Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Watch for Obama to explain his agenda of global militarism Thursday



As President George w. Bush labeled himself as a War President, so too will his successor be aptly titled when they become the Commander and Chief.

No one doubts Senator McCain when he predicts that we will be in Iraq for a long time, that he, as President, wouldn't act to change that.

But Senator Barack Obama, who ran as the `anti Iraq War candidate' because he didn't vote to allow the President to have `war powers' as his opponent Senator Hillary Clinton did is no dove. His recent comments actually expose his hawkish tendency, as well presented in this article written a week ago.

Expect some tough `military edged' talk from Obama when he gives his speach ath the convention Thursday night.


On eve of Democratic convention, Obama advances agenda of global militarism
By Bill Van Auken
20 August 2008

Speaking before an audience of 3,000 members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama defended his patriotism while attacking his Republican rival for being squeamish about launching unilateral military attacks against Pakistan.

Obama’s speech Tuesday in Orlando, Florida followed an appearance Monday before the same convention by Republican candidate Senator John McCain, who delivered a right-wing diatribe portraying the Democrat as a political opportunist and virtual traitor for his policy on the war in Iraq.



McCain charged Obama with having “tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge.” He continued: “Not content to merely predict failure in Iraq, my opponent tried to legislate failure.”

In his response, Obama spoke not as an opponent of war, but rather as an advocate of a superior strategy for pursuing US interests by military means.


He chided McCain for “talking tough without acting tough and smart,” while outlining a policy agenda that includes a continuation of the occupation of Iraq—albeit on a reduced basis—an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and its extension across the border into Pakistan. Finally, he put forward a policy of confrontation with Russia in the Caucasus that dovetails fully with the positions taken by the McCain campaign and the Bush administration itself.

Obama began his speech by declaring that America confronted a “defining moment in our history,” a conjuncture that he indicated had been reached owing to a series of events involving the ongoing or potential use of American military force.

“We are in the midst of two wars,” he said. “The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large. Russia has invaded the sovereign nation of Georgia. Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.”

Obama objected to McCain’s charge that he had shifted his position on Iraq, arguing that he had been consistent from the start. Referring to his initial opposition to the 2003 invasion, the Democratic candidate stressed that he was not opposed to aggressive wars in general, but that he viewed the war in Iraq as a miscalculation. He insisted instead that “our first priority had to be finishing the fight” in Afghanistan.

While suggesting that the “costly strategic errors” involved in the Iraq war had not been erased by the supposed successes of the military “surge” which sent 30,000 additional American troops into the country, Obama nonetheless praised the operation.

Obama Praised the Surge

He hailed General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who oversaw the military escalation, as “outstanding Americans,” while attributing the “lowering” of “the level of violence” in Iraq to “the outstanding efforts of our military, the increasing capability of Iraq’s Security Forces, the ceasefire of Shiite militias, and the decision taken by Sunni tribes to take the fight to Al Qaeda.” He concluded, “Those are the facts, and all Americans welcome them.”

There are other “facts,” however, which millions of Americans recognize as both criminal and shameful. The suppression of Iraqi resistance to foreign occupation, which is neither complete nor permanent, has been achieved through the killing of well over a million civilians and the turning of millions more into refugees. The US war and occupation have essentially destroyed Iraq as a functioning society.

Yet for Obama, the catastrophe produced by a war aimed at seizing control of Iraq’s oil reserves is the fault not of Washington, but of the Iraqis themselves.

“We have lost over a thousand American lives and spent hundreds of billions of dollars since the surge began, but Iraq’s leaders still haven’t made hard compromises or substantial investments in rebuilding their country,” declared the Democratic candidate. “And while we pay a heavy price in Iraq—and Americans pay record prices at the pump—Iraq’s government is sitting on a $79 billion dollar budget surplus from windfall oil profits.”

“Iraqi inaction threatens the progress we’ve made and creates an opening for Iran and the ‘special groups’ it supports,” he continued. “It’s time to press the Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. The best way to do that is a responsible redeployment of our combat brigades, carried out in close consultation with commanders on the ground.”

In other words, Obama is not advocating an end to a predatory war, but rather its reconfiguration in a manner designed to pressure the regime in Baghdad into acceding more fully to US demands.

