ASKIAM and Brian Muhammad

Analysts see problems with the Obama plan for Afghanistan

WASHINGTON ( – President Barack Obama went from a “peace” candidate who promised “change” his supporters could “believe in,” into being just another “war president” Dec. 1, announcing that he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in the coming months, bringing the total number of U.S. military forces occupying that country to nearly 100,000.

“I do not make this decision lightly,” Mr. Obama said in a long-awaited speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.” His long-awaited speech came at the end of a three-month review of strategies and military options and shortly before he was to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.


“I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by Al-Qaeda. It is from here we were attacked on 9/11 and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak,” he said, declaring: “Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America’s war.”

Mr. Obama’s nominal supporters in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in Congress respectfully disagreed with the new policy which was described by gleeful Republicans as a troop “surge” like the decision by President George W. Bush to send a similar number of new troops into Iraq in 2007.

“We can’t continue to send more troops and expect different results,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus said in a statement. “Our military is already stretched too thin. Afghanistan needs a political solution–not a military one. Adding more troops won’t change this important fact. We’ve been fighting for eight years, and our strategy isn’t working. In fact, things are only getting worse–we are seeing rising violence, surging drug production, and an increasingly corrupt central government.

“The U.S. cannot ‘win’ the war in Afghanistan,” the International ANSWER Coalition, an anti-war group, said in a statement. “It was losing the war when Barack Obama took office. In March 2009, President Obama ordered another 30,000 troops. Rather than reverse the outcome, the U.S. and NATO effort lost even more ground.”

One of the provisions in Mr. Obama’s announcement of a troop escalation was his announcement that U.S. troops will start to be withdrawn in July 2011. That provision drew criticism from Republicans and war-hawk Democrats who said Afghan insurgents would simply “wait it out” until the “surge” was over, before resuming their attacks on the Afghan government.

Others remain unconvinced by the timetable. “Many in the special interest press are cynically reporting the President’s speech tonight as an ‘Afghanistan exit plan.’ We have now reached the point where those who make and interpret current events think they can make us believe that war is for peace, ignorance is strength, slavery is freedom, and lies are the truth,” said former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

“Well, we know the truth, and we will not rest until every drone is stopped and no more bombs are dropped.We will not rest until peace is won,” Ms. McKinney continued.

After the Obama speech peace activists reacted angrily in a conference call. “I am hearing a visceral reaction among the grassroots who are very disappointed,” Paul Kawika Martin, political director of Peace Action said in a broadcast interview. “People are feeling disillusioned. People did want to give Obama a chance but that honeymoon period is clearly ending.”

Peace groups organized an emergency protest rally for Saturday, December 12, in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, organized by the End US Wars coalition. The speakers list included Rep. Dennis Kucinich, former Rep. McKinney (D-Ga.) who was the Green Party presidential candidate in 2008, and former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), another unsuccessful 2008 Democratic presidential candidate.

‘These people who have grievances’

According to one analyst, the real reason U.S. efforts cannot resolve the conflicts with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other Muslim countries is not even a topic for discussion. “Even if Obama hadn’t wanted to escalate the troops, he is under so much political pressure that he would of had to,” Nir Rosen, independent journalist and fellow at the NYU Center on Law and Security told “Democracy Now!”

“But I would have at least liked to hear the words Kashmir and Palestine. If we are talking about Al-Qaeda and the whole reason for why we are in Afghanistan allegedly is this threat from Al-Qaeda which has been severely exaggerated, then at least understand their motives,” Mr. Rosen said.

“Their chief motives are the Indian occupation of Kashmir, the Israeli and American backed occupation of Palestine. These are the motives. If your goal is to weaken Al-Qaeda, understand their motives, address their grievances. This is not some James Bond villain that wants to attack the U.S. for no reason. These people who have grievances, the same grievances that have been troubling people around the world for decades,” he continued.

In the same way the U.S. once defined its global military interventions in terms of opposition to the advance of Communism, the U.S. now defines its principal enemies as Muslims, Mr. Rosen said. “If you remove Palestine and Kashmir, you’d have way less people in the world who support Al-Qaeda, who want to join it. Instead, what we are doing is increasing the occupation of a Muslim country,” said Mr. Rosen.

“I think it’s a tragic mistake, but unfortunately Obama had already painted himself into a corner. Contrary to the expectations and illusions many had about Obama, he never ran as an ‘antiwar’ candidate. On the contrary, he promised an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and he is delivering that. I think he’s smart enough to know this is not likely to end well, but it seems he’s unwilling to spend the political capital it would take to reverse course and end the war. Hence, what we have now is an open-ended commitment to occupy Afghanistan, amidst growing armed resistance there, for reasons that are no clearer or more coherent now than they were before Obama’s speech,” commented Ali Abunimah, an author, political commentator and co-founder of the online news magazine Electronic Intifada. His answers were responses to questions e-mailed by The Final Call.

“On all fronts–Palestine/Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia–among others, there has been virtually no deviation from Bush administration policies. This is something I predicted accurately, especially with respect to Palestine/Israel, despite widespread euphoria that Obama would change course. I do not think it’s as simple as Obama being ‘misled.’ He is responsible for these decisions, but he has chosen to become part of an entrenched foreign policy establishment and conventional wisdom that has led America from disaster to disaster. Of course the key tenet is that the US must dominate the world. Unfortunately, Obama has never promised to end America’s self-appointed quasi-imperial role. Rather, he has only promised he would manage it in a ‘smarter’ way. I don’t think there’s ever such a thing as a ‘smart’ empire.”

