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Thread: On Obama - He and Others Told YOU so!...

  1. #1

    Default On Obama - He and Others Told YOU so!...

    by William Blum

    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 naivet 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--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 Taliban. 3

    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.

    Organizations 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

    Afghanistan 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'tre 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 reduced.
    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 down.
    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.
    Video on Information Clearinghouse ?
    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 ?
    New York Times, March 11, 2009 ?
    Kuwait News Agency, November 24, 2009 ?
    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 ?
    IslamOnline, "US Offers Taliban 6 Provinces for 8 Bases", November 2, 2009?
    Washington Times, October 5, 2009, from a CNN interview ?
    Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2009 ?
    Talk at the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies, Washington, DC, September 20, 2007. ?
    Christian Science Monitor, November 17, 2009 ?

    William Blum is the author of:
    Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
    Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
    West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
    Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

    Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  2. #2


    Filed at DU ( ):

    The Obama Administration has filed a brief that brushes over the war crimes aspects of Yoos work at the Justice Department.
    Instead, it insists that attorneys must be free to give advice even if it is to establish a torture program.

    It is important to note that the Administration did not have to file this brief since it had withdrawn as counsel and paid for Yoos private counsel. It has decided that it wants to establish the law claimed by the Bush Administration protecting Justice officials who support alleged war crimes. They are effectively doubling down by withdrawing as counsel and then reappearing as a non-party amicus.

    The Obama Administration has gutted the hard-fought victories in Nuremberg where lawyers and judges were often guilty of war crimes in their legal advice and opinions. The third of the twelve trials for war crimes involved 16 German jurists and lawyers. Nine had been officials of the Reich Ministry of Justice, the others were prosecutors and judges of the Special Courts and Peoples Courts of Nazi Germany. It would have been a larger group but two lawyers committed suicide before trial: Adolf Georg Thierack, former minister of justice, and Carl Westphal, a ministerial counsellor.


    If successful in this case, the Obama Administration will succeed in returning the world to the rules leading to the war crimes at Nuremberg. Quite a legacy for the worlds newest Nobel Peace Prize winner."

    more: .-

    And torture continues at Bagram.
    "Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

  3. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Jewett View Post
    Filed at DU ( ):

    The Obama Administration has filed a brief that brushes over the war crimes aspects of Yoos work at the Justice Department.
    Instead, it insists that attorneys must be free to give advice even if it is to establish a torture program.
    I'll be damned.

    Giving advice, i.e., organizing the best way to go about a jewelry heist by the boss who doesn't get his hands dirty is still a crime by any measure.

    Someone please tell me the difference?
    The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
    Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14

  4. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by David Guyatt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Jewett View Post
    Filed at DU ( ):

    The Obama Administration has filed a brief that brushes over the war crimes aspects of Yoos work at the Justice Department.
    Instead, it insists that attorneys must be free to give advice even if it is to establish a torture program.
    I'll be damned.

    Giving advice, i.e., organizing the best way to go about a jewelry heist by the boss who doesn't get his hands dirty is still a crime by any measure.

    Someone please tell me the difference?
    Ah, But David, you're from the 'old school'. Don't you know, now, morality is passee'....only money and power count. Lawyers are the most criminal of the criminal class, IMO.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  5. #5


    I was going to answer David's question with "executive privilege" which is pretty much the same thing as Peter's answer. I had to laugh when, though trying studiously to avoid coverage of the Emperor's acceptance speech in Oslo, I still brushed across his staement that because he was the C-in-C in the USA, he was 'obligated' to continue and conduct and prosecute/persecute 'the war' in order to defend the nation's security and interests which is the continuation of the profit-driven incentives to take whatever we damn want whenever we damn want to, and the Devil take the hindmost, so this Yoo stuff is just so much wallpaper in terms of retroactive justification and propaganda.

    O = W

    O&W = Wall Street, oil, banks, big money, the CIA (and the rest of the intelligence enterprise), private militarization and all of the excesses that that brings us ...

    "Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

  6. #6


    Silly 'ol me.

    Up is the new down. Left is the new right. And lawlessness is the new okay law.

    Okay, I've got it now.

    The Joker rules okay....

    The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
    Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14

  7. Default

    Trucks abandoned by the defeated Soviet Army in Afghanistan were photographed thirteen years later by the invading U.S. Military. Some people never learn. Photo Credit: CREATIVE COMMONS/CAPT CHARLES G. GROW

    Just Say NO to the War in Afghanistan
    by Michael Lerner

    Or should we call it "Again-istan?"

    Some people never learn. The arrogance of empire? Ignorance of history? Political opportunism? Or cowardice to confront the global challenges we face?

