Everybody should run out and buy a copy of the August Harper’s Magazine. I want to write a separate post about Dan Baum’s “Happiness Is A Worn Gun: My Concealed Weapon and Me”, but I can’t resist pimping the positively Menckenian David Samuels:
… The reporters practice their questions, as if this were still the old days and raising their hands meant that there was even a slight chance they might be called upon. In fact, Obama hasn’t had a real press conference in almost a year, which is the longest period of such abstinence since anyone began keeping track. The reporters who get to ask questions are selected weeks in advance by the White House. Still, pretending is helpful for morale.
“How about negotiating with the Taliban? You still good with that?”
“Is your brother a CIA agent?”
The question refers to Hamid Karzai’s half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who is regularly portrayed in the American press as a corrupt drug lord who charges huge fees for allowing trucks full of opium to cross the bridges over the Helmand River to Kandahar. Last fall, President Obama duly warned that he expected Karzai to establish tough new anti-corruption laws and remove his brother from the government of a country into which the United States would soon be sending 30,000 additional troops. Never mind that Afghanistan produces an estimated 90 percent of the world’s supply of opium; and that the Taliban pays Wali Karzai to ship opium through the territories he governs; and that the U.S. Army, under the ill-fated General Stanley McChrystal, relies on Wali Karzai for logistical support and subcontracts special tasks, which include killing people, to gunmen under his direct control; and that as a courtesy we no longer destroy the poppy crop; and that Wali Karzai happens to be the CIA’s landlord in Kandahar, renting them Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s old villa. After a few months of back-and-forth, the message got through, and on March 30 the New York Times reported that “Afghan and American officials have decided that the president’s brother will be allowed to stay in place,” quoting a senior NATO official as saying that Wali Karzai could be a big help to the ongoing American reconstruction effort. “One thing, he is a successful businessman,” the official said. “He can create jobs.”
[…] Each of these men, separated by maybe five feet of open space in the gilt-edged room, combines the righteousness of the Third World narrative with the trappings of First World power, signifying rather too slickly in both directions at once. Karzai was named one of the best-dressed men in the world by Esquire; in the Third World, his name quickly became a synonym for crook, traitor, ass-licker. Go to any country in the Middle East and you can hear politicians described by their enemies with the epithet “Karzai.” Obama began his presidency as a symbol of Hope. He is a strange combination of magic and reason, who believes that solutions can be arrived at by consulting experts and then applying his winning personality to the sales job…
Karzai nods and adjusts his profile for the cameras. His role here is quite simple: he is a guest standing before his host, who is the emperor of the world. Every moment he stands here, side by side with the American president, his prestige grows, while the American’s room to maneuver shrinks. The ever-increasing price tag on the war is a measure of Karzai’s personal value to the Americans. He gives a big nod when Obama says “strengthening anti- corruption efforts,” and a lesser nod at the phrase “rule of law.” His throat is dry and he swallows, though without reaching for the glass of water on the low table by his podium. Instead he maintains a steady gaze at a fixed point about three feet in front of him, as if he is tracking the movements of a fly that sooner or later will come close enough to swat. Every tribe has its own rituals. These are the rituals of the suit-people of Washington, who will leave Afghanistan in a year and a half, or five years, or whenever they get tired of the dying.
Those of you who complain that Matt Taibbi may have some journalistic points if only he didn’t use so many swears now have an honest reporter to follow. Samuels’ nine-page article is quite hard to excerpt adequately; every paragraph is excellent.
And if you have a few extra bucks, please do consider subscribing to Harpers — I’m very glad I did, because every issue includes at least one extraordinary piece that makes me smarter and better-informed.
Not much new here. That Ahmed Wali Karzai is corrupt and may deal in drug trafficking is old news. He also may be a more effective leader than his brother, with better and well-respected connections to tribal leaders.
International politics is often an unpleasant business. Anyone waiting for leaders who are all sweetness and light are bound to be disappointed. On the other hand, since we had Bush and Cheney, we don’t have much to brag about.
I’ve been reading Chalmers Johnson’s Nemesis and Derrick Jensen’s Endgame and the goings on in Afghanistan and Iraq no longer feel like problems that are just due to Bush/Cheney but rather problems that have been systemic for at least 70 years. Unfortunately, that gives me less hope that it’ll change ever, at least before it can’t go on any longer.
