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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Israel’s grand hypocrisy

Israel’s grand hypocrisy

Netanyahu slams ‘anti-liberal’ Arab Spring

by Jonathan Cook

As protests raged again across the Middle East, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, offered his assessment of the Arab Spring last week. It was, he said, an “Islamic, anti-western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli, undemocratic wave”, adding that Israel’s Arab neighbours were “moving not forwards, but backwards”.
It takes some chutzpah – or, at least, epic self-delusion – for Israel’s prime minister to be lecturing the Arab world on liberalism and democracy at this moment.
In recent weeks, a spate of anti-democratic measures have won support from Netanyahu’s rightwing government, justified by a new security doctrine: see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil of Israel. If the legislative proposals pass, the Israeli courts, Israel’s human rights groups and media, and the international community will be transformed into the proverbial three monkeys.
Israel’s vigilant human rights community has been the chief target of this assault. Yesterday Netanyahu’s Likud faction and the Yisrael Beiteinu party of his far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, proposed a new law that would snuff out much of the human rights community in Israel.
The bill effectively divides non-governmental organisations (NGOs) into two kinds: those defined by the right as pro-Israel and those seen as “political”, or anti-Israel. The favoured ones, such as ambulance services and universities, will continue to be lavishly funded from foreign sources, chiefly wealthy private Jewish donors from the United States and Europe.
The “political” ones – meaning those that criticise government policies, especially relating to the occupation – will be banned from receiving funds from foreign governments, their main source of income. Donations from private sources, whether Israeli or foreign, will be subject to a crippling 45 per cent tax.
The grounds for being defined as a “political” NGO are suitably vague: denying Israel’s right to exist or its Jewish and democratic character; inciting racism; supporting violence against Israel; supporting politicians or soldiers being put on trial in international courts; or backing boycotts of the state.
One human rights group warned that all groups assisting the UN's 2009 report report by Judge Richard Goldstone into war crimes committed during Israel’s attack on Gaza in winter 2008 would be vulnerable to such a law. Other organisations like Breaking the Silence, which publishes the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who have committed or witnessed war crimes, will be silenced themselves. And an Israeli Arab NGO said it feared that its work demanding equality for all Israeli citizens, including the fifth who are Palestinian, and an end to Jewish privilege would count as denying Israel’s Jewish character.
At the same time Netanyahu wants the Israeli media emasculated. Last week his government threw its weight behind a new defamation law that will leave few but milionaires in a position to criticise politicians and officials. Mr Netanyahu observed: “It may be called the Defamation Law, but I call it the ‘publication of truth law’.” The media and human rights groups fear the worst.
This monkey must speak no evil.
Another bill, backed by the justice minister, Yaacov Neeman, is designed to skew the make-up of a panel selecting judges for Israel’s supreme court. Several judicial posts are about to fall vacant, and the government hopes to stuff the court with apppointees who share its ideological worldview and will not rescind its anti-democratic legislation, including its latest attack on the human rights community. Neeman’s favoured candidate is a settler who has a history of ruling against human rights organisations.
Senior legislators from Mr Netanyahu’s party are pushing another bill that would make it nigh impossible for human rights organisations to petition the supreme court against government actions.
The judicial monkey should see no evil.
At one level, these and a host of other measures – including increasing government intimidation of the Israeli media and academia, a crackdown on whistleblowers and the recently passed boycott law, which exposes critics of the settlements to expensive court actions for damages – are designed to strengthen the occupation by disarming its critics inside Israel.
But there is another, even more valued goal: making sure that in future the plentiful horror stories from the Palestinian territories – monitored by human rights organisations, reported by the media and heard in the courts – never reach the ears of the international community.
The third monkey is supposed to hear no evil.
The crackdown is justified in the Israeli right’s view on the grounds that criticism of the occupation represents not domestic concerns but unwelcome foreign interference in Israel’s affairs. The promotion of human rights – whether in Israel, the occupied territories or the Arab world – is considered by Netanyahu and his allies as inherently un-Israeli and anti-Israeli.
The hypocrisy is hard to stomach. Israel has long claimed special dispensation to interfere in the affairs of both the EU and the United States. Jewish Agency staff proselytise among European and American Jews to persuade them to emigrate to Israel. Uniquely, Israel’s security agencies are given free rein at airports around the world to harass and invade the privacy of non-Jews flying to Tel Aviv. And Israel’s political proxies abroad – sophisticated lobby groups like AIPAC in the US – act as foreign agents while not registering as such.
Of course, Israel’s qualms against foreign meddling are selective. No restrictions are planned for rightwing Jews from abroad, such as US casino magnate Irving Moskowitz, who have pumped enormous sums into propping up illegal Jewish settlements built on Palestinian land.
There is a faulty logic too to Israel’s argument. As human rights activists point out, the areas where they do most of their work are located not in Israel but in the Palestinian territories, which Israel is occupying in violation of international law.
Privately, European embassies have been trying to drive home this point. The EU gives Israel preferential trading status, worth billions of dollars annually to the Israeli economy, on condition that it respects human rights in the occupied territories. Europe argues it is, therefore, entitled to fund the monitoring of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. More’s the pity that Europe fails to act on the information it receives.
Given the right’s strengthening hand, it can be expected to devise ever more creative ways to silence the human rights community and Israeli media and emasculate the courts as way to end the bad press.
Israelis are obssessed with their country’s image abroad and what they regard as a “delegitimisation” campaign that threatens not only the occupation’s continuation but also Israel’s long-term survival as an ethnic state. The leadership has been incensed by regular surveys of global opinion showing Israel ranked among the most unpopular countries in the world.
The Palestinians’ recent decision to turn to the international community for recognition of statehood has only amplified such grievances.
Israel has no intention of altering its policies, or of pursuing peace. Rather, Netanyahu’s government has been oscillating between a desperate desire to pass yet more anti-democratic legislation to stifle criticism and a modicum of restraint motivated by fear of the international backlash.
A cabinet debate last month on legislation against human rights groups focused barely at all on the proposal’s merits. Instead the head of the National Security Council, Yaakov Amidror, was called before ministers to explain whether Israel stood to lose more from passing such bills or from allowing human rights groups to carry on monitoring the occupation.
Deluded as it may seem, Netanyahu’s ultimate goal is to turn the clock back 40 years, to a “golden age” when foreign correspondents and western governments could refer, without blushing, to the occupation of the Palestinians as “benign”.
Donald Neff, Jerusalem correspondent for Time magazine in the 1970s, admitted years later that his and his colleagues’ performance was so feeble at the time in large part because there was little critical information available on the occupation. When he witnessed first-hand what was taking place, his editors in the US refused to believe him and he was eventually moved on.
Now, however, the genie is out the bottle. The international community understands full well – thanks to human rights activists – both that the occupation is brutal and that Israel has been peace-making in bad faith.
If Israel continues on its current course, another myth long accepted by western countries – that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East” – may finally be shattered.
Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
A version of this story was first published in the National, Abu Dhabi

Global Research Articles by Jonathan Cook

Thursday, December 1, 2011

War is a Racket


Written by Two-Time Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient

Major General Smedley D. Butler

USMC, Retired



WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few – the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

Again they are choosing sides. France and Russia met and agreed to stand side by side. Italy and Austria hurried to make a similar agreement. Poland and Germany cast sheep's eyes at each other, forgetting for the nonce [one unique occasion], their dispute over the Polish Corridor.

The assassination of King Alexander of Jugoslavia [Yugoslavia] complicated matters. Jugoslavia and Hungary, long bitter enemies, were almost at each other's throats. Italy was ready to jump in. But France was waiting. So was Czechoslovakia. All of them are looking ahead to war. Not the people – not those who fight and pay and die – only those who foment wars and remain safely at home to profit.

There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is not in the making.

Hell's bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained to be dancers?

Not in Italy, to be sure. Premier Mussolini knows what they are being trained for. He, at least, is frank enough to speak out. Only the other day, Il Duce in "International Conciliation," the publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said:

"And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace... War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it."

Undoubtedly Mussolini means exactly what he says. His well-trained army, his great fleet of planes, and even his navy are ready for war – anxious for it, apparently. His recent stand at the side of Hungary in the latter's dispute with Jugoslavia showed that. And the hurried mobilization of his troops on the Austrian border after the assassination of Dollfuss showed it too. There are others in Europe too whose sabre rattling presages war, sooner or later.

Herr Hitler, with his rearming Germany and his constant demands for more and more arms, is an equal if not greater menace to peace. France only recently increased the term of military service for its youth from a year to eighteen months.