Occupation and resistance

Mr. Obama’s new plan for Afghanistan is a throwback to the Nixon Vietnam strategy, according to the ANSWER Coalition. It calls for “more bombing and drone attacks, and ‘Afghanization’—the building up of a puppet Afghan army trained and led by U.S. commanders. This follows President Obama’s escalation of massive bombing of the people of Pakistan.

“After eight years of war, more than 140 armed insurgent groups of Afghans now exist as a response to the invasion and they control large parts of the country. The people in Afghanistan perceive the occupation as a colonial-type takeover of their country,” the ANSWER Coalition said. “September 11 was a pretext, but there were no Afghans or Iraqis who hijacked the planes. The people of Afghanistan, like the people in Vietnam, will never accept foreign military occupation in their country.”

Bill Fletcher, a longtime analyst and editor of The Black Commentator, an online journal, said, “I think that this is a terrible mistake that didn’t come as any surprise. Obama has been very clear since the campaign that his intention was to escalate in Afghanistan.”

“The problem is that President Obama seems to think that motivation trumps all. So if you look for the Soviet experience, he looks at that and says ‘They came in as occupiers, we’re coming in as liberators; we’re coming as people who are taking on these criminals.’”

“Instead of recognizing it is not about motivation, it’s about the realities that the U.S. is backing some disreputable elements in Afghanistan-Karzai and his clique–these other warlords–these are not good people and that is something that Obama is not paying attention to.”

While the new Afghan strategy has been likened to the increased troop presence used in Iraq, Mr. Fletcher wasn’t sold on the idea. “Similar but not exactly the same; in the case of Afghanistan there are more countries that believe that the Taliban needs to be crushed along with Al-Qaeda. In the case with Iraq it was laughable, basically countries were bought off in order to get involved in the war,” he noted.

“The fact remains that even with the troop commitments by other countries in Afghanistan, it’s negligible by the standards of the U.S. commitment.”

Misplaced priorities and military spending

Minister Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam, has been a strident voice against U.S. military intervention for over a decade and has repeatedly urged the president to find an “honorable way” to exit the conflict. America cannot win another war, he has warned. “We don’t believe we should take part in any war that takes the life of any human being. … How many Afghan people call you N—-r? How many Pakistanis, how many Iranians segregated you, lynched you, put you in prison and killed you, denied you a proper education, denied you equal protection under the law? Which one of those that you’re killing did that to you? Not one. Your fight is not over there; your fight is right here for justice,” he said.

“I think our priorities are misplaced,” Rep. Mr. Kucinich told Pacifica Radio’s “Democracy Now!”

“And I think that all those who really support this president, who really like him–and I like him–need to challenge him on this. Because we can’t just let this go by the boards because we may have some sympathetic feelings for the difficult task that he has undertaken as president of the United States.”

Issues of concern to Blacks, and others fighting to keep their heads above water in the tide of unemployment, foreclosures, and healthcare–issues which disproportionately affect President Obama’s core supporters–are also being pushed to the back burner.

“We need to begin to build safety at home. No external enemy ever killed the number of children that guns kill our children every year. It’s about priorities,” “Children have kind of fallen through the visibility crack, and that’s what we’re trying to amend right now,” Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) told reporters during a conference call, one day after the President’s Afghanistan speech.

“For every one U.S. troop, in that part of the world is a million dollar cost to maintain their presence in Afghanistan or in Iraq,” noted Dedon Kimathi, of the All Africa Revolutionary Party and host of Freedom Now on Pacifica Radio. He called the decision a “satanic move” that “doesn’t show any understanding of the history of Afghanistan that has never been conquered.”

“It goes to big corporations that benefit from the war industrial complex. War is profit and is the purest form of profit except for slavery and the prison industrial complex that slavery is in effect,” he said. “The second most profitable center under capitalism is war. So Obama is controlled by the multinational military industrial complex forces that seek to maintain their profits by sustaining war and of course the question of Afghanistan you have to look in terms of heroin.”

Afghanistan heroin under the Taliban, heroin was banned, the growth of poppy was banned; under U.S. occupation of Afghanistan there’s been bumper production of heroin, he noted. “The street heroin in Europe and the U.S. is at an all time low.”

“So it’s the question of profits both in the overt economy of the military industrial complex and the underground economy controlled by the U.S.-CIA which is the heroin trade that has been passed on from the British empire now to the U.S. empire because whoever controls that part of the world controls the drug trade.”

Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were creations of the US. CIA in a concept called “blowback” where the U.S. supported the Taliban in terms of support of the revolutionary government that had come to power in Afghanistan, he continued.

“The CIA financed these Muslim groups who took the money to fight the Soviets and to bring back into Afghanistan a more conservative form of Islam and once they defeated the Soviet Union and progressive government of Afghanistan, these forces took the resources they got from the CIA and the skills and the training and the organization and turned against the CIA.

“At some point we have to recognize that these countries are operating off of strong intense nationalism; it’s like if Somalia wanted an Islamic government–praise the Lord, Hamdullillah–if it’s an internal issue then let them resolve it among themselves as opposed to the United States trying to impose its form of western style capitalist democracy.”

“Islam inherently is anti-imperialist, the essence of Islam like Christianity is anti-imperialist, anti-colonialism–the essence of it because it talks about righteousness and justice. They are fighting a war against a people who are operating off a theological basis that’s stronger than U.S. economic drive. The theo-ideological basis of the resistance of Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan will always beat the United States operating off of mercenary interest-money, controlling markets, controlling heroin, that’s very important,” he said.

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