    These factors probably all contribute to the current incredible situation, in which the United States is debating whether to escalate its military presence there or maintain a lower-level intensity, relying on mechanical warfare in order to focus the war instead in Pakistan. Neither option makes any sense.

    What is absent from the debate (just as it was absent when the United States escalated the war in Vietnam or when it created the war in Iraq) is the perspective of the peace movement and of spiritual progressives.

    Instead, President Obama had the audacity and shortsightedness to declare that the fight in Afghanistan is a "war of necessity" that is "fundamental to the defense of our people." Talking about switching the war from Iraq to Afghanistan might have seemed a politically clever way to show that he was not "soft" when he sought the presidency, but restating that rationale now that he is president has boxed him into the same misconceptions that have led the United States into losing wars for the past fifty years.

    The narrow argument for war in Afghanistan, based on America's unresolved trauma from September 11, is that if al-Qaida gets control through the Taliban of a country in which it can train militants, it will strike again at America, perhaps this next time with nuclear weapons that it acquires from Pakistan, which has them, or by obtaining homemade or stolen atomic weapons.

    It's not that it is impossible to imagine terrorists acquiring a nuclear weapon and detonating it in the United States. The scientific knowledge and the means of implementing it are out there in the world. Many countries have already built these weapons, and nuclear proliferation increases the likelihood that they may fall into ever more irresponsible hands.

    There is plenty to fear when hundreds of millions of people feel so desperate and angry that they might be willing to use such weapons. The error in the reasoning behind the "war on terror" is that this nightmare scenario cannot be prevented by the United States imposing itself on one country after another in the Middle East and in every other area where terrorists might be able to steal or develop nuclear weapons.

    In the short run, the United States needs to improve its defensive capacities through careful scrutiny of the airplanes, boats, and containers that reach this country. Such scrutiny measures, some of which were implemented after September 11, should be given greater attention. But the deep truth is this: there is no way to ensure that a group of terrorists will never obtain and set off an atomic bomb in an American city. As the technology of mass destruction and delivery of bombs becomes more sophisticated, the vulnerability will increase, regardless of what happens in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, or other countries in that region. The solution has to lie with eliminating people's desire to destroy us.

    Acknowledge the Causes of Terrorism

    The whole notion of a war on terrorism is fundamentally misguided. Terrorism is a tactic used by people who do not have the powerful armies of the world at their disposal, and hence they will use homemade or stolen weapons against those who they believe to be oppressing them. If you have a population of 6.7 billion on the planet, the only way to absolutely control terrorism is to put surveillance devices into every home in the world so that everyone is so terrified of the police and so scared to express their anger that they have no possibility of resorting to terror. In that case -- total fascism -- the solution is far worse than the problem.

    The obvious alternative is to address the grievances and problems that lead people to want to strike out against the West in general and the United States in particular. We've mentioned these in past editorials:

    1. The Western impact on traditional societies has been destructive. While helping to develop a small middle class, the penetration of American corporations, the Western global media, and the capitalist marketplace have fostered an ethos of individualism, materialism, and selfishness. This is correctly perceived as having partially destroyed the religions and forms of cultural/communal solidarity within which people felt a sense of higher purpose and meaning to their lives. We recognize that many traditional societies have a strong downside, based as they are on authoritarian and patriarchal practices that are themselves oppressive. But the way to challenge those effectively is to support the development of spiritual and religious renewal that educates girls, empowers women, validates individual freedom within (not counterposed to) commitment to a community, and affirms the humanity of others in different spiritual and religious traditions. In short, we should actively support spiritual renewal, rather than attempt to replace traditional religions with the religion of the capitalist marketplace.

    We cannot beat fundamentalism through consumer materialism and the ethos of "looking out for number one." This is especially true because of the changes that accompany such materialism and selfishness: the weakening of family ties; the prevalence of pornography and cheapening of sex into another commodity for sale and manipulation in the competitive marketplace; the elimination of any kind of economic safety net provided by people who genuinely care about you; and the obliteration of spiritual consciousness in favor of a one-dimensional version of technocratic rationality in which the accumulation of money and power is seen as the only real value in life. These changes are sure to evoke a powerful, angry, and at times violent response from those who have benefited from living in communities in which caring for each other has been part of their daily lives. If the alternative to fundamentalism is subjugation to Western values and to Western military and economic domination, people will take up arms and they will find a way to reach the United States with terrorist violence. These same concerns play out in a different but potentially just as violent way inside some parts of the United States itself, when right-wingers articulate this anger ignoring how the social alienation and disintegration they rightly lament is rooted in the capitalist marketplace they champion and then seek to channel that anger against liberals and enlightenment values, even at times advocating violence against President Obama.

