The Hightower Report
Global Game That Never Ends; and A New Name for Occupation
Global Game That Never Ends
Hey, boys and girls, let's play "Name That Country!" I'll give you a few clues, then the first one of you to guess the country's name wins a prize. Ready? Let's go!
This particular country is one that few Americans have known anything about until recently, when Washington began to escalate our military involvement in it. It's an extremely impoverished nation that's at war with itself. The country has long been a refuge for jihadists, especially in its rugged mountainous region. Fractious tribal leaders are the real power, with the weak central government essentially restricted to the capital city, having little public support and battling armed insurgents. The president is vain and incompetent, and his government is corrupt and repressive – yet our government is backing him. So now, name that country. Afghanistan, you say? Wrong! It's Yemen.
Yemen? Yes, boys and girls, it's time to look at our world atlas again to see where America's tax dollars and troops are headed next.
Located in the Middle East on Saudi Arabia's southern border, Yemen is a mess, much like Afghanistan. Adding to its problems is a small but growing al Qaeda group of about 200 members, which is why Washington is once more thumping the war drums, saying our forces must get involved there. Already, our leaders have anted up $70 million for the coming Yemen war, claiming that the strategy there is the same as it is in Afghanistan: train and arm Yemen's own weak security forces, build up the central government, try to get it to focus on fighting al Qaeda, and provide nation-building resources to address the country's desperate economic and social problems.
So, boys and girls, if you guessed Yemen, your prize is another awful war! What nation will be next? Somalia? Indonesia? It's your guess in this global game that never ends.
A New Name for Occupation
It's official. MNF-I is no longer. It has become USF-I.
Almost no one in America noticed. And almost no one in Iraq cared. MNF-I was the military acronym for Multi-National Force Iraq – more commonly referred to by the grandiose phrase invented by Bush, Cheney, & Co.: "The Coalition of the Willing."
Some coalition. It essentially consisted of 130,000 or so U.S. troops, about 11,000 Brits, and a smattering of others from such countries as El Salvador, Kazakhstan, and Estonia. In truth, George W.'s "coalition" was never anything but a thin PR cover for his unilateral invasion of a nation that had done us no harm and posed no threat to us.
Over the years, even the pretense of a coalition disappeared, as country after country withdrew their token contributions. Since last summer, America has been the Lone Ranger in Iraq, so a new spin was invented, transforming MNF-I into USF-I, or United States Force Iraq. At a dog and pony show in Baghdad on January first, the demise of multinational support was formally hailed by our military chieftains as a tremendous advance, marking "a new era in Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Iraqis themselves are less effusive about the progress that's been made. Sectarian hatreds have resurfaced, horrific bombings are on the rise, and parliament is so fractured by ethnic, religious, and regional disputes that it has not even been able to schedule the national election that was supposed to be held this month.
Meanwhile, we still have 130,000 troops there, costing us $12 billion a month. As we enter the eighth year of this misbegotten war, America's blood and treasure have not bought us any of the love the Bushites promised we'd see. Indeed, whether MNF-I or USF-I, our ongoing military presence is referred to as "the occupation forces" by most Iraqis.