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13 September 2009


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William R. Cumming

Holbrooke has always been labeled a rising star and potential Secretary of State. Like defeated candidate John Kerry however after almost 4 decades Holbrooke has never honestly come down on whether the US effort in RVN was a win or a loss or whatever. Time to move beyond the Viet Nam Generation in our foreign policy and foreign relations. I come down that the US effort in Viet Nam was delivery of a very expensive message to the Soviet Union and China that knew the message already and did not need for it to be constantly reiussed. Others may differ yet many brave men died or lost much their including their souls. Would support a statutory ban on those in Viet Nam from 1962-1975 from running USA foreign policy or relations. They pretty much proved they may well have learned many wrong lessons from that period. Disclosure drafte September 10, 1967 but did not serve in RVN!


Yes, the "election" was a remarkable spectacle, a farce worthy of Fellini. And anyone who was paying the least attention knew that it was going to be that way. There was no other possible outcome. Democratic elections just don't occur when much of the country is outside government control (and often when governments are too much in control). Some of the world's greatest despots hold "free elections," too.

The intent of the election was obvious--to show the gullible Western TV viewer that Afghanistan was on the road to becoming a stable democracy, if only it could get a little help from its "friends" in the West.

FB Ali is correct to ask who blew the cover? Who has enough influence with the US media to get it to pay attention? It wasn't the neocons, who were counting on an election, any election. It wasn't the Obama administration, who presided over the farce and was counting on it to validate their policies. Most of other players could not have been effective in blowing the cover, because they have no standing with the media.

My guess is that's an inside job. There must be elements within the defense and intelligence establishment who are truly alarmed at how seriously astray American foreign policy has gone.


To update an old and possible apochrypal pun and diplomatic cable:

Patrick Lang


I will try not to take your comment personally.

To quote the central character in "Miller's Crossing,"

"What soul?" pl



Ah, yes, "I have sinned." (Sind) pl

John Siscoe

Not "We have Sinned" ?


Amusing, but I think Napier reported "peccavi." Pl
Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.


It appears many now have 'causa ut secedo'. From the authors analysis it looks like Mr. Holbrook joins a long line of westerners who fail to understand this region.

I had hoped that the Obama administration would show more patience in developing a clear strategy for US action in Afghanistan (I'm still not certain what he intends to do there) and less with trying to get 'bi-partisan' support for his domestic legislation.

Patrick Lang

John Siscoe

I believe that would be "peccavimus." pl

William R. Cumming

Only the intel types seem to have survived the RVN period. Apparently small unit intel was really good in RVN but reporting upwards sometimes resulted in modification of raw intel by unauthorized personnel. WAS this another instance in which the CIA missed it? Soviet Union collapse! Iraqi invasion of Kuwait! WMD in Iraq! Etc. Etc.


peccaverunt = they have sinned.
Only because the proper current diplomatic verbage:
erratum erant trado just doesn't have that understated victorian flair.


CK - Fun
Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

Brett J

Obama & administration thus far have proven adept at keeping afloat the consensus of their foreign policy wisdom. (Conceding the legitimate "Obama-effect" gen'rl int'l boost). Safely in the broad liberal pocket does their compass point - As opposition grows they will move (on this issue) to stay in the pocket of opinion. and of course, no one likes to admit being wrong.

Arguably, elections were an inevitability - what else would come down the pipeline with a U.S.-Instructed government presiding? Granted, the drastic/depressing results certainly turned the administration's milk sour.

Patrick Lang


A great over generalization but interesting.

CIA analytic efforts were largely irrelevant to the war. They expended some effort from Langley to monitor what was going on so that they could "play" with Johnson in the PDB process. They had a couple of really good people like Sam Adams.

The military collection in the theater was pretty good. It collected more information than the analysts could handle and process. In 1968 the Army tried making brigade and division analytic shops a lot bigger in order to handle the flow. These bigger analytic offices were called "Battlefield Information Coordination Centers." (BICC) The problem in analysis arose when you passed corps headquarters (FF) and reached MACV J-2. There, the generals were under direct pressure from the WH to produce analysis that said that we were relentlessly attriting the enmy and well on the way to victory. Lyndon Johnson demanded such tripe and the generals gave it to him.

