Friday, August 21, 2009

In Bush's Footsteps

Those of you still hoping for “change” can forget it. Young Mr. Obama is working the same number that young Mr. Bush pulled on us. In Obama’s address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Phoenix, Arizona on August 17, he made his commitment to war in the Bananastans irrevocable.

It would be wonderful if public servants seeking to associate themselves with the military would cater to the agenda of the Veterans for Peace. For a president of the United States to pander to the VFW is a disgrace. While the VFW is not a pack of latter day Brownshirts like the American Legion is, the two groups possess a common value: they never saw an armed conflict they didn’t like. If they had to serve in a pointless war, everyone else should too. They also never met a Republican politician they didn’t like. Why a Democrat who was elected on a peace platform feels compelled to throw a bone to Pavlov’s dogs of war is inscrutable.

In Phoenix, Obama deflected criticism of his lack of support for the self-defeating Iraq war by drumming up support for his self-defeating conflict in the Bananastans. He continued a tradition established by his predecessor when he told the veterans “Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again.” Are we doomed to hearing presidents evoke 9/11 every time they want to justify overseas adventurism?

“But we must never forget,” Obama reminded the veterans, that the Bananastans conflict “is not a war of choice.” It is a “war of necessity” because “if left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans.” So, according to Obama, the Bananastans crusade is not only “worth fighting,” it is “fundamental to the defense of our people.”

What fundamental horse manure.

We’ve accepted the myth that the 9/11 attacks were made possible by Osama bin Laden’s “sanctuary” in Afghanistan for far too long. 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was operating in the Philippines when he first presented the attack plan to bin Laden in 1996. The six hijackers who controlled the airplanes received their flight training in the U.S. The “muscle hijackers” came from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. That bin Laden was in Afghanistan at the time is a narrative of our “good intelligence” in that part of the world which, to this day, amounts to beating or bribing locals into telling us what we want to hear or believing the lies that Afghan and Pakistani intelligence agencies feed us.

“We will plan responsibly,” Obama told the veterans, and boasted of the “new comprehensive strategy” for the Bananastans that he announced in March. The people responsible for Obama’s new comprehensive strategy deserve a session of tar-and-feather therapy.

The strategy, conjured by National Security Adviser James Jones and his team of “chess masters,” is nothing more than a compendium of wimp-words and hazy goals. We’ll be “promoting a more capable” Afghan government, one that “can eventually function.” We’ll also be “developing” an “increasingly self-reliant” Afghan security force. On top of all that, we’ll be “assisting efforts to enhance civilian control” of Pakistan’s government.

With a strategy like this, who needs enemies? It’s self-defeating. We’ll kinda/sorta try to do things we can’t possibly accomplish. A prolonged occupation of the Bananastans will not “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda” and its allies. Al Qaeda and its allies have iPhones. They don’t need to hunker down in the Bananastani Himalayas. They can plan and execute their evildoing at a Club Med getaway if they want to.

By June 2009 the Pentagon still hadn’t figured out what measures of effectiveness to use in determining if the new comprehensive strategy is working. Defense secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said that some of those metrics—whatever they turn out to be—will remain classified. That way they won’t have to explain how they know they’re being effective (if they told us, they’d have to kill us). We’ll just have to take their word for it that they’re turning corners and mopping up dead-enders and that it will be a long struggle but victory is at hand. Gates and Mullen make Cheney and Rumsfeld seem like straight shooters.

Obama told the VFW that “military power alone will not win this war,” but military power, as flaccid as it has become, is more effective than the other forms of power in the American arsenal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is as adept at diplomacy as John Bolton was. Whenever she opens her mouth it’s all anyone can do to keep another war from breaking out. Whatever economic efforts we can afford to make in the Bananastans will amount to handing out bribes like the ones we handed out in Iraq, and our information operations there involve, at best, a gentlemanly exchange of mendacities with the host countries.

