Thoughts on the AfPak Speech

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Here are some of my early thoughts on President Obama’s Afghanistan-Pakistan “Way Forward” speech from a clip I did with Keith Olbermann on Countdown tonight.
I said 40,000 troops in my opening comments when I meant 30,000 troops. It was nearly 4 am in Berlin when I taped this — so slight slip there.
Look forward to other informed, thoughtful reactions to the President’s remarks in the Comments section. Be civil.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

126 comments on “Thoughts on the AfPak Speech

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Amazing. Some despicable bigot Israel-firster, drooling some horsershit about sanity and her opponents “hating America”. Nadine wouldn’t know patriotism for America if it smacked her in the face. Openly and shamelessly bigoted, proven on numerous occassions to be a liar, and she wants to lecture us about sanity and insult our senses of patriotism? Is it a wonder the majority of the posters here find her to be a loathsome and dishonest distraction?

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  2. nadine says:

    Glad to hear it, John. Though I may derive amusement from the kooks, I only enjoy arguing with the saner denizens of the left.

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  3. John Waring says:

    Nadine,
    More than a few of us will shed no tears when OBL dies of natural or unnatural causes.

    Reply

  4. nadine says:

    “GB said, “I always learn something from you.” That is what makes this website so valuable. If the goal is insight, TWN is a must read.”
    Yeah, if you want to hear conspiracy theories from “truthers” about how poor innocent Osama bin Laden was framed. Such is their hatred for America, that any self-proclaimed enemy of America must be found to be an innocent lamb.
    I wonder what Steve Clemons thinks about his blog crowd?

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  5. David says:

    GB said, “I always learn something from you.” That is what makes this website so valuable. If the goal is insight, TWN is a must read.

    Reply

  6. esme says:

    POA, great point about Iraq going south.
    What do you think are the chances of congress voting in a draft after 2012, regardless of who wins?

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  7. pauline says:

    Raw Story reported this morning —
    “It seems as though everybody has their own opinion about what should be done in Afghanistan, and in a debate Friday on MSNBC’s Morning Meeting, the three participants appeared to be largely talking past one another on the issue.
    “Salon’s Glenn Greenwald offered a [third and very] different perspective, focusing on the social rather than the military dimensions of the conflict. “The whole lesson that we supposedly learned from the September 11 attacks,” he stated, “was that one of the mistakes that we made was that we were propping up dictatorial and tyrannical leaders in the Muslim world and therefore turning Muslims against us and making them seethe with anti-American sentiment.”
    “We’re doing all the things [in Afghanistan] that inflame anti-American sentiment,” Greenwald emphasized, “which our own government says is the fuel that gives rise to Islamic radicalism…. We’re aiding and abetting the extremists.”
    “When you hear things like this, you feel like you’re living in a fantasy world,” Greenwald commented. “I mean, we’re a country that almost brought the entire globe to economic collapse. We have enormous debt that we’re drowning in ourselves. The idea that we can go to that part of the world and magically cure the problems that are over there is just insanity. We’ve been trying for ten years and we’ve been making the problem worse.”
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31510813/ns/msnbc

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  8. easy e says:

    Silver Slipper
    OBL’s interview in Sept. ’01 was well authenticated.
    The U.S. propaganda machine (i.e. Mainstream Media) kept it well suppressed in their efforts to caste OBL as the world’s most dangerous boogeyman and enlist support for the wars that followed.
    CNN did report the following:
    September 17, 2001: Bin Laden says he wasn’t behind attacks
    http://edition.cnn.com/2001/US/09/16/inv.binladen.denial/index.html
    However, most OBL so-called communication since Oct. 2001 have been fabrications – – – many put out by the likes Rita Katz and her SITE propaganda operation.
    Wonder why TWN doesn’t cover this phenomenon?

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  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And not to be trite and repetitious with my “conspiratorial” rants, but anyone that buys into the fantastic and implausible crock of shit we were sold about 9/11 is a fuckin’ idiot. I have no idea what actually occurred, and how, but it sure as hell wasn’t what we were told it was.

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  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I have always maintained that Bin Laden was a loose end that the actual planners of 9/11 could not dare to have hanging around. It is my belief that Bin Laden’s death was part and parcel to the plot. His value to the scam known as the “GWOT” was guaranteed as long as he could be portrayed as a fugitive on the lam. His capture would have worked against the plans of Bush/Cheney/CIA/Mossad. He’s been dead and on ice for a long time now.

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  11. silver slipper says:

    easy e,
    Has that interview with Bin Laden been verified as authentic? I couldn’t find any coverage of it by any well known news source. Also, a letter acknowledged as from Bin Laden in 2002 seems to contradict this interview. Though he doesn’t express guilt in the attack on 9/11, he is giving arguments as to why it is justified. In the interview you’ve posted, Bin Laden says “Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle”. However, in the letter he writes in 2002, he justifies it:
    “(3) You may then dispute that all the above does not justify aggression against civilians, for crimes they did not commit and offenses in which they did not partake:
    (a) This argument contradicts your continuous repetition that America is the land of freedom, and its leaders in this world. Therefore, the American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies. Thus the American people have chosen, consented to, and affirmed their support for the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, the occupation and usurpation of their land, and its continuous killing, torture, punishment and expulsion of the Palestinians. The American people have the ability and choice to refuse the policies of their Government and even to change it if they want.
    (b) The American people are the ones who pay the taxes which fund the planes that bomb us in Afghanistan, the tanks that strike and destroy our homes in Palestine, the armies which occupy our lands in the Arabian Gulf, and the fleets which ensure the blockade of Iraq. These tax dollars are given to Israel for it to continue to attack us and penetrate our lands. So the American people are the ones who fund the attacks against us, and they are the ones who oversee the expenditure of these monies in the way they wish, through their elected candidates.
    (c) Also the American army is part of the American people. It is this very same people who are shamelessly helping the Jews fight against us.
    (d) The American people are the ones who employ both their men and their women in the American Forces which attack us.
    (e) This is why the American people cannot be not innocent of all the crimes committed by the Americans and Jews against us.”
    This link for this letter is http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/nov/24/theobserver . If both are true statements from Bin Laden, he must have had a change of heart from Sept 2001 to November 2002. In 2002, he is definitely saying he condones the killing of any American, because he holds each of us responsible for our government’s actions. He also says the only way to avoid further attacks is to become Muslim.

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  12. Outraged American says:

    The FBI has no hard evidence of Bin Laden being behind 9/11.
    Bhutto said that Bin Laden was dead right before she was killed.
    Beyond that, it appears that the US had more than one chance to
    capture Bin Laden and didn’t. I would guess that it’s because a
    captured Bn Laden would sing, and yet again say that he was not
    behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
    Again, Pakistani journalist Abid Ullah Jan (look him up) was the
    last journalist to interview Bin Laden before 9/11. Jan says Bin
    Laden knew something was coming but not what it was.
    SIbel Edmonds claims that Bin Laden was a CIA asset until the
    day of the attacks, when within hours he became the Bogeyman.
    One that has launched three wars (because Pakistan is a war),
    destabilized Iraq for Israel, as well as greatly enriched the
    military / industrial/ terrorism complex.
    But this troop surge is more about the up-coming attack on
    Iran, so YET AGAIN ANOTHER WAR FOR ISRAEL.

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  13. Dan Kervick says:

    It might be theoretically possible to hatch a big attack out of a single apartment in New York, but in practice it’s never been done. Somebody gets nervous, gets suspicious, the police stage a raid.
    The 1993 World Trade Center bombing, though conceived by people connected with the Afghan Al Qaeda camps was almost entirely planned and organized in Brooklyn and New Jersey.
    I understand that running around with guns and through obstacle courses at a boot camp shouting “God is Great” builds esprit de corps. But there are countless other ways to find committed militant individuals, and to get them the modest amounts of money they need. There is no essential function served by the Afghanistan Al Qaeda camps that cannot be fulfilled elsewhere.
    But I agree that nowadays the activities of the Trade Center bombers in 1993 would raise many more red flags, and they would probably be apprehended. *That’s* how you stop terrorism; you don’t do it by imagining that you mainly have to take out “terrorism central”.

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  14. pauline says:

    Excuse me, Nadine’s constant hot air comes across like she’s an ex-stenographer for New Century America, who bought into the entire “new Pearl Harbor” storyline.
    Just what the firsters wanted — extreme hatred towards the Arab world, right?
    The U.S./CIA military security complex has cost or ruined tens of thousands of American lives, maybe millions of others since 9/11 and they’ve spent billions upon billions.
    And all Nadine’s hatred enemies needed were 19 guys with box-cutters and knives. Oh, forget about several of the 19 names accused are still alive. Sorry for all those little details, folks!
    Amazing, absolutely amazing. So many believe the political theater of dark actors spinning their many-sided lies.

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  15. easy e says:

    Posted by nadine, Dec 04 2009, 1:58AM – Link
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    For response to Nadine continued.
    But then again, all Muslim Ragheads look alike and you’re willing to accept all the propaganda narrative that’s been spoonfed to you by the corporate mainstream media.
    Oy vey.
    The Many Faces of Osama Bin Laden
    http://www.the7thfire.com/9-11/many_faces_of_osama_bin_laden.htm
    The Fake 2001 bin LadenVideo Tape
    http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/osamatape.html?q=osamatape.html
    Nadine, do you really believe that fat-nosed bloated-faced stand-in was the real OBL spilling the beans on 9/11, after he denied it on September 18th?
    I guess so.

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  16. easy e says:

    Posted by nadine, Dec 04 2009, 1:58AM – Link
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Do you mean this tape?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0FVeqCX6z8
    Sorry, Nadine, but this tape, along with many others since, have been discredited by the experts as fakes.
    But then again, all Muslim Ragheads look alike and you’re willing to accept all the propaganda narrative that’s been spoonfed to you by the corporate mainstream media.

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  17. nadine says:

    easy e, I know you are just dying to believe every word Osama bin Laden ever said, but when American troops took Kandahar in late 2001, they found videotapes of OBL boasting of his success on 9/11, and expressing surprise that the destruction was even greater than he, an experienced construction engineer, had forseen.

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  18. nadine says:

    Dan, you are spouting nonsense. Go read Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower or listen to Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security advisor, author of The Usama bin Laden I Knew, who was just on Fresh Air yesterday. Stop theorizing. The 9/11 plots were hatched in Afpak by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Osama bin Laden and were executed by men who had all been through training in Afghanistan. 80,000 men went through training in Afghanistan, that gives you good choices for picking your men. It might be theoretically possible to hatch a big attack out of a single apartment in New York, but in practice it’s never been done. Somebody gets nervous, gets suspicious, the police stage a raid.

    Reply

  19. Dan Kervick says:

    “The big plots need big plans and training camps.”
    The main training camp for 9/11 was a flight school in Florida.
    The big planning is no more complicated than the initial idea, “Let’s crash some planes into the World Trade Center”, and then some subsequent discussions on timing, coordination or logistics. You and I could do it in a bar anywhere in America, or meeting once a month in our living rooms.
    This whole idea that big bad terrorist plots require super-terrorists with super training, discipline and resources, state sponsorship, and “global reach” is a dead idea from the 90’s that should have been buried decisively during the post 9/11 experience.
    The recognition of how easy it all is so frightening to people that they would prefer to believe that it all flows from some “epicenter”, “safe haven” or lair of “terror masters”. Imaginatively locating the problem is some circumscribable space helps them cope by imagining that they can deal with the problem by throwing something big and heavy into that space. But that coping mechanism is sheer illusion.

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  20. easy e says:

