Plan Afghanistan (and the Iraqi Regional Initiative)

The Unknown As we know, There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know There are known unknowns. That is to say We know there are some things We do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, The ones we don’t know We don’t know.

u2014Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing (The Poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld)

I think I know! The peculiar language of Don Rumsfeld has been helpful in deciphering where we are going in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We were given, of course, the "known knowns." Apparently the smallest eggs in the basket, they also appear to have been only two. The first was that George Bush’s will is good/Holy, as clarified for him by his close advisors/father figures Cheney and Rumsfeld. The second was that people like Saddam Hussein and organizations like the Taliban were bad/Evil. While neither of these eggs could pass an USDA inspection, they seemed tasty enough at the time in Washington, and apparently most of the Congress was clamoring for a seat at the breakfast bar.

Also in the basket were the "known unknowns." More like known unknowables, these constituted things that Bush and his compadres in Washington, 10 Downing Street and Tel Aviv knew damn well, but in fact were not supported by any evidence to be found in the actual world we all live in. We sometimes call these things fantasies, like when a stalker creates a whole imaginary world in his/her head about the object of their affections or hatred. It is always based on truth and reality, but somewhere along the way, it strays into wishful thinking. Examples of the known unknowables range from vast quantities of WMD (long destroyed or decayed), the complex and comprehensive relationship between bin Laden, Iraq and 9-11 (huh?), WMD programs capable of imminent attack of the United States (I believe "mushroom cloud" and "leaving no fingerprints" were terms used in Bush’s Cincinnati speech), the existence of a powerful Iraqi "nuclear mujahadeen" targeting the United States (now that we’ve augmented motive, this must remain a future possibility), and the flowers and candy that would be thrown at United States troops upon their liberation of Iraq (if only the Rendon Group had been hired in time, this last probably could have really happened).

The other eggs in the basket are the "unknown unknowns." This last was a crateload, and it sadly reflects the faith-based thinking process of our President and many of his neo-conservative advisors. If only Karl Rove had been able to plan and manage these wars! Unknown unknowns are simply not acceptable in an election campaign. Can you imagine? "No, sir, we have no idea how our base will really react, because we haven’t polled anyone or done any research. What? No, sir, we have no plans to do that. Our strategy this year is no planning, polls or research, we’re just going to get out there and win that darn election!" Somehow, I don’t think this is Karl’s way. I guess the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq weren’t important enough to justify the kind of attention to planning and detail that a presidential campaign calls for. But of course — that’s why we call it adventurism! You can’t have a fun adventure without a few surprises! I mean, why should the American taxpayer fund a great big expensive adventure and then not get a shock or too?

Naturally, some observers of the invasion-occupation wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were party poopers and didn’t sign up for the adventure tour. What passed for unknown unknowns in the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz playbook were a bit more thoroughly researched by the rest of us. And that research continues, bringing me to why I now think I understand the plan.

A Washington Post headline today "Afghan Poppies Proliferate" is illustrative. We had supported the Taliban for six years before we put our UNOCAL friend Hamid Karzai in Kabul in late 2001. But it took almost six years of our "Clinton-Bush Taliban- phase" before the Taliban made a serious dent in the un-Islamic production of opium. We paid a $43 million bonus for this success in 2001 — a token substitution of Afghanistan government income from the poppy. By that time, in the summer of 2001, the new administration’s impatience with Talibanis over lack of progress on the trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline deal and poor security along the planned pipeline route had become unbearable — enter Karzai. Of course, one of Karzai’s first acts was to ban the opium trade. And with the United States supporting him, it sure happened! Last year (Karzai year 1) made Afghanistan again the largest opium exporter in the world, and this year (Karzai year 2) is going to bring in a bumper crop! An analysis of the drug-terror relationship and the U.S. interest makes good reading. Bush may wonder why other countries and so many Americans doubt his words, even when he repeats them forcibly, with e-nun-ci-a-tion and weighty pauses, but it is no mystery.

There are two ways you can look at this — OK, maybe three. One is that we intended well, but this explosion of opium production just as it was coming under control is just an unintended consequence. Sh*&t happens, so to speak. The other is that we intended well, and this is an intended consequence. It certainly keeps the drug enforcement agencies in business, supports the massive military spending associated with drug eradication, and it doesn’t affect loyal Republican voters in any way except towards more big-government — more need for straightening out the world and increasing domestic law and order in the face of all these dangerous illegal drugs being forced on innocent unsuspecting Americans by powerful third world alien forces. A third perspective is that the Bush team is simply not interested in this problem. By early 2002, Karzai formally committed to revive the trans-Afghanistan pipeline project, and has since spearheaded the parliamentary and business actions in Afghanistan required to make it come together. With the U.S. military ensuring pipeline construction security — problem solved! The prohibited opium industry in Afghanistan brings lots of cash, a drug mafia’s disruption of "democracy," twists civil society, makes legitimate farming and industry unprofitable, and breaks down communities and families. But who really cares? It’s not our country we’re talking about! We may be the undeniably fine Christians on this chessboard, but we’re certainly not "responsible!"

In the long run, Iraq and Afghanistan are both about security for energy flows and security for Israel, by occupation of important oil fields and pipelines and via military forces emplaced strategically near Israel’s most important enemies — Iran and Syria. Iraq was quasi important in itself, as a source of emotional support for Palestinians in times when Saddam had sought a role as a Pan Arabist. Of course, it was also about physical danger to the U.S. proper, the hunt for WMD, the fact that our former ally Saddam disrespected democracy almost as much as current allies Musharraf of Pakistan or the House of Saud, and of course, the poor sanctioned suffering Iraqi people. But when it comes to salient reasons for pre-emptive war — only manageable energy (with handshakes for the U.S. energy "bidness") and Israeli security really matter, then and now. Wait! I may have this all wrong — those two factors actually may translate well into electoral success. Karl, you sly old dog!

Will it ever end? Columbia is another basket case where we spend billions of taxpayer dollars, largely destructively, for which we have little to show and in a place where we ourselves are a major part of the problem. And Plan Columbia, now known as the Andean Regional Initiative, as concerned with anti-American Middle Eastern terrorism and oil pipeline security as the drug trade, provides a roadmap for the future United States policy in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

I feel it is my duty to point out to any potential investors that roadmaps designed in Washington by neo-conservatives have an out-of-sight price earnings ratio. While past performance may not guarantee future results, tragically, I think we can consider this future result a known known.

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