The Only Way Forward is the Way Home
by Charles Karel Bouley
December 1, 2009, World AIDS Day, President Barack Obama came forward in front of shiny new cadets at Westpoint to make his case for not only the continued war in Afghanistan but for an escalation, a surge. The speech was to be decisive, it was to lay out the where, what, why and how long this almost decade long occupation would be fought and, allegedly, won.
What the nation got was a mish-mash of clichés, rhetoric made to rouse a sense of patriotism and unity, defensive posturing of a position … and Bushtonian vagueness and keywords. What the nation did not get was one clear cut, crystallized reason to keep 68,000 current young men and women in harm’s way, and certainly no justification for putting another 30,000 in that war theatre, at the cost of one million per soldier per year, or a new price tag of about $98 billion per year or almost $150b for the next 18 months (give or take a billion or five).
The President said the decision to escalate in Afghanistan was a painful one that took great thought and that is the very root of the Afghanistan dilemma. Since war is the ultimate failure of diplomacy, the final, last ditch effort to save country, life, or resources or a direct response to an invasion, attack or affront of the direst of nature, since waging ongoing wars has actually destroyed nations, including many in the very area now in turmoil, the need for war should be painfully obvious to all or most. In other words, no case should have to be made for a just cause to the very people fighting for the cause. The cause should be obvious, and in Afghanistan, as Iraq, it is not, even for our leaders.
In Obama’s speech a variety of reasons were given for the United States to continue fighting in Afghanistan. First, there’s 9/11, an event referenced as much by Obama eight years later as Bush in his build up to Iraq. Invoking the spectre of 3500 dead people used to work for Bush, but now Americans have put that event in perspective. It was, and is, a tragedy perpetrated on our country by a group of radical thugs, a gang; not a country, not an empire, not a people, but a gang, like Bloods, Crips or any others.
Gangs in America are responsible for thousands of deaths each year, but the country doesn’t go to war with the East Side of Los Angeles, CA or the entire city of Salinas, CA, which boasts the title of the only U.S. city where 100% of their homicides, 26 as of this writing, are gang related. We don’t send troops to the salad bowl of America, although they are now, in fact, calling upon the military in that city to train their police in counter-insurgency techniques used in Iraq.
Because the gang problem cannot be solved by brute force alone, in America or Afghanistan. Al-Qu’aeda is a well funded gang of Muslims with bases world wide with multiple countries of origin (including ours, remember the attacks were launched from within, Al Qu’aeda was and is operating here, so where do we invade…Kansas?)
No country can simply go around the world bombing and occupying country after country on the hunt for gang members, destroying lives and spending fortunes along the way; ask Rome, ask Russia ask (insert fallen empire here). It doesn’t work. President Obama is a wise man and should know that. The United States could completely wipe out every member of Al Qu’aeda in Afghanistan, get the Taliban to act right and have peace and joy in region (something no empire has been able to do for thousands of years FYI) and Al Qu’aeda would still exist with base camps elsewhere. You cannot stop Al Qu’aeda totally and if foreign policy and the role of religion in world politics isn’t addressed the battle will wage infinitely. Ask any inner city. Until the revenue stream for American gangs dries up (meaning until street drugs are legal) no amount of enforcement will totally solve the problem; just relocate it. The same with Al Qu’aeda. Until it becomes nearly impossible for them to recruit, until their cause is seen as completely fringe, like White Supremicists here, then there’s no winning.
So killing, capturing and bringing to justice the actual persons responsible for the attacks on 9/11 and wiping out their entire network of thugs and gang members is simply not possible any longer. That ship has sailed. George W. Bush did not go after Osama Bin Laden he went after Sadaam Hussein and Congress, including a Democratic one from 2006 on, let him. Meanwhile, Bin Laden was left to make more videos than Lady GaGa and Afghanistan was left as the bastard stepchild of world military actions.
After the obligatory 9/11 part of the speech, the subject moved to Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan, its stability along the border, its elections, its nuclear weapons…suddenly those were or are a major concern in the Afghan mission. Some how the mission has morphed from finding and killing Osama Bin Laden and his immediate gang of thugs that attacked our country. If one refers to the text of the speech by Obama on 12/1/09 the title is “The Way Forward In Afghanistan and Pakistan.” It gets second billing but seems the top concern. And throughout the text of the speech there are less than 10 times that Afghanistan is mentioned without “and Pakistan.”
Now most of the media has not made much of the fact that Pakistan is now a major, and thus costly, concern. The President laid out many reasons for America to care about Pakistan’s health and well being but according to polls taken prior to and after the speech, America still isn’t buying it.
And making Afghanistan about Pakistan is very Busthonian. Stating that “…we will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan” and that “we are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That is why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border…” certainly makes it clear that we now have Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of our war lexicon.
President Obama asked for focus; he should. In 2001 a group of mostly Saudi nationals, a group of well funded gang members from the Middle East Al Qu’aeda’s headed by Osama Bin Ladin, another well funded Saudi national, hijacked American planes and flew them in to two buildings in New York City. One ignorant President drew a line from ground zero to Baghdad for yet-to-be-understood reasons and now it appears this one has borrowed the same protractor and compass and is sketching America’s way towards Islamabad; both missing the real targets along the way.
As the President made a strong and passionate case about why the border region is so important, how difficult the terrain is, how challenging the mission, one couldn’t help but wonder if it’s such a difficult region and so key, why not just use large bombs or small nukes? Why occupy the entire country.