    Ummat Interviews Usamah Bin-Ladin
    28 September 2001
    Bin-Ladin Denies Involvement in the 9/11 Attacks
    Source: Khilafah.com, 10 Oct 2001
    The Al-Qaidah group had nothing to do with the 11 September attacks on the USA, according to Usama bin Ladin in an interview with the Pakistani newspaper Ummat. Usama bin Ladin went on to suggest that Jews or US secret services were behind the attacks, and to express gratitude and support for Pakistan, urging Pakistan’s people to jihad against the West. The following is the text of an interview conducted by a “special correspondent”, published in the Pakistani newspaper Ummat on 28 September, place and date of interview not given.
    ——————————————————————————–
    UMMAT: You have been accused of involvement in the attacks in New York and Washington. What do you want to say about this? If you are not involved, who might be?
    USAMA BIN LADEN: In the name of Allah (God), the most beneficent, the most merciful. Praise be to Allah, Who is the creator of the whole universe and Who made the Earth as an abode for peace, for the whole humankind. Allah is the Sustainer, who sent Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) for our guidance. I am thankful to the Ummat Group of Publications, which gave me the opportunity to convey my viewpoint to the people, particularly the valiant and momin (true Muslim) people of Pakistan who refused to believe the lies of the demon (Pakistani military dictator General Pervez Musharraf).
    I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle. It is the United States, which is perpetrating every maltreatment on women, children and common people of other faiths, particularly the followers of Islam. All that is going on in Palestine for the last 11 months is sufficient to call the wrath of God upon the United States and Israel. There is also a warning for those Muslim countries, which witnessed all these as a silent spectator. What had earlier been done to the innocent people of Iraq, Chechnya and Bosnia? Only one conclusion could be derived from the indifference of the United States and the West to these acts of terror and the patronage of the tyrants by these powers that America is an anti-Islamic power and it is patronizing the anti-Islamic forces. Its friendship with the Muslim countries is just a show, rather deceit. By enticing or intimidating these countries, the United States is forcing them to play a role of its choice. Put a glance all around and you will see that the slaves of the United States are either rulers or enemies of Muslims.
    The U.S. has no friends, nor does it want to keep any because the prerequisite of friendship is to come to the level of the friend or consider him at par with you. America does not want to see anyone equal to it. It expects slavery from others. Therefore, other countries are either its slaves or subordinates. However, our case is different. We have pledged slavery to God Almighty alone and after this pledge there is no possibility to become the slave of someone else. If we do that it will be disregardful to both our Sustainer and his fellow beings. Most of the world nations upholding their freedom are the religious ones, which are the enemies of the United States, or the U.S. itself considers them as its enemies.
    The countries which do not agree to become the U.S. slaves are China, Iran, Libya, Cuba, Syria [Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Sudan, Indonesia, Malaysia] and Russia. Whoever committed the act of 11 September are not the friends of the American people. I have already said that we are against the American system, not against its people, whereas in these attacks, the common American people have been killed. According to my information, the death toll is much higher than what the U.S. Government has stated. But the Bush Administration does not want the panic to spread. The United States should try to trace the perpetrators of these attacks within itself; the people who are a part of the U.S. system, but are dissenting against it. Or those who are working for some other system; persons who want to make the present century as a century of conflict between Islam and Christianity so that their own civilization, nation, country, or ideology could survive. They can be anyone, from Russia to Israel and from India to Serbia. In the U.S. itself, there are dozens of well-organized and well-equipped groups, which are capable of causing a large-scale destruction. Then you cannot forget the American-Jews, who are annoyed with President Bush ever since the elections in Florida and want to avenge him.
    Then there are intelligence agencies in the U.S., which require billions of dollars worth of funds from the Congress and the government every year. This [funding issue] was not a big problem till the existence of the former Soviet Union but after that the budget of these agencies has been in danger. They needed an enemy. So, they first started propaganda against Usama and Taleban and then this incident happened. You see, the Bush Administration approved a budget of 40 billion dollars. Where will this huge amount go? It will be provided to the same agencies, which need huge funds and want to exert their importance. Now they will spend the money for their expansion and for increasing their importance. I will give you an example. Drug smugglers from all over the world are in contact with the U.S. secret agencies. These agencies do not want to eradicate narcotics cultivation and trafficking because their importance will be diminished. The people in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Department are encouraging drug trade so that they could show performance and get millions of dollars worth of budget. General Noriega was made a drug baron by the CIA and, in need, he was made a scapegoat. In the same way, whether it is President Bush or any other U.S. President, they cannot bring Israel to justice for its human rights abuses or to hold it accountable for such crimes. What is this? Is it not that there exists a government within the government in the United Sates? That secret government must be asked as to who carried out the attacks.
    UMMAT: A number of world countries have joined the call of the United States for launching attacks on Afghanistan. These also include a number of Muslim countries. Will Al-Qa’idah declare a jihad against these Islamic countries as well?
    USAMA BIN LADEN: I must say that my duty is just to awaken the Muslims; to tell them as to what is good for them and what is not. What does Islam say and what do the enemies of Islam want. Al-Qa’idah was set up to wage a jihad against infidelity, particularly to counter the onslaught of the infidel countries against the Islamic states. Jihad is the sixth undeclared pillar of Islam. [The first five being the basic holy words of Islam (“There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God”), prayers, fasting (in Ramadan), pilgrimage to Mecca and giving alms (zakat).] Every anti-Islamic person is afraid of jihad. Al-Qa’idah wants to keep jihad alive and active and make it a part of the daily life of the Muslims. It wants to give it the status of worship. We are not against any Islamic country. We do not consider a war against an Islamic country as jihad. We are in favour of armed jihad only against those infidel governments, which are killing innocent Muslim men, women and children just because they are Muslims. Supporting the U.S. act is the need of some Muslim countries and the compulsion of others. However, they should think as to what will remain of their religious and moral position if they support the attack of the Christians and the Jews on a Muslim country like Afghanistan. The orders of Islamic Shariah [jurisprudence] for such individuals, organizations and countries are clear and all the scholars of the Muslim brotherhood are unanimous on them. We will do the same, which is being ordered by the Ameer-ul-Momeneen [the commander of the faithful] Muhammad Omar [leader of the Taleban] and the Islamic scholars. The hearts of the people of Muslim countries are beating with the call of jihad. We are grateful to them.
    UMMAT: The losses caused in the attacks in New York and Washington have proved that giving an economic blow to the U.S. is not too difficult. U.S. experts admit that a few more such attacks can bring down the American economy. Why is Al-Qa’idah not targeting their economic pillars?
    USAMA BIN LADEN: I have already said that we are not hostile to the United States. We are against the [U.S. Government] system, which makes other nations slaves of the United States, or forces them to mortgage their political and economic freedom. This system is totally in the control of the American Jews, whose first priority is Israel, not the United States. It is clear that the American people are themselves the slaves of the Jews and are forced to live according to the principles and laws laid down by them. So the punishment should reach Israel. In fact, it is Israel, which is giving a blood bath to innocent Muslims and the U.S. is not uttering a single word.
    UMMAT: Why is harm not caused to the enemies of Islam through other means, apart from the armed struggle? For instance, urging the Muslims to boycott Western products, banks, shipping lines and TV channels.
    USAMA BIN LADEN: The first thing is that Western products could only be boycotted when the Muslim fraternity is fully awakened and organized. Secondly, the Muslim companies should become self-sufficient in producing goods equal to the products of Western companies. Economic boycott of the West is not possible unless economic self-sufficiency is attained and substitute products are brought out. You see that wealth is scattered all across the Muslim World but not a single TV channel has been acquired which can preach Islamic injunctions according to modern requirements and attain an international influence. Muslim traders and philanthropists should make it a point that if the weapon of public opinion is to be used, it is to be kept in the hand. Today’s world is of public opinion and the fates of nations are determined through its pressure. Once the tools for building public opinion are obtained, everything that you asked for can be done.
    UMMAT: The entire propaganda about your struggle has so far been made by the Western media. But no information is being received from your sources about the network of Al-Qa’idah and its jihadi successes. Would you comment?
    USAMA BIN LADEN: In fact, the Western media is left with nothing else. It has no other theme to survive for a long time. Then we have many other things to do. The struggle for jihad and the successes are for the sake of Allah and not to annoy His bondsmen. Our silence is our real propaganda. Rejections, explanations, or corrigendum only waste your time and through them, the enemy wants you to engage in things which are not of use to you. These things are pulling you away from your cause. The Western media is unleashing such a baseless propaganda, which makes us surprise but it reflects on what is in their hearts and gradually they themselves become captive of this propaganda. They become afraid of it and begin to cause harm to themselves. Terror is the most dreaded weapon in modern age and the Western media is mercilessly using it against its own people. It can add fear and helplessness in the psyche of the people of Europe and the United States. It means that what the enemies of the United States cannot do, its media is doing that. You can understand as to what will be the performance of the nation in a war, which suffers from fear and helplessness.
    UMMAT: What will be the impact of the freeze of Al-Qa’idah accounts by the U.S.?
    USAMA BIN LADEN: God opens up ways for those who work for Him. Freezing of accounts will not make any difference for Al-Qa’idah or other jihad groups. With the grace of Allah, Al-Qa’idah has more than three alternative financial systems, which are all separate and totally independent from each other. This system is operating under the patronage of those who love jihad. What to say of the United States, even the combined world cannot budge these people from their path. These people are not in hundreds but in thousands and millions. Al-Qa’idah comprises of such modern educated youths who are aware of the cracks inside the Western financial system as they are aware of the lines in their hands. These are the very flaws of the Western fiscal system, which are becoming a noose for it and this system could not recuperate in spite of the passage of so many days.
    UMMAT: Are there other safe areas other than Afghanistan, where you can continue jihad?
    USAMA BIN LADEN: There are areas in all parts of the world where strong jihadi forces are present, from Indonesia to Algeria, from Kabul to Chechnya, from Bosnia to Sudan, and from Burma to Kashmir. Then it is not the problem of my person. I am a helpless fellowman of God, constantly in the fear of my accountability before God. It is not the question of Usama but of Islam and, in Islam too, of jihad. Thanks to God, those waging a jihad can walk today with their heads raised. Jihad was still present when there was no Usama and it will remain as such even when Usama is no longer there. Allah opens up ways and creates loves in the hearts of people for those who walk on the path of Allah with their lives, property and children. Believe it, through jihad, a man gets everything he desires. And the biggest desire of a Muslim is the life after death. Martyrdom is the shortest way of attaining an eternal life.
    UMMAT: What do you say about the Pakistan Government policy on Afghanistan attack?
    USAMA BIN LADEN: We are thankful to the Momin and valiant people of Pakistan who erected a blockade in front of the evil forces and stood in the first file of battle. Pakistan is a great hope for the Islamic brotherhood. Its people are awakened, organized and rich in the spirit of faith. They backed Afghanistan in its war against the Soviet Union and extended every help to the mojahedeen (freedom fighters) and the Afghan people. Then these are very Pakistanis who are standing shoulder by shoulder with the Taleban. If such people emerge in just two countries, the domination of the West will diminish in a matter of days. Our hearts beat with Pakistan and, God forbid, if a difficult time comes we will protect it with our blood. Pakistan is sacred for us like a place of worship. We are the people of jihad and fighting for the defense of Pakistan is the best of all jihads to us. It does not matter for us as to who reforms Pakistan. The important thing is that the spirit of jihad is alive and stronger in the hearts of the Pakistani people.
    http://www.911review.com/articles/usamah/khilafah.html

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  21. Paul Norheim says:

    pauline,
    I sent him a mail.

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  22. Paul Norheim says:

    POA, I totally agree. The mindset behind this escalation, and the justifications, are
    indistinguishable from Bush/Cheney, and there is no reason to portray Obama as some
    sort of victim or betrayer of his former promises on this issue.
    Oh, there is one change. There is no GWOT anymore. They replaced it with OCO. Overseas
    Contingency Operation. I had to google this to remember the new term. Tomorrow it will
    be forgotten again – as it was meant to be.

    Reply

  23. MarkL says:

    Obama may be a disaster as President, but his election shows the bipartisan success of the new model of Presidential candidate. Choose someone new, inexperienced (a must—he cannot have a record to run from) and charismatic; reasonably intelligent yet pliable; someone who wants the recognition of being President without the need to work.
    Palin is PROBABLY too stupid to pull it off, but she is the right sort of candidate.
    Oh yeah, it really helps if the person has important experience such as a background in COMMUNITY ORGANIZING!!!!!
    I still can’t get over that one. The biggest lie I’ve ever seen about political qualifications—community organizing (whatever that is) makes one ready to be President????
    What were people thinking?

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  24. pauline says:

    Paul Norheim,
    e-mail him and ask him to respond at TWN.
    You might be surprised.
    Here you go —
    paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com

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  25. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “No, because the Taliban and Al Qaeda are joined at the hip, by now literally intermarried”
    Thats pure unmittigated horseshit.

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  26. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Paul, I am well aware that Obama ran his campaign with a platform that underscored the “forgotten war” in Afghanistan. What we should NOT have expected from Obama were the same false rationales and fear based justifications. As I commented above, Obama’s stances and proposed policies in regards to making war, and the scam known as the “Global War On Terrorism”, must be considered in full spectrum. He has merely continued the full range of Bush tactics, rhetoric, rationales, justifications, and abuses. From continued domestic spying to inaccurate implications of Al Qaeda and Taliban being “allied” in some manner, Obama is just continuing the fearmongering, illegal policies, and false rationales that he was elected to put an end to.
    Yes, he told us he would pursue an Afghan policy. But no, he didn’t tell us it would be more of the same shit that Bush force-fed us. His speech was just a redux of the “BOO!!!” manner of governance that made Bush/Cheney so detestable. And to think that an escalation in Afghanistan can end well flies in the face of sanity. There is no fuckin’ way that we can achieve “victory” in eighteen months, particularly in light of the fact that no one seems to be able to figure out what “victory” would consist of.
    In short, Paul, Obama just fed us a line of shit on a par with what Bush and Cheney were fond of feeding us. It wouldn’t be so bad if Obama’s inevitable one term fall from grace opened the door to some real leadership getting a shot at the White House, but his failures are just opening the door to the likes of Palin, Steele, or a number of other scary RW halfwit assholes. This guy Obama is a friggin’ disaster, and it gets worse by the minute.

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  27. nadine says:

    “Isn’t it the case that we can keep doing that [police work] indefinitely, without surging into Afghanistan?” (Dan Kervick)
    No, because the Taliban and Al Qaeda are joined at the hip, by now literally intermarried. Before 9/11, when the Taliban owned Afghanistan, it was a huge training & staging area for Al Qaeda, and if we leave and let the Taliban have it back, it will be so again.
    The big plots need big plans and training camps. They also need an Al Qaeda undistracted by an active “central front in global jihad” which was what they declared Iraq to be before they lost there. I don’t think it’s any accident that Afghanistan heated up as Iraq calmed down. The Jihadis regrouped to Afpak.
    If we don’t want another spectacular we have to keep the pressure on Al Qaeda, and that means staying in Afghanistan and doing what we can to pressure them in Waziristan. Pointing out that Al Qaeda has operated in many other places doen’t change the fact that the leaders of Al Qaeda have by now spent most of their adult lives in Afpak, have married among the Pashtuns, and have their support system there. They can do more there – but not if they have to concentrate on running & hiding.
    As for “my formula” for Afghanistan, I don’t claim to know more than Gen. McChrystal. My formula would have been to give him the support he needed, quietly and quickly, and let him put his counter-insurgency strategy into operation. We know that most of the Afghans have no love lost for either the Taliban or Al Qaeda, certainly none of the Uzbek or Hezara want them back.

    Reply

  28. Paul Norheim says:

    “President Obama can promise that he is going to bring the troops home, and the military
    lobby says, “No, you are going to send them to Afghanistan, and in the meantime start a
    war in Pakistan and maneuver Iran into a position that will provide an excuse for a war
    there, too. Wars are too profitable for us to let you stop them.”
    And the mere president has to say, “Yes, Sir!””
    ——————————————————
    Sorry pauline, but what Craig Roberts said there is simply not true. As I have documented
    above, presidential candidate Obama did not promise to “bring the troops home”, but to
    send them to the Afghan mountains. Perhaps he said so to please the voters and the
    military lobby and show that he`s a tough guy, but it was Obama, the candidate, who said
    so, before being elected. The sad fact is that the “military lobby” now agrees to what
    candidate Obama said then. On this issue, he is not a victim, hijacked by the military
    lobby. If anything, he is a victim of his own promises, and should be held responsible for
    his decisions. That he probably had to promise a war in some remote country to get elected
    is a different issue.

