the jaws of the politicians in the nick of time.

     In the wake of the 2008 elections, I warned colleagues that the media and politicians were going to try it again in Afghanistan.  It had been a tough year in Afghanistan, but the war there has been the least deadly in American History. 

    Nevertheless, the media has done its part to publicize every negative while ignoring the positives.  In few other places will you find the stories of the generosity our troops are doing every day.    In few other places will you find their daily victories.  The MSM had sabotaged the Mission in Iraq and now they were fully focused on doing the same in Afghanistan.  It wasn't for a lack of stories that they didn't report daily.  It was for a lack of negative stories and the others they ignored.

     They gave a quack in Florida the spotlight when he threatened to burn a Koran, and again when he did so.  The MSM knew it would get Afghans and Pakis riled up.  In the regular course of events, the MSM would have ignored the ignorance, but they just couldn't pass up the attention.  The resulting protests helped convince some Americans that Afghans were worth saving.

   When Obama wanted to half-step the request of General McChrystal for more Troops, the MSM helped make his case.  When McChrystal complained privately that he was barely being given the time of day (20 minutes at the back of Air Force 1) by the Administration, Rolling Stones published every derogatory remark from every staff member with insinuation that it was McChrystal himself saying it.

   When Obama finally announced he had relented to NATO pressure, and would send only 30,000 instead of the minimum  of 40,000 requested, he also announced that the withdrawal would begin barely after the Troops arrived.  He had campaigned on making Afghanistan, his "just war," his "top priority."  Obama owns the current situation in Afghanistan, both in the things he did and the things he didn't do.

     It was tempting for Republicans to do to Obama, what Obama and his party had done to Bush; to hype the negatives of the war he had claimed.  It was tempting for the Conservatives to argue that it was time to pull out of what the POTUS  had staked his own wartime presidency.  2009 was the deadliest year ever in Afghanistan, until 2010.  2011 was worse than 2009.  All told, the last 3 years have seen 75% of the post 9/11 violence.

     Worse, Obama policies were often to blame.  His withdrawal policy, issued in 2009, emboldened the enemy.  His political correctness policy tied the hands of Troops to kill the enemy.  His revolving door policy was releasing the fighters 30 days after they had been captured.  His bombing campaign in Pakistan riled and alienated a reluctant but necessary ally, resulting initially in blocked and burned supplies along Paki supply routes, and then a final block on all supplies through the country.  Under the Obama Presidency, Pakistan has gone from fighting the Taliban to embracing them as secret allies. It has gone from an ally to a stonewaller, and that too was predicted, before he was elected.

    Biden had argued for a Counter-Terrorism only policy in 2009, instead of a Surge.

   The right of the aisle had committed to Counter-Insurgency, which included the Clinton era trademark of Nation Building, as a piece of it.  The Petraeus Plan had included vital components such as seeking out, closing with, and destroying the enemy, as well as making locals a key component of securing their own villages.

     The Obama plan attempted to play nice with insurgents, while dropping explosives by pilots thousands of miles away on an allied Nation.  It pushed for peace negotiations with an enemy that had no reason or desire to compromise and a history of not giving an inch in its dictatorial demands of the people.  Afghans warned the Taliban leadership should not be negotiated with.

     After 3 years of bad policies, of tying the hands of Our Troops, it is easy to say "Screw it.  We'll take our ball and go home."  It's particularly easy when some of the deadliest attacks are being carried out by Afghans in their Army or Police uniforms.

     But while the infiltration of the ANA/ANP by the Taliban was predictable when politicians pushed for expansion of their numbers at a faster pace than they could be vetted, the attacks themselves are a demoralizing but low in number compared to how many Afghan troops are in uniform.  The trend can only be reversed a wholesale change of policies, but the attacks have achieved precisely what the enemy desired: undermining US Support for the Mission, and creating distrust between Our Troops and their enemy, the ANA. 

