Sunday, December 6, 2009

Phyllis Bennis on Obama's Afghan War Escalation

Here is excellent policy critique by Phyllis Bennis of Obama's escalation of troops in Afghanistan. 30% of all U.S. casualties in the 8-year war in Afghanistan have occurred during the 11 months of Obama's presidency. The cost of this war, with the new escalation, will be about $100 billion a year, or $2 billion every week, or more than $11 million every hour. I encourage you to read the whole Bennis piece, but here's an excerpt:
'Less than two days after his escalation speech, Obama will host a jobs summit at the White House. Whatever his official message, the millions of unemployed in the U.S. know that 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan adds $30 billion this year to the already out-of-control war budget — and means that the only jobs available will be in the military. What clearer example could there be of the Afghanistan war as a war against poor people — those who die in Afghanistan and those left jobless and desperate here at home? A week later, Obama travels to Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Not even the best speechwriters will be able to portray sending thousands of young women and men across the world to kill and die as evidence of the newest Nobel laureate’s commitment to global peace.

'And the day of the speech itself was World AIDS Day. The UNAIDS noted that all of its country goals — treatment for 6–7 million people, screening 70 million pregnant women, providing preventive services to 37 million people — could be accomplished with just $25 billion. That’s what the United States will spend fighting in Afghanistan in just three months. Timing matters.

'The result was a speech that reflected Obama’s centrist-in-chief effort to please all his constituencies. Some will be quite satisfied. Mainstream Republicans were delighted. They were careful not to praise too much, but as Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss noted, President Obama’s escalation was “the right analysis, the right decision.” General McChrystal, Obama’s handpicked top commander in Afghanistan, was quite satisfied: He had asked for 40,000 new troops, and got 30,000 U.S. troops and a promise (we’ll see…) of 5,000 more from NATO and other allies. More significantly, he and Bush hold-over Secretary of Defense Robert Gates got the president’s endorsement of a full-scale counterinsurgency plan.

'Mainstream Democrats were likely delighted — assertion of their party’s military credentials, with talk of a “transition to Afghan responsibility” to soothe their constituents’ outrage. They may be uneasy about the additional costs, but could take solace in Obama’s promise to “work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.” Just how anyone would “address” these spiraling billions remains unclear.

'The ones not happy — besides the young cadets in the audience, other soldiers facing new and endlessly renewed deployments, and their families — are the massive numbers of people who swept Obama into office on a mobilized tide of anti-war, anti-racist and anti-poverty commitments. Talk of beginning a “transition” 18 months down the line, with NO commitment for an actual troop withdrawal, isn't going to satisfy them.'
Protest Obama's Escalation Saturday December 12th Burlington, VT. Details to come.

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