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All the crying
from the left about how Obama "the peace candidate" has
now become "a war president" … Whatever are they talking
about? Here’s what I wrote in this report in August 2008, during
the election campaign:

We find Obama
threatening, several times, to attack Iran if they don’t do what
the United States wants them to do nuclear-wise; threatening more
than once to attack Pakistan if their anti-terrorist policies are
not tough enough or if there would be a regime change in the nuclear-armed
country not to his liking; calling for a large increase in US troops
and tougher policies for Afghanistan; wholly and unequivocally embracing
Israel as if it were the 51st state.

Why should
anyone be surprised at Obama’s foreign policy in the White House?
He has not even banned torture, contrary to what his supporters
would fervently have us believe. If further evidence were needed,
we have the November 28 report in the Washington Post: "Two
Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year
said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived
of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for
at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their
alleged links to the Taliban." This is but the latest example
of the continuance of torture under the new administration.

But the shortcomings
of Barack Obama and the navet of his fans is not the important
issue. The important issue is the continuation and escalation of
the American war in Afghanistan, based on the myth that the individuals
we label "Taliban" are indistinguishable from those who
attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, whom we usually
label "al Qaeda." "I am convinced," the president
said in his speech at the United States Military Academy (West Point)
on December 1, "that our security is at stake in Afghanistan
and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced
by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and
it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak."

Obama used
one form or another of the word "extremist" eleven times
in his half-hour talk. Young, impressionable minds must be carefully
taught; a future generation of military leaders who will command
America’s never-ending wars must have no doubts that the bad guys
are "extremists," that "extremists" are by definition
bad guys, that "extremists" are beyond the pale and do
not act from human, rational motivation like we do, that we –
quintessential non-extremists, peace-loving moderates – are
the good guys, forced into one war after another against our will.
Sending robotic death machines flying over Afghanistan and Pakistan
to drop powerful bombs on the top of wedding parties, funerals,
and homes is of course not extremist behavior for human beings.

And the bad
guys attacked the US "from here," Afghanistan. That’s
why the United States is "there," Afghanistan. But in
fact the 9-11 attack was planned in Germany, Spain and the United
States as much as in Afghanistan. It could have been planned in
a single small room in Panama City, Taiwan, or Bucharest. What is
needed to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in
the United States? And the attack was carried out entirely in the
United States. But Barack Obama has to maintain the fiction that
Afghanistan was, and is, vital and indispensable to any attack on
the United States, past or future. That gives him the right to occupy
the country and kill the citizens as he sees fit. Robert Baer, former
CIA officer with long involvement in that part of the world has
noted: "The people that want their country liberated from the
West have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. They simply want us gone
because we’re foreigners, and they’re rallying behind the Taliban
because the Taliban are experienced, effective fighters."1

The pretenses
extend further. US leaders have fed the public a certain image of
the insurgents (all labeled together under the name "Taliban")
and of the conflict to cover the true imperialistic motivation behind
the war. The predominant image at the headlines/TV news level and
beyond is that of the Taliban as an implacable and monolithic "enemy"
which must be militarily defeated at all costs for America’s security,
with a negotiated settlement or compromise not being an option.
However, consider the following which have been reported at various
times during the past two years about the actual behavior of the
United States and its allies in Afghanistan vis-à-vis the
Taliban, which can raise questions about Obama’s latest escalation:2

The US military
in Afghanistan has long been considering paying Taliban fighters
who renounce violence against the government in Kabul, as the United
States has done with Iraqi insurgents.

President Obama
has floated the idea of negotiating with moderate elements of the

US envoy to
Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, said last
month that the United States would support any role Saudi Arabia
chose to pursue in trying to engage Taliban officials.4

Canadian troops
are reaching out to the Taliban in various ways.

A top European
Union official and a United Nations staff member were ordered by
the Kabul government to leave the country after allegations that
they had met Taliban insurgents without the administration’s knowledge.
And two senior diplomats for the United Nations were expelled from
the country, accused by the Afghan government of unauthorized dealings
with insurgents. However, the Afghanistan government itself has
had a series of secret talks with "moderate Taliban" since
2003 and President Hamid Karzai has called for peace talks with
Taliban leader Mohammed Omar.

like the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the
United Nations have become increasingly open about their contacts
with the Taliban leadership and other insurgent groups.

Gestures of
openness are common practice among some of Washington’s allies in
Afghanistan, notably the Dutch, who make negotiating with the Taliban
an explicit part of their military policy.

The German
government is officially against negotiations, but some members
of the governing coalition have suggested Berlin host talks with
the Taliban.

MI-6, Britain’s
external security service, has held secret talks with the Taliban
up to half a dozen times. At the local level, the British cut a
deal, appointing a former Taliban leader as a district chief in
Helmand province in exchange for security guarantees.

