Afghanistan : Get Out Before It’s Too Late

Learn from history:
Withdraw from Afganistan now

…the United States and its NATO allies [have] slipped deeper and deeper into the Afghanistan quagmire with the same historical ignorance that characterized American lack of awareness of Vietnamese history.

By Harry Targ / The Rag Blog / October 3, 2009

We are approaching a time when critical decisions will be made on Afghanistan; whether the U.S. government will expand the war for years, sucking us into a quagmire of unimaginable proportions, or disengage, increasing the possibility of investing in health care reform, modest responses to the danger of climate change, and jobs and justice for workers.

Forty-five years ago, as President Johnson was signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and launching the Great Society programs to lift “the other America” out of poverty he was making apocryphal decisions to send thousands of young men to fight and die in Vietnam (and to kill some three million Vietnamese people).

With growing Vietnamese resistance to the U.S. war effort, the U.S. military turned to massacring villagers, assassinating suspected enemies, and carpet bombing and napalming. The hopes and dreams of a better America were burned to a crisp in the jungles of Vietnam.

As many have written in print and cyberspace, the war in Afghanistan must come to an end. Francis Boyle, an international lawyer and professor, wrote in 2002 that the United States should never have made war on Afghanistan. The tragedy of 9/11 was an act of terrorism, not an act of war launched by Afghanistan.

“An act of war is a military attack by one state against another state. There is so far no evidence produced that the state of Afghanistan, at the time, either attacked the United States or authorized or approved such an attack.”

Nothing ever since justifies the war the United States initiated in Afghanistan in October, 2001.

In the subsequent years, the United States and its NATO allies slipped deeper and deeper into the Afghanistan quagmire with the same historical ignorance that characterized American lack of awareness of Vietnamese history. As Marc Pilisuk, social psychologist, reminds us about Vietnam,

“Fear of admitting we were wrong led to one new tactic after another. With military efforts bogged down in unfriendly jungle areas, we resorted to the use of toxic herbicides and ‘open target area bombing,’ burning villages, torturing peasants for information, propping up a succession of puppet governments… Efforts to ‘win the minds and hearts’ of people were undermined by military violence and a nearly universal wish to get the U.S. troops out of their country.”

Pilisuk then elaborates on the complex history of Afghanistan; which includes defeating invading imperial armies, internal tribal conflicts, U.S. support for those now seen as terrorists in the 1980s war against the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul, and shocking underdevelopment. He compellingly argues that: “Planning to remake Afghanistan in the back offices of the Pentagon is to repeat the neglect of cultural and historical factors in Vietnam.”

What to do now? Tom Hayden initiated a petition campaign in September, 2009, securing signatures of those who demand an end to the war in Afghanistan. In it he proposes an exit strategy that makes sense:

  1. Our government should adopt an exit strategy from Afghanistan based on all-party talks, regional diplomacy, unconditional humanitarian aid, and timelines for the near-term withdrawal of American and NATO combat troops.
  2. The aerial bombardments of Afghan and Pakistan villages, like burning down haystacks to find terrorist needles, should end.
  3. Military spending should be reversed in Afghanistan to focus on food, medicine, shelter, the socio-economic needs of the poor, and the dignity of women and children.

As these scholar/activists correctly state: the United States should never have made war on Afghanistan and the eight year war reflects the same ignorance of the history the U.S. displayed in Vietnam. As the Hayden petition argues, the Obama administration must embark on a diplomatic effort to bring together contending political forces in Afghanistan with the assistance of interested governments in Asia and the Persian Gulf.

The only solution to the war in Afghanistan is the withdrawal of United States troops from that country. Adopting the recommendations of Generals McChrystal and Petraeus for more troops is a blueprint for disaster.

[Harry Tarq is a professor in American Studies who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana. He blogs at Diary of a Heartland Radical, where this article also appears.]

