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Bill Moyers Calls for Draft if Obama Escalates in Afghanistan

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opednews.com Headlined to H2 11/13/09

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Have you registered for Selective Service? It's the law!

Television's most respected journalist Bill Moyers has called for a draft if Obama escalates troops in Afghanistan. Simply doing the math, the Pentagon's own counter-insurgency manual says that no fewer than 670,000 troops would be required to quell an insurgency in a country the size of Afghanistan by military means. Moreover, Moyers noted, during Vietnam, with probably more favorable terrain, if that can be imagined, than mountainous Afghanistan, with that level of troop build-up "we still lost."

The counter-insurgency doctrine widely accepted in the military says 20 troops per 1000 inhabitants are required to control a population. Much less only acts as a red flag before a bull and triggers any nation's natural desire to eject what is alien and unfamiliar. What is perceived as gibberish-speaking men armed to the teeth and kicking down doors and staring at the women is not taken to kindly in Afghanistan. And this is a place where firefights with each other is practically just sport.

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Table talk is how grandpa knocked a Soviet helicopter out of the sky with a rocket launcher. No empire could ever resist taking a stab at the unbeaten champs for resisting subjugation, betting that it had figured out something the previous empire hadn't. Every time Afghans have shown that they're just plain tougher, braver, and more tenacious fighters than the occupiers, as brave and tenacious as the occupiers may be. As a U.S. Army captain told me, "All the dumb ones are dead. What's left are crack, natural fighters." He's against an escalation. In 2001 Special Forces was astonished to see them hopping across rocks on mountainsides with their rocket launchers like goats, barefoot. In the snow. A country with 30 million people, after 30 years of war, in Afghanistan, if you are alive, you are already a survivor.

Moyers proposes making the war "our war." By the Pentagon's own admission even if Obama were to grant McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops, the Pentagon doesn't have them to give. It said it could come up with maybe 30,000 max. Where the rest will come from is a mystery.

The evil of it all is that we now have a situation in which we are pitting one pool of unemployed young men who join the military because they have few alternatives, against another pool of unemployed young men who join the Taliban because they have even fewer. At $8-$10 per day for "insurgent work" and with 40% unemployment, the Taliban is meeting its recruiting goals too, even though most Afghans hate the Taliban.

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"There is a low percentage of the total Taliban force who we would call ideologically driven. We refer to them as Tier 1 people who believe their ideology, that what they're doing is right. The vast majority of Taliban fighters are essentially economically disadvantaged young men." --Col. Tom Collins, PBS Frontline, April 2, 2007,

The whole thing could be gotten over with for far less than a tenth of what we will be spending on military "operations" (read: one bunch of unemployed young men shooting at the other bunch and chasing them across the countryside.) By simply announcing a mini-Marshall Plan for Afghanistan which would hire youths for digging and clearing at $7 a day, they would throw down their weapons, rush for the less dangerous jobs, and probably half the time shoot their Taliban commanders on the way out.

"19-year-old Jaan Agha in Helmund Province told the Institute for War and Reporting in November of 2007 that it was either the Taliban or watch his family starve. "I couldn't find a job anywhere. So I had to join the Taliban. They give me money for my family expenditures. If I left the Taliban, what else could I do?"" --"Few Choices for Helmand's Troubled Youth," Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Nov. 9, 2007

The real problem with escalating troops is that it's much easier to put them in than to take them out. You can go up, but if you try to go down the Neocons who still seem to be running things start screaming "surrender!" Moyers notes that the Washington Post, a "cheerleader" for the escalation, now places "fixing" Afghanistan as a higher priority than fixing health care. And at a projected cost of $65 billion a year for more troops to stay, that kills a lot of room for domestic initiatives.

If Obama sacrifices his presidency on Afghanistan, and in the next election the country moves to the right, especially if there is another terrorist attack, a retooled Sarah Palin or Jeb Bush could call for the draft. The government hasn't been busy with those Selective Service registrations you need to complete to get your Pell Grant for nothing. Note who isn't registered with the Selective Service: rich kids, like children of congressmen, who don't need no damned Pell Grant. It's a perfectly designed dragnet for any young male who is bright, motivated, and fairly poor. They don't even have to debate what kind of draft. It's already in place.

Whether or not you believe this scenario is even a remote possibility, the time to try to change it is now. By taking his time on making a decision , it may be that Obama is saying to us: speak now, or forever hold your peace.

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Afghan Marshall Plan Exit Strategy, please send to your congressmembers.

Congressmembers' emails and phone numbers here.

Recent radio interview on Afghan Marshall Plan in Keene, NH


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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He writes for Truth Out, Alternet, Consortium News, Op-Ed News, and other Internet media. He reported from Afghanistan in 2009 and produced a short documentary film on the (more...)

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