Photo: Andrew Smith via US Army
There’s a rising stench. It’s coming from Afghanistan. It smells like defeat.After eleven years and an “exit strategy” that resembles that of Iraq, it seems as if Americans are trapped in Afghanistan. It’s become the most cramped elevator ride in U.S. history.
Essentially we’re at a stand still. A quagmire. Suddenly it’s a nightmare scenario. Yes, folks, I believe we’re stuck.
And to make matters worse, somebody gunned a fart.
Immediately everyone is a suspect. Blame shifts, depending on perspective. More often than not, though, we all miss the point.
Karzai immediately looks to the left, blaming foreign spy agencies for the “Insider Attacks.” American military leaders look to the right, and distribute pamphlets to troops, eyeing “Cultural Insensitivity” as the culprit. NATO points a finger at “stress” among Afghan troops.
And the gigantic, sweaty guy in the office who always smells like bacon grease and cheese, the Taliban, knows the truth, knows full well it microwaved an expired bean burrito for breakfast.
Then to top it off: American generals cover for the Talibs.
U.S. Marine General John Allen, top commander for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, proudly declared recently of insider attacks, “The Taliban is responsible for no more than 25 per cent” … of that odor we’re all seeing the headlines about right now.
You can taste it even: The Army funds research for Anti-Suicide Nasal Spray, and the Marine Corps produces Anti-Suicide internal instructional videos, like popping in a piece of peppermint gum trying hard not think about the real cause of your discomfort.
We are tasting defeat right now, and all we can do is cover it up.
A friend of mine has a phrase: If you can smell it, it’s touching you — Every pickpocket in the vicinity is using our distraction to rummage through our pockets.
War profiteers, like Chemonics and DynCorps, exploiting organisations like USAID and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, even Afghanistan’s own Ministry of Finance, to funnel obscene amounts of taxpayer money — essentially laundering a vast upward redistribution of wealth.
Often their projects are no-bid, come in completely over budget and at less than satisfactory conditions, while ultimately Americans eat the cost. And unlike the public sector, they have no natural inclination to end the conflict.
The KIA number in Afghanistan has doubled in the last 27 months. A lot of troops on the ground point the blame at our stringent rules of engagement, while their officers quietly tell me that we have no plans to actually “defeat” the Taliban.
Even more troubling: Most of our troops on the front lines have lost sight of the reasons why we’re there.
They don’t even know why we’re fighting.
They tell me, “for freedom” or “for liberty” or “for our way of life” — and in these platitudes and vagaries I see how politicians have used cologne to cover up that rotten funk of defeat. They’ve taken advantage of our youth, they’ve used clever language to pivot from what began as a hunt and became an occupation, what got us stuck.
Indeed it is odious that not a single one of them is willing to step up and take the blame. Not a one will face the music, face the shame.
Yes, it was I. I punched that fart.
What’s most disturbing isn’t the multitudinous mistakes surrounding the conflict. Not in the deaths, or the suicides, not in the cost, or lack of progress.
A bigger problem is that somewhere along the way we got stuck, and we apparently have no idea why. There’s no accountability. Who’s responsible for inspections and oversight? Who makes the decisions? What led us here?
All forgotten, lost on us, in our impatience for the elevator to start back up so we can arrive “somewhere,” anywhere, some place that is not here, where tendrils of doom creep freely about our senses.
Instead we’re more than willing to grind away, too stubborn or zealous to realise the simplest of explanations: The reason we’re all stuck inside this elevator with a gastric-distressed sweaty guy isn’t because our leaders and inspectors and contractors and employers failed us.
It’s because we all willingly, gleefully, patriotically, and dutifully raced to pile into it as soon as the door opened.
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