War on terror – how to win

Posted in Bush, Terror, Terrorism, War by Deputy city editor on July 2, 2007

Cars can drink it

Why not just buy all the poppy in Afghanistan? Apprently the drug companies need the stuff because of a shortage of clinical morphine. So we (taxpayers of the west) should buy it. All of it. This has to be cheaper than the alternative. In a pinch, we could send it to the EU for custody. With its experience of butter mountains and wine lakes, Brussels would be ideal guardian of the poppy silos. Or perhaps the opium could be turned into biofuel. Think how mellow our highways could be in the miasma of opiates.

Instead of spending a fortune sending soliders to Afghanistan we should be sending teams of failed contestants from the Apprentice to set up a poppy monopsony in Helmand province.

A Tesco could follow. And we could win those fabled hearts and minds. But nobody listens to me.

Bush & Blair of course understood nothing. Today, Afghanistan looks like another unwinnable project. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are at war with each other as well as us. (The wars within Islam are complicated. A handy guide (in French) is in the July issue of Le Monde diplomatique.) The world is flooded in heroin. The Americans bomb women and children and we are told by the British ambassador in Kabul that this is a struggle that will take 30 years to win!

It is of course much worse in Iraq, which Bush invaded for no good reason that can now be remembered. Here, breathtaking tactical incompetence has put the country in the grip of not one but many simultaneous civil wars, in which the coalition is increasingly embroiled. There are various military fantasies at play but the verdict of the British in the south that they are making things worse not better is at least as good a hypothesis as the theory that we must remain or there will be chaos. And what is there now?

Thanks to Bush and Blair, Iraq is an acute humanitarian disaster. The absolute number of persons engaged in terrorism has increased. Thousands of people are being killed every month, tens of thousands hurt, hundreds of thousands displaced. Does Brown have a project to address this? Does Cameron?

Iraq is not the only place where America and its allies are losing the war on terror. Forget fighting on the beaches. How does one “win” a war in terror in Britain?

With many innocent people already killed (in horrifying cicumstances) and more, one shudders to predict, almost certain to die or be maimed, all of our lives have become far more unpleasant, living as we do in a war zone. Civil liberties are being taken and demolished. We are told to be afraid and there is good reason.

As the butcher’s bill grows in the field, and politicians profess their ritual weekly regret, there are growing hundreds of families in Britain who have lost someone close, in this combat, and tens of thousands more who wince every time the TV or radio speaks of another British soldier being killed. Meanwhile, on the home front, the war is without end. You cannot hear a siren without wondering. Of course we are terrorised; by ministers if nobody else. We are told another attack is imminent. We have now had the first attempts at car bombing; how long will it be before the first roadside bomb is exploded in Britain?

As it has turned out, this hopeless war has brought us to a position far worse than even the most pessimistic critics could have imagined. Fuel has been thrown on the fire. Amerian moral authority has evaporated. No single war aim has been achieved. Neither dead or alive, Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind assigned responsibility for 9-11, has not been caught, or killed, as far as can be known. Although there is something frankly very odd about this particular side of the story.

The global theatre of the war on terror today encompasses Pakistan through Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Gaza and Glasgow and everywhere else. The US is weakened and even crippled. Who benefits? Cheney’s former employer has done well and the oil companies have had some good quarters, but the neocon project is really a failure in its own terms.

Setting out on a war on terror created a priori an impossible to achieve objective. The war has condemned its architects to failure. The legacy of Bush and Cheney will turn out the exact opposite of the intention. Muscular christian democracy has brought Bush and America to their knees.

The problem with Bush is that he loves being a “war president” but he picks the wrong wars. There are dozens of better things to declare war against. The war on poverty was declared by Lyndon Johnson and is still awaiting a conclusion. I also remember wars on cancer and wars on drugs. None of these seem to be won and now we have a war on terror that is equally likely to be unwon.

So even without dwelling on the complexities of this story – including the civil wars ranging with Islam itself, or that by far the majority of the victims of this war are in fact Muslim – we come to: so what the hell do we do now? Perhaps by becoming a beacon of justice the United States (with some help from the poodle British) could have more influence in the world – but of course this is a ridiculous thought.

An excellent article appears in the New Yorker – The Taliban’s Opium War – confirming the utter futility, corruption, and unintended consequences of the effort to destroy poppy in Afghanistan.  Needless to say private military contractors are deeply implicated in this. This is a chilling story of the delusional nature of American and allied security operations in Helmand province.  

3 Responses

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  1. […] casualties and making no apparent progress whatsoever. The drug traffic is at a record level. (My own suggestion on this, War on terror, how to win it,  has been ignored.) Tony Blair’s promises that British troops would get everything they needed have of course […]

  2. Philip Carr-Gomm said, on August 28, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    Thank you for speaking such sense!

    But why is common sense in such short supply – at least in the media?

  3. […] is not, by the way, remotely like my own plan to save Afghanistan.  Which is that we should simply buy all the poppy and turn it in to […]

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