Tom Hayden : Time to Strip Off the Obama Sticker

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Obama’s Afghanistan escalation:
Latest in a string of disappointments

I’ll support Obama down the road against Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs or any of the pitchfork carriers for the pre-Obama era. But no bumper sticker until the withdrawal strategy is fully carried out.

By Tom Hayden / December 2, 2009

It’s time to strip the Obama sticker off my car.

Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan is the last in a string of disappointments. His flip-flopping acceptance of the military coup in Honduras has squandered the trust of Latin America. His Wall Street bailout leaves the poor, the unemployed, minorities, and college students on their own. And now comes the Afghanistan-Pakistan decision to escalate the stalemate, which risks his domestic agenda, his Democratic base, and possibly even his presidency.

The expediency of his decision was transparent. Satisfy the generals by sending 30,000 more troops. Satisfy the public and peace movement with a timeline for beginning withdrawals of those same troops, with no timeline for completing a withdrawal.

Obama’s timeline for the proposed Afghan military surge mirrors exactly the 18-month Petraeus timeline for the surge in Iraq.

We’ll see. To be clear: I’ll support Obama down the road against Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs or any of the pitchfork carriers for the pre-Obama era. But no bumper sticker until the withdrawal strategy is fully carried out.

But for now, the fight is on.

This is not like the previous conflict with Bush and Cheney, who were easy to ridicule. Now this orphan of a war has a persuasive advocate, a formidable debater who will be arguing for support from the liberal center — one who wants to win back his Democratic base.

The anti-war movement will have to solidify support from the two-thirds of Democratic voters who so far question this war. Continuing analysis from The Nation and Robert Greenwald’s videos have a major role to play. Public opinion will have to become a growing factor in the mind of Congress, where Rep. Jim McGovern’s resolution favoring an exit strategy has 100 co-sponsors and Rep. Barbara Lee’s tougher bill to prevent funding for escalation is now at 23.

Key political questions in the immediate future are whether Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, will oppose Afghanistan funding without a surtax or is only bluffing, and whether Sen. Russ Feingold will step up with legislation for a withdrawal timetable.

Beyond public persuasion and pressuring Congress, activists are sure to be hitting the streets and precincts in the year ahead. The anti-war movement has a certain leverage based on the current doubt in the minds of voters and policy experts, and the potential dissent from within the Obama base. Democratic turnout increased 2.6 percent in 2008 over 2004, while Republican votes dropped by 1.3 percent. Twenty-two million more young people voted in 2008 than in 2004. The unprecedented energies of those young people who volunteered their time, money and hope could drain away by 2012, if not sooner.

In addition, the peace movement will be globalizing its reach as Obama seeks to extract more troop concessions from wary NATO countries. Opposition is particularly strong in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and France. When Obama accepts the Nobel Prize in Oslo on December 10, he may address as many as 10,000 protesters.

Adding 30,000 to 35,000 U.S. troops will raise the U.S. death toll by over 1,000 by 2011 on Obama’s watch, in addition to the 750 who died under Bush. The numbers of U.S. wounded are rising faster than ever, with 300 counted in the past three months. Civilian casualties are under-reported according to the UN mission in Afghanistan. The budgetary costs are growing to $75 billion annually, and this could become another trillion-dollar war.

The albatross of the Karzai government will threaten any plans to rapidly expand the Afghan army and police, themselves divided along sectarian lines. In 2005, the Kabul regime ranked 117th on the list compiled by Transparency International; by this year it was 176th.

There are alternatives. There is evidence that the Taliban in Afghanistan are seeking a peace settlement without havens for Al Qaeda. There also is an October 11 statement by Gulbaddin Hekmatyer of Hezb-I-Islam Afghanistan, a mujahadeen leader and former prime minister in the 1990s, once funded by the CIA. Never reported in the US media, the letter proposes an honorable exit strategy, including

  • relocation of Western troops from Afghan cities, plus a logical and practical time schedule for their withdrawal;
  • transfer of power to an interim government independent of the parties currently fighting;
  • new elections under an independent election commission;
  • release of political prisoners;
  • a possible peacekeeping force from neutral Islamic countries;
  • and, more important for the Obama agenda, the document states: Hezb-I-Islami is prepared to discuss the exit of all foreign fighters (non-Afghan, be it forces of the West, or embedded with the Mujahideen). We assure all sides that we agree that neither the embedded fighters with the Mujahideen nor foreign military forces be allowed to remain or to establish military bases or training camps in Afghanistan.

But instead of pursuing an Afghan-based political settlement without havens for Al Qaeda, the U.S. strategy is to pursue the same goal through more bloodshed, leaving Afghanistan somewhere between the Stone Age and ashes. What is obsessive about this approach is the fact that there is no longer an Al Qaeda haven in Afghanistan, which means the U.S. troops are fighting Afghan insurgents in their own country. But if your primary tool is a hammer, as the saying goes, all problems appear to be nails.