The Rag Blog

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14 Responses to Afghanistan : Get Out Before It’s Too Late

  1. Masterspork says:

    Except the Ideas from both Generals has lead to a major improvement in Iraq. I can help in Afghanistan as well.

    “With military efforts bogged down in unfriendly jungle areas, we resorted to the use of toxic herbicides and ‘open target area bombing,’ burning villages, torturing peasants for information, propping up a succession of puppet governments.”

    We are not doing this in Afghanistan or Iraq. Also what is the source for this statement?

    “An act of war is a military attack by one state against another state. There is so far no evidence produced that the state of Afghanistan, at the time, either attacked the United States or authorized or approved such an attack.”

    Yes they did, they offered protection and included members of AL Qaeda in their government. Not to mention that that they have conducted several major attacks over the 90s. Also this operation was approved by the UN as well.

  2. Fed Up says:

    Buying off the Sunni to temporarily stop attacking US troops is not “success”, its a truce, nothing more.

    Of course, other than having stopped Saddam Hussein from trading in the Euro and not the Dollar, I don’t know what “success” is in Iraq OR Afghanistan.

    The government of Afghanistan did not exactly protect Bin Laden, they refused to turn him over without a trial. In any case, what we were told was that this was not an invasion, it was just a police action to get Bin Ladin, and if the Taliban got in the way, too bad for them.

    As for what happened in Vietnam, I need no source; two of my cousins fought there and came back drug addicted. I watched footage of Vietnam every day on the evening news for years, and especially during Operaton Rolling Thunder, those planes were dropping that monster napalm every day! There is film footage of it all over the Net.

    But FYR: (1) (2) Napalm:

    Of course, I’m sure you would not mind, with your moral logic, if the USA were invaded? By your logic, the world ought to have invaded us for what we did to African Americans up until 1965…that was far more brutal than what occurs in most of the world now. What do you think, eh?

  3. richard jehn says:

    MS: The one thing I wish you would understand is that the significant majourity of readers here are pacifists. We do not believe war/aggression/fighting are ever the ultimate solution. I recall you saying something early on that there will always be war. It is not necessary, but it will take humans of great vision to understand that we need not fight to live good lives.

    You may be right that we learned the lessons of Vietnam and do not carpet bomb (although Tora Bora sure looked a lot like carpet bombing) or use herbicides now, but we definitely are still doing the other things: torturing civilians for information, killing civilians with drones, propping up a puppet government.

    I think you refuse to see the truth because you are stuck on the notion that you are doing good in your service in the military. In my view, you are deluded. We are so heavily bombarded with untruth in the news and by the DoD that it is nearly impossible to dig out the truth.

  4. Masterspork says:

    The deals with the the different factions of Iraq are not that basic. One of the major differences that has helped out a lot is instead of dealing the top leadership first, we are working with these groups on the local level to make sure that their problems are addressed. Also there are more groups then just the Sunnis.

    Have you talked to anyone who lives there or who has been there? Because it is kinda hard to see the changes half a world away.

    Yes the Taliban was protecting him.

    So the US military was giving out drugs? Except want is you claim that we intentionally bombed civilian targets?

    So tell me;
    When has the US used chemical weapons on their own people?

    While those things during that time where bad, comparison is bad at best. Also may I remind you that the US Army used used to enforce De-segregation in the late 50s. Also not to mention that Anti-KKK laws put into effect by President Grant. Not to mention the Civil War which still is the highest US death count to date.

  5. Masterspork says:

    Pacifist is not a excuse for apathy. I can deal with this view that violence is not a answer. What I cannot is the view that some how not trying to help or offer ideas of how to fix things. Because while you are busy posting all the horrors that are happening in the world, you do not have to face the personal danger the people you write about do.

    There are groups that are in war zones that are trying to reduce the danger there at risk to their own person. I disagree with their views but I respect that they are at least willing to do something about it.

    Untruth? Do I have to remind you who has first hand accounts from the locals again? I do no watch TV and rarely watch the DOD. You doing the same thing that your accusing me of. That is replying of the Press to say what is happening in these two nations.