Senior British
officers involved with the Afghan mission have confirmed that direct
contact with the Taliban has led to insurgents changing sides as
well as rivals in the Taliban movement providing intelligence which
has led to leaders being killed or captured.

British authorities
hold that there are distinct differences between different "tiers"
of the Taliban and that it is essential to try to separate the doctrinaire
extremists from others who are fighting for money or because they
resent the presence of foreign forces in their country.

British contacts
with the Taliban have occurred despite British Prime Minister Gordon
Brown publicly ruling out such talks; on one occasion he told the
House of Commons: "We will not enter into any negotiations
with these people."

For months
there have been repeated reports of "good Taliban" forces
being airlifted by Western helicopters from one part of Afghanistan
to another to protect them from Afghan or Pakistani military forces.
At an October 11 news conference in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai
himself claimed that "some unidentified helicopters dropped
armed men in the northern provinces at night."5

On November
2, (Qatar) reported: "The emboldened Taliban
movement in Afghanistan turned down an American offer of power-sharing
in exchange for accepting the presence of foreign troops, Afghan
government sources confirmed. ‘US negotiators had offered the Taliban
leadership through Mullah Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil (former Taliban
foreign minister) that if they accept the presence of NATO troops
in Afghanistan, they would be given the governorship of six provinces
in the south and northeast … America wants eight army and air
force bases in different parts of Afghanistan in order to tackle
the possible regrouping of [the] Al-Qaeda network,’ a senior Afghan
Foreign Ministry official told"6

There has been
no confirmation of this from American officials, but the New York
Times on October 28 listed six provinces that were being considered
to receive priority protection from the US military, five which
are amongst the eight mentioned in the IslamOnline report as being
planned for US military bases, although no mention is made in the
Times of the above-mentioned offer. The next day, Asia Times reported:
"The United States has withdrawn its troops from its four key
bases in Nuristan [or Nooristan], on the border with Pakistan, leaving
the northeastern province as a safe haven for the Taliban-led insurgency
to orchestrate its regional battles." Nuristan, where earlier
in the month eight US soldiers were killed and three Apache helicopters
hit by hostile fire, is one of the six provinces offered to the
Taliban as reported in the story.

The part about
al-Qaeda is ambiguous and questionable, not only because the term
has long been loosely used as a catch-all for any group or individual
in opposition to US foreign policy in this part of the world, but
also because the president’s own national security adviser, former
Marine Gen. James Jones, stated in early October: "I don’t
foresee the return of the Taliban. Afghanistan is not in imminent
danger of falling. The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The
maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases,
no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies."7

Shortly after
Jones’s remarks, we could read in the Wall Street Journal:
"Hunted by U.S. drones, beset by money problems and finding
it tougher to lure young Arabs to the bleak mountains of Pakistan,
al-Qaida is seeing its role shrink there and in Afghanistan, according
to intelligence reports and Pakistan and U.S. officials. … For
Arab youths who are al-Qaida’s primary recruits, ‘it’s not romantic
to be cold and hungry and hiding,’ said a senior U.S. official in
South Asia."8

From all of
the above is it not reasonable to conclude that the United States
is willing and able to live with the Taliban, as repulsive as their
social philosophy is? Perhaps even a Taliban state which would go
across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has been
talked about in some quarters. What then is Washington fighting
for? What moves the president of the United States to sacrifice
so much American blood and treasure? In past years, US leaders have
spoken of bringing democracy to Afghanistan, liberating Afghan women,
or modernizing a backward country. President Obama made no mention
of any of these previous supposed vital goals in his December 1
speech. He spoke only of the attacks of September 11, al Qaeda,
the Taliban, terrorists, extremists, and such, symbols guaranteed
to fire up an American audience. Yet, the president himself declared
at one point: "Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in
the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens
along the border." Ah yes, the terrorist danger … always,
everywhere, forever, particularly when it seems the weakest.

How many of
the West Point cadets, how many Americans, give thought to the fact
that Afghanistan is surrounded by the immense oil reserves of the
Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea regions? Or that Afghanistan is ideally
situated for oil and gas pipelines to serve much of Europe and south
Asia, lines that can deliberately bypass non-allies of the empire,
Iran and Russia? If only the Taliban will not attack the lines.
"One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become
a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so that energy
can flow to the south …," said Richard Boucher, Assistant
Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in 2007.9

would also serve as the home of American military bases, the better
to watch and pressure next-door Iran and the rest of Eurasia. And
NATO … struggling to find a raison d’être since the end
of the Cold War. If the alliance is forced to pull out of Afghanistan
without clear accomplishments after eight years will its future
be even more in doubt?

So, for the
present at least, the American War on Terror in Afghanistan continues
and regularly and routinely creates new anti-American terrorists,
as it has done in Iraq. This is not in dispute even at the Pentagon
or the CIA. God Bless America.

