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What is the answer in Afghanistan?

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By The Staff

By Hannah Hayes

The sixth anniversary of the war against Iraq is fast approaching. While there is a commitment to be out in May 2010, many are holding their collective breath. The extended stay of some troops is a given in most people’s minds. Iraqis and peaceniks will call it “not out.”

But just in case the U.S. actually leaves Iraq, aren’t those who worship endless war in luck? We can redouble our efforts in Afghanistan. It’s less than 1,500 miles away.

Here’s the rub. What kind of change can President Obama truly bring if he chooses a similar failed strategy that crashed and burned in Iraq? With Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates still planning the insanity, the president will have to be redoubtable in his 16-month pledge. Can our country afford another mission-less military quagmire? Is war a racket? Smedley Butler shares his tremendous insights in a short, powerful book at http://www.scribd.com/doc/2624419/war-is-a-racket.

The failures in Vietnam and Iraq, and they were numerous, seem about to be repeated in Afghanistan. Fighting terrorism while terrifying civilian populations works to decrease safety for everyone all around the globe. Increased numbers of U.S. unmanned air strikes are killing more and more women and children. While the Iraqi civilian death toll remains unknown, yet acknowledged to be significant, it’s probably the most telling statistic in our defeat. In Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, civilians view(ed) the U.S. as an occupier and the missions seem(ed) clearly defined only to them — death, destruction, displacement.

While most are grateful to see the closing of Guantánamo initiated, unlawful interrogations are not the only horrors of war that the Geneva Convention covers. Article 48 states: “The Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants.” Article 50 dictates that “the presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilian does not deprive the population of its civilian character.” In Afghanistan in 2007, coalition forces killed more civilians than the Taliban. Will President Obama continue this kind of reprehensible warfare that clearly violates the Geneva Convention?

Recent diplomatic surges are to be applauded. Reaching out will far better serve our national interests. Expensive and immoral wars don’t hold solutions. With financial collapse everywhere, it seems our enemies can’t hate us for our bankrupt lifestyle. It’s our interference in their lives that causes their fear and distrust.

A common-sense budget (see www.TrueMajority.org) will indicate an important shift in our priorities. Let’s put the country on the road to environmental sustainability, create jobs rebuilding infrastructure and, while supporting well-thought-out humanitarian projects, leave Afghanistan to the Afghanis and the Taliban to the Pakistanis.

By Kelly Weist

One of these things is not like the others; one of these things is just not the same …” — Sesame Street

You are forgiven if the discussion regarding Iraq and Afghanistan seems full of cognitive dissonance post- election. I know I’m a little confused. But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

President Obama, the person who as senator and presidential candidate sneered at the idea of a surge in ground troops in Iraq, is signaling that he is ready for a surge in Afghanistan. He may deploy as many as 30,000 troops. Could he be channeling George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? (Please, God.) Certainly the anti-war left seems to think so. The pundits are all out to express their dismay, and Newsweek has even called Afghanistan “Obama’s Vietnam” (meaning his war to cravenly run from).

During the campaign, candidate Obama and several others asserted quite seriously that the troop deployment in Afghanistan was completely different than in Iraq. We had every right to be in Afghanistan but no right at all to be in Iraq. Iraq was about oil and the Bush/Cheney military/oil complex and Bush’s dad. Afghanistan was the fight truly to be won. Oh, but there really weren’t any terrorists before Bush/Cheney.

During the campaign, candidate Obama seemed to think that pulling out of Iraq immediately and using sweet reason, strong tea and Joe Biden would solve any problems we had in the Middle East. Considering Biden’s diplomatic skills (or lack thereof) and his history in Afghanistan (storming out of a meeting with the Afghan prime minister last year), I find this view optimistic, and apparently so does the post-election Obama administration.

By contemplating a surge strategy in Afghanistan, President Obama is admitting that security is the key for a fledging weak democracy in the Middle East. Providing security though U.S. military might with a surge in ground troops worked for Iraq, and the president seems to have just discovered that. The left, however, is screaming. They are perfectly willing to have the resurgent Taliban take over the country again, continue their infiltration of Pakistan (a nuclear country, let’s remember) and then destabilize everything we’ve accomplished in Iraq.

For righteous leftists, this is all more than acceptable (including any attendant civilian losses or attacks on America by the terrorists of these regimes) in order to stick their tongues out at Amerika. In many ways, it’s the Cold War all over again, with Lenin’s useful idiots stumping for terrorists and genocidal regimes.

I don’t believe that President Obama is dumb enough to surrender to these leftist buffoons. (Biden, however? Thank God he’s VP, instead of SOS.) My worry is that he’ll pursue a limping, Clinton-esque strategy that opens us up to another 9/11, reducing troops too soon and tolerating Taliban resurgence in politics in order to quiet the left.

The idea that the use of force by nations is never justified has always fascinated me. The left generally was in favor of America’s use of force in Afghanistan during the campaign, mainly to distinguish it from their views on Iraq. However, the anti-war lefties have been consistent since Vietnam. I never get a satisfactory answer from Hannah or the others on one simple question: When is it justified to use force? Apparently, it never is. Not only are you supposed to lie down and die if someone breaks into your home (because you don’t have a right to defend yourself), but a nation like the U.S., which is the target of terrorists, is not allowed the use of force in any way, reactive as well as proscriptive. I don’t get this.

I was really reminded of this while listening to Harry Potter with my son this weekend. The Minister of Magic seems to believe that if they just keep denying Voldemort’s existence, and vilify Harry and Dumbledore, nothing bad will ever happen. But it does. Appeasement never works. Sometimes, you have to actually fight.

Hayes rebuttal

Military contractors, opium growers and neo-cons win again as President Obama chooses to escalate in Afghanistan. Some will argue the situation is so grave that sending 17,000 U.S. sons and daughters will begin to stabilize that country. How can that ring true looking at the history of Afghanistan and the results of our past incursions on foreign soil? Iraq, a success? Puhleez! Vietnam didn’t begin its recovery until the U.S. withdrew.

Consider a recent poll that shows 44 percent of Afghans want fewer outside forces in their country, yet the U.S. seems poised to continue as occupiers. With the new administration’s review process still incomplete, it is launching this escalation without any clearly defined goals or exit strategy. Is this the kind of change we can believe in?

Now Afghanistan becomes Obama’s war. It must be challenging for a new young president to stand up against decades of imperialism and the military industrial complex. The heartbroken progressive left would rather see him offer humanitarian aid and negotiation now rather than after the escalation.

Weist rebuttal

The idea that the use of force by nations is never justified has always fascinated me. The left generally was in favor of America’s use of force in Afghanistan during the campaign, mainly to distinguish it from their views on Iraq. However, the anti-war lefties have been consistent since Vietnam. I never get a satisfactory answer from Hannah or the others on one simple question: When is it justified to use force? Apparently, it never is. Not only are you supposed to lie down and die if someone breaks into your home (because you don’t have a right to defend yourself), but a nation like the U.S., which is the target of terrorists, is not allowed the use of force in any way, reactive as well as proscriptive. I don’t get this.

I was really reminded of this while listening to Harry Potter with my son this weekend. The Minister of Magic seems to believe that if they just keep denying Voldemort’s existence, and vilify Harry and Dumbledore, nothing bad will ever happen. But it does. Appeasement never works. Sometimes, you have to actually fight.

Hannah B. Hayes is a small-business owner and activist with Evergreen Peace. Hayes has remained active in the community through her writing and organizing for 35 years.

Attorney and political activist Kelly Weist has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and is the co-founder of Mountain Republican Women. She is an adjunct professor of political science at Metropolitan State College of Denver.