     The Taliban are still a minority.  Supporters of the Taliban are still a minority.  The vast majority of Afghans oppose the Taliban and support democracy.

     To pull out of Afghanistan would be to sentence Afghans to a new Civil War.  It would likely lead to a return a Taliban ruled Afghanistan, and potentially an expansion of the Taliban into Pakistan as well.  At a time when   If the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan they will  give Al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorists all the space they want to train for the next attacks on Americans.

     The violent protests over Koran burnings are not the average Afghan.  They barely numbered in the thousands in a Nation of Millions.  The anger in Khandahar over the murder of 16 Afghans? Those are average Afghans, with a right to be upset, though that anger will be misdirected.

   On 18 November 1997, Madeleine Albright said: "We are opposed to the Taliban because of their opposition to human rights and their despicable treatment of women and children and great lack of respect for human dignity."

     In the same month: "The continued support by these outside forces [Iran & Pakistan], combined with the apathy of others [United States & Europe] not directly involved is rendering  diplomatic initiatives almost irrelevant."

     The Taliban had been starving Afghans out of resistance.  The UN had gone on the run from Taliban oppression, while Pakistan had contracted to give the Taliban alone food during a rough winter.  They had used the football stadium re-furbished by the UN as a field of execution. 

    If they return to power, they will do the same again.  The Taliban have not changed, not for the better anyway.

    Going back into Afghanistan will be harder than staying.  Afghanistan is still winnable.  The Afghan people are not barbarians that cannot embrace peace or a democratic change of government.  On the contrary, the vast majority of Afghans already embrace democracy, as an imperfect yet best form of government.

     The problem is the politicians in Washington.  A law degree does not make one a General.  Community organizing doesn't give one the experience needed to win a war.  The problem is not the Troops.  It is not Afghans.  The enemy is not insurmountable.  The problem are the politicians in Washington that decided to tie Our Troops hands and announce to the enemy the dates of retreat before the first re-enforcements arrived.  Change the politicians.




A More Liberal View:

When War Turns Pathological, Get Out

by Richard Falk via Aljazeera ~ March 13, 2012


   Santa Barbara, CA - The latest occupation crime in Afghanistan was a shooting spree on March 11, reportedly committed by a lone American soldier in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province.

       Sixteen Afghan civilians, including women and children, were shot in the middle of the night without any pretence of combat activity in the area. Such an atrocity is one more expression of a pathological reaction, allegedly by one soldier, to an incomprehensible military reality - a reality that seems to be driving US military personnel on the ground crazy. The main criminal here is not the shooter, but the political leader who insists on continuing the mission in face of the evidence.

     US soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters, the burning of Qurans, and troops convicted of killing Afghan civilians for sport or routinely invading the privacy of Afghan homes in the middle of the night: whatever the military commanders in Kabul might say in regret, and Washington might repeat by way of formal apology, has become essentially irrelevant.

     These so-called "incidents" or "aberrations" are nothing of the sort. These happenings are pathological reactions of men and women caught up in a death trap not of their making, an alien environment that collides lethally with their sense of normality and decency. Besides the desecration of foreign lands and their cultural identities, US political leaders have, for more than a decade, unforgivably placed young Americans in intolerable situations of risk and enmity. Equally revealing are recent studies documenting historically high suicide rates in the lower ranks of the US military.

     Senseless and morbid wars produce senseless and morbid behaviour. Afghanistan, like Vietnam 40 years earlier, has become an atrocity-generating killing field. In Vietnam, the White House finally accelerated the US exit when it became evident that soldiers were murdering their own officers, a pattern that became so widespread that it gave birth to the word "fragging".

     Whatever the pretext after the 9/11 attacks, the Afghanistan War was misconceived from its inception. Air warfare was relied upon to decimate the leadership ranks of al-Qaeda, but instead its top political and military commanders slipped across the border. Regime change in Kabul, with a leader anointed by Washington to help coordinate the foreign occupation of his country, was a counterinsurgency formula that had failed over and over again.