Although the
"surge" failed as policy, it succeeded as propaganda.

They don’t
always use the word "surge," but that’s what they mean.
Our admirable leaders and our mainstream media that love to interview
them would like us to believe that escalation of the war in Afghanistan
is in effect a "surge," like the one in Iraq which, they
believe, has proven so successful. But the reality of the surge
in Iraq was nothing like its promotional campaign. To the extent
that there has been a reduction in violence in Iraq (now down to
a level that virtually any other society in the world would find
horrible and intolerable, including Iraqi society before the US
invasion and occupation), we must keep in mind the following summary
of how and why it "succeeded":

  • Thanks
    to America’s lovely little war, there are many millions Iraqis
    either dead, wounded, crippled, homebound or otherwise physically
    limited, internally displaced, in foreign exile, or in bursting
    American and Iraqi prisons. Many others have been so traumatized
    that they are concerned simply for their own survival. Thus, a
    huge number of potential victims and killers has been markedly
  • Extensive
    ethnic cleansing has taken place: Sunnis and Shiites are now living
    much more than before in their own special enclaves, with entire
    neighborhoods surrounded by high concrete walls and strict security
    checkpoints; violence of the sectarian type has accordingly gone
  • In the face
    of numerous "improvised explosive devices" on the roads,
    US soldiers venture out a lot less, so the violence against them
    has been sharply down. It should be kept in mind that insurgent
    attacks on American forces following the invasion of 2003 is how
    the Iraqi violence all began in the first place.
  • For a long
    period, the US military was paying insurgents (or "former
    insurgents") to not attack occupation forces. The powerful
    Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr declared a unilateral cease-fire
    for his militia, including attacks against US troops, that was
    in effect for an extended period; this was totally unconnected
    to the surge.

We should never
forget that Iraqi society has been destroyed. The people of that
unhappy land have lost everything – their homes, their schools,
their neighborhoods, their mosques, their jobs, their careers, their
professionals, their health care, their legal system, their women’s
rights, their religious tolerance, their security, their friends,
their families, their past, their present, their future, their lives.
But they do have their surge.

The War
against Everything and Everyone, Endlessly

Nidal Malik
Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist who killed 13 and wounded some 30
at Fort Hood, Texas in November reportedly regards the US War on
Terror as a war aimed at Muslims. He told colleagues that "the
US was battling not against security threats in Iraq and Afghanistan,
but Islam itself."10 Hasan had
long been in close contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born cleric
and al Qaeda sympathizer now living in Yemen, who also called the
US War on Terror a "war against Muslims." Many, probably
most, Muslims all over the world hold a similar view about American
foreign policy.

I believe they’re
mistaken. For many years, going back to at least the Korean war,
it’s been fairly common for accusations to be made by activists
opposed to US policies, in the United States and abroad, as well
as by Muslims, that the United States chooses as its bombing targets
only people of color, those of the Third World, or Muslims. But
it must be remembered that in 1999 one of the most sustained and
ferocious American bombing campaigns ever – 78 days in a row
– was carried out against the Serbs of the former Yugoslavia:
white, European, Christians. Indeed, we were told that the bombing
was to rescue the people of Kosovo, who are largely Muslim. Earlier,
the United States had come to the aid of the Muslims of Bosnia in
their struggle against the Serbs. The United States is in fact an
equal-opportunity bomber. The only qualifications for a country
to become an American bombing target appear to be: (a) It poses
a sufficient obstacle – real, imagined, or, as with Serbia,
ideological – to the desires of the empire; (b) It is virtually
defenseless against aerial attack.


  1. Video
    on Information Clearinghouse
  2. For the
    news items which follow if not otherwise sourced, see:
    * The Independent (London), December 14, 2007
    * Daily Telegraph (UK) December 26, 2007
    * The Globe and Mail (Toronto) May 1, 2008
    * BBC News, October 28, 2009
  3. New York
    Times, March 11, 2009
  4. Kuwait News
    Agency, November 24, 2009
  5. Pakistan
    Observer (Islamabad daily), October 19, 2009; The Jamestown
    Foundation (conservative Washington, DC think tank), "Karzai
    claims mystery helicopters ferrying Taliban to north Afghanistan,"
    November 6, 2009; Institute for War and Peace Reporting (London),
    "Helicopter rumour refuses to die," October 26, 2009
  6. IslamOnline,
    Offers Taliban 6 Provinces for 8 Bases
    ," November 2,
  7. Washington
    Times, October 5, 2009, from a CNN interview
  8. Wall
    Street Journal, October 13, 2009
  9. Talk at
    the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies, Washington,
    DC, September 20, 2007.
  10. Christian
    Science Monitor, November 17, 2009

10, 2009

Blum [send him mail] is the
author of Killing
Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II
State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power
, West-Bloc
Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir
, and Freeing
the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

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