In Afghanistan Speech, Obama Offers Token Troop Withdrawals While Maintaining the "War on Terror" Mindset
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President Obama’s speech tonight violated one of his most important campaign promises: to “end the mind-set that leads to war.”
To the contrary, his announcement of a token shift of 10,000 soldiers leaving by the end of 2011, and maybe another 23,000 in another year, makes clear that his claim tonight that “the tide of war is receding” remains untrue. The enormous current deployment of 250,000 U.S. and allied military forces (100,000 U.S. troops, 50,000 NATO troops and 100,000 Pentagon-paid contractors) in Afghanistan continues, and reflects not an end but an embrace of the mind-set of war, even with this small shift of soldiers. This was an opportunity for President Obama to recognize our democracy, to acknowledge and – dare I suggest? – even respect the views of the vast majority of the American people. Sixty-four percent of the people of our country believe the war is not worth fighting. When this war began in October 2001, only about 12% of people in the U.S. did not support it. So 64% opposition means a lot of folks have come to that realization now after years of escalating Afghan civilian and U.S. military casualties, years of a collapsing economy, and yes, years of hard-fought anti-war organizing.
The American people are way ahead of the government on this one – Congress, the White House, the Pentagon, all of them. A few members of Congress are starting to get it – those in the Progressive and Out of Afghanistan Caucuses. Rep. Barbara Lee of California has introduced an amendment to the pending $560 BILLION Pentagon authorization bill (that one doesn’t even include the costs of the actual wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and beyond…) that would prohibit any money being spent on the war in Afghanistan except for the cost of a quick and safe withdrawal of all the troops. The U.S. Conference of Mayors just passed their first anti-war resolution since the height of the Viet Nam War in 1971, calling for a quick end to the war in Afghanistan and for the war dollars to be brought home to rebuild U.S. cities. The mayors get it, unemployed people across this country get it, many of the troops being forced into their third, fourth, fifth or even more deployments get it. And that’s why the president’s speech tonight focused – however inadequately – on how many troops are being pulled out, not how many more are being sent in.
But it’s not good enough. What President Obama announced tonight is not a strategy, there still is no clear definition of a “military victory” in this endless war. In the first weeks after his inauguration, the new commander-in-chief announced he was sending 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, and “then” he would decide on a strategy. Talk about backwards reasoning!
That 21,000 was followed, after months of discussion, another 33,000 (it was first going to be 30,000, but you know how it goes…) that made up the official “surge.” The first 21,000 apparently weren’t to be counted at all. So in his first year in office, President Obama escalated the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan from a little more than 30,000 to almost 100,000 troops (along with the 100,000 mercenaries) – tripling the troop numbers. With a token pull-back of 10,000 troops over the next six months, and maybe another 23,000 by the end of 2012 (presumably timed for maximum pre-election publicity) that still will leave almost 70,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for years ahead – almost twice the number there when he took office. Not to mention the 100,000 Pentagon-paid contractors and 50,000 NATO soldiers, who apparently aren’t going anywhere. And this for the first president to call an existing war “stupid” and to call for “an end to the mindset that leads to war.”