Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to war we go! Pound the drums loudly, stand with your country proudly!
Wait, wait, wait — hold it right there. Cut the music, slow the rush and let’s all ponder what Barack Obama, Robert Gates, Stanley McChrystal and Co. are getting us into ... and whether we really want to go there. After all, just because the White House and the Pentagon brass are waving the flag and insisting that a major escalation of America’s military mission in Afghanistan is a “necessity” doesn’t mean it is or that We the People must accept it.
Remember the wisdom of Mark Twain about war-whooping generals and politicians: “Loyalty to the country, always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.”
How many more dead and mangled American soldiers does the government’s “new” Afghan policy deserve? How many more tens of billions of dollars should we let them siphon from our public treasury to fuel their war policy? How much more of our country’s good name will they squander on what is essentially a civil war?
We’ve been lied to for nearly a decade about “success” in Iraq and Afghanistan — why do the hawks deserve our trust that this time will be different?
Their rationales for escalation are hardly confidence boosters. The goal, we’re told, is to defeat the al-Qaida terrorist network that threatens our national security. Yes, but al-Qaida is not in Afghanistan! Nor is it one network. It has metastasized, with strongholds now in Pakistan, Indonesia, Morocco, Yemen and Somalia, and even has enclaves in England and France.
Well, claims Obama himself, we must protect the democratic process in Afghanistan. Does he think we have sucker wrappers around our heads? America’s chosen leader over there is President Hamid Karzai — a preening incompetent who was “elected” this year only through flagrant fraud and whose government is controlled by warlords, rife with corruption and opposed by the great majority of Afghans.
During the election campaign from July through October, 195 Americans were killed and more than 1,000 wounded to protect this guy’s “democratic process.” Why should even one more American die for Karzai?
Finally, Washington’s war establishment asserts that adding some 30,000 more troops will let us greatly expand and train the Afghan army and police force during the next couple of years so they can secure their own country and we can leave. Mission accomplished!
Nearly every independent military analyst, however, says this assertion is not just fantasy, it’s delusional — it’ll take at least 10 years to raise Afghanistan’s largely illiterate and corrupt security forces to a level of barely adequate, costing us taxpayers more than $4 billion a year to train and support them.
Obama has been taken over by the military industrial hawks and national security theorists who play war games with other people’s lives and money. I had hoped Obama might be a more forceful leader who would reject the same old interventionist mindset of those who profit from permanent war. But his newly announced Afghan policy shows he is not that leader.
So, we must look elsewhere, starting with ourselves. The first job of a citizen is to keep your mouth open. Obama is wrong on his policy — deadly wrong — and those of you who see this have both a moral and patriotic duty to reach out to others to inform, organize and mobilize our grassroots objections, taking common sense to high places.
Also, look to leaders in Congress who are standing up against Obama’s war and finally beginning to reassert the legislative branch’s constitutional responsibility to oversee and direct military policy. For example, Rep. Jim McGovern is pushing for a specific, congressionally mandated exit strategy; Rep. Barbara Lee wants to use Congress’ control of the public purse strings to stop Obama’s escalation; and Rep. David Obey is calling for a war tax on the richest Americans to put any escalation on-budget, rather than on a credit card for China to finance and future generations to pay.
This is no time to be deferential to executive authority. Stand up. Speak out. It’s our country, not theirs. We are America — ultimately, we have the power and the responsibility.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.