Another omission in Obama’s speech was the rationale for the 9/11 attacks to begin with: principally, the fact that it was a response to U.S. foreign policy, including U.S. support for Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people and other violations of international humanitarian law.
It would be difficult to argue that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan haven’t similarly increased the threat of terrorism against the U.S. for the same reasons we were attacked on 9/11 in the first place and the legitimate grievances that served as the rationale behind the unjustifiable attacks.
One obvious corollary is that fighting terrorism simply isn’t high on the list of priorities for U.S. foreign policy, rhetoric to the contrary aside. Much as with democracy and the principle of self-determination, it isn’t that U.S. policy is opposed to the idea; it’s fine, just so long as the goal doesn’t interfere with the actual policy considerations, which don’t actually have anything to do with democracy (or fighting terrorism, etc.).
This contempt for democracy is illustrated by Obama’s decision on escalating the war, opposed by many, if not most, Americans, and also opposed by most Afghanis, according to surveys. It is also illustrated by the necessity of government officials to lie in order to justify war.
Obama’s decision to wait to announce the troop increase until after the Afghanistan election and its immediate aftermath was perhaps in part a result of deliberations over whether or not to do so. But it’s equally likely that the decision was made before the election even took place, and the delay was simply necessary to give the administration time to engage in a public relations campaign to preempt criticism that the U.S. was backing a corrupt regime.
The principle means of doing so was for the administration officials to make tough statements about the need for Afghan President Hamid Karzai to act against corruption – statements difficult to take seriously for anyone familiar with the situation there who is not inclined to take such rhetoric at face value.
Take, for instance, Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose name was bandied about as a prime example of the kind of guy Karzai should not include in his government. This is the same General Dostum whom the CIA handed suitcases of cash to as a Northern Alliance ally in the initial effort to overthrow the Taliban, who is among the same group of warlords the U.S. itself dealt with and helped to empower. The lectures to Karzai about the need to rid his government of corruption ring hollow in light of the U.S. role in empowering warlords such as Dostum in the first place, people whom the U.S. obviously has no qualms about dealing with itself.
But the admonitions served the purpose of preemptively fending off criticism that the war effort simply serve to prop up a corrupt regime before the announcement of a troop increase was actually made – the predictable outcome since General Stanley McChrystal first made his request for additional forces. Thus, Obama included in his speech the statement that “We’ll support Afghan ministries, governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable.”
Just how serious his administration is about that is reflected in the anti-opium policy announced this summer. Under the new policy, drug lords associated with the insurgency – and only those with connections to the Taliban or other insurgent groups – are to be targeted. In other words, the drug lords responsible for the vast majority of Afghanistan’s drug trade – including individuals within or allied to the Karzai government or occupying forces (the president’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai himself is reportedly a leading drug lord, as well as a CIA asset, according to the New York Times) – are specifically excluded from the scope of the U.S. “anti-drug” policy in Afghanistan.
Or, to put it yet another way, the U.S. policy serves to help the biggest drug lords consolidate their control over the opium and heroin trade. The mainstream media, meanwhile, follows the government’s lead in focusing instead on the Taliban’s relatively meager profits from its indirect role in the drug trade, such as by ushr, a tax on all agriculture, including poppy cultivation.
Obama’s only arguments against a withdrawal from Afghanistan were far from convincing. His first was that, “Unlike Vietnam”, in Afghanistan, the U.S. has “a broad coalition” that “recognizes the legitimacy of our action”. The central fallacy here is the assumption that because a deed has international complicity, it is therefore “legitimate”.
His second argument against withdrawal consisted of a simple denial that the U.S. is “facing a broad-based popular insurgency.” Well, if the U.S. isn’t facing a broad-based popular insurgency, then why does Obama feel it necessary to send more troops in the first place? What is all the talk about counterinsurgency (“COIN”) and the need to win hearts and minds, if the insurgency is not broad-based and popular in many parts of the country? This argument is false on its face, another case of two-plus-two-equals-five.
Obama’s only other argument against withdrawal was a repetition that “unlike Vietnam”, we’re there because “the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border”, an argument for which the central fallacy has already been addressed.
These arguments against withdrawal, like his arguments in favor of escalation, are as ridiculous as Obama’s assertion that, “unlike the great powers of old”, the U.S. has “not sought world domination.” The sane, rational people of the world must surely remain unconvinced, in light of the actual facts of history and current U.S. foreign policy – Obama’s announcement of an increase in troop numbers being no exception.