The War Diaries

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Archive for the ‘Stanley A. McChrystal’ tag

Book Review: War On Peace

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The UK paperback edition I purchased in Dubai after leaving Iraq.

Pai- I’ve recently finished reading Ronan Farrow’s death of American diplomacy narrative War On Peace. I picked up the UK paperback edition at Kunokiniya Books at the Dubai Mall–meaning it had finally passed the UAE’s thought censors to be able to be sold. This process can take many months I’ve been told. I needed something to read while traveling across Sri Lanka and this looked like a good companion.

It is sort of two books in one volume. The first an homage of sorts with necessary criticism of the late Richard Holbrooke. The second half is a series of vignettes of high risk foreign policy successes and blunders through the prism of the Department of State. Having once worked as an editor in Washington, I read reflexively with a critical eye perhaps more than is necessary. I was put off within minutes when on the first page Abdoun is described as a neighborhood of Jordan rather than its capital Amman. Countries don’t have neighbourhoods, cities do, in geographic semantics. I put that aside an delved in to what is overall a quite enjoyable read about what is in reality a depressing subject-the decline of American influence in the world and the militarisation of US foreign policy.

Part of why I found Farrow’s work entertaining was quite personal. I’d intersected with nearly every character in the book in some circumstantial way. The time I encountered Holbrooke, along with Madeline Albright, while working a temp job at the Council on Foreign Relations over a decade ago. The time Stan McChrystal’s Italian carbinieri bodyguards nearly knocked me of while trying to photograph him. The time I waited at Abdul Rashid Dostum’s house in Kabul when he returned from an exile episode. When I went to dinner with General Michael Hayden at a posh midtown Manhattan university club where tipping the staff was forbidden. When I drove through Jowjan province on the way to Turkmenistan exactly as the massacre of Taliban prisoners was taking place in Dasht-i-Leili. This book appealed to me in part because of all the memories it brought back. At the very end one of the last people mentioned in the acknowledgments, a former Obama era foreign policy wunderkind, is the sister of someone who follows me on Instagram. It’s a string of degrees of separation.

ISAF Commander General Stanley McChyrstal hurries past reporters to asses the damage and casualties in front of his office after this morning suicide attack believed to be carried out by the Afghan Taliban.©2009 Derek Henry Flood

Much of what is described in the book is a litany of lost or squandered opportunities where good ideas were put forth that were undercut by a lack of political will or foresight or in the case of Holbrooke, death. There’s one really glaring error where in page 61 he describes Moqtada al-Sadr as an al-Qaeda lader, which could not be more wrong. Al-Sadr was the leader of the eschatological Shia sectarian Jaish al-Mahdi, about as opposite ideologically as AQ as you can get. How that made it through fact checking I’ll never understand. There were some other minor editing issues but this was the only really egregious factual error that I can recall.

Overall, I found War On Peace thoroughly relatable and entertaining, a good travel read. I’ll be leaving it behind in the used book pile at my hotel here in Thailand hoping someone else will pick it up and enjoy it equally.

Written by derekhenryflood

May 2nd, 2019 at 4:28 am

Suicide Attack at NATO’s ISAF Headquarters in Kabul

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British and Afghan security forces hold the line after suicide attack rocked ISAF Headquarters in Kabul. ©2009 Derek Henry Flood.

British and Afghan security forces hold the line after suicide attack rocked ISAF Headquarters in Kabul. ©2009 Derek Henry Flood.

Kabul awoke to a good size suicide attack this morning at 8:30 a.m. Kabul-time killing several civilians and injuring five NATO ISAF troops. Twelve Afghan security forces were injured as well as six Afghan civilians. ISAF Commander General Stanley A. McChrystal blazed through to assess the situation escorted by Italian Carabinieri. McChrystal only said “I am concerned about anyone who is trying to kill innocent Afghans” before he and his guards barged through to the crime scene leaving the media in their wake.  Canadian Brig. Gen. Eric Trembley briefed the press about 50 metres from the site of the attack. A lone bomber worked his way through various checkpoints and detonated a VBIED in front of the main gate. A coup for insurgent intelligence gathering and an embarrassment for NATO  just five days before the presidential election. “It tells a lot about the Taleban code of conduct” Trembley told those assembled, referring to the tete-a-tete NATO and Mullah Muhammed Omar have been having this summer over the limiting of civilian casualties. I asked Trembley whether the bomber was working along or with another operative guiding him to the target. He stated that it was too early to get into anything that specific until the ANA finished conducting its forensic investigation. Italian, French, American, British and Canadian soldiers milled about while the local fire department dealt with the smoking debris. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack very close to the fortified blast walls of the American embassy in Kabul’s Orwellian diplomatic quarter.

I disconnected with my driver and was waiting around for a taxi when two educated local boys approached me in perfect English saying the such suicide attacks, the de rigueur method of the post-modern jihadist, are forbidden within the ideological confines of Islam.  One of them presciently  asked “Why do you think we muslims are doing this to each other?” Not wanting to get into a debate, I replied that there was a sickness that had permeated very deeply in the political core of the ummah, the global Muslim community, and things like literacy  and opportunity were the only weapons against such narrow barbarism. “What is your religion?” the other asked. “I’m a (Catholic) Christian” I replied.

“Ahh you Christians have big hearts. You are here trying to help us. Who is your bishop?”

I tried to explain that I’m an avid secularist which is unfathomable in such a pious, poor country where belief in God is the only thing millions have to cling to.

Written by derekhenryflood

August 15th, 2009 at 3:09 am