As Tom Hayden noted recently in The Nation: “Anything resembling genuine popular democracy in Afghanistan or Pakistan would end the Western military occupation, or at least the air war, house-to-house roundups, and mass incarceration at Bagram.”
3. The speech, most speciously, presented war itself, as wielded by the U.S. and its allies, as consequence-free: an apparently surgical operation that will root entrenched evil from its mountainous redoubt. This aspect of Obama’s speech is least forgivable. It failed to so much as hint that war is a clumsy tool, that high-tech violence wreaks incalculable environmental and human havoc, which always overwhelm its short-term strategic aims.
A few days after the speech, Jacques de Maio of the International Committee of the Red Cross castigated both sides of the conflict for their indifference to civilian casualties: “My point is that there is no such thing as a clean war and . . . what’s going on in Afghanistan and in Pakistan right now is an ample demonstration of that,” he said. The agency is anticipating that fighting in the area will displace as many as 140,000 people this year, according to Agence France-Presse.
Obama rode an American — a global — passion for peace into office, yet he spoke to us about expanding Af-Pak operations as though we had voted for ignorance and war.
4. The speech called for dialogue only among parties on one side of the conflict: the U.S. and the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan. There was no mention of communication with the evil Taliban, our former Cold War ally, and no mention that huge, festering grievances in the Arab world against the West (the Palestinian situation, for one) are fueling terrorist activities and merit serious world attention.
The isolation of power has made our president a prisoner of the Washington establishment, whose “clear and desperate urge,” Tom Engelhardt wrote recently, “is to operate in the known zone, the one in which the U.S. is always imagined to be part of the solution to any problem on the planet, never part of the problem itself.”
We must demand accountability from the Obama administration (202-456-1111). It’s too late to surrender, again, to cynicism, despair and more of the same.
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