Little Change, Barack's Blunder. This is the mildest of terms that will be used to explain the new president's decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Just like the Quaker (Richard Nixon) who promised to end another war, the new administration is giving in to the warmongers in his party who "cry peace, but bite with their teeth." Obama's decision to deploy an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan is a sign that "change" of American policy abroad can be a hollow word. The French have a wonderful expression for this: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (The more things change the more they stay the same).
In 1979, while America was still recovering from the experience of Vietnam the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan ….sparking a ten year long proxy war between the United States and the USSR that left much of Afghanistan destroyed and led to the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In late 2001, the U.S.A. invaded Afghanistan, culminating in an occupation and war that is now in its 8th year. The Commander on the ground, Gen. David McKiernan, has requested an additional four brigades - a doubling of the 30,000 U.S. troops that were in the country last year. He's following the orders of the new Administration in Washington.
It's no wonder that Obama's team is urging the president on to war - afterall, it's made up of the same type of Democrats who have involved the U.S. in other foreign wars and continue to spend, like drunken sailors, the nation's treasure on "defense". Chief warmongers include former President Bill Clinton, newly-appointed Secretary of State Hillary and advisor, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Ms. Albright famously declared "we think the price is worth it" when confronted with evidence that more than 500,000 Iraqi children had died as a direct result of U.S.-led embargos during the 1990's.
In his joint speech to Congress, Obama promised to give more money to the Pentagon with a budget that "increases the number of our soldiers and Marines". Administration officials have also announced that they plan to still have 30-50,000 occupation troops in Iraq more than nineteen months from now when they'll have "combat" forces removed. Many in the media and the left prefers to focus on the positive goals of the administration while ignoring or "spinning" the fact that the number of soldiers, dollars and years of foreign wars will increase under Barack. Days after the inaugural, Obama ordered the continuation of pilotless "drone" missile attacks on Pakistan, widening the war in the region.
Not to be outdone, Congressional leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi consistently vote in favor of additional military dollars…regardless to their words about being "against war". In fact, some members want to codify such spending. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) plan to introduce a joint congressional resolution to commit 4 percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) - forever into the future - to defense. This doesn't even include the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. Others caution, "not so fast"....... MORE Page 2>
In a replay of partisan politics, Democrats now find themselves defending the war actions of their president just as moderate Republicans did under Bush. The mandate to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is already being forgotten and generals are preparing for "three or more years" of occupation and war. Afghans weep.
Afghanistan is a country the size of Texas with a population of more than 38 million divided into various ethnic and language groups. The most common languages spoken in Afghanistan are Persian and Pashto and, like its neighbors Pakistan and Iran, Afghans are mostly non-Arabic Muslims. Afghanistan was once a fairly prosperous country but wars and droughts have taken their toll so that it now is heavily dependent on foreign aid and illegal drug production despite its wealth of untapped natural gas and petroleum reserves.
Young Afghans have lived with war and national disintegration for their entire lives and look only to more of the same under the new U.S. president. Save the Children reports Afghanistan has "high infant, child and maternal mortality; low immunization; chronic nutritional deficiencies among children; low literacy levels; low school enrollment and high drop-out rates, especially among girls; and difficulty protecting children and promoting their rights." Landmines, fighting, roadside and aerial bombings also make the country a "a generally unsafe place for children" (what an understatement!).
Their destruction is a direct result of policy decisions half a world away.
Eight years after the initial invasion of Iraq, U.S. military commanders report that the death toll from war reached a high during 2008. Nearly 270 foreign soldiers, 127 of them Americans, were killed in combat in the past year, versus 169 foreign combat deaths in 2007. Vice President Biden warns that the deaths will only increase. The number of Afghans who have been killed is uncounted in what is being called Operation Enduring Disaster.
The Taliban, toppled after the initial U.S.-led invasion, have regrouped and intensified the insurgency over the past three years. They have been able to mass larger forces to launch attack due to the overwhelming support for ousting "the occupiers" and the ongoing poverty and poor education that feeds violence. "Until we really have an impact here, in terms of healthcare, education, etc., Afghans will continue to suffer - and be amenable to ideological pressures of al-Qaeda," says Commander George Perez. But the words about reconstruction are lost on the Pentagon and its Commander in Chief. Many Afghans say that the Taliban is providing better security than either U.S. forces or the impotent national government in Kabul. They say that the situation in their country looks much like it did under the Soviet occupation and few of America's promises have been fulfilled.
In a recent interview, war correspondence Stephen Kinzer questioned, "Before we allow inertia and a general momentum, cloaked in our emotions, to drag us even deeper into Afghanistan, we need to stop and ask ourselves, 'Is this a military problem, or does it need a different kind of solution?'" Such questioned are echoed by the military itself. "What does winning mean?" asks Col. Skip Davis, a strategic adviser to Gen. McKiernan.
Some 70,000 foreign troops, nearly 30,000 of them Americans, already serve under NATO and the U.S. military's command in Afghanistan and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants to "double-down" the U.S. commitment during this Silent Winter of Escalation. Congress has already appropriated funds to continue the wars there and in Iraq through spring and summer of 2009 and, despite economic problems at home, will probably blindly approve trillions of dollars for "defense" in the years ahead.
Peace activists in America and around the world say "No!" to such escalation and ongoing war.
Instead we call upon our nation, and the international community, to address the real needs of Afghanistan with a focus on humanitarian aide and reconstruction rather than occupation and war. We need to stop this regional war before it spreads and becomes WWIII. "The US's 'war on terror' in Afghanistan has already destabilized Pakistan. The debris threatens to fall on India, too," says Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar who urges delinking solutions from those of the Bush Administration.
But, "there is a loud silence" from the "Peace'crats" wing of the Democratic Party, says Justin Raimondo at Antiwar.com. Along with other peace and antiwar activists, he sees partisan politics trumping over commitments to peaceful solutions among many Obama supporters. "We are entering a very dangerous time, as everyone's attention is diverted away from the field of foreign affairs while the economy melts down. (and as war is seen as the 'solution' to our economic problems)."
"Regardless of what happens down the line, the world knows the truth about the lies that both Democrats and Republicans promoted in support of Bush's war against Iraq [and Afghanistan]," says Jeremy Scahill, "Rather than inspire hope among Iraqis, the U.S. occupation has devastated their country and opened Iraq's gates for unprecedented violence and instability in their country and the region"
Texans for Peace, along with organizations like American Friends Service Committee, After Downing Street, Iraq Veterans Against the War war resisters, United for Peace and Justice and the members of Get Afghanistan Right demands a complete end to the war and occupation of Afghanistan and removal of all foreign troops from that country during 2009. Unarmed peace and humanitarians efforts are what is needed for Afghanistan - not more war. Democratic officials who continue warmongering will be castigated as strongly as George W's accomplices were.
As signatory of The National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations we call for mobilizations and demonstrations against these wars during the week of March 19-21, 2009, demanding that the occupations be ended, that all the troops and contractors be withdrawn immediately, and that all U.S. military bases be closed. We will resist and mobilize, rather than be forced to accept, these wars.
Those who put their hopes for "change" into the Obama Administration don't want to see it shattered by repeats of the same global hegemonic policies of prior administrations. However, it's up to every citizen to stand up to the government and warmongers within our association and bend policy back to peace.
Afghans, and Americans, deserve better.
Texans for Peace