Because that wouldn’t be good for the nation building exercise the U.S. seems to be on in Iraq, Afghanistan and now, enter Pakistan front and center.
President Obama stated “we simply cannot affort to ignore the price of these wars.” Is that what Congress was doing all along?
America is broke. Without borrowing money each and every day from the Chinese and others, we would not be able to survive. If things continue, the country may have to pull a Dubai and ask for a break from creditors. California is the first failed state in the Union, with countless major international articles pointing out that if California or the U.S. were a real business they would be insolvent. The state even issued IOUs in the midst of its financial crisis.
As the importance of continued invasion was stressed, the $30b for one year, $45 billion for 18 months (given the proposed impossible 2011 deadline for removal) just for the troop increase alone wasn’t really discussed, let alone the $68b per year the existing one million per soldier on the ground formula provides. Rousing phrases like “the nation I am most interested in building is our own” are great, but no real, honest numbers were put forward. In this detailed plan, the major detail, how, specifically, the U.S. will pay tens of thousands of soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and let’s not forget South Korea (we never ended the Korean war) was never fleshed out.
The President pointed out “America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development…” Substantial resources sound expensive and to stand in front of a nation with record unemployment, poverty, failing economy, homelessness, foreclosures, basically, a depression and make the nation aware that their government is putting substantial resources in to any other people but their own may have done more to detract from the message of needed commitment.
The President spoke of timelines, something Bush never did, and then presented one that is not only foolish, but logistically almost impossible. And given the timeline one could easily surmise that the only real reason for an 18 month deployment with vague goals and shadowy enemies was to spend money. Why does President Obama and this administration want to continue to pump billions in to Halliburton, Xe (formerly Blackwater), KBR and all the other war profiteers that are not only still operating in Iraq making fortunes but ready and willing to make more billion in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
The President tried to make the case that this is a moral cause and that Americans must practice their own morality to win all around. He exhibit the same disassociate disorder of his predecessor when he stated, “And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are.”
This is the President that has upheld many Bush era spy tactics, the Patriot Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, is against same sex marriage and did not speak out when Maine and California denied tax paying residents equality, is allowing health care to be held hostage by abortion right’s activists without so much as a word and has no effective, fair immigration policy as of yet. And to say “We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours…” with a straight face was a superior job indeed.
Because sought or not, we have occupied other nations for almost a decade now, two, with no real end in sight. Most know oil was involved. As for faith and ethnicity making targets, we did not defend the Kurds against the Turks, the Kurds in Iraq, a country we occupy, the Turks, our NATO allies. They attacked the Kurds, in a country we occupy, and we did nothing. We side with Sunni’s all the time in Iraq, since most Iranians are Shia and Iran is the new boogeyman. And we side with the Jews in the region, making us targets…oh, religion and ethnicity is a HUGE factor in it all.
But perhaps the biggest issue of the speech itself was summed up by President Obama when he said about security and leadership that it comes ” from the men and women in uniform who are part of an unbroken line of sacrifice that has made government of the people, by the people, and for the people a reality on this Earth.”
It’s not a reality in the United States, not at this moment in time. The people do not want the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, period, end of story. By majority in November of 2008 a message was sent to get the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Come home. Not in 2011, 2013, but start now, immediately. No escalations, come home. Even after this speech, the mood in the country has not changed; these wars are bankrupting our country, the goals are too vague and the costs too high. Declare victory, come home, and solve the problem another way.
People want health care, not health insurance, health care; not many appear to be listening. People want jobs, better wages, banks that don’t rape them, corporations to be treated as the mostly opportunistic despots that many have turned in to and the government to begin caring more for the actual people than the banks, bankers and corporate executives that seem to fund and run everything.
And some are in the streets even during Obama’s speech; Liberals. Democrats, Progressives. Activist Cindy Sheehan was ready to get arrested after President Obama’s speech by shutting down Las Vegas Boulevard with a group of protesters when we connected via telephone.
“Why everyone isn’t in the streets today protesting is beyond me,” she commented. “Obama is going back on so many promises, and not following the mandate of the people,” she continued. “We do not want an escalation in Afghanistan. And we still want out of Iraq, where are the troops? Why aren’t they coming home more rapidly? And now to send 30,000 more, it’s immoral, it goes against what we wanted and want and I won’t stop unit these useless wars do.”
The President delivered a well written speech that pulled all the stops and tried to hit every trigger to get more support for the Afghan occupation and Pakistani expansion. The problem seems to be that Americans have heard it all before, albeit spoken much better this time by a more eloquent, educated man. And it appears Americans are tired of Presidents coming to them and asking to wage more war for unclear reasons, or reason, quite frankly, a dying country doesn’t have the resources or time with which to deal.
These are now the Democrat’s and President Barack Obama’s wars. They can be ended as easily as they are started if there is will to do so. The will for peace seems able to be delayed, obtained in 2011, 2013, the end of this month of that year, and the need to cut losses and come home to rebuild this failing nation is all but lost.
The speech was passionate, but not very Progressive. In fact, sending 30,000 more troops to the middle east seems extremely regressive. Same generals, same terrain, different desert, same vague goal of busting up the house of one gang to stop it from spreading in to another Middle Eastern country. America, again, is lost in it all.
The only way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan is the way home. That appears to be the one thing many have taken from a speech given to spark interest instead of disdain.
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