    Reply

  29. pauline says:

    December 01, 2009
    Obama—Israel’s Puppet
    By Paul Craig Roberts
    It didn’t take the Israel Lobby very long to bring President Obama to heel regarding his prohibition against further illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Obama discovered that a mere American president is powerless when confronted by the Israel Lobby and that the United States simply is not allowed a Middle East policy separate from Israel’s.
    Obama also found out that he cannot change anything else either, if he ever intended to do so.
    The military/security lobby has war and a domestic police state on its agenda, and a mere American president can’t do anything about it.
    President Obama can order the Guantanamo torture chamber closed and kidnapping and rendition and torture to be halted, but no one carries out the order.
    Essentially, Obama is irrelevant.
    President Obama can promise that he is going to bring the troops home, and the military lobby says, “No, you are going to send them to Afghanistan, and in the meantime start a war in Pakistan and maneuver Iran into a position that will provide an excuse for a war there, too. Wars are too profitable for us to let you stop them.”
    And the mere president has to say, “Yes, Sir!”
    Obama can promise health care to 50 million uninsured Americans, but he can’t override the veto of the war lobby and the insurance lobby. The war lobby says its war profits are more important than health care and that the country can’t afford both the “war on terror” and “socialized medicine.”
    The insurance lobby says health care has to be provided by private health insurance; otherwise, we can’t afford it.
    The war and insurance lobbies rattled their campaign contribution pocketbooks and quickly convinced Congress and the White House that the real purpose of the health care bill is to save money by cutting Medicare and Medicaid benefits, thereby “getting entitlements under control.”
    “Entitlements” is a right-wing word used to cast aspersion on the few things that the government did, in the distant past, for citizens. Social Security and Medicare, for example, are denigrated as “entitlements.” The right wing goes on endlessly about Social Security and Medicare as if they were welfare give-aways to shiftless people who refuse to look after themselves, whereas in actual fact citizens are vastly overcharged for the meager benefits with a 15% tax on their wages and salaries.
    Indeed, for decades now the federal government has been funding its wars and military budgets with the surplus revenues collected by the Social Security tax on labor.
    To claim, as the right wing does, that we can’t afford the only thing in the entire budget that has consistently produced a revenue surplus indicates that the real agenda is to drive the mere citizen into the ground.
    The real entitlements are never mentioned. The “defense” budget is an entitlement for the military/security complex about which President Eisenhower warned us 50 years ago. A person has to be crazy to believe that the United States, “the world’s only superpower,” protected by oceans on its East and West and by puppet states on its North and South, needs a “defense” budget larger than the military spending of the rest of the world combined.
    The military budget is nothing but an entitlement for the military/security complex. To hide this fact, the entitlement is disguised as protection against “enemies” and passed through the Pentagon.
    I say cut out the middleman and simply allocate a percentage of the federal budget to the military/security complex. This way we won’t have to concoct reasons for invading other countries and go to war in order for the military/security complex to get its entitlement. It would be a lot cheaper just to give them the money outright, and it would save a lot of lives and grief at home and abroad.
    The US invasion of Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with American national interests. It had to do with armaments profits and with eliminating an obstacle to Israeli territorial expansion. The cost of the war, aside from the $3 trillion, was over 4,000 dead Americans, over 30,000 wounded and maimed Americans, tens of thousands of broken American marriages and lost careers, one million dead Iraqis, four million displaced Iraqis, and a destroyed country.
    All of this was done for the profits of the military/security complex and to make paranoid Israel, armed with 200 nuclear weapons, feel “secure.”
    My proposal would make the military/security complex even wealthier as the companies would get the money without having to produce the weapons. Instead, all the money could go for multi-million dollar bonuses and dividend payouts to shareholders. No one, at home or abroad, would have to be killed, and the taxpayer would be better off.
    No American national interest is served by the war in Afghanistan. As the former UK Ambassador Craig Murray disclosed, the purpose of the war is to protect Unocal’s interest in the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline. The cost of the war is many times greater than Unocal’s investment in the pipeline. The obvious solution is to buy out Unocal and give the pipeline to the Afghans as partial compensation for the destruction we have inflicted on that country and its population, and bring the troops home.
    The reason my sensible solutions cannot be effected is that the lobbies think that their entitlements would not survive if they were made obvious. They think that if the American people knew that the wars were being fought to enrich the armaments and oil industries, the people would put a halt to the wars.
    In actual fact, the American people have no say about what “their” government does. Polls of the public show that half or more of the American people do not support the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and do not support President Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Yet, the occupations and wars continue. According to General Stanley McChrystal, the additional 40,000 troops are enough to stalemate the war, that is, to keep it going forever, the ideal situation for the armaments lobby.
    The people want health care, but the government does not listen.
    The people want jobs, but Wall Street wants higher priced stocks and forces American firms to offshore the jobs to countries where labor is cheaper.
    The American people have no effect on anything. They can affect nothing. They have become irrelevant like Obama. And they will remain irrelevant as long as organized interest groups can purchase the US government.
    The inability of the American democracy to produce any results that the voters want is a demonstrated fact. The total unresponsiveness of government to the people is conservatism’s contribution to American democracy. Some years ago, there was an effort to put government back into the hands of the people by constraining the ability of organized interest groups to pour enormous amounts of money into political campaigns and, thus, obligate the elected official to those whose money elected him. Conservatives said that any restraints would be a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.
    The same “protectors” of “free speech” had no objection to the Israel Lobby’s passage of the “hate crime” bill, which has criminalized criticism of Israel’s genocidal treatment of the Palestinians and continuing theft of their lands.
    In less than one year, President Obama has betrayed all of his supporters and broken all of his promises. He is the total captive of the oligarchy of the ruling interest groups.
    Unless he is saved by an orchestrated 9/11-type event, Obama is a one-term president.
    Indeed, the collapsing economy will doom him regardless of a “terrorist event.”
    The Republicans are grooming Palin. Our first female president, following our first black president, will complete the transition to an American police state by arresting critics and protesters of Washington’s immoral foreign and domestic policies, and she will complete the destruction of America’s reputation abroad.
    Russia’s Putin has already compared the US to Nazi Germany, and the Chinese premier has likened the US to an irresponsible, profligate debtor.
    Increasingly the rest of the world sees the US as the sole source of all of its problems. Germany has lost the chief of its armed forces and its defense minister, because the US convinced or pressured, by hook or crook, the German government to violate its Constitution and to send troops to fight for Unocal’s interest in Afghanistan. The Germans had pretended that their troops were not really fighting, but were engaged in a “peace-keeping operation.” This more or less worked until the Germans called in an air strike that murdered 100 women and children lined up for a fuel allotment.
    The British are investigating their leading criminal, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and his deception of his own cabinet in order to do Bush’s bidding and provide some cover for Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq. The UK investigators have been denied the ability to bring criminal charges, but the issue of war based entirely on orchestrated deception and lies is getting a hearing. It will reverberate throughout the world, and the world will note that there is no corresponding investigation in the US, the country that originated the False War.
    Meanwhile, the US investment banks, which have wrecked the financial stability of many governments, including that of the US, continue to control, as they have done since the Clinton administration, US economic and financial policy. The world has suffered terribly from the Wall Street gangsters, and now looks upon America with a critical eye.
    The United States no longer commands the respect it enjoyed under President Ronald Reagan or President George Herbert Walker Bush. World polls show that the US and its puppet master are regarded as the two greatest threats to peace. Washington and Israel outrank on the most dangerous list the crazy regime in North Korea.
    The world is beginning to see America as a country that needs to go away. When the dollar is over-inflated by a Washington unable to pay its bills, will the world be motivated by greed and try to save us in order to save its investments, or will it say, thank God, good riddance.
    http://vdare.com/roberts/091201_obama.htm

    Reply

  30. Paul Norheim says:

    Outraged,
    I`m aware of that. But I think they can still nail him for the US embassy bombings in
    Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, among other things. If that could give the Obama
    administration an excuse to end the war in Afghanistan, it would be a good thing.
    However, this issue is hypothetical. If US special forces manage to get close to him, the
    likelihood of capturing him alive is probably 5 %, as opposed to the 95 % likelihood of
    killing him, or him getting killed by one of his guards before getting captured.

    Reply

  31. MarkL says:

    Hey, this is not 2001.
    Before Al Qaeda was training in Afghanistan, Bin Laden was in Somalia.
    Sure,going into Iraq detracted from whatever mission we had in Afghanistan. However, you can’t turn back the clock.
    I have seen no persuasive argument (in my opinion, I have seen no argument at all) that anything positive can be accomplished in Afghanistan NOW.
    That’s what’s missing from the White House,even if you are a hawk.

    Reply

  32. Paul Norheim says:

    “hoping that within that time [18 months], Pakistan manages some version of something like
    stability.” (Questions)
    In his/your dreams…
    “I think he really thinks Afghanistan is more central than the other countries Paul Norheim
    has outlined as issues.”
    I think President Obama feels the pressure from candidate Obama, from the generals, from
    GOP opponents and from Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates (as well as Biden and others he
    chose not to listen to in the end).
    I think he is no longer able to pay attention to the common sense Dan Kervick alluded to.
    Barack Obama still has his common sense intact, but uses it in an attempt to balance the
    actual pressure he senses from different actors in DC, the US army, and the 4th estate. I
    think he regards “common sense” as we see it as a luxury he no longer can afford.

    Reply

  33. Outraged American says:

    Again, Bin Laden has never been charged by the FBI for the 9/11
    attacks – what don’t you all get about that?
    TO THIS DAY BIN LADEN HAS NEVER BEEN CHARGED, and since
    Paul will never believe anything I type, again, here is TODAY’s
    Bin Laden’s FBI Most Wanted Poster.
    http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten/fugitives/laden.htm
    Note what the FBI charges Bin Laden with and what Bin Laden is
    not charged with (the latter being the 9/11 attacks)
    Again, I, myself, called the FBI in 2006 and confirmed that it had
    “no hard evidence” against Bin Laden’s involvement in the 9/11
    attacks.
    Don’t believe me? Call the FBI and ask yourself.

    Reply

  34. questions says:

    Maw,
    I think you might be wrong on both counts. The 9/11 guys had money and training and training and money. Flight school, and support and passports and places to live while in flight school…. The planning was fairly broad in scope. Not at all 19 guys in a cave.
    I think Obama thinks a one-term presidency is not unlikely and I think he’s working on setting up what he can to outlive himself. So there will be some fairly deep institutional changes as the institutions are able to bear the change.
    What Obama is doing in Afghanistan is hoping that he can avoid giving the radicals room to boast, hoping that somehow a deadline of sorts might motivate some actors, hoping that there is some countervailing power in place against the Taliban by the end of the 18 months so that if nothing else, they can’t just do whatever the hell they want, hoping that within that time, Pakistan manages some version of something like stability. I think he really thinks Afghanistan is more central than the other countries Paul Norheim has outlined as issues.
    FWIW at any rate.

    Reply

  35. Paul Norheim says:

    DonS,
    that may have been your impression. But Obama repeatedly said that the war should be
    fought in Afghanistan, not in Iraq – and that he intended to do something about it if
    he got elected.
    Here is one excerpt from July 2008 (the debate with McCain in this context is mainly
    about Iraq – not many people listened carefully to what he repeatedly said re.
    Afghanistan/Pakistan):
    “updated 7:49 p.m. ET July 15, 2008
    WASHINGTON and ALBUQUERQUE – Sen. Barack Obama said Tuesday that overall U.S.
    interests have been hurt rather than helped by the Bush administration’s decision to
    increase troop strength in Iraq 18 months ago, and vowed to stick to his plan to
    withdraw combat troops within 16 months of becoming president.
    (…)
    In a speech delivered in advance of an overseas trip, Obama said fighting al-Qaida and
    the Taliban in Afghanistan would be his top priority. Beyond that, he called for
    securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states, achieving
    energy security and rebuilding international alliances.
    “Sen. Obama will tell you we can’t win in Afghanistan without losing in Iraq. In fact,
    he has it exactly backwards,” McCain told a town hall meeting. “It is precisely the
    success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to succeed in Afghanistan.”
    Obama’s speech, billed as a major address by the campaign, offered no new policy, but
    an explanation of his opposition to the war and his pledge to complete a U.S. troop
    pullout within 16 months of becoming president.
    [McCain] also insisted there was a “vast difference” between Obama’s call for more
    troops in Afghanistan and his own.
    Obama “has no strategy,” insisted McCain. “All he has done is say we need more
    troops.”
    McCain contends more foreign troops won’t be enough to bring security to Afghanistan.
    The Afghan army must be doubled to about 160,000 troops, he said, and he called on
    foreign countries to help pay for the cost of the increase. The increase in security
    problems has come even with more NATO troops in Afghanistan. McCain said the area
    needs a supreme unified military commander in charge of all the forces in the region
    to mount an effective counterinsurgency program.
    The border with Pakistan is particularly troublesome for U.S. anti-terrorism efforts
    in the region. In his town-hall comments, McCain faulted Obama for saying that he
    would consider unilateral military action in Pakistan to strike at al-Qaida
    leadership.
    (…)
    Obama said Monday he would send at least two more brigades to Afghanistan.
    (…)
    Obama’s successful run through the Democratic presidential primaries was fueled in
    part by his opposition to Bush’s plans for an invasion of Iraq in 2003, and his 16-
    month timetable for a withdrawal has long been a staple of his speeches.
    “In the 18 months since the [Iraqi] surge began, the strain on our military has
    increased, our troops and their families have borne an enormous burden, and American
    taxpayers have spent another $200 billion in Iraq,” he said.
    He added that in Afghanistan, “June was our highest casualty month of the war. The
    Taliban has been on the offensive, even launching a brazen attack on one of our bases.
    Al-Qaida has a growing sanctuary in Pakistan.””
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25684787/
    ————
    One of Obama`s main points as a candidate in 2008 was the same as what I think both
    candidate Kerry and non-candidate Gore said in 2004: The war in Iraq was a major
    distraction from the the war that should be fought – in Afghanistan. Now, Obama keeps
    his promise.

    Reply

  36. John Waring says:

    DonS,
    If you view the article I first cited above within the larger context of Andrew Bacevich’s writings, you may conclude as I do that he uses the “surge” as a rhetorical device.
    Please read his “Petraeus Doctrine” cited here:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200810/petraeus-doctrine

    Reply

  37. Paul Norheim says:

    “The Congressman (Ron Paul)also asked Gates and Clinton “Do you endorse the Bush doctrine
    of “preventive war”, or do you reject it”, prompting the following response from Clinton:
    “We were attacked from Afghanistan, so even if the doctrine is or is not an appropriate
    one, it is not applicable to the situation before us.”
    “We were never attacked by an Afghani.” Paul rebutted.”
    ————————————————
    All of this boils down to the Bush formulation “the terrorists AND THOSE WHO HARBOR THEM”,
    which he said repeatedly in the immediate weeks after 9.11. At that time, many experts and
    non-expert pundits pointed out that Al Qaeda and the Jihadists where non-state operators,
    not rooted in a specific country, and should be fought with means appropriate to this
    basic fact. But when Bush uttered the words “and those who harbored them”, and repeated
    those words AFTER the bombardment of Afghanistan, I realized that he intended to attack
    one or several other countries the conventional way – for whatever reasons (that were at
    best remotely linked to the Al Qaeda network).
    The Obama approach to Afghanistan – and BTW Nadine`s defense of this kind of thinking – is
    a continuation of this mentality. As if militant jihadism has it`s roots in one or two
    specific countries or territories, and depends on a specific state protecting, enabling,
    and encouraging their activities. As we all know, these groups have operated in and from
    Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia,
    Morocco, London, Hamburg, and a lot of other places at different times – and the concept
    of destroying these groups primarily by attacking and occupying certain countries with
    regular armies is just ridiculous.
    True: some groups overlap with nationalist aspirations; some are primarily nationalist
    movements, and many are not related to territory at all. But making these distinctions is
    crucial, just like distinguishing between nationalist aspirations and global communist
    aspirations or trotskist permanent revolution concepts was crucial during the Cold War.