The war clearly is shifting to Pakistan, a far more clandestine and dangerous conflict fought by American secret operatives on the ground and drones from the sky. The targets are twofold: (1) to eliminate the Afghan Taliban from their enclave in Quetta instead of negotiating with them, and (2) using U.S. advisors and drones to push Pakistan’s army into a war against Pakistan’s homegrown Taliban and other insurgents now in the tribal areas, impoverished and unrepresented in Pakistan’s institutions.

This approach so far has caused a sharp expansion of violent attacks and suicide bombings across the region. The fear of a destabilized Pakistan with scores of nuclear weapons may lead Obama’s advisors to soon present the president with a more apocalyptic scenario than anything so far, if they have not already.

[Tom Hayden, a former California state senator, was a leader in the Sixties New Left and was a founder of Progressives for Obama. He is the author, most recently, of The Long Sixties: From 1960 to Barack Obama (Paradigm).]

Source / The Nation

Thanks to Carl Davidson / The Rag Blog

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14 Responses to Tom Hayden : Time to Strip Off the Obama Sticker

  1. masterspork says:

    But as far as Afghanistan that is what he said he was going to do before he even got elected. It was in the debates with Senator McCain.

    So why are you acting surprised now?

  2. Fed Up says:

    No, all he said was that he would go after Bin Ladin, and if he had actionable intelligence about Bin Ladin, he would use drones!

    I originally supported a police action to recover Bin Ladin. So I listened very very carefully to him on this, just as I listened when he said he would not support a mandate regarding health care reform.

    He has stuck me in my eye on both issues and I take it very personally.

    Bush should have left the Northern Alliance to govern Afghanistan, and they were more than willing to allow us to reocver Bin Ladin or to get him themselves, but Bush was too ideological and stupid to do that. And Obama is even more stupid, because Obama is not stupid, or is he?

    He is.

  3. masterspork says:

    No go back and read his statements again. He said escalate the war in Afghanistan.

    Obama has pledged to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan and to focus more on terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan.

    July 20, 2008
    New York Times

    Obama said troop levels must increase in Afghanistan.

    July 21, 2008

    Here is a real keeper.

    As President, I would deploy at least two additional brigades to Afghanistan to re-enforce our counter-terrorism operations and support NATO’s efforts against the Taliban. As we step up our commitment, our European friends must do the same, and without the burdensome restrictions that have hampered NATO’s efforts. We must also put more of an Afghan face on security by improving the training and equipping of the Afghan Army and Police, and including Afghan soldiers in U.S. and NATO operations.

    August 01, 2007


    But you have to remember that the Northern Alliance had the warlords in them. They where the ones that put the prisoners in containers to die.

    Also why is Senator John Kerry saying that we would have caught him if we had sent more troops at the beginning.

  4. Richard says:

    I got to go with you on this MS, good research by the way. Yes he did promise more war. O’bombermania was so prevelant at that time that the estupidified masses saw him through their own illusions and now are heartbroken that their illusions were just that AN ILLUSION. Yesterday President Chavez of Venezuela said “The U.S. government has changed its color but not its policies” I think he too is heartbroken by his own illusion of a fair and peaceful relationship with Washington. So, everybody assume the fetal position, cry your heart out, (primal screams OK) then get up organize yourselves and prepare a war against the war, let’s not take ten years and 58,000 names on a new wall to do it this time. Dog that sucker, every public appearence, hound him and Make Him Stop.

  5. masterspork says:

    This is one thing that really gets me about these too conflicts. When people made statements against the Iraq war, Afghanistan was the example of the “good fight”. One that was highlighted during Lieutenant Ehren Watada Court Martial for missing movement to go to Iraq. During the trial he said that he was not a CO and was willing to go to Afghanistan because that is where the real threat is. but then came Victor Agosto refusal to go Afghanistan suddenly became “illegal”. I is very frustrating to listian to these groups that have back tracked about their views about these conflicts.

    Also why can’t we just call these guys like it is. People who wanted the perks of military service without having to face the separation and dangers of deployments.

  6. Fed Up says:

    The original mission in Afghanistan was to get Bin Ladin, period. Anyone can google back then and see exactly what was proposed. We were going to go in, get Bin Ladin and get out.

    Everyone took Obama’s positions in that context (and I checked on some of your links and they did not show what you said, but even if they had, the original mission in Afghanistan was ONLY a police action to get Bin Ladin and Obama constantly referenced the original mission).

    Since politicians often change positions, and Mr. Obama has already renegged on his promise not to impose a mandate in his health “care” “reform”, one could reasonably have hoped that he would get Bin Ladin and then get us out of Afghanistan.

