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“All we have to do is send two mujahedeen [warriors] to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth saying ‘al-Qa’ida’ in order to make generals race there, and we cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses – without their achieving anything of note!”
–Osama bin Laden, November 1, 2004, CNN
“I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,…but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”
–Former Foreign Service officer and Marine Captain Matthew Hoh, Washington Post, October 27, 2009
President Obama can leave, reduce, maintain or increase troop strength. Escalation proponents omit Bush’s original mission: to get bin Laden. Then he talked himself into war in Iraq and forgot bin Laden.
Max Boot banged war drums then. Now he wants more war in Afghanistan. Boot wants to escalate because “Afghanistan’s corruption problem, like its security problem, can be best addressed by additional troops.” Marines bayoneting corruption in Kabul?
“Only by sending more personnel, military and civilian,” he concludes, “can President Obama improve the Afghan government’s performance, reverse the Taliban’s gains and prevent Al Qaeda’s allies from regaining the ground they lost after 9/11.” (NY Times, Oct. 21, 2009) Wow! How about using the Air Force to fight global warming?
Boot omits the original Bush myths justifying invading Afghanistan. The Taliban government did house al-Qaida’s training camps, as Bush claimed, and Al-Qaida operatives perpetrated the 9/11 deeds. But these facts did not relate to the actual 9/11 deeds. Bush’s impulse to make war in Afghanistan quickly turned to actual zeal in March 2003. Iraq became his focus of the terror war. Most Tallies had escaped to the safety of neighboring Pakistan – a loyal U.S. ally.
The 9/11 fanatics, however, conspired in apartments in Germany and used U.S. flight schools to learn how to steer large aircraft into larger buildings. Box cutters cut throats as well as cardboard. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists were Saudis; no Afghanis. Jihadists later hit Spain, France and England, their countries of residence. The July 7, 2005, bombers of the British public transportation system learned their “skills” on the web, not in Afghan training camps.
By 2009, no more that 100 suicidal jihadists remained in Afghanistan, according to National Security Advisor General Jim Jones. “As we disrupt [al-Qa’ida], they will seek other safe havens,” explained CIA Chief Leon Panetta. “Somalia and Yemen are potential al-Qa’ida bases in the future.” Imagine the headlines: “U.S. troops to Somalia and Yemen; deficit mushrooms.”
Boot and other escalation advocates equate Afghan Taliban fighters with al-Qaida. A U.S. intelligence study, however, concluded that 90 per cent of the Taliban belong to “a tribal insurgency.” “Their opposition derives from the U.S. ‘as an occupying power’,” wrote Bryan Bender. According tothe intelligence report, the Afghan Tallies have no cross-border ambitions. (Boston Globe October 9, 2009)
Those proposing escalation on human rights grounds have invented their own Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the CIA paid warlords to fight the Soviets – because they represented Western culture. Some of these brutes now support President Karzai, who turned election fraud into comic opera. Karzai’s brother, a suspected narcotrafficker, is reported to be on the CIA payroll (NY Times, Oct 28). Do we commit to such “democratic” allies in Kabul?
More humanitarian aid — schools and hospitals — at a time when the U.S. can’t take care of its own needs? Such incongruities inspired Nick Meo: “trying to defeat al-Qa’ida with hundreds of thousands of occupying troops and Predator jets is like trying to treat cancer with a blowtorch.” (Telegraph, Oct. 18, 2009)
After eight years of war, bin Laden remains free. Drones have killed supposed chiefs and number twos along with countless innocents. Their deaths dramatize the obvious downside of occupying armies.
Since 1945, the U.S. armed forces have failed to prevail in conflicts where locals resist. Washington gossip indicates Obama leaning toward advice from NY Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman.
“A strong, healthy and self-confident America,” wrote Friedman, “holds the world together and on a decent path. A weak America would be a disaster for us and the world.”
He despairs over the U.S. military’s projection “that stabilizing Afghanistan and removing it as a threat requires rebuilding that whole country… a 20-year project at best, and we can’t afford it.” Friedman understands that “nation-building at home” does not coincide with the $4 billion a month Afghan cost — $1.3 million per soldier. (Congressional Research Service, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article23808.htm#)
Friedman doesn’t follow his own logic and advise Obama to “quit.” Instead, he proposes “shrinking down in Afghanistan.” This “will create new threats, but expanding there will, too. I’d rather deal with the new threats with a stronger America.” (NY Times, October 28) The cojones problem again?
SAUL LANDAU won Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins award for human rights. Counterpunch published his A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD. He is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow whose films on DVD are available. (firstname.lastname@example.org)