A Captive Obama

From Jim Houle

2/23/09 Ukiah, Northern California The military holds Obama captive to its strategy for maintaining US security and continuing the supposed war on terrorism. After Bush Administration sold Congress and much of the American public for 8 years on the necessity of preventing another 9/11, Obama now finds it impossible to change the paradigm, declare the war over, cut our defense budget in the face of national bankruptcy, and withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan without being immediately accused of leaving America at risk. Further, the pressure upon him by Republicans and some Democratic lawmakers makes it extremely difficult to pass truly progressive legislation that does not have the approval of those who finance these law-makers. These financiers include the war-machinery manufacturers, the mass media and the financial community. They have everything at stake in this economy that spends 50% of tax revenues on making war. My God, what would happen if peace broke out? Where will we sell our cluster bombs?

Thus Obama can at best withdraw slowly and carefully from Iraq and then only if he can guarantee the war machine that it will still be able to bomb anywhere at will in the Middle East from secure bases or with conscienceless drones. Should he make any moves that threaten the “existing world order” he will confront the type of blockage he just encountered in the US Senate where Republicans and even some Democrats whittled away at his economic stimulus plan, not because they had real alternatives to offer, but merely to show they were still around and had muscle.

Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, our new director of national intelligence, warned the Senate Committee on Intelligence Feb. 12th that the deepening world capitalist crisis posed the paramount threat to US national security and warned that its continuation could trigger a return to the “violent extremism” of the 1920s and 1930s. This frank appraisal, contained in the “annual threat assessment” on behalf of 16 separate US intelligence agencies, represented a striking departure from earlier years, in which a supposedly ubiquitous threat from Al Qaeda terrorism and the two wars launched under the Bush administration topped the list of concerns. Reported by Bill Van Auken Global Research, February 14, 2009. Admiral Blair declared: “The primary near-term security concern of the United States is the global economic crisis and its geopolitical implications. The crisis has been ongoing for over a year, and economists are divided over whether and when we could hit bottom. Some even fear that the recession could further deepen and reach the level of the Great Depression. Of course, all of us recall the dramatic political consequences wrought by the economic turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, the instability, and high levels of violent extremism.”

But Blair stressed that the threat that the crisis will produce revolutionary upheavals is global. The financial meltdown, he said, is “likely to produce a wave of economic crises in emerging market nations over the next year.” Blair also pointed to the damage that the crisis has done to the global credibility of American capitalism, declaring that the “widely held perception that excesses in US financial markets and inadequate regulation were responsible has increased criticism about free market policies, which may make it difficult to achieve long-time US objectives.” The collapse of Wall Street, he added, “has increased questioning of US stewardship of the global economy and the international financial structure.”
Curiously, Admiral Blair’s entire pitch never attempted to justify propping up our economy to create jobs or to reduce poverty. The justification for any aid to the economy was to keep the war machine in operation and our global hegemony in place. That seemed his bottom line.

Barry Grey writes on Feb.19 in WSWS.org that “President Obama ordered the dispatch of 17,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan in a major escalation of the increasingly bloody American-led occupation of the war-ravaged country. He cast the increased deployment as a response to a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and linked the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan with an Al Qaeda safe haven along the Pakistani border, which he claimed, echoing the rhetoric of his predecessor, ‘threatens America’.

“The new marines and army units had initially been slated to be sent to Iraq. Obama said the military was able to send the troops to Afghanistan because his administration was ‘responsibly’ drawing down US forces in Iraq. In fact, the US troop level in Iraq remains at 140,000, and the White House has thus far failed to implement Obama’s campaign pledge to withdraw one combat brigade a month and remove all combat troops from Iraq within sixteen months of his coming to power. Top military commanders have publicly questioned this timetable and Obama has indicated his willingness to break his campaign promise which, in any event, would leave tens of thousands of “non-combat” troops in Iraq indefinitely”. Barry Grey explains.

A recent analysis by Stratfor, the authoritative Intelligence Blog published by former CIA types and usually close to the thinking at “The Company”, contradicts Obama in several respects:

There is no longer any linkage between the fates of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

It is not clear that Al-Qaeda is any longer operational.

If the primary reason for fighting the Taliban is to keep Al-Qaeda from having a base of operations in Afghanistan, that reason might be moot now as Al-Qaeda appears to be wrecked.

The search for Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups is an intelligence matter and does not require tens of thousands of troops.

The Taliban have forged relationships with many Afghan tribes, who aid and shelter them and do not want to get on their wrong side. The Taliban have the classic advantage of guerillas operating in known terrain with a network of supporters and superior intelligence.

Conclusion: there is no conceivable force the United States can deploy to pacify Afghanistan.

From the February 17, 2009 CS Monitori>, Walter Rodgers recalls that: “History may not repeat itself, but all too often it recycles mistakes. In 1961, before the Vietnam War became full-fledged, former Gen. Douglas MacArthur warned President Kennedy not to fight a land war in Asia. Over the next 14 years, more than 58,000 Americans died as Washington ignored his advice and ramped up operations. Today, the US is stuck in another land war in Asia: Afghanistan. The original mission was to capture Osama bin Laden, disable Al-Qaeda, remove the Taliban, and keep the country from being a safe haven for terrorists. After seven years of fighting, hundreds of dead US soldiers and thousands more wounded, those objectives have not been met. And now the US wants to double down, adding as many as 30,000 additional US troops to get the job done”.

“It’s unfathomable that Washington learned so little from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which ended in an ignominious retreat followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union three years later. The Soviets lost 15,000 soldiers.
“The United States now has 33,000 troops in Afghanistan. Even if President Obama agrees to double that amount, the effort will be wasted. Half a million US troops might not be enough – it wasn’t in Vietnam. Mr. Obama needs to recognize that hesitation to expand the war in Afghanistan has nothing to do with will or cowardice and everything to do with wisdom.“

As Steve Holland commented on Reuters Feb 17th: “The Afghan War now belongs to Obama”.

Elizabeth Burmiller in the NY Times on Feb 18 reports: “The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan, said Wednesday that the heightened troop levels that President Obama ordered for Afghanistan could remain in place for as long as five years. General McKiernan, said that the buildup ‘is not a temporary force uplift’ and that it was essential to break what he called a stalemate in southern Afghanistan, the epicenter of the Taliban-led insurgency. He said that he could not determine exactly how long the troops would be there, but that the buildup would ‘need to be sustained for some period of time,’ and that he was looking at the next three to four or five years.”

by Jim Kunstler

Dear Mr. President,

You are presiding over an epochal contraction, not a pause in the growth epic. Your assignment is to manage that contraction in a way that does not lead to world war, civil disorder or both. Among other things, contraction means that all the activities of everyday life need to be downscaled including standards of living, ranges of commerce, and levels of governance. “Consumerism” is dead. Revolving credit is dead — at least at the scale that became normal the last thirty years. The wealth of several future generations has already been spent and there is no equity left there to re-finance.
Keep reading The Abyss Stares Back


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