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On 19 February 2014, two polls were issued by Gallup, one showing opinion among Afghans, and the other showing opinion among Americans, and both make clear that the opinion in both countries is that President Obama’s policies in Afghanistan have failed. The U.S. poll also shows that Americans additionally believe that President George W. Bush’s policies in Afghanistan failed, so Gallup shows no clear distinction between the two U.S. Presidents on this matter.
The Afghan poll makes unequivocally clear that desperation has soared among the Afghan people during the past year: whereas, until 2012, only 23% to 29% of Afghans had said that they were “Suffering”; that figure in 2013 suddenly skyrocketed to 55%. Until 2012, the percentage who were “Thriving” ranged only from 3% (in 2012) to 12% (in 2010), but Gallup now reports that “no Afghans rated their lives highly enough to be considered ‘thriving’ in 2013.” They interviewed 1000 Afghans during 2013; so, this means that 0 out of those 1,000 said that they were “thriving.”
The American poll shows that the percentage of Americans who say “Yes” to the question, “Looking back, do you think the United States made a mistake sending troops to fight in Afghanistan in 2001?” rose gradually from 6% in 2002 to 49% today. However, 62% of Republicans today still say “No” to that question; only 36% say “Yes.” Whereas 49% of the general public (including Republicans) say “Yes”; just 36% of Republicans do. 59% of Democrats do. Only 40% of Democrats say “No” to that question. In other words: whereas Republicans overwhelmingly don’t think that this invasion and occupation under both a Republican and a Democratic President has turned out badly, Democrats equally strongly think that it has.
Gallup failed to provide any basis for understanding the reason for this partisan difference, other than speculating that “Republicans’ higher levels of support may be related to a Republican president’s initiation of the war, or an ideological inclination to support military involvement.” However, Gallup’s figures are clear, that Democrats, at least, do not consider President Obama’s Afghan policy to have been a success. In this and many other ways (such as Obama’s defense of Wall Street and support for Big Oil), President Obama’s strongest support on key issues is coming actually from Republicans. Perhaps the chief reason why Republicans can’t stand him is that he’s a Black. But that statement is just a speculation, no better than Gallup’s speculation as to why Republicans are so supportive of the occupation of Afghanistan.
The following is my commentary and analysis, in order to try to make sense of this massive policy-failure:
Back in 2001 when America first invaded and occupied Afghanistan in response to 9/11, the only alternative to that policy had been to launch surgical strikes against Al Qaeda there, supplemented by Special Forces units to track down and kill bin Laden, Zawahiri, and other Qaeda leaders. That policy was proposed by a few Democrats, but was rejected by George W. Bush. The American public’s subsequent turn against the occupation of Afghanistan is a belated acknowledgement that Bush made the wrong decision there: he should instead have listened to the progressives. It was the progressives and not the conservatives who would have been better for national security, because progressives realize that national security requires a broader than purely military view: they recognize the down-sides of using pure coercion. Afghanistan today is the result of conservatives’ (including Obama’s) perverted love of force.
Obama had run for the White House promising to escalate the war against Afghanistan’s Taliban and Al Qaeda, and this is a promise that he kept, even though Bush had already lost that war, by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan to fight in Iraq, and by abandoning the Afghan people to their corrupt aristocracy or “warlords.” Obama was now embarking on a policy to take upon himself the blame for Bush’s failure. The war in Afghanistan was well beyond the period when it still would have been salvageable.
Furthermore, the U.S. was now backing a government which was able to win re-“election” only by massive ballot-box stuffing. For example, on 2 September 2009, Dexter Filkins in The New York Times headlined “Tribal Leaders Say Karzai’s Team Forged 23,900 Votes,” and reported that in one district, Shorobak: “The ballot boxes were taken to Shorobak’s district headquarters, where, Mr. Bariz [the district’s governor] and other tribal leaders said, local police officers stuffed them with thousands of ballots. At the end of the day, 23,900 ballots were shipped to Kabul, Mr. Bariz said, with every one marked for President Karzai. ‘Not a single person in Shorobak District cast a ballot — not a single person,’ Mr. Bariz said,” because Karzai’s brother “detained the governor of Shorobak [Mr. Bariz], and shut down all of the district’s 45 polling sites on election eve.” Of course, George W. Bush wouldn’t have had any concern about theft of an election, except that it shouldn’t have been done so crudely. But Obama? Obama continued his escalation in Afghanistan as if these American troops’ constituting an alien invading Christian army in an impoverished Muslim country didn’t matter — not even if the only way to keep the puppet leader in power there were at the butt of guns and tanks. Even if Obama possessed tact in dealing with Americans, all that he seemed to offer the citizens of a place like Afghanistan was boundless faith in raw power. That’s how he acted. The Taliban were a curse, but so too were the invaders and occupiers — and the invaders and occupiers were aliens, in addition.