    Instead, he is trying to outBush Bush.

    Lincoln, for example, indicated he would not free the slaves, but of course he did, and in my opinion, he knew it would come to that.

    I had hoped Mr. Obama was in the cast of Lincoln or Roosevelt, not perfect, but they did some very good things, liberated a lot of human beings from very bad situations.

    I don’t think Mr. Obama is made of that kind of stuff, and that is precisely the kind of stuff we need now.

  7. masterspork says:

    It was also to deal with the the Taliban that was supplying the Al Qaeda.

    Read it for yourself.

    Here is another list of all UN resolution’s on the year of 2001.

    No it was not a police action. Find me the UN resolution that said they are only going after Osama. Also the Korean war was a “police action”

    Lincoln, for example, indicated he would not free the slaves, but of course he did, and in my opinion, he knew it would come to that.

    He said that he would be willing to keep or get rid of slavery as long as he could keep the union together. That is what the loyal slave states did not have to follow that law untial after the war was over.

  8. Anonymous says:

    MS has his history right.

    Remember, Obama said: “I’m not against all wars, I’m against dumb wars.”

    He also frequently said “I want to ‘double down’ on Afghanistan.”

    I don’t really know how to take a poker analogy other than a troop increase is coming….

  9. james says:

    While I despise the escalation of troops and cannot think of a more perilous place on earth to send even one foreign soldier, I think the fact Obama has stated he will begin drawing down in 2011 will actually lead to a drop in the levels of violence.
    Contrary to the babbling of paleo-conservatives and their flocks of chicken hawks, the Taleban have always said they have no quarrel with the Americans, or any other occupying power so long as they know they are going to leave. The more they leave the US and NATO forces alone, the sooner it will appear we have won and the sooner we will get out, They have however made it clear they will retaliate if attacked.
    While I have no evidence to back up this scenario, it is my sense the various war lords will gladly accept monies from the US, and as many weapons as they can get their hands on, to ensure safe passage of convoys and material.
    They will simply bide their time and once we are gone, a holy hell of a civil war will break out and whoever comes out on top will end up running Afghanistan. Two things can however be garnered from the history of Afghanistan, since at least the First War between the British and the Afghans in 1840, they do not spread their conflicts beyond the borders of Afghanistan and they are not lenient to those they hold responsible for their plight. So we may actually get to see the delicious sight of Karzai hanging from the last helicopter to leave the American embassy compound in Kabul.

  10. Richard says:

    The comments of Fed Up and James shows that the O’bomber lies and illusions have taken effect. He was just bullshitting you to get elected and/or letting you bullshit yourselves. Dosen’t this give you pause when he says he will have a “drawdown” just before the next election, will you hold your illusions ’til then and again be or pretend to be “disappointed.”
    This war will go on until we stop it, by making it unprofitable for the pigs with their snouts in the trough of your tax dollars. Congress can arrange this, but a better way is to make it cost Haliburton et al more here at home and around the world than it makes killing Afghanis.

  11. masterspork says:

    James just a few things

    One things that is concern is the the announcing of the time in such a way. The most dangerous times is when a unit arrives and just before it leaves. Because the the large movement of equipment,supplies and personal. My unit’s deployment was pushed back when the news announced when we would be leaving for Iraq.

    The Taliban cannot be trusted. You really think that if they did not have a problem with the US that they would allowed Osama to attack the US repeatedly? You really believe that they will not attack later? As far as the chicken hawk comment, the main reason that I am pushing this as hard as I am is because I am trying to be included in the troops that will be sent over there. I just have to wait the one year home time which I have 8 years before I could deploy again.

    Also another things, how often do Richard and I agree things?

  12. Fed Up says:

    Yes, sure, the reason Obama took all these months to decide to “surge” (expand the war) in Afghanistan is because he knew before he was elected what he was going to do?

    Or was this “delay” part of the plan?

    I think, instead, that the US elite thought they could intimidate certain world powers with an elected African American…and it did not wash except in Europe, and not for long there.

    No one bought it so now they are moving back to war,

    I don’t think the US elite gets it that this is not post World War II and such things no longer work — in fact, the reason for the US security “blanket” is gone, long gone, that being the Soviet Union, so folks like the Japanese do not understand why they have to endure occupation and pay the US over $8 billion a year to defend them against the Soviet Union, which no longer exists.

  13. masterspork says:

    Your rambling and jumping from topic to topic.

    I gave you the information on both the promise to send more troops to Afghanistan and the UN resolution for us to go there to fight against these terror groups.

    Now what I want to know is what is your reply to my posts?

  14. Richard says:

    Alan, 14 comments and yours is the one that makes the most sense, so many people want to reform the war. I learned to play cribbage at my grandfathers knee about the time I learned to count to 31. Does that have anything to do with having good sense?

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