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PORTSIDE  November 2010, Week 1

PORTSIDE November 2010, Week 1

Subject:

Elections a Setback for Peace

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Wed, 3 Nov 2010 22:05:38 -0400

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Elections a Setback for Peace

by Tom Hayden
The Peace and Justice Resource Center
November 3, 2010 at 12:34PM
http://tomhayden.com/home/elections-a-setback-for-peace.html

The November election was a setback for the peace movement,
not only because of the defeat of Sen. Russ Feingold but for
deeper reasons.

Both parties collaborated in keeping Afghanistan out of the
national election debate and media coverage - while during
the period June-November alone, 274 American soldiers were
killed and 2,934 were wounded on the battlefield.

[The official American toll under Obama in Afghanistan has
reached 732 deaths and 6,480 wounded; the taxpayer costs
under Obama are currently $12.5 billion per month, and Obama
estimates $113 billion in direct costs/per year at current
U.S. troop levels of 100,000.]

Democratic candidates this year chose not to use
Afghanistan-Iraq as an issue perhaps because they have
become Obama's wars. According to the New York Times, the US
even plans to orchestrate an invitation to remain in Iraq
after the current 2011 deadline, but desperately wanted to
keep the controversy out of the election debates. [NYT, Aug.
18]

With Republican control of the House, antiwar Democrats will
have little room to hold hearings or maneuver against the
wars. There were 162 House members, nearly all Democrats,
who voted against funding the war or in favor of an exit
strategy earlier this year, one-fourth of the House. In the
Senate, Feingold authored similar legislation that obtained
18 votes, a number not likely increase either.

The notion among some that ultra-right fiscally conservative
Republicans will vote with the peace Democrats is largely a
fantasy. Republicans like Karl Rove did not want to
advertise their support for Obama's troop escalation this
fall while they prepare to blast him for drawing down short
of "victory" next July. For example, Sen. John McCain, who
is planning a trip to Afghanistan, told Reuters that "this
date for withdrawal that the president announced without any
military advice or counsel has caused us enormous problems
in our operations in Afghanistan, because our enemies are
encouraged and our friends are confused over there."
[Reuters, Nov. 3]

McCain's comment was a huge lie, an indicator of the
campaign rhetoric to come. As McCain well knows, Obama has
not given a "date for withdrawal", only a date to "begin" a
phase-out. Obama had months of military advice and counsel,
as reported in Bob Woodward's most recent book.  In fact,
according to Woodward and Jonathan Alter, Obama had
Petraeus' word that they would have no complaints about the
July 2011 deadline. In August, however, Petraeus declared,
"the president didn't send me over here to seek a graceful
exit."

Obama's pledge to begin a July withdrawal may draw little or
no peace movement support unless he includes a timeline and
substantial numbers, and shows progress in diplomacy and
talks with the Taliban. The president's situation is similar
to his problems with health care when he appeared to over-
promise and under-deliver, leaving his base dispirited once
again. [It should be noted that Obama took the strongest
exit strategy position among his internal advisers,
according to Woodward, with Hillary Clinton immediately
supporting whatever troop escalation Petraeus wanted.]

The next test for Obama will be whether his December review
of Afghanistan policy results in only another ratification
of Afghanistan  status quo. Then comes another budget
battle, with antiwar forces in Congress at a greater
tactical disadvantage than last year. By then Obama's actual
Afghan drawdown numbers will be publicly known, with
Republicans, the military and most of the media opposed or
skeptical.

The 2012 national election predictably will be fought over
Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and the Long War favored by the
Republicans and the generals, with Obama positioned as
favoring gradual troop drawdowns in order to invest in his
domestic agenda.

The wars will continue in any event, with increasing risks
of terrorist attacks on the US, bloody quagmires on the
battlefields, and the US propping up unpopular regimes in
Kabul, Baghdad, Islamabad and Yemen. The wars are unwinnable
and unaffordable, but no one in power dares say it.

The peace bloc - activist groups, anti-war Congress members,
writers and artists, here and across the NATO - can exercise
a massive drag against the war-making machine through 2012
as long as the wars remain deeply unpopular. But in the
absence of political statesmanship, Petraeus need not worry,
because the final stage will be anything but graceful. 

___________________________________________

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