    The information I try to get are from people who have been there/are there and post about it on the web.

  6. Pollyanna says:

    Kind of an aside but I think it worth mentioning: while the right-wing media has been jumping all over Obama for his attempt and/or his failure to get the Olympics for Chicago, he met quietly with Gen. McChrystal for 45 minutes, in Air Force One, there in Denmark.

    I would posit that this meeting, rather than the Olympic bid, was the real reason for Obama’s trip to Copenhagen (McChrystal flew in from London). What the Commander in Chief may have had to say to his General, or listen to from him, is something we should look for over the next days and weeks.

  7. Masterspork says:

    Fair enough, I would be very interest in finding out what was the result of that meeting.

  8. Fed Up says:

    MS, you are right about trying to do something positive in the real situation you are in. I admire you for that.

    In the Vietnam war, a lot of soldiers did a lot of postiive things. I personally knew a lot of soldiers and Vets who told me a lot of things they did or witnessed…like what do you do when you are at the My Lai Massacre?

    I guess every warrior has to ask the ultimate question: is what the CIVILIAN AUTHORITY is telling me to do in the interests of the people I am a warrior for?

    Personally, I don’t see how invading and occupying a soverign people is just…and its the PEOPLE you are invading…you cannot sequester off Saddam Hussein, you know. I still say that if we were not invaded and occupied for what we did to African Americans up to 1965, then no one should be invaded for the reasons we have been given lately.

  9. Masterspork says:

    As far as our government that is why we can vote. But you have to remember that the Military service is just that a service to Nation. So unless you can show that a certain act is illegal you do not have anything to stand on. Like the Officers that refuse to deploy because of the claim that President Obama is not a citizen of the United States.

    Also with the view that we should have been invaded is a stretch. I mean we took care of it in house. have a link of how we sent US troops to AK in 1957.

    Also with Iraq regardless of one’s views on the invasion it made it a chaotic unstable place. So from that point the mission changed from invasion to stabilization. that is one of the reason that I joined in 2006 rather then before 2003. Also when we talked to the Iraqis, that wanted the combat solider gone, but wanted the soldiers that did constructions and repairs to stay because we where improving things. Also we are working under the Iraqi government due to the new US-Iraqi security pact.

  10. dospesentas says:

    “Vietnam” “Quagmire” – I see, now we shift these terms from Iraq to Afaganistan. Defeatist terms from the glass half empty crowd – is this what we have become? Polyanna throws in the ‘Olympic’ failure as well. O.K., I’ll play: 1) TOTAL failure on the Olympics = 0 votes for US…good job Barrack, Oprah and Michelle. 2) HUNDREDS of ‘stimlus pork’ billions blown = no new jobs, hundreds of thousands more lost each month and 10% unemployment and rising. 3) GITMO still open for business = status quo 4) Healthcare QUAGMIRE = inability to win even with a majority 5) Cash for clunkers = take from some to give to others – results? GM sales down 49%, Chrysler down 42%…great job 6) Exodus from Iraq = 150,000 troops and 100,000 contractors still in place … great job. 7) ACORN scandals = revalations of a corrupt, stealth, political machine …. which happens to be Obama’s “incubator”. While on the topic of ‘O’s’ incubator, heres a little quote for ‘FEDUP’: “If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community … Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal” – the quote comes from ‘O’s’ mentor Jeremiah Wright. How’s that square with your claim; “what we did to African Americans up until 1965…that was far more brutal than what occurs in most of the world now”. I ask, have you been around the world now to actually see what’s going on now? Plenty of dirt exists for all. 8) Cap and Trade = biggest tax increase in history…’O’ supresses EPA report contrary to global warming, avoids discussion of resulting inflation 9) ‘O’ sells out key European allies, pulls plug on missle defense = HUGE security failure. The defense system, long criticized as technical falure, continues to rack up successes in testing is scrapped – perhaps ‘Os biggest mistake. Say it doesn’t work? Then why are the Ruskies so concerned? 10) Massive failures in middle east diplomacy = alienated Israel, Iran playing ‘O’ like a fiddle. ‘O’ opens his big mouth to prematurely reveal knowledge of secret Iranian facility. Iranians laughing say “come inspect” since the place isn’t even operational. Great Job ‘O’ (and while he’s at it, ‘O’s’ cut Holder loose to reveal dozens of covert CIA operatives – where are the Plame critics on this?) Is this the ‘CHANGE’ we voted for? Continous rehasing the stale excuse of ‘inhereted’ problems is getting thin. MORAL OF THE STORY: “man who juggles too many eggs; eats many omelets”