“By moving forward in Iraq,” Obama told the VFW, “we’re able to refocus on the war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Candidate Obama pledged to “get the job done” in Afghanistan when his opponents attacked him for having voted against the surge in Iraq. He would have been better off to refute claims of the strategy’s success. Today, more than two-and-a-half years after the surge commenced, counterinsurgency expert John A. Nagl says, “The insurgency is not over.” Pentagon correspondent Thomas E. Ricks says we’re “at about the midpoint of the conflict now.”

Bush was probably too dim to realize he was talking gibberish about Iraq, but Obama is too smart to believe the bull jargon he’s handing us about the Bananastans. Obama has to realize that there is no strategy for Afghanistan, and that the organized but senseless violence his generals are conducting there will not further “the security and safety of the American people.”

At this point, Obama cannot escape the Bananastan trap without gnawing off a political foot. He needs to poop can his National Security Council and everyone in the Department of Defense who wears a bird or a star in their collar or whose title contains the word “secretary.” Then he needs to tell the nation that he was wrong about escalating the war in Afghanistan, and then he needs to bring our troops home.

I doubt that he has the political baby makers to do that.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. Afternoon, Jeff.

    Leave it to the Aussies to get the story of the election out. From Paul McGeogh at The Age.

    Britney Spears votes in Afghanistan

    ''...[B]ritney Jamilia Spears'' is on the roll in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, where voting is to take place in just three of 17 districts."

    But Gibbs said yesterday that "...[r]eports of a light turnout would not alter "our policy going forward in our aggressive goals...".

    Cue Céline Dion ( sorry! one of our best exports) and the theme from the Titanic.

    Obama at the front (not the correct nautical term, I know) arms outflung singing at the top of his lungs, "My war will go oonnnnnnn!"

  2. Peter VE6:58 PM

    Sometimes Ted Rall nails it (from a year ago):

  3. Anonymous12:59 AM

    Excuse me if this is double posted.
    I have been involved with the AL and VFW. I thought that the most anti war people would be those that had experienced it first-hand.
    I was wrong. The members had integrated their service into a personal paradigm around which they built their lives and personalities. For them to admit that they had been used for reasons other than to 'keep America free', would basically destroy their psyche. Incidentally, most of the vets in these organizations were not combat troops. They use the organization to hide their feelins of not being front line troops.

  4. Commander Huber - I agree completely with your portrayal of Obama as Bush-2. But you are dead wrong about the VFW being war dogs and Republicans. Every VFW post is different of course just like every American town is different. And in my local small town VFW post the membership reflects the local population. There is one diehard dittohead in our post plus three to four lefties (including me) who give him grief, the remainder of the membership are quiet about their voter registration but most disapproved of the decision to go into Iraq. My post is small, we have no bar and clubhouse, we are basically just a veterans mutual aid group putting out flags in cemeteries on Memorial Day and helping out elderly vets or their families when we can.

    Anonymous - You are incorrect probably based on an assumption that the small part of the VFW that you were exposed to represents every post in America. I am a VFW member. While many members of our local post served in supporting roles (God bless em I say), my post also includes combat soldiers and Marines from Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf War #1. Our post also includes a WW-2 sailor who spent many hours in the Philipine Sea when his destroyer was sunk out from underneath him, and a WW-2 Coast Guardsman who was a coxswain in the Pacific.

    By the way, John Kerry is a VFW member and so is McGovern. Bush was never eligible and neither was Cheney who is not even eligible for the Legion.

    The Legion of which I am also a member is definitely hawkish. Their monthly magazine quite frequently includes a BS article by some neo-con writer, which I suspect are subsidized by right wing mega-bucks. But then that is the magazine of the national organization and does not necessarily reflect the feeling in local Legion Halls.

  5. Mike,

    I am sure there are moderate posts out there, but as the "common value" link illustrates, the VFW castigates them. I've been around several posts, they were all pro war and right wing nutty


  6. " Why a Democrat who was elected on a peace platform feels compelled to throw a bone to Pavlov’s dogs of war is inscrutable."

    Ummmmm... babe?

  7. Anonymous10:41 PM

    Mike, you sort of missed the main point of my post. Most vets cannot or will not accept that the US lied to them about the reasons for whichever war they were involved in. Go to your post or any other and offer to speak about the fact that Pearl Harbor was NOT a 'surprise' attack and check the reaction.

