September 17, 2011

Katch-22 in Kandahar

"To summarize: our invasion and occupation is what enables the Taliban to recruit massive numbers of Afghan teenagers into their cause. And now, we have to stay until we either kill all the people who hate us and want us gone from their country or propagandize deradicalize them into meekly accepting our presence. Once there are no more Afghans left who want us gone, then we can leave. For those of you who have been cynically claiming that this war has no discernible purpose other than the generalized benefits of Endless War for political officials and the Security State industry, now you know." -Glenn Greenwald, summarizing a Washington Post article on current plans for de-radicalization of Afghan youth.

Yossarian didn't know whether he believed in reincarnation or not; he just knew he wanted to stay alive, and if Eastern mysticism did the trick, that was good enough for him. Even if it meant that instead of being a B-25 navigator based on Pianosa during World War II, he was now a grunt in America's seemingly endless war in Afghanistan.

"Think I'll ever get back to New Jersey?" he asked Doc Daneeka, as they sat on a couple of canvas chairs in front of the medical tent.

"It depends," said Doc Daneeka.

"Depends on what?" said Yossarian.

"On whether you survive this war," said Doc Daneeka.

"Interesting you should say that," said Yossarian. "I've been thinking of ways I could get out of this war and get back to New Jersey. At last. And one of those ideas involves you."

"I'm not surprised," said Doc Daneeka. "Although I think you'll find New Jersey is not quite the garden spot you remember from 1942."

"I can't even figure out why we're fighting this war. Or why I'm here. Every day, the Taliban try to kill me."

"They're trying to kill everybody," grunted Doc Daneeka. "Don't think of yourself as so special."

"So why do you think we stay here?" asked Yossarian.

"Because they want us to leave," said Doc Daneeka. "As long as they want us to leave, we have to stay."

Yossarian nodded, sensing what was coming.

Doc Daneeka went on: "If they want us to leave, it means they're not ready for democracy and we have to stay."

"Until they're ready for democracy?" asked Yossarian, taking a shot.

"No, until they ask us to stay. When they ask us to stay, it means they're ready for us to leave."

"So if they ask us to stay, we know we can leave," said Yossarian, half to himself, filling in the blanks.

"Right," said Doc Daneeka. "They'll never be ready for democracy. Not even we are crazy enough to wait for that. Meanwhile, the war must go on, and we must keep killing them until they ask us to stay."

"Doesn't it seem unlikely that they'll ever ask us to stay if we keep on killing them?" asked Yossarian.

"It's only unlikely until we kill all the ones who want us to leave and only those who want us to stay are left," said Doc Daneeka, staring straight ahead as he took a swig from his beer bottle.

"But if we keep killing all the ones who want us to leave, won't that just make the ones who want us to stay angry about our killing all the ones who want us to leave, and then the ones who want us to stay will want us to leave, but we can't leave then because they want us to?" Yossarian took a deep breath, exhausted by articulating this fine web of logic.

"That's right," said Doc Daneeka. "As long as we keep killing all the ones who want us to leave, we'll keep turning the Aghans who want us to stay into Aghans who want us to leave, so we have to stay and keep killing those same Afghans until there are only Afghans who want us to stay."

"Then we can leave," said Yossarian.

"Right," said Doc Daneeka. "Or until there are no more Afghans at all."

"Can they have a democracy with no people?" asked Yossarian.

"Probably not," admitted Doc Daneeka.

"It's Catch-22 all over again," said Yossarian.

"Some things never change," said Doc Daneeka. "Especially in war."

"So about that Section 8," said Yossarian.

"Same problem as last time. The war's crazy, you aren't. I can't Section 8 you out of a war you think is crazy to fight when it's a war that's crazy to fight. Sorry."

"If I thought it was sane to fight this crazy war, would I be crazy enough for you to say I was insane and didn't have to fight?" asked Yossarian.

"Maybe, but not in this life."

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