Yes, all over, nations are camping in their arms. The mad dogs of Europe are on the loose. In the Orient the maneuvering is more adroit. Back in 1904, when Russia and Japan fought, we kicked out our old friends the Russians and backed Japan. Then our very generous international bankers were financing Japan. Now the trend is to poison us against the Japanese. What does the "open door" policy to China mean to us? Our trade with China is about $90,000,000 a year. Or the Philippine Islands? We have spent about $600,000,000 in the Philippines in thirty-five years and we (our bankers and industrialists and speculators) have private investments there of less than $200,000,000.

Then, to save that China trade of about $90,000,000, or to protect these private investments of less than $200,000,000 in the Philippines, we would be all stirred up to hate Japan and go to war – a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit – fortunes would be made. Millions and billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers. Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.

Yes, they are getting ready for another war. Why shouldn't they? It pays high dividends.

But what does it profit the men who are killed? What does it profit their mothers and sisters, their wives and their sweethearts? What does it profit their children?

What does it profit anyone except the very few to whom war means huge profits?

Yes, and what does it profit the nation?

Take our own case. Until 1898 we didn't own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America. At that time our national debt was a little more than $1,000,000,000. Then we became "internationally minded." We forgot, or shunted aside, the advice of the Father of our country. We forgot George Washington's warning about "entangling alliances." We went to war. We acquired outside territory. At the end of the World War period, as a direct result of our fiddling in international affairs, our national debt had jumped to over $25,000,000,000. Our total favorable trade balance during the twenty-five-year period was about $24,000,000,000. Therefore, on a purely bookkeeping basis, we ran a little behind year for year, and that foreign trade might well have been ours without the wars.

It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people – who do not profit.



The World War, rather our brief participation in it, has cost the United States some $52,000,000,000. Figure it out. That means $400 to every American man, woman, and child. And we haven't paid the debt yet. We are paying it, our children will pay it, and our children's children probably still will be paying the cost of that war.

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits – ah! that is another matter – twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent – the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let's get it.

Of course, it isn't put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and "we must all put our shoulders to the wheel," but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket – and are safely pocketed. Let's just take a few examples:

Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people – didn't one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder won the war? Or saved the world for democracy? Or something? How did they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000 a year. It wasn't much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it. Now let's look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times, and the profits of normal times were pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.

Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6,000,000. Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump – or did they let Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49,000,000 a year!

Or, let's take United States Steel. The normal earnings during the five-year period prior to the war were $105,000,000 a year. Not bad. Then along came the war and up went the profits. The average yearly profit for the period 1914-1918 was $240,000,000. Not bad.

There you have some of the steel and powder earnings. Let's look at something else. A little copper, perhaps. That always does well in war times.

Anaconda, for instance. Average yearly earnings during the pre-war years 1910-1914 of $10,000,000. During the war years 1914-1918 profits leaped to $34,000,000 per year.

Or Utah Copper. Average of $5,000,000 per year during the 1910-1914 period. Jumped to an average of $21,000,000 yearly profits for the war period.

Let's group these five, with three smaller companies. The total yearly average profits of the pre-war period 1910-1914 were $137,480,000. Then along came the war. The average yearly profits for this group skyrocketed to $408,300,000.

A little increase in profits of approximately 200 per cent.

Does war pay? It paid them. But they aren't the only ones. There are still others. Let's take leather.

For the three-year period before the war the total profits of Central Leather Company were $3,500,000. That was approximately $1,167,000 a year. Well, in 1916 Central Leather returned a profit of $15,000,000, a small increase of 1,100 per cent. That's all. The General Chemical Company averaged a profit for the three years before the war of a little over $800,000 a year. Came the war, and the profits jumped to $12,000,000. a leap of 1,400 per cent.

International Nickel Company – and you can't have a war without nickel – showed an increase in profits from a mere average of $4,000,000 a year to $73,000,000 yearly. Not bad? An increase of more than 1,700 per cent.

American Sugar Refining Company averaged $2,000,000 a year for the three years before the war. In 1916 a profit of $6,000,000 was recorded.

Listen to Senate Document No. 259. The Sixty-Fifth Congress, reporting on corporate earnings and government revenues. Considering the profits of 122 meat packers, 153 cotton manufacturers, 299 garment makers, 49 steel plants, and 340 coal producers during the war. Profits under 25 per cent were exceptional. For instance the coal companies made between 100 per cent and 7,856 per cent on their capital stock during the war. The Chicago packers doubled and tripled their earnings.

And let us not forget the bankers who financed the great war. If anyone had the cream of the profits it was the bankers. Being partnerships rather than incorporated organizations, they do not have to report to stockholders. And their profits were as secret as they were immense. How the bankers made their millions and their billions I do not know, because those little secrets never become public – even before a Senate investigatory body.

But here's how some of the other patriotic industrialists and speculators chiseled their way into war profits.

Take the shoe people. They like war. It brings business with abnormal profits. They made huge profits on sales abroad to our allies. Perhaps, like the munitions manufacturers and armament makers, they also sold to the enemy. For a dollar is a dollar whether it comes from Germany or from France. But they did well by Uncle Sam too. For instance, they sold Uncle Sam 35,000,000 pairs of hobnailed service shoes. There were 4,000,000 soldiers. Eight pairs, and more, to a soldier. My regiment during the war had only one pair to a soldier. Some of these shoes probably are still in existence. They were good shoes. But when the war was over Uncle Sam has a matter of 25,000,000 pairs left over. Bought – and paid for. Profits recorded and pocketed.

There was still lots of leather left. So the leather people sold your Uncle Sam hundreds of thousands of McClellan saddles for the cavalry. But there wasn't any American cavalry overseas! Somebody had to get rid of this leather, however. Somebody had to make a profit in it – so we had a lot of McClellan saddles. And we probably have those yet.

Also somebody had a lot of mosquito netting. They sold your Uncle Sam 20,000,000 mosquito nets for the use of the soldiers overseas. I suppose the boys were expected to put it over them as they tried to sleep in muddy trenches – one hand scratching cooties on their backs and the other making passes at scurrying rats. Well, not one of these mosquito nets ever got to France!

Anyhow, these thoughtful manufacturers wanted to make sure that no soldier would be without his mosquito net, so 40,000,000 additional yards of mosquito netting were sold to Uncle Sam.

There were pretty good profits in mosquito netting in those days, even if there were no mosquitoes in France. I suppose, if the war had lasted just a little longer, the enterprising mosquito netting manufacturers would have sold your Uncle Sam a couple of consignments of mosquitoes to plant in France so that more mosquito netting would be in order.

Airplane and engine manufacturers felt they, too, should get their just profits out of this war. Why not? Everybody else was getting theirs. So $1,000,000,000 – count them if you live long enough – was spent by Uncle Sam in building airplane engines that never left the ground! Not one plane, or motor, out of the billion dollars worth ordered, ever got into a battle in France. Just the same the manufacturers made their little profit of 30, 100, or perhaps 300 per cent.

Undershirts for soldiers cost 14¢[cents] to make and uncle Sam paid 30¢ to 40¢ each for them – a nice little profit for the undershirt manufacturer. And the stocking manufacturer and the uniform manufacturers and the cap manufacturers and the steel helmet manufacturers – all got theirs.

Why, when the war was over some 4,000,000 sets of equipment – knapsacks and the things that go to fill them – crammed warehouses on this side. Now they are being scrapped because the regulations have changed the contents. But the manufacturers collected their wartime profits on them – and they will do it all over again the next time.

There were lots of brilliant ideas for profit making during the war.

One very versatile patriot sold Uncle Sam twelve dozen 48-inch wrenches. Oh, they were very nice wrenches. The only trouble was that there was only one nut ever made that was large enough for these wrenches. That is the one that holds the turbines at Niagara Falls. Well, after Uncle Sam had bought them and the manufacturer had pocketed the profit, the wrenches were put on freight cars and shunted all around the United States in an effort to find a use for them. When the Armistice was signed it was indeed a sad blow to the wrench manufacturer. He was just about to make some nuts to fit the wrenches. Then he planned to sell these, too, to your Uncle Sam.

Still another had the brilliant idea that colonels shouldn't ride in automobiles, nor should they even ride on horseback. One has probably seen a picture of Andy Jackson riding in a buckboard. Well, some 6,000 buckboards were sold to Uncle Sam for the use of colonels! Not one of them was used. But the buckboard manufacturer got his war profit.

