On the Afghan War and Israeli Aid

Netanyahu: A man who knows how to spar

W.J. Astore

The FP: Foreign Policy feed that I receive had two items that grabbed my attention this morning.  The first involves the war in Afghanistan.  In short, there’s no end in sight.  Unlike in the Vietnam War, no one is seeing any lights at the end of tunnels.  Nevertheless, U.S. and NATO leaders vow to keep supporting Afghan forces as they continue to lose territory to a resurgent Taliban that had basically given up in 2001.

Here’s the latest from FP (co-authored by Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley):

NATO’s not done in Afghanistan. It looks like the United States and NATO are going to stick it out in Afghanistan for at least a few more years, as the Afghan army continues to battle a resurgent Taliban with no end in sight. Following a NATO meeting in Brussels this week, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters that U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter “told us the troop numbers and the dispositions are being looked at again,” as President Barack Obama weighs whether to draw the U.S. presence in Afghanistan down from 9,800 to 5,000 by the end of this year. NATO says it’s in, at least through the end of next year. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies are abandoning their plans to pull back to Kabul by the end of this year, and “will have what we call a flexible regional approach, meaning that we will continue to be of course in Kabul but also out in the different regions.”

That’s significant. So are comments by an anonymous NATO diplomat who told the AP that the alliance will most likely come up with the $5 billion needed to fund the current number of Afghan security forces through 2020. The longest of the Long Wars grinds on.

Put bluntly, U.S. and NATO leaders continue to reinforce failure in Afghanistan.  Their strategy, such as it is, is simply more of what hasn’t worked over the last fifteen years.  Apparently, forever war is sustainable to the U.S. and NATO.  No one seems to be asking whether the cost is sustainable to the Afghan people.

The second item involves American aid to Israel, which is primarily military aid.  Here’s how the folks at FP put it:

Israel: After much back and forth sparring, the U.S. and Israel appear to be nearing an agreement on a U.S. military aid package. Israeli officials had been hoping that the Obama administration would agree to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) promising $40 billion in aid over a decade — an increase of $10 billion over the last MOU. So far, the U.S. has been discussing a deal in the range of $35-37 billion. Other questions about the aid remain up in the air such as whether the final package will include money for missile defense and how much of the money Israel will be able to spend among its own defense contractors versus American companies.

There you have it: the “sparring” between Israel and the U.S. is about whether Israel will get a huge chunk of America aid, or a gargantuan chunk of aid.  Meanwhile, the U.S. government seems to have no influence over the Israeli government.  Netanyahu does pretty much what he wants to do, even as he thumbs his nose at Obama.

The “punishment” for Netanyahu’s intractability – well, there is none.  As a punch-drunk American heavyweight boxer staggers about the ring, a sneering Israeli lightweight launches punch after punch, taunt after taunt.  And after absorbing the punishment the heavyweight simply throws in the towel and agrees to the lightweight’s terms.

Of course, none of this will change under President Hillary Clinton.  If anything, Clinton will pursue the Afghan War with more vigor and ladle even more “aid” to Israel.  Under President Trump, who knows?  All bets are truly off since Trump changes his positions as often as most men change their underwear.  (For example, Trump first affirmed neutrality in negotiating between the Israelis and Palestinians, then pledged one-sided support for Israel in a speech to AIPAC.)

Well, my dad always said, the more things change, the more they remain the same.  In these two cases, he was right – yet again.

27 thoughts on “On the Afghan War and Israeli Aid

  1. The question for our age: Is Islam now a religion of peace, or a 7th Century religion of “convert or kill the infidel.” Keep in mind that whether Christian or Jew, the infidel is us.


    1. Read a bit of history. Muslims do not consider Christians and Jews as infidels. Both Jesus and Mary, for example, are revered in Islam.


    2. No. The question of our age goes something like this: “When, if ever, will Americans avail themselves of even the most cursory acquaintance with world history?

