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Afghanistan, Obama and Imperialism

November 10, 2009


Afghanistan may well be the jagged rocks on which Obama’s presidency crashes and sinks. Barack Obama campaigned and came into office on an agenda of hope and change. Regular readers may remember in issue 11, 4SM saw Obama’s electoral victories as a positive social advance for U.S. society, a push back against racism and public support for change in many spheres of life in this country. I also said then that Obama was no radical and he came into office with the backing of significant sectors of the U.S. ruling class and power elite. In 2008, the majority of the country was opposed to the wars Bush initiated, especially Iraq, but Afghanistan too. This is even truer now, in the Fall of 2009.

Let’s look at some concrete facts and realities. With only nine months in office, the Obama government has almost doubled the U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan to 68,000. There are 38,000 other foreign, mostly NATO troops there as well. The corporate news media is now reporting that Obama is considering throwing 40,000 more U.S. soldiers into that war. Meanwhile, with all the talk of finally getting out of Iraq, there are still 130,000 U.S. soldiers occupying and killing people in that country.

The recently completed in-depth report of the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, describes a failing military endeavor, a corrupt government without popular support and time running out fast for the western invaders. This general’s idea of a solution is to throw in 40,000 more U.S. soldiers. In August and September, the U.S. military suffered higher casualties than they have since the initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Casualties for Italian and British troops were the highest ever, in the last two months. Over 5000 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. More soldiers will mean more body bags coming back to the U.S.

Air strikes have increased since President Obama took office. Indiscriminate bombings have massacred thousands of Afghan civilians and become a major source of opposition to the occupation. Just one example: on September 4, 119 people, including dozens of children and other civilians were killed in a fireball, when a German NATO commander called in U.S. F-15 fighters to attack two hijacked oil tankers in a town called Kunduz. Overall civilian casualties increased 25 percent in the first six months of 2009. Best estimates state that at least 30,000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan.

Polls indicate that more than half the Afghan population is now opposed to the U.S. led imperialist occupation. That pretty much matches the over 50 percent of U.S. people who are opposed to the war and occupation and especially to any escalation of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

This cost in blood and death is horrendous. Let’s also look at the price tag of this war. For the first time, the war in Afghanistan in the next budget year will cost Americans more than the war in Iraq. By the end of the next fiscal year, which started October 1, the total military budget cost for both wars will exceed $1 trillion. That is more than the cost of the Vietnam War, adjusted for inflation, or any other U.S. war except World War II.

A trillion dollars is impossible to imagine. But let’s break it down this way: let’s say you had an expense account where you could spend one million dollars everyday – seven days a week, it would take you 2,935 years to spend $1.071 trillion, which is the actual estimate for the wars’ price tag by Travis Sharp of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington. This is an insane waste of U.S. tax dollars at any time. Right now, as unemployment hits 10 percent, with millions losing their jobs, millions losing their homes, cut backs in schools and government services, and still over 50 million Americans with no health care, etc., etc., it is just plain wrong, stupid and self destructive to pour this kind of money into this endless war and occupation of Afghanistan!

Even some pro-imperialist establishment voices are speaking out against deepening the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Former President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, old Cold War dog Zbigniew Brzezinski, recently warned that a U.S. escalation in Afghanistan could become a quagmire. Senator Carl Levin, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, argued that adding U.S. troops would not only result in a large increase in U.S. casualties, it would arouse more Afghan support for the anti-U.S. resistance. These voices and others like them, are those of officials who support imperialism, but realize that getting further sucked into Afghanistan will be a real mistake. Other NATO countries, with their own occupation troops in Afghanistan are coming to this same realization. The Netherlands and Canada have both said that they will reduce and pull their troops out soon. Even the right-wing government of Italy is talking about getting out of that war.

The occupation and war in Afghanistan, just like the war in Iraq, is an imperialist nightmare for the people of those countries and a huge sucking chest wound for the people here in America. The U.S. ruling class and the elite political and military rulers want to extend and enforce their will on nations and regions around the world. There is a lot of oil in the Caspian Sea region and Afghanistan is a crucial pipe line route. Imperialism does not benefit or improve the life of the majority of us people in: the United States. We pay the bills and do the dirty work the killing and dying, mostly in foreign lands. The original reason for invading Afghanistan was to get Osama bin-Laden and Al Qaeda. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are long gone to Pakistan and other lands. Even in the original official story, no Afghans were involved in 9/11. Yet this war grinds on and on, and now Obama might be ready to launch a major escalation – a reinvasion almost that will, mark these words, result in much more death on all sides and a huge and growing financial cost, for years and years, perhaps even decades of more war.

All of Barack Obama’s other efforts for reform of health care, education, environmental recovery, etc., will be lost and his presidency, quite possibly only one term, will be defined and broken by this war. More importantly, we the working people, common and poor people in America will have to carry this burden. More people around the world will come to hate the U.S., as we continue to pay the bills and our family members, from the working class, do the fighting, killing and dying. Imperialism, and U.S. imperialism in particular, is harmful and destructive to us, even as it is harmful and deadly to the people whose lands and homes are invaded and bombed.

The imperialist propaganda machine has gone into overdrive, through much of the corporate news media. The returning war dead are lauded as heroes whose deaths must not be in vain – ‘the old lie’ so more young people must die, whose deaths in turn must be honored by still more deaths.

It is time for the working class and regular people in the U.S. to see past these illusions and lies, to see our own interests which are peace and prosperity, jobs and health care, affordable housing and good schools – not more prisons or military for our youth. It is time for the anti-war and social and economic justice movements to step forward. We need to speak, yell and scream, let Barack Obama know we won’t support or tolerate these Bush-started wars, even if he, the first Black President of “change we can believe in” tries to escalate and continue them. It is past time to get totally out of Iraq and Afghanistan now!

PS: For information on a potentially very significant and impactful effort to bring this anti-war and social and economic justice message to the Obama government, see the announcement from the ‘Black is Back Coalition’ and their November 7 March and Rally in Washington, DC, which follows this article.

Jaan Laaman
U.S. Penitentiary
P.O. Box 24550
Tucson, AZ 85734

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