My wish for Obama’s New Year’s resolutions: Lose the empire! Stop giving military aid and special treatment to Israel; demand Israel behave responsibly under international laws; get out of Iraq and Afghanistan — quickly.
Yes, Obama has repeatedly pledged to expand the U.S. role in Afghanistan after more than eight years of failure. But in light of the facts, he could disavow his pledges. In the Fall of 2001, Bush and allies invaded Afghanistan. The so-called Northern Alliance, supported by U.S. air and ground forces, took Kabul; the infamous Taliban disappeared — probably into Pakistan. Hooray!!!
Then, a sour smell began to seep from Bush’s victory. Even before football hero Pat Tillman got whacked in 2004 by members of his own unit — “friendly fire”? — rebel forces within that fractious Muslim nation had sent their message: Get Out!
Bush’s war has now endured eight plus years, almost double U.S. involvement in World War II. The military hoo hahs have not yet seen light at the end of Khyber tunnel.
So, why should Obama stake his reputation on winning, no less rebuilding that country while the United States undergoes the worst economic downturn since the 1930s?
Obama recounts one of his nightmares to a trusted associate. It begins with President Bush receiving an award for giving democracy a bad name. William Randolph Hearst presents the certificate citing Bush’s contribution to massive death, destruction, torture and lying.
Pat Buchanan emerges to advise Obama. “You can save yourself and the country. Liquidate the Empire,” he whispers (echoing words from his October 13 syndicated column).
“The American Empire has become a vast extravagance,” he cajoles. “With U.S. markets crashing and wealth vanishing, what are we doing with 750 bases and troops in over 100 countries?” “The Cold War strategy faded away two decades ago,” he barks, “but military inventors continue to fashion zany programs like a vast new missile defense in Europe against possible Iranian attacks at some future date and planes, ships, and upscale nuclear weapons that have as much relevance to U.S. defense as moats and drawbridges.”
“Instead of playing with expensive and dangerous toys, why not assign the Pentagon R&D staff (which should be reduced by 95% along with a general 50% reduction of the whole Pentagon) to read history,” Pat continues. The researchers could teach lessons from the experiences of 19th Century British imperial forces who invaded Afghanistan and invented a puppet ruler, like Bush’s Hamid Karzai who controls several blocks in Kabul today. Afghan mobs assaulted His Majesty’s remaining subjects. The Union Jack retreated to India. Britain lost some 16,000 English soldiers to the insurgents. Like the Washington elite, the geniuses also learn slowly, if at all. Pat finishes his dream sermon.
He morphs into Tony Blair, who is dressed like a cheerleader. “We will kill Osama Bin Laden and conquer the Taliban, yes we can, yes we can.” Obama asks Blair about the whereabouts of Bin Laden and why the Taliban have returned to control large parts of the country, and even reap rewards from bumper opium crops. The Taliban, a muted Blair now counsels, no longer need to train terrorists. Indeed, terrorists find training grounds in English cities, and on the web. They can buy explosive ingredients from hardware or agricultural stores — lest anyone forget where the Christian Oklahoma City bombers (pre 9/11) got their explosives.
Timothy McVeigh appears in the dream. “But you were executed for your role in the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing,” Obama objects. McVeigh chuckles and whispers. “Mr. President elect, you didn’t undergo basic Army training in Fort Benning, Georgia, where they teach you all about explosives. I am a ‘survivalist.’ Some call us terrorists, but we understand weapons as necessary to keep food and other needs from reckless vandals as the U.S. economy goes south. I despise the government for its massacre policies at Waco (against the religious nuts) and at Ruby Ridge (killing fellow survivalists). There are many more like me out there. My comrades bought huge amounts of ammonium nitrate at the Mid-Kansas Coop in McPherson, Kansas. That’s fertilizer that explodes under proper conditions. A few blasting caps and some liquid to set off the fertilizer and poof, there went the federal building. Watch out for the Aryan Republican Army,” warns McVeigh. “They also plan revenge against the Government. And remember, I did it for less than $10,000 without training in Afghanistan.”
The dream shifts to Afghanistan, where Soviet soldiers die at the hands of people determined to resist. (Approximately 15,000 Red Army soldiers died from 1979 until 1988 when the Soviets withdrew. The humiliation speeded the implosion of the Soviet Union.)
In the dream Obama screams at the intelligence services for telling him less than he already knows. “We have failed thus far in Afghanistan,” he bleats. “Why have I repeatedly vowed to increase U.S. presence in that quicksand? Why can’t I learn?” Korea, Vietnam, Iraq — lost wars that veterans cannot explain with facts or logic to their kids.
U.S. troops in the dream kill the Taliban, who reemerge like zombies. “You cannot win,” they chant. “You cannot understand us and never will. We shall remain here and you shall leave — if not now, then in a year, two, ten or twenty. No matter. Your B-52 will fly away. We shall remain.”
General Petraeus tells the sleeping Obama that he will need more than the 54,000 troops he now has, plus those of the allies, as devout Taliban members use the drug profits to buy weapons to kill the Americans. Militarily, he informs Obama, the Taliban have grown stronger than they were in 2001. They now plague half the country and have sanctuaries in Pakistan.
“Air strikes,” advises an old Bush neo con who appears in the dream. “Wait,” shouts Buchanan. “U.S. air strikes have already killed so many Afghan civilians that even puppet President Karzai has had to condemn the raids. By trying to bomb the Taliban, our pilots have made enemies of the people in Afghan villages and in Pakistan. Even our supply lines have grown insecure. We read this in our press.”
Generals appear with Defense Secretary Gates. “Give us four more years!” they confidently plead, “and we’ll have an Afghan force we can rely on.”
Taliban zombies answer them. “Yes, stay here four more years and surely our people will magically change their minds, forget their history and fall in love with your wonderful democratic capitalism that serves your people so well.” They shriek with laughter.
Obama recalls some lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Young British Soldier,” which he learned in high school:
“When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.”
The President elect awakens. His associate asks him how he will interpret his dream. Will he withdraw U.S. troops or ignore the words and images and escalate?
Obama’s choice will have impact around the world. From villages and cities in Pakistan, the loosely knit al-Qaida militants await a U.S. troop escalation. It will increase recruitment. Let the foreign devils come, they chant, and we shall change the intelligent Obama into a version of stupid Bush. Yes, he promised change. We shall see.
SAUL LANDAU received the Bernardo O’Higgins award from the Republic of Chile for his work on human rights. His latest book is A Bush and Botox World (AK/CounterPunch Press).