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Obama the war monger

by Jim Longworth

No doubt about it, President Barack Obama is a rock star. He is especially loved and respected in foreign countries, which is a welcomed improvement from how we were viewed overseas during the torture years of Bush/Cheney.

Yet in many ways, Obama’s actual foreign policy is no different from that of George Bush, particularly when it comes to our entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One can argue that Obama inherited an immoral war and thus cannot be blamed for any ongoing damages — sort of like the relief pitcher in baseball isn’t responsible for the three runs that score if he serves up a grand slam to the first batter he faces. But make no mistake. Obama knew that the bases were loaded against him before he entered the game. By the end of last year, the United States had lost over 3,000 soldiers. Meanwhile, a team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists had determined that over 650,000 innocent Iraqi citizens had died in the first four years of the war alone. It’s what politicians and military strategists refer to as “collateral damage.” And then there was the economic impact of the war. Obama was serving in the Senate when a 2007 report was issued by the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO estimated that if the war lingered into the next decade, it would cost taxpayers in excess of $2 trillion. That’s about $8,000 for every man, woman and child in this country. The report was also based on our maintaining 50,000 troops in Iraq, and 25,000 in Afghanistan through the year 2017.

Of course, once Obama defeated McCain in November of last year, no one could imagine a scenario in which those CBO numbers would ever hold up. That’s because candidate Obama had boasted of his opposition to the war, and of how he intended to end it if elected. But Obama has had nine months to get us out of the war, and instead he’s done nothing but escalate it. This month we officially enter the ninth year of the conflict, and Obama wants to celebrate that anniversary by maintaining 150,000 troops in Iraq and increasing our total number of soldiers in Afghanistan to nearly 70,000. The situation in Iraq is bad enough, but it is the latter figure which is giving pause to even the most ardent Obama supporters.

After all, Bush’s initial aggression could be explained away as a means of protecting Iraq’s rich oil’ reserves, and a desireby Cheney to keep Halliburton in high cotton. But Afghanistan is notIraq. It is, by some accounts, the second-poorest nation on earth,trailing only Somalia in gross domestic product.

Toput that into perspective, the country’s total economy is less thanhalf that of Boise, Idaho. And unlike Boise, Afghanistan’s chiefproduct is opium.

And to make matters worse, Afghanistan is controlled by a mixture of Taliban thugs and corrupt politicians. New York Times columnistand author Tom Friedman explains why Iraq and Afghanistan are differentin terms of their ability to partner with the American military: “It’sthat partner who connects your troops with the ultimate goal. If thepartner is rotten to the core, nothing is going to work.

When the president’s brother is accused of being the leading mafia drug dealer, that’s not a good sign.”

Andwhat is our goal in Afghanistan? According to the White House, we arethere for nation building and to stop the spread of terrorism. But evenif that were possible in the face of a non-existent GDP, the Talibanand a rotten government, there are other problems with policing andreforming Afghanistan. Sen. John Kerry, himself a war hero, formerpresidential candidate and supporter of Barack Obama, warns that nationbuilding in Afghanistan could have dangerous implications for Pakistan,and for stability of the entire region. Meanwhile, investigativejournalist Bob Woodward warns that Obama wants to increase troopstrength in Afghanistan without having an exit strategy in place. It’sthe same mistake that George Bush made with Iraq, only worse.

That’sbecause Afghanistan is poised to become this generation’s Vietnam. Bothwars are unwinnable. The only difference between the two conflicts isthat we’ve traded rice paddies and jungles for mountains and caves.

Congressneeds to do to Obama what they wouldn’t do to George Bush: cut off allmilitary funding for the war and force the immediate withdrawal of ourtroops. Moreover, such pullouts won’t leave us more vulnerable toterrorist attacks here at home. Just the opposite, because ourintelligence agencies will have more resources with which to thwart theplans of sleeper cells. And the best part is that if Obama suffers withwithdrawal from the withdrawal, he will still have plenty of wars towage right here on our own soil. Those include the war againstunemployment, the war on corporate greed, the war on racism, the war onthe healthcare insurance and pharmaceutical industries, the war ontrade deficits and the war on illegal immigration.

If he can win those domestic wars, President Obama will have earned my respect.

Until then, he’s just a highly paid relief pitcher who isn’t worried about running up the score in a game he didn’t start.

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