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Published:November 29th, 2010 09:51 EST

Afghan Imposter Makes Us Wonder: Can War Be Entrusted to Generals?

By Djelloul (Del) Marbrook (Editor/Mentor)

Turns out they were being conned by an imposter

Loose lips sinks ships, said a famous slogan from World War II. But loose lips aren`t half as heedless of human life as hubris, which seems to be defining our behavior in Afghanistan as much as our security interests.

It now turns out that while he was bad-mouthing his commander in-chief in Paris, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, our deposed commander in Afghanistan, was getting himself flimflammed by a shopkeeper masquerading as the Taliban`s second most powerful leader.

Worse yet, once President Barack Obama recalled McChrystal for his smart-ass number in Paris, his successor, Gen. David H. Petraeus, allowed himself to be similarly conned, but at least he has had the grace and savvy not to ridicule the President.

It`s a sordid story and has been well reported by British, American and other national presses. My purpose is to point out that a cocky general who won the affections of the President`s critics by overstepping himself has now been revealed as a dupe "and wasn`t it the intention of all that unseemly behavior in Paris to paint the President as the dupe of his advisors? While suggesting a failure of intelligence in the White House the general was knee deep in one of the most humiliating intelligence failures in memory, so humiliating that a movie script would probably be rejected on the grounds of improbability.

For all the money we`ve wasted in Afghanistan, you`d think we could at least afford a continuity editor.

So here we had a general putting his staff on the spot because they dared not question his behavior and challenging his commander-in-chief`s judgment while being screwed over by a wily shopkeeper who would ultimately have thousands of taxpayer dollars lavished on him and his scam. And all the while Afghanistan`s own intelligence chief was apparently vainly expressing doubts about the imposter to his superiors, an act of prescience for which he was fired.

The scenario is surely a metaphor for the debacle in Afghanistan. We were supposed to find Osama bin Laden, right? More than nine years and billions of dollars later we haven`t found him, but we have embarrassed and bankrupted ourselves. And to this injury add the insult of having our generals hornswoggled by a con man. It`s a scene from one of those B movies about the British Raj, which we keep re-enacting as if we had a compulsive nostalgia for it. And in this instance we apparently had the help of MI6, the British intelligence service.

At the end of the day what is most worrisome is not a general behaving insubordinately, although that is dangerous enough, but rather generals and politicians who are so intent on being right that the spirit of inquiry leaks out of them and they run on opinion and hubris.

Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaperman. His second book of poems, Brushstrokes and Glances, will be published by Deerbrook Editions on December 20, 2010. His first book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. It won the International Book Award in 2010. His novella, Artemisia`s Wolf, will be published by Prakash Books of India in December. His novella, Saraceno, was recently published as an e-book. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal Latté first prize in fiction in 2008. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.

Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm

New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/

Artists Hill, Literal Latté`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/

His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com

His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com

His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com