Afghanistan: a tragedy and what to do about it

For long-time peace activists, for those concerned with national funding for jobs, health care, environmental needs and education, the plan to maintain 100,000 troops in Afghanistan is a tragedy about to unfold. The U.S. and allied soldiers killed or physically or psychologically wounded, the Afghan and Pakistan civilians killed, the denial of resources for the everyday living needs of millions of Americans and others, and the spur to recruiting al-Qaeda and Taliban fanatics – these are the promises of this misbegotten plan.

It should have been clear eight years ago – after 9/11 – that our nation’s unprincipled foreign policy had produced and nurtured an international criminal conspiracy. This conspiracy was misusing Islam, training martyrs for murder. An oil-hungry U.S. administration launched what was designed to be unending war against Arab and Muslim people. What was needed then – and what is still needed – even after much death and destruction – is an international law enforcement effort to apprehend and prosecute the criminals.

The 9/11 attacks were planned in Hamburg, Germany, and 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudis. It was never suggested that we attack Germany or Saudi Arabia, of course, but Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield went to war against Afghanistan and Iraq, concocting one false justification after another.

The numbers of killed and physically or psychologically wounded keep rising. Our military is stretched to the breaking point. Our nation’s wealth has been pillaged or mortgaged for generations. The ranks of our people without jobs, homes and health care have swelled. Recruiting for al-Qaeda has grown and its international reach has spread.

Our own military estimates that there are no more than a hundred or so al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, and their presence is greater in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Indonesia, for example. The recent incident on a Detroit-bound airliner demonstrates dramatically the need for more intelligent and coordinated intelligence. The planned escalation to 100,000 on the other hand will cost a hundred billion dollars a year, without improving our security. And it will exacerbate every other existing problem.

Why is our nation facing this disaster when the majority of voters opted for change in 2008? Intelligent people in this administration must be aware of the history of Afghanistan. And they must be aware of the disaster that befell President Johnson’s Great Society in the jungles of Vietnam. Is it because the six-decade rule of the military-industrial complex in our national security state is too strong for any president to buck? Or is it because the first African American president is fearful of the racist and “weak on defense” charges that would flow from the ever-dangerous right if he proposed a realistic policy?

Speculation, however, is pointless. Whining or despair is useless. Attacks on the president that deliver our nation into the hands of the irrational, racist right are unconscionable. What is needed is a new level of unity and effective action centered on the economic consequences of the president’s plan.

Reprinted with permission of the author from the January 2010 newsletter of the Detroit branch, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).