Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

A Wishful Wish List for 2013

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

The war in Afghanistan has taken its toll in American lives.

By Bob Gaydos

Having offered a gratitude list for 2012, I thought it only right that I compile a wish list for 2013. One major difference: whereas the gratitude list was a personal statement for developments in my own life, my wish list is less personal and more political, I guess, for want of a better word.

Here it is, in no particular order save for number one:

1. End the Afghanistan War. Now. Do not wait for next year’s announced timetable for troop withdrawal, President Obama. American troops’ presence in Afghanistan no longer makes sense and, indeed, they are more routinely becoming targets for people we thought were on our side. Al Qaeda has been decimated. Osama bin Laden is dead, as are many of his chief lieutenants. The continuing cost in lives and bodies cannot be justified, especially with a nation still struggling to restore its economy’s health. Let Afghans figure out how to govern themselves. Give them assistance with this. But end the war.

2. Revive the Occupy movement nationwide. Perhaps the only encouraging sign that Americans still cherished their First Amendment rights and were willing to challenge dubious authority was the movement that started on Wall Street and spread to Oakland. Mostly young, but not exclusively, the Occupy protestors brought attention to the overwhelming power of money in political campaigns and the alarming inequities in wealth and opportunity in America. They were rewarded with tasers, billy clubs, tear gas, and Mace by police forces whose members were among the primary beneficiaries of Occupy proposals. Yet the members persisted, despite FBI targeting as a terrorist group. In my humble opinion, it is the young people of this movement who have the will, intelligence and willingness to bring about some of the changes on this list. Their adult predecessors have failed miserably and show little inclination to change. They’d rather complain or argue. In its old form, or something new, Occupy is this nation’s hope for the future.

3. Pass a comprehensive immigration law, including a pathway to citizenship and severe penalties for businesses that exploit undocumented aliens. If the Republican Party learned anything from the last election it is that Hispanics are willing to vote against their conservative tendencies when the conservative party is not only ignorant of the lives of undocumented immigrants but exceedingly hostile to helping them. Let them finally become full partners in the American Experience, with rights and responsibilities. Congress must do this.

4. Firmly establish global warming as a serious threat to the planet. The White House should launch of a full scale educational, media and political campaign to end the science-is-hokum arguments of the far right. Enough is enough. Establish and honor worldwide practices to reduce the emission of fluorocarbons into the atmosphere. Punish corporations that break the rules. Save the polar bears. Save us all. Remember those super storms the past two years? There are more on the horizon; all we need do is nothing.

5. End secret genetic modification of our foods. It’s everywhere, folks. Require corporations to label foods that have been genetically modified and instruct the Food and Drug Administration to conduct vigilant inspection and testing on any foods that have been genetically modified (such as wheat and corn) for economic reasons and in ways that are supposedly not harmful to consumers (you and me). If there is no harm in the GMOs, why do the big corporations, such as Monsanto, resist labeling their products as such? (Attention Occupy Movement: This one seems to be right up your alley.)

6. Pass meaningful, comprehensive federal gun control laws. Let the NRA debate over the dead bodies of the children in Newtown, Conn., the rest of the country is appalled and sees no need for average citizens to have automatic weapons with large magazines of bullets. Tighten laws on sales of guns. The president should not weaken on this issue. The NRA expected him to come after them this term. He should not disappoint.

7. Resurrect the spirit of bipartisan governing in Congress. This one is a pipe dream, I suspect, but it is crucial to the survival of this nation as a world power. It may take the virtual (or actual) implosion of the Republican Party out of sheer stupidity and stubbornness to accomplish, but so be it. Form a new party of reasonable, reasonably intelligent people and dunk the tea party. To make this happen, citizens will have to let current and would-be office holders know that they are truly fed up with the partisan bickering and lack of production. The past Congress has been called the worst ever. That sounds like a bottom to me.

Well, that’s it. I’ll keep track of these issues as the year progresses. Here’s hoping I’ll have some positive news to report.

bob@zestoforange.com

The ‘Collateral Damage’ of Protest Votes

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

The Naderesque argument that the Democratic presidential candidate is merely “the lesser of two evils” has been making an energetic comeback on progressive blogs. Liberals have become restive about a growing list of incursions on civil liberties and human rights that President Obama once vowed to oppose or overturn.