As he spelled out, this “responsible redeployment” will not mean an end to the US occupation. While vowing to remove US “combat brigades” from Iraq over the course of his first year-and-a-half in office—extending their presence well into 2010—Obama made it clear that many other troops would remain.



“After this redeployment, we’ll keep a residual force to target remnants of Al Qaeda, to protect our service members and diplomats, and to train Iraq’s Security Forces if the Iraqis make political progress,” he said. Such a force would inevitably consist of tens of thousands of American soldiers and Marines.

Moreover, he explained, the purpose of this reduction in the American “footprint” in Iraq would not be to curtail the global role of American militarism, but rather to facilitate its exercise elsewhere.

The partial withdrawal from Iraq, he said, would allow Washington to “strengthen our military, and to finish the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan.”

Describing Afghanistan as the “central front in the war on terrorism,” Obama continued: “This is a war that we have to win. And as commander-in-chief, I will have no greater priority than taking out these terrorists who threaten America and finishing the job against the Taliban.”

Obama’s attempt to sell the US intervention in Afghanistan as some kind of “good war” being waged against the perpetrators of 9/11is as grotesque a lie as the ones used by the Bush administration to justify the war in Iraq. US and NATO forces are waging a brutal campaign that is claiming an escalating toll of civilian casualties as they fight popular resistance to the US-led occupation from the predominantly Pashtun population on both sides of the porous Afghan-Pakistani border. “Taking out these terrorists who threaten America” means a savage military campaign against this population.

He called for throwing two more US combat brigades into the colonial-style war against the people of Afghanistan.

The Democratic candidate’s call for a shift in the relative weight of US military power from Iraq to Afghanistan has emerged as the consensus position within the predominant layers of the American foreign policy establishment.

A so-called “terrorism index” published Monday by Foreign Policy magazine and the Center for American Progress, based on a survey of “foreign policy experts” (US security officials, intelligence operatives and academics), found that 69 percent support shifting US forces from Iraq to Afghanistan and 80 percent believe that Washington has devoted too much attention to Iraq and not enough to Afghanistan.

Underlying this orientation is a concern not with combating “terrorism,” but rather with US strategic interests. Central Asia, with its extensive oil and natural gas reserves, has emerged as a region of critical importance. In the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Washington has attempted to assert its hegemony in Central Asia in opposition to both Russia and China. The attacks of September 11 provided the pretext for a military intervention that had been planned long beforehand.

Obama and his threats to Pakistan


Obama went on to attack McCain from the right, accusing him of reticence about “bombing our ally” in Pakistan.

“So for all of his talk about following Osama bin Laden to the Gates of Hell, Senator McCain refused to join my call to take out bin Laden across the Afghan border,” he said. “Instead, he spent years backing a dictator in Pakistan who failed to serve the interests of his own people.”

The McCain campaign issued a statement pointing out that in the Democratic primary debates last year, Obama voiced his own support for US collaboration with Pakistan’s military strongman, Pervez Musharraf, who was forced to resign Monday.

“We have to work with Musharraf, because the biggest threat to American security right now is in the northwest provinces of Pakistan,” Obama said in the debate. He added, “We should continue to give him military aid contingent on him doing something about that.”

On the Russian Front

Finally, on Georgia, Obama stressed his unity with his Republican rival, declaring, “Senator McCain and I both strongly support the people of Georgia.”

The Washington Post reported Monday that “Some Democrats have been pleading with Obama to use McCain’s tough response to the Russian invasion of Georgia to paint him as a trigger-happy interventionist who would risk bringing a war-weary nation into military conflict in regions where the United States has no interest.”

Instead, Obama tried to outdo the Republican candidate in terms of menacing rhetoric. He regurgitated the war propaganda about “Russian atrocities,” while repeating the administration’s mantra that “Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected,” a euphemism for supporting the attempt by the regime in Tbilisi to militarily conquer the autonomous territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He also voiced his support for Georgia, a former Soviet republic, being “integrated” into the NATO military alliance, a policy that has dramatically heightened US-Russian tensions.

Obama included a tribute to Senator Joseph Biden (Democrat of Delaware)—reportedly a leading contender for the vice-presidential nomination—who had just returned from a trip to Georgia, and went on to cast the conflict in bellicose, Cold War terms.