Collection was prety good. Air reconnaissance was effective using IR sensors. SIGINT was effective against all the long range circuits, but, what we did not know until the cease fire in 1973(?) is that the enemy had a 2 watt HF manual morse network that connected all their units. We could not hear that because the signal was too weak. They just had hundreds of relays. I learned that while drinking with an NVA colonel in the officers' club at Tan Son Nhut after the cease fire. Clandestine HUMINT was, as always very much a matter of persoanltiies and so it varied widely in quality. Mine was great of course. PW interrogations were effective, Document and materiel exploitation likewise.

Every once in a while I have some innocent say to me that since I was an officer in intelligence I must have had a desk job.

I have quit responding to that.

Vietnam was not really a very difficult intelligence problem.

The US just gave up. pl

frank durkee

"Pecavi" is correct for Napier.


here is a good one.

"In the 1950s, the United States declined Afghanistan's request for defense cooperation but extended an economic assistance program focused on the development of Afghanistan's physical infrastructure--roads, dams, and power plants. Later, U.S. aid shifted from infrastructure projects to technical assistance programs to help develop the skills needed to build a modern economy."


feeling deja vu?

Read the rest. It's the future script of afghanistan.

The exact corrupt, incompetent crews who killed each other is back in charge. And people wonder why afghanistan didn't meaningfully rebuilt in the past 8 yrs.

Basically, afghanistan history for the next 20 years will be the same as 40 yrs ago.

major power jockeying each other. Weak and corrupt monarchy finally pissed the public off and the people start demanding change. Failed suppression, assassination then civil war. All mixed with ego, ignorance, corruption and weapons from major power.

Here are examples:

how is that Israel hijacking Russian ship? (It has ripple effect. Syria, Lebanon, Iran.)

China canceling major economic projects in southern Pakistan? Why? (that was suppose to increase serious amount of trade for Pakistan)

etc. etc.. The cummulative effect of these type of event will ultimately lead to afghanistan rehash.

Afghanistan is not some random latin american country that can be experimented on for decades. Once any power in that area says enough. It's game over. Ten pounds of well placed high explosive is enough to collapse entire afghanistan into another civil war.

As long as there is no geopolitical stability between major powers. The fancy talk of COIN and nation building will go up in smoke in about 2 weeks after that big explosion.

As long as there is no "real" leadership that politically unite Afghanistan, there isn't going to be "nation building". It's nothing more than a list of fancy construction projects. To be demolished few months after the civil war begins.

... an exact repeat.

Clifford Kiracofe


FB Ali,

Well yes, but one might also label it retro 19th century "liberal imperialism."

Holbrooke's staff of "advisors" (curiously)includes a woman on loan from the British Foreign Office. His staff seems rather strongly influenced by the Center for American Security think tank which is reportedly bankrolled by Soros. The Carr Center at Harvard is a "player" in the policy process and you can check their "liberal" studies on Afghanistan and policy recommendations.


Some advisors no doubt believe in the "democracy," "human rights," "women's rights" rhetoric. Others I imagine don't believe it but are cynical enough to think such policy justification can "rally" Congress or the American people. Perhaps Holbrooke is a cynic on this despite his staff as useful window dressing. The President is a Harvard man so perhaps the Carr Center has some special influence.


SubKommander Dred

As much as I hate to contradict you, Tom Regan (the Irish mobster in "Miller's Crossing") said in response to Bernie Birnbaum pleading for his life:
Bernie: "Look into your heart."
Tom: "What Heart?"

Followed by Bernie's brains being scattered along the hallway. Not that I advocate that sort of thing, but Bernie did have it coming.

Regarding the 'election' in Afghanistan, I think "Miller's Crossing" is an apt film to mention. Tom Regan, the aforementioned mobster, mentions he voted for the current (thoroughly corrupt machine mayor) several times in the last election. Life imitating art?