I’m not wild about Obama’s national security policy, either. But making “protest votes” for unelectable third-party candidates is an exercise in futility. Far from merely sending a principled message to Democrats that their capitulation to GOP militarism will no longer be tolerated, this strategy may permit Republican extremists to sabotage both our economy and our social contract. If this radical contingent succeeds, middle-class Americans may worry far more about economic disaster than government surveillance, political prisoners, or terrorists overseas.

The president couldn’t possibly have lived up to the rosy expectations that voters, disgusted by the Dubya years, had of his presidency. But now, scores of disgruntled Democrats have resolved to abandon the two-party system and become registered independents. Some plan to vote for Obama only if they reside in swing states; others who live in solid blue states may write in Ron Paul (seriously!) or vote for a third-party candidate like former Utah Gov.  Rocky Anderson. Obama critics on the left claim there’s very little space between Obama and Romney, because candidates from both parties depend on corporate donors and are thus beholden to the same interests.

Rob Kall of the progressive website OpEdNews declared in a recent column that he had personally decided to leave the Democratic Party. Some 200 of the site’s 55,000 members commented, professing fervent opposition to Obama’s expansion of Bush policies, including the limited use of remote-controlled Predator drones to support battlefield operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama went on to implement drones operated by CIA officers to kill suspected terrorists (among them, American citizens) “without a shred or whit of due process,” in the view of Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald.

The CIA’s human quarry is tracked by U.S.-based “pilots” whose unmanned aircraft attack targets within the borders of sovereign nations. Drone strikes in Pakistan (which critics term “extrajudicial executions”) have been reported by observers to have killed numerous civilians near the pilots’ “marks” – indicating that these hits may not be as “surgical” as the CIA claims. The official record of “collateral damage” from May 2010 to August 2011? Militants: 600. Noncombatants: 0.

I personally deplore the barbarity of these strikes (and fear that we will eventually have to contend with terrorists acquiring this technology and once again blowing random New Yorkers to smithereens). I am also chagrined by the moral ambiguity of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which affirmed presidential authority over the indefinite military detention of prisoners without charge or trial. Other dubious offenses include the administration’s 2011 defense before the Supreme Court of GPS devices employed in warrantless surveillance; Obama’s failure to honor his inaugural promise to close Guantanamo Bay’s detention camp; his stepped-up policy of deporting undocumented immigrants at a far higher rate than Bush did; the continued use of military tribunals after vowing to try terrorism suspects in civil courts; and the ongoing militaristic fixation of our government.

Obama’s principled opposition to the Iraq War as a candidate for both the U.S. Senate and the presidency led me to foolishly imagine him as a pacifist. He did end the Iraq War, as he promised, but I don’t believe we should commit to staying in Afghanistan until 2024; no other culture, from the Mongols to the Soviets, ever succeeded in “unifying” Afghanistan’s warring tribes. Apparently we have forgotten the past and are condemned, as George Santayana observed, to repeat it.

Obama had to capitulate to certain political realities – the almost-universal opposition of both parties to allowing Guantanamo prisoners on American soil to be tried in civilian courts, as well as Obama’s apprehension about facing a military/national security “coup” if he attempted to prosecute Bush-era war crimes. With an intransigent GOP opposition obstructing his every move – and rejecting their own proposals once Obama endorsed them – the president had to drop the popular “public option” from health care, abandon comprehensive immigration reform, and limit financial regulation.

I remain a pragmatist willing to work within the current electoral system because I believe that a radical-right landslide would eclipse any Democratic failure. Once in office, Romney would repay his wealthy donors by doing the bidding of the Koch brothers, the House’s “Ayn Rand” faction, and the Christian right. He would follow the dictates of Grover Norquist on a regressive tax policy that would exacerbate income disparity. He would install Supreme Court justices who would ensure a conservative majority for a generation.

Do left-wing purists really want to see the Ryan budget passed, along with interminable “Kill at Will” gun laws, racist voting laws, and xenophobic immigration laws? Do they want to witness Roe V. Wade overturned and women subjected to personhood amendments and forced vaginal probes? A GOP Senate majority swept in on Romney’s coattails could conspire with the Republican House to turn back the clock on the rights of workers to the Industrial Age, of African-Americans to the Jim Crow era, of the unemployed to “Hoovervilles,” of the elderly to county poorhouses, and of women to medieval times.