The shipbuilders felt they should come in on some of it, too. They built a lot of ships that made a lot of profit. More than $3,000,000,000 worth. Some of the ships were all right. But $635,000,000 worth of them were made of wood and wouldn't float! The seams opened up – and they sank. We paid for them, though. And somebody pocketed the profits.

It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war itself. This expenditure yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits. That is how the 21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way. This $16,000,000,000 profits is not to be sneezed at. It is quite a tidy sum. And it went to a very few.

The Senate (Nye) committee probe of the munitions industry and its wartime profits, despite its sensational disclosures, hardly has scratched the surface.

Even so, it has had some effect. The State Department has been studying "for some time" methods of keeping out of war. The War Department suddenly decides it has a wonderful plan to spring. The Administration names a committee – with the War and Navy Departments ably represented under the chairmanship of a Wall Street speculator – to limit profits in war time. To what extent isn't suggested. Hmmm. Possibly the profits of 300 and 600 and 1,600 per cent of those who turned blood into gold in the World War would be limited to some smaller figure.

Apparently, however, the plan does not call for any limitation of losses – that is, the losses of those who fight the war. As far as I have been able to ascertain there is nothing in the scheme to limit a soldier to the loss of but one eye, or one arm, or to limit his wounds to one or two or three. Or to limit the loss of life.

There is nothing in this scheme, apparently, that says not more than 12 per cent of a regiment shall be wounded in battle, or that not more than 7 per cent in a division shall be killed.

Of course, the committee cannot be bothered with such trifling matters.



Who provides the profits – these nice little profits of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them – in taxation. We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100.00 and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the bankers. These bankers collected $100 plus. It was a simple manipulation. The bankers control the security marts. It was easy for them to depress the price of these bonds. Then all of us – the people – got frightened and sold the bonds at $84 or $86. The bankers bought them. Then these same bankers stimulated a boom and government bonds went to par – and above. Then the bankers collected their profits.

But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.

If you don't believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran's hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men – men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.

Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to "about face"; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.

Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another "about face" ! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans [without] mass psychology, sans officers' aid and advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn't need them any more. So we scattered them about without any "three-minute" or "Liberty Loan" speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final "about face" alone.

In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don't even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.

There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and more and more are coming in all the time. The tremendous excitement of the war, the sudden cutting off of that excitement – the young boys couldn't stand it.

That's a part of the bill. So much for the dead – they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded – they are paying now their share of the war profits. But the others paid, too – they paid with heartbreaks when they tore themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam – on which a profit had been made. They paid another part in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities. The paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and the cold and in the rain – with the moans and shrieks of the dying for a horrible lullaby.

But don't forget – the soldier paid part of the dollars and cents bill too.

Up to and including the Spanish-American War, we had a prize system, and soldiers and sailors fought for money. During the Civil War they were paid bonuses, in many instances, before they went into service. The government, or states, paid as high as $1,200 for an enlistment. In the Spanish-American War they gave prize money. When we captured any vessels, the soldiers all got their share – at least, they were supposed to. Then it was found that we could reduce the cost of wars by taking all the prize money and keeping it, but conscripting [drafting] the soldier anyway. Then soldiers couldn't bargain for their labor, Everyone else could bargain, but the soldier couldn't.

Napoleon once said,

"All men are enamored of decorations...they positively hunger for them."

So by developing the Napoleonic system – the medal business – the government learned it could get soldiers for less money, because the boys liked to be decorated. Until the Civil War there were no medals. Then the Congressional Medal of Honor was handed out. It made enlistments easier. After the Civil War no new medals were issued until the Spanish-American War.

In the World War, we used propaganda to make the boys accept conscription. They were made to feel ashamed if they didn't join the army.

So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor to kill, kill, kill. To kill the Germans. God is on our side...it is His will that the Germans be killed.

And in Germany, the good pastors called upon the Germans to kill the allies...to please the same God. That was a part of the general propaganda, built up to make people war conscious and murder conscious.

Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the "war to end all wars." This was the "war to make the world safe for democracy." No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a "glorious adventure."

Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it was decided to make them help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them the large salary of $30 a month.

All they had to do for this munificent sum was to leave their dear ones behind, give up their jobs, lie in swampy trenches, eat canned willy (when they could get it) and kill and kill and kill...and be killed.

But wait!

Half of that wage (just a little more than a riveter in a shipyard or a laborer in a munitions factory safe at home made in a day) was promptly taken from him to support his dependents, so that they would not become a charge upon his community. Then we made him pay what amounted to accident insurance – something the employer pays for in an enlightened state – and that cost him $6 a month. He had less than $9 a month left.

Then, the most crowning insolence of all – he was virtually blackjacked into paying for his own ammunition, clothing, and food by being made to buy Liberty Bonds. Most soldiers got no money at all on pay days.

We made them buy Liberty Bonds at $100 and then we bought them back – when they came back from the war and couldn't find work – at $84 and $86. And the soldiers bought about $2,000,000,000 worth of these bonds!

Yes, the soldier pays the greater part of the bill. His family pays too. They pay it in the same heart-break that he does. As he suffers, they suffer. At nights, as he lay in the trenches and watched shrapnel burst about him, they lay home in their beds and tossed sleeplessly – his father, his mother, his wife, his sisters, his brothers, his sons, and his daughters.

When he returned home minus an eye, or minus a leg or with his mind broken, they suffered too – as much as and even sometimes more than he. Yes, and they, too, contributed their dollars to the profits of the munitions makers and bankers and shipbuilders and the manufacturers and the speculators made. They, too, bought Liberty Bonds and contributed to the profit of the bankers after the Armistice in the hocus-pocus of manipulated Liberty Bond prices.

And even now the families of the wounded men and of the mentally broken and those who never were able to readjust themselves are still suffering and still paying.



WELL, it's a racket, all right.

A few profit – and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can't end it by disarmament conferences. You can't eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can't wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.

The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted. One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation – it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted – to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.

Let the workers in these plants get the same wages – all the workers, all presidents, all executives, all directors, all managers, all bankers –

yes, and all generals and all admirals and all officers and all politicians and all government office holders – everyone in the nation be restricted to a total monthly income not to exceed that paid to the soldier in the trenches!

Let all these kings and tycoons and masters of business and all those workers in industry and all our senators and governors and majors pay half of their monthly $30 wage to their families and pay war risk insurance and buy Liberty Bonds.

Why shouldn't they?

They aren't running any risk of being killed or of having their bodies mangled or their minds shattered. They aren't sleeping in muddy trenches. They aren't hungry. The soldiers are!

Give capital and industry and labor thirty days to think it over and you will find, by that time, there will be no war. That will smash the war racket – that and nothing else.

Maybe I am a little too optimistic. Capital still has some say. So capital won't permit the taking of the profit out of war until the people – those who do the suffering and still pay the price – make up their minds that those they elect to office shall do their bidding, and not that of the profiteers.

Another step necessary in this fight to smash the war racket is the limited plebiscite to determine whether a war should be declared. A plebiscite not of all the voters but merely of those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying. There wouldn't be very much sense in having a 76-year-old president of a munitions factory or the flat-footed head of an international banking firm or the cross-eyed manager of a uniform manufacturing plant – all of whom see visions of tremendous profits in the event of war – voting on whether the nation should go to war or not. They never would be called upon to shoulder arms – to sleep in a trench and to be shot. Only those who would be called upon to risk their lives for their country should have the privilege of voting to determine whether the nation should go to war.

There is ample precedent for restricting the voting to those affected. Many of our states have restrictions on those permitted to vote. In most, it is necessary to be able to read and write before you may vote. In some, you must own property. It would be a simple matter each year for the men coming of military age to register in their communities as they did in the draft during the World War and be examined physically. Those who could pass and who would therefore be called upon to bear arms in the event of war would be eligible to vote in a limited plebiscite. They should be the ones to have the power to decide – and not a Congress few of whose members are within the age limit and fewer still of whom are in physical condition to bear arms. Only those who must suffer should have the right to vote.

A third step in this business of smashing the war racket is to make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don't shout that "We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation." Oh no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the united States fleet so close to Nippon's shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.

The ships of our navy, it can be seen, should be specifically limited, by law, to within 200 miles of our coastline. Had that been the law in 1898 the Maine would never have gone to Havana Harbor. She never would have been blown up. There would have been no war with Spain with its attendant loss of life. Two hundred miles is ample, in the opinion of experts, for defense purposes. Our nation cannot start an offensive war if its ships can't go further than 200 miles from the coastline. Planes might be permitted to go as far as 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance. And the army should never leave the territorial limits of our nation.