    Reply

  38. DonS says:

    “The presidents chosen course of action for Afghanistan suggests he may well squander that opportunity” (Bacevich).
    Paul, I suggest — without researching it — that the impression Obama gave during the campaign was 1) he was against the Iraq invasion, and against war as an instrument of policy and 2) the eye was taken off the ball in Afghanistan –WAS TAKEN — with the impression that the window HAD PASSED where we could remedy the ‘mistakes’ in Afghanistan, e.g., capturing Bin Laden and disrupting Al Quaeda .
    I am by no means trying to defend Obama here; if anything, I am doubly pissed because he either revised his implied analysis and prescription or lied or both.

    Reply

  39. Paul Norheim says:

    “But what irked my ass was the attempt to distort history, and claim that Biden was not a
    prime salesman for the Iraq invasion.”
    True. But since so many other claims irk your ass on a daily basis, I hoped that my
    suggestion would help reducing the constant irking a bit.

    Reply

  40. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Ron Paul, responding to Hillary’s use of one of the BALD FACED LIES being employed to justify the ongoing, impending, and inevitable clusterfuck in Afghanistan…..
    http://www.prisonplanet.com/ron-paul-obama-is-preparing-for-perpetual-war.html
    Excerpt…
    Earlier in the day, during a a joint hearing on Afghanistan following Obama’s speech, The Congressman had stern words for Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
    “I wish I could promise you an eloquent statement where I could convert all of you to a non-interventionist foreign policy and a policy where we’re not nation building.” Paul commented.
    “I wish that I could come up with some profound questions for the panel so that I could point out the inconsistencies not of the current foreign policy, but of the foreign policy that has been going on for quite a few decades.”
    “But all I can think about are some terms that come to mind that I learned all the way back in the 1960s when I was serving as a military officer, an air force officer, for five years. And come up with thoughts ‘quagmire’, ‘perpetual war for perpetual peace’, ‘war is the health of the state’, ‘war is a racket’, ‘truth is the first casualty of war’.”
    The Congressman also asked Gates and Clinton “Do you endorse the Bush doctrine of “preventive war”, or do you reject it”, prompting the following response from Clinton:
    “We were attacked from Afghanistan, so even if the doctrine is or is not an appropriate one, it is not applicable to the situation before us.”
    “We were never attacked by an Afghani.” Paul rebutted.
    Watch the Congressman’s comments and questions below:
    http://www.prisonplanet.com/ron-paul-obama-is-preparing-for-perpetual-war.html

    Reply

  41. Paul Norheim says:

    From Bacevich`s article in LA Times: “Through war, Bush set out to transform the greater
    Middle East. Despite immense expenditures of blood and treasure, that effort failed. In
    choosing Obama rather than John McCain to succeed Bush, the American people acknowledged
    that failure as definitive. Obama’s election was to mark a new beginning, an opportunity
    to “reset” America’s approach to the world.
    The president’s chosen course of action for Afghanistan suggests he may well squander
    that opportunity. Rather than renouncing Bush’s legacy, Obama apparently aims to salvage
    something of value. In Afghanistan, he will expend yet more blood and more treasure
    hoping to attenuate or at least paper over the wreckage left over from the Bush era.
    However improbable, Obama thereby finds himself following in the footsteps of Richard
    Nixon. Running for president in 1968, Nixon promised to end the Vietnam War. Once
    elected, he balked at doing so. Obsessed with projecting an image of toughness and
    resolve — U.S. credibility was supposedly on the line — Nixon chose to extend and even
    to expand that war. Apart from driving up the costs that Americans were called on to
    pay, this accomplished nothing.”
    ————————————–
    Squander which opportunity? Frankly, I don`t understand all this surprise and
    disappointment with Obama`s Afghanistan strategy. During his campaign speeches, Obama
    did not promise a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan; he promised a slow and
    conditioned withdrawal from Iraq (depending on the facts on the ground), and a
    concentration of the war efforts where the real enemy were hiding – in Afghanistan. We
    discussed this explicit promise plenty of times at TWN before he was elected – I
    remember that I was fond of saying that Obama wanted to remove forces from the second
    front to the first front in the phony “global war on terror”.
    I strongly disagree with his choice – but it fits perfectly with what he repeatedly said
    in the months before he got elected. If the American people didn`t get it then, they
    simply didn`t listen. The only change in this regard, is that the White House no longer
    use the GWOT word. They replaced it with an acronym designed not to be remembered or
    used by anyone. I can`t remember it myself.

    Reply

  42. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Actually, if it was mere cheerleading for Biden, who could care? But what irked my ass was the attempt to distort history, and claim that Biden was not a prime salesman for the Iraq invasion. Biden was HIGHLY instrumental in echoing George Bush’s BULLSHIT that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq. And due to that FACT, Biden should share Bush’s place in history as a liar, a criminal, and being held responsible for over a million Iraqi non-combatant deaths.
    Biden is soaked to the neck in Iraqi blood, and any reasonably computer savvy person can substantiate my claim in thirty seconds doing a cursory internet search. Yet here was Elizabeth, telling me I don’t know Biden’s “history” in regards to his stance on the Iraq war, and denying Biden’s strong role in pimping the pre-invasion untruths. She obviously thought we all were uninformed idiots.

    Reply

  43. Paul Norheim says:

    And BTW, Steve wrote a post about the VP speech you mentioned and has referred to it
    several times since then, so it`s not as if your political idol is absent at TWN.

    Reply

  44. Paul Norheim says:

    Elisabeth Miller,
    I appreciate that you`re disappointed after watching Obama`s speech, which contained,
    say 10 % Biden influence, 20 % Kristol/Limbaugh/Cheney pressure and 70 % McChrystal
    pressure.
    However, after your and Stewart`s last stunt here several weeks ago, defending Biden,
    one regular TWN commenter made a google search on both of you, which showed that you`ve
    both posted a lot of fangirl/fanboy posts on several sites defending the genius of Joe
    Biden in foreign policy matters. I don`t want to argue pro et contra Biden here, and I
    don`t say this to be hostile against your posts – quite the opposite.
    I just wanted to say that I think the general quality of your contribution will improve
    if you don`t mention Joe Biden in every second comment 🙂

    Reply

  45. DonS says:

    John, thanks for the Bacevich piece. He calmly states the obvious and I only disagree with his apparent willingness to characterize the Iraq surge as a success. Maybe in some short term snapshot, but even that’s a stretch.
    Love to be a fly on Obama’s cranium to witness him attempt to process all the material from sensible people (outside his claque) who are dismayed . . . and the thugs and crazies who can’t get enough. Building a bubble, one soap sud at a time.

    Reply

  46. Maw of America says:

    I believe it boils down to these two points:
    1 – All it took for 9/11 was 19 motivated Saudis, some box cutters, and an apartment in Hamburg;
    2 – I weigh everything Obama does, from DADT to Afghanistan to Israel, as positioning for 2012.
    (subject to change as political expediency warrants)

    Reply

  47. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I’m thinking that there is a lot going on that we don’t know about and that President Obama could not speak publically about…at least, not yet. We may have to reserve judgement on this new way forward in Afghanistan and wider region for a while longer yet”
    Oh bullshit. If you want to “reserve judgement”, fine, but I’ve seen all I need to see from this posturing empty suit. If it was just Afghanistan, then maybe you’d have a point. But truth be told, Obama is a dissappointment over a myriad of issues. FISA, failing to hold criminals from the Bush administration accountable, signing statements, his weak and ineffective manner of handling Isr/Pal, rendition, DADT, the list goes on and on.
    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict a costly disaster in Afghanistan. Hell, just cruise the internet. There are PLENTY of articulate essays explaining, specifically, why escalation is a grave mistake. But try to find one single common sensical and articulate essay about the pluses and reasoning behind escalation, you strike out, unless you swallow the same old “boogie man is gonna get you unless we act” horseshit these bastards have been stuffing down our throats for nine years now.
    And by the way, Biden is a horse’s ass. I find him damned near as embarrassing as Palin when touted as leadership material. Seems we are scraping the bottom of the barrel in DC, and Biden certainly qualifies as a prime example of what it means to tap the dregs.

    Reply

  48. Elizabeth Miller says:

    Does anyone remember an address – I call it, affectionately, the ‘Augean Stables’ speech – that vice presidential candidate Biden delivered to a group of Barack Obama’s biggest supporters and donors, most of them community leaders in their own right, just a couple of weeks before the election?
    If you don’t recall what I’m talking about you can blame it on the vast majority of the media/blogosphere/punditocracy who collectively wouldn’t know a classical reference if it knocked them upside their heads nor could they demonstrate the capacity to understand a word Biden says or anything he does if their own bloody lives depended on it. They inaccurately dubbed this incredibly important address as the ‘Mark my words – Obama will be tested by an international crisis’ speech as they completely missed the entire gist of what Biden had said that night.
    Biden talked about the incredible mess, on the order of magnitude of the Augean Stables, that the next President – and, at that time it was fairly clear that Obama would emerge the winner – would inherit and he warned the select audience that tough decisions were going to have to be made, particularly with respect to foreign policy. He asked them to remember how they feel now and to realize that when these tough decisions are made, President Obama is going to need their support more than ever. He pleaded with them to use their strong voices in their respective communities to garner support for the new administration as it tackles the very complex and difficult challenges that it would surely be facing.
    Biden went on to warn them that the decisions made by the new administration may not always be the popular decision but that they would be sound decisions – popular decisions are often not sound ones, he added – that would command their vocal and public support.
    Everytime I initially have misgivings about something this administration has done – especially in the realm of foreign policy, being a Canadian – I am reminded of Biden’s warning…President Obama’s speech last night is one of those times.
    I’m thinking that there is a lot going on that we don’t know about and that President Obama could not speak publically about…at least, not yet. We may have to reserve judgement on this new way forward in Afghanistan and wider region for a while longer yet.

    Reply

  49. John Waring says:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-bacevich3-2009dec03,0,3209129.story
    Here’s a good editorial from Andrew Bacevich, “Obama’s Folly”.

    Reply

  50. DonS says:

    Everyone I know, except those who really aren’t informed and reflexively see themselves as dems, is so disappointed in the performance of Obama versus the hope, if not expectation. None of these folks are crazies, actually solid citizens. I would expect my experience is not unusal. Since I’m a cynic from the word go, I’m not surprised.
    What I find intriguing how how far from the mark the political pros gauge the ‘optics’ of the majority of the populace — drifting to the right — versus what my gut tells me a majority of real people want in a sensible foreign policy with reduced militarism, a focus on cleaning up our act act home, etc. But I guess the right wing megaphone has convinced the pols otherwise.

    Reply

  51. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Everytime I get into a conversation like this I can’t help but think of the poor paranoid American citizens, terrorized by their own government, duct taping their windows and doors shut, trembling before the spectre of the fabricated boogie man these lying pieces of shit Cheney and Bush imported into their living rooms.
    And here we have Obama, voted in to reverse this dangerous manner of governance, and the lyin’ posturing bastard doesn’t miss a stride in continuing the practice. Is this all there is??? If so, all these people have to do is provide the occassional terrorist skit, or false interdiction, to take this nation further and further from its founding tenets. 9/11 truly WAS a trifecta, and the winner was facism.

    Reply

  52. DonS says:

    We just passed through international arrival security at Philadelphia airport a couple of days ago, four separate stations, with the usual American cattle car treatment, so the ludicrous shoe bomb stuff is fresh in my mind.
    It just doesn’t make sense to tout the idea of thwarted attacks, which can only be a further provocation to try one. But like these pols like to say, it’s mostly in the optics.
    Glenn Greenwald gave Obama’s (speech) credit for not giving the false rationale for war that we are trying to nation build or advance women’s rights. Small comfort, however, amid the large picture, e.g., Hillary taking it all back the next day saying the 18 month bit was all about optics for the American public, but that really it wasn’t a message that we would be leaving Afghainstan, and the US will be there for many years into the future.
    So the question arises, perhaps Steve could address this, since it’s all about optics for different audiences, who is in charge of defining for Obama which optics are important. Who is he listening to (Holbrooke seems on the outs per above post) And is there ANY substance, or is it ALL optics??? Is there any coherence and overall strategy anywhere or is Obama just moving from one justificatory speech to another to paper over a posture of reaction to forces in play?

    Reply

  53. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, Don, you’ve got that dimwit “shoebomber”, which was a good catch. But note the jackass was caught IN SPITE OF these draconian “security measures”, rather than due to the measures.
    Otherwise, all I’ve seen is sensational press coverage of inept idiots being apprehended for making stupid comments. And the few “interdictions” that seemed to be somewhat historic, were later shown to be ridiculous and sensationalized non-plots.
    Its a delight reading Dan’s usually fairly astute essays, but sometimes I think “sounding smart” gets in the way of “presenting facts”, or, just plain ‘ol common sense conclusions.

    Reply

  54. DonS says:

    Claiming to have thwarted and interdicted potential attacks will be standard fare from the administration but they will never reveal the supposed facts — sources and methods you know — since this is part of the ‘be very afraid’ machine that underpins the construction of the increased surveillance state.
    Really, why otherwise bother to make the claims without substantiation? It’s just another variation on the ‘trust us’, ‘trust your government’ theme for circumventing all we have thought were American principles of openness.
    And don’t expect the Congress to ever get to the bottom of it; if even one Congressional investigation or inquiry even get’s close, Obama with slam the door with whatever tactic he chooses.
    The ultimate catch 22: you need to continue to surrender more and more freedom in order to preserve freedom. You need less information and more blind trust because you can’t be trusted with more information.