      Back in the day in Southeast Asia, we dragooned American Crusaders for Capitalism would often hear our career lifer associates say things like: “Don’t knock the war, it’s the only one we’ve got,” or “Kill them all [the Vietnamese] and let God sort it out.” I didn’t understand the origin of this last expression until many years later when my younger brother, a U.S. Army draftee and high school history teacher gave me a copy of John J. Robinson’s book, Dungeon, Fire and Sword: the Knights Templar in the Crusades (Great Britain: Brockhampton Press, 1999). I discovered that the bloodthirsty quotation of interest had nothing to do with Islam or Muslims, but chiefly concerned Christians crusading against other Christians in the early years of the thirteenth century, all because:

      “Pope Innocent III was emerging as the strong man of Europe, which was very much in line with his dedication to establish papal supremacy over the secular world once and for all. He was pleased when the count of Champagne wrote to him expressing his desire to orgainize a new Crusade. Innocent was very much in favor, so long as it was a Crusade not led by a king or emperor. Then it would be a papal Crusade, commanded by a legate or noble who would take his orders directly from the Pope.” …

      Leaving aside for the moment the Roman Catholic Crusaders’ conquest, plunder, and rape of Constantinople, seat of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church (for the chief benefit of the Pope and some Venetian merchants), Crusader history moves back to Europe where a small sect of Christians called “Cathars” had mortally offended the Roman Catholic pope by not believing in him. A pretext for slaughtering these “heretics” duly presented itself:

      “A Roman Catholic knight had killed Peter of Castelnau, but that was not the way the murder was reported to the world. Innocent III blamed the Cathar heretics. In March of 1208 the pope issued a bull of anathema against the Cathars, condemning them all to death. At the same time he declared Peter of Castelnau to be a saint of the Catholic Church.

      “A call to crusade went out, promising identical spiritual rewards for going to southern France as previous Crusaders had been promised for going to the Holy Land. The bloody robe of St. Peter of Castelnau was taken from one town to another to rouse the people to join in the war of extermination.

      “The murder of a Cistercian had been used to trigger the call to Crusade, and now Innocent III appointed another Cistercian as papal legate to lead it. He was Arnald-Amalric, the Cistercian general. Forty days was all the military service he required for any knight or commoner to earn the Crusader’s special place in heaven, although as it turned out it took years to accomplish the maniacal slaughter throughout such an extended area.

      “The Crusade began with the public confession and humiliation of the count of Toulouse, who swore to obey the Church in all things and pledged himself and his vassals to eliminating the Cathars. He took his knights from Toulouse to join the growing Crusader army at Montpellier.

      “Their first target was the walled city of Béziers, whose citizens, sympathetic to the gentle Cathars among them, would not open their gates. It was well known that the Cathars constituted only a small minority of the population of Béziers, and they looked exactly like their Catholic neighbors. How were the Crusaders to know which ones to kill? They put the question to Arnald-Almaric. The papal legate’s reply ranks as one of the most memorable quotations in military and religious history. “Kill them all,” he said. “God will know his own.”

      Now, whenever you hear of America’s uniformed Visigoths, dogs-of-war mercenaries, or corporate camp followers proclaiming: “Kill them all, and let Allah sort it out,” you will know whom the Christians and Jews have in mind to do the killing and whom they plan to kill. None of this history has anything to do with 7th century nomadic Muslim sheep herders invading, conquering, and converting Christians and Jews living in 21st century Kansas, Nebraska, and Arizona. But Donald Trump and John McCain would sure like historically ignorant Americans to think otherwise. As their hero, the dissolute Roman emperor Caligula, liked to say: “Let them hate, so long as they fear.”


  2. Would that all the children of Abraham turn their backs on violence, Walt. But the news is just filled with murderous rage.

    Religion teaches us we’re made in the image of God, and that all life is sacred. Yet far too many of us are determined to take life rather than to work to preserve it.

    There are too many destroyers in the world. Perhaps it has always been so. But somehow we must change our collective mindset as humans to preserve rather than to destroy.