Pete Deer


I stand corrected. Pl


FB Ali,

Holbrooke is trying his Balkanization tour, and between him and the Neocons and their love affair with Karzi have/are creating rifts between our U.S. and the other indigenous persons of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was/is stupid.

Could the land of the stans fracture into more 'pieces' thanks to the Neocon/Balkaners, it's beginning to look that way.

Hmmm...let's see there's a new Pashaistan, a new Nuristan, Sindhu Desh, etc.. Don't forget the Baluchi separatists that the Indian RAW has been supplying. I can just imagine what the Turkmens are thinking right about now

F B Ali

Clifford K,

I am all for genuinely free and fair elections. But when one is fighting a war that needs public support at home to continue, and local support to succeed, it is crazy to try to hold such an election when it is certain that the only way the incumbent can win (as win he must) is through massive rigging. Instead, the sensible thing would be to provide him with some experts (from Florida?) in seamless poll rigging.

I still hanker for some other explanation for what happened; human stupidity is so depressing. Incidentally, you've given me another peg on which to hang my fantasy – the woman from the British Foreign Office. The silliness in Kabul appears to be contagious; witness the animated discussion above on ‘peccavi’ versus ‘peccavimus’ etc. So, here is my contribution, in appropriate verse form:


What? What? What?
What’s this wicked plot?
Taking him for a ride,
Putting him on a slide.
Who played this dirty trick
Upon poor, trusting Dick?
The girl, the girl, ‘twas the FO girl!
She’s the one who did it,
She’s the one who hid it
In that deadly paper,
She pulled this naughty caper.


Afghanistan finally has something worth fighting over. A major copper deposit was discovered a few years back.

This may change some traditional dynamics.


1. PECCAVI -- "The most brief and brilliant example of a favourite British form of humour, the pun. In 1843 Sir Charles Napier conquered the Indian province of Sind (now southeast Pakistan), and was criticized in parliament in 1844 for his ruthless campaign. A girl in her teens, Catherine Winkworth (1827–78), remarked to her teacher that Napier's despatch to the governor general of India, after capturing Sind, should have been Peccavi (Latin for 'I have sinned'). She sent her joke to the new humorous magazine Punch which printed it as a factual report under Foreign Affairs. As a result the pun has usually been credited to Napier."


Catherine Winkworth went on to other linguistic achievements -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Winkworth

2. The (in my view) far superior Swat/Akond/Akhoond verse is Edward Lear's

The Akond of Swat

WHO or why, or which, or what,
Is the Akond of SWAT?

Is he tall or short, or dark or fair?
Does he sit on a stool or a sofa or chair,
The Akond of Swat?

Is he wise or foolish, young or old?
Does he drink his soup and his coffee cold,
or HOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he sing or whistle, jabber or talk,
And when riding abroad does he gallop or walk,
or TROT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he wear a turban, a fez, or a hat?
Does he sleep on a mattress, a bed, or a mat,
or a COT,
The Akond of Swat?

When he writes a copy in round-hand size,
Does he cross his T's and finish his I's
with a DOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Can he write a letter concisely clear
Without a speck or a smudge or smear
or BLOT,
The Akond of Swat!

Do his people like him extremely well?
Or do they, whenever they can, rebel,
or PLOT,
At the Akond of Swat?

If he catches them then, either old or young,
Does he have them chopped in pieces or hung,
or SHOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Do his people prig in the lanes or park?
Or even at times, when days are dark,
O the Akond of Swat!

Does he study the wants of his own dominion?
Or doesn't he care for public opinion
a JOT,
The Akond of Swat?

To amuse his mind do his people show him
Pictures, or any one's last new poem,
or WHAT,
For the Akond of Swat?

At night if he suddenly screams and wakes,
Do they bring him only a few small cakes,
or a LOT,
For the Akond of Swat?

Does he live on turnips, tea, or tripe?
Does he like his shawl to be marked with a stripe,
or a DOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Do he like to lie on his back in a boat
Like the lady who lived in that isle remote,
The Akond of Swat?