    Reply

  55. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And meanwhile, while all of those that voted for Obama get a royal screwing labeled “More War”, Israel once again flips the United States the bird, showing Netanyahu to be nothing more than a racist liar.
    Sadly, we can expect NOTHING in response from the White House, as they dare not hold Netanyahu accountable to his empty promises….
    http://news.antiwar.com/2009/12/02/israel-flouts-its-own-unilateral-freeze-okays-west-bank-settlement-expansion/
    Israel Flouts Its Own Unilateral Freeze, Okays West Bank Settlement Expansion
    In Face of Settler Outrage, Barak Approves More Housing
    by Jason Ditz, December 02, 2009
    One day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was defending the settlement freeze, a promise to not approve any new housing construction permits in the West Bank, Israel is approving new housing construction permits in the West Bank.
    The new approvals, in direct contravention of their own unilateral settlement freeze, came following a meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the outraged mayors of several settlements.
    continues……

    Reply

  56. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “A number of attempted attacks have been interdicted”
    Really??? Name them.
    It always amazes me when people pick and choose what they want to believe from the mouths of known liars. “Eenie meenie miney moe, what propaganda am I going to swallow today?”
    Its like this sack of shit Cheney telling us torture has prevented attacks, yet he can’t seem to provide us with evidence supporting his claims.
    Borders are wide open, Dan. If they wanna hit us, they will. We have no way of tracking anyone that sneaks in, (if you can call a Sunday stroll a “sneak”), and it is ludicrous to posit that any of the Patriot Act changed the ability of someone to walk over our border and commit a terrorist act. If anything, the porosity of our borders demonstrates how exaggerated the threat truly is.
    So while your naked body is being scanned at LAX, keep in mind there are adolescent kids using the 2 and 1/2 brain cells it requires to circumvent our monolithic joke known as “Homeland Security”. Now gee golly, if I’m a terrorist wanting to sneak into the USA, am I gonna go through airport security, or am I gonna pack a lunch, grab a canteen, and pay some mule a coupla grand to sneak me and my cohorts in?
    By making statements such as “A number of attempted attacks have been interdicted” you are merely providing the justification for all the draconian and illegal abuses of power that have occured these last nine years, and providing this empty suit Obama with the rationale to not only CONTINUE these abuses, but to ignore the illegality of the previous Administration’s abuses.
    Name these attacks that have been thwarted, Dan. Provide specifics. Otherwise, we might just as well give you the designation of Cheney’s TWN spokesperson.

    Reply

  57. Paul Norheim says:

    And if Israel is crazy enough to attack Tehran, we may all be discussing something called
    the IrIrAfPak strategy next year.

    Reply

  58. Paul Norheim says:

    The fact that McChrystal got what he wanted in Afghanistan makes it crystal clear (sorry
    for the pun) for everybody that all options are no longer on the table re. Iran.
    Achmedinejad boasting in front of the cameras a couple of days ago reflects that.
    Expect some intense efforts from Obama/Clinton to achieve “crippling sanctions” against
    Tehran in the near future – in vain. Russia and China will do nothing. One may also
    expect further bold moves from Tehran (and more belligerent talk from Hugo Chavez). And
    in a response to bold moves from Tehran and failed sanction efforts, one should also
    expect an intensification of the existential threat discourse from Tel Aviv. This will in
    turn piss off the White House, since the US can`t afford to get involved in a war in
    Iran. However, it is highly unlikely that this will calm down the hawks in Tel Aviv. Etc.
    etc…

    Reply

  59. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Nadine, it’s pretty hard to understand what your argument is”
    Not really. I can sum it up in four words……
    “KILL ALL THE MUSLIMS!!!!”

    Reply

  60. DonS says:

    Quoth Dan K.: “Bush and Obama are both craven politicians who have been afraid to preach common sense and cold facts to a bunch of freaked-out pussified Americans, bent over in a permanent terrorism-induced brain cramp.”
    Deconstructing this essentially protean summary reveals only one or two potential caveats:
    1) Are/is either Bush or Obama aware of what constitutes “common sense”? If yes, this affirms the “craven” description. If no, this confirms their being essentially out of touch with the fundamental basis of human thinking and action.
    2)Are Americans a “freaked-out pussified” lot? Or only some Americans, who seem to have the inordinate attention of Obama? Bush was clearly one of their own,so preaching to the choir, and no need for further explanation. Now is Obama one of them as well, or only operating in fear of their supposed importance? If he’s one of them, let him rot with the rest. If he’s simply playing to them, he earns the label “pussified” in his own right. He also earns a reaffirmation of being “craven”.
    Common sense of Americans who are not among the pussified and are not in permanent brain cramp induced by fear of ‘terrorism’, find Obama’s posture and actions beyond hope and redemption; America continues in freefall further down the tube.

    Reply

  61. John Waring says:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/02/AR2009120202044.html?hpid=opinionsbox1
    Here’s a good read from George Will, “This Will Not End Well”.

    Reply

  62. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    Viewing or examining the US-expostulated AFPak strategy, one may reasonably say that the new policy is a blue- print of the US indoctrinated concept of the ‘Smart Power’. Although the apparent features of this multiple strategy appear attractive to those who have engineered this policy, there are some thinkers who yet view the Obama administration’s announced date of the troops departure from Afghanistan with certain degree of skepticism as they are of the view that the dateline of the exit strategy seems to be a symbolic gesture rather than to be a practical notion.
    Here,the onus of burden goes to the Obama administration as to how it demonstrates or would prove to the international community that the present US administration would prevent from repeating the past record.

    Reply

  63. Outraged American says:

    At the bottom of this tragedy is the fact that Bin Laden has never
    been charged w/ 9/11 by the FBI.
    Here’s Bin Laden’s FBI Most Wanted poster from TODAY:
    http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten/fugitives/laden.htm
    A few years ago, Rex Tomb, head of FBI publicity at the time,
    told at least two reporters, questioning independently, that it
    was because the FBI lacked “hard evidence” that Bin Laden was
    behind 9/11.
    How do I know? Because I was one of them, tipped off by Ed
    Haas, who was the first reporter to ask the FBI why Bin Laden’s
    Most Wanted poster did not claim that he was behind the 9/11
    attacks.
    Again, TO THIS VERY DAY, the FBI is not claiming that Bin Laden
    was behind 9/11.
    How many more people are going to die for this Lie to End All
    Lies?
    Check it out for yourself.

    Reply

  64. Elizabeth Miller says:

    John W,
    Just read the Lang link …
    Well, at least he didn’t have anything bad to say about Biden – explicitly, anyway. That’s always the first sign of a good article!

    Reply

  65. Elizabeth Miller says:

    John W,
    I’m pretty much on the same page as you and Dan, just to be clear.
    In fact, I’m not convinced that an all out war in Afghanistan was the proper response to 9/11 or the most effective or effecient way to proceed against what was responsible for 9/11. If this had been done with intelligence (both kinds!) I am quite sure we would have dealt with the top al-Qaeda leadership a long time ago.
    I think the problem that Saudi Arabia poses, for instance, is a much more serious threat to the national security of the the United States and beyond.
    I do, however, find it hard to believe that President Obama let the Generals walk all over him – that’s why he has Biden at his side, you know. 🙂 Although, it did look like Biden had been rolled over a few times during his appearances on the morning shows the day after the night before.
    But, in all seriousness, it seems clear enough that a military surge in Afghanistan of only 30,000 troops does not make any conmventional military or COIN sense. In fact, I don’t think ANY number of troops would make sense in either case – the conditions in Afghanistan are simply not conducive, to make another understatement of the century.
    I’m just willing to take a wait and see approach here and give Obama-Biden some time to pull this entire regional strategy together.
    Thanks for the ‘Lang’ link – he’s one of the good guys and I’ll definitely check it out!

    Reply

  66. John Waring says:

    http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2009/12/the-generals-won-everything.html
    Elizabeth,
    Please read Patrick Lang’s comments at the above link. He says the mission in Afghanistan has become a self-licking ice cream cone.
    This escalation is occuring because the generals want it, and because they were able to convince (roll?) Obama. As Col Wilkerson said in the previous post on The Washington Note, it makes no conventional military sense because it is too small. IMHO it makes no COIN sense because we have no legitimate host country leader with whom we can partner. Karzi and his allied war lords are worthless. And despite our billions of dollars in aid, the Pakistani army has no desire to take on the Afghan Taliban because the Afghan Taliban are their proxy. So the entire mission is a muddle. It is therefore a waste of good American infantry, and of good Chinese-lent American dollars.
    American vital interests in the AfPak region are quite limited. Whoever comes to power once the Afghan civil war/proxy war, comes to a conclusion needs to understand that we will not permit entry of any nasty boys attempting to set up training camps. We will destroy those training camps with no compunction, and lose little sleep over colateral damage. Also, we need to develop the intelligence and special forces capability required to interdict the nasty boys from that area, and from any other likely safe haven on the globe well before they get to our shores. That’s it. That’s the extent of our vital interests. Nothing in my foregoing comments remotely suggests the need for 100,000 troops, particularly in a place as remote, poverty-stricken, and God-forsaken as Afghanistan. This escalation is nothing but make work for generals. It is welfare for the military/industrial/congressional complex. And it will destroy the possibility of domestic reform.
    As Andrew Sullivan summarized,
    If you want an empire, raise the troops and taxes, forego domestic spending, and have at it.
    If you don’t want an empire, get out. Now.
    Dan, thank you for your posts on this thread.

    Reply

  67. Dan Kervick says:

    Nadine, it’s pretty hard to understand what your argument is.
    Yes, we have been very successful in preventing more 9/11’s since 2001. A number of attempted attacks have been interdicted. From what we can tell, almost all of those successes had to do with intelligence and, broadly speaking, “police work” – including covert paramilitary means. We have tapped phones, tracked movements of money, monitored internet traffic etc. And when in the midst of all the noise and mostly-empty jihadist bloviating, we have identified people who were really serious, we have stopped them. Some of them have been apprehended; some were apparently just killed in their beds. Sometimes the interdiction gets a lot of publicity; probably there are other times when it hasn’t.
    Isn’t it the case that we can keep doing that indefinitely, without surging into Afghanistan?
    And yes, of course, there are Al Qaeda types still plotting second and third and fourth 9/11s. They are all around the world. The burden on those who think that has something to do with the war in Afghanistan is to explain in concrete terms, without hand-waving and vagaries, how these costly and stepped-up military operations against Pashtun fighters in Afghanistan will make any sort of dent one way or another in the ongoing effort against the declining forces of militant global jihadism.
    How will this surge keep pressure on Al Qaeda in their “safe havens”? Last I heard, there is very little Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan. Isn’t this the the same foolishness as the Iraq War all over again, in which we attack places where the enemy ain’t, just because those places are the most attackable, and because the attacks give the public a satisfied but deceptive feeling that we are doing something?
    I would note that you were asked several times over the past few months to explain your own strategy recommendations for Afghanistan, and you changed the subject every time. Maybe you don’t really know? It seems to me that you just have a generally positive disposition toward military action, and toward giving liberals grief for their supposed pacifism, but are so far not able to put 2 and 2 together to connect your vague pro-military force feelings into a cogent means-end argument.
    There are plenty of situations in which the use of large, organized military force is still the right means to use against various kinds of comparable threats. But haven’t we gotten it through our heads by now that the threat posed by a distributed global network of ideologues geared toward small-scale attacks is not the kind of threat that can be countered by these ponderous and slow-moving conventional tools? The network is diffuse, flexible and highly mobile. We could spend our entire treasury in purifying Afghanistan of all the jihadists and jihadist safe havens, and jihadists will just move to other countries that we can’t occupy and police all at once.
    All we can do is keep trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys – for as long as there are bad guys – by spying on them, infiltrating them and stepping in to grab them if they make a move to act. But the big mechanized military assault approach is like trying to fight a rat infestation in some town by throwing a pile of resources into blowing up the last house where a rat bite occurred.

    Reply

  68. nadine says:

    So now it’s useless to fight in Afghanistan because the jihadis are everywhere? And for eight years we’ve been hearing that the the jihadis were only a small bunch in a cave in Afghanistan, which was the “right” war, while Iraq was the “wrong” war. That’s certainly what Obama said for two years running.
    The only consistent thread in these liberal arguments is faith (and it really is a statement of faith) in the total uselessness of ever conducting a military campaign anywhere for any reason, which liberals try to hide by recommending that we fight somewhere else some other time, so that they can’t be accused of pacifism.
    While Iraq was the main war, they were for Afghanistan. Now that Afghanistan is the main war, they are against Afghanistan.
    While it is true that small attacks (of the sort I call “DIY Jihad”) can be plotted anywhere, even Ft. Hood, for the big spectaculars you need time, money, planning, equipment – and that means a safe haven where the police won’t come knocking. The more pressure can be kept on Al Qaeda in their safe havens, the more energy they will spend running and the less plotting.
    Do you really believe it was Al Qaeda’s idea not to have any follow-ups to 9/11? In fact, we know they were well underway planning Round 2, which would have knocked a dozen airplanes out of the sky. It didn’t happen because the CIA got Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to talk. Even Obama said as much last night (for the first time ever) but you still don’t believe it. Or maybe you think it’s a better deal to risk another 9/11 rather than fight a war. It’s cheaper, I suppose, but you won’t find many Americans to agree with you.
    And if American troops on on the ground near or in Pakistan, there are in a much better position to seize the Pakistani nuclear arsenal should Pakistan collapse. This is not something they want to say out loud, but I’m sure it’s driving their considerations.

    Reply

  69. Elizabeth Miller says:

    Paul,
    Nicely done!
    What began as an attempt to cut off the head of al-Qaeda has morphed into an intervention that requires a grand regional strategy to save superpower face and secure the future of the world.
    How does a president explain THAT to the American people in less than 60 minutes, not to mention the hapless members of the media/blogosphere/punditocracy collective!?
    And, if all of that is hard to explain, then try delivering a speech acknowledging that al-Qaeda and their ilk have targeted America because they are outmatched by their own governments (read: Saudi Arabia and Egypt) and it is much easier for them to attack the western democracies who continue to support the repressive regimes of the Middle East.
    This multi-faceted regional dilemma is going to take many years and decades of steady political leadership, from all corners. And so, let’s hope that particular commodity is in large supply for the foreseeable future and beyond.

    Reply

  70. JohnH says:

    “American troops finding, killing, or arresting bin Laden…” You must be kidding. The US has been there, done that. And when the opportunity presented itself, they decided not to kill Bin Laden.
    Bin Laden is worth more alive than dead. He is the essential ingredient to America’s reason for being there. Without him, the military would have lost–not the war–but the reason for being at war. Too many military careers and defense contracts are at stake. Bin Laden must be kept alive, or at least not proven dead.

