Thursday, April 15, 2004

Seymour Hersh is being unkind to the Bushies again. In the April 12 issue of The New Yorker, he skewers them on the subject of Afghanistan. He begins with Richard Clarke, who says the Administration sees Afghanistan as a “military and political backwater—a detour along the road to Iraq . . . .” That attitude has made Bush et. al. so stingy with resources there that “’the U.S. has succeeded in stabilizing only two or three cities. The President of Afghanistan is just the mayor of Kabul.’”

Hersh says: “Clarke’s view of what went wrong was buttressed by an internal military analysis” the Department of Defense asked retired Colonel Hy Rothstein to undertake. Rothstein served twenty years in the Army Special Forces and is now senior lecturer in defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, so he's no dissident. He just wanted to be helpful. After interviewing dozens of soldiers there, from enlisted men to senior military officers, Rothstein wrote a “devastating critique of the Administration’s policies.” It said that despite Rumsfeld’s much heralded new way of waging war (e.g. Special Forces on horseback and Predator Drones), basically what we did was bomb the hell out of the place. That was ineffective against an enemy that had gone to ground, and besides, it caused more than a thousand civilian deaths. Rumsfeld swatted away complaints about them saying that “’some amount’” of collateral damage was inevitable.

Subtlety would have worked better than the blunt instrument of bombs. “’The Special Forces were created to deal with precisely this kind of enemy,’ Rothstein wrote. ‘Unconventional warfare prescribes that Special Forces soldiers must be diplomats, doctors, spies, cultural anthropologists, and good friends—all before their primary work comes into play.’” Such Special Forces would surely have become aware that there were deep divisions within the Taliban vis-à-vis al Qaeda. The two groups were not synonymous. The U.S. could have exploited those divisions and used Taliban members opposed to al Qaeda to stabilize the country. Instead we left a power vacuum that gave “’warlordism, banditry, and opium production . . . a new lease on life.’”

Naturally, Rothstein’s report “was returned to him, with the message that he had to cut it drastically and soften his conclusions.” Too much truth. The Bush administration just hates too much truth. Well, thanks to Hersh, this cat is out of the bag. And there's plenty more truth about the administration's failed policies in Afghanistan where this came from. Take a look at the article.

You know what? I'd like to see the 9/11 Commission question Hy Rothstein.

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