Progressive Leaders Pan Obama's Decision for More War in Afghanistan -- 10 Reactions
President Obama's speech announcing a troop escalation in Afghanistan did not go over well with many progressives. As soon as his intentions to send tens of thousands more troops became clear, dozens of progressive leaders and writers -- including many former prominent Obama supporters -- voiced their concerns in newspapers, on the radio and on the Internet. The following is a sampling of their responses:
1. Tom Hayden writes for The Nation:
"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."
2. Laura Flanders writes on GritTV,
"...for those who’d thought they’d voted for the death of the Bush Doctrine. Sorry. Bush/Cheney live on in the new president’s embrace of the idea that the U.S. has a right, not only to respond to attacks, but also to deploy men and women in anticipation of them."
3. Jim Hightower used his most recent column to warn:
"Obama has been taken over by the military industrial hawks and national security theorists who play war games with other people's lives and money. I had hoped Obama might be a more forceful leader who would reject the same old interventionist mindset of those who profit from permanent war. But his newly announced Afghan policy shows he is not that leader."
Hightower says that just because we've lost Obama on this issue, it's not over; that we as citizens...
"...have both a moral and patriotic duty to reach out to others to inform, organize and mobilize our grassroots objections, taking common sense to high places. Also, look to leaders in Congress who are standing up against Obama's war and finally beginning to reassert the legislative branch's constitutional responsibility to oversee and direct military policy. For example, Rep. Jim McGovern is pushing for a specific, congressionally mandated exit strategy; Rep. Barbara Lee wants to use Congress' control of the public purse strings to stop Obama's escalation; and Rep. David Obey is calling for a war tax on the richest Americans to put any escalation on-budget, rather than on a credit card for China to finance and future generations to pay."
4. Black Agenda Report editor Glen Ford compares Obama's delivery to how George Bush might have given the speech:
"Barack Obama's oratorical skills have turned on him, revealing, as George Bush’s low-grade delivery never could, the perfect incoherence of the current American imperial project in South Asia. Bush’s verbal eccentricities served to muddy his entire message, leaving the observer wondering what was more ridiculous, the speechmaker or the speech. There is no such confusion when Obama is on the mic. His flawless delivery of superbly structured sentences provides no distractions, requiring the brain to examine the content – the policy in question – on its actual merits. The conclusion comes quickly: the U.S. imperial enterprise in Afghanistan and Pakistan is doomed, as well as evil."The president’s speech to West Point cadets was a stream of non sequiturs so devoid of logic as to cast doubt on the sanity of the authors. '[T]hese additional American and international troops,' said the president, 'will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.'"Obama claims that the faster an additional 30,000 Americans pour into Afghanistan, the quicker will come the time when they will leave. More occupation means less occupation, you see? This breakneck intensification of the U.S. occupation is necessary, Obama explains, because 'We have no interest in occupying your country.'"
5. Foreign Policy in Focus's Phyllis Bennis demolished Obama's attempt to discourage comparisons to Vietnam:
"Near the end of his speech, Obama tried to speak to his antiwar one-time supporters, speaking to the legacy of Vietnam. It was here that the speech’s internal weakness was perhaps most clear. Obama refused to respond to the actual analogy between the quagmire of Vietnam, which led to the collapse of Johnson’s Great Society programs, and the threat to Obama’s ambitious domestic agenda collapsing under the pressure of funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he created straw analogies, ignoring the massive challenge of waging an illegitimate, unpopular war at a moment of dire economic crisis."
"On the eve of the second wave of a U.S. invasion in Afghanistan, I wish to tell the American media, as well as President Obama, that the Vietnam syndrome cannot be kicked through acts of war. That only through a view that’s rooted in people, rooted in human kindness, and not historical vehemence, would a country open itself up and stop being a haunting metaphor. That not until human basic needs are addressed and human dignity upheld can we truly pacify our enemies and bring about human liberty. And that more soldiers and bombs and droids in the sky will never appease the haunting ghosts of the past. Quite the opposite. We are in the process of creating more ghosts to haunt future generations."
7. Glenn Greenwald, writing on Salon, addresses Obama's supporters who are going along with his decision to escalate the troops:
"The most bizarre defense of Obama's escalation is also one of the most common: since he promised during the campaign to escalate in Afghanistan, it's unfair to criticize him for it now -- as though policies which are advocated during a campaign are subsequently immunized from criticism. For those invoking this defense: in 2004, Bush ran for re-election by vowing to prosecute the war in Iraq, keep Guantanamo open, and "reform"
privatizeSocial Security. When he won and then did those things (or tried to), did you refrain from criticizing those policies on the grounds that he promised to do them during the campaign? I highly doubt it."
8. AlterNet's Adele Stan noted that Obama also changed the justification for the war:
"If you listened to the subtext of the speech, you might find that the mission has changed. In fact, you might say that the mission in Afghanistan is as much about creating stability in Pakistan -- a nuclear power that NBC's Andrea Mitchell yesterday referred to as a nearly failed state -- as it is about Afghanistan. Last night, a senior administration official confirmed to AlterNet that the U.S. mission to Pakistan has broadened.
From the president's speech:
In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistani people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.
9. Rory O' Connor lambasted Obama on MediaChannel.org:
"The Afghan escalation speech was classic Obama. His enigmatic and epigrammatic split the baby in half Yoda/Spock-speak offered something for everyone: good-news-bad-news; back and forth; give and take; get in to get out; speed up to slow down; and in the end, let’s all come together and get along to end the war – by waging the war more intensely…but only for eighteen months, and then we all get to go home."
10. Blogger Digby highlighted that the American public never really gets to discuss the real issues underlying the US military build up in the Mideast and Asia:
"The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the standoff with Iran and all the other obsessions with the Mideast are at least informed, if not entirely motivated, by larger geopolitical efforts to maintain stability at a time of impending competition over resources and access to them -- oil. Sure that's simplistic, but it's at the 'heart' of what's going on in the leadership's 'minds.'
"We don't talk about any of that because it might lead us to get serious about changing our way of life and evidently nobody important thinks that's the right way to deal with the problem. And frankly, among many of our elites, maintaining a military presence everywhere is necessary to preserve American global dominance. Period."