Friday, June 24, 2011

Mr. Roboto goes home






Last night US President Barack Obama gave a speech. (We covered the speech in yesterday's snapshot.) The reaction outside of the Cult of St. Barack has not been pretty.
Jason Ditz ( observes, "On the ground in Afghanistan, however, it doesn't seem like a drawdown, and the troops aren't expecting any major change. Rather, they are expecting long deployings and a long occupation in an already decade-old war." Speaking this morning on The Takeaway, John Hockenberry shared, "I guess what escapes me from the speech last night is a real strategy. I mean, people may call it a strategy, but I don't see a strategy here." Yesterday on the Pacifica Evening News (KPFA and KPFK), anchor John Hamliton discussed Barack's speech with Phyllis Bennis. Excerpt:

John Hamilton: We've just heard the president promise troop reductions by the fall of 2012. interestingly, just in time for elections. Of course, we should remember that the much ballyhooed surge of 30,000 troops that Obama ordered into the country in December of 2009 was actually the second major increase in troop levels. On taking office, he immediately ordered an increase of 17,000 soldiers. With that in mind is it fair to call this the beginning of the end of the Afghanistan War?

Phyllis Bennis: No, it made clear that the continuation of a huge number of US troops, NATO troops and US-paid mercenaries is going to continue for an indefinite period. This announcement of what amounts to a really token withdrawal leaves in place a huge component of the current 250,000 US and allied military forces. This is not going to change that. The fact that 33 [33,000 by September 2012] out of 250,000 military forces are going to be pulled out in the course of a year and a half is hardly the beginning of an end.

John Hamilton: And of course, in the past when we've seen troops removed from Afghanistan, we've often seen them a concurrent escalation in the number of contractors sometimes by a ratio of 2:1 or even higher --

Phyllis Bennis: It's very unlikely we're going to see that now. Most [audio goes out . . .] Already 100,000 private contractors in Afghanistan. I don't know that they can even absorb significantly more than that.

John Hamilton: Well Phyllis Bennis, as the old song goes, "One-two-three-four, what are we fighting for?" In the case of Afghanistan, that remains a difficult question to answer.

Phyllis Bennis: It remains a very difficult question and what we're seeing is that there is no strategy that's been determined here. There's no definition of a military victory. The announcement had been made at the very moment just after President Obama had first been inaugurated, when he first sent 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, he said, 'We're going to send these troops and then we'll decide on a strategy.' Rather backwards logic but nonetheless what didn't happen was any decision about a strategy. We've heard lots of discussions about counter-insurgency versus counter-terrorism, boots on the ground versus small groups but none of that has been a real strategy for what everybody agrees will never be a military solution to this conflict in Afghanistan but will have to have political solutions. That political solution remains as far away tonight as it has ever been.
Noting some other reactions, US Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:
"Tonight President Obama took a step in the right direction by outlining a drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan over the coming year. I have called for a sizeable and sustainable drawdown because I believe the human, economic and military resources we are spending in Afghanistan are unsustainable. The President's announcement is a step forward, but I will continue to push the President to bring this war to a close and redeploy troops out of Afghanistan while providing the support they and their families deserve.
"Our brave men and women in uniform have done everything we've asked of them -- including finding Osama Bin Laden. But we need to make sure our military operations are targeted to meet the threats of today.
"Our terrorist enemies are not bound by lines on a map. Leaving tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan is not the best use of our resources --especially as we work to tackle our debt and deficit. It's time to redeploy, rebuild our military and refocus on the broader war on terror. I was glad to see President Obama take a step in that direction today.
"But as Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I know that the costs don't end when our men and women leave the battlefield -- for so many troops and their caregivers, that is just the beginning. This must be a consideration for the President and our entire nation whenever we make strategic military decisions. I will continue to push to make sure our veterans and military families are one of the foremost concerns during this drawdown and that they get the care they need and deserve."
US Senator Bernie Sanders's office issued a statement as well:
This country has a $14.5 trillion national debt, in part owing to two wars that have not been paid for. We have been at war in Afghanistan for the last 10 years and paid a high price both in terms of casualties and national treasure. This year alone, we will spend about $100 billion on that war. In my view, it is time for the people of Afghanistan to take full responsibility for waging the war against the Taliban.

While we cannot withdraw all of our troops immediately, we must bring them home as soon as possible. I appreciate the president's announcement, but I believe that the withdrawal should occur at significantly faster speed and greater scope.

