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Why Are We Still in Afghanistan?

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Congress will vote tomorrow on whether or not to pull out of Afghanistan.

"Conventional wisdom" among many Americans - and congress members - is that we need to be in Afghanistan to protect our national security.

Is it true?

A Little History

Before we discuss whether it is necessary for the U.S. to stay in Afghanistan, a little history might be instructive.

As I pointed ou t in December:
The Taliban offered [in October 2001] to hand over Osama bin Laden to a neutral country if the US halted bombing ... [the U.S. refused]


The government apparently planned the Afghanistan war before 9/11 (see this and this).

And the government apparently could have killed Bin Laden in 2001 and AGAIN in 2007, but failed to do so.

In fact, starting right after 9/11 -- at the latest -- the goal has always been to create "regime change" and instability in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon and other countries. As American historian, investigative journalist and policy analyst Gareth Porter writes in the Asia Times:
Three weeks after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld established an official military objective of not only removing the Saddam Hussein regime by force but overturning the regime in Iran, as well as in Syria and four other countries in the Middle East, according to a document quoted extensively in then-under secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith's recently published account of the Iraq war decisions. Feith's account further indicates that this aggressive aim of remaking the map of the Middle East by military force and the threat of force was supported explicitly by the country's top military leaders.
Feith's book, War and Decision, released last month, provides excerpts of the paper Rumsfeld sent to President George W Bush on September 30, 2001, calling for the administration to focus not on taking down Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network but on the aim of establishing "new regimes" in a series of states...
***
General Wesley Clark, who commanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing campaign in the Kosovo war, recalls in his 2003 book Winning Modern Wars being told by a friend in the Pentagon in November 2001 that the list of states that Rumsfeld and deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz wanted to take down included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Somalia [and Lebanon].
***
When this writer asked Feith . . . which of the six regimes on the Clark list were included in the Rumsfeld paper, he replied, "All of them."
***
The Defense Department guidance document made it clear that US military aims in regard to those states would go well beyond any ties to terrorism. The document said the Defense Department would also seek to isolate and weaken those states and to "disrupt, damage or destroy" their military capacities - not necessarily limited to weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Indeed, the goal seems to have more to do with being a superpower (i.e. an empire) than stopping terrorism.

As Porter writes:

After the bombing of two US embassies in East Africa [in 1988] by al-Qaeda operatives, State Department counter-terrorism official Michael Sheehan proposed supporting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against bin Laden's sponsor, the Taliban regime. However, senior US military leaders "refused to consider it", according to a 2004 account by Richard H Shultz, Junior, a military specialist at Tufts University.
A senior officer on the Joint Staff told State Department counter-terrorism director Sheehan he had heard terrorist strikes characterized more than once by colleagues as a "small price to pay for being a superpower".
And recall that former U.S. National Security Adviser (and top foreign policy advisor) Zbigniew Brzezinski told the Senate that the war on terror is "a mythical historical narrative".

In other words, America's original stated reasons for invading Afghanistan don't hold much water.

If We Didn't Need to Be In There for National Security Purposes, We Wouldn't Be There

Most who realize that America's Afghan strategy has been poor still think we're stuck there until we clean up the mess and stabilize the region.

In fact, however, Obama has never really given a reason for continuing the Afghan war.

Psychologists and sociologists show us that people will rationalize what their leaders are doing, even when it makes no sense. For example, as I pointed out in November:

Sociologists from four major research institutions investigated why so many Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, years after it became obvious that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

The researchers found, as described in an article in the journal Sociological Inquiry (and re-printed by Newsweek):

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George Washington


As a political activist for decades, I have rejoiced in victories for the people and mourned in defeats. I chose the pen name "George Washington" because - as Washington's biographies show - he wasn't a (more...)
 

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Because these corporations are making huge profits... by mrk * on Thursday, Mar 11, 2010 at 2:59:41 PM
This current occupation of Afghanistan & Iraq ... by gravity32 on Friday, Mar 12, 2010 at 10:20:54 AM
Rhetorical Question or... are you asking "me"?IF y... by mrk * on Friday, Mar 12, 2010 at 10:41:46 AM
Very well said, but isn't protesting about all tha... by gravity32 on Friday, Mar 12, 2010 at 10:56:36 AM
No need for complicated analysis. We're in Afghani... by TomK on Friday, Mar 12, 2010 at 1:42:16 PM
"The war is not supposed to be winnable, it is sup... by mrk * on Friday, Mar 12, 2010 at 1:50:00 PM