    I digress. On Afganistan; wasn’t this the GOOD war? What happened to Osama Bin Forgotten? Bush was criticized for failing to get him, what have we done lately? Ccutting and running in Afganistan? Unlike Vietnam and Iraq, an unstable muslum neighbor with proven stockpiles of nukes is at stake. Pakastan can’t even eject the Taliban and Al Quida from their western provences. The fact Abdul Khan walks free speaks volumes. Afganistan isn’t a prize, or why we went in in the first place – it wasn’t to punish 9/11 terrorists (who are mostly dead and Saudi’s). The stakes are too high for failure, ‘O’ better listen to the guys on the ground.

    THE LEFT’s PLAN: attack and denegrate ‘tea baggers’, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Republicans while our ‘leader’ breaks promises, racks up more debt and failures. You got yer change – LOL

  11. My husband spent 20 years in the Marines; did two tours of duty in Viet Nam – has numerous awards (including the Distinguished Flying Cross award), and still maintains the USA did the right thing.

    Had I met my husband in his early years, he would not have been my husband because I do NOT believe in war.

    As to suggest that being a pacifist is akin to apathy is absolutely not the case. It takes as much commitment and energy to be a pacifist as it does to be a war-monger. We despise the apathetic because too many of them wind up in the military…….

  12. Masterspork says:

    Does he know that? Also I am willing to be that it has nothing to do with war why you would not be with him. I think that you would have not been willing to deal with the separation of deployments. That the stress of someone that you love is in harms way for a year or more. Because this is a common stress that military spouses have to deal with the idea that they could be told that their loved one was killed or wounded. But the hardest one is that when they come home, they could very well be a different person that you fell in love with. That is why divorce is not uncommon in the military.

    Also the idea that you would not want to date him because he was a solider and you do not like war, is about the same as not wanting to date a cop because you do not like crime.

    What I suggested is the idea of pacifism is more then just decrying wars and conflicts from the safety of your own home. The difference I see is the willing to do something about it with real life applications rather then “what iffing”. Because that ability is what sets apart those who want to help rather then just talk about it. Which one are you and why?

  13. There is nothing in Afghanistan to “build up”. A strong central government that can protect the peace will never exist. I have no problem with war and was thrilled to watch the US military topple the Taliban.

    I am about as conservative as they come but I have always opposed the continued war in Afghanistan. Get out now and leave the country to those who wish to rule it. If our intelligence services determine that terrorists there mean to export their terror to us or our allies, then I have no problem with going back and wiping out the threat with extreme prejeduce.

  14. masterspork says:

    But I do not think that one can view Afghan government in the terms of a centralized government. It is this view that I think was holding us back in Iraq as well. Because I would say that Afghanistan runs more like a bunch of city states rather then one government. So that is why each area should be looked at separately to make sure their needs and concerns are address. That is one way of denying the terrorist support because you are helping them with their daily lives. But in order to do that, I think we need more troops to;

    1. Provide security,
    2. Train Afghan police and Army from military tactics to Geneva convention rules.
    3. Help provide and address concerns of local villages to deny them to the Insurgents.

    I am reluctant to withdraw our troops it that there is not a equivalent civilian aid/ support for the local population, we will be stetting up a another situation where we return in 10-20 years. I rather try to deal with it now then having it left to the next generation.

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