To summarize: Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket.

We must take the profit out of war.

We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.

We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.



I am not a fool as to believe that war is a thing of the past. I know the people do not want war, but there is no use in saying we cannot be pushed into another war.

Looking back, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president in 1916 on a platform that he had "kept us out of war" and on the implied promise that he would "keep us out of war." Yet, five months later he asked Congress to declare war on Germany.

In that five-month interval the people had not been asked whether they had changed their minds. The 4,000,000 young men who put on uniforms and marched or sailed away were not asked whether they wanted to go forth to suffer and die.

Then what caused our government to change its mind so suddenly?


An allied commission, it may be recalled, came over shortly before the war declaration and called on the President. The President summoned a group of advisers. The head of the commission spoke. Stripped of its diplomatic language, this is what he told the President and his group:

"There is no use kidding ourselves any longer. The cause of the allies is lost. We now owe you (American bankers, American munitions makers, American manufacturers, American speculators, American exporters) five or six billion dollars.

If we lose (and without the help of the United States we must lose) we, England, France and Italy, cannot pay back this money...and Germany won't.


Had secrecy been outlawed as far as war negotiations were concerned, and had the press been invited to be present at that conference, or had radio been available to broadcast the proceedings, America never would have entered the World War. But this conference, like all war discussions, was shrouded in utmost secrecy. When our boys were sent off to war they were told it was a "war to make the world safe for democracy" and a "war to end all wars."

Well, eighteen years after, the world has less of democracy than it had then. Besides, what business is it of ours whether Russia or Germany or England or France or Italy or Austria live under democracies or monarchies? Whether they are Fascists or Communists? Our problem is to preserve our own democracy.

And very little, if anything, has been accomplished to assure us that the World War was really the war to end all wars.

Yes, we have had disarmament conferences and limitations of arms conferences. They don't mean a thing. One has just failed; the results of another have been nullified. We send our professional soldiers and our sailors and our politicians and our diplomats to these conferences. And what happens?

The professional soldiers and sailors don't want to disarm. No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament. They cannot be for limitations of arms. And at all these conferences, lurking in the background but all-powerful, just the same, are the sinister agents of those who profit by war. They see to it that these conferences do not disarm or seriously limit armaments.

The chief aim of any power at any of these conferences has not been to achieve disarmament to prevent war but rather to get more armament for itself and less for any potential foe.

There is only one way to disarm with any semblance of practicability. That is for all nations to get together and scrap every ship, every gun, every rifle, every tank, every war plane. Even this, if it were possible, would not be enough.

The next war, according to experts, will be fought not with battleships, not by artillery, not with rifles and not with machine guns. It will be fought with deadly chemicals and gases.

Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting newer and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale. Yes, ships will continue to be built, for the shipbuilders must make their profits. And guns still will be manufactured and powder and rifles will be made, for the munitions makers must make their huge profits. And the soldiers, of course, must wear uniforms, for the manufacturer must make their war profits too.

But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists.

If we put them to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than we can out of war – even the munitions makers.

So...I say,


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Is Israel Preparing an Assault against Iran?

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

Is Israel Preparing an Assault against Iran?

The IAEA report on Iran’s alleged nuclear programme was surrounded by a media frenzy in Israel supporting an attack.

Skimming the newspapers as I rushed to get my children ready for school, I suddenly understood that Israel might actually be preparing for a military attack against Iran. “[United States Secretary of Defence Leon] Panetta Demanded Commitment to Coordinate Action in Iran” read one headline, and “A Bomb at Arm’s Length” read another.

Feeding this hype were a series of military events that had been planned months in advance yet mysteriously coincided with the publication of the International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s efforts to produce a nuclear bomb. For four days straight all of the major television channels repeatedly showed images of Israel preparing for war.

It began with a report on Israel’s testing of a long-range ballistic missile, which emphasised the missile’s capacity to carry nuclear warheads. This was followed by interviews with pilots who were part of a comprehensive Israeli Air Force drill on long-range attacks carried out at an Italian NATO air base. Archival images of a missile being launched from an Israeli submarine were also shown. Ha’aretz readers were told that the submarine was important because it would enable Israel to carry out a second strike in case of a nuclear war.

These images of offensive arrangements were followed by images of Israel’s defence preparations. On November 3rd, the three major news channels dedicated several minutes of air time to covering a drill simulating an attack on central Israel; these clips showed people being carried on stretchers and soldiers treating casualties who had been hit by chemical weapons. A day later, Ha’aretz reported that the military preparations against Iran had indeed been upgraded.

Iran with nuclear capabilities has been continuously presented as an existential threat to Israel. On October 31, in the opening speech of the Knesset’s winter session Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that a “nuclearised Iran will constitute a serious threat to the Middle East and to the whole world and obviously also a direct and serious threat against us,” adding that Israel’s security conception cannot be based on defence alone but must also include “offensive capabilities which serve as the basis for deterrence.”

Analysts repeatedly mentioned that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier and Reuven Barko from Yisrael Hayom even compared Iran to Nazi Germany. One cannot underestimate the impact of this analogy on the collective psyche of Jewish Israelis.

Barko went on to connect Hamlet’s phrase “to be or not to be” to Israel’s current situation, while posing the existing dilemma confronting the State as “to hit or not to hit”. President Shimon Peres claimed that Iran is the only country in the world “that threatens the existence of another country”, but he neglected to mention that for generations, the Palestinians have been deprived of their right to self-determination.

On the day when the International Atomic Energy Agency report was finally published practically all Israeli media outlets described it as a “smoking gun”. The report, according to the media, provides concrete evidence that Iran’s nuclear programme is also aimed at producing weapons. Zvi Yechezkeli from Channel Ten described it as “the end of the era of Iranian ambiguousness”, but failed, of course, to remark that Israel’s own ambiguity regarding its nuclear capacities continues unhindered; Roni Daniel from Channel Two declared that “we are relieved” by the report, suggesting that Israel’s claims have now been corroborated and that the report can serve to justify both the imposition of harsher sanctions against Iran and even an attack.

Notwithstanding the endless war mongering, most Israeli commentators claimed that the frenzy was no more than a “nuclear spin”. The majority of political analysts tended to agree that the media campaign, which presented Israel as seriously preparing to attack Iran, was orchestrated just in order to pressure the international community to impose harsher sanctions against Iran. Channel Ten’s Or Heller put it succinctly when he said: “It appears that neither Iran nor the Israeli public is the target of what is going on here, but first and foremost it is the international community, the Americans, the British.”

The commentators also noted that there is wall-to-wall opposition to an Israeli assault, including the US, Europe, Russia and China. Alex Fishman summed up the international sentiment when he wrote: “If someone in Israel thinks that there is a green or a yellow light coming from Washington for a military attack against Iran – this person has no inkling whatsoever of what is going on; the light remains the same, a glaring red.”

The portrayal of Israel as a neighbourhood bully who feigns a rage attack while calling out to his friends to hold him back is not particularly reassuring, however.

After 10 days of media frenzy, Defence Minister Ehud Barak tried to calm the public by saying that “not even 500 people would be killed” in the event of an attack — but he failed to say that there would be no attack.

Yossi Verter from Ha’aretz explained that the media hype serves Barak’s interests. “A successful attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities under his ministerial leadership can rehabilitate his personal status, and help him recover the public’s trust.” Verter cites a leading member of the political system, who claims that “Barak is convinced that only a person of his security stature can lead perhaps the most fateful battle in Israel’s history since the War of Independence.”

Regardless of whether Netanyahu and Barak are already set on launching an assault, the media hype and the portrayal of Iran as constituting an existential threat to Israel surely help to produce the necessary conditions for a military campaign.

What is remarkable about this saber rattling is its abstraction. Not a single analyst noted that entering war is easy but ending it is far more difficult, particularly if on the other side stands a regional power with vast resources and a well-trained military (unlike Hamas or Hezbollah). And, of course, no one really talked about the likelihood of a gory future or what kind of life we were planning for our children. This kind of abstraction makes war palatable, providing a great service to the war machine.

Neve Gordon is the author of Israel's Occupation and can be reached through his website. Read other articles by Neve.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Third World War: Why NATO Troops Can't Deliver Peace in Afghanistan


The Third World War

Why NATO Troops Can't Deliver Peace in Afghanistan

By Ullrich Fichtner

Forty nations are embroiled in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. Anyone who travels through the country with Western troops soon realizes that NATO forces would have to be increased tenfold for peace to be even a remote possibility.