  8. Jeff - Your common value link is the raving of some lone deluded teabagger and is not VFW policy.

    Anonymous - Ahhhh, a Pearl Harbor conspiracy theorist I see. Should I refer to you as TinFoilHatMan in any future correspondence?

  9. Commander Huber -

    After rereading, I note that your common value post is dated a year ago during the run up to the election. I doubt seriously if this blogger who calls himself 'TrueNorth' is a member of the VFW and perhaps was not even a vet but just a Rovian political provocateur.

    As to your comment about visiting several posts that were 'right wing nutty', I am sure that is true. But #1, I thought you lived in the Virginia beach area, if you visited a post there then of course they were all Limbaugh lunatics. #2, any and all posts just outside a large military base are probably gung ho and going to be pro war, but not necessarily right wing nutty Limbaugh freaks. And #3, I have to ask, did you canvas all the members or just meet a few blowhards at the bar?

    As I mentioned earlier, my post has no bar and no clubhouse. I believe that is true of 80 to 90% of posts now due to insurance costs. We basically just have a business meeting once a month to discuss funds expended or vote on future actions. For instance at the last meeting I attended we approved a small cash donation to a sick widow of a WW-II vet with no health insurance and approved gas money to one of our members who regularly volunteers to transport elderly VA patients to the nearest VA hospital (200+ miles round trip).

    Additionally, I believe that without the VFW (or the Legion or the DAV) there would be no VA at all, privates and seamen would still be making 78$/month, and there would be no COLA in your retirement check. The primary purpose of the national VFW is to lobby for veterans rights. They are a mutual aid society on a national level just like the small posts are all over America. Without the VFW we vets would probably be starving and in rags and facing bayonets like the Bonus Army did some 75+ years ago.

  10. Why are people only now coming to the realization that Obama is a complete tool of the establishment? I didn't pay much attention to the campaign last year, but the signs seemed pretty obvious to me. He voted for the banker bailout (I can't believe he did that without getting a drop on him – talk about teflon!), he agreed in debate with McCain's idiotic contention that we could be free of Middle East oil in 15 years (just “drill, baby, drill!,” and build those nuke plants), and he received more in donations from individual donors working for defense contractors than McCain. I distinctly remember checking this on one of those campaign contribution database websites (this amazing modern world we live in!).

    In fact, I can't remember if it was KBR or Halliburton, but I thought it was hilarious that our Iraq Saviour received one contribution to McCain's zip. And then there were all the hedge fund yahoos and corporate wankers pouring money into his campaign (to the tune of 745 million...about what it costs to send a space probe to Pluto!). Did anyone really believe that these people, who are interested in the bottom line uber alles really wanted “change?” Why, oh why, when all of this was known (or could be discovered) before the election, did everyone (and I mean everyone, including all but two of my blog heroes) go squishy on the guy?

    Change, my ass.

  11. My prediction, (for what it's worth) is this: This war in Afghanistan won't last anywhere near as long as the war in Iraq. Obama won't either.

    The MSM is already tired of both. The war is being referred to as "Obama's Viet Nam" and polling showing that the American people don't think it's worth fighting, is finding its was into print.

    None of that happened with the war in Iraq. "Shock and Awe" sold ads.

    Karzai? Innocents (women and children at weddings) being bombed by drones? Not so much.

  12. I hope you're right, EL, but my sense says we'll be there longer than Obama is president.

  13. As of yesterday, there are more soldiers killed so far this year in Afghanistan than in any entire year since 2001, and it's only August.

    Meanwhile, Stan the Man wants sixty (?) thousand more. Where is he going to get them from? I don't understand the logic. If the surge (the most recent one) made things so much worse, how is doing more of the same going to make things better?

    That's the kind of thinking that comes from lack of sleep and low blood sugar. Sleep deprived drivers are as impaired as someone driving over the blood alcohol limit. Why is sleep deprivation a good thing in war planning?

    Too many questions, not enough answers.

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