JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.
By Jack Random
“As Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”
“Under the banner of … domestic unity and international legitimacy - and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden - we sent our troops into Afghanistan. Within a matter of months, al Qaeda was scattered and many of its operatives were killed.”
President Barack Obama, West Point, December 1, 2009.
In August 1964 President Lyndon Johnson reported to congress that the North Vietnamese had attacked an American war ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. It was the lie that gave Johnson legal authority to escalate the Vietnam War.
In August 1990 President George Herbert Walker Bush pointedly and repeatedly refused to inform Saddam Hussein that an invasion into neighboring Kuwait would be considered an act of aggression that would result in an American military response. It was the lie that launched the first Gulf War that would inevitably lead to the second.
On October 7, 2001, the ruling government of Afghanistan offered to try Osama bin Laden in an Islamic Court. The offer was summarily rejected and the bombing of Afghanistan commenced. On October 14, 2001, the Taliban offered to surrender bin Laden and Al Qaeda operatives to a third country upon submitted evidence of their involvement in the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States. The government of the United States refused and the war proceeded as planned.
In March 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the massive bombing of Iraq on the basis of fabricated evidence of weapons of mass destruction and nefarious connections to Al Qaeda and the September 11 attack, after the United Nations Security refused to sanction the cause of war. These were the lies that initiated the Iraq War.
When a war begins with a lie or a perversion of the truth, it is doomed to an end that will punish the aggressor nation and tarnish its reputation in world affairs for generations to come.
On December 1, 2009, President Barack Obama, after eight years of a failed occupation, initiated the second phase of the American Afghan War with a creative perversion of the truth. For while it may in some sense be true that we did not invade Afghanistan until after the Taliban offered to turn over Osama bin Laden, the greater truth is that we ignored all offers to negotiate the trial of bin Laden and Al Qaeda for a cause of war that was predetermined.
We now know that the administration of George W. Bush planned the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq before the September 11 attack. For the Obama administration to pretend now that we had no choice but to bomb them back to the Stone Age is to ignore history and to continue a disgraceful legacy of dishonesty and deception.
The truth is that the Taliban, as despicable and primitive as it may be, was not responsible for the September 11 attack. The truth is that the Taliban inherited Al Qaeda and the Mujahideen from the CIA in the aftermath of the failed Soviet occupation. The truth is Afghanistan was never a righteous or necessary war. It was a war of choice or if you prefer a war mandated by the nation’s profound grief in the aftermath of September 11.
The truth is that we had a choice but we had the wrong man as president.
Imagine for a moment that we had engaged the government of Afghanistan. Imagine that those negotiations resulted in the arrest and trial of Osama bin Laden and the perpetrators of the September 11 attack before an international tribunal. Bin Laden and his co-conspirators would likely not be free today and the remnants of Al Qaeda would have dissolved as the international pariahs they were and are.
Our aggressive wars, killing innocent civilians and punishing whole nations for the crimes of a few, gave these criminals legitimacy and reduced America to a criminal nation.
Tragically, we cannot turn back the pages but neither can we ignore historical truths and hope to change the course of events.
Our president now claims that the war in Afghanistan is in our “vital national interest.” He is wrong. For while we have interests in that war torn nation, the threat of Al Qaeda has already been reduced to a manageable minimum and the Taliban can reach no further than the tribal regions of the Afghan-Pakistan border. Neither poses a direct threat to the United States or its allies.
It is naïve to think that the Taliban or its radical Islamic allies can capture by aggressive action the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan. The most powerful force in the region is Pakistani intelligence and its military partners. Owing in no small part to our mindless and irresponsible actions, the government of Pakistan is weak but the military remains strong. The only real threat to the Pakistani weapons is that which arises from within. We cannot reduce that threat by our military actions. Indeed, we can only exacerbate the situation.
What was missing from our president’s address was any real and tangible mention of a diplomatic initiative engaging the regional powers. Absent that initiative there is little we can do to improve the security of the region.
Some choose to embrace the 18-month timeline for American withdrawal but it seems to me a misguided hope for the president has premised withdrawal to conditions on the ground. We have heard this language before. We heard it in Iraq and we heard it in Vietnam. Indeed, we heard it from the Soviets in Afghanistan.
In eighteen months we will confront more or less the same circumstance we face today. If it is in the “vital” interest of the nation, as our president has already determined, then we will have no choice but to continue and escalate as the military commanders request.
Consider the motivation of our sponsored Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, the warlord of Kabul: He owes his position of leadership to our money and power. Since he knows we will withdraw if all goes well, it serves his purpose to see to it that it does not go well. For Karzai’s hopelessly corrupt government, it becomes a game of showing some signs of progress while maintaining a precarious balance of vulnerability. For his rivals and the tribal leaders, they will play it to their own advantage.
It will go on for years and years until we finally decide it is no longer in our “vital” interest. In fact, it never was.
The world is full of danger. We do not possess the power to eliminate all threats or to invade all nations that do not share our view of the world. We can only hope to protect our own people to the extent possible and to move the world in a better direction. Aggressive war and occupation can never accomplish these goals. Only reasoned diplomacy can. War and military action must always be reserved to the most essential circumstances.
The war in Afghanistan (like the war in Iraq) is neither essential nor vital to our national interests. We should not be surprised by our president’s policy. He gave fair warning in his presidential campaign. But he is wrong and we must persuade him that the best way out of this bottomless pit is an orderly and conditioned withdrawal.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). A COLUMNIST FOR THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, WORLD EDITION, HIS CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.
[Random Note: My latest novel "Hard Times" is being posted on Slush Pile reader -- an experiment in publishing.]