The candidate concluded by warning Moscow that its actions in the Caucasus would “have consequences.”

With less than a week to go until the Democrats officially nominate Obama at their convention in Denver, and with barely two-and-a-half months until the election, the candidate’s speech underscores a stark political reality confronting the American people. Once again this November, the two-party system will offer no means of expressing the massive popular opposition to war, but rather an empty choice between two big business candidates who are committed to the expanded use of militarism in pursuit of US corporate and financial interests.

1 comment:

John Maszka said...

An Escalation of the War in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a Very Bad Policy.

Conservatives and liberals can argue the merits of the surge in Iraq, or the need to deal with terrorism now rather than later. I want to focus on something else: the impact of the perspective of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. I’m not implying that it is somehow homogeneous, just relevant; more relevant than my opinion at least.

Taking the war on terror back to Afghanistan (and most likely Pakistan) is bad for a number of reasons: the perspective of the international Muslim community; the fact that a military solution has not worked thus far, so why keep kicking a dead horse (especially when it has the potential to trample you); the delicate balance of power in the immediate theatre and in the broader region; the likely negative reaction of other states; and last but not least, its potential impact on the price and availability of oil.

Pakistan’s reaction to the Bush Doctrine has been somewhat mixed. Musharraf was caught in the middle between pleasing the U.S. to ensure continued military and economic support, and the preferences of his constituents who resent the U.S. presence there. The region is already very unstable because of this tension between the US applying pressure from the outside and the internal desire of the populace to rid themselves of the unwanted American presence.

We can say the exact same thing about Afghanistan, Karzai is in a very similar position as Musharraf was. In 2006, Karzai had to start rearming the warlords to maintain order. Similarly, in September 2006, Pakistan was forced to recognize the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan - a loose group of Waziristani chieftains, closely associated with the Taliban, who now serve as the de facto security force in charge of North and South Waziristan.

If Senator Obama becomes president, and refocuses the war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the best we can hope for is another five to six years of what we’ve seen in Iraq. But this best-case scenario is very unlikely.

In addition to a multiple-front war, we would be dealing, not with a fallen state as with Iraq, but with two established states. This could possibly work in our favor as long as they continue to remain on our side. But as already mentioned, the tension is high, and there is a very delicate balance keeping Karzai in power. What if Karzai falls to a coup or assassination? And now with Musharraf stepping down, what happens if Musharraf’s successor plays to the popular demands of the people? We could find ourselves fighting the armies of the sovereign states of Afghanistan and Pakistan, in addition to insurgent forces there. If we consider the history of this region, we realize that this is not as far-fetched as it might sound on the face of it.

As we all know, the Taliban was comprised of Sunni Islamists and Pashtun nationalists (mostly from southern Afghanistan and western Pakistan). The Taliban initially enjoyed support from the U.S., Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates in the early 1980s to fight the Soviets. By 1996, the Taliban had gained control of most of Afghanistan, but its relationship with the U.S. and most of the rest of the world became strained. Most of the international community supported the Taliban’s rival, the Afghan Northern Alliance.

Still, even after the U.S. began to distance itself from the Taliban in late 1997, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates continued to officially recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Even after 9/11 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates officially stopped recognizing the Taliban, Pakistan continued to support it. The Taliban in turn, had tremendous influence in Pakistani politics, especially among lobby groups- as it virtually controlled areas such as the Pashtun Belt (Southeast Afghanistan, and Northwest Pakistan) and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Going back to the perception of the international Muslim community … When the U.S. demanded that the Taliban turn Bin Laden over, it initially offered to turn Bin Laden over to Pakistan to be tried by an international tribunal operating according to Sharia law. But Pakistan was urged by the U.S. to refuse. Again, prior to the beginning of U.S. air strikes against Afghanistan, the Taliban offered to try Bin Laden according to Islamic law, but the U.S. refused. After the U.S. began air strikes, the Taliban offered to hand Bin Laden over to a neutral state to be tried under Islamic law, but the U.S. again refused. This is important because in the eyes of the greater international community, the war in Afghanistan was justified (at least initially). But in the eyes of the international Muslim community, especially given the Taliban’s offer to turn over Bin Laden, it was an unnecessary war. This, combined with the preemptive war in Iraq, has led many Muslims to equate the war on terror with a war on Islam. Senator Obama’s plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan will only serve to reinforce that impression.

Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an Islamic political party in Pakistan, won elections in two out of four provinces in 2003, and became the third largest political party in the Pakistani parliament – with substantial support from urban areas (not just border regions). This speaks to the tremendous influence Islamic groups enjoy in Pakistan.

This strong influence is fueled by the fact that the Pashtun tribal group is over 40 million strong. The Taliban continues to receive many of its members from this group today. In fact, the Pakistani army suffered humiliating defeat at the hand of these so-called “insurgents.” Finally, in September 2006, Pakistan was forced to officially recognize the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan. Many saw the Pakistani government’s acknowledgment of the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan as not only a military necessity, but also a political one as well – a concession in response to the growing internal pressure on the Musharraf administration from the people of Pakistan who resent the U.S. presence and involvement in the region.

Just consider the many, many public protests against the Pakistani government’s compliance with the United States. For instance, on January 13, 2006, the United States launched a missile strike on the village of Damadola, Pakistan. Rather than kill the targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, the strike instead slaughtered 17 locals. This only served to further weaken the Musharraf government and further destabilize the entire area.

On October 30, 2006, the Pakistani military, under pressure from the U.S., attacked a madrasah in the Northwest Frontier province in Pakistan. Immediately following the attack, local residents, convinced the U.S. military was behind the attack, burned American flags and effigies of President Bush, and shouted “Death to America!” Outraged over an attack on school children, the local residents viewed the attack as an assault against Islam. On November 7, 2006, a suicide bomber retaliated. Further outrage ensued when President Bush extended his condolences to the families of the victims of the suicide attack, and President Musharraf did the same, without ever offering their condolences to the families of the slaughtered children.

Last year troubles escalated surrounding the Pakistani government’s siege of the Red Mosque where more than 100 people were killed. Even before Musharraf’s soldiers took the Lal Masjid the retaliations began. Suicide attacks originating from both Afghan Taliban and Pakistani tribal militants targeted military convoys and a police recruiting center.

There are countless more examples; too many to mention in detail. Likewise in Afghanistan; April 30, 2007 for example, when hundreds of Afghans protested US soldiers killing Afghan civilians. Why can’t the powers that be recognize that we’ve been in Afghanistan for nearly seven years, and in Iraq for over five; a military approach is not working. If we must focus the war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan, let’s focus on winning the hearts and minds of the beautiful people of these countries, rather than filling their hearts with bitterness and hatred toward us. With their support, we can offer them the financial and technical assistance that they need to rebuild their infrastructure, their agriculture and their economy. With their support, we can offer them the needed resources to rebuild their human capital and start attracting foreign direct investment. But without their support, we cannot possibly have any positive influence in this region at all; our only influence will be that of brute force, bribery of corrupt officials, and outright coercion. It will be a long, hard, costly and bloody endeavor, and the people of these countries will continue to suffer.

Let’s not forget that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Let’s not also forget that this is a highly Muslim-concentrated area, the Islamic concept of duty to come to the aid of fellow Muslims would no doubt ensure a huge influx of jihadists in this type of a scenario. Why on earth would we want to intentionally provoke a situation that would not only radicalize existing moderates in the region, but could also potentially cause the influx of a concentration of radical jihadists from elsewhere into an already unstable region (that has nuclear weapons no less)? We would be begging for a nuclear proliferation problem.

We like to assume that we would have the upper hand in such a scenario. But we have been in Afghanistan since October of 2001. And we have yet to assume the upper hand. The fight in Afghanistan has the potential to become much more difficult than it already is. Nor would it be unheard of to expect other major powers to back these radical jihadists with economic and military assistance in much the same way that the US backed the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Beyond the fact that roughly 1/5 of the world’s population is Muslim (approximately 1.5 billion people- 85% Sunni, 15% Shia, Ibadiyyas, Ahmadis and Druze), we have to remember that Muslims are the majority in 57 states (out of 195). Most of these have Sunni majorities, which gives them added political power.

China has traditionally backed Pakistan. What would China do if the US were to find itself at war with Pakistan?

