VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE I

“Right now we are using beards as beards, trying to prop up the Northern Alliance and hoping that somehow a Southern Alliance will materialize like a genie from Aladdin’s lamp. But the stories about the lame rebel force with its wooden saddles and line of old Russian tanks get sillier and sillier, like scenes out of the Marx Brothers or Woody Allen’s “Bananas.” TV footage shows troops practicing taking hills, and confused about whether they are supposed to advance or retreat after they win a battle with the Taliban.” – Maureen Dowd, New York Times, November 7.

VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE II: “The first body bags are now on their way home to the US, adding to the number of American families stricken by grief and loss. Once again – for what? Predictably, relentlessly, this conflict shows every sign of becoming the Vietnam of our generation – the graveyard of strategic interests and ideals, as well as lives.” – Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, October 22.

VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE III: “Key Afghan opposition commanders are on the verge of abandoning the fight against the Taliban because their confidence in US military strategy has collapsed. Insurgents are no longer willing to infiltrate eastern Taliban-controlled Afghanistan because they believe American blunders are destroying the opportunity to spread revolt against the Islamist regime.” – “Opposition leaders ready to quit battle against Taliban. US blunders leave key fighters disillusioned” – by Rory Carroll, the Guardian, November 9, the day Mazar-e-Sharif fell.

VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE

“‘If you can’t be like bin Laden,’ one Army critic told me, ‘you’re in trouble.’ Another critic said the Rangers are a sledgehammer when a dagger is needed. Shortcomings in Afghanistan cannot be laid at the feet of one general. Hostility to special operations has deepened over 20 years. Expertise in unconventional warfare has not been the track to rapid promotion. The nation’s senior general officers were unprepared on Sept. 11 to fight the Taliban, and there is no sign that they are ready today.” – Robert Novak, “Unprepared for Afghanistan,” November 12.

INTRODUCING THE VON HOFFMAN AWARD

“The war in Afghanistan, the one [Bush] should never have declared, has run into trouble. Just a few weeks into it and it’s obvious that the United States is fighting blind. The enemy is unknown, and the enemy’s country is terra incognita. We have virtually no one we can trust who can speak the languages of the people involved. With all our firepower and our technical assets and our spy satellites, it looks like we don’t know if we’re coming or going … We are mapless, we are lost, and we are distracted by gusts of wishful thinking. That our high command could believe the Afghani peasantry or even the Taliban would change sides after a few weeks of bombing! This is fantasizing in high places. In the history of aerial bombardment, can you think of a single instance of the bombed embracing the bombers? Bombing always unites the bombees against the bombers, and-duh!-guess what the reaction has been in Afghanistan? You don’t need to speak Urdu to figure it out, which is good since none of us does … Moreover, as hellish as the Taliban are, it appears that the ordinary people of Afghanistan prefer them to the brigands and bandits with whom we’ve been trying to make common cause-and who, we’ve been hinting, will take part in a postwar government.” – Nicholas von Hoffman, New York Observer, November 14! Readers are hereby invited to search the web to find the most prophetically challenged pieces of media war-wisdom so far. Please put Von Hoffman in the subject line.