Thirteen days before the next attempt on his life, Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrives at a cabinet meeting, surrounded by a swarm of bodyguards. He holds his shirt collar shut against the rainy cold in Kabul. It's a Monday in mid-April -- and while there may be some good news this morning, most of it is bad. The Canadians want Karzai to dismiss the governor of Kandahar, the United Nations contingent is missing 50,000 tons of food and the Kazakh ambassador is promising money for a hospital in Bamyan. A suicide bomber has blown himself up in Helmand, the Norwegian defense minister is visiting Kabul and the opium harvest has begun in southern Afghanistan. A cabinet meeting is about to begin in the presidential palace.

Karzai is the last to arrive, long after his ministers have gathered at the palace. Visitors must pass through four security checkpoints, walk through metal detectors three times and turn over their bags to be sniffed by dogs. It takes an hour to reach the innermost courtyard, where Karzai's palace -- the cheerful villa Gul Khana, set in a garden planted with cedar trees -- is located. When the president enters the room at 9 a.m., everyone sitting around the long conference table stands up, 28 men and one woman. This is the group that governs Afghanistan -- officially, at least.

To begin the meeting, an imam chants lengthy suras from the Koran. Then Karzai listens to a report from his defense minister, who has just returned from a trip to India. The president's demeanor is that of a royal leader. Instead of asking many questions, he simply gives orders. He is not wearing his trademark felt cap and brightly colored coat. Instead, he chairs the meeting in his shirtsleeves, and the demands he imposes on the cabinet are impossible. He wants the ministers to take immediate action against high food prices, he orders the transportation minister to finally bring security to the highway between Kabul and Kandahar, and he says: "It's raining in the north; at least that's good news."

At 10:15, a secretary wearing a pinstriped suit enters the room quietly, sidles along the table and hands the president a piece of paper. Karzai reads the note and nods. The aide leaves the room and returns with a telephone.

Karzai picks up the receiver, and when he speaks everyone in the room can hear him. "What? Pakistani troops have crossed the border? Where exactly? They're shooting with rockets? There is fighting?" The news descends on Karzai's mood like a hammer. He hangs up the phone, wipes his hand across his bald head and says: "I handed the students at the university their diplomas yesterday. That was a very good day."

Good days are in short supply in Afghanistan, a country at war -- or involved in several wars, to be exact. There is constant fighting on many fronts, hard and soft. The newspapers, and there are many of them in Kabul now, serve up pages of chaotic images every day. Their reports are about bombs and drinking water, holy warriors and wheat prices, NATO air attacks and schoolbooks, kidnapped children, refugees and bandits.

Almost seven years have passed since the overthrow of the Taliban regime, and in those seven years half of the world has tried to bring a better future and, most of all, peace to this new country, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. As part of the NATO military operation known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), 40 nations have 60,000 soldiers deployed in the country. There are 26 United Nations organizations in Afghanistan, and hundreds of private and government agencies are pumping money, materials and know-how into the country's 34 provinces. But anyone seeking success stories or asking about failures will encounter reports that do not seem to be coming from the same country.

According to the speeches and statements Western military officials, diplomats and politicians are constantly churning out, the security situation has improved substantially, the military successes are obvious and the Taliban are as good as defeated. But peace and Afghanistan, say the Afghanis when speaking to a domestic audience, are still two incompatible words.

Last year, 1,469 bombs exploded along Afghan roads, a number almost five times as high as in 2004. There were 8,950 armed attacks on troops and civilian support personnel, 10 times more than only three years earlier. One hundred and thirty suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2007. There were three suicide bombings in 2004.

There is no peace anywhere in Afghanistan, not even in the north , which officials repeatedly insist has been pacified. Anyone who travels the country -- making the obligatory rounds to its ministries, speaking with Western ambassadors, UN directors, ISAF commanders and provincial governors, and meeting with women's rights activists, narcotics officers and police chiefs -- is bound to return with many dark questions and an ominous feeling that this mission is not a task to be measured in years, but in decades, many decades.

A dramatic chapter in world history is being written in the process, in this country dominated by the Hindu Kush mountains and the formidable Sefid Kuh range, and the endless deserts of Kandahar and Helmand. The United States and Europe have stumbled their way into a new type of international war, one in which all of today's global and regional powers are involved. What will happen to NATO if it fails in the first out-of-area mission in its history? And where will the UN be if this ambitious nation-building project is ultimately a disappointment?

The country is in the grip of global interest-driven politics. It is, as so often in its history, a pawn on a chessboard surrounded by many more than two players. If the concerted efforts of the Western community are not delivering results as quickly as expected, this can be attributed partly to the fact that the efforts of one half of the world are constantly being thwarted by those of the other half.

While NATO tries to disarm the population, the flow of bazookas and guns coming into the country from Pakistan remains unabated. The Iranian government is accused of promoting the trade in Afghan opium and heroin to inflict harm on the West. Meanwhile, Russia is blamed for using its Soviet-era influence to weaken NATO, its old rival, on Afghan soil.

China, Afghanistan's easternmost neighbor, hopes to exploit untapped mineral sources in the nearby mountains. Dubai, the Liechtenstein of the Middle East, offers a place to launder and park dirty money. It is as if a first, crude world war of the 21st century were taking place on Afghan soil, a war that remains unacknowledged and undeclared.

"What We're Fighting For"

"Look at this," says ISAF Commander Dan McNeill, wearing sunglasses as he stands next to a Canadian C-130 transport plane about to take off from Kabul's military airport. "Look, take a picture of this. This here is what we're fighting for."

The general cuts through the delegation he is accompanying to Helmand in the south. He pushes aside Zalmai Rassoul, President Karzai's national security advisor, brushing past deputy interior ministers and even General Karimi, the chief of operations for the Afghan national army. On this hazy day, McNeill finally reaches the lone woman standing at the back of the group, an Afghan woman, wearing makeup and no veil.

McNeill presents her like a trophy, and says: "Here, this is it." The woman, a government employee who looks to be about 40, smiles shyly and gives the impression of wanting to be somewhere else. The four-star general, wearing his combat uniform, poses for a photograph with the woman. McNeill, in his last few days as ISAF commander and accustomed to giving orders, says: "Write about this. This is why we're here."

The flight to Helmand passes along mountain chains south of Kabul. Within about an hour, the plane lands at Camp Bastion, little more than a dusty airstrip in a vast, empty desert. The delegation from Kabul has to transfer to a helicopter to reach Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province. There they will meet with the new governor, Gulab Mangal, who has invited them to attend a grand shura, or council of elders, leaders and religious figures.

The travelers board two Sea Knight helicopters, which take them on a high-speed, low-altitude flight westward across a sea of opium poppy fields.

At the landing site, a soccer field, the guests board armored personnel carriers in groups of three and don bulletproof vests. Eventually the long convoy embarks on what amounts to a very short journey. The destination, the governor's official residence, is less than 300 meters from the soccer field, past Afghan soldiers who line the street, saluting the visiting dignitaries. Leading up to the Helmand trip, McNeill had been brimming with success stories and rosy analyses. He said: "All neighboring countries are interested in regional stability." And he said that not a single child could attend school before the ISAF operation began, and that there are now 6 million schoolchildren in the country. Of course, the general added, there are still "volatile areas" along the border with Pakistan. But the security situation, he insisted, had "improved significantly."

He said the terrorists are, by and large, little more than a fractured bunch, no longer capable of launching substantial attacks. Those were the words of Dan McNeill, the words he used in his messages intended for a Western audience, the words he used in his standard speech, written for chancellors and prime ministers. But little of what the general said jibes with the reports he is now getting during his visit to Helmand.

Part 2: Bomb Attacks, Roadside Bandits and Kidnappers

In an office behind closed doors, filled with furniture upholstered in a floral motif, the governor reports that half of the districts in his province are out of control. Alliances formed by the Taliban and drug barons, he says, rule the villages, and none of the highways are safe against bomb attacks, roadside bandits and kidnappers. According to Mangal, Pakistan has a finger in every pie here, driving the teachers from the schools (the ones that haven't been burned to the ground yet), and forcing farmers to plant opium poppies.

The delegates from Kabul listen and drink their tea. They are listening to familiar words, the words of reports meant for the Afghan and not the Western public, words that are brutally realistic and unadorned.

McNeill promises the governor that he is now able to send an additional 3,200 US Marines to Helmand, and that the British have also maximized their troop levels in the province. Things are moving forward, the general insists, and things will continue to move forward. Karzai's people promise money and show good faith.