Did He Get Osama or Not? Case Closed

Monday, April 30th, 2012

President Barack Obama addresses troops at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Wednesday, May 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

By Bob Gaydos

Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.

Those are two incontrovertible facts.

Barack Obama made the crucial decisions to kill one and save the other.

Incontrovertible.

Also, if one happens to be a Republican, inconvenient and uncomfortably on target for the two things Americans care about these days when voting for a president — national security and jobs.

Protect us from terrorists and protect our jobs.

In a presidency hamstrung by two wars he did not start, a recession he did not cause and a Republican Party that struck the words “bipartisanship” from its playbook on Day One, President Obama has had only a few clear successes. He killed Osama and he saved the American auto industry.

God forbid, though — now that the election campaign has switched focus from the GOP field of nightmares to a man-to-man between Obama and presumptive GOP candidate Mitt Romney — that the president’s supporters should be allowed to brag about his accomplishments.

Take Osama, please, as Henny Youngman might have said. In a surprisingly direct (for Democrats) attack on Romney, Obama’s campaign ran web ads on the first anniversary of the event, trumpeting the daring Navy Seals raid in Pakistan that killed the al-Qaeda leader and asked, “Would Mitt Romney have made that decision?”

Good question. In fact, it’s one Newt Gingrich might well have asked of the man he described as an indecisive liar. But the Republican whiners came out in force immediately. How dare the president exploit the killing of bin Laden for political purposes? How could he take a unifying event like that and make it a divisive one? Whaa! Whaa! Whaa!

Do you hear yourselves? Who precisely is he dividing? I still don’t know a single American who is angry that bin Laden is dead and most of them are grateful that Obama gave the order to go get him.

Which, of course, is more than George W. Bush ever did. I know, we’re not supposed to talk about any of that stuff, either, right? About forgetting about capturing the 9/11 mastermind in the mountains of Afghanistan and deciding to level Iraq instead.

And, of course, we’re supposed to forget about that W. landing, in a Navy jet and wearing full flight gear, on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf to declare “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq when the war there had barely begun. And let’s not bring up the Bush team’s attacks in the 2004 campaign on Sen. John Kerry’s courage and patriotism while serving in Vietnam while W. was avoiding National Guard training in Texas. Wouldn’t be fair to recall that, right?

Aw heck, if W. had nabbed bin Laden, he would have just moved on to getting the next tyrant and we would never have heard of it again, right? He wouldn’t have it any other way.

Utter fantasy. And yet, this reaction is pretty much par for the course for the GOP these days. It has no grounding in reality most of the time and the facts are whatever its members say they are, even when they contradict one another. The more troubling reaction to the Obama ads came from some liberal/Democratic supporters who felt Obama should not be politicizing the killing of bin Laden. That it was somehow unseemly for the president to do so.

Yeah? So?

We are talking politics here aren’t we? Since when has it been a genteel sport? Did anyone pay attention to the GOP primaries? Talk about political blood sport. Republicans, conservatives, tea partiers (once upon a time that was genteel) have shown they will say and do anything to tear down the president, including belittling his accomplishments. Don’t ask, don’t tell? Don’t remind them.

The point is, Obama made a carefully calculated decision to take out the head of the most notorious terrorist group on the planet by using feet-on-the-ground troops rather than remote-controlled drones or “smart” bombs. He did it over the objections of some of his top advisers, including the vice president, secretary of state and secretary of defense. And he did it knowing full well that, if the mission failed — as did President Carter’s effort to rescue the hostages in Iran — as commander-in-chief, Obama would get full blame for it. And we would be seeing ads today reminding us of that, paid for by Romney supporters.

So yes, it seems a fair question to wonder whether the ever-changing Romney as commander-in-chief might have made the same decision. (We already know he would have let GM fail.)

Of course, the raid succeeded and al-Qaeda is a badly crippled shell of itself. To mark the anniversary, the president flew in secret to Afghanistan to thank the troops and to sign an agreement with the new government there — the one that replaced the al-Qaeda-friendly Taliban — pledging the support of the United States even when U.S. forces leave Afghanistan.

Yes, the war there will come to an end soon, just as the one in Iraq did. On Obama’s watch.

The man has a right to brag.

 bob@zestoforange.com