    2. Moreover, even those who are not motivated primarily by a desire to resist Western forms of modernization are moved to violence by the effects of capitalist economic penetration. One need only look at the huge belts of poverty in the ghettos and barrios of major cities around the world to see the degree of hunger and malnutrition, to recognize the growing prostitution of young girls and boys desperately seeking to feed their families, and to witness the hundreds of millions of economic migrants and refugees seeking some place to make a living. These victims of our global economic arrangements are sitting ducks for ideologies that preach anger and violence against those Western powers that are seen as arrogantly ignoring this suffering. The fundamental disrespect and even humiliation that people in traditional societies experience when their own children begin to respond to the ethos of the marketplace, breaking away from traditional families so that they can sell themselves through prostitution or through pursuing self-interest and material gain at the expense of their connections to traditional spiritual communities, cannot be underestimated. Extremist forms of fundamentalist Islam or other forms of religious or political ideologies will spread and provide people with a way to express their anger at the West.

    3. While claiming to bring democracy, we've simply imposed governments that agree to protect American corporate power. The Karzai government in Afghanistan tried to steal its recent election and proclaim itself a democracy -- but fooled no one. The Iraqi democracy was imposed under occupation by U.S. troops and is unlikely to sustain itself once the United States really withdraws (not just its combat troops, but also the 80,000 "advisers" and countless independent contractors from the West). So while the West pretends that its mission is humanistic and aimed at spreading democracy and human rights, its hypocrisy becomes evident, thereby fueling people's willingness to engage in violence against those who are perceived as occupiers.

    Champions of the war in Afghanistan willfully ignore all this. They imagine that all this anger can be contained by yet another military intervention. They ignore the history of the Afghanis' successful resistance to one foreign occupier after another, including the British and the Soviets. They refuse to acknowledge to themselves that the U.S. occupation of Iraq increased the violence of civil war, providing the weapons that Iraqis might have had no other way to obtain.

    A Strategy to Disempower Terrorists

    War is not the answer, and certainly not a war run by the United States.

    The first step that is needed is to abandon the notion of a "war on terrorism." Drop it. Proclaim it already won. Or more honestly, acknowledge that there never can be a war against terrorism because terrorism is a tactic -- the tactic of attacking civilians to spread fear. And that tactic has been used by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and many other places in the world.

    The second step is to replace the notion of war with the notion of police actions aimed at protecting people from organized bunches of criminals who seek to terrorize domestic populations or to impose their own religious, political, or economic rule on local communities that do not want that rule. The creation of an international police force of this sort, charged also with protecting development projects to improve the quality of life of people on the village and small-town level, should be given the highest priority. Moreover, representatives of countries that together represent the majority of the citizens of the world must be significantly involved in the formulation of this force. We should try to get this created through the United Nations: not a toothless police force like those which have characterized the UN presence in Sudan, Rwanda, and the Congo, but a force that has a mandate to use all appropriate means to protect citizens against the harassment and oppression imposed by groups like the Taliban. But if there is no such willingness on the part of these countries to participate in creating and financing such a police force, the United States and other Western countries should not step into that space but should instead focus on defending their own borders, while continuing to beg the peoples of the world to step up and share the responsibility for creating an international police force whose sole aim is to protect local communities from the violence of those who seek to impose their rule by force.

    The third step is for the nuclear states to eliminate nuclear weapons. A careful global effort to protect every nuclear facility and to govern the creation and production of nuclear power should replace nuclear proliferation but this will never happen if the nuclear states retain their own nuclear stashes. What, for instance, could possibly induce Arab states or Iran to eliminate the possibility of nuclear weapons when they know that Israel has close to 200 such weapons of its own, which it may rely on in case of war? Or what could induce India or Pakistan to reduce their nuclear arsenals as long as they fear each other's or China's nuclear weapons? As long as the current nuclear powers retain their weapons, proliferation is inevitable, and with it comes the danger of crazies obtaining those weapons and using them in terrorist attacks.

    The fourth step is for the advanced industrial societies, led by the United States, to launch immediately a Domestic and Global Marshall Plan that would dedicate between 2 percent and 5 percent of their gross domestic product each year for the next twenty to once and for all end global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, and inadequate health care, and to repair the global environment. We've outlined a way to do this that would avoid the corruption that has bedeviled various aid plans, as well as prevent the mistaken allocation of this aid to ruling elites, thus ensuring that the aid goes toward building the economic, educational, and health infrastructures that could succeed in permanently defeating global poverty. This step must be taken alongside of and with equal priority to the first three steps, and not as an afterthought or delayed till the other steps are shown to be effective, because they will not succeed unless they are accompanied by this step and its explicit articulation of an alternative worldview. Check out this "strategy of generosity" at

    The fifth step is to give public support to the creation and sustenance of those in the religious and spiritual world who are teaching variants of their own religions that insist on the need to respect and actively provide caring for all, including for members of other religions. It should be a high priority to provide training, education, and media support to those who are seeking to renew their own religious traditions in ways that emphasize the equal rights and entitlements of women and girls, the need to acknowledge that there are multiple paths to salvation or to connection with God, and the need to rejoice in the diversity of religious and spiritual approaches and to acknowledge them all as potentially valid to the extent that they themselves are committed to ethical, ecological, and communal values likely to enhance peace, mutual understanding, and deep spiritual connection to the universe.

    Finally, step six: the Western countries, starting with the United States, must publicly insist that, although they are adopting a strategy of generosity in part because doing so is in our best interests, having finally come to the understanding that in the twenty-first century our well-being (both individually and as a society) depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet, the deeper reason is because we know generosity to be morally right. We must recognize that the path of arrogant self-interest and self-aggrandizement that has characterized the West's interactions with the rest of the world is morally wrong. For that reason, we must start this new direction with a serious process of repentance, in which we publicly acknowledge the hurts we and other Western countries have imposed on the rest of the world. Using the South African model of Truth and Reconciliation, we should set up tribunals in which we in the United States listen to the testimony of those who have been hurt by the role of Western colonialism and imperialism, including Native Americans, African Americans, and immigrant groups in the United States, and extending this process to all the countries of the world where U.S. or Western economic and political involvement has caused pain and humiliation. This process should become a center of our public discourse. It should be taught in our schools. Any media that uses the public airwaves, publicly supported electricity, public mail, or public-supported streets and highways should be mandated to give some prime time coverage each day to the presentation of this information.

    In short, we either pursue the same old ethically, environmentally, and economically destructive policies of war, or we embrace a new path of fundamental change. This new path should be based in part on repentance and atonement for how we have gone wrong. And it should replace the capitalist ethos of looking out for number one and the commitment to "progress" (understood as the endless accumulation of new material goods and electronic gadgets) with a new ethos of love, generosity, ecological sanity, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe.

    What Keeps the United States from Adopting a Rational Strategy in Afghanistan?

    There are significant impediments to this transition in American consciousness that constrain Obama and the other very decent people who are running the society at this moment. They include:

    1. The military and its worldview. Obama administration officials may know that a military strategy cannot win, but they still ask for more troops because they imagine that they can pacify a country through techniques of sophisticated counter-insurgency. No way will this work. The military lacks the appropriate ideological framework and troops. Military training is all about the most effective way to dominate others, to kill. If you train a pit bull to bite, don't get angry at it for biting. If you train a military to dominate, don't be surprised if it is not the mechanism for building trust, whether that is in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Israel/Palestine.

    2. The greed and economic interests of America's corporate elite. The elite have convinced themselves that they really are acting in a generous and caring way in the world by spreading the capitalist marketplace. The truth is that business does in fact improve some aspects of life for people: it provides more material goods for some sectors of the population in countries around the world. But it's easy to focus on the improved quality of life for the developing middle classes in many countries while ignoring the increased suffering for other sections of the population that corporate policies have engendered. Corporate leaders have immense power in shaping the American political discourse in ways that tend to reinforce the military option as the only "realistic" possibility. Deeply rooted in a materialist worldview, they are unable to even begin to see how their global system marginalizes other values in other cultures, like the value of connectivity to the land, to community or to God/spiritual life.

    3. Public ignorance. The erosion of political culture in the United States, the focus on short-term fixes, and the dumbing-down of the population by the media cause astounding levels of ignorance about the rest of the world and about the suffering of our own neighbors inside the United States

    4. Eight years of undermining international law, honesty, reasoned debate, and a sense of the proper and restricted role of the military.

    If you want to get out of a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. That's our advice to Obama: say no to the military. Fire McChrystal, Gates, and all his major supporters who helped leak the information about what he thought was necessary, rather than going through you first, Mr. President. Announce the six-point strategy for U.S. security articulated above. Close down the thousand American military bases around the world and use the savings to launch the Domestic and Global Marshall Plan. Act resolutely, without hesitation, and replace those advisers and those military leaders who will not actively embrace this direction. Use your power as commander in chief and ignore the right-wing media barrage you will certainly face, no matter what you do.

    Obama could take this path. He is not doing so. Nor is there anyone in the public sphere ready to talk this language. That is why it is so very important for YOU, dear reader, to spread these ideas, to help us develop and refine the articulation of them, and to work with us to bring these ideas into the public arena. And come to our national conference June 11-14, 2010, in Washington, D.C.

    God puts it simply enough in the Bible: Behold I have set before you this day life and death. Choose life.

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