Friday, June 24, 2011


By Ivan G. Goldman

One thing we didn’t hear in the president’s Afghanistan speech is the fact that when he took office there were 32,000 U.S. troops there. He’d already more than doubled their number before the surge. His speech was a masterful costume designed to cover up his nakedness.

We “will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point,” he said. Exactly. But not recovering the approximately 35,000 troops he added in his first escalation. The speech was a deft bait and switch, using the old debating trick of debating a fact that’s beside the point. In the photo above, notice the middle finger of the soldier in the foreground. An eloquent response to U.S. strategy as it translates on the ground. He was photographed in Iraq, but the sentiment encompasses Afghanistan too, the other morass of choice.

A more germane point than the one Obama tried to make is that he escalated the war in Afghanistan before the "surge" and will sustain that escalation. And the real point is that the war is pointless. The speech had nothing to do with formulating any kind of rational policy because there isn't any. The 65,000 troops that will be stuck in the graveyard of empires at the end of his term (after that the number becomes really murky) will be ordered to tell Afghans over and over that we won’t quit, we won’t let them down. But of course we will pretty much quit eventually, we will let them down, just as they’ve let us down. They failed to welcome our occupation. Imagine that.

We’ll let them down mostly by not quite leaving. Not exactly. The oligarchs who run our war policy from stations inside and outside the government are against leaving any of our war theaters. We’re still in Japan, Korea, Germany, etc., etc. And we’re building permanent bases in Iraq and Afghanistan as we speak. We will leave these places only when we get a president who has the courage to lead us out, because it takes far more courage to take out the trash than it does to let it sit there for the next president.

So our soldiers and Marines patrolling these villages, under orders to lie and say we’re really committed to Afghanistan's welfare, will know that what they're saying makes no sense at all and isn't true. Bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda is in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and elsewhere. The 9/11 attacks were launched mostly from cells in Germany, not Afghanistan. We have a broken infrastructure and Americans lack jobs and die for lack of medical care. We have no good reason to try to remake Afghanistan into Nebraska. The villagers know this too. They know they're being lied to. We know it, and the president knows it.

So it was a clever speech, but cowardly and ultimately untrue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Which of us who voted for Obama guessed that he would morph into a 21st century version of Lyndon Johnson?
Remember the South Vietnamese army and how our troops complained that it was unreliable in dangerous situations?
Same goes for the Afghan regular drawing a paycheck to supposedly cooperate with the occupying foreign forces. Of course there are brave individuals amaong them, but as a force they lack morale and cohesion. In an occupied land, the best of the younger generation will join the forces of opposition to foreign oppression. The British, in their glory days, learned this, and used Ghurkas and others to police their colonies.