The guests nibble on nuts and raisins, and after two hours the conversation begins to subside. "If you want people to produce melons instead of heroin, you have to give them a market for melons," says a man in the governor's group. No one even attempts to respond to his sentence. Food is brought in: soup, salad, flatbread and kebabs on long skewers. The armored personnel carriers are waiting outside. It's time for the guests to return to Kabul.

Three Million People Whose Livelihoods Depend on Opium

Since the fall of the Taliban regime almost seven years ago, the country's opium harvest has been more abundant in almost each successive year. Last year, 93 percent of the heroin traded in the world came from Afghanistan. In 2007, opium poppies were grown on 193,000 hectares (476,900 acres), a 17-percent increase over the previous year. Meanwhile, ISAF looks on without taking any action. But its inaction is a precautionary measure.

For fear of triggering hostility against foreign troops among the local population, the powers that be agreed early on that the Afghans would have sole responsibility for waging the drug war, with no NATO involvement whatsoever. To demonstrate their supposed commitment, the police and Afghan army occasionally stage symbolic drug burnings, and sometimes they even wade into the fields to decapitate a few plants. The operation, dubbed "eradication," is one of the most dangerous in this war.

The narcotics agents routinely face enemy fire. The drug mafia's militias, the Taliban and al-Qaida, launch perfectly planned counterattacks, almost as if someone had faxed them the government forces' plans in advance. Drugs and corruption go hand-in-hand in Afghanistan, where a policeman can count himself lucky if he earns €200 to €300 ($315 to $470) a month. When the harvest begins, even army officers shed their uniforms to work in the fields as pickers. Teachers moonlight as smugglers, mayors operate heroin laboratories and provincial governors have been stopped with 150 kilograms (331 pounds) of pure heroin in the trunks of their cars.

"We assume that 500,000 families have their fingers in the pie," says General Mohammed Daoud, once a young commander under the legendary mujahedeen leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. Today Daoud is the deputy interior minister in charge of running Kabul's anti-drug operation. "And if you consider that an Afghan family has at least six members," says Daoud, "you have 3 million people in our country whose livelihood depends on opium production." This contingent, one-tenth of the country's total population of 30 million, is much larger than any army in Afghanistan.

Daoud has 2,500 men under his command to wage his battle against the opium industry. Last year, his department arrested 820 smugglers, nabbed 20 corrupt army officers, destroyed 63 heroin laboratories and removed tons of heroin from the market.

But when Daoud's people capture a few criminals, the arrests are nothing but symbolic. Afghanistan has never developed anything approaching an effective judicial system. There are no mechanisms in place to enforce sentences, and there are few lawyers and judges. Although the country supposedly has 1,500 prosecutors, only half of them have studied law. "We have certainly arrested people and sentenced them to 19 years in prison," says Daoud, "but all of them were released by the next day."

It is still 10 days before the next attempt on the life of Hamid Karzai. It is near the end of April, and there is good news and a lot of bad news. In Zabul and Ghazni, dozens of Taliban fighters are killed in battles with government troops, while Afghanistan's women's network expresses its concern over the growing number of children being forced into marriages. In Nimruz, a suicide bomber blows himself up in front of a mosque, killing 23 people. Germany promises additional millions of euros for police training. And in the Maiwand district of Kandahar Province, soldiers in the B Company of the Third Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment are preparing for a patrol.

The unit has received warnings that the enemy has planted remotely detonated bombs northeast of Hutal, in planning quadrant 9951. Hutal is a small district capital with about 7,000 residents living in mud huts, with no electricity or running water. The town has a bazaar along the main street, a school, a veterinarian and, in the north, an old fort that the British once tried to capture, albeit unsuccessfully, in the 19th century.

'We Know They're Out There Somewhere'

They arrived here in late March, the first Western troops to set foot in the area. The Canadians, who are in fact responsible for Kandahar, lacked the manpower to deploy troops to all of the districts in the province. When the British arrived, they expected to encounter resistance. They brought in 500 soldiers, vehicles and equipment, and on March 26 they stood, in the gaping desert north of Hutal, and proceeded to march westward into operations zones identified on their maps with names like "Birmingham," "Camberley" and "Thailand." But nothing happened.

They drove and marched for four days, hoping to flush out the enemy, but all they found were generators in "Burma," which they seized, and an enemy radio station in "Malaysia." But the fighters themselves, from the Taliban and other groups, were nowhere to be found. They turned to Hutal, where they wanted to establish a base, and were assigned three dilapidated concrete police buildings. It is a drafty, sandy outpost, where the men haven't shaved in five weeks and have had little opportunity to shower or even wash themselves, and where they spend much of their time lounging around, drinking instant tea from plastic bottles.

"They're hiding," says Major Stuart McDonald, a 35-year-old company commander with a Jesus-like face. At home, his daughter celebrated her third birthday three days ago, "which breaks my heart." He and his officers are standing on a makeshift veranda surrounded with sandbags, planning a patrol toward the northeast, where there could be bombs, and where they hope that they finally will be able to flush out the enemy.

"We know that they're out there somewhere," says McDonald. "They are observing us, but they're hiding. It's pathetic." His unit, known in Great Britain simply as "3 Para," is part of an elite force within the British Army.

At the beginning of the week, his men opened fire on a teenager on a moped who, with his brother sitting on the back, was foolishly driving in their direction. They could only conclude that he was a suicide bomber, because he ignored all gestures and all warnings, and simply continued driving toward them. The company doctor later tended to his wounds, and now the boy is up and walking in his village again, but the mood has deteriorated since then. The locals say that the foreign troops are shooting at their children.

The company's 6th Platoon, a group of 30 to 35 men, heads out on patrol, leaving the camp in loose formation, their guns at the ready, and turns toward the northeast. Since the moped shooting incident, the locals know that it's better to stop whenever they see soldiers. Now life comes to a sudden standstill as soon as the British appear. Cars stop and pedestrians freeze. Only on the highway do trucks and buses continue traveling. The buses are carrying migrant workers from around the country who have come to work in the opium harvest. There are hundreds of buses, traveling around the clock, many with German writing on the sides: "Prima Tours Günther" or "Alpina Express."

The soldiers cross a wide, dry riverbed where there are freshly dug graves marked by flags of mourning and the green color of the prophet. The air is hot and heavy with the stench of decay. Children, women and the elderly gather in front of dwellings along the route, standing still and staring at the soldiers. The foreigners occasionally toss pieces of chewing gum or chocolate to the children. Every child here knows one English sentence by heart: "Mister, give me one dollar."

The soldiers have soon reached the desert, a landscape of sand and stone stretching to the horizon, which is part of enemy territory near the road and may be mined. They are in planning quadrant 9951. The paratroopers stop to rest. It is hot and each of them is carrying 60 pounds of equipment. They kneel in the sand and drink from their canteens. Then they continue marching, without making enemy contact, in a wide arc back to the camp.

The Taliban and their allies have learned that man-to-man combat with NATO troops isn't worthwhile. Anyone who attacks a US platoon or a British unit directly will likely face the devastating firepower of Apache helicopters within minutes. This realization has led to the development of a ghostly indirect war, a war by remote control, conducted with booby traps, land mines, home-made explosives and cars turned into bombs. It is a lopsided contest.

The Western troops, most of them still trained to conduct land-based wars the way warfare was waged at the beginning of the 20th century, are faced with an adversary that carries guerilla tactics to the extreme. The Taliban, whoever they are, are not bound by any NATO doctrine, and certainly not by the Geneva Convention. According to their logic, the mass murder of civilians can be counted as a victory. Blowing up the guests at a wedding can provide strategic advantages, while television images of dead children become a dirty bomb in the battle for public opinion.

Part 3: ISAF Flags Provide Illusion of Success

In the evening, the British play volleyball in their camp. The pitch is delineated with pieces of rope on the ground, while a burning pile of garbage smolders in an adjacent hole in the ground. One in four soldiers suffers from chronic diarrhea, and all of them have sunburns. Major McDonald is pleased, he says, "that this vacation here will soon be over."

The paratroopers are getting ready to move on to Helmand, where they will join up with US Marines. A Portuguese company will replace them at the Hutal camp. Two of the Portuguese commanding officers visited the camp at noon. Since then, Major McDonald's mood has worsened significantly.

The Portuguese were not satisfied with the condition of the camp. They asked their British counterparts whether it would be possible to set up an Internet café prior to their arrival. They also wanted an ice machine and an ATM. "An Internet café," says McDonald, "and an ice machine, now that's impressive."

