War and rhetoric: Et tu, Obama?

At long last we find ourselves not needing to give President Barack Obama any more rope with which to hang himself. Most Americans, not just those professing progressive leanings, should now clearly see this hoped-for prophet of change wearing presidential vestments in the empire’s colors of military red, corporate white and phony-politics blue. Nothing could have been more assertive in displaying allegiance to America’s imperial undertakings than this president’s command last Monday night (11/30) to escalate the war in Afghanistan, and to do so before a befitting audience of West Point cadets.

Forty-five years ago a joint resolution of the US Congress (Gulf of Tonkin Resolution) made it possible for President Lyndon Johnson to conduct war operations in Southeast Asia without the required formalities of a “declaration of war.” In our unconstitutional march towards a de facto fascist state, our elected Fuehrer-Duce-Caudillo no longer needs the advice and consent of Congress. At least in 1964 there was a voice in the Senate, that of Sen. Ernest Gruening, objecting to “sending our American boys into combat in a war in which we have no business, which is not our war, into which we have been misguidedly drawn, which is steadily being escalated.” Now voices of dissent from politicians, including most Democrats, seem to have been muted… those who helped elect this president resigned to accept Obama’s, or rather the Pentagon’s, war plan.

Our statesman-in-chief had us in deceitful-wait for two months after meeting with the top warrior in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, as if engaging in thoughtful process before rendering a Solomonic decision on Afghanistan; while all along the decision likely had already been made. Obama had the option to emulate Harry Truman – as the 33rd President of the United States showed his grit by firing General Douglas McArthur when this arrogant military man publicly, and loudly, contradicted the war-foreign policies of his commander-in-chief (1951) – but, unlike the former president, chose not to put this general, or the rest of the military brass, in their proper place by opting for an arbitrated peace in Afghanistan instead of a protracted war.

A military solution for Afghanistan, which is basically what Obama is putting on the table, is laughably ill-conceived and one only needs to look at a topographic map of that country, its splintering mountain ranges (including the Hindu Kush) and its population distribution to envision the monumental and costly task that would be. A combined Afghan army and national police of 400,000, as McChrystal proposes – assuming that such “loyal” security force could be trained – would bring neither safety to the Afghan people, nor secure power for a central government in Kabul. Hamid Karzai, or whoever our next puppet president turns out to be, would continue to be for all effects and purposes the Mayor of Kabul, a figure head confined to that city.

Only a political/diplomatic solution will work in Afghanistan. That appears to be the consensus of the wiser minds in the region, and even many Americans, civilian and military, with ground experience in that country. Even former Pakistan military ruler Pervez Musharraf acknowledges that any military efforts must be backed by political dialogue with the Taliban and other players.

But arbitration, mediation, negotiation, or dialogue are not in our diplomatic vocabulary unless we get to choose what is to be arbitrated, mediated, or negotiated; and we also get to decide who is to be part of the dialogue. Thus, international conflict resolution is inaccessible to us… as proven by our unwillingness to bring Hamas and Hezbollah to the table which has prevented the attainment of lasting peace in Palestine and the rest of the Middle East. Now it is the Taliban who stand in the way of peace and our vision for the land of the Pashtun… friends and recipients of our aid while they fought Russia, but terrorists now, unworthy of dialogue.

In holocaustic fashion the US is responsible for the killing and displacement of millions of people in Iraq. Is Obama prepared to bring the same fate to Afghanistan?

Last July, prior to the Afghan elections, a journalist-friend, in situ expert on Afghan affairs – with appropriate cultural and language background to his credit, commented to me on America’s presence in Afghanistan which substantially mirrors what Sen. Gruening had said in 1964 about then Vietnam: “Ben, why is your military in Afghanistan fighting a war which makes no sense; not really your war but one Bush misguided the public into needlessly accepting; and one which is escalating as you let the military assume the foreign policy role?” Mingo then reflected on the idiocy of occupying that country when Bush could have easily strong-armed the governing Taliban into dismantling Al Qaeda training camps, even the handing over of Osama Bin Laden to some neutral international or Muslim court to be judged on his terrorist activities.

The day after Obama’s speech at West Point, Mingo sent me an email that said: “With all due respect to your president, basically a good person, and the office he holds, he is proving out to be an articulate dumb-ass, long on rhetoric and short on political brains and moral leadership.” I am not quite sure that I agree on the political brains assertion.

The tripartite surrender is now complete for President Obama: surrender to Israel and the wishes of Benjamin Netanyahu; surrender to Corporate America, and its iconic predatory capitalism; and now, surrender to the Pentagon, and a military brass intent on ruling the world, no matter how forcefully they deny it. Submission in the name of an ill-founded, perhaps nonexistent, centrism that Obama is hoping will allow him to live in the White House with a modicum of personal peace.