Oh, and in other good news in the war on terrah, I came across a new public health research study that found that Fallujah has higher rates of cancer than Hiroshima. Here are a couple of (foreign) reports on it.
I’ve never complained that Taibbi swears too much. I complained that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about half the time, but people like him because he’s all shouty and stuff.
joe from Lowell
Silver Lining: maybe there is someone who can keep Afghanistan from melting down after all.
Davis X. Machina
@MikeJ: If that were true, then the Rude Pundit would be Dean of the J-school at Columbia.
Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea…..
@r€nato: Ugh. We’re back to the “We don’t care if he’s an evil guy as long as he’s OUR evil guy” way of ruling the empire. Just as a note of history, that never turns out well.
I question the use of “back to”. Was ever thus.
58 dead this month. Questions?
Yes. Why do you hate Obama? Is it because he didn’t give you a pony for Afghanistan?
He campaigned on focusing The Good War ™, but obviously you weren’t paying attention.
@MikeJ: Taibbi is funny and takes on the Biggest Man he can find. A far cry from today’s toady journalisto.
@Yutsano: there was a time when it was any different? Joseph Stalin was far more of a butcher than Hitler ever was, but we allied with him to defeat the Nazis.
@Bootlegger: I don’t argue with that. I simply would like it if the facts were on his side when he does it. There are plenty of fact based ways to attack the big guys. His defenders always fall back on “people who dislike him must dislike swearing”, rather than acknowledging his ignorance/dishonesty/hackery/what-have-you.
I’d prefer not to be the liberal mirror image of the conservatives we were making fun of in the previous thread.
Hm. Guess we’d better: “Talk to the Taliban, Talk to the Taliban”
Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle
@MikeJ: Can you point out Taibbi’s lies and dishonesty?
Neither does waiting for perfect angels.
But I also don’t know if Ahmed Wali Karzai is “Our evil guy.” He may be evil and independent and quite capable of running the show. I have noted my disgust at the Bush Administration assuming that Musharraf was a docile client, when he was clearly playing Bush and Cheney like the fools that they were.
I don’t know whether the Obama Administration is any more astute in this area than the Bushies. I have my doubts.
But writing about corruption among Afghan leaders is much like writing, “Wow, there’s organized crime in Italy.”
What the fuck are you talking about? American soldiers are not dying in Naples or Sicily.
I have lots of doubts. Maybe Obama can answer some questions.
@Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle: $23.7 trillion at risk with TARP. Either a lie or ignorance so stunning that nobody should pay any attention to anything he ever says.
That's Master of Accountancy to You, Pal
I have to disagree there. It turns out badly often enough that we should be skeptical, but it works often enough that it shouldn’t be discarded. Syngman Rhee, for instance, was not exactly a human rights award winner, but South Korea turned out okay.
It seems like someone is doubting our new SURGE / counter-insurgency strategy. Whenever this happens it’s important to remind oneself that it is, in fact, a new strategy.
Stats are slippery things, but there is no way you can add the butcher’s bill up and make that work out without some sort of gross intentional throwing the thumb on the scale in some way.
This is shitty, revisionist history.
I am proud to call David Samuels my neighbor. Nice to see his name somewhere outside of the mailbox.
@Brachiator: Musharraf had one positive going for him: he knew how to turn on a dime when it became clear that supporting the Taliban regime was a bad call. It may annoy Pakistan to be our client state, but they don’t really have much of an alternative. India has a more diverse range of backers than they do.
And to the other replies above: We didn’t start out in the empire game. In fact, for over 100 years we barely meddled in the affairs of other nations (noted exception: Haiti, which we still fuck up to this day). Even with the Monroe doctrine we still kept our noses more or less local until really the Spanish-American War. After that we figured out we could indeed be quite the
bulliespower if we chose to be, and we chose to be.
Yes please. I heard an interview on RadioWest this week with Baum. I missed about 20 min of it, but boy is he almost dead on on everything. The only thing I disagree with him on is his belief that shall carry has decreased crime. And maybe the idea that carrying makes you more aware/thoughtful.
The Trail of Tears. Case closed.
That’s easily insane. If we were to just, on a whim, not count the Mexican-American War, or the entrance of Texas into the Union, or the entire Caribbean slave trade economy and future designs for the annexation of Cuba and Hispaniola as additional slave economies, then yes…we had no imperial designs until the Philippines. Also, manifest destiny.
