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Defeat U.S. War on Afghanistan and Iraq!

by Internationalist Group Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 at 8:28 PM
internationalistgroup@msn.com 212-460-0983 Box 3321, Church Street Station, New York NY 10008

On December 1, President Barack Obama officially announced a massive escalation of the U.S. war on Afghanistan, tripling the number of American military personnel there since Obama took office. This move marks a decision by Washington to continue the colonial occupation of Afghanistan indefinitely, and with it the bloody slaughter of the Afghan people. Obama’s claim that he would “begin the transfer” of U.S. forces by mid-2011 was just sucker bait for gullible liberals. “Afghanistan Is Now Obama’s War,” proclaimed the media from New York to London to Mumbai. But Afghanistan has been the Democrats’ war since the moment it was launched, in September 2001, and together with the war on Iraq, it is a bipartisan imperialist war. No one in Washington thinks the Afghan puppet army will be able to handle the Taliban. The actual U.S. strategy is not to defeat the Taliban but to weaken it enough so that elements of the Islamists can be brought into a political deal. It is striking that in the United States, a majority of the population is turning against the war even though there hasn’t been a major national antiwar march in more than two years – ever since the start of the last presidential election campaign. At protests following Obama’s announcement of more troops to Afghanistan, organizers carefully avoided any signs mentioning the president by name. Our Internationalist contingent, in contrast, carried signs including, “Hey Obama, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today? Defeat Imperialist Slaughter in Afghanistan, Iraq.”


December 2009

Imperialist Chief Obama: Deeper Into the Quagmire

U.S. troops on patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, February 2009. (Photo: Reuters)
Break with the Democrats – For Workers Strikes Against the War!

On December 1, President Barack Obama officially announced a massive escalation of the U.S. war on Afghanistan. The 30,000 troops to be dispatched will bring U.S. forces in the country to 100,000, tripling the number of American military personnel there since Obama took office last January. Add in 36,000 NATO and other “coalition” troops and more than 100,000 “contractors” employed by the U.S. Beyond the sheer numbers, this move marks a decision by Washington to continue the colonial occupation of Afghanistan indefinitely, and with it the bloody slaughter of the Afghan people. Obama’s claim that he would “begin the transfer” of U.S. forces by mid-2011 was just sucker bait for gullible liberals, and a useless “signal” to the terminally corrupt and ineffectual Afghan puppet government. Key was his vow a couple of days earlier that he would “finish the job” in Afghanistan. Since the feckless Afghan “army” will not be battle-ready any time soon, if ever, what this means is that the U.S. will be bogged down in an Afghan quagmire, the dreaded “Q-word” that the bourgeois media didn’t dare utter.

“Afghanistan Is Now Obama’s War,” proclaimed the media from New York to London to Mumbai. The U.S. president certainly “owns” the Afghanistan war, as well as the ongoing war/occupation in Iraq. But that has been true since Day One of his administration. Immediately after the new imperialist commander in chief took office, U.S. troops killed 16 villagers in Afghanistan, U.S. Predator aircraft fired missiles killing 15 in Pakistan, and U.S. Special Forces executed a couple in Kirkuk, Iraq in front of their daughter. Afghanistan has been the Democrats’ war since the moment it was launched, in September 2001, when the U.S. Senate voted 98-0 and the House of Representatives voted 420-1 to authorize then-president George W. Bush “to use all necessary and appropriate force” against anyone he held responsible for the 9/11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And Democrats voted repeatedly to fund the war on Iraq, even after they won a majority in both houses of Congress in 2006. As we have repeatedly stressed, the war on Afghanistan and Iraq is a bipartisan imperialist war.

