So we’re in Afghanistan to bring Freedom and Democracy to the Afghan People, but the President of the country has no power whatsoever to tell us to stop bombing Afghan homes. His decrees are simply requests, “merely symbolic.” Karzai, of course, is speaking not only for himself, but even more so for (and under pressure from) the Afghan People: the ones we’re there to liberate, but who — due to their strange, primitive, inscrutable culture and religion — are bizarrely angry about being continuously liberated from their lives… Glenn Greenwald ☀
But talking of caves, Bin Laden’s demise does bring Pakistan into grim focus. For months, President Ali Zardari has been telling us that Bin Laden was living in a cave in Afghanistan. Now it turns out he was living in a mansion in Pakistan. Betrayed? Of course he was. By the Pakistan military or the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence? Quite possibly both. Pakistan knew where he was. Robert Fisk ☀
Michael Hastings: Army Deploys Psychological Operations on U.S. Senators in Afghanistan ☀
- AMY GOODMAN: Although the military has denied Hastings’s allegations, the U.S. command in Afghanistan issued a statement saying General David Petraeus is "preparing to order an investigation to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the issue." Last month, Hastings won the George Polk Award for his article in Rolling Stone last year that led to the dismissal of former NATO commander U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal.
- Michael Hastings is joining us now from Washington, D.C.
- Michael, thank you so much for taking the time from writing your book to do this. Just lay out what you found.
- MICHAEL HASTINGS: No problem. Thanks for having me.
- Well, essentially, what we have here is that an information operations cell, which is a cell that, by definition, is trained to conduct psychological operations and military deception, was asked by Lieutenant General Caldwell and his staff to use their skills on visiting U.S. senators and other VIPs. Now, the cell, this IO cell, was led by a gentleman named Lieutenant Colonel Michael Holmes. Lieutenant Colonel Holmes raised objections to being asked to do this. He said, "Hey, I’m an IO cell. Information operations is only supposed to be used for foreign audiences. It’s a really bad idea to be using my team, because we specialize in psychological operations and whatnot, to be doing this." But the pressure kept on mounting on him to, you know, focus all his efforts not on the Afghans, but on Americans visiting. Finally, he received a written order to this effect—you know, focus all your efforts on essentially manipulating visiting senators.
- He then took that order and went to a lawyer, a JAG lawyer. The lawyer said, "Yes, this is not right. This is illegal." Another lawyer confirmed that opinion. And then Caldwell’s people refined the order to say, "Oh, well, you’re only looking at public records," but then they launched a retaliatory investigation into the whistleblower, Colonel Michael Holmes. And after, he sort of, over a period of months, tried to get his complaints redressed and said, "Hey, I was attacked because I’m a whistleblower. I was investigated because I’m a whistleblower." That also had no impact, and so eventually he decided to go public with his story.
- AMY GOODMAN: Explain what psy-ops are.
- MICHAEL HASTINGS: Sure. Psychological operations and information operations are essentially just ways to influence the population. Now, the key is, is that for IO and psy-ops you’re only supposed to do those on foreign populations, on the enemy. Now, there’s another branch, public affairs, which is—which you’re allowed to then use your information on the American population. The key difference is, is that in information operations and in psy-ops you’re allowed to lie, you’re allowed to mislead, where in public affairs, in theory, at least, you’re not supposed to do that. And by using information operations with—who know how to conduct psychological operations, in the process that would traditionally be held for public affairs, you’re corrupting the entire process. And, you know, one of the interesting things has been to see the reaction from the military.
- Of course, I commend General Petraeus for launching an investigation, but what we also know from a series of anonymous leaks is that the military doesn’t think they’ve done anything wrong here. And that, to me, is truly disturbing and what the actual bigger story is— this very aggressive effort that called what has been at the forefront from to tear down the wall between information and propaganda between public affairs and information operations, to say it’s one giant playing field now and to allow the Pentagon and the military to be able to target not just foreign populations with their propaganda, but target the U.S. populations, whether it’s on Facebook, on social networking sites, or visiting congressmen.
The American military has been eagerly reading “Three Cups of Tea” but hasn’t absorbed the central lesson: building schools is a better bet for peace than firing missiles (especially when one cruise missile costs about as much as building 11 schools). Mr. Mortenson lamented to me that for the cost of just 246 soldiers posted for one year, America could pay for a higher education plan for all Afghanistan. That would help build an Afghan economy, civil society and future — all for one-quarter of 1 percent of our military spending in Afghanistan this year. 1 Soldier or 20 Schools? (via onalonelyscreen, irresistiblerevolution) ☀
This is how we measure progress in the U.S.: Instead of hiding U.S. killing of civilians, the U.S. now apologizes for it. 12 Afghan Civilians Dead From U.S. Artillery Mistake ☀
American and other foreign troops in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan are learning more than how to make IEDs and how effective they can be. They are learning by direct observation how a place works when the state disappears. To the large majority of American and European soldiers, this is a lesson in horror. They return home thankful they live in a place where the state endures. The last thing they want is to see their native country turn into another Iraq or Afghanistan. But a minority will learn a different lesson. They will see statelessness as a field of opportunity where people who are clever and ruthless can rise fast and far. They look upon themselves as that kind of people. They will also have learned it is possible to fight the state, and how to do so. The effectiveness of IEDs is part of that lesson; so are the power and rewards that come to members of militias and gangs. In their own minds, and perhaps in reality, they will have found a new world in which they can hope to thrive. William S. Lind ☀
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