I feel like it’s 2003 all over again. But this time it’s not a lead up to the Iraq invasion, but a lead up to Operation Escalation In Afghanistan. Instead of an arrogant, provincial dolt as POTUS, we seem to have a smart, articulate, cosmopolitan President. Be that as it may, Obama is likely leading us and that region into deeper, more troubling waters. I, joining millions across the nation, am deeply concerned about the military escalation in Afghanistan and the fact that it has been sold as the “right’ or “good” war as opposed to the bad war in Iraq. I am dismayed that many centrists, progressives, and liberals alike have fallen into this trap.
Put simply, I don’t want to have to be urging for an end to the Afghan War/Occupation in another few years. I don’t want to have to be reading about daily casualties of U.S. soldiers, civilians, and Afghan citizens for years to come. I am tired of reading about U.S. air strikes and drone attacks in Afghan/Pakistan that kill innocent citizens at wedding parties. I don’t want to be hearing the excuses in a few years, “We can’t just pull out now….”
Of course it is deeply troubling, if not surprising, to hear some of the same rhetoric concerning the War on Terror that Bush used coming out of Obama’s mouth. My closest encounter with the real-life consequences of the United States government’s “war on terror” was when I was in Kenya in January 2007. Making my way up from the coast of Kenya, from Mombasa to Nairobi, I had struck up a conversation with a man sitting next to me on the bus. The conversation turned to politics. The man responded with a gesture I saw many times in Kenya: he took his hand and slowly slipped it into his pocket. Corruption. Apart from the bad roads, it’s the other running joke or tragedy in Kenya, concerning politicians who skim off the top of government contracts and public funds. “They get elected and they run off with our money,” he said with resignation.
“I don’t like politics.” But then he asked, “How about your (then) Senator from Illinois?”
“Oh yeah, Barack Obama.” I had already been primed for this conversation because several Kenyans had brought him up. There are even articles about him in the national papers. There was already excitement about it at that time.
“Yes, Obama, do you think Americans would elect a black man for president of your country?”
“I don’t know.”
I told the truth. I said I thought many Americans are ready for a change and that many people don’t care about race so much as policy, but there are still many who are racist, overtly and subtly.
But then he asked, “Why does your country want to bomb everything?”
How was I to respond to that? He referred to the US Airforce AC-130 bombings the previous week just over the Kenya-Somalia border about a couple hundred miles north of where we were. Many innocent people, children, and livestock were killed. The US denies any innocent civilians are being killed. I’ll leave it up to you to decide, but I just wonder how accurately you can kill a couple men you are looking for with bombs? I had earlier met some Kenyan folks who were gravely worried about their relatives in the area who might be in the line of fire, but it was hard to get information at the time.
If you want to know how Africans and others view such events and how it affects their perception of the USA, here is a headline from Kenya’s leading newspaper: “U.S. Warplane Rains Death on Somalia.”
What does this have to do with Afghanistan? These are the types of things that have been coming out about our action in Afghanistan-Pakistan. Drone attacks have increased significantly since Obama took office.
There are many aspects of Obama’s plan that are headed in the right direction: regional diplomacy, a greater civilian presence, highlighting the need for civil society reconstruction, and reconciliation among Afghan factions. But these positive changes in U.S. policy–that are more likely to lead to real Afghani and U.S. security–are clouded and undermined by the military surge. Indeed, I find my self asking everyday: “Why does my country want to bomb everything?” and “Why does my country seem to always favor the military route?”
It’s something we should all perhaps reflect upon. But for the purposes here, my main arguments for opposing the escalation of U.S. and NATO military presence in Afghanistan are quite simple:
1)The majority of Afghans polled don’t won’t more foreign troops
2)Escalation of troops will inevitably lead to more conflict, more civilian murders, more U.S. soldier deaths, and more costs
3)There is abundant evidence that military escalation will make things worse- not only does it create more violent conflicts, but it helps unite various factions within Afghanistan and Pakistan against a foreign army occupation.
4)There is abundant evidence that terrorist networks aren’t defeated with military force. See the Rand Corp. report.
5)Obama doesn’t seem to have set forth any exit strategy or to have told us the cost of this escalation over the years to come
In short, I want to see our troops home and a more secure and prosperous Afghanistan. There is still an opportunity to Rethink Afghanistan if enough people demand of Obama and Congress to have a real, evidence-based strategy for the region. Raise your voices now while there is time.