Obama’s long-awaited speech announcing the escalation and his “strategy” for the war, held before 4,000 West Point cadets and 40.8 million television viewers, was by every measure a dud. Pundits panned it, conservatives slammed it, opponents of the war damned it. But it’s not about a speech, or Obama’s extended “policy review,” which Republicans portrayed as gutlessness or dithering. It’s about a war that even after eight year the U.S. “superpower” can’t get a handle on. Already in February, the new president dispatched an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan, later increased to 30,000+, effectively doubling the size of the U.S. expeditionary force there. Yet it didn’t make a dent in the pace of attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent forces, which tripled from February to August. Even more worrisome to Washington, the areas under effective insurgent control have expanded from 20 percent to 40 percent of Afghanistan over the past two years. Last week, Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an audience of Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina straight-out, “We are not winning, which means we are losing” (London Telegraph, 10 December).

Imperialist commander in chief Barack Obama announces escalation of war on Afghanistan at West Point military academy, December 1. (Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP)

So now we have the spectacle of Obama receiving the Nobel “peace” prize (named after the Swedish arms manufacturer and inventor of dynamite!) and delivering his ridiculous “war is peace” speech while escalating the war on Afghanistan, as well as attacks on Pakistan. Though it was not mentioned at West Point, the U.S. president reportedly “signed off on a plan by the Central Intelligence Agency to expand C.I.A. activities in Pakistan” (New York Times, 2 December). This includes extending missile strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban “targets” launched from Predator and Reaper drone aircraft, resuming attacks by special operations forces across the border from Afghanistan and from secret bases inside Pakistan, and stepping up clandestine activity by “contractors” such as the infamous Blackwater mercenaries (see Jeremy Scahill, “The Secret US War in Pakistan,” The Nation, 21 December). Now U.S. generals want to strike in the rebellious province of Baluchistan. This covert aggression against a supposed ally has provoked massive opposition. The London Guardian (2 December) reported: “Strikes that have killed at least 750 people in the past two years have provoked public hostility. Any move into Balochistan is likely to spark a fierce backlash.”

The liberal Democrat in the White House is no less an imperialist warmonger than his Republican predecessor. Under Obama, the notorious torture prison at Bagram air base north of Kabul continues to operate, the mercenary death squads are expanding, and the Air Force is still bombing wedding parties. From the moment his commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, demanded a big increase in U.S. forces, and then leaked his report to the press, there wasn’t the slightest chance that Obama would turn down the military. He has to resort to double-talk to sell this policy to the antiwar base that elected him (in a Gallup poll the week before his talk, 57 percent of Democrats favored reducing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and fully half now think the U.S. was wrong to invade the country in 2001). He also needs to assuage Democratic Congressmen up for re-election in 2010, many of whom could be defeated simply if antiwar Democrats stay home. The U.S. population as a whole is increasingly fed up with the war. A September 2009 Pew Research Center poll showed 43 percent favored withdrawal from Afghanistan, and 49 percent thought the U.S. should “mind its own business” internationally, higher even than the 41 percent who took that view in the wake of the defeat in Vietnam.

Stuck with an unpopular, losing war, in his West Point speech, Obama tried to soft-soap the escalation with talk of a “transfer” of security to Afghan forces in July 2011. He immediately qualified this, saying the 2011 date is only a “beginning” and it would depend on “conditions on the ground.” But this didn’t please Republicans and military hardliners, so in the next few days, officials emphasized over and over that there would be no pullout. General McChrystal declared in Kabul that the timeline “is not an absolute.” NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated in Brussels, “Transition doesn’t mean exit.” And on Sunday TV talk shows, there was a chorus from Obama administration officials. General James Jones, Obama’s National Security Advisor said, “We’re going to be in the region for a long time.” War secretary Robert Gates said that with 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in mid-2011, “some handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit, will begin to withdraw at that time.” And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed, “We’re not going to be walking away from Afghanistan again.”