    Reply

  71. Paul Norheim says:

    Dan Kervick`s comment demonstrates the absurdity of the GWOT debates in this decade, and
    John Warings comment suggests that Afghanistan may become as much a distraction in the
    coming decade as Iraq was in this decade.
    The elephant in the room: Pakistan. Of course the Obama administration knows this – but
    how can they explain this to the American people? And how can they influence Pakistan in
    ways that avoid that the unintended consequences are larger than the intended? As I`ve
    said repeatedly here: Afghanistan is primarily relevant to the extent that it influences
    the dangerous events and dynamics in Pakistan. And these dynamics (even events in
    Afghanistan) are probably less determined by a fight between rational, pro-Western, pro-
    democracy forces and evil terrorists promoting the return of the caliphate, then by the
    specific regional conflicts between Pakistan and India, the Kashmir issue, and good old
    fashioned power politics.
    By interpreting the “AfPak” complex in terms of “them” wanting to attack “us”, while
    ignoring the fundamental issues specific to the region, the whole discussion becomes
    absurd, and the actions and attempts by the “international community” will first and
    foremost result in unintended consequences – some of which may have been predictable if
    we had more knowledge in, and interest in the issues and motives of the regional actors.
    There is no doubt that Al Qaeda members and those inspired by them from Morocco to
    Madrid, from London to Indonesia, want to attack “us”. But this is a global phenomenon
    that should not be countered by invading and occupying one, or two, or three specific
    countries; the “safe havens” are virtually everywhere. Taliban is a different issue, much
    more related to the internal struggles within the two countries where they operate, and
    the region as a whole. The dominance of the narrative of pro democracy, pro capitalism,
    pro freedom, pro civilization versus barbaric, back-to-the-15th century terrorists is
    fatal, and equivalent of seeing Vietnam in the light of capitalism versus communism and
    the domino theory.
    Perhaps the best possible outcome of this mess is a purely symbolic victory: American
    troops finding, killing, or arresting bin Laden, al Zawhahiri, and Mullah Omar, possibly
    bringing them to a court room in New York, and declaring “mission accomplished”.
    Then the foreign policy discourse may become less dominated by the absurd GWOT rhetoric,
    where the G in “Global” means concentrating all the efforts in some country on the other
    side of the globe.

    Reply

  72. Elizabeth Miller says:

    John,
    I don’t think the Obama-Biden administration is talking about a standard military victory in Afghanistan – I think most of us know that is not possible.
    What we are talking about here is, number one…giving the Taliban something to think about while their momentum is reversed and, number two…promoting and facilitating some sort of political reconciliation through an Afghan-led process that will include moderate elements of the Taliban.
    Obama-Biden et al. know what you know and that is that a military victory would require hundreds of thousands of troops and, even then, a military victory would not be possible because the conditions on the ground throughout Afghanistan are not conducive to a successful COIN approach – not by a long shot.
    I’m a bit concerned that there still seems to be too much of a focus on the central government in Kabul but I know that this administration is quite aware of the political dynamics at work in Afghanistan and what will be required for a political solution and that the answer to this mess lies in working and forming partnerships with Afghan tribal leaders at the local level.
    This semi-announced new regional strategy will need to be given some time to see if it can meet US/NATO objectives. And, hopefully, we will soon begin to see a more concerted and cooperative effort by the Afghan people, the US and NATO, the UN and the regional and major powers to ensure that this new approach yields more than a modicum of success.

    Reply

  73. James says:

    Representative Grijalva of the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Obama’s Afghan quagmire address at West Point (good call at 19 minutes and 25 seconds into segment)
    http://tinyurl.com/ykjyew5

    Reply

  74. John Waring says:

    Obama has just thrown a Hail Mary pass. Even a total of 100,000 American troops is a drop in the bucket. To insure a military victory within four years, we would need 500,000 to 750,000 troops there, and we would have to seal off and clean out the safe havens in Pakistan. Since we don’t have the national will to do that, we should be drawing down our strength in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and saving our troops for more important things.
    With the mess he inherited, Obama’s odds of being a two-term President were even at best. He needed a game-changer, not more of the same. Notice, too, all the heavy lifting in Afghanistan is being done by the USA. None of the heavy lifting is being done by the Indians, Chinese, Russians, or Europeans. They really don’t believe Afghanistan is worth the candle. The announced mission is a fool’s errand. It will prove ruinously expensive, just in logistics costs alone, with a lot of supply route protection money ending up in the hands of the bad guys.
    The way to defend the United States is by defending the United States, not by putting a US army at the end of the earth.
    Please keep in mind the following:
    1. Afghanistan is not a country.
    2. Karzi is not the head of a government. He is the head of a Mafia enterprise.
    3. The Afghanistan conflict is both a tribal civil war with the northern tribes fighting the southern tribes, it is also a proxy war fought between India and Pakistan, with China, Russia, Iran, and the Gulf states all stirring the witches’ brew as well.
    4. Pakistan is the location of the safe havens. Significant elements of Pakistan’s military want the Afghan Taliban to take Afghanistan back over, in order to cover Pakistan’s rear while they face off with India. Pakistan has nukes. So Pakistan is the real problem.
    In short, the region is too broken for the USA to fix in 18 months with a mere 100,000 soldiers. In order to fix it, you have to own it. In order to own it, you need one half to three quarters of a million troops.
    We are nuts to try.

    Reply

  75. Elizabeth Miller says:

    Paul,
    Well, you are absolutely right when you say that history has not shown the Afghan people that the US and the rest of the international community have ever had their interests at heart.
    And, frankly, it will take more than words in another speech to give them confidence that anything in this regard has changed. But, something has changed. The US will never be able to walk away from Afghanistan and the region again and will remain engaged there, in one form or another, forever – the last eight plus years have sealed that fate and the Afghan people will soon realize this if they haven’t already.

    Reply

  76. JohnH says:

    Obama turned to the television and directly addressed the Afghan people. Nice theatrics. Unfortunately, there are only three televisions per 1000 people in Afghanistan. So not a lot of people were waking up to watch Obama.
    And if they did, why would they believe anything Obama said about working in Afghans’ best interests? When was the last time that Washington worked in anybody’s best interests except its own and those of the corporate interests it serves?

    Reply

  77. Dan Kervick says:

    “It basically boils down to how you calculate the chances of Al Qaeda managing to stage another “spectacular” or the Taliban taking over both Afganistan and Pakistan. As long as you figure the odds are worse with Americans staying rather than going, it’s a strong argument for staying.”
    That’s not a very convincing argument. If the chance of a spectacular attack is reduced from 1/4 of 1% to 1/8 of 1%, how much of an expenditure does that merit?
    At some point, we reach the absurd terminus where the United States is spending massive fortunes to protect itself against the last impotent Al Qaeda graybeard mumbling his prayers in some South Asian cave.
    If we took all the money we are spending in Afghanistan and spent it on more cops on the street, more rumble strips on highways, and more EMTs for local fire departments, the expected payoff in lives saved probably beats this War on Turrah nonsense by an order of hundreds.
    So far, the last eight years of the One Percent Doctrine look like the purchase of a three trillion dollar, nuclear, diamond-plated diaphragm for massively overdone terrorism prophylaxis when a box full of condoms and a head full of common sense would have done the job for a fraction of the cost.
    Take the money and send more Americans to school to learn Asian languages. Hire and train more spies; buy more surveillance equipment; improve cooperation and data sharing with foreign police forces. That will buy us a hell of a lot more security than this fool’s gold mission impossible of permanently purifying one country of “violent extremists.”
    Bush and Obama are both craven politicians who have been afraid to preach common sense and cold facts to a bunch of freaked-out pussified Americans, bent over in a permanent terrorism-induced brain cramp. A lot of them can’t even grasp the mysteries of lottery ticket odds and their own credit card interest rates. So it is no wonder that they are overwhelmed by debates about the intelligent allotment of national resources.
    Maybe we could also spend the money on educating Americans in history, science, mathematics and critical thinking, so they are not such skittish and exploitable fools in the first place. Call it the “War on Dumbass”. If we spend the money on the most cognitively deprived 10% of the country, $30 billion per year gives us about $1000 per year per person. (I know that, ‘cuz I went to college and can do numbers and stuff.)

    Reply

  78. Paul Norheim says:

    “The Afghan people need to know that the beginning of a withdrawal of foreign combat
    forces in July 2011 does not mean that they will soon be on their own without the
    political/diplomatic/economic support they will need from the international
    community.” (Elisabeth Miller)
    Sure, regardless of substance, it would certainly be helpful for the American strategy
    if the Afghans believed in such promises. But the international community has a
    serious credibility problem. You may remember that right after the overthrow of the
    Taliban regime in 2001/02, Blair, Bush, and several other prominent members of the
    “international community” repeatedly stressed the importance of not abandoning the
    Afghan people – at the same time as they were eagerly making the political,
    diplomatic, rhetorical and military preparations for an invasion of Iraq. Exit
    Afghanistan from their minds.
    The fact is that the Afghans have no reasons to believe in promises from the
    “international community”, only in results that are tangible. History teaches them
    that foreign nations have only been interested in Afghanistan to the extent that it
    serves their own interests, and the Afghans have no reason to believe that this lesson
    suddenly became obsolete at the end of this decade. Their fierce nationalism is not my
    cup of tea, but it is confirmed by their experience.

    Reply

  79. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Meanwhile, I seem to remember one trillion dollars missing in the Pentagon before 9-11”
    Uh, that was TWO trillion. Might wanna ask ‘ol Dov Zakheim where that money went. Perhaps Israel needed some funds to buy a few more dead Muslims.

    Reply

  80. Mr.Murder says:

    Steve, the 40,000 becoming 30,000 is a matter of necessity. To me, this could be used to placate his left side criticisim. He reduced the deployment number.
    Anyone critical of that reduction would have to eventually admit that no surge would contain the troop capacity needed to win this thing.
    So, if we can reduce the intiial demand by a fourth, we can eventually draw down those numbers.
    Meanwhile, I seem to remember one trillion dollars missing in the Pentagon before 9-11. Another trillion at NASA.
    Perhaps the Executive needs to look a bit closer at where the money went to gain leverage. The money returned cxould maybe go to health care?

    Reply

  81. nadine says:

    update: I meant worse with going rather than staying.

    Reply

  82. nadine says:

    “I am no more convinced today than I was yesterday that remaining in Afghanistan will lead to any better result than leaving.” (MoA)
    It basically boils down to how you calculate the chances of Al Qaeda managing to stage another “spectacular” or the Taliban taking over both Afganistan and Pakistan. As long as you figure the odds are worse with Americans staying rather than going, it’s a strong argument for staying.

    Reply

  83. PissedOffAmerican says:

    How Many Private Contractors Are There In Afghanistan? Military Gives Us A Number
    Justin Elliott | December 2, 2009, 2:37PM
    Private contractors employed by the Defense Department in Afghanistan will continue to outnumber the size of the American troop presence, even after President Obama sends 30,000 more soldiers to fight in the war, according to the military’s most recent contractor count.
    The latest figure on DOD contractors in the country is a whopping 104,100, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command tells TPM. That number, which is expected to grow, is already greater than the 98,000 U.S. troops that will be in the country after the new deployments.
    We told you yesterday about the little-noticed but giant shadow army of contractors that allows the United States to prosecute the war by providing food, transport, construction, security, and other services. Many believe the size of the contracting force presents security and transparency concerns.
    And the lack of discussion of the topic — Obama, for example, didn’t mention contractors in his address last night — warps perceptions of the size of the American commitment in Afghanistan.
    Contractors on plane departing from a base in Eastern Afghanistan in May of 2009.Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph Kloppel sent TPM these numbers, declining to peg them to a specific date, and saying a breakdown of types of contractors is not available:
    Third Country Nationals 16,400
    Local/Host Nation 78,400
    US Citizens 9,300
    Total 104,100
    As of June, the number of contractors was 73,968, so the new figure is a considerable increase. All of this data should be viewed skeptically; a commission on contracting created by Congress has complained about widely varying contractor counts and lack of good data.
    Kloppel told TPM yesterday that there are roughly 9,000 private security contractors, though the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan says there are at least 14,000. That would not include private security for other countries or contractors. The Army Times published a story yesterday showing just how damaging bad contractors can be to the counterinsurgency strategy: along one route in Kandahar province, over 30 civilians have been killed or wounded by heavily armed security contractors, who are mostly Afghans.
    Still not clear is whether the projected escalation cost of $30 billion includes the cost of more contractors. Good numbers are notoriously hard to pin down, but the Congressional Budget Office estimated a cost of $5 billion for DOD contracts in Afghanistan back in fiscal year 2007 and the first half of 2008.
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/12/so_how_many_private_contractors_are_there_in_afgha.php
    We didn’t learn one God damned thing from the Iraq clusterfuck, did we? There are a whole slew of really scummy subhuman war profiteering bastards grinning ear to ear after Obama’s speech. Sucking up our money like swollen leeches, these warmongering pieces of shit in Washington DC make a mockery of what this nation was supposed to be.

    Reply

  84. Elizabeth Miller says:

    Franklin said,
    “In terms of the strategy, as best I can tell the increase is a negotiating ploy to get elements of the Afghan Taliban on board with some kind of a negotiated settlement. The increase is intended to signal seriousness of purpose and to provide our own forces in country with additional leverage and security.”
    I hope this is true but even if it is, President Obama’s speech last night – what he said and what he did not – did nothing to garner support for such a strategy. Again, my major problem with the speech is that it was one of the weakest I have ever heard from this president in that it did not lay out a persuasive argument for an escalation of troops or for a new strategy in Afghanistan and the wider region.

    Reply

  85. Maw of America says:

    I’ve heard variations of this from at least one commentator (Richard Haas on Charlie Rose), but I think it most closely reflects my – how shall I put it? – ennui on the subject:
    I am no more convinced today than I was yesterday that remaining in Afghanistan will lead to any better result than leaving.

    Reply

  86. nadine says:

    So POA, if the looney left are leaving Obama because he’s not far enough left for them, and the independents are abandoning him in droves, realizing that he’s not the “sober centrist” they voted for, there may not be too many people left to vote for Obama next time around, hm?