Is he quiet, or always making a fuss?
Is his steward a Swiss or a Swede or a Russ,
or a SCOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he like to sit by the calm blue wave?
Or to sleep and snore in a dark green cave,
or a GROTT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he drink small beer from a silver jug?
Or a bowl? or a glass? or a cup? or a mug?
or a POT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he beat his wife with a gold-topped pipe,
When she lets the gooseberries grow too ripe,
or ROT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he wear a white tie when he dines with friends,
And tie it neat in a bow with ends,
or a KNOT,
The Akond of Swat?

Does he like new cream, and hate mince-pies?
When he looks at the sun does he wink his eyes
or NOT,
The Akond of Swat.

Does he teach his subjects to roast and bake?
Does he sail about on an inland lake,
in a YACHT,
The Akond of Swat?

Some one, or nobody, knows, I wot,
Who or which or why or what
Is the Akond of Swat!


This usage of "prig" threw me a bit -- seems to mean "steal":


"A knavish beggar in the Beggar’s Bush, by Beaumont and Fletcher.

"1 Prig. A coxcomb, a conceited person Probably the Anglo-Saxon pryt or pryd.

"2 Prig. To filch or steal. Also a pickpocket or thief. The clown calls Autolycus a “prig that haunts wakes, fairs, and bear-baitings.” (Shakespeare: Winter’s Tale, iv. 3.)

"3 In Scotch, to prig means to cheapen, or haggle over the price asked; priggin means cheapening."

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898


Clifford Kiracofe

FB Ali,

One Jane Marriott, and affiliated with the Soros backed Center for American Progress:

"Jane Marriott has spent the last six years focusing on Afghanistan and Iraq. She has been involved in the process from the front line as political advisor to coalition forces in southern Iraq in 2003 and 2004, political advisor to CFC-A in Afghanistan in 2004, and political counselor in Baghdad from 2005 to 2006. She was the deputy head for Afghanistan issues from 2007 to 2008 before joining the CENTCOM Assessment Team. She moonlighted as chief speechwriter to the U.K. defense secretary before her past returned to haunt her and she joined Ambassador Holbrooke's team in May. In earlier incarnations, she was head of nuclear non-proliferation and helped pilot a criminal justice bill through the Houses of Parliament. As her accent will betray, Jane is a British diplomat, on loan to Ambassador Holbrooke. She is an officer of the Order of the British Empire and holds an master's of philosophy in international relations from the University of Cambridge."

To get the flavor of the mindset (?) of Holbrooke etal there is some "discussion" with video available at Center for American Progress with Holbrooke and his team:

Perhaps one of SST's UK readers could provide us details on Ms. Marriott.

Being British, perhaps she could check for the White House with that street urchin out Peshawar way who used to hang around with the kindly abbot of a Tibetan monastery, a Red Hat as I recall. The urchin had a Pathan friend, a horse trader, who was well informed on Afghan matters.

Clifford Kiracofe

FB Ali, All,

To sharpen some analytical focus, if possible, here is data on the Center for American Progress, a Democratic Party think tank, led by John Podesta. John's come a long ways since his days at Senate Ag.

"John Podesta is considered one of the Democratic party's sharpest and toughest operatives. Podesta is a 54-year-old marathon runner with an intense, angular face that seems to suggest he is always calculating something you would never be able to grasp. He is also the leader and architect of a new liberal think tank in Washington known as the Center for American Progress. His goal is to build an organization to rethink the very idea of liberalism...The Center for American Progress is classified as a 501(c)(3) organization under U.S. Internal Revenue Code. The institute receives approximately $25 million per year in funding from a variety of sources, including individuals, foundations, and corporations. From 2003 to 2007, the center received about $15 million in grants from 58 foundations. Major individual donors include George Soros, Peter Lewis, Steve Bing, and Herbert M. Sandler. The Center receives undisclosed sums from corporate donors.[5]
Some open government groups, such as the Sunlight Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center, criticize the Center's failure to disclose its contributors, particularly since it is so influential in appointments to the Obama administration.[6]
CAP has also been funded by the Democracy Alliance."

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