So much for the illusion of the Democratic administration voluntarily pulling out of Afghanistan. To be sure, Obama said from the outset that he was not opposed to all U.S. wars, just “dumb wars” that the U.S. was bound to lose. During the 2008 election campaign he said he would increase U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and his advisors made it clear they intended to leave 50,000-plus U.S. forces in Iraq indefinitely. So anyone who thought Obama was an antiwar candidate fell for the hype about “hope” and “change” and didn’t read the fine print. The Democrats just thought that Bush and his dark-side vice-president Dick Cheney royally screwed things up with their stupidity, and the Dems could “do better.” At her Senate confirmation hearings as secretary of state, Clinton said the new administration would use “smart power” in diplomacy. (Like in Honduras, where the U.S. de facto supported the coup-makers?) As we wrote earlier this year about the Obama presidency:

“But there’s dumb ... and dumber. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq has drained U.S. military and economic strength in a quest for world domination. Obama’s vow to escalate the war in Afghanistan, spread over a far larger, mountainous territory, and at the same time to attack Pakistan, with eight times the population and the only Islamic country with nuclear weapons to boot, could set off a chain reaction that would send the entire region up in flames.”
– “Obama Presidency: U.S. Imperialism Tries a Makeover,” The Internationalist no. 28, February 2009

When Obama was elected – the first black president in the history of the United States, a nation founded on chattel slavery – tremendous hopes were placed in him by wide sectors of the population: African Americans, youth, workers and millions who were fed up with eight years of George W. Bush. If many thought they were voting to put an end to the debilitating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and withdraw U.S. troops, this illusion was partly fostered by the “antiwar movement” that deliberately called off national peace marches in order not to embarrass the Democratic Party candidate. Also, most Democrats considered Afghanistan the “good war” as opposed to “Bush’s war” in Iraq, where they wanted to cut U.S. losses and head for the exit. Now that the U.S. is losing the war in Afghanistan and is mired in by far the worst economic crisis in three-quarters of a century, Obama responds ... by digging in and escalating. This has left many of his supporters feeling angry and betrayed. But their anger will go nowhere so long as the mass of working people and antiwar activists remain tied to the Democratic Party.

Internationalist contingent at December 2 Times Square New York City protest over U.S. escalation of war on Afghanistan. (Internationalist photo)

The Internationalist Group and League for the Fourth International did not support Democrat Barack Obama against Republican John McCain. We warned that on most fundamental issues – including the war, the bailout of Wall Street banks, education “reform” and other questions – the positions of the two capitalist contenders were barely distinguishable, if not identical. While much of the left made “social-patriotic” appeals to “bring the troops home” (and even more explicitly to “support the troops” by “bringing them home”), ever since September 2001 we called to defeat the imperialist war on Afghanistan, and later Iraq, while defending the Afghan and Iraqi peoples under U.S. attack. Rather than forming “antiwar” coalitions with bourgeois politicians, we called to break with the Democrats and for workers strikes against the war. Even at protests following Obama’s announcement of more troops to Afghanistan, organizers carefully avoided any signs mentioning the president by name. Our Internationalist contingent, in contrast, carried signs including, “Hey Obama, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today? Defeat Imperialist Slaughter in Afghanistan, Iraq.”

Imperialism is not a policy that can be discarded at will but a system that continuously generates poverty, racism and war. Any capitalist politician, pro-war or “antiwar,” will perpetuate it, whatever rhetoric they may spout on the campaign trail. The U.S. will withdraw from the Mideast only if it is forced out, by losses on the battlefield and class struggle “at home.” At bottom, the war is not over Saddam Hussein, or Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, Al Qaeda or oil pipelines – it is a war for world domination. We can only put an end to the endless U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Colombia, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Korea and elsewhere if we smash imperialism through international socialist revolution.