    1. Plato/MacArthur: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

      Another question is do we fight or do we roll? Europe has made its decision, and the choice is roll.


  3. I’m for fighting — when the cause is just. But most of our recent wars — I just scratch my head. What are we fighting for in Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on. No vital interests at stake. No Congressional declarations of war. Just endless mission creep and endless war.


    1. You bet, and under a Congressional Declaration of War. The sad part for Europe is that Muslim refugees bring the seed beds of Caliphate Europe. Of course, but for the Battle of Tours (732), Europe would already be Islamic. Imagine gays being tossed off the Eiffel Tower, if there was an Eiffel Tower.


        1. Sorry Walter, I can’t read your mind. Some of your thinking about what you perceive to be a problem is apparent. I simply would like to understand more clearly the precise nature of the problem, to your mind, and what your proposals are for dealing with that “problem”.
          I could speculate on what you think should be obvious to me, but find it more fruitful to engage in dialogue.


      1. How does this sound? The term “radical Islam” could well be redundant. Come to grips with that and the “problem” becomes apparent.


      2. The late Gore Vidal surely spoke the truth when he observed that “Americans are among the most easily frightened people on earth.”

        I mean, if Five-Deferment Dick Cheney and the AWOL reservist Deputy Dubya Bush could scare the pants off them with the hapless Saddam Hussein shadow monster, then what self-respecting 7th century caliphate couldn’t do the same?


  4. Who’s “crusading” who? Ye reap what ye sow? What about recent history?

    I guess we can absurdly reduce all the geopolitical machinations of theft, death, and destruction down to: US GOOD, THEM BAD

    Take all your overgrown infants away somewhere….a place of their own where they can fight until the logs are dislodged from their eyes.


    1. Gregory Herr —

      Yes, the question of “Crusade” does indeed arise for those familiar with the history of Christian Europe (and thus, the United States) as “the West” came to define itself in opposition to Islam. But you will never hear American crusaders, both Christian and Jewish, ever use that word. Too much of the rest of the world, however, knows all too well the horrible things it means. So better for the American Christian and Zionist Jewish crusaders to blame their Muslim victims for not feeling all warm and fuzzy toward the “Western” invaders who have — once again — descended upon the middle east like a plague of ravenous locusts to rob, kill, and dispossess them.

      But “Caliphate”? “Sharia Law”? About to overrun the United States any day now? My aching ass. Americans shoot dead, on average, twenty-one of their fellow Americans every day. Can’t blame “radical Islam” for that. Americans today face two principal threats to their health and safety: (1) themselves and other Americans with motor vehicles, and (2) themselves and other Americans with guns. But, hey! “Radical Islam”! “Sharia Law”! “7th Century Caliphates!” What mindless blather.

      Radical American Christians and radical Zionist Jews have caused their own problems. No one else has. When they get what they have coming to them — Karmic retribution — few in the rest of the world will mourn.

      Of course, as you correctly point out, one doesn’t need to delve into ancient and medieval history to understand the “shock and awe” assault of multinational Western corporate interests rampaging through the middle east today. Just look at the U.S. military — “racketeers for Capitalism,” as Marine Corps General Smedley Butler called himself and his officer ilk — bombing “bad” weddings, funerals, baby-naming ceremonies, “number two in command of something,” or just “military age males” caught in a free-fire killing zone somehere in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan. Just don’t expect diaper-soiling, bed-wetting Americans to ever look at a map of the world to see just who practices “shock and awe” invasion, occupation, and devastation upon whom. As the current Russian joke has it: “Pardon us for placing our borders so close to your new bases.”

      None so blind as an American who will not see.


  5. All manner of beliefs or sets of ideas could be termed “radical” or “extreme”. Everything is relative, so to speak. For instance, I think using mercenaries to destabilize the Syrian government and wreak havoc on its society is extremely radical (in a pejorative sense).
    I think killing and displacing millions of people is “radical”.