On 26 January 2010, Eric Schmitt headlined in The New York Times, “U.S. Envoy’s Cables Show Worries on Afghan Plans,” and he reported that, “The United States ambassador in Kabul warned his superiors here [in Washington] in November that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan ‘is not an adequate strategic partner’ and ‘continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden,’ according to a classified cable that offers a much bleaker accounting of the risks of sending additional American troops to Afghanistan than was previously known. … ‘Sending additional forces will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable,’ he wrote Nov. 6. ‘An increased U.S. and foreign role in security and governance will increase Afghan dependence, at least in the short term.’” Eikenberry warned that Karzai “and much of his circle do not want the U.S. to leave and are only too happy to see us invest further.” President Obama ignored his envoy’s warnings and advice.
On 4 January 2014, George Flower at opednews superbly summarized the situation:
“Obama wasted an opportunity to turn around the corrupt Bush/Khalilzad/Karzai regime. For dumping Karzai he had the support of Biden and Eikenberry, but also of Richard Holbrooke and Peter Galbraith, #2 in the UN mission. They only lacked Obama’s support to force an honest election. The latter three men put their careers on the line to do the right thing for the US and for Afghanistan: a government the Afghan people supported.”
“Abdullah Abdullah [who again is running to replace Karzai, and whom the U.S. ought now to be financing], a close associate of Masud, a national hero in the guerilla struggle against both the Russians and the Taliban (i.e. Pakistan ISI), opposed Karzai in the run-off election. As Foreign Minister, Dr. Abdullah proved competent and avoided accusation of corruption. The key moment occurred after Karzai stole the first round election. Abdullah withdrew from the run-off announcing there was no likelihood that Karzai would not similarly steal it. This was a diplomatic, but unmistakeable, accusation against Obama and the UN supervisors of the election. In response to his announcement, instead of insisting on an honest election that Abdullah could contest, Obama congratulated Karzai for, in effect, stealing the election.”
“This act defined Obama.”
That statement did not come from a “reporter” in a “news” medium such as The New York Times or the Washington Post. It came as a reader-comment to my own article at opednews on 4 January 2014, titled “Our Afghanistan Failure Was Led by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”
Obama continued after the September 2009 Afghan “election” to pursue his war in Afghanistan, despite its having degenerated, from this moment forward, into a military occupation propping up a corrupt Afghan aristocracy. Of course, the United States has become also a kleptocracy, and perhaps Obama would never have become President if he had been seen by America’s conservative aristocrats as being a threat to them; so, Obama was already compromised, at least at home. But if he had been smart, he would have told Karzai that either he would accept a re-do of the “election,” run this time by Afghans overseen by the U.N. or by some other neutral international body, or else the U.S. would withdraw from Afghanistan and fight Al Qaeda in the same way it was fighting them in Pakistan, via drones. Obama didn’t do this; he was now obviously unintelligent. He had been informed; he knew that propping up the despised crook Karzai was building hatred of America among Afghans; he couldn’t fail to have known that by staying unconditionally in Afghanistan the U.S. would become viewed by Afghans as a Christian occupier of millions of Muslims – as an alien military occupier. But despite this fact’s being so obvious, he remained unconditionally in Afghanistan. Nothing was as surprising about Obama as this. It was yet another way in which he was a disastrous failure (if not worse) as the U.S. President. He turned out to be George W. Bush II.
In fact, right after Obama’s own re-election, Jamie Reno headlined at The Daily Beast, on 15 November 2012, “The Real Scandal of David Petraeus Is Afghanistan,” and he noted that, Lt. Col. John L. Cook, a former Army intelligence officer and senior adviser to the Ministry of Interior in Afghanistan, who oversaw the Afghan National Police, said in his 2012 book Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure, that after Karzai stole the 2009 “election,” he should have been abandoned by the U.S., and that from that moment onward, U.S. troops in that country were putting their lives at risk for nothing. Cook blamed Petraeus, because that was Petraeus’s policy, but Obama approved of Petraeus’s approach and backed him, notwithstanding opposition from Vice President Biden and others. Lt. Col. Cook blamed Petraeus because in the military, as in the aristocracy, credit goes only upwards, and blame goes only downwards; but the real blame here lay actually at the top, with President Obama. Obama backed his Republican general Petraeus.
Cook described Afghanistan as profoundly corrupt, and his superb book opened by saying: “Afghanistan is riddled with corruption, from top to bottom. … President Hamid Karzai has built a family-run, nationwide, interlocking criminal enterprise.” Obama backed it, and so America was now spilling blood for it. Whenever the U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan, the U.S. would be hated and despised; this would be no victory for anyone but the Taliban. But Republicans still want the military occupation to continue there. They love force; it’s all they know.
Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.