Man with a brain in chief…
I think I’ve been pretty clear on my position here. And that is, is that this country stands for the proposition that all men and women are created equal, that they have certain inalienable rights; one of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely. And what that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site.
We are not at war against Islam. We are at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts. And we’ve got to be clear about that. We’ve got to be clear about that because … if we’re going to successfully reduce the terrorist threat, then we need all the allies we can get. The folks who are most interested in a war between the United States or the West and Islam are al Qaeda. That’s what they’ve been banking on.
And fortunately, the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world are peace-loving, are interested in the same things that you and I are interested in: how do I make sure I can get a good job, how can I make sure that my kids get a decent education, how can I make sure I’m safe, how can I improve my lot in life. And so they have rejected this violent ideology for the most part, overwhelmingly.
And so from a national security interest, we want to be clear about who the enemy is here. It’s a handful, a tiny minority of people who are engaging in horrific acts — and have killed Muslims more than anybody else.
The other reason it’s important for us to remember that is because we’ve got millions of Muslim-Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They’re going to school with our kids. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends. They’re our coworkers. And, you know, when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?
I’ve got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan, in the uniform of the United States armed services. They’re out there putting their lives on the line for us, and we’ve got to make sure that we are crystal clear for our sakes and their sakes: They are Americans. And we honor their service. And part of honoring their service is making sure that they understand that we don’t differentiate between ‘them’ and ‘us’. It’s just ‘us’.
Ya get it now?
The following letter to President Obama was written by Shogofa and originally published by Afghan Women’s Writing Project
I felt good when I saw President Barack Obama on TV. Everyone here was so happy to see him win. Everyone admired his speech and said he would be better than the previous president. They said he would be smart about Afghanistan and end the war and the killing. I saw faces full of happiness and hope. The reason I want to meet President Obama is to share with him all the tears of my people. I know I can’t write about all our problems in one or two pages, and I know my letter can’t clean the tears from my people’s eyes. But I write it anyway.
Dear President Barack Obama,
We want to live without fear.
I will never forget this war, what we have lost and how our lives have been destroyed as a result of an American policy that doesn’t concern itself with innocent people. After you were elected, we hoped that everything would be all right. But it is worse than before.
One thing is clear: our people are tired of war. We have tried to explain our problems again and again, and yet the situation gets worse with every passing day. Why doesn’t an Afghan life have value? What did we do that we are the victims of first the Taliban, and now the US?
It is destroying us—especially women. Too many people die, or lose their homes. Too many children are homeless in our country. It may be the poorest country in the world, but who is responsible for this? Everyone thinks about politics, but no one thinks about human life.
Do you think that your army is useful here? Or that it will bring peace? You are wrong if you do. I witnessed a mother and son who lost their lives crossing the road. The American army thought they were terrorists, but they were trying to find money to support their family. This is how we lose members of our families. How many people will die? We don’t know.
Day by day, our country is destroyed. People can’t walk freely on the road or drive. The Kabul road is too difficult for passengers now. Everyone hates it when cars get stopped and people are prevented from going to work. We don’t feel comfortable in our own country. It is like we are strangers in our own home.
Don’t you want Afghanistan to become independent?
We need our own army; our own police. Even the youngest child wishes that one day he will be able protect his country from others. But everywhere we see the American army, or soldiers from other countries. So we don’t feel free.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a strong enough government to control the situation without wasting money. No one knows where this money goes and still we are in need. This our weakest point. We don’t have a president who thinks about the future of Afghanistan or about the generation that holds the future of Afghanistan in their hands.
We need to build our own country. We want to stand on our own feet. We want to be independent.
The presence of the American army, or any army from another country, does not bring peace. Never does it save our people’s lives from war or from suicide. It will continue. It will get worse. When an army comes from another country, our army gets lazy. They have no incentive to do their job. They think the government doesn’t believe in them.
What we really want is to make our people educated. Give them the chance to get a higher education and come back to serve their people. That is what would help the Afghan people: instead of sending an army to kill, send teachers. Show my people how to work together.