    Reply

  87. PissedOffAmerican says:

    This guy sees Obama EXACTLY as I do. Nina pointed this blogpost out to me, knowing how I feel about this dangerous fraud, this Trojan Horse, Obama…
    http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2009/12/deadly-liar-and-manipulator.html

    Reply

  88. Diana Witt says:

    I’ve been busy today, and only now have skimmed the comments, which seem to be all over the map regarding the speech. I’d really like to hear from Steve (after he’s rested) about his thoughts on the role India and the Indian-Pakistani conflict will play in all this. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the speech came less than a week after Singh’s state visit. For that reason alone, I’m willing to go along for the moment with Obama’s proposals from last night. I think this is the first chapter of a very long story. Love to hear Steve’s thoughts on this.
    Dianaw

    Reply

  89. Franklin says:

    In terms of the strategy, as best I can tell the increase is a negotiating ploy to get elements of the Afghan Taliban on board with some kind of a negotiated settlement. The increase is intended to signal seriousness of purpose and to provide our own forces in country with additional leverage and security. The end game is a U.S. withdrawal with the least possible loss of face in 2011.
    In terms of the objectives from the W. years, they appear to be off the table now (e.g. Karzai isn’t going to change his stripes; the U.S.’s ability to create a model democracy ain’t going to happen).
    I see this as more of a face saving maneuver designed to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan — albeit one that’s going to be purchased at the cost of perhaps 4,000 to 8,000 more U.S. casualties and perhaps another $100 to $250 billion.
    I’m fairly ambivalent about the maneuver — I lean towards “get out now,” because I’m skeptical about the limits of what we can realistically achieve — but I’m hoping that the administration’s wager in blood and treasure works out.
    The domestic political calculation is probably something that the administration would deny, but it’s hard not too see at least some element of that at work too (e.g. the increase is a bit of CYA in the event of a future terrorist attack; the draw-down should head off a primary challenge in 2012 — no candidate is likely to win as the “escalate more in Afghanistan” candidate).

    Reply

  90. nadine says:

    “So what do you think is the aim, or do you think it is merely inertia, or a sign of the military having undue influence?” (MarkL)
    The military has no influence with Obama – look how he didn’t even speak to McCrystal for months after getting his report!
    No, this is all politics. If Obama hadn’t spent two years telling everybody that Afghanistan was “the good war”, “a war of necessity”, “vital to our national interests” etc, he might have pulled out now. But there’s no way he could do that now without totally trashing his own credibility. So he tried to triangulate, to have it both ways.

    Reply

  91. Elizabeth Miller says:

    POA,
    I try to stay away from gossip sites, too. My foray into Stephen Zunes’ world at HP was but an aberration! I thought you were a Zunes fan. Or, am I confusing you with someone else here?
    Actually, there are a couple of very good bloggers over there that you should check out! Though, I would have to agree with you that the vast majority of the Huffington Post leaves quite a lot to be desired. And, the powers that be there do seem to have some sort of inexplicable aversion to popular commenters! 🙂

    Reply

  92. DonS says:

    I’m going to repeat part of what I posted below because it’s generalities are the product of a much soul searching over time. And those of us who have no special claim to expertise may bring still bring another perspective that helps frame Afghanistan in historical way.
    Also, those of us who are old enough have seen this movie too many times before. The choice to go to war, to escalate, driven by jingoistic fervor and xenophobic fear, or fear of being thought not man enough to use physical force where some other approach might lead forward in a positive way. The phony rationales, hand wringing, breast beating. The whole sorry lot. The same outcomes and recriminations, post hoc analyzes and finger pointing. The tail of one misbegotten exercise in shortsighted excuses for failed policies barely ahead of the next iteration.
    Obama seeks to frame his approach to waging this particular war as something ‘new’ and intended to meet very particular exigencies. There are the overtly stated policy and political considerations that are intended for mass consumption. Then there are the covert considerations that we can only speculate about, and which will be revealed how many years from now in somebody’s self serving memoirs.
    One assumes that Obama is in earnest in wishing to do the best for this country, given the constraints, including his own foibles. Or at least one assumes that, given a degree of self awareness, that he has done a thoroughly good job in convincing himself that his intentions and decisions are honest, and not the product of his ‘shadow’ self (to use a Jungian term) that seeks only it’s own aggrandizement.
    None the less, Obama’s ‘way forward’ resonates with me as the product of an immature, youthful vision that is captivated by an excessive degree of ‘can do’ thinking. To me, the fresh faced cadet audience was an attempt to get out in front of and to own that constituency; where else do we see at least the presumption of such nationalistic hubris as in that cadet class, destined to claw and clamber over each other to garner those prized stars on the shoulders. I do not say that an older, wiser or cynical approach would have come out much better. Only that Obama’s particular Achilles heel is one of excessive youthful self delusion – again, if he is being honest with himself.
    As to an 18 month timeframe for some possible action; who here questions that this figure isn’t pegged to an election cycle in some way?
    To reiterate what some here have said, in all but the most narrow sense, Afghanistan will not, almost cannot come out “OK”. The man on the street senses it; all but the looney right reluctantly intuits it. So all search for a rationale and an approach – given the horrendous hand that we have dealt ourselves – that makes the best of it; lemons into lemonade as it were. But, that given, why do we not ever seem takes ‘risks’ for peace? Only slightly adumbrated ‘endless war’, unconvincingly sold to the audience as ‘necessary’. Necessary to who? What a cheapening of the concept.
    And on it goes. War: America’s raison d’etre. Ain’t we great. Almost takes your mind off the unemployment statistics, or the unemployment line, but for the interconnections that scream out. Blame it on them ragheads.

    Reply

  93. nadine says:

    “However, I thought Obama made it crystal clear that the welfare of the Afghanis was not his primary concern—that our national security is the motivation.
    In a way, it’s refreshing honesty.
    I also wonder if the real objectives lie in Pakistan, not Afghanistan” (MarkL)
    It may be refreshing honesty. It is, however, very badly calculated if you actually need the Afghans as your allies, which we very much do. But those who actually have to do the fighting are obviously Obama’s lowest priority, far below his political objectives.

    Reply

  94. Elizabeth Miller says:

    That’s my point, Nadine…nobody will know that from last night’s speech which was unpersuasive on a number of levels.

    Reply

  95. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Meanwhile, as the confused and dimwitted masses ponder Obama’s bizzarre definition of “change”, Israel and the racially/ethnically vindictive settler fanatics continue with business as usual. Won’t be long now before Hillary congratulates them again for their “unprecedented” concessions.
    http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=608&docid=4482
    Bypassing the Freeze – “Fake Foundations” in the settlements
    30/11/2009
    In order to bypass the settlement freeze, dozens of “Fake Foundations” were established in the settlements in recent days. According to the freeze order that was issued following the government declaration, it is forbidden to start any new construction unless the foundations were already laid before the freeze order was issued. Peace Now’s Settlement Watch team found in recent days that the settlers lay cement on the ground at a shape of a floor so that it would look like a foundation in an aerial photo.
    In recent months the settlers were “running for the foundations” and we saw many new construction starts. Apparently some of those who did not manage to lay the foundation before the order was issued, decided to try to deceive the authorities with fake foundations.
    Peace Now found those “Fake Foundations” in the settlements of: Nerya (Talmon B), Adam (Geva Binyamin), Ela’azar, Modi’in Illit and Na’ale.

    Reply

  96. nadine says:

    “There is a lot of attention being paid to the July 2011 time frame for beginning a ‘responsible’ withdrawal of US/NATO combat forces. While making such a public statement of a time frame, I think it is important for the US, NATO and the UN to make it crystal clear that they are in this game for the very, very long haul in the sense that they will continue to support the people of Afghanistan in their efforts to build a stable and secure country with a government that is responsive and accountable to them long after allied combat forces have been completely withdrawn” (Elizabeth Miller)
    Nobody will know that from last night’s speech. You can’t announce a deadline for withdrawal and convince anybody you’re serious about long term results at the same time. Obama’s best hope is that everybody thinks he’s lying about the 18 month deadline (after all, Clinton told us we’d be out of Kosovo in 18 months and we’re still there over 10 years later). But so far, Obama has shown himself such a pushover that it’s anybody’s guess whether he’ll be pushed by the left to withdraw sooner or be pushed by the center&right to stay longer.

    Reply

  97. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I don’t read the gossip sites, Elizabeth.
    Besides, after having my posts there picked as “readers favorites” on a number of occassions a coupla years ago, I was banned from further posting.
    Screw Huffington.

    Reply

  98. Elizabeth Miller says:

    Hey, POA!
    Did you happen to catch my one-way debate with Stephen Zunes at the Huffington Post?
    I was really hoping to spark a fun debate but, alas, I guess he wasn’t up for it. 🙁

    Reply

  99. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I might just add that Vice President Biden, for whom I have tremendous respect – just to make that clear!”
    Now there’s an understatement, seeing as how Elizabeth trolls the internet with a bunch of equally as fanatic cohorts, (or multiple identities), shamelessly cheerleading for Biden, even distorting history to do so, as she did recently by denying Biden’s part in selling the invasion of Iraq.

    Reply

  100. Elizabeth Miller says:

    Warren,
    I found the last part of your comment very interesting.
    Do we know that Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar were intimately involved in the planning of the 9/11 attacks? There was certainly inspiration emanating and even training occuring from within the borders of Afghanistan.
    We do know that a lot of the planning for these horrific attacks occured in Germany and the United States. And, we also know that violent extremists do not need a failed state in which to operate when they can do so out of any major European or North American city or, in fact, from anywhere in the world.
    Given this state of affairs, President Obama has a lot of explaining left to do to put forward a persuasive argument for an escalation of troops into Afghanistan.
    I might just add that Vice President Biden, for whom I have tremendous respect – just to make that clear! – was similarly unimpressive this morning in making the case for the escalation. In fact, was it just me, or did he seem decidedly uncomfortable?

    Reply

  101. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “So what do you think is the aim………..”
    I already told you what i think the “aim” is…
    “…….cooked up to support the expansion of American power for nefarious reasons, primarily the THEFT of other nation’s resources and strategic geographical positioning on the globe”
    Perhaps Pepe Escobar can make it a bit clearer for you…
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/KL03Df04.html
    Excerpt….
    For corporate America, Afghanistan means nothing; it’s the fifth-poorest country in the world, tribal and definitely not a consumer society. But for US Big Oil and the Pentagon, Afghanistan has a lot of mojo.
    For Big Oil, the holy grail is access to Turkmenistan natural gas from the Caspian Sea – Pipelineistan at the heart of the new great game in Eurasia, avoiding both Russia and Iran. But there’s no way to build the hugely strategic TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline – crossing Helmand province, and then Pakistan’s Balochistan province – with Afghanistan mired in chaos, thanks to the pitiful performance of the US/NATO occupation.
    There’s a hand in surveying/controlling the $4 billion-a-year drug trade, directly and indirectly. Since the beginning of the US/NATO occupation, Afghanistan became a de facto narco-state, producing 92% of the world’s heroin under a bunch of transnational narco-terrorist cartels.
    And there’s the full spectrum dominance Pentagon agenda – Afghanistan as part of the worldwide US empire of bases, monitoring strategic competitors China and Russia at their doorstep.

    Reply

  102. MarkL says:

    I recommend
    http://www.talkleft.com/story/2009/12/2/103011/046
    for lots of interesting comments on the subject.
    The main post is by Big Tent Democrat (Armando Llorens), who is superb at domestic political analysis. I don’t endorse his view of Obama’s speech, but the discussion is good.

    Reply

  103. Warren Metzler says:

    Do Americans actually believe that we can get the citizens of
    another country to grow up and act like adults???? Is there
    actually one example in US history of this succeeding???? I
    suggest not. The problem with Vietnam, and I was there, is that
    our government only knows how to choose corrupt nepotists as
    our favored in-country leaders. And the public there didn’t like
    our choices.
    Same in Afghanistan. Everywhere in the history of the human
    race, beneficial change is homegrown. Never a result of
    external pressures. Although we may not like it, we need to get
    out and let the people of Afghanistan learn to grow up on their
    own. And the longer we stay, the more we stimulate the
    development of hostile forces.
    And, for those of you who have some common sense. If it turns
    out that 9/11 wasn’t done by Al Queda, then the whole
    national security reason goes up in smoke.

    Reply

  104. MarkL says:

    POA,
    Actually I’m not in favor of Obama’s “surge” (apparently even his people are calling it that).
    I’m just observing that his speech has slightly less bullshit than an average warmonger’s.
    I came to read comments and discuss because I am very upset about Obama’s decision. This is a great site for informed discussion of foreign policy/military matters, so here I am.
    So what do you think is the aim, or do you think it is merely inertia, or a sign of the military having undue influence?

    Reply

  105. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I thought Obama made it crystal clear that the welfare of the Afghanis was not his primary concern—that our national security is the motivation. In a way, it’s refreshing honesty”
    Its honest to state these adventures have something to do with national security????
    Bullshit.
    I have yet to see someone make that case in a convincing manner. Fact is that anyone that wishes to do a terrorist act on American soil only need stroll acrost our southern border and join the other millions of unknowns waltzing about the streets of America. This horseshit about the Al Qaeda boogie man being a “defeatable” entity is pure fucking idiocy, designed to hoodwink the unthinking masses. What, they can plan and launch an attack from Afghanistan, but they can’t plan and launch one from Akron, Ohio?
    You can kill all the Muslims you want in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Iran, and it doesn’t make us one friggin’ iota “safer” here at home. Its comicasl really. Some wack job freaks out in the army and starts shooting, and because he is a Muslim, its an “act of terror”. But some black malcontent can walk into a coffee shop and shoot four cops in the head, or some mexican can kill a three year old in a drive by, or some white dude can flip out and kill his family over Thanksgiving dinner, and its merely a “crime”. We have “terrorism” every day on the streets of America, and I am FAR MORE concerned about the very real and daily demonstrated threats HERE than I am about some fucking ethereal fabrication of implied threats overseas, whose “eradication” is an impossible dream, cooked up to support the expansion of American power for nefarious reasons, primarily the THEFT of other nation’s resources and strategic geographical positioning on the globe.
    Tell ya what, Mark, why don’t you give us a nice essay about how this is going to make us “safer” at home, and lesson the possibility of terrorist attacks here. I’m all ears. Be sure to include a nice little convincing piece how our efforts in Afghanistan make it more difficult for a terrorist to wade acrost the Rio Grande with a vial of Ebola or Anthrax.

