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The General

Saturday 3rd July, warm and clear, tempered by a cool breeze, fair-weather cloud up high.

So, I watched Michael Hastings getting interviewed on Democracy Now, courtesy of Common Dream (who are having a fund-raising drive, by the way) and here's the link: http://www.commondreams.org/video/2010/07/01-1

& then I thought I might as well read the whole Runaway General article on Rolling Stone, which I did & I was surprised, though not really, at what a tactful and patriotic piece it was, and how loyal to the approved War on Terror scenario, despite a few reservations of a pragmatic nature. Didn't spot the words Blood for Oil anywhere, not a whisper about mineral wealth, or any other ulterior motive for the growing death toll. Yes, throwing money at a corrupt government, while at the same time sending death squads to roam around racking up extrajudiciary kills of "insurgents" probably isn't the way to win hearts and minds, but all the corrupt officials were Afghanis, after all. Yes, President Obama instantly fell into the pit he'd been determined to avoid, does anybody think he didn't? Yes, the war is unwinnable and yes the President actually said so, practically literally in the same sentence as his promise to send a shedload more troops, but that's undisputed fact too, isn't it? And yes, McChrystal was actively involved in an unwise attempt to hide a celebrity friendly-fire incident; yes, he may have made the mistake of being in the same room while some torture -I'm-sorry-I meant-enhanced interrogation was going on & that was foolish. But again, this is not doing the dirt, the dirt is old dirt. At the worst, Hastings turned back the carpet. On the tv he gave the impression of being uncomfortable at the fate he'd brought down on those good old boys who'd hung out with him and trusted him a little too much. He claimed he'd been amazed that the general actually got fired & maybe that was even true. I don't think he should blame himself too much. Someone's got to take the candy from these ferocious (and vain?) military heroes, at least every now and then.

As we now know, it won't happen again & perhaps this reaction (wow, we better not let our military talk to journalists, we didn't know any of them still had teeth!) is as mistaken as McChrystal's unguarded openness. The USA looks good when it shows it has a free press
(I'm green with envy)


And all this is perfectly normal. All wars are like this. They go on too long, they become unpopular. The Generals hate the politicians, the politicians hate the Generals, the natural born fearless killers (some of them extremely bright and charismatic) just want to get on with their bloody work, in the fond embrace of the natural born fearless killers on the other side. . . (Afghanistan! What a culture! The Perfect Place to hold a Proper war, no wonder it's been so popular!) And most of the soldiers, most of the time, would rather NOT actually murder people but the culture makes it impossible for them to confess this shameful weakness, & so the game goes on. Nobody knows anything, every battleplan goes awry, the local chiefs are never credible partners, tell all that to Napoleon or Wellington, you'd see them shake their heads and grin. (Well, allowing for temperament). Nothing is wrong with the war in Afghanistan, as your average non-essential war it's just about average.

What happened in the USA in the sixties was a bit of an innovation, but that proud and positive refusal to fight a stupid war that was not worth fighting came from a particular historical situation. It couldn't happen again. Nah. Those songs are over.

Happy Independence Day, cousins.

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