By Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould
In response to our “Review” in Publishers Weekly of our new book Crossing Zero: The Afpak War at The Turning point of American Empire, we can only say that they completely missed the point. The fact that PW compared us to a former defense official and RAND analyst (the very people whose process we are criticizing) is hard to take seriously. To limit criticism of our sweeping historical and philosophical analysis of the origins of the use of force in the region of Afghanistan to a career military thinker’s analysis (Bing West) is disingenuous at best. Maybe PW just doesn’t get metaphor. Crossing Zero is far more than an analysis of American military options on the ground for which Bing West is clearly an expert. In Crossing Zero we question the very nature of the use of force itself and its failure to accomplish anything, a question that a career military man cannot indulge in publically without risking self-annihilation. The best thing you could say is that this comparison reveals a deep lack of comprehension of the differences between our work and West’s.
If anything more was needed to justify our analysis that American military and foreign policy circles have reached the point of their own undoing in Afghanistan is the recent revelation of the illegal use of Psychological Warfare techniques in Afghanistan on not only U.S. Senators and Congressmen but also the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen. To quote from the Rolling Stone article, Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators by Michael Hastings:
“My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. “I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.”
And what might that line be? We call that line Zero line: the geographic location where the unbridled use of force turns against itself and produces its own undoing.
*Publishers Weekly Review of Crossing Zero
“Broadcast journalists and documentary filmmakers Fitzgerald and Gould (Invisible History) distill three decades of covering Afghanistan into a searing indictment of U.S. foreign policy in this predictable and unconvincing polemic. Dismissing the U.S. war in Afghanistan as “a thinly disguised effort to dominate South Central Asia,” the authors conclude that the Durand (or Zero) line—the porous international border that separates Afghanistan and Pakistan—also marks “the vanishing point for the American empire, the point beyond which its power and influence disappears or simply ceases to exist.” Pointing to the chaos in Afghanistan and an Iraq descending into violence, the authors evoke “a punch-drunk American leadership on the verge of collapse.” While their contention that U.S. policy in Afghanistan is seriously, if not fatally, flawed is legitimate, it has been made less dogmatically and more convincingly by other recent critics, including war correspondent and former defense official Bing West in The Wrong War. (Apr.)”