    Reply

  106. JohnH says:

    So now we know officially that the farce will continue for the foreseeable future. The US will continue to chase Osama Bin Laden, the outlaw they had in their clutches twice but decided to let go. (Is OBL worth more to American propaganda alive than dead?) And the US will continue to act the part of the Keystone Kops, now using 140,000 NATO troops (plus various and sordid mercenaries) to chase those 100 pesky bad guys.
    Much of the world will let out a sigh of collective relief, for the US will be tied down in Afghanistan and Iraq. America won’t be making much mischief with other “evil regimes” any time soon. So they are pretty much free to behave as they please.
    You can already see the Iranian reaction–more nuclear enrichment. Russia has to be delighted, as the US becomes increasingly dependent on Russian supply lines. Obama must have gotten China to lend the US the $Billions it needs to continue the pointless struggle. It must have been an easy decision for the Chinese. From their point of view, the money must seem a cheap way to tying up its major rival and potentially even sapping its aggressive tendencies and economic vitality.
    And, yes, America’s economic vitality will be sapped. Republicans are already calling for health care to be “postponed” in favor of more war. Vital job-creating investments in infrastructure, education, etc. will be stillborn, deemed as “unaffordable.” A prolonged recession will simply become part of prolonged quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    War has become the only thing that is affordable any more. It doesn’t even matter if the war makes any sense at all, it’s still “affordable,” because it lines the pockets of those who control the strings in Washington.
    How much longer will the American people put up with this nonsense?

    Reply

  107. Elizabeth Miller says:

    Mark,
    If the welfare of the Afghanis is not our primary concern, then what are the 30,000 troops for – what are they supposed to accomplish. National security may be the motivation but President Obama failed to explain how 30,000 additional troops will secure that.
    General McChrystal is telling his troops as we speak that the welfare of the Afghanis are the backbone of what he is trying to do in Afghanistan.
    There seems to be a disconnect here that is very disconcerting.

    Reply

  108. MarkL says:

    Elizabeth,
    I like your comment. However, I thought Obama made it crystal clear that the welfare of the Afghanis was not his primary concern—that our national security is the motivation.
    In a way, it’s refreshing honesty.
    I also wonder if the real objectives lie in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

    Reply

  109. Michael King, Seattle, WA says:

    Pathetic. Obama proves he is no JFK. Kennedy faced down the military and his principal civilian security advisers in the Fall of 1961, and said “no” to sending combat troops to SVN. Obama even had the benefit of the extraordinary book on those times, “Lessons From Disaster,” which he supposedly was studying this Fall. And STILL he could not get this right. Obama seems to think that EVERYTHING can be compromised, that if he cobbles together a speech that combines elements of disparate positions connected up with elegant phrases, that somehow the result is sound policy. Baloney. And the country, and the world, will suffer terribly, as a result…

    Reply

  110. Elizabeth Miller says:

    I found the president’s address last night to be, in a word, unpersuasive.
    It seems to me that the ’strategy’ revealed last night bought the continuation of the mess that is Afghanistan. I was hoping to be convinced that this latest military surge would provide the conditions necessary to promote and facilitate a political solution that would have at its center reconciliation with the Taliban through an inclusive and effective process involving all Afghans.
    Instead we see a continued focus and misguided dependence on the central government in Kabul that has little resonance with most of Afghanistan and its people. And, there is continuing and misplaced reliance on an Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, neither of which have any precedent in the history of the country All of this was presented with an apparent failure to recognize the role of traditional political and security structures and realities in Afghanistan.
    Unless the President is seriously holding back in the grand unveiling of his new strategy –– which is entirely possible –– it seems terribly doomed to failure.
    Secretary Gates said today, however, that the US is not only looking at the ANA and the ANP but also at partnering with local security forces at the district level. He acknowledged that there has been too much of a focus on the central government in Kabul. He wants to encourage local security structures but balance that by having these entities accountable to and working with the central government. This is reassuring as I think there needs to be a more profound shift in focus toward the tribal leaders in Afghanistan, in the short and long term, militarily and politically.
    There is a lot of attention being paid to the July 2011 time frame for beginning a ‘responsible’ withdrawal of US/NATO combat forces. While making such a public statement of a time frame, I think it is important for the US, NATO and the UN to make it crystal clear that they are in this game for the very, very long haul in the sense that they will continue to support the people of Afghanistan in their efforts to build a stable and secure country with a government that is responsive and accountable to them long after allied combat forces have been completely withdrawn. The Afghan people need to know that the beginning of a withdrawal of foreign combat forces in July 2011 does not mean that they will soon be on their own without the political/diplomatic/economic support they will need from the international community.
    Without a firm commitment from the international community to build a lasting relationship with Afghanistan, I can’t see US/NATO forces getting the cooperation from the Afghan people today that is required to make this latest approach successful in meeting its objectives.
    President Obama failed to make clear in his speech that there will be a cohesive and cooperative strategy to promote and facilitate political reconciliation through an effective Afghan-led process that includes moderate elements of the Taliban. I was hoping to hear a lot more from the President about how the US, NATO and UN, working with the Afghans, plan to set up a mechanism for this political process to move forward.
    Without a strong and muscular diplomatic effort to promote a political solution that respects the political and cultural traditions in Afghanistan, I simply don’t understand how an additional 30,000+ troops will achieve the president’s stated objectives.

    Reply

  111. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Justin Raimondo….
    http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2009/12/01/obamas-war-speech-an-unconvincing-flop/
    An excerpt….
    The low point of this ponderous peroration was the startling discovery that Obama pines for the good old days of the Bush era, when we were all united – in fear:
    “It is easy to forget that when this war began, we were united – bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. I believe with every fiber of my being that we – as Americans – can still come together behind a common purpose.”
    Yes – mass murder is indeed a common purpose. The common purpose of every army of aggressors. It is a purpose, however, that no civilized people ever takes up. Unlike Obama, I do not long for the return of the darkest days of the Bush years, when fear permeated the air like a poisonous fog, and all those who broke the sacred “unity” of the moment were denounced as “traitors” and “fifth columnists” by the Smear Bund.
    So, you thought Obama was going to be different – that he represented “change”? Well, in the end, you got the same blood and thunder, the rhetorical boilerplate common to all demagogues:
    “We are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering. We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes.”
    The resolve of fanatics and fools is perpetually “unwavering.” Aggressors and bullies are always “going forward.” And the mighty are always supremely assured of the rightness of their cause. They claim to want only “security,” and their appeal is invariably to the “highest of hopes.”
    And it always ends in oceans of blood.

    Reply

  112. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I think this speech will probably win the 2012 election for Obama”
    You might be right. Considering that Obama’s supporters have been fucked, betrayed, and taken to the cleaners, getting NOTHING that they voted Obama into office to provide, they will not turn out in substantial numbers during the 2012 election cycle. The only question is, are the brain washed dimwits on the right intelligent enough to get past the partisan mindset to realize that Obama might just as well be George Bush, because his policies are not much different.

    Reply

  113. Matt says:

    I think this speech will probably win the 2012 election for Obama.

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  114. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    President Obama has been positive and resourceful while he takes Pakistan as an organic partner in the war against AlQaeda/ Taliban in Afghanistan and he also seems virtually poised about US’s image in the world since he has correctly unraveled his exit strategy.
    Nevertheless the Obama administration’s apprehensions regarding the nuclear-armed Pakistan do not seem sound and pragmatic keeping in view the status of Pakistan’s nuclear Command and Control system.And surely, by no means and logic the US-perceived Indian attachment in Kabul may ever be a useful strategy.The defense and the strategic sensitivities- that both the government and the people of Pakistan attach with the nuclear programme- do have grave impact regarding the future of relations between Washington and Islamabad.Therefore, Washington needs to be positively concerned about it.

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  115. Chicagoan says:

    Within the restraints of American politics (psychotic as they are) that was as close to an admission of defeat as we’re likely to see a president make. It’s a crime that Afghans will die so that America can save face but that’s ultimately what Obama announced and he could have done worse.

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  116. ... says:

    i think the evil empire is just laying the groundwork for pakistan… back to silent mode..

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  117. Paul Norheim says:

    …,
    I KNEW you would be back – so I didn`t say goodbye!
    Yes, image is everything, and if it looks like success in a couple of years, Obama may have a better chance to win
    a second term.

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  118. ... says:

    paul, in the usa image is everything, substance nothing…

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  119. Paul Norheim says:

    The Taliban fighters have time on their side. Obama don’t. Taliban may even make a tactical
    withdrawal for a couple of years – and it will look like a success for Obama and McCrystal.

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  120. JamesL says:

    Good points Dan, but the American public is dealing with its own crisis now, gifted by Bush the Idiot and left like a giant turd on every American front porch. Somebody’s going to have to clean it up and pay for the damned mess, and many trucks will be needed, not just a whisk broom. Asking people who have lost their home or are fighting as hard as they can to not lose their home–people whose income is fraction of previous years–asking those people to sacrifice more for Bush’s fuck up is an Obama error of great import. Those people will not respond to Obama’s idealistic ideas about America the Super Policeman of planet earth. If the international audience had meant “thank you” they probably would have said it. The probable reason they haven’t said thank you is that no thank you was deemed due to the US for its decades of arrogance, sticking its nose in other peoples’ business, and building military bases wherever it could. How well Obama’s speech will play is a measure of how accurately Obama estimated the blowback of past US policy. But he did not start on level ground. To anyone who seeks this info, it is easy to find. For those who can’t discerne what is the realistic local antipathy to US actions, the problem is not only their own, bu every American’s. I dislike the thought that Obama is in this crowd that can’t see the trees, but tonight’s speech suggests he sees the US as blameless and the rest of the world as slackers. This is isn’t true and this won’t play and he won’t make any points. In the end, Afghanistan will be as grave a wound on the US,and Obama, as was Viet Nam. This is not as I would have liked, but I expected more from Obama than he is apprently able to deliver.

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  121. nadine says:

    “The worry is that in his desire to find a unifying middle ground position that contains a sufficient amount of everything for everyone, as is his wont, Obama has simply split the difference with a half-in/half-out approach that doesn’t contain enough of anything for anyone.
    On the other hand, McChrystal said today that he can now do the job with what he has been given. And the initial military successes in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 occurred very rapidly. So we’ll have to see.”” (Dan Kervick)
    Agreed. War is a test of will. Does anybody believe Obama’s heart is in this? McChrystal has a short time frame to pull a rabbit out of a hat, before Obama’s base makes him give back even the lttle he has so reluctantly given.
    The successes in 2001 didn’t have today’s ROE that turns our soldiers into pop-up targets for the Taliban.

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  122. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Iraq will blow up in our faces, and we will be too entangled in this clusterfuck in Afghanistan to put out the fire.
    Obama will be blamed for squandering the mythical “success of the surge” in Iraq, on top of being blamed for escalating this unwinnable adventure in Afghanistan which is bound to be another costly long term disaster. He will be an unpopular one termer, and history will not be kind to him at all.
    The above is inevitable.
    Iran is the only wild card in this, and Israel is not beyond lighting the match. This could get ugly beyond our most pessimistic nightmares, and from what I’ve seen so far from Obama, Clinton, and Biden, it most undoubtedly will.
    I can’t believe the American people, after the last nine years, are still so fucking ignorant and gullible that they are allowing themselves to be led down this path.
    Nice comment Dan. But sometimes a pig is simply a pig, and one doesn’t need to employ an overload of brain cells to know that sooner or later, its gonna oink.

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  123. Dan Kervick says:

    Some topics:
    1. The most intriguing and contestable part of the speech was the 18-month window.
    Obama implied that the reason for that limited time frame is that unless the Afghans understand that they are going to have to defend their own country, they will not join the fight themselves and will continue to rely on the free provision of security from the world’s most powerful military.
    Obviously, the contrary arguments are that 18 months is simply too short a time frame to accomplish the job Obama is trying to accomplish; and that announcing the limited time frame gives the Taliban a heads up on how long they have to sit tight and wait us out – not long.
    The worry is that in his desire to find a unifying middle ground position that contains a sufficient amount of everything for everyone, as is his wont, Obama has simply split the difference with a half-in/half-out approach that doesn’t contain enough of anything for anyone.
    On the other hand, McChrystal said today that he can now do the job with what he has been given. And the initial military successes in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 occurred very rapidly. So we’ll have to see.
    2. In the closing paragraphs of the speech – the parts about America’s global security role over the past sixty years, and the fact that we “haven’t always been thanked” for it – I thought there was a very discernible tone of frustration on Obama’s part with some of our allies. One might even say that part of the speech contained a shaming rebuke. Obama clearly thinks that what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a serious global security challenge with implications for many countries outside the United States. He is perceptibly miffed that more generous offers of support have not been forthcoming.
    So I thought that a mainly unspoken part of the agenda might be that during this 18 month period, Obama hopes to recruit more troops from allied countries, so that Americans can begin to draw down forces in July 2011 without an overall reduction in security in Afghanistan. Speaking before a crowd of young cadets helps make that recruiting appeal. It was as though he were saying, “Listen, world, I’m going to have to send another group of young Americans, like the baby-faced kids sitting in front of me, off to die to fight back the militant jihadist movement that is causing problems for your country as well as mine. But if things go bad in various ways, my country is the one that will catch all the political shit for it. Where’s the assist, buddies?”
    3. While Obama doesn’t want to commit the war-fatigued US to a nation-building project, he knows that whatever military gains are made in 18 months will probably unravel quickly unless some fast, costly and serious nation-building occurs in Afghanistan. He clearly wants stepped-up involvement and investment by the UN and other global stakeholders in the non-military aspect of the effort to strengthen Afghan government and society against Taliban encroachment. The message to the world is: “Please send soldiers; but if you don’t send soldiers, at least send teachers, engineers, lawyers, construction workers – and lots and lots of money.”
    4. The call to exemplify our avowed values at home, and repudiate the Bush excesses and betrayals of those values, is part of the effort to strengthen the US’s global appeal for assistance by making sure the effort is seen as something legitimate, in which other countries can honorably participate. But the message was really pointed at the US audience in that part of the speech. If Americans aren’t willing to step up to accept the risks of Guantanamo prisoners being tried and possibly imprisoned on American soil, then we can’t end the bad old Bush days. That makes us more isolated and less safe. Point taken, but Obama needs to do much more himself to dismantle the extreme, liberty-eroding surveillance state that Bush erected, and that the Obama administration has so far kept mainly in place.
    5. A huge amount depends on Pakistan. Expect more discussion of the Pakistan dimension of the conflict in the coming days.
    6. It was interesting to note how many audiences Obama was trying to speak to at the same time: Americans of various political persuasions; European and other global stakeholders; Afghans; Pakistanis; Middle East Muslims generally.

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  124. GB says:

    Steve,
    Your points about India were excellent and about a Pashtun focused strategy rather than Taliban, divided in various ways that make no sense. I always learn something from you. Very fair and useful critique on Olbermann.

    Reply

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