Recent headline in New York Times
‘Afghanistan: 2 more Americans killed’
Headline in Times same day
These are typical headlines of what is happening day after day after day. It doesn’t need a seer to interpret them: Get out of Iraq and Afghanistan now.
Yet President Obama, despite his intelligence, persists in the folly of two losing wars. Like an ever-hopeful gambler, he is doubling down when he should be folding.
What the military says echoes what we heard from it in Vietnam: “The tide is turning in Afghanistan.” (In Vietnam: “Light is at the end of the tunnel.”)
Iraq and Afghanistan, like Vietnam, are quagmires. The only sensible solution is to declare victory and get out.
The foreign policy of Obama is that of G.W. Bush. Obama is expending the same blood and treasure in the same exercise in futility. He is also indulging in the same frat-boy frolics as Bush. Obama appeared in Afghanistan earlier this year wearing a flight jacket emblazoned with an American eagle and an Air Force One emblem.
Randall Amster in Truthout put it well: “The mantle of warfare slips seamlessly from one president to another, from one party to another, from one decade to another, from one generation to another. We are good and they are evil.”
Obama, like his predecessors for 50 years, is thick with the military.
Autocratic President Hamid Karzi is “our man” in Afghanistan. Two theocratic Persian Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are U.S. allies. That’s in keeping with what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls “principaled pragmatism.” Principaled pragmatism really means no principles.
Obama administration timetables mean nothing. Guantánamo is still open, long after Obama promised to shut it. Bagram Air Base, the torture jail in Afghanistan, is undergoing a $60 million expansion.
American withdrawal from Afghanistan is scheduled for July 2011. Don’t bet on it.
So Gen. David Petraeus replaces Gen. Stanley McChrystal as boss in Afghanistan. It’s like replacing captains on a sinking ship.
The generals keep kidding themselves and the country by saying success in Afghanistan depends on “favorable conditions.” There never will be favorable conditions. Afghanistan is “a bleeding ulcer,” as one general admitted. Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers are paying millions of dollars in protection money to support a network of Afghan warlords escorting convoys across the country.
Obama’s folly is abetted by the Establishment media. The San Francisco Chronicle declared in an editorial that victory in Afghanistan is essential “to American credibilty and safety.”
That’s Wall Street Journal, 14th-century editorial thinking. America has neither credibility nor safety in Afghanistan. Moreover, America troops have no business being there. They are justly hated by the Afghans as invaders and occupiers.
Yet the dreaming by Obama advisers continues: Afghanistan will be conquered and all will be right with the world.
Meanwhile, America’s global empire is ever-expanding. Its 1,000 worldwide bases cost $2 billion a day. Its tentacles are now reaching into Colombia with access to seven bases in order to fight narcotics trafficking.
At home America also has a disaster: BP’s Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. It is not just the death of 11 rig workers and an unstoppable oil gusher coating birds and polluting beaches. It’s yet another blazing indictment of capitalism and the American way.
Such environmental horrors are caused by lax safety standards, deadly shortcuts and far too lenient administrators. The economy and jobs count more than workers’ lives, injuries and health.
The Center for Public Integrity reports that BP accounts for 97 percent of flagrant violations in the refining industry and has accounted for 760 citations for “egregious, willful” violations. The Obama administration lackeys at the Interior Department and Minerals Management Service continue to give away the store to BP despite its implication in the worst oil disasters in American history, such as the Texas oil refinery explosion that killed 15 workers in 2005 and the Exxon Valdez tragedy of 1989.
Which leads to a related problem in society: A reactionary Supreme Court in 2008 severely limited compensation for the Exxon tragedy, making a mockery of the slogan “equal justice under the law.”
“Our criminal justice system is the most punitive of any industrialized democracy,” Christopher Hayes of the Nation writes. “We have 2.3 million people incarcerated, half of them for nonviolent property and drug offenses.
“At least two dozen states have three-strikes laws and in some cases citizens can face life imprisonment for minor nonviolent offenses. In 2003 the Supreme Court upheld a 50-year sentence for a California man caught stealing videotapes.”
America has all the wrong values.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.