My wish, President Obama, is to make Afghanistan independent and the people hard-working and able to walk on the road without fear. To be able to delete the word of “poorest” when describing my country. So send your people, if you must. But send them to inspire, and to teach in peace.
President Obama says his decision on a new strategy for Afghanistan will “give clarity to the American people about what we’re doing, how we’re going to succeed, what’s the end game… (and) how much this thing is going to cost.”
The cost of war in dollars alone requires a choice not only to stop sending troops but also to withdraw all U.S. military forces and invest in civilian-led development of Afghanistan’s devastated communities and for jobs and real security here at home
Consider: It costs $1 billion to send 1,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
That’s $1 million per solder for one year, according to the Pentagon. In total, it is millions more than the entire revenue collected last year by the Afghanistan government — $890 million.
That $890 million is also the cost of providing health care to 550,000 U.S. children or to the cost to keep 16,000 teachers educating the next generation of Americans.
And that $890 million is dwarfed by the more than $44 billion spent yearly on U.S. war funding.
Given that staggering cost, it’s clearly time to reconsider “what we’re doing.” Investing in support for strong civilian institutions and in humanitarian aid led by civilian aid workers is more likely to create a stable Afghanistan than continued warfare. Spent here at home, it could help lead us out of our jobless economic recovery.
Dave Lindorff over at After Downing Street is right on the money..
If you are sitting in class taking a test, and you’ve chosen to sit amongst your bone-headed, slacker friends, don’t turn to them for help when you can’t figure out of any of the answers. They may all tell you the same thing, but they’ll all be wrong.
That’s the situation President Obama finds himself in today in the White House. Having surrounded himself with the very Wall Street con men who set up the crooked game that led to the current financial crisis and economic collapse, and finding that the lousy advice they have been giving him since last January has left the country still mired in deepening economic decline, with the banks still not lending and unemployment still mounting, and with growing signs that instead of bottoming out and starting to recover, the economy is threatening to fall a second time, to new lows and higher unemployment, Obama has turned to the same rotten advisors for answers.
A few days ago, in an interview with Fox-TV while he was in China off all places (a country that has made a stupendous stimulus investment to create domestic jobs!) Obama warned, for the first time, that America faces the possibility of a “double-dip” recession. That’s fine as far as it goes. I agree. But what did he say the risk was? Not that the government has been failing to put significant numbers of people back to work, but that the government keeps piling up deficits.
This has to be the lamest economic thinking since Herbert Hoover started tightening the screws on government spending at the onset of the Great Depression in 1930.
Clearly the American government needs to do just the opposite of worrying about deficits. The only growth the US economy has seen to date has been the result of government funding—the cash-for-clunkers program gave a brief restoration of pulse to the auto industry, and the $8000 tax credit for buying a first home kicked up home sales briefly. We know this because when the clunkers program ended, auto sales crashed, and when the deadline approached for the end to the new home tax credit, home building plunged almost 11%. The hundreds of billions of dollars poured into so-called “shovel-ready” state and local projects like roads, schools, etc., may have added or saved as much as a million jobs, but the economy lost many times that many jobs over the same period.
The problem with these stimulus programs is that they are inefficient ways to create jobs or preserve jobs. If roughly one million jobs were created through the stimulus spending of say $200 billion (assuming that the February $800-billion stimulus program, to mollify Republicans, consisted of one-half tax cuts and only one-half actual federal spending, and that this federal spending was spread evenly over a two-year period, that’s $200,000 per job!
If, instead, Obama had chucked the dunces at Treasury and in his Council of Economic Advisors, and instead asked your Labor Secretary to initiate a wide-ranging $200-billion-per-year jobs program, hiring the unemployed at perhaps $20-25,000 per person to do everything from teach in overcrowded urban schools to laying high-speed rail trackbeds, from cleaning up parks to putting insulation in homes, he could have given jobs to close 8 million people—people who would have then spent their money on goods and services and helped rally the economy from the bottom up.