U.S. Sinking in the Afghan Quagmire

In all the analysis in the media of Obama’s Afghanistan surge there has been hardly any mention of the terrible toll the U.S. war and occupation is taking on the Afghan population. The killing of civilians in air strikes seldom makes it into the press unless it is a really big massacre, like last May 5, when over 125 villagers were killed in a bombing raid. In such cases U.S. military spokesmen typically deny civilian casualties for a few days, then say their reports were “thinly sourced” (i.e., invented), and eventually own up to a small fraction of the dead, claiming the rest were “militants” and “extremists,” or were supposedly killed by the Taliban. The regular slaughter of smaller numbers, such as the killing of nine civilians (including several children) in Helmand province on November 5, seldom makes it into the press, in that case only because the villagers took the bodies to the provincial capital to show before burying them. According to official (United Nations) statistics, over 2,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan from January to October, well ahead of last year’s toll. But the U.N. is just an appendage of the U.S./NATO “coalition” military and the actual numbers are undoubtedly far higher.

Afghans overwhelmingly oppose the war and the occupation, although no one asked their permission. In keeping with the modern-day imperialists’ voracious appetite for “metrics,” all sorts of agencies from the International Red Cross to the U.S. Republican Party are continually conducting “opinion surveys” in Afghanistan. This is absurd to begin with in a country where the bulk of the population lives in isolated rural areas, and in wartime when respondents will say what they think the people with the guns behind the surveyors want to hear. But in one of the few polls that even asked about the presence of foreign troops, an ABC survey in December 2008, barely a third said opinions toward the “coalition” forces were generally positive in their area, only 18 percent wanted more U.S./NATO troops, and 77 percent wanted an end to the air strikes. There have also been numerous demonstrations against the occupiers, such as in Kabul just this past December 9, when thousands of students blocked the Kabul-Jalalabad highway protesting the killing in nearby Laghman province. Did you read about that in the newspapers or see it on TV? No you didn’t, because the “free but responsible” imperialist press censors it.

Afghan puppet president Hamid Karzai and U.S. puppet mistress Hillary Clinton in Kabul, November 2009. (Photo: U.S. embassy)

What the imperialist media and the U.S. government are concerned about is that “the central government of President Hamid Karzai ... is widely seen here as corrupt and incompetent,” in the words of a London Guardian (2 December) report from Kabul. Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts questioned sending more troops “defending a government that is corrupt and incompetent.” Both Obama and Clinton reportedly lectured Karzai on the need to fight corruption. But whoever heard of a puppet government that wasn’t corrupt? The regimes of Ngo Dinh Diem or Nguyen Van Thieu, heads of the Saigon “government” during the U.S. war on Vietnam, were hardly corruption-free. Even Nazi collaborator puppet “governments” in East Europe were rife with corruption. And why not? The politicians in Afghanistan and Iraq who serve as a quislings for the colonial occupiers are traitors who would face summary justice at the hands of any self-respecting nationalist government. So naturally, if they act as front men, their first question is “what’s in it for me?” Corruption is the grease that makes it possible for such criminal regimes to function at all. The Americans will never get an uncorrupt Afghan puppet.

A competent corrupt regime is another matter. That’s the kind of dictators the U.S. typically looks for in “Third World” countries: the Shah of Iran, Pinochet in Chile (who stole millions from the state treasury, while murdering tens of thousands of leftists), the air force officer turned hard-line politician Nguyen Cao Ky in South Vietnam (who ran the opium trade on CIA Air America planes). But Washington has a problem of even getting that in Afghanistan today. To have a military dictatorship, you have to have a military to provide the bureaucratic framework for bonapartist rule. But Afghanistan doesn’t. The Afghan army dissolved when the former Soviet-backed government fell in 1992. It was replaced by the warlords of the Northern Alliance who had been bankrolled by the U.S. A few years later they, in turn, were toppled by bands of Taliban, a creation of the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Unlike in Iraq – where after initially cashiering Saddam Hussein’s entire officer corps, the U.S. turned around and rebuilt the Iraqi army – in Afghanistan they are starting from scratch. It will take some years to turn the warlords’ private militias into a disciplined national army.

