Thursday, August 19, 2021

Convo Couch on Afghanistan

Just The Convo Couch tonight.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Wednesday:

 Wednesday, August 18, 2021.  Glenn Greenwald walks you through the realities of Afghanistan, Sarah Lazare calls out the lying and much more -- including the reason Barbra Streisand struggles for recognition from her peers.

From time to time, we include something not war related.  Sometimes, it's because a friend asked for it.  Sometimes, it's for another reason.  Before we talk war, we're going to talk Barbra Streisand because we have a teachable moment.  Barbra did a great job directing YENTL.  No Academy Award nomination.  She did a strong job directing THE PRINCE OF TIDES -- which is a glamorous but hollow film.  (YENTL is an amazing film.)  She didn't get nominated for an Academy Award.  

Oh, she was robbed!  Oh, it's so unfair!

Oh, it's . . .

You're seeing why she didn't get nominated play out before your eyes.  Right now, you're seeing the Barbra that we in the industry cannot stand.  It's not that she's attacking Bradley Cooper's A STAR IS BORN.  She can look as petty as she wants.  Brad's film made more money (see Stan's "The awful Streisand attacks Bradley's more successful A STAR IS BORN") and it also was a huge critical hit.  Barbra's film is a piece of garbage and we all knew that in real time.  Critics did not rave over that piece of garbage, that clunky film making.  That film was an embarrassment and in the pre-internet days you can be sure some bought tickets just because of the nude album cover thinking Kris and Barbra might be naked in the film together.

But she can be petty and suck on all the sour grapes she wants to -- in public, no less.  

What she can't do and be forgiven for is what she's also doing.

As she tells the story, Brad has no vision.  She had vision.  She made her character a singer-songwriter.  How could she, she rhetorically asks, measure up to Judy Garland's character?  Oh! Instead of being an actress who sings, her character will be a singer-songwriter!!!

That's why so many dislike Barbra, that's why she has a reputation for being a bitch.

And you're seeing it play out yet again.

To hear her tell it, she came up with the above.

That's news to most of us.  John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion were on the way to the airport to fly out of Hawaii when Joan turned to John and said, "A STAR IS BORN! Starring Carly Simon and James Taylor!"  

That's how the version came about.  Barbra was not anywhere near them.  They made the pitch.  The project was moving.  They even sought Carly and James but it was too close to home -- James' career was sinking and Carly's was on the rise.  

Barbra didn't have a damn thing to do with it.  She's taking credit -- as she always does -- for the work of others.  And no one's calling her on it in the press.  She's a bitch and a glory hog and that's why so many of us feel that the last thing she needs or deserves is another award.    

She had nothing to do with the concept of the characters being 'rock and rollers.'  And her character is not rock and roll.  Or even rock.  It might have been if Cher had played the role.

Which is what was supposed to happen.  Cher had agreed to do the part and was ready to and excited -- and would have been wonderful in it.  But then Sue and Barbra swept in.  They're making a film about Sue, by the way.  I'd love it if all the easy applause for Sue could please die off.  Sue was a racist in person.  Worse, she was a racist in her career.  She was forever asking that this or that African-American actor be dropped by the agency.  She also saw to it that Diana Ross lost one film opportunity after another -- most infamously with THE MAIN EVENT which Sue swooped in and stole for Barbra.  I have no idea why a racist is going to be glorified on film to begin with but hopefully the accompanying press when the film is released will address the reality that Sue was no friend to people of color.

The genesis for the remake came from Joan and John.  It had nothing to do with Barbra.  But there she is slamming Bradley Cooper (with some rather racist talk, by the way) and pretending she came up with the concept for the version she starred in and produced.  She didn't.

And if she's not being racist with her comments regarding Will Smith and Beyonce possibly starring, then she's being stupid.  If she thinks their music genres (rap and pop) would have made a remake different, she might want to grasp that Brad's not playing a rock artist, he's playing a country singer.

She's a bitch and her glory hog ways are why so many just can't take her.  She always claims credit for everything -- if she thinks it worked.  It's cute how she's erasing Jon Peters from her life, by the way, first stripping him of album producer credit (RELEASE ME 2) and now in her tales of A STAR IS BORN.  But that's a story for another time.  If you can't understand why her peers regularly and repeatedly overlook Barbra, pay attention as she steals credit for things other did on the 1976 version of A STAR IS BORN and how she thinks -- expects -- that she can get away with it.

No one wants credit for the Afghanistan War, apparently.  It's all Joe Biden's fault or Donald Trump's fault.  That's the way the chattering class shrieks right now.

Afghanistan is a disaster.  Joe Biden's presidency didn't make it that.  Donald Trump's presidency didn't make it that.  It's a sad state, some insist.  Yes, it is and it was never going to wind down any other way.  These people -- Seth Moulton -- who think there was a better way to do it, no, there wasn't.  The same thing would happen -- maybe faster, maybe slower.  

