Sunday, December 21, 2008

All Bent Out of SHAPE

NATO as Farce

I hadn’t realized that NATO’s executive decisions are made in Chicago. It’s difficult to keep up, particularly if you think international law means something. I think international law means everything, so I can’t keep up. The good news is that we’re getting somewhere; slowly, painfully, but definitely.

And now: the bad news. The bad news is hilarious, particularly if you have a sick sense of humour. The bad news is that 20,000 new American troops are to be sent to Afghanistan, which is 20,000 troops America doesn’t have, paid for with money America also doesn’t have, the money to be provided by China. I guess Obama works it out on the basketball court. There’s no way 20,000 Americans are going to make any difference to the fate of Afghanistan, given at a minimum that the current Chief White Halfoat, Dan McKiernan, said that 400,000 troops would be required to “pacify” Afghanistan, meaning occupation. We’re back to Eric Shinseki’s estimate of the troops required to occupy Iraq. So even with 20,000 additional troops – surge, escalation, call it what you will – we’re only up to some 200,000 troops, half of what is required, even if “it” was legal.

As I understand Tom Lehrer to have said, political satire died the day Henry Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize.

Neverthe-dogboned-less, Walt Kelly is an authentic American hero and facts must be faced. Even if Afghanistan was peaceful, prosperous, and democratic – somebody paint me a picture of what that would look like – there would still be this problem of the “border with Pakistan”, the Durand Line, which cuts through the middle of the Pashtun “tribal belt”, the Pashtuns not being a people who take kindly to strangers. This brings us to the problem of Pakistan, a nation that might not be one, a nation in which revered leaders live in Oxbridge and Boston while the majority of the population exists in dirt-poor subsistence.

And then there’s the problem of Saudi Arabia, an oil-producing nation that shares our “values” – which as Bird and Fortune pointed out, are an enthusiasm for oil revenues and an abhorrence of corruption inquiries – a “nation” that supports a Royal Family of overwhelming excess and a clergy of savage repression – a problem not unlike Alberta: a one-party state where all decisions are made behind closed doors and everyone is better off.

So let’s get back to International Humanitarian Law, the point at which we allegedly came in: how does that fit in with the “announcement” of 20,000 or 30,000 additional troops for Afghanistan? Apparently, General Dan McKiernan “requested” them, but whether as commander of ISAF, or Operation Enduring Freedom is not made clear. Also, the role of the alleged Afghan government, widely reviled as corrupt, is also not made clear, but since it provides the legal cover for NATO involvement in Afghanistan, the political involvement of SHAPE in Brussels is crucial, particularly if one is looking at the whole thing from the perspective of a war crimes trial, which is precisely what I am doing, and specifically as it relates to Canada’s role in this tragedy. So did the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan request additional NATO or American troops to deal with the “insurgency”? Is the increase covered under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1386? Is the United Nations in legal command of troops in Afghanistan? Is NATO?

So, Canadian troops are on the ground in Kandahar until 2011. Who is the legal commander of these troops? According to the Globe and Mail, command goes to the nation that has the most troops. Is this a sandbox? Who is making up these rules? What are the rules? What makes most sense is George Orwell, who said that there’s only one rule in power politics, which is that there are no rules. What’s going on in Afghanistan is a joke, a very bad joke, and Canada should bang heads together in Brussels or get out. NATO is an American invention, and Canada can withdraw on twelve months’ notice. The alternative is to continue to be a Canadian branch plant of the American military-industrial complex, a corporatocracy careening along a path of unchecked devastation, an engineering colossus that has taken over British nuclear weapons production from the inside, a Rube Goldberg enormity that turns common sense into “human terrain mapping” and leaves death and destruction in its wake.

All of this fabulous American and Chinese industry and imagination would be better employed putting people on Mars; Dick Cheney, for example. Or the entire House of Saud. There’s water on Mars, so maybe there’s oil, too. I’m not sure whether the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction on Mars, but maybe it won’t matter.