India has tremendous economic and security interests in the region. Let’s not forget that while India has been in nearly continual conflict with Pakistan, primarily over the Kashmir issue, it has the second largest Muslim population in the world next to Indonesia. What happens if India were to side with the U.S. in a potential conflict with Pakistan? It will have a very difficult task justifying that position with its very large Muslim population. A U.S.-Indian alliance could also spark more terrorist attacks in the Kashmir region; it could also create added tension to the already tenuous relationship between India and Iran, which has a long history of support for Pakistan. Or, if radicals gained control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, a nuclear attack against India could spark a nuclear altercation between the two nuclear powers. Or, what if radicals then gained control of India’s nuclear arsenal?

On the other hand, what happens if India for some reason (either via a coup or due to Muslims gaining the upper hand in the long-running Hindu-Muslim conflict) were to side with Pakistan against the United States? It seems unlikely now, but not completely unrealistic considering the on-again, off-again relationship between the U.S. and every country in that region. We constantly flip-flop in our foreign policy. An attack on Pakistani soil would be a perfect example of this type of wishy-washy foreign policy, as the Bush administration guaranteed Musharraf that the U.S. would never do such a thing (as much as Karzai wants us to). Speaking of Karzai, what if he is ousted and we find ourselves at war with Afghanistan. What would India do then, given its friendship with Afghanistan?

Also consider the U.S. position on Kashmir, which has a predominantly Muslim population. Pakistan wants a plebiscite, as called for in a 1949 UN resolution, to essentially allow the people to decide which state the region should belong to. India refuses a plebiscite, claiming Kashmir and Jammu as an integral part of India. The U.S. is arming both sides through billions in aid to Pakistan and selective proliferation to India, but insists Pakistan stem terrorist activities flowing from inside its borders, and at the same time discourages India from attacking Pakistan. Yet an escalation of war in the area could backfire badly.

Beyond all that we still have to consider a slew of other states such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Russia – not to mention the central Asian states - all of which have economic and/or political and security interests in the region. How will they react to an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

Finally, what would such a scenario do to oil prices and availability? I’m 100% in favor of America developing alternative energy sources, but again that’s my opinion, and the oil conglomerates have not been listening to me. Unfortunately, the facts are that the oil lobby is a very powerful entity. Even more to the point, our country could not ween itself off of oil overnight, even if it wanted to. We have to consider what such an escalation would do to oil prices, and the overall availability of oil.

The oil embargo of 1974 (in support of Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur war against Israel), in retaliation against the U.S. for its support of Israel had devastating economic and political consequences on the U.S. and much of Europe. Also, the more recent boycott of Danish products across the Muslim world, in retaliation for the 2005 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, demonstrates the ability of the international Muslim community to act collectively.

Escalating the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan would also demonstrate the fickle and hypocritical nature of America’s foreign policy. We supported the Taliban when it served our interests (to oppose the Soviets in Afghanistan) in spite of clear human rights abuses. But now we condemn the Taliban (and much of the Muslim world) over the very same human rights abuses (against women … etc.), while we also continue to ignore similar or same human rights abuses in China, Saudi Arabia, Israel … etc., when it’s convenient for us to do so. We did the same thing with Saddam Hussein; arming him in spite of clear and egregious human rights abuses when he was our ally, and condemning the same actions when he wasn’t.

The U.S. practices selective proliferation with India, and selective sovereignty with those it chooses (today Pakistan, tomorrow someone other than Pakistan), while at the same time violating the sovereignty of other states- depending on its whim at the time.

The United States government insisted that the Taliban turn over Bin Laden, but the United States itself has refused on several occasions to return foreign nationals (being held on death row in America) to their state of domicile because the U.S. wanted them to face execution, and the home state did not uphold the death penalty. We also continue to refuse to acknowledge the ICC because we don’t want American military personnel tried in an international court. How is that so different from the Taliban wanting Bin Laden tried in an Islamic court?

Rather than blindly accepting that America holds some God-given moral superiority over the rest of the planet, we need to realize that everywhere, humanity has a God-given right to live, love and prosper. Our children have the right to grow up in an environment free of air strikes and constant assault from an external enemy. They have the right to attend schools without fear of being maimed and killed inside of them. And they have the right to be children, instead of orphans. No state has the right to take that away from your children, or from mine. Imagine now that Senator Obama is planning to escalate the war on terror where you live.

amazon quicklinker

Favorites linker

google adds