Matthew Hoh, a 36-year-old former Marine and Iraq war veteran, said he was stepping down as the senior U.S. civilian official in Zabul province, northeast of Kandahar, because he had "lost understanding of, and confidence in, the strategic purposes of the United States' presence."
Mr. Hoh, who served in military and civilian capacities in Iraq, is thought to be first civilian U.S. official to quit to protest his country's continuing presence in Afghanistan.
In brief remarks to reporters yesterday, he said, "We may be able to stabilize the Afghan government in five to 10 years, but stabilizing the Afghan government will do nothing to defeat al-Qaeda."
You can read Matthew Hoh's letter below:
Matthew Hoh first US official to resign over Afghan War
Here is some reaction from around the blogosphere to Hoh's resignation and the significance of this act during a time when President Obama is being encouraged to escalate the war effort.
Alan Block from Orange Punch:
I don’t know if it was ever as prevalent in reality as in lore, but resignation used to be considered the honorable course of officials who disagreed with policies they were asked to implement. It will be interesting to see whether Hoh gets more publicity as debate over the Afghan war perhaps heats up between now and after Nov. 7, when Obama has said he’ll announce his decision, or becomes a regular presence on cable TV or blog sites. I have no idea how articulate he is, but from the excerpts I’ve seen he writes a pretty good letter.
Joel at Infinite Monkeys:
If Hoh is right -- and there's quite a bit of his analysis that overlaps with Gen. Stanley McChrystal's -- then many of the insurgent groups lumped together under the label of "Taliban" are fighting against the U.S. and NATO because the U.S. and NATO are there. And we are there, fighting these groups, because they're there fighting. We're in a cycle in Afghanistan that we're fighting the war there because we're fighting the war there. That's not really a smart way to protect Americans from terrorism.
How long are we going to continue to do this? We invade and occupy a country, and then label as "insurgents" or even "terrorists" the people in that country who fight against our invasion and occupation. With the most circular logic imaginable, we then insist that we must remain in order to defeat the "insurgents" and "terrorists" -- largely composed of people whose only cause for fighting is our presence in their country. All the while, we clearly exacerbate the very problem we are allegedly attempting to address -- Terrorism -- by predictably and inevitably increasing anti-American anger and hatred through our occupation, which, no matter the strategy, inevitably entails our killing innocent civilians.
Hoh told The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung that he's "not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love" and that he believes "there are plenty of dudes who need to be killed," adding: "I was never more happy than when our Iraq team whacked a bunch of guys." Plainly, there's nothing ideological about his conclusions; they're just the by-product of an honest assessment, based on first-hand experiences, of how our ongoing occupation of that country is worsening the very problem we're allegedly there to solve.
Herschel Smith from The Captain's Journal:
The long war. That phrase that so many people are afraid to use, and which has been used so many times here at The Captain’s Journal. Jules understands. And I understand that Captain Hoh is an honorable man for sticking to his principles. He has a right to decide how he wants, just as I have a right to decide against his views. What I don’t get is why Captain Hoh is getting so much attention. So another State employee doesn’t want to see us in Afghanistan. How many more hundreds are there?
Finally, I find it rather embarrassing and gushy that State worked so hard to retain him. If he is so decidedly against the campaign in Afghanistan that he feels that he cannot work at State, then he should go rather than be begged to stay. The fact of the matter is that this thinking is systemic to not only State but the entire administration.