If you're surprised, I'm surprised you're willing to admit just how stupid and out of touch you actually were.

That's Glenn Greenwald's report on how we were lied to over and over about how well things were going in Afghanistan.  You shouldn't need the report to grasp that.  But there it is if you need it.  (That's not a slam at his report.  He did a very good job.)

But if you can't grasp that year after year nothing improved, I don't know if you should be allowed at the grown up table.  We're told that we are in Iraq currently -- our US troops -- to 'train.'  Again.  And again.  And again.  Over and over and over.   Do you need someone to do a report there as well?  Are you too stupid to grasp that there's no success in Iraq and that this endless train-re-train cycle goes to failure?

I guess 'training' is a little kinder than the wording that they used to use?  Remember 'we'll stand down when they stand up'?

There is no success.  You've fooled yourself -- and let them fool you -- if you've believed otherwise.

You should have paid attention.  I noted Katie Halper yesterday and thought she and Mike did a great discussion on the issues.  I also noted that we needed more voices and some didn't grasp what I was saying.  Mike is a voice of peace.  I'm glad he's part of the discussion -- Mike Prysner.

My problem is the scaredy cat games that result in only veterans being a part of the discussion.  Let's hide behind the vet!!!!  The right-wing does it -- some on the right -- and some on the left.  That's not what Katie was doing, to be clear.  She's spoken to Mike many times before.  But we don't have a lot of peace voices.  

Once we thought we did but they were whores who dropped the wars as soon as Democrats had the power to end them.

This discussion/debate should not be cominated by the military -- current or ex.

'I have skin in the game.'

Sorry, have you seen the bill that future generations will be paying down?  Everyone has skin in the game -- whether they realize it or not.  We also have another debt -- call it karmic.

Jeffrey Sachs notes:

The magnitude of the United States’ failure in Afghanistan is breathtaking. It is not a failure of Democrats or Republicans, but an abiding failure of American political culture, reflected in U.S. policy makers’ lack of interest in understanding different societies. And it is all too typical.

Almost every modern U.S. military intervention in the developing world has come to rot. It’s hard to think of an exception since the Korean War. In the 1960s and first half of the 1970s, the U.S. fought in Indochina — Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia—eventually withdrawing in defeat after a decade of grotesque carnage. President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, and his successor, the Republican Richard Nixon, share the blame.

Dictators and proxy wars

In roughly the same years, the U.S. installed dictators throughout Latin America and parts of Africa, with disastrous consequences that lasted decades. Think of the Mobutu dictatorship in the Democratic Republic of Congo after the Central Intelligence Agency-backed assassination of Patrice Lumumba in early 1961, or of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s murderous military junta in Chile after the U.S.-backed overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973.

In the 1980s, the U.S. under Ronald Reagan ravaged Central America in proxy wars to forestall or topple leftist governments. The region still has not healed.

Since 1979, the Middle East and Western Asia have felt the brunt of U.S. foreign policy’s foolishness and cruelty. The Afghanistan war started 42 years ago, in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter’s administration covertly supported Islamic jihadists to fight a Soviet-backed regime. Soon, the CIA-backed mujahedeen helped to provoke a Soviet invasion, trapping the Soviet Union in a debilitating conflict, while pushing Afghanistan into what became a 40-year-long downward spiral of violence and bloodshed.

Across the region, U.S. foreign policy produced growing mayhem. In response to the 1979 toppling of the shah of Iran (another U.S.-installed dictator), the Reagan administration armed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in his war on Iran’s fledgling Islamic Republic. Mass bloodshed and U.S.-backed chemical warfare ensued. This bloody episode was followed by Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, and then two U.S.-led Gulf Wars, in 1990 and 2003.

This is not a discussion that needs to exclude.  It needs to be opened up and it needs to be widely debated.  

Sarah Lazare (IN THESE TIMES) notes:

he horrific culmination of the 20-year U.S. occupation of Afghanistan should be cause for sober reflection on the imperial hubris and bipartisan pro-war consensus that enabled such a ruinous military intervention to grind on for so long. But instead of a reckoning, the very architects of the war are getting the final word on its legacy — a kafkaesque conclusion to a remarkably cruel chapter. This dynamic adds fresh insult to the disastrous conditions Afghans now face, as the Taliban seizes control of Afghanistan, and the United States implements callous closed-door policies toward people attempting to flee the country, leading to ghastly scenes at Kabul’s airport.

Chief among these figures is General David Petraeus, who is notable for the skill with which he has charmed and worked the media throughout his long career. He is putting that skill to use now, garnering headline after headline after headline braying for a continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. This is an enormous national security setback and it is on the verge of getting much worse unless we decide to take really significant action,” he told the Rita Cosby Show on WABC Radio on August 13. That same day, in an interview with NPR, he advocated for the United States to reverse its withdrawal. I certainly would do that in the short term, and I would certainly consider it for the mid and long term,” he said.