The next attempt on the life of Hamid Karzai is still nine days away. April days are hot in Kandahar, as the Portuguese move into the camp at Hutal. An advance guard arrives in the early morning hours in Humvees with the Portuguese flag fluttering from the antennas, looking like victors entering captured enemy territory.

The Portuguese soldiers pose in front of their vehicles in groups, taking pictures to send home and behaving as if they were on vacation. McDonald, the British major, stands there, looking disgusted. He hands over command of the camp to his successor, the Portuguese commander Antonio Cancelinha. When the two men shake hands, they look as if they hoped to never cross paths again.

Graphic: Mission Impossible?

Graphic: Mission Impossible?

Anyone standing in front of a map of Afghanistan, with shading delineating the five ISAF regional commands, must conclude that the country is under control. Colorful little flags identify the NATO troops' presence throughout the country, with Germany's colors flying in the northeast, Italy's in the far west, the Stars and Stripes covering the east, and the Union Jack and Canada's Maple Leaf blanketing the south. Interspersed among these flags are those of the Turks, the Dutch, the Lithuanians, Australians, Swedes and Spaniards. But the flags are an illusion.

ISAF Commander McNeill has said himself that according to the current counterterrorism doctrine, it would take 400,000 troops to pacify Afghanistan in the long term. But the reality is that he has only 47,000 soldiers under his command, together with another 18,000 troops fighting at their sides as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and possibly another 75,000 reasonably well-trained soldiers in the Afghan army by the end of the year. All told, there is still a shortfall of 260,000 men.

Large, intricately subdivided tables hang on the wall at ISAF headquarters in Kabul. The charts indicate which troops, from which country, can be used for which operations -- or, conversely, are barred from engaging in certain operations. Very few units can be used for everything, including combat missions. In conversation, General McNeill says that NATO is running "on reserve" in Afghanistan. Otherwise, he says, cooperation is "generally quite good."

Good News and a Lot of Bad News

Seven days still remain before the next attempt on Hamid Karzai's life, and on this day the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) are launching a vaccination campaign in Kabul. In only three days, their goal is to vaccinate 7 million Afghan children against polio. There is good news and a lot of bad news.

In Pakistan, the army has begun razing the 30-year-old Jalozai refugee camp, which had provided shelter for 80,000 Afghans, who will now be forced to return home, joining a flood of millions of other refugees. In Kandahar, five policemen are killed by an improvised mine. In Paktiam, the Taliban have kidnapped two trucks loaded with military equipment, and in Khost the teachers at 15 schools are on strike because they haven't been paid in months. A petite woman named Habiba Sarabi is sitting in the tearoom at the Serena Hotel in Kabul.

She is the governor of Bamyan Province, the country's only female governor. Her region is one of the poorest in a poorhouse of a country. The topography is too mountainous for ordinary farming, the weather is too cold for decent harvests, in the winter the region is often cut off from the outside world for four months at a time, and even in the summer it is relatively inaccessible.

In some parts of Bamyan, 99 percent of residents can neither read nor write. A man is considered wealthy if he owns a mule, and anyone who falls seriously ill is given up for lost. This is the life that 90,000 people lead.

The Italians have promised to build a new road to Kabul, crossing the Hajigag Pass into Wardak Province, but no one has even broken ground yet. Habiba Sarabi says: "We need the wisdom to take advantage of this opportunity, or else we will fail once again, and this time it will be permanent."

That opportunity, she says, is the world's current interest in Afghanistan, an interest that Sarabi is convinced will not last. People are weary, she says, and even former members of the Taliban have laid down their weapons. "There is a development taking place, but it began 'at zero,'" says Sarabi.

A native of Mazar-i-Sharif, she an ethnic Hazara and she's a good woman who knows how to give straightforward answers to simple questions, and who doesn't sugarcoat anything. After studying medicine in Kabul and India, she fled from the Taliban regime in 1996, taking her family with her to Peshawar in neighboring Pakistan. When the Taliban later destroyed the famed Bamiyan Buddhas, she read about the incident in the newspaper.

When President Karzai offered her the governorship three years ago, Sarabi accepted without hesitation. She is undeterred by the fact that death threats are now part of her life, and that other governors refuse to interact with her because she is a woman. "We will also change the brains of men in Afghanistan," she says, "it will take a long time, but it will happen."

Cheerful Little Corners in a Down-at-its-Heels City

Six days before the next attempt on the life of Hamid Karzai, two US military trucks come under rocket fire in Khost, and in Faizabad a delivery truck containing 9,000 schoolbooks plunges into the Kokcha River. The police defuse a car bomb in Paktia, and in Kabul Chris Alexander, political director of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), walks across the marketplace to have dinner at the Boccaccio Restaurant.

Alexander is 39, a boyish-looking Canadian, and pundits at home in Canada predict that he has an important political career in his future. He has already been his country's ambassador in Kabul and he worked in Moscow for several years. The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, chose him as a "Young Global Leader," a distinction that he acknowledges with a shy smile. He orders beef Carpaccio and pizza, while he and his friends at the table discuss the situation.

Drinking Chianti, the four friends, young businessman and diplomats, occasionally glance to the side to greet cabinet ministers who are also fond of dining at Boccaccio. At the surrounding tables, American intelligence agents cut their steaks, Swedish embassy employees load their forks with spaghetti, and bodyguards from New Zealand drink Corona beer. It is a collection of the members of Kabul's parallel world, envoys of a many thousand-headed army of helpers and mercenaries. After dinner, they go to La Cantina for a cocktail or to Bella Italia for dessert. Kabul, an otherwise down-at-the-heels city, has its cheerful little corners, populated almost exclusively by foreigners from around the world.

Alexander tells the story of how 40 convoys from the World Food Program disappeared last year, somehow, somewhere, entire columns of trucks loaded with food and medicine. Forty civilian aid workers were killed, he says, and 89 were abducted.

Yes, says Alexander, there is a lot of bad news, but there is also good news to report. "We had less than 1,000 schools here in 2001. Today there are 9,000, which is quite impressive."

The conversation at the table soon turns to the Karzai government. It has been in office for six years, but has failed to produce any presentable successes. Two-thirds of the ministries are hopelessly corrupt, they say, the cabinet is split along ethnic lines. As for Karzai? Merely the mention of his name is a source of amusement. He is seen as nothing but a weak, paranoid leader.

Part 4: Karzai, the Mayor of Kabul

Five days before the next attempt on the life of Hamid Karzai, anti-drug officers in Baghlan incinerate 300 bottles of hard liquor, 94 kilograms of opium, 93 kilograms of hashish and 13 kilograms of heroin. In the afternoon, Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, who returned to the country from exile in Germany, says that he considers the lack of faith in democracy in his country to be his "personal nightmare." On that same afternoon, General Khodaidad, the minister in charge of the government's anti-drug policies, takes a drive out into the countryside.

Khodaidad perches majestically in a four-ton, armor-clad Toyota Land Cruiser, as he embarks on a laborious two-day tour that will take him across thousands of kilometers of bumpy country roads and steep mountain passes.

The general is visiting the governors of Sar-e-Pol and Jowzjan in the far north, near the border with Turkmenistan. Parliamentarians from both regions are also along for the ride, as the Land Cruiser climbs through the icy splendor of the Salang Mountains, through Baghlan, Samangan and Balkh, traveling along the same route taken by the withdrawing Soviet army after almost 10 years of futile fighting.

Khodaidad was part of that army, a Soviet commander from Afghanistan, fighting for Afghanistan. He knows every valley and every hiding place here, and he knows the back roads that no American Humvee will ever take. Massoud was his adversary in the Pandjir Valley, as was General Daoud, who fought for the mujahedeen and is now a deputy interior minister, and with whom Khodaidad now cooperates in his effort to eradicate opium farming. "It's difficult for you to understand, isn't it? That we now work together? But the explanation is easy: We ruined this country together, and now we must rebuild it together."

Khodaidad has brought along a lot of music. He is a short, impish-looking man with eyes hidden behind fleshy eyelids. His glasses sit so crookedly on his face that he peers through the lens with one eye and over the top of the frame with the other, while the stereo blares the love songs of Afghan pop singer Nashena.

He periodically uses his walkie-talkie to confer with the other drivers in the convoy of five Land Cruisers, which includes an armed guard of 22 soldiers. A more prosperous and more peaceful Afghanistan soon begins to unfold: the north, where the land is farmed and where there is a rhythm to life, where dromedaries graze and children play -- children who look as though they had time to play.