   But with the militarist mindset prevailing in the US government, failure was once again reinterpreted as an opportunity to do it right this time. Despite the efficiency of the radical new tactic of killing targets using drones - the latest form of state terror - the outcome is no different.

     What more needs to be said? It is long past time for the United States and its NATO allies to withdraw with all deliberate speed from Afghanistan, rather than to proceed on its present course: negotiating a long-term "memorandum of understanding" that transfers the formalities of the occupation to the Afghans while leaving private US military contractors - 21st century mercenaries - as an outlaw governance structure after most combat forces withdraw by the end of 2014.

     As in Iraq, what has been "achieved" in Afghanistan is the very opposite of the goals set by Pentagon planners and State Department diplomacy: the country is decimated rather than reconstructed, the regional balance shifts in the direction of Islamic extremism, and the United States is ever more widely feared and resented, solidifying its geopolitical role as the great malefactor of our era.

     The United States seems incapable of grasping the pathologies it has inflicted on its own citizenry. The disgusting 2004 pictures of US soldiers getting their kicks from torturing and humiliating naked Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib should have made clear once and for all to the leaders and the public that it was time to bring troops home, and keep them there if we cared for their welfare. What the pattern exhibits is not only a criminal indifference to the wellbeing of "others", but a similar disregard of the welfare of our collective selves. The current bellicose Republican presidential candidates calling for attacks on Iran favours taking a giant step along the road - a road that is heading towards an American implosion. And the Obama presidency is only a half step behind: counselling patience, but itself indulging in war-mongering - whether for its own sake, or on behalf of Israel, is unclear.

     President Obama was recently quoted as saying of Afghanistan: "Now is the time for us to transition."

     No, it isn’t. "Now is the time to leave." And not only for the sake of the Afghan people, but for the sake of the American people Obama was elected to serve.




More Officially:

Goal Reaffirmed For Afghanistan Action

by Margaret Talev & Robert Hutton

Bloomberg News ~ March 15, 2012


     WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron showed a united front Wednesday on finishing the war in Afghanistan and pressing for change in Iran and Syria.

     At a news conference in the White House Rose Garden, the leaders said they reaffirmed their plans to wind down the Afghan war by shifting to a support role next year, with Afghans taking full responsibility in 2014. The U.S. and Britain are the top two contributors of forces to the mission.

     "We're going to complete this mission, and we're going to do it responsibly," Obama said, after the leaders met in the Oval Office. The "next phase of the transition" will be determined in May, at a NATO summit in Chicago, he said. "I don't anticipate at this stage that we're going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we currently have."

     Cameron said, "We will not give up on this mission, because Afghanistan must never again be a safe haven for al-Qaida to launch attacks against us." Of the U.S.-Britain relationship, he said, "There are some countries whose alliance is a matter of convenience, but ours is a matter of conviction."

    Cameron said that "the vast majority" of terrorist plots affecting England and the U.S. were coming out of Afghanistan and the region and "that's why we went in there -- that's why we're there today.

     "It's not some selfish, long-term strategic interest," he said. "We want Afghanistan to be able to look after its own security with its own security forces so we are safe at home."

    Obama said the nations are "fully united" on tactics for preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. There is "still time and space" for diplomacy and sanctions before resorting to military action, although the window for diplomacy is "shrinking."

     Cameron and Obama also reiterated calls for Syria's Bashar Assad to step down.

    "If Assad continues, then civil war or revolution is the inevitable consequence," Cameron said. He said the U.S. and England should appeal to Russia's "own interests" to urge it to support tougher United Nations Security Council action toward Syria.

     "It's not in their interest to have this bloodied, broken, brutal regime butchering people nightly on the television screens," Cameron said.

     The British leader called it an "irony" that Syrian people had long felt Russians were their "friends" while being "suspicious" of the West. "Now they can see people in the West wanting to help them" and "we need to make sure that Russia joins with that."