From the new July-August 2011 issue of News & Letters:
Following his triumphant announcement on May 1 that Osama bin Laden had been killed in al Qaeda’s secret headquarters in the garrison town of Abbottabad, Pakistan, President Obama as Commander-in-Chief had enough political cover from the warmongering right wing that he probably could have declared “Mission Accomplished” and ordered an abrupt departure from Afghanistan. His choice instead to stay and continue permanent war not only guarantees more bloodshed for Afghans and Americans, but risks his own political isolation.
After Osama bin Laden’s killing, News and Letters Committees posted on our website, http://www.newsandletters.org, our response to the mass killings of Sept. 11, 2001, centered on the World Trade Center: “Against the Double Tragedy: Say no to terrorism and Bush’s drive to war!” It took up how then-President Bush wanted “to use the attacks as an excuse to militarize America, restrict civil liberties, and prepare for what the rulers have long aspired for–permanent military intervention overseas. Bush is being given a free hand to rebuild the military, gut domestic social programs, and bury the memory of his stolen election. On a single day the terrorists succeeded in totally shifting the ideological ground and handed the far Right one of its greatest victories.”
OBAMA FOLLOWS BUSH’S POLICY
The decisiveness of that shifting of the ideological ground is most clearly seen in that, ten years later, Obama has worked to preserve the militarization at home and abroad that Bush instituted. He signed an extension of Bush’s Patriot Act, complete with warrantless searches of library and business records, which had barely passed over the objections of many Democrats and Republicans alike. Disregarding his promises, he has maintained unconstitutional detentions at Guantanamo, and military tribunals.
Obama has overseen the permanent garrisoning of Iraq, currently with “non-combat” troops, and next year with nearly 20,000 personnel quartered in the world’s largest embassy, but still underpinning the Iraqi regime.
Obama’s timetable of at least three more years of war in Afghanistan is a slow-speed de-escalation, even compared to Nixon’s withdrawal from Vietnam. It threatens not just the Afghan people and the U.S. military, but Obama himself.
The Administration had hinted that, following the generals, the scheduled July 1 drawdown of troops from Afghanistan would be only token, no more than 4,000 troops out of 102,000. “Overruling” the generals in his June 22 speech to the nation, Obama announced a withdrawal of 10,000 by year’s end and 23,000 more by September 2012. The occupying forces on the eve of the Presidential election will be double what Obama inherited–not to mention the equally large Bush-crony corporate private armies.
OPPOSITION GROWS, HYPOCRISY REMAINS
Opinion polls now show 70% opposition to the war in Afghanistan, greater than the opposition measured by any poll during the Vietnam War. Some Republicans who have seen those polls have taken up a new cudgel against Obama over Afghanistan. Mainstream Republican candidates like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman vow to campaign on bringing the troops home.
Not just libertarian, isolationist and Tea Party elements in the Republican Party, but also veteran Congressmen who had supported Bush’s invasions, seem to expect political success from attacking Obama’s war in 2012, just as repeating “jobs, jobs, jobs” was effective for them in 2010 Congressional races.
But when it comes to dollars, House Republicans did not tinker with the budget for Afghanistan, and actually increased the base defense budget to $548 billion. Where House Speaker Boehner tried to cut off funding is over Libya. While that bill failed, it drew bipartisan support from some anti-war Democrats treating Libya as a proxy for Afghanistan.
Capitalist rulers are still slow to hear the voices of Arab Spring in Yemen and Syria, and at first preferred the voice of Mubarak to the masses of Tahrir Square. U.S. and European powers, having created a working relationship with Qaddafi, refrained from taking a position in favor of Libyan rebels. Only when Qaddafi’s tanks and mercenary army drove rebels to the city of Benghazi and promised a massacre did NATO intervene.
U.S. SMOTHERS SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
Arab Spring has stopped short of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where U.S. troops and money hold sway. The effect of the U.S. presence has been to smother independent social movements, including women’s rights that Bush cited as an after-the-fact justification for invasion. Bush instead supported Karzai and Northern Alliance warlords even when they count votes like Iranian mullahs, skim the nation’s wealth like Mubarak and work deals with the Taliban.
Outspoken oppositionist politician Malalai Joya stated after the killing of Osama bin Laden: “One of the main excuses of the U.S. occupation is now gone. The struggle for independence, democracy, and freedom should get easier, but it won’t. Not without an end to occupation.”
To continue this ten-year-long war in Afghanistan, logic aligns the U.S. with Pakistani military and security elements that initially nurtured the Taliban, that sheltered al Qaeda and that assassinated the most prominent opposition politician, Benazir Bhutto.
Every drop of blood yet to be shed in Afghanistan benefits only enemies of the people. There is no excuse, end the war now.