Senator Tom Harkin's statement notes thanks to those who have and are serving in the Afghanistan War, the death of Osama bin Laden and the disruption of the Taliban before noting that a real withdrawal is needed:
We cannot justify the continued loss of life when we have already lost thousands of men and women in our military, including 71 Iowans since 9/11; we also can't sustain the nearly $10 billion we are spending each month in Afghanistan this year.
The President is taking the right action in redeploying troops from Afghanistan, but as I and several other senators urged him earlier this month, there should be more troops coming home sooner.
Not all senators had something worth saying. At the Senate Foreign Relations hearing this morning, for example, Senator Barbara Boxer (one of my two senators) made a point, while questioning Hillary Clinton to giggle -- yes, giggle -- about Afghanistan. If she thinks death and dying is funny, she ought to check out her eye make up in a hand mirror, that should really have her howling. Having giggled, she then declared that her role, as a US senator, "we have to be humble if we don't agree." I'm sorry, I missed that 'humble' attitude when Bush was in the White House. Barbara Boxer's a fool and her tired and embarrasing self needs to be out of the Senate.
From the Senate to the House, US House Rep Mike Honda's office has sent out this statement from theh Congressional Caucus Peace and Security Taskforce (which he co-chairs with Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey) and from the Congressional Progressive Caucus (which he co-chairs with Raul Grijalva):
The Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Taskforce call on Congress and the President to immediately end our war in Libya. The US has been engaged in hostilities for over 90 days without congressional approval, which undermines not only the powers of the legislative branch but also the legal checks and balances put in place nearly 40 years ago to avoid abuse by any single branch of government.
We call on our colleagues in Congress to exercise their legitimate authority and oversight and immediately block any funding for this war. Before the Executive branch further weakens the War Powers Resolution, and before we attack another country in the name of our "responsibility to protect," we must recommit ourselves to our Constitutional duty and obligation to hold the purse strings and the right to declare war. For decades, the House recognized the need for appropriate checks and balances before another war was waged. We must do the same.
We call on Congress to exhibit similar foresight by promptly ending this war and pledging to uphold the laws that characterize America's commitment to democratic governance.
US House Rep and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement which included, "It has been the hope of many in Congress and across the country that the full drawdown of U.S. forces would happen sooner than the President laid out -- and we will continue to press for a better outcome." In 2004, when everyone was taken in by Barack, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) saw through that hideous DNC speech. He should have been primed, in 2008, to see through more nonsense. He missed all that but does regain his footing with a firm critique of yesterday's speech which includes:
The president's rhetoric, overall, was hideous. "The tide of war is receding," he said, and he repeated the "tide" metaphor a little later on. But war is not a fact of nature, like an ocean. It is a rash act of rulers.
Obama all but claimed to be clairvoyant, saying, "The light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance." I'm not sure what telescope he's using, but I wouldn't rely on that, either in Iraq or in Afghanistan.
Then, when he decided to draw the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama fed the American superiority complex. "We must embrace America's singular role in the course of human events," he said. He told us not to succumb to isolationism -- a spiel that echoed George W. Bush. The only difference was that Obama stressed the need to be "pragmatic" about the way the United States responds, arguing that often "we need not deploy large armies overseas" or act alone.
While Barack 'saw' progress, reality has begged to differ. Tom Engelhardt (CounterPunch): "Here's the funny thing though: a report on Afghan reconstruction recently released by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic majority staff suggests that the military and foreign "developmental funds that have poured into the country, and which account for 97% of its gross domestic product, have played a major role in encouraging corruption. To find a peacetime equivalent, imagine firemen rushing to a blaze only to pour gasoline on it and then last out at the building's dwellers as arsonists."
I'm sorry that I don't have time for lengthy statements and am editing down some of the releases sent. This is from the national Libertarian Party:
WASHINGTON - Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle responded to President Obama's June 22 speech with the following comments today:
"President Obama's speech was disappointing, but not surprising. The withdrawals he announced are painfully inadequate. Obama's withdrawals, even if they are carried out as he described, will still leave about 70,000 American troops in Afghanistan, probably for years to come. The president is commander-in-chief of the military. He has the power to end the war now, and withdraw all American troops, and that's what he should do.
"The U.S. has no business fighting a war in Afghanistan. Nearly three years ago, our Libertarian National Committee adopted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of our armed forces from Afghanistan. We are saddened and angry that there are now more troops there than ever.
"Obama talked about 'ending the war responsibly.' I think the word 'responsibly' is a weaselly escape hatch in case Obama doesn't want to withdraw more troops later. He will just say, 'That would be irresponsible -- I need to keep the war going strong.'
"This war causes the Afghan people to justifiably feel a greater hatred toward America. It makes American taxpayers poorer. And it emboldens other would-be aggressors, who can point to American intervention in Afghanistan whenever they feel like doing the same elsewhere.
"There are two big winners from the continuation of this war: Our military-industrial complex, which seems to have the president in its back pocket, and the Afghan government, which continues to enjoy tremendous benefits at the expense of the American taxpayer.
"If anything, Republican reactions to the president's speech were even more ridiculous than the speech itself. Republican Senator John McCain fretted that this withdrawal was not 'modest' enough. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, feeling the need to criticize Obama despite the fact that they basically agree on everything, complained of an 'arbitrary timetable.' Republican House Speaker John Boehner worried about losing our 'gains' in Afghanistan. All these comments show an inability to comprehend an intelligent, modest foreign policy, as well as a serious lack of respect for American taxpayers."
Though the Green Party didn't e-mail a statement, I did check to see if they had one. As has been the case so frequently since Bush departed the White House, when the Green Party should have been speaking out, they elected to be silent. Their silence is duly noted and if they're not a real political party, it's not my job to note or cover their candidate for president in 2012. For more on the nonsense of the Green Party, please visit Trina's site tonight for a guest post. In this community, Elaine weighed in on the speech with "The lousy speech" and Stan weighed in with "That awful speech."

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