The U.S. has no intention of exiting Afghanistan, zero. It might like to mask its domination with a semi-colonial protectorate like the Hashemite monarchy Britain installed in power in Iraq in 1920, which stayed in power until 1958 while the British ran things from their air force bases. (This is what Washington has in mind for Iraq today.) But however they try to disguise it, the Obama administration is going to be occupying Afghanistan for years – five or ten minimum – unless it is driven out first. That time frame is what British and German ministers have admitted to when questioned in Parliament and the Bundestag, and that’s more or less what General David Petraeus, commander of the Central Command (covering Iraq and Afghanistan), told the U.S. Congress on December 9. And it will cost, a lot: Petraeus cited the figure of billion a year to fund an Afghan army; Obama quoted billion a year as the price tag for his “surge” of 30,000 more troops. The official cost of U.S. operations in Afghanistan this year will be 0 billion, or a million bucks for each of the 100,000 U.S. troops scheduled to be “in country” by July. And the bill isn’t getting any smaller any time soon.

Fresh graves of villagers killed in May 5 U.S. air strike in Farah province, western Afghanistan, where more than 125 were killed, including many women and children. (Photo: AP)

For now, the U.S. and 42 other members of the military “coalition” (formally known as the International Security Assistance Forces [ISAF]) that is occupying Afghanistan are stuck in a war that even they admit they are losing. In his August 30 Initial Assessment report as ISAF commander requesting a massive increase in U.S. forces, General McChrystal said bluntly:

“Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) – while Afghan security capacity matures – risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.... [T]he overall situation is deteriorating despite considerable effort by ISAF. The threat has grown steadily but subtly, and unchecked by commensurate counter-action, its severity now surpasses the capabilities of the current strategy. We cannot succeed simply by trying harder....”

“Failure to provide adequate resources also risks a longer conflict, greater casualties, higher overall costs, and ultimately, a critical loss of political support. Any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure....

“The insurgents control or contest a significant portion of the country, although it is difficult to assess precisely how much due to a lack of ISAF presence. ... REDACTED

The McChrystal report states that the prisons have been turned into Taliban-recruiting centers, and that the Taliban have displaced the Kabul government in many areas:

“The QST [Taliban operating out of Quetta, Pakistan] has a governing structure in Afghanistan under the rubric of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They appoint shadow governors for most provinces, review their performance, and replace them periodically. They establish a body to receive complaints against the own ‘officials’ and to act on them. They install ‘shari’a’ courts to deliver swift and enforced justice in contested and controlled areas. They levy taxes and conscript fighters and laborers. They claim to provide security against a corrupt government, ISAF forces, criminality, and local power brokers.”

No doubt the “redacted” parts of the report are even more explicit. A series of maps and charts published by Andrew Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “The Uncertain Metrics of the Afghan War” (3 December) include a 2008 U.N. “accessibility map” showing almost the entire southern 40 percent of Afghanistan as a “no-go area” of “extreme risk/hostile environment” for aid workers. Other maps show the southern 60 percent of the country as areas “with permanent Taliban presence,” and much of the east as “extreme risk” as well. And now the Taliban control areas in the north around Kunduz.

Obama’s “Strategy”: Looking for the “Good Taliban”

So Obama gave McChrystal what he asked for: the 30,000 troops, with a few thousand more from the U.S.’ “allies” (in several cases paid for by the U.S. as part of the Global War on Terror, or GWOT in Pentagonese), essentially fulfills the general’s request for 40,000. In any case, it was all that was available: the U.S. Army and Marines currently have total active duty combat forces of around 500,000, and by mid-2010, fully half of those will be deployed in and around Iraq and Afghanistan. The rest are on duty in other “theaters” (Philippines, Colombia), assigned to the 700+ U.S. military bases in 156 countries worldwide, retraining, and/or getting ready for their next tour of duty in the war zone. The fact is that the U.S. is at the limits of its “force projection” capability without introducing a draft (military conscription).

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