Pakistan has never stopped supporting the Taliban and other groups. Musharraf’s utterances about the Taliban were purely for US consumption. There was a reporter for either the New Yorker or the New York Times who wrote about an offensive against the Taliban that supposedly had been launched. The reporter was visiting with the local Taliban leader when the attack was supposedly taking place. No soldiers anywhere at all.
The current government is still playing the US for suckers. For public consumption they complained about the drones. But they made it clear that they wanted more US military aid. The Obama Administration has provided some money for public works, but it is the military aid that is most sought after.
And the Pakistan government has made it clear that China is standing by to sell them aircraft and other arms if the US teat suddenly dries up.
Oh, stop it. Americans have far too exalted a sense of themselves, even when they are trying to be critical. US support for Pakistan has been bumblingly misguided since the height of the Cold War. Nations tremble before us during photo-ops, and then continue to pursue their own national interests.
Maybe we could persuade him to move to Nevada.
You guys are too relentlessly negative for me.
There’s gotta be pony SOMEWHERE.
Well, if we weren’t so puritanical about it, we could score some cheap dope.
Which parallel universe did your message come from? More craziness from the King of the Clueless here. America tried to invade and conquer Canada in 1812. They must not teach anything about the War of 1812 in the schools you went to…if you went to any schools. Judging by the quality of the information and reasoning in your posts, Yutsano, you may have been raised by wolves on the streets and bypassed the whole school thing altogether.
Let’s see…America tried to invade and conquer Canada in 1812, we annexed California in 1843, stole Texas in the 1850s, grabbed vast tracts of the U.S. southwest in the Mexican-American war, then Americans swarmed ashore in Cuba in 1898 and grabbed a whopping chunk of that island from the Spanish, then we grabbed the Phillipines in 1901 using waterboarding on insurecto prisoners by the way (America is not only an empire and was always an empire from the git-go, like all empires, we’re big on torturing prisoners and loved it in 1901 and loved it even more when American soldiers tortured suspected Cong in Nam using both waterboarding (gotta waterboard prisoners, it’s the American way!) and wiring up their genitals to portable 100-volt field telephones and cranking away rev up those amps.
Americans sent gunboats into China. Dig around a little and you can find photographs of U.S. Marines sitting atop the Great Wall of China in the 1920s. That should blow empty minds like yours.
Yes indeedy, those 700 military bases America maintains around the world, that not an indication that America is and always has been an empire…that’s just a sign that the U.S. military loves sightseeing.
And when America forces other countries to sign outrageous unjust treaties like ACTA, that’s not an empire grinding other countries into hamburger, that’s just our winsome ability to win hearts and minds around the world. And when America sends goons and bombs and guns and napalm and defoliant plus military advisors to apply ’em to countries like Colombia and Mexico, once again that’s not America’s imperial overreach, it’s just a sign that we’re being kindly and friendly to our wonderful neighbors to the south.
Holy crap, how can anyone who ever opened a history book spout gibberish like “we didn’t start out in the imperial game.” Mark Twain demanded that his autobiography be censored for 100 years because he included such vehement passages condemning American imperialism in the Phillipines. And that was back in 1910, and America’s “imperial game” has only gotten worse since then.
Before you open your mouth and spew gibberish, Yutsano, you should be aware that after the 1779 Wyoming Valley Massacre, George Washington was known to the Iroquois as “Burner of Villages.” That’s how far back America’s “imperial game” goes.
“… for over 100 years we barely meddled in the affairs of other nations…” because we enthusiastically meddled in Native Americans and kidnapped Africans.
Everyone with substantive criticism of Taibbi can and should contribute to his wikipedia page:
URLs would help.
Speaking of which:
(Yes, Baum beats Taibbi.)
Synghman Rhee was a murderous lnatic. Why do you think his army completely collapsed in a heartbeat? Why do you think the Northerners had initial traction?
S Korea was a “fledgling democracy” ruled by hand picked military wackjobs, crushing dissent & imprisoning critics, for DECADES. In SPITE of US support for these series of slugs, the Korean people, slowly, built a reasonable State.
See: Guatemala. El Salvador. Nicaragua. The Congo- time after time we pimp murderous despots, time aftr time it blows up in our faces, time after time we get this crap from wingnuts. Same old….
This notion those of us disgusted with backing murderous loons- quislings- are lookng for angelic allies is wingnut trope, flimsy as our claims to be defending freedom.