Deficits? Who gives a damn about deficits at this point! The country is up to the gills in debt without creating any jobs. (It’s kind of like my mortgage. Why would I worry about using my credit card to buy food for the week if I was low on cash, when my mortgage has me deep in the red for the next ten years? Obama’s financial advisors, on the evidence, would tell me I should let my family go hungry, because I need to worry about my total debt load.) If you’re worried about deficits, Mr. Obama, end the god-damned wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is costing one million dollars a year to send one lousy grunt to Afghanistan or Iraq. And you want to have at least 100,000 guys over there. That’s $100 billion a year right there—enough to hire four million unemployed Americans back here at home!
This president is well on the way to rescuing President Hoover from history’s crap heap by one-upping him in the realm of economic mismanagement. We already have Obamavilles springing up around the country. We haven’t started calling them that, but Naming Day isn’t far off.
At least Hoover didn’t mire the country in another war while the economy was collapsing around him.
President Obama is on a short leash at this point. His fans, and I was one of those who was willing to give him a shot last November, are mostly giving up on him. Activists are already turning on him. My union friends are disgusted. My African-American friends just shake their heads in dismay. Liberal friends act embarrassed. A leftist friend, retired, who devoted a month to campaigning for Obama full time in Pennsylvania last fall now writes angry letters almost weekly to Obama’s former campaign manager David Plouffe and others, blasting Obama’s handling of the bank crisis and his Afghan War plans. Clearly Obama cannot continue to appease Republicans and cater to Blue Dogs in Congress and expect to be re-elected in 2012.
Indeed, if he doesn’t toss the crooks and charlatans in the Fed, the Treasury and his Council of Economic Advisers out, and doesn’t stop listening to the self-serving crazies in the military, he won’t even have a Democratic majority in Congress by the end of next year.
President Obama, aren’t you tired of being an embarrassment to your friends and family? Aren’t you tired of being mocked by your foes?
Come on. We’re sick of your speeches! Suck it up, be a leader.finally and kick some butt. Do something unconventional and daring. End the wars, bring the troops home, announce a huge jobs program, issue an executive order expanding the Medicare program, raise taxes on the wealthy to back where they were in the 1960s, and let’s get the country moving forward again.
Watching the CBS Evening News on Afghanistan this week I thought for a moment that I might be watching my grandson playing one of those video war games that are so popular these days.
Reporting on the attacks that killed eight Americans, CBS turned to animation to depict what no journalists were around to witness. This is about as close to real war as most of us ever get, safely removed from the blood, the mangled bodies, the screams and shouts.
October, as you know, was the bloodiest month for our troops in all eight years of the war. And beyond the human loss, the United States has spent more than 223 billion dollars there. In 2010 we will be spending roughly 65 billion dollars every year. 65 billion dollars a year.
The President is just about ready to send more troops. Maybe 44 thousand, that’s the number General McChrystal wants, bringing the total to over 100 thousand. When I read speculation last weekend that the actual number needed might be 600 thousand, I winced.
I can still see President Lyndon Johnson’s face when he asked his generals how many years and how many troops it would take to win in Vietnam. One of them answered, “Ten years and one million.” He was right on the time and wrong on the number– two and a half million American soldiers would serve in Vietnam, and we still lost.
Whatever the total for Afghanistan, every additional thousand troops will cost us about a billion dollars a year. At a time when foreclosures are rising, benefits for the unemployed are running out, cities are firing teachers, closing libraries and cutting essential maintenance and services. That sound you hear is the ripping of our social fabric.
Which makes even more perplexing an editorial in THE WASHINGTON POST last week. You’ll remember the “Post” was a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq, often sounding like a megaphone for the Bush-Cheney propaganda machine. Now it’s calling for escalating the war in Afghanistan. In a time of historic budget deficits, the paper said, Afghanistan has to take priority over universal health care for Americans. Fixing Afghanistan, it seems, is “a ‘necessity’”; fixing America’s social contract is not.
