Montag, 19. Oktober 2009

Should I stay or should I go?

My e-mail inbox sometimes harbors surprises such as friendly invitations. The other day news reached me that I am “invited to participate in the upcoming Afghanistan Aviation and Defense Summit (AADS). We hope that you can be a part of this very important summit which will take place on November 12-13, 2009 in Washington, DC.”

ein Gastbeitrag von Glen Brigaldino

With keen interest I checked out the summit’s web-site for more information on the event (please visit ).
What I found out is that regrettably it is not a complimentary invitation. The full conference fee of US$2,895 exceeds my current travel budget so I will be missing the AADS, although it is heralded as

“ the world's largest and most respected event focused on Afghanistan’s aviation, security, and defense challenges and opportunities. AADS is the only event where you will hear from those who are responsible for shaping the future of Afghanistan’s aviation and defense. For three consecutive years, AADS has featured senior ranking Afghani military officers, policy makers & government decision makers.”

The ‘Benefits of Attending’ are convincing and perhaps the event could be covered by some actual journalists (should any still be on the pay rolls) of our mainstream media enterprises. Certainly a good investigative story could be woven out of

- Firsthand knowledge from Afghani security and defense leaders.
- How to assist the Afghani government to overcome its security and defense challenges
- Understanding the current Afghani military challenges
- How-to-develop a business plan for the Afghani military market
- Networking with senior Afghani officials for business dealings
- Hearing the best case studies from companies on the ground
- Discussing critical issues related to the defense and securityof Afghanistan.

On the Summit’s web-site I am told whom I would meet, namely
  • Afghani government officials responsible for security and defense procurements
  • High-Ranking Military Commanders, from Afghanistan Ministry of Defense and ISAF
  • Senior Industry Executives
  • Prime Contractors for Afghani project
  • Senior Directors and Government Advisors
The fictive investigative journalists attending in my stead will however have the privilege along with other exclusive attendees to “ .. hear presentations from the senior leaders of Afghani security and defense community, including High-Ranking Officers from International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) as well as from "Industry representatives who are able to address the challenges and tap opportunities in today’s Afghanistan are encouraged to exhibit products and services at this event.”
Indeed, the chance to “tap opportunities” would have interested me tremendously.

Meanwhile I have been struck by doubts whether I should even have thought of attending or not. Headline News on yahoo! (and if it is there it must be a genuine mainstream headline) quotes APF and reports: “Afghan panel cancels votes from 210 polling stations “

Who would have thought that all of our honest efforts and money poured into “free elections” in the war-zone/emerging democracy labeled Afghanistan did not produce the desired results? We learn that
“The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) said it had found "clear and convincing evidence" of fraud in the August 20 poll, including entire ballot boxes which had papers filled in with the same pen or with the same mark.”( )

And it is shocking only to the most naïve, that “Karzai's survival -- and that of his government -- depends on the continued support of the international community, which has poured billions of dollars in aid into the country since overthrowing the Taliban regime in 2001.”

How timely then to find this essay by A.J. Bacevich in the new “Harper’s” ( monthly “The war we can't win” (reprinted from the August 15 issue of Commonweal. Bacevich is a professor of international relations at Boston University.) Bacevich reached these insights just a few days prior to the 995,000 ballots from the Aug. 20 vote being doctored. His assessment is clear enough and doesn’t require further interpretation:
“Fixing Afghanistan is not only unnecessary, it’s also likely to prove impossible. Not for nothing has the place acquired the nickname Graveyard of Empires. Americans, insistent that the dominion over which they preside does not meet the definition of empire, evince little interest in how the British, Russians, or others have fared in attempting to impose their will on the Afghans.”

A brief note regarding any doubts as to Empire or not: a solid basis for understanding how Empire is manifested by the USA has been developed by A. Negri and M.Hardt, already in 2000 in their book ‘Empire’, the new political order of globalization. (

Bacevich goes on:
“More than six years after it began, Operation Iraqi Freedom has consumed something like a trillion dollars—with the meter still running—and has taken the lives of more than 4,300 American soldiers. Meanwhile, in Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities, car bombs continue to detonate at regular intervals, killing and maiming dozens.”

(If any reminder is required of the sad and sickening tragedy inflicted upon Iraq, numbers have been tallied up by the BBC, as far as such a thing is possible under “Iraq violence, in figures”, from 2008, at

Returning to Bacevich, the comparison he draws between US priorities with regard to Afghanistan and Mexico, is forceful:
“If one believes that moral considerations rather than self-interest should inform foreign policy, Mexico still qualifies for priority attention. Consider the theft of California. Or consider more recently how the American appetite for illicit drugs and our lax gun laws have corroded Mexican institutions and produced an epidemic of violence afflicting ordinary Mexicans. Yet any politician calling for the commitment of 60,000 U.S. troops to Mexico to secure those interests or acquit those moral obligations would be laughed out of Washington—and rightly so. ….. Anyone suggesting that the United States possesses the wisdom and the wherewithal to solve the problem of Mexican drug trafficking, to endow Mexico with competent security forces, and to reform the Mexican school system (while protecting the rights of Mexican women) would be dismissed as a lunatic. Meanwhile, those who promote such programs for Afghanistan, ignoring questions of cost and ignoring as well the corruption and ineffectiveness that pervade our own institutions, are treated like sages.

The contrast between Washington’s preoccupation with Afghanistan and its relative indifference to Mexico testifies to the distortion of U.S. national-security priorities adopted by George W. Bush in his post-9/11 prophetic mode—distortions now being endorsed by Bush’s successor. It also testifies to a vast failure of imagination to which our governing classes have succumbed.”

Concerning imagination, little surprise there. And when November comes and the Afghanistan Aviation and Defense Summit is held in the imperial capital (D.C.), there are likely to be no surprises either, regarding who will be on the list of attendees.

With some luck, at least one independent journalist will be reporting from the hallways and backrooms to inform those who care to take note, which of the usual, war-profiteering suspects, whether the “Afghani government officials responsible for security and defense procurements” or the “Senior Industry Executives” or even the “Senior Directors and Government Advisors” are the driving forces behind the deals to being brokered.

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