Guest Editorial by Fred Mittag
“Corruption, Medieval Tribes, And Insurgency”
President Obama set his strategy for Afghanistan in a speech at West Point. Obama was methodical and encouraged all views, with Vice President Joe Biden the hero, in my opinion. But the consensus resulted in a flawed decision, and reaction was muy rápido.
Helen Thomas wrote that Obama failed to mention the greatest contrast between Vietnam and Afghanistan—the draft. I came out of the Army in 1964 and listened with empathy to other students at the University of Houston night school discussing how conscription would disrupt their lives. Those campus conversations don’t happen today.
Many in the volunteer Army are those for whom other opportunities seem remote, often blacks and Hispanics. Despair, plus the romance of the uniform, are the attractive magnets of death and injury. Still not enough, we rely on the far more costly mercenaries from Blackwater, killers under uncertain jurisdiction.
Politicians glorify our “brave soldiers” and honor their sacrifice —then reject responsibility for the rest of us. In a clear threat the nation sacrifices with war taxes, rationing, and a draft, along with overwhelming public support, including “Rosie the Riveter.” A war tax has been proposed in the Congress for Afghanistan, but met immediate hostility. David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat, said, “I am damn tired of a situation in which only military families are asked to pay any price whatsoever for this war.” But for his colleagues, blood spilling from volunteers is O.K., but please don’t make us pay taxes or face a requirement for national service.
How to pay for these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Widespread unemployment distracts the public from supporting the war. There is bipartisan agreement that we should expand warfare without paying for it. The Bush tax cuts for the rich have reduced revenue. Instead, we borrow from China and pay Blackwater, making Erik Prince a billionaire.
Frank Rich asked in a recent column how putting more troops in Afghanistan would “vanquish” Taliban forces. Their headquarters is in Pakistan—where U.S. troops may not tread. And there are barely 100 al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan. The rest are in Pakistan and several other countries.
The Nation noted that it’s a myth that the greatest danger to American security is a terrorist attack from Afghanistan. The 9/11 attacks were launched in America, and al-Qaeda operates freely in a number of countries.
Al-Qaeda is not native, but the Taliban is homegrown. They are trying to retake Afghanistan, making this a civil war. President Karzai’s recent “election” was a fraud, and with only a 10% literacy rate, few people understand the issues.
The Powell Doctrine (General Colin Powell) states “Every resource and tool should be used to achieve decisive force against the enemy, minimizing U.S. casualties and ending the conflict quickly.” “Quickly?” Bush diverted troops from Afghanistan and we’ve already been there eight years. There are incongruities here, raising the question of what our mission really is. How will we know when we have won?
The misnomer of “War Against Terror” causes problems in the detention of prisoners whose status remains legally uncertain. Al-Qaeda is stateless, and resides in a number of places. They are criminals and I agree with the Nation that “The best way to keep Americans safe from terrorism is through effective intelligence, expert police work and judicious homeland defense. These practical measures cost far less than war and occupation in Muslim lands, which arouse hatred of the United States – and give strength to Islamist extremists.”
If Afghanistan is a dilemma, there is by definition no good answer. We should concentrate our nation building at home, including health care, the economy, education, and infrastructure.