But listen to what an Afghan villager recently told a correspondent for the “Economist:” “We need security. But the Americans are just making trouble for us. They cannot bring peace, not if they stay for 50 years.”
Listen, too, to Andrew Bacevich, the long-time professional soldier, graduate of West Point, veteran of Vietnam, and now a respected scholar of military and foreign affairs, who was on this program a year ago. He recently told “The Christian Science Monitor,” “The notion that fixing Afghanistan will somehow drive a stake through the heart of jihadism is wrong. …If we give General McChrystal everything he wants, the jihadist threat will still exist.”
This from a warrior who lost his own soldier son in Iraq, and who doesn’t need animated graphics to know what the rest of us never see.
So here’s a suggestion. In a week or so, when the president announces he is escalating the war, let’s not hide the reality behind eloquence or animation. No more soaring rhetoric, please. No more video games. If our governing class wants more war, let’s not allow them to fight it with young men and women who sign up because they don’t have jobs here at home, or can’t afford college or health care for their families.
Let’s share the sacrifice. Spread the suffering. Let’s bring back the draft.
Yes, bring back the draft — for as long as it takes our politicians and pundits to “fix” Afghanistan to their satisfaction.
Bring back the draft, and then watch them dive for cover on Capitol Hill, in the watering holes and think tanks of the Beltway, and in the quiet little offices where editorial writers spin clever phrases justifying other people’s sacrifice. Let’s insist our governing class show the courage to make this long and dirty war our war, or the guts to end it.
BILL MOYERS: That’s it for this week. Log onto our website at pbs.org and click on “Bill Moyers Journal.” You’ll find a web exclusive conversation with the political analyst Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com. There’s also more from economist James Galbraith and the Journal’s complete coverage of the financial meltdown and bailout.
The most effective weapon we have in combating and suppressing Taliban extremists in Afghanistan is the very system we are currently systematically destroying, the Afghan population, the majority who is moderate and wants to live in peace. By relying on large army operations and military air power, civilian injuries and casualties have been high, and we are destroying relationships with the population on which we need to rely. Working with and supporting rural areas and with tribal leaders through Afghanistan’s national programs is the best chance we have for “winning” in Afghanistan. Using this system is the only effective way of creating a successful democracy from within and moving the country of Afghanistan forward.
On my recent trip back to Afghanistan in the week after their elections of August 20th, 2009, I was able to engage in an intensive series of meetings, interviews, briefings and site visits in the capital, Kabul. The meetings ranged from discussions with top officials to encounters with malnourished refugees, from briefings at multi-billion dollar agencies to small grassroots NGO offices. This large diversity of groups all expressed different views on how to achieve success in Afghanistan and further enable their programs. I met with representatives from the United Nations Development Programme, humanitarian aid organization Parsa, United Nations Development Fund for Women, independent Afghan Journalists from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, The World Bank, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation & Development, Afghanistan National Independent Peace and Reconciliation Commission aka PTS Commission; former Afghan parliament member and woman’s rights advocate Malalai Joya; Hekmat Karzai, cousin of the president and director of the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies, Women for Women International-Afghanistan, Equal Access women’s programming manager Mahbouba Seraj, Kabul University, an orphanage and a refugee camp.
In my meeting with the United Nations Development Programme’s Country Director, Manoj Basnyat and Head of Partnerships and Result Management Unit, Mohammad Ali Ashraf, I discovered that they’ve had a very successful disarmament program where they’ve been able to reach out to 30,000 villages and they have disarmed 28,000 of them, which was quite impressive, taking into consideration the wide spread violence.
Women for Women International-Afghanistan is undergoing a pilot program that has also proved to be very successful. The organization’s Deputy Country Director spoke very passionately about the program and explained that what they are doing is getting large groups of men into classroom settings and teaching these men about women’s rights. The pilot proved to be successful and they are currently working with their second group of men. The first group is taking the message back to their villages and relating their teachings to village members. Today they are honoring and enforcing women’s rights. Another success story thought to be unachievable.
