A community of NPR critics monitoring NPR for its corporatist, Pentagon friendly, pro-US foreign policy coverage of the news.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Until Next Time

Hello all. I'm sorry for the back and forth regarding NPR Check and NPR Team Check, but I've decided to put the Team Check blog to bed for the time being. I'm going to close down the comments for now and redirect folks to the original NPR Check site. I'll put a posting up there explaining the indefinite sabbatical that I'll be taking from the blog, and I'll open comments there for a while. I'm very grateful to all who've been involved, and have to extend a very warm thanks to GoopDoggy for the fine work he's done here.

Matthew Murrey

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Dodgy Arts

In the story of April 3rd, U.S. Tensions Rise With Afghanistan's Karzai, Linda Wertheimer chats it up with Jean MacKenzie, Afghanistan correspondent for GlobalPost:
Ms. MacKENZIE: Well, Hamid Karzai is the artful dodger of international politics and I think we've seen that very well this week. This has been his pattern for many years. His speech on Thursday was obviously geared towards the domestic audience, where anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism plays very well. [Dodge the question of why that might be so.] He is exploiting attitudes and fears, prejudices among his constituency to shore up his own political power at home, and then being conciliatory with his international partners in a different form. [Dodge the question of why that is a good strategy for Karzai.]

WERTHEIMER: One of the things that apparently he and President Obama had an unhappy conversation about was the number of relatives that he has appointed to the government and the efforts that he has made to sort of shield the warlords in Afghanistan from any repercussions for anything that they have done. [Dodge the question of how that's any different from the US Government - where seats are routinely passed to family members...my rep, for example, is Mary Bono Mack...]

Ms. MacKENZIE: That is true, but to give him his due, he's in a very difficult position. Many of those warlords and many indeed of his relatives are in close cooperation with the West and with the United States of America. [Dodge the question of how Karzai's brother is in the opium business with the CIA.]

So on the one hand, we are hammering Karzai for corruption. On the other hand, it is some of our own actions and policies that are keeping those people in power. [Dodge any specificity here.]

WERTHEIMER: To some extent, it works for us, I guess. [Dodge the question of who are "us?"] What about the reaction here, though, and among other countries that are contributing troops to the effort in Afghanistan? There were some comments after his speech in which he said there's the sort of thin curtain between invasion and assistance. People are sort of raising questions of why are we doing this.

Ms. MacKENZIE: And I think that's a very legitimate question. But we also have to realize that in terms of international commitment to Afghanistan, it's very definitely on the wane. Canada will be out by the middle of next year. The Netherlands is on its way out. There is a growing movement in the United Kingdom to get out of Afghanistan.

I think, in some cases, we are seeing the international community seizing on these statements and these actions of Karzai as a way of justifying what their policies are going towards anyway, which is getting out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.

WERTHEIMER: But for the United States, do you think that the United States' national security reasons for being in Afghanistan first instance are still relevant? Does the United States still have a major interest in staying?

Ms. MacKENZIE: I'm not sure that national security is our primary reason for being in Afghanistan nor was it ever our primary reason for being in Afghanistan. [Back to the Moby Dick theme: so it's just a monomaniacal mono-pod's misguided thirst for vengeance??]

Our national security concerns are quite small. We have broad agreement that al-Qaida is no longer a major player in Afghanistan. And we are fighting a war against the Taliban, who were not the primary movers behind 9/11. What we have is a very big political reason for being in Afghanistan. We went in there under the guise of the war on terror, but moved into nation building. Our mission has become very foggy there.

WERTHEIMER: Where do you see this going?

Ms. MacKENZIE: That's the million-dollar question or the several billion-dollar question, I guess, from the American perspective. Hamid Karzai is the president of a small, poor, very dysfunctional country who seems to have run rings around the largest economy in the world.

We cannot afford to let Hamid Karzai fail. We cannot afford to let Afghanistan fail.


Ms. MacKENZIE: Because then we would have to admit that the past eight-and-a-half years have been an exercise in futility. If Afghanistan can fail with no adverse consequences to the United States, then what have we been doing for eight-and-a-half years? I think that is the political consideration. We want to get out of Afghanistan - I think that's clear. But we want to get out of Afghanistan with some sort of semblance of victory or at least achievement under our belt.
Last August, MacKenzie wrote,
Although U.S. officials have stated publicly and repeatedly that they will neither support nor oppose any candidate, the conspiracy-happy Afghans have been watching for subtle signs like soothsayers examining chicken entrails.
But that's precisely the position Wertheimer and MacKenzie are placing their audience during most of this interview, though, I must admit, there is some shocking candor towards the end: We can't pull out of Afghanistan because that would be admitting that this whole enterprise was just foolish? That it's "good money after bad?" Really?!

Admiral Mullen declared last August that the US was basically starting over in Afghanistan and would need "12 to 18 months to turn this thing around." How is it looking 8 months later? A little ridiculous, I think. Note for example, the artless dodging of the issue of the impending conflagration in Kandahar.

For more light and less dark-room dodging, read Asia Times: The alienation of Hamid Karzai, By M K Bhadrakumarand and Night raids belie McChrystal's new image, By Gareth Porter.