Monday, November 16, 2009

Afghan war prompts new questions, fresh protests



Afghan war prompts new questions, fresh protests

President Barack Obama salutes the transfer case containing the remains of Army Sgt. Dale R. Griffin of Terre Haute, Ind., who, accordng to the Department of Defense died in Afghanistan, during the transfer event at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., last Thursday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

By Susan C. Ingram

With a spike in the death of U.S. troops and questions about future deployments, peace activists, politicians and others are speaking out about the costs of the Afghanistan War and where U.S. resources should be focused.

For U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S. resources should focus on combating terrorism and terrorists and not peace-keeping efforts in Afghanistan.

“Our main problem is al-Qaida, primarily located in Pakistan, not Afghanistan,” he said. “We have to focus in on terrorism and terrorists – not trying to maintain peace and order … that’s the responsibility of the Afghan government.”

Cardin said current troop levels reflect the U.S. attempt to maintain security in Afghan communities.

“That’s not our responsibility,” he said.

Cardin said he has been strongly in favor of the U.S. response to terrorism in the region, but doesn’t want to “use U.S. troops to maintain security in communities in Afghanistan.”

“That’s their job,” he said.

According to the Department of Defense, since the beginning of the war, 889 U.S. troops have died in “Operation Enduring Freedom,” which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan and other locations.

The rising U.S. deaths and fears of a troop escalation are stimulating antiwar actions.

Max Obuszewski, a Baltimore peace activist, has been involved in many actions protesting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In September he sent a letter on behalf of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance seeking a meeting with President Obama on withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“We are greatly concerned that the people of Afghanistan, like the people of Iraq, are suffering greatly from the U.S. invasion and the continued assault on this beleaguered country,” the letter begins.

It urged a meeting to discuss the administration’s exit strategy from Afghanistan, “which must include a plan to provide aid and reconstruction in Afghanistan through nongovernmental organizations.”

Obuszewski cites the billions of dollars being spent on the war, while the United States is weathering an economic crisis.

In addition to troop withdrawal, the group called for the closure of all military bases, the prison at Bagram Air Base, and for an end to the bombing of Pakistan.

“We need an economic revival in this country, not a war of choice in Afghanistan,” Obuszewski wrote.

A better use of resources would be clean energy programs and universal health care in the United States, the letter said.

With no response from Obama, Obuszewski joined about 60 others in a protest outside the White House last month, carrying a poster-sized copy of the letter.

Obuszewski said the protesters were all arrested.

“They didn’t entertain any of our concerns about reading the letter, and then they arrested us,” he said. “They used force to get us off that site.”

Over the weekend, Obama asked the Pentagon for a range of alternatives on troop deployment to Afghanistan.

“We’re against any increase in troops. We want the troops to come home,” Obuszewski said. “We realize if we say that, they won’t be coming home tomorrow. We want a safe withdrawal.”

Obuszewski likened the conflict to the Vietnam War.

“You had the same type of situation in Vietnam where you had a corrupt government, and people are dying, which is ridiculous,” he said.

Daniel Ellsberg was a military analyst during the Vietnam War and author of “The Pentagon Papers,” which helped turn public opinion against that war.

In an Oct. 25 interview on the Real News Network (, Ellsberg echoed Obuszewski’s feelings.

“No victory lies ahead in Afghanistan. No success of any sort that will be lasting, once American troops leave,” he said. “American troops short of hundreds of thousands will not achieve anything that can be called success in Afghanistan.”

Ellsberg said that Afghan troops will not likely ever be dedicated to fighting against other Afghans for a foreign power, namely the United States.

“And we are a foreign power in Afghanistan,” Ellsberg said. “It may seem like a truism, but it’s very hard for Americans to really internalize the meaning of that.”

In September, a former Pentagon and State Department official, Matthew Hoh, resigned in protest of administration Afghanistan policy.

Hoh said in his resignation letter that during his five months of service in Afghanistan he lost understanding of and confidence in “the strategic purposes of the United States presence in Afghanistan.”

“I fail to see the value or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year-old civil war,” he wrote.







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