I was also able to meet with The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation & Development’s Minister, Mohammad Ehsan Zia. What they do differently from all other rebuilding efforts is that they ask the participating villages for a 10% stake in all projects. This 10% can be paid through funds or labor. Therefore, the village has vested interest in the reconstruction projects and allows no one, not even the Taliban, to interfere with them. These projects continue to stand strong today.
Then I met with Chris Eaton, the Chief Executive Officer to Agha Khan, an NGO who has also been very successful in his humanitarian aid program. This NGO has been in Afghanistan for five years. The first year, when they chose to use private security to protect their group, they were attacked. They quickly figured out the best form of security is no security at all. Once they took a more personal approach with the villagers and did away with ALL security, they immediately began having better success and have not been attacked or threatened in the last four years.
On the final day of my stay, I met with Mohamed Akram, the President of National Peace and Reconciliation or PTS Commission. They exist to reach out to village elders to make contact with known Taliban fighters, and convince them to lay down their weapons and join the peace process. I also met with a former Taliban leader who was one of 29 black-listed before he made contact with the PTS Commission. He is now working for the organization and is part of the peace process. They’ve been able to bring 9,000 Taliban through their program, with 13,000 more going through right now. The Taliban members agree to leave the Taliban, undergo a process of picture-taking, document-signing and finger-printing. Once complete, they are integrated back into society, are offered resources and employment opportunities.
The common thread I found between all these programs is that they utilize the tribal systems already in place to reach out to elders and tribal leaders and include them in the process to identify and implement solutions. The programs that they have implemented have proven very successful, all without any support or protection from US or NATO forces. One successful model is the National Solidarity Program, which is a national program coordinated by the Ministry of Rural Development, but through which development priorities are identified by local shuras, or community consultation processes, which must include women in the same or separate shuras. Community block grants of up to $60,000 are provided to local companies or organizations who implement the project selected locally by the community. In this way, members of the community know what to expect, reducing the opportunity for corruption or mismanagement.
When the Taliban’s governance of Afghanistan collapsed in 2001, the UN led a very successful peace-keeping operation of aid and security. It is my firm opinion that any security and policing that is needed has to be done by the UN initially and then Afghan police if it is going to have any hope of being successful, as the US is currently seen by the majority of the country as a colonizing force. There should be a monitoring plan, whereby the UN provides oversight of the security forces for a ten year time-frame, until the state institutions can develop checks and balances of power. The last thing we would want to do is provide weapons and uniforms to another system that can become oppressive without international intervention until the country stabilizes.
Every day, tribal elders continue to convince more Taliban members to lay down their weapons and go to the PTS Commission, and they’ve been very successful this far. These villager elders are also convincing the young men of their tribes not to join the Taliban. With very little infrastructure, virtually zero industry in the country, and U.S. military presence, it is a constant challenge.
It is the village elders who are working with the UN to disarm fighters. It’s the village elders who are enforcing women’s rights with Women for Women international, and it’s the village elders who are helping the Afghanistan rebuilding program to be successful. It will be the village elders who will suppress and eventually eliminate the Taliban and not allow safe havens for Al Qaeda because they know it’s what their country needs. They will be the ones to secure and rebuild. Unfortunately, it is our occupation of the country that is compromising the success of these programs, directly and indirectly. The ongoing U.S. military operations, including bombings, are what motivate people to take up arms and join the Taliban.
Our current foreign policy is the problem, and our troops will be targeted regardless of the task they are intending to achieve, even if that task consists of peace or rebuilding. We need to think outside the box, we need to look at this war differently and not from a viewpoint clouded by fear of “terrorists.” America is suffering from an acute case of PTSD and it’s time we cure ourselves and begin to have some solidarity with the people of Afghanistan. We are at a stale-mate with no chance of a military success. We need to withdraw on our own terms rather than running in complete defeat as the Soviets did. But we can do something that they failed to do when they left. We can support Afghans in ways that will help Afghanistan become more stable, both for their own sake, and for our own. – Cpl Rick Reyes, USMC