In that NPR interview, Petraeus cited his own role as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011 to illustrate his expertise. Well, we weren’t contemplating a withdrawal when I was doing this,” he proclaimed. We had 150,000 coalition forces when I was privileged to command, U.S. and all other forces in Afghanistan.”

The declaration is notable because Petraeus oversaw a particularly bloody chapter of the Afghanistan War. After replacing General Stanley McChrystal, Petraeus implemented an aggressive counterinsurgency strategy, and loosened the rules of engagement, giving U.S. troops a wider berth to fire artillery, and to destroy houses and buildings. He also significantly increased the notorious practice of conducting night raids on Afghan homes. As Michael Hastings noted of Petraeus in 2011 for Rolling Stone, He drastically upped the number of airstrikes, launching more than 3,450 between July and November, the most since the invasion in 2001.” 

But Petraeus didn’t just implement these policies. He also launched a charm offensive, holding interviews with numerous major media outlets championing his actions, and even publicly challenging the Obama administration’s planned withdrawal timeline. His rosy remarks in a July 2011 address at the Forum for New Diplomacy in Paris are worth noting. Mr. Petraeus called the Afghan Army and police forces increasingly credible,’” the New York Times reported. He also described how they were steadily taking more responsibility from NATO allies as a gradual withdrawal of tens of thousands of U.S. troops looms.”

Such a statement gives pause, not only because it has been proven wrong, but also because it contrasts with reflections he has shared behind closed doors. In an August 16, 2017 government interview revealed in the Afghanistan Papers — a tranche of documents from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction published by the Washington Post in 2019 — Petraeus sounded a note of pessimism about the U.S. strategy. I knew it was going to be a longer process,” he said. I had no expectation that we would be able to flip Afghanistan.” 

Once upon a time, when the Democratic Party pretended to care about wars, they insisted on benchmarks.  Remember those days?

"Give us one house of Congress," Nancy Pelosi insisted in the lead up to the 2006 mid-terms, "and we'll end the war."

We The People gave them both houses of Congress.  They saw what a huge voter turn out the war and decided to keep it going so they could grab the White House in 2008.

But the sop they offered us in exchange was that there would be benchmarks.  No more money thrown away.  If Congress was going to hand our tax dollars over to cover the Iraq War, then, by golly, there was going to be real and measurable success.  And we were going to measure it by a set of benchmarks.  Remember those?

These benchmarks would be met or funding would be cut off.

This is where you see The Whores Of McClatchy, by the way.  Remember the boys of MCCLATHCY NEWSPAPERS?  All over the media in 2006 and on forward, praising themselves, so brave, so fresh, so clean-clean.  Reality, MCCLATCHY never did a damn thing.  KNIGHT RIDDER published the stories everyone wrongly pretends were MCCLATCHY's reports.  MCCLATCHY was around at the time, they just chose to do what everyone else did.  Then they bought KNIGHT RIDDER and tried to grab credit for what they themselves didn't do.  So it's not surprise that The Whores Of McClatchy were so happy to pretend there was progress when they covered the benchmarks.  

Was the benchmark accomplished?

That's how you measure success.

Not, "It looks like maybe we moved a half-inch closer!"

There was no success and the press whored and pretended otherwise.

I always felt sorry for US House Rep Lloyd Doggett.  He didn't get the memo.  In April of 2008, he was still insisting that the benchmarks had to be met.  He was unaware that everyone else in Congress had already walked away from them.  He didn't realize it was never sincere. 

But it wasn't and that's how you ended up with benchmarks that were never met yet funding that was never cut off.  Nancy didn't follow through.   Shocker, right?

At REASON, Noor Green observes:

The U.S. says it's sticking around to support the Iraqi military and government, even though each has publicly stated that they want the Americans to leave. 

There's nothing stopping Bush's disastrous war from going on for another 18 years in an endless loop of military actions, followed by unintended consequences, followed by a military response to deal with those unintended consequences, followed by more unintended consequences. After 18 years, it's time to give up on the hope that U.S. troops can bring peace and stability to Iraq. It's time to bring them all home.

There are lessons to be learned right now -- and why Barbra doesn't get a lot of awards isn't the only one.  Here's a lesson: THE PROGRESSIVE isn't . . . progressive.  Despite a slogan that claims it is "A voice for peace and social justice since 1909," it isn't.  Scroll through the useless website looking in vain for anything about Afghanistan.  You won't find it.  They are still publishing -- their useless 'lifestyle' pieces.  They're just not even trying to pretend anymore that they are about peace or even peace adjacent.  

Other item, "TV? What if . . . the possibilities are . . . limited" is up.  I posted it this morning.  Didn't have time to see if anything else was ready.  Ava and I finished that early Sunday morning.  We're covering a show that has a new episode posting to DISNEY+ later today.  Meaning, it would have to be rewritten if we didn't get it up now.  We're not spending another minute on that piece. 

The following sites updated: