Wednesday, February 25, 2009

U.S. Out of Iraq - NOW

U.S. Out of Iraq - NOW
By Jerome Grossman

Barack Obama captured the soul of the Democratic Party when he denounced the American invasion of Iraq as a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter, based on faulty and manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. His election to the presidency proved that the voters trusted him to end the war as he promised.

While Americans are grateful that this six year old war will soon be over, they wonder at the delay in pulling our troops from Iraq. More than 4000 Americans have been killed; more than 30,000 have been wounded in this war generally regarded as a mistake. Our military leaders say that we should leave "responsibly." What does that mean? Responsible to whom? To the Iraqis, whose public wants us to leave at once? To the corrupt Iraqi government whose leaders want us to stay as long as we supply the dollars?

Our first responsibility is to the men and women of the U. S. military. No more deaths. No more wounds. How would you like to be the last soldier to die for a mistake?

Obama promised a pullout within 16 months. Now, his senior officials tell the New York Times that will be extended to 19 months. How many Americans will be killed or wounded in those three months? Why? To protect the military equipment? Leave it there for the Iraqis. When we invaded, our operation against a shooting enemy took one month. Getting out should take the same one month.

If we are serious

President Obama plans to leave behind a "residual force" to continue training Iraqis, to hunt down foreign terrorist cells, to guard the American Embassy and other American installations. That doesn't sound like much of a withdrawal. The residual tasks are what we have been doing for six years. Right now, there are about 142,000 American military in Iraq and a like number of civilian contractors working for us. The duties of the residual force indicate that at least 100,000 Americans would remain in Iraq in addition to a sizeable number of contractors to help them. Not the pullout we expected. And if the fragile truce between the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds disintegrates, U.S. forces are likely to stay in Iraq.

The U.S. now has more than 700 military bases in 130 countries. The Middle East contains 60% of the oil on earth. The U.S. has commercial, political, financial and cultural interests in every country in the area, some of the interests valued in the trillions of dollars. Will Iraq become the 131st country? Will the residual force become the U.S. military base? Removing all U.S. troops from Iraq – NOW – may reverse our reliance on military power, restore our international reputation and encourage the use of “soft power” in pursuit of American interests.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Afghan Cemetery

The Afghan Cemetery
By Jerome Grossman

President Obama indicated through his press secretary that his administration would review its policy toward Afghanistan before making a decision about sending additional troops to fight in that country. Richard Holbrooke, his envoy, was in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region talking with leaders about how best to address the military and political situation. Obama also met with advisers at the Pentagon and the State Department.

As recently as February 15, it was reported that Obama “is refusing to be rushed into his first decision to send troops into combat…… questioning the time table, the mission and even the composition of the new forces.” However, Obama changed his mind on February 17, authorizing 17,000 additional soldiers and Marines for Afghanistan in what he described as an urgent bid to stabilize a deteriorating and neglected country, joining the 30,000 U.S. troops already there.

Obama will be sending more troops to Afghanistan before he has begun to fulfill a promised rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq. His order leaves crucial questions of strategy and tactics in Afghanistan unanswered until the strategy review is completed in April. Antiwar groups criticized Obama’s decision. Tom Andrews, director of Win Without War said, “The president is committing these troops before he's determined what the mission is….. We need to avoid the slippery slope of military escalation.”

The hasty decision ignored the many negative comments about the prospects for a U.S. victory. General David Petraeus has called Afghanistan “the graveyard of empires”. Holbrooke reported “a purely military victory is not achievable.” British historians furnish the details of their three failed military attempts to pacify the country. Twenty years after the troops of the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in defeat, the last Russian general to command them said on Feb 13 that the Soviets’ devastating experience, losing more than 15,000 troops in Afghanistan battling guerrillas “is a dismal omen for the U.S.”

Supporters of expanded U.S. military operations in Afghanistan cite the successes of the American military against the Taliban in October and November, 2001, immediately after the tragedy of September 11. However, that victory was accomplished by air power and bribery. Airpower prevented Taliban military operations. Hundred dollar bills bought warlord allies in this corrupt country whose main product is opium.

Can we do it again, bribing our way through the drug lords? Perhaps. But history shows that Afghans don't stay bought and that the guerrillas motivated by rebellion and nationalism will fight the invaders for hundreds of years, making a bandit's living out of their tactics as they have done for time immemorial.

Don’t think that General Petraeus does not know how to use money as a weapon. While he was installing the “Surge” in Iraq adding 30,000 fresh troops with great fanfare, he was quietly bribing the insurgent Sunnis with $20 dollar bills and rifles, paying 100,000 warriors to stop fighting the Americans.


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