Monday, December 10, 2012


"Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure," by John L. Cook
The following guest blog comes from retired Lt. Col John L. Cook, a former Army intelligence officer and senior adviser to the Ministry of Interior in Afghanistan, who oversaw the development of the force structure of the Afghan National Police. In his compelling new book Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure (pictured above), Cook - who earned the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart during his military career - divulges secrets of America’s longest war and suggests that all the major objectives in Afghanistan have not worked, in large part because of Gen. David Patraeus.

Cook, who in a recent Daily Beast piece I wrote blasts Patraeus for the way he handled the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, is a no-nonsense, shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy. He's been both praised and criticized for helping run the Phoenix Program, the highly controversial and some say misunderstood counterinsurgency plan employed by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. 

Below, Cook characteristically pulls no punches in his commentary about the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

- Jamie Reno

By Lt. Col. John L. Cook
Exclusive to The Reno Dispatch

With the presidential election finally over, the nation’s attention has shifted to the so-called “fiscal cliff.” A shorthand for what happens when the federal government simply runs out of money. Once again, the war in Afghanistan has been pushed to the back burner.

To be sure, it wasn't much of an issue during the long, brutal presidential campaign. Neither candidate wanted to bring it up because neither candidate could figure out how to use it to his political advantage. It was as if a no-aggression pact had been signed by both camps.

There was a brief period of coverage two days after the election when the Petraeus-Broadwell affair was exposed, but the attention, even then, was indirect, centering on General Petraeus’ time as a combat commander and Director of the CIA, not on the war itself.  The war was barely mentioned. Yet there are still some 70,000 Americans engaged in combat right now in Afghanistan and there is very little, if any, coverage of this war.  

In short, Americans are dying every day in Afghanistan but you will not hear this very often on the news or read it in the newspapers.

How can this be, now that Afghanistan has become America’s longest war? The truth is, America is not at war in Afghanistan; that belief is a myth. Only the American military is at war in Afghanistan. This is an important distinction to make because it explains why this war has dragged on for over eleven years, with no end in sight.

With the draft no longer in effect, the only Americans going to war today are volunteers. This means less than one percent of Americans are at war. Back when the draft was in effect, during the Vietnam War, every American knew someone in the military.  Back then, the draft cut across every socio-economic stratum in America.All segments of society were involved: rich, poor, educated, uneducated, blacks, whites, Latinos, Christians, Jews, atheists, pacifists, everybody. 

The Vietnam War got everybody’s undivided attention because it had the potential of rocking everybody’s world. This is no longer the case. With Americans no longer in danger of being forced into the military, the war in Afghanistan is barely on the radar screen of the average American, which means it is of little concern to them. 

Today, the average American has far more pressing issues to deal with such as getting a college education, getting married, getting a job, getting promoted, dealing with the recession, and getting on with life. In the end, the war is left to a tiny minority of Americans to deal with.  And it is this tiny minority that bears the pain and suffering of this war. 

This is not to say the rest of America doesn’t care. They do, somewhat. Occasionally, some group or civic organization will sponsor an event to recognize our wounded veterans. A public outing, such as a ball game, works well. During intermission, the guests are warmly welcomed. They wave to the crowd and the crowd stands and cheers. The announcer thanks them for their service and there is more applause. 

Then the game resumes. This is what we give them - brief snatches of acknowledgement and then life in America returns to normal. The disconnect between those in the stands and those on the field is very real and the veterans know it. 

To a large degree, this explains why there is very little outrage in America concerning the war in Afghanistan. The reasoning goes something like this: since the war is being fought by volunteers who willingly joined the military, they knew what they were doing, including the potential risks. 

Since they were not compelled to join, what’s the big deal? This attitude becomes a psychological free pass to ignore what’s going on in Afghanistan. It also explains why there are no massive peace demonstrations or marches organized by anti-war groups reminiscent of the Vietnam War era. 

Yet, in the end, all wars are more alike than they are different.  People always die and it makes little difference if those dying are draftees or volunteers.  The pain is always the same and every time it happens, a family somewhere in America has its heart ripped out. The war in Afghanistan offers a particular kind of pain because those still dying there are not fighting for America’s security. 

That myth died long ago when we gave up on winning. No one even talks of winning anymore. The end state cannot even be articulated,  much less achieved.

While we cannot bring back those now dead, we can demand that it stop. Now. The real tragedy is this: there are kids in high school right now, all across the country, that are destined to die in Afghanistan next summer. For what, exactly? 

The only tangible, visible accomplishment now is to continue propping up an inter-locking, criminal enterprise, which is what the Karzai government has become. And this is being done in our name.  Is this what we really want?  Don’t we owe them more than this?


  1. How bad is the ignorance? There was a near 400% increase in fatalities which started 6 months after President Obama took office. An unreported increase by the Main Stream Media - who deluged us with story after story, week-in/week-out, with mock gravestones and flags for the fallen, and Cindy Sheehan -- during the Bush Administration. The media all but ignored the war and removed it from the consciousness of Americans for the last 4 years.

  2. The essay is True. For two decades, I've written repeatedly how the 1991 Gulf War was lost before it began, too. The reason our three offensive wars in Iraq/Kuwait, Afghanistan, and again in Iraq were doomed from the start is because they were based, in whole or in part, on lies; then only a few, our military one percent, volunteered and fought in them. The 834,000 new VA patients, the 750,000 new VA disability claims, the broken families, the unemployment, the dispair, the hearts ripped out, and the trillions of dollars wasted.... all are testimony of the hubris of our current political and military leadership. Thanks for a good essay, John Cook.

    1. Paul:
      Thank you very much, sir. You truly get it and what you say is true. Now we need to speak out for those who have been silenced forever and for those that must still die in this tragedy.

      John Cook

    2. Dear Mr. Cook

      I am a Greek (Hellenic) Army officer and for the time being i prepare my thesis:
      "The Importance of the Fulda Gap on the V Corps Order of Battle during the Cold War".
      You are the author of the highly praised book,
      "Armor at Fulda Gap:A Visual Novel of the War of Tomorrow".
      I believe that your book is the most suitable help in relation to my thesis.
      A successful thesis is a requirement,among other things,for promotion.
      Unfortunately,as a low-income person,it is forbiden by recent law,
      to use a credit card due to the economic crisis in Greece,
      which affects dramatically and the armed forces.
      Bookstores don't accept alternative methods of payment.
      Please,send me a copy of your book.
      I don't mind if it is used.
      I will pay with paper money enclosed in a letter.
      I am begging you to accept my request.
      I apologise for any and every inconvenience i might have caused you.

      George Bizetas

  3. Having served with John a a senior advisor to the MOI I can say with some assumption that John Cook speaks truth to power. This essay focuses on the larger issue of the disconnect between the military, the civilian population and our civilian leadership's failure. This is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg as our failures are both multifaceted and multilevel. I fully concur with Johns clarion call to end this war - - NOW! We ore or young warriors nothing less.

  4. Lt. Colonel Cook will be our guest on American Heroes Radio this Thursday. You can RSVP via Facebook

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