    I think the vast majority of Moslem people just want to live in peace and conduct their lives without Uncle Sam’s guns pointed at their heads. They don’t give a rat’s ass about Caliphates far from what “home” they have left.

    So the “problem” is Islam itself, in your mind. What to do then, Walter? The killing is well underway…should we turn the desert to glass?


    1. Gregory —

      If “radical Islam” really bothered anyone in the U.S. government, our “leaders” would bomb the royal palaces in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies, since these oil-soaked family dictatorships constitute the chief funders and sponsors of radical Wahabism, as distinguished from mainstream Islam. But the U.S. Government calls these despotic regimes “allies,” even though they — along with Islamic Turkey and the Zionist Occupation of Palestine — form the chief sponsors and enbablers of ISIS, ISIL, Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda, or whatever other name these mercenary jihadi goons call themselves this week. If the U.S. government really wanted to do something about radical wahabism, it would simply back off and let the Syrian Arab Army, Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah finish the job. But before the U.S. government can do anything about “radical Islam” — presuming it wants to do anything, which I doubt — it will first have to stop arming and supplying these radical Islamists for its own unstated purposes and those of America’s “allies.”

      As a matter of fact, the United States and Saudi Arabia designed and built “Al Qaeda” for use in fighting a proxy war against the USSR in Afghanistan. Then, when the Russians decided to withdraw so that the Americans could rush into the “graveyard of Empires” and start dying there instead of Russians, Al Qaeda turned on its chief sponsors, Saudi Arabia and the United States, for allowing American soldiers to set up military bases near the two holy shrines of Mecca and Medina. Then, as a result of getting caught with its pants down on 9/11/2001, the Cheney/Bush II administration had to knock over Saddam Hussein so that Haliburton Corporation could start building American military bases in Iraq while simultaneously taking over Iraq’s oil reserves for the benefit of American multinational corporations — what You-Know-Her the “Democrat” has called “business opportunities.” So we can disregard the complete and utter bullshit coming out of the U.S. government and presidential candidates regarding “ISIS,” or “Al Qaeda,” or “radical Islam.” They all mean the same thing to the U.S. government and its handmaiden military establishment: namely, nothing.

      Personally, I learned long ago never to accept at face value any official statemenf from the U.S. government or its racketeering, ticket-punching military careerists. Whatever America’s “leaders” intend to do — which assumes on the basis of no evidence that these moronic cretins could even intend something recognizable — I wouldn’t believe them anyway, because I know that they lie; just to keep in practice; just so they won’t forget how.


      1. Michael –

        A fine understanding and synopsis…sponsors, enablers, and well-practiced liars.

        In addition, the Libyan fiasco had the sideways purpose (beyond eliminating a socially-oriented government with resources and plans for greater African self-development) of staging arms and mercenaries for their next project, Syria. The following statement is pure conjecture: I have wondered whether Ambassador Stevens knew too much, wasn’t “on board’,” and was perhaps “hung out to dry”.

        It should also be noted that Iraqui society was quite modern, secular, with a vibrant professional class and socially progressive in terms of education and health care. That Hussein disallowed political diversity and pulled some shit is noted. He got his first sponsorship with the C.I.A., and his second with the official U.S. Government. We made sure the Iraq-Iran war of the 80’s was prolonged by playing both sides, then baited Sadaam into the first Gulf War when he no longer served our purposes. Clinton’s sanctions worsened, to say the least, the prospects of people in war-torn Iraq; and by the time 2003 rolled around, well, Saddam was easy pickins. Shock and Awe ready to go. Clear the way for Halliburton, leave no “insurgent” unturned. Kick down doors and fill the prisons (which is where the “networking” that led to ISIS began).

        I could go on about Syrian society, Assad as a reformer, Putin as an internationalist, and other “unknowns,” but I tire and bid thee well. Thank you, Michael Murry.


  6. Glad my article stimulated such passionate debate. Yes, there’s such a thing as radical Islam. Just as there’s such a thing as radical Christianity. But here the term “radical” is used not so much in the sense of returning to the roots, but more as a euphemism or substitute for “violent” or “extreme.”