Khodaidad is using the trip to promote his political agenda, which mainly consists in simply showing his face. The governors he meets, with whom he drinks tea, eats nuts and kebabs and spends entire evenings sitting barefoot on carpets, say that they haven't seen a cabinet minister in their provinces in two years. "Those who never leave Kabul," says Khodaidad, "lose their connections. But what is politics in Afghanistan? Nothing but connections. Have you heard what Karzai is called? The people call him the 'mayor of Kabul'…"

In Sar-e-Pol, late in the evening, Khodaidad's chief of current operations, Mohammed Ibrahim Azhar sits in the garden of the provincial government's guesthouse. One of his brothers died in the struggle against the Soviet occupiers and he lost three cousins in the war against the Russians. Azhar himself smuggled weapons and money into the country from Pakistan for the mujahedeen. Before taking his current position with the ministry, he worked for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Once a week, he meets with ISAF personnel and Americans to discuss strategy. But he and his foreign counterparts have little to say to each other.

The Americans, says Azhar, refuse to understand that for many Afghans, there is no alternative to growing opium. "There is no market for wheat, rice, fruit or vegetables. We import all of these things, from Pakistan, Iran and China. What can you say to a farmer who makes $4,000 (€2,550) per hectare (2.47 acres) with opium and only $300 (€191) with wheat? A year!"

His telephone rings. His ring tone is the triumphant march from Verdi's "Aida." The people from Nangarhar are calling again. A suicide bomber blew up himself and 25 police officers in an opium field in Nangarhar that afternoon.

Three days before the next attempt on the life of Hamid Karzai, Ambassador William Wood is sitting in his large apartment in the fortress-like US embassy in Kabul. He asks the photographer not to take his picture while he smokes a cigarette. Wood arrived from Colombia last year. His knowledge of drug cultivation is extensive, but he doesn't know a whole lot about Afghanistan. His nickname is "Chemical Bill," because he doggedly champions a policy of large-scale aerial spraying of the poppy fields with pesticides to destroy the crops.

Wood says that Afghanistan's "drug tragedy" also feeds into the tragedy of terror. The ISAF countries, he says, should realize that they are losing more of their citizens to heroin than on the battlefield in Afghanistan. He adds that 2007 was a good year, all things considered, with the possible exception of corruption. All neighboring countries want regional stability, he says, adding that more than 6 million children now attend school in Afghanistan. It sounds as if he were giving a speech using McNeill's notes.

Two days before the next attempt on the life of Hamid Karzai, Najia Zewari, of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), says that Afghanistan actually looks very good on paper. Women's rights are guaranteed under the constitution, says Zewari, and they are part of the country's future development. One-fourth of the members of parliament are women but, she adds, "the daily reality is unfortunately a different story altogether."

More nine- and 10-year-old girls are being forced into arranged marriages once again, she says. Outside Kabul, almost all women over 13 are required to wear the burqa. According to Zewari, girls do not go to school, and no one reports kidnappings and rapes. "Do not misunderstand me," says Zewari, "it's a great thing that the terror of the Taliban is over. But that doesn't mean that their rules have disappeared. Their rules are the Afghan rules."

These Afghan rules are the rules that foreigners find so difficult to understand.

The overthrow of the Taliban took place just over seven years ago. Until well into the 1990s, the warlords and the mujahedeen were constantly at war and constantly forming new coalitions. In the area around Kabul, they conducted their own version of total war. The withdrawal of Soviet troops happened less than 20 years ago. The wounds inflicted by all of these wars are still raw. The country has a great deal of history to work its way through, a great deal of suffering to digest and, most of all, a great deal of mourning to make up for.

But there are already voices -- in the parliament, in Karzai's cabinet and in the remote provinces -- that point to a new rivalry among ethnic groups, groups jockeying for power, influence and the legends of history.

Old warriors with world-famous names, like Dostum and Hekmetyar, are active once again, as old rifts spark anew between the peoples of the country's south and north. Mutual suspicions continue to grow as it becomes clear that the new era is failing to produce successes. Rival clans are already embroiled in their small wars and feuds. Afghanistan remains a combustible country, a potential battlefield where civil war is still an option -- a civil war that some are already waging.

On the day of the attack on Hamid Karzai, Mujahedeen Day, a national holiday in Afghanistan and a day of parades, three men have been lurking for at least 36, probably 72 hours, in a guesthouse less than 500 meters from the Kabul parade ground. Their accomplices have locked them into their room from the outside. A padlock is on the door to create the impression the room is unoccupied. The assassins have stocked up on energy drinks, water and crackers. They urinate into bottles and send short text messages to telephone numbers in Pakistan.

The room on the fourth floor, which offers a clear line of fire at the grandstand where the government of Afghanistan, headed by President Karzai, and the country's top generals and religious leaders, members of parliament and foreign guests, ambassadors, ISAF commanders and UN directors are about to sit down, has been rented for 45 days. One of the attackers, a Turkmen, claimed to be a carpet merchant with business at the nearby bazaar. The weapons are hidden in rolled-up carpets.

Spies for the Defense Ministry have been scanning the area around the parade ground for weeks, asking residents about suspicious activities and strangers new to the area. The police have gone into every house, inspecting rooms and looking out of windows, including the guesthouse where the would-be assassins are holed up, which they visited one or two days before the attack. But the door to the room was locked from the outside, the owner of the guesthouse tells police. The people aren't home, he says, and he hasn't seen them in a while. Why break down the door, he asks?

Part 5: A Plot against the President

No one has any idea that a police colonel is part of the plot. The Taliban have a mole in the heart of the country's security apparatus. Perhaps their man is guiding preparations for the parade in the wrong direction, or perhaps he is sending police on the wrong track.

The mole is the one who procures the weapons for the attack. Unable to get sniper rifles, he does manage to bribe his way into buying assault rifles. Corrupt accomplices set the guns aside in an Afghan army training camp, behind the Americans' backs. They even manage to line up a bazooka and a grenade launcher.

The guests begin arriving on the parade ground at 8 a.m. on April 27. McNeill is there, and so is UN Director Chris Alexander. US Ambassador Wood and his British counterpart, Sherard Cowper-Coles, are standing between chairs, chatting. The government of Afghanistan is gathering on the central stands.

At this time, Karzai is standing below the grandstand, in the hatch of a Humvee, waiting for his appearance. At 9 a.m., the Humvee begins traveling at a walking pace along the grandstand, and then it turns toward an honor guard standing at attention in front of the Id Gah Mosque -- a force of 1,000 men, trained by the West to take charge of security for Kabul beginning in August.

At 9:25, Karzai has returned from the honor guard and takes his seat on the grandstand. The attackers wait, less than 500 meters away, keeping a watchful eye on Karzai. They plan to open fire during the national anthem -- for the effect.

At 9:45, the national anthem begins booming from the loudspeakers. "This is the land of Afghanistan, the pride of all Afghans. A land of peace, a land of the sword, a land of courageous sons." A salute is fired, a long series of shots beginning with a single cannon beat, followed by two, three, four and five shots. The assassins get into position and aim their guns.

"This country will shine forever," the hymn continues, as machine gun fire suddenly explodes into the parade. Three members of parliament are hit on the grandstand, 25 meters (82 feet) below Karzai to the right. Grenades explode on the asphalt, killing a child and a policeman in the line of fire.

The people on the parade ground and on the grandstand begin running and jostling, security personnel form rings around their VIPs and lead them away, up along the rows of seats to an area behind the stadium, but there is also shooting there, where a second group of attackers is firing haphazardly at the fleeing dignitaries. The scene has disintegrated into scores of people ducking and waiting, running and cowering, on this national holiday in Afghanistan, a day that ends up making world headlines. On this day, the news from Afghanistan is not good. In fact, on this day the news from Afghanistan is exclusively bad, chaotic and disastrous.

The next day, US Ambassador Wood will say: "The whole thing was over within 120 seconds." This is the sugarcoated version for the Western public. The people in Afghanistan, however, know that in reality the shooting continued for 25 or 30 minutes, and that the attackers used bazookas, machine guns and grenades. Soon there were helicopters in the air and the assassination attempt turned into a battle, with the presidential guard returning fire, eventually killing the three attackers and chasing three of their accomplices through the city.

These are the images of war in downtown Kabul, in the heart of Afghanistan, where half the world has spent the last seven years trying to bring peace to an oppressed country, and where the fighting continues, in Afghanistan's valleys, mountains, cities and deserts, on many fronts hard and soft, day after day.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.