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Moyers: Obama's Bad Gamble on Afghanistan -- 100,000 Soldiers Used as Chips for a Bet the US Can't Win

We are losing lives for no purpose. The perpetuation of this unnecessary war exacerbates the problems in the Islamic world.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal. The war in Afghanistan has claimed more than one thousand American lives and in the last two years alone the lives of more than four thousand Afghan civilians. It's costing American taxpayers over three-and-a-half billion dollars every month—a total of some $264 billion so far. But for all that, in the words of one policy analyst quoted by the New York Times this week, "there are no better angels about to descend on Afghanistan."

The news from that torturous battleground continues to dismay, discourage and enrage. America's designated driver there, Hamid Karzai, is proving increasingly unstable behind the wheel. The United States put Karzai in power and our soldiers have been fighting and dying on his behalf ever since. Despite widespread corrupton in his government. Now he's making threats against the western coalition that is shedding blood and treasure on his behalf.

Even more disturbing,for the moment, are the civilian deaths from nighttime raids andaerial bombings by American and other NATO troops. Just this week, we learned of an apparent cover-up following a Special Forces raid in February that killed five civilians, including three women, two of whom were pregnant. It's believed bullets were gouged from the women's bodies to conceal evidence of American involvement.

This slaughter of innocents has led the pro-American "Economist" magazine to question whether ourentire effort in Afghanistan" has been nothing but a meaningless exercise of misguided violence."

With me is a man with first-hand experience of war. Andrew Bacevich served 23 years, some of them in Vietnam, before retiring from the Army. He's now professor of history and international relations at Boston University. Just this week he was at a US Army War College symposium on the highly pertinent question, "How do we know when a war is over?" His book, "The Limits of Power," was a best-seller and his latest, "Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War," comes out this summer. Andrew Bacevich, welcome back to the Journal.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Thank you very much.

BILL MOYERS: These civilian casualties that we've been hearing about, they're inevitable in war, right?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Sure they are. But I think that what's particularly important about the incidents that we're reading about is that they really call into question U.S. strategy. I mean, when General McChrystal conceived of this counterinsurgency approach in Afghanistan, one of the, sort of the core principles is that we would act in ways that would demonstrate our benign intentions. We're supposed to be protecting the population. And when it turns out that U.S. forces are killing non-combatants, and there are repeated incidents that have occurred, I think it calls into question the sincerity, the seriousness of the strategy. Or it calls into question the extent to which McChrystal is actually in control of the forces that he commands.

There doesn't seem to be any noticeable change, and any noticeable reduction in the frequency with which these incidents are occurring. So, I mean, were I an Afghan, I think I would not place a whole heck of a lot of credibility on the claims that, you know, "We're here to help."

BILL MOYERS: That nighttime incident in February that I referred to, you know, one woman killed was a pregnant mother of 10 children. Another was a pregnant mother of 6 children. And our people peddled the story at the time that they had been stabbed to death by family members on an otherwise festive occasion. Was that a lie, do you think, a deliberate lie?

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