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White House And Pentagon: Change, Continuity And Escalation

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Message Rick Rozoff

Nations like individuals can be vain and even narcissistic.

And the real human cost of the Iraq war to US servicemen and their families cannot be lightly dismissed.

Not that anything said by any of the major presidential contenders provided specific plans for a reduction in the size of the US military budget or the abandonment of major weapons programs, much less a willingness to recognize that their nation, as important as it is in many respects, is in the end a nation among 191 others and not the lighthouse, beacon, guide, model, farseeing older brother or stern taskmaster for all the others.

The switch from one zoological totemic image to another - the Democratic donkey succeeding the Republican elephant - was not accompanied by any analogous change in fundamental worldview. If anything there may have been a revival and reinforcement of it.

There was discussion of a phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq - the major military engagement of the time - but those who advocated it simultaneously urged an increase in troops to Afghanistan.

On all other issues concerning the use of US military might - for example the so-called war on terror, the expansion of NATO to and around Russia's borders, the arming and training of proxy armies for regional wars like those of Georgia in the South Caucasus and Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa, and the provision of Israel with military and diplomatic support for armed attacks like those against Lebanon and Gaza - the main candidates of both the Democratic and Republican parties maintained a staunch unanimity. In fact their positions were and are identical.

When tactical differences existed they were in the manner of a seesaw; where one side went down the other went up.

In the 2004 contest between then incumbent George Bush and challenger John Kerry the second regularly said of the war in Iraq - which he had voted to authorize in the US Senate in 2002 - that it was "the wrong war at the wrong time."

During that year he had also called for a quintupling of US troops in Afghanistan from the 12,000 at the time to 60,000. The precise figure was used at the same time by former vice-president Al Gore (who was then also considering another presidential run) and future presidential candidate and now secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

A curious mind, one unblinded by partisan party spirit, would have asked how all three had arrived at exactly the same number.

Afghanistan was the right war at the right time. Kerry's accusation that the Bush-Cheney administration had "taken its eye off Afghanistan" would be echoed four years later by both Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

No one in either major party would mention that there would have been no war in Afghanistan, or presumably the events of September 11, 2001 that served as its justification, without the fully bi-partisan US orchestration of the 1978-1992 mujahedin war in and against that nation, one that included the active participation of an estimated 10,000 "Afghan Arabs," among them Osama bin Laden.

Earlier this week Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the main recipient of billions of dollars of the CIA's Operation Cyclone aid to the Afghan mujahedin and someone then president Ronald Reagan once compared to America's founding fathers, boasted that his forces had killed four US soldiers in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

A year ago last December one of the most successful American films during that Christmas season was Charley Wilson's War which depicted - celebrated - the role of the US in arming Hekmatyar and his allies with Stinger missiles and other weaponry to prolong the Afghan war until America's clients entered the capital of Kabul in 1992 and laid waste broad swathes of it in internecine fighting.

Tens of millions of Americans flocked to movie theaters to watch the film and applaud its "flawed but admirable" hero and many more approvingly viewed it on DVD at home. Perhaps as many as 100,000,000 Americans whooped, whistled and clapped their hands with delight as young Russian conscripts, their bodies on fire, were blown out of helicopters by US missiles.

Now the moral equivalents of the founding fathers of the United States are slaying the latter's descendants in South Asia.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at:
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