Obama Should Read WikiLeaks Docs
Perhaps President Barack Obama should give himself a waiver on the ban prohibiting US government employees from downloading classified cables released by WikiLeaks, so he can better understand the futility of his Afghan War strategy.
Update: Into the Hindu Kush rode the 140,000 US and NATO troops.
It is essential that we resist the administration’s attempts to infantilize and seduce us by the comfort of soothing illusion.
President Obama’s brief address on Dec. 16 about achieving “core goals” in Afghanistan was riddled with a Swiss-cheese patchwork of holes — a case study in non-sequiturs and empty phrases suitable for a Rhetoric 101 class on specious logic.
If the White House PR people still think that the sonorous alliterations out of a Dr. Seuss style-book —“disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda”— will suffice to ensure the support of the American people, they have another think coming.
But the President’s form-over-substance speechwriters keep at it nonetheless, adding some “r” alliterations to the earlier “d” sounds.
In his speech, Obama said al-Qaeda “remains a ruthless and resilient enemy bent on attacking our country. But make no mistake – we are going to remain relentless in disrupting and dismantling that terrorist organization.”
Does this mean that with the 140,000 NATO troops now in Afghanistan, we’ve been able to kill or capture some of the 50 to 100 al-Qaeda operatives who CIA Director Leon Panetta has said may still be in Afghanistan and maybe some of the few hundred hiding on the other side of the border with Pakistan?
Alas, we are left to figure out that answer for ourselves, as Obama went off on a familiar tangent, equating al-Qaeda with the Taliban. (BULLETIN: For those who only think inside the Fox box, please know that the two are not the same.)
This bloody adventure in Afghanistan is made all the easier to continue by the reality that is not “we” who are condemned “but to do and die,” but mostly disadvantaged folks from our small towns and inner cities whom we privileged Americans are happy to let do the dying for the rest of us.
Is it that Americans no longer care about this sort of thing? Are we so dumbed down as not to be able to see that there is no justifiable logic behind the killing, maiming and destruction, even assuming the professed goals in Afghanistan are the real ones — a dubious assumption indeed?
Facades of Empire
Washington’s present course in Central Asia can be much more logically understood if the real goals of the violence are to achieve what an empire requires in terms of military bases, natural resources, strategic interests and further enrichment of the super-wealthy.
This is to explain, not to defend. And, in case you’re wondering, my view is that these goals are both morally indefensible and unachievable in the longer run.
Combine them, however, with back-home political interests – Democrats fearful of being called out by Republicans and the Right as weak on defense and soft on terror – and you have a better sense of why the Afghan War drags on.
Americans have been generally inclined to give the government and its official explanation for war the benefit of the doubt — but only for so long. Many are now coming around to the realization they’ve been had.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey of Americans conducted from Dec. 17 to 19 (immediately after Obama’s public reassurances), 63 percent of the respondents expressed opposition to US involvement in Afghanistan — an all-time high.
For those who think Afghan opinion also matters, recent polling conducted by the BBC, ABC, and other news organizations shows that, in provinces where there is the most fighting, the proportion of people approving of attacks on US troops has risen from 12 to 40 percent in the last year.
Since Gen. Petraeus loves metrics for gauging the progress of his counterinsurgency strategies, he might want to put those numbers into one of his PowerPoint displays about his success at winning hearts and minds.
As Harry Truman was fond of saying, most of us were “not born yesterday.” Those able to think outside the Fox box can discern when artificial alliteration and dubious logic masquerade as articulation of sound policy.
It may take a couple of run-throughs of this background, but Americans are inclined to “dis” (to use inner-city vernacular) artifices like “disrupt, dismantle, defeat” as empty slogans hiding a lamentable lack of cogent thinking.
I find myself asking, a la John Kerry before he let the imperial Establishment do a lobotomy cutting the connection to the Vietnam file in his brain, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
Maybe it is too much to expect today’s John Kerry to do better than his timorous predecessor as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Vice President Joe Biden.
In the run-up to President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Biden caved in to strong White House pressure and staged faux hearings featuring the kind of “experts” who predicted that an invasion of WMD-laden Iraq would be a “cakewalk,” and shunning those of us predicting catastrophe.
Et tu, John? One can always pray for miracles, but the current Foreign Relations Committee chairman appears to be the same empty shirt who let himself be persuaded by his handlers in the 1990s that his dreams for political advancement required making peace with the Establishment.
Sadly, it’s almost impossible to envision Kerry reverting back to the more courageous politician of his early days in the US Senate when he challenged the Reagan administration’s foreign policy, let alone to the gutsy young Navy officer who in 1971 confronted the same committee he now chairs.
Ray McGovern served as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for thirty years. He works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington and also serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).