    Thus it would be more accurate to criticize and condemn violent and extreme Islam (or violent and extreme Christianity), rather than radical Islam. Any religion that goes to extremes and resorts to violence against “infidels” deserves condemnation.

    Like Christianity, Islam has over one billion believers/followers, most of whom are not violent and not extreme.


    1. William.

      “Radical Islam” keeps the faith, “radical Christianity” denies it. To equate the two is a false comparisan.


      1. Tell that to the victims of violent extremism. Whether you call it “jihad” or “crusade,” the result is the same, Walt.


      2. On the contrary, Walter: Equating violence committed in the name of Judeo-Christianity (action) with violence committed in the name of Islam (reaction) has a very long — and continuing — relevance. Consider, if you will, a bit of appropriate history by James Carroll, in his collection of Boston Globe articles analyzing America’s “new” war on “terror,” Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War (2004).

        With the Crusades, the violent theology of the killer God came into its own. …”

        “… the Crusades created a state of consciousness that still shapes the mind of the West, and if Americans don’t know that, many Muslims do.”

        “… the savagery of these wars remains unforgotten in vast stretches of the world today.”

        But we need not take the word of a present-day historian of the Roman Catholic Church. We can get an even better feel for this religious killing and dying thing from the mouth of a certified Christian saint, Bernard of Clairvaus, inciting to maximum violence those “terrible worms in their iron cocoons” (as their contemporary Arab victims called them). In the original medieval:



        IT SEEMS THAT A NEW KNIGHTHOOD has recently appeared on the earth, and precisely in that part of it which the Orient from on high visited in the flesh. As he then troubled the princes of darkness in the strength of his mighty hand, so there he now wipes out their followers, the children of disbelief, scattering them by the hands of his mighty ones. Even now he brings about the redemption of his people raising up again a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.

        This is, I say, a new kind of knighthood and one unknown to the ages gone by. It ceaselessly wages a twofold war both against flesh and blood and against a spiritual army of evil in the heavens. When someone strongly resists a foe in the flesh, relying solely on the strength of the flesh, I would hardly remark it, since this is common enough. And when war is waged by spiritual strength against vices or demons, this, too, is nothing remarkable, praiseworthy as it is, for the world is full of monks. But when the one sees a man powerfully girding himself with both swords and nobly marking his belt, who would not consider it worthy of all wonder, the more so since it has been hitherto unknown? He is truly a fearless knight and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armor of faith just as his body is protected by armor of steel. He is thus doubly armed and need fear neither demons nor men. Not that he fears death–no, he desires it. Why should he fear to live or fear to die when for him to live is Christ, and to die is gain? Gladly and faithfully he stands for Christ, but he would prefer to be dissolved and to be with Christ, by far the better thing.

        Go forth confidently then, you knights, and repel the foes of the cross of Christ with a stalwart heart. Know that neither death nor life can separate you from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ, and in every peril repeat, “Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” What a glory to return in victory from such a battle! How blessed to die there as a martyr! Rejoice, brave athlete, if you live and conquer in the Lord; but glory and exult even more if you die and join your Lord. Life indeed is a fruitful thing and victory is glorious, but a holy death is more important than either. If they are blessed who die in the Lord, how much more are they who die for the Lord!

        This bellicose rant goes on at great and excruciating length. The interested person can read the whole exhortation here. Suffice it to say that action begets reaction and religious violence begets religious violence. Americans may not know — or wish to know — any of this. Nevertheless, the rest of humanity knows all too well that Crusading Judeo-Christianiity will engender its mirror image, Jihad in the name of Islam. The “West” has reaped in small measure what it has sown in vast destructiveness throughout the Middle East. Still, the outcome of the Tenth Crusade in Palestine (launched in 1948) will no doubt recapitulate the results of the first Nine begun in 1204. As William Faulkner wrote: “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” So it would seem.


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