Obamathink On Afghanistan: Escalate To Exit
By Stephen Lendman
03 December, 2009
Ahead of his address to the nation on December 1, The New York Times broke the news in an Eric Schmitt article titled, "Obama Issues Order for More Troops in Afghanistan," saying:
During a late November 29 Oval Office meeting with top Pentagon brass, "Obama issued orders to send about 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan (over the next six months in) what may be one of the most defining decisions of his presidency." Compounding months of public betrayal, it's perhaps another outrage that will make him a one-term president, the way Vietnam ended Lyndon Johnson's hope for a second term.
An additional 30,000+ will raise US forces to about 100,000 plus whatever additional numbers NATO countries provide that at best will be small and come grudgingly for a war no one believes can be won, and some feel never should have been waged.
To these numbers, add a shadow footprint consisting of tens of thousands of private contractors - 73,968 according to a September 21, 2009 Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report as of June 2009. Included are familiar names like Kellogg, Brown and Root, Fluor Corp, Lockheed Martin and hired guns like DynCorp and Xe (formerly Blackwater USA) costing tens of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan for lack of oversight so scandalous that rampant waste, fraud, and abuse go unmonitored and will worsen with more troops.
In addition, CRS reports that supporting each soldier costs $1 million a year, partly because private contractors replaced US troops at a far higher expense plus no oversight giving them license to steal for over eight years and do it as well in Iraq. Yet policy going forward will worsen things and greatly increase costs, already over-stretched by America's largest ever military budget at a time the country has no enemies.
Worse still, besides earlier in the year reinforcements, more buildup "represents a high-stakes gamble by a new commander in chief that he can turn....an eight-year old" quagmire into victory, a possibility many in the Pentagon think unlikely to impossible and other experts agree.
According to Schmitt, Obama will test "his ability to rally an American public that according to polls has grown sour on the war, as well as (vice president Joe Biden and) his fellow Democracts in Congress" - like Senator Carl Levin, Armed Services Committee chairman, as well as Colin Powell, and his Afghan ambassador, Karl Eikenberry.
On condition of anonymity, a senior Defense Department official told The Times that "the first additional troops would be thousands of Marines sent to opium-rich Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold in the south....(They'll begin arriving) in January (to be) followed by a steady flow of tens of thousands."
A November 25 Washington Post Scott Wilson article titled, "War speech to outline escalation and exit" strategies will "outline plans for ending it. (He'll) outline a modest endgame (to) allow US forces to leave and set a general time frame" in 2011, according to some, and after what's announced, beginning in July 2011, over a decade after American forces arrived.
Timelines are always flexible, and Obama hedged by saying withdrawal depends on "conditions on the ground," with further interventions likely because "The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly. (It) extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan," meaning Iran, Somalia, and perhaps Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and/or Cuba, given the Pentagon's growing presence in Colombia as a regional garrison for waging hemispheric conflicts.
Yet he said America can't afford and shouldn't shoulder an open-ended commitment - which, among others, begs these questions:
-- besides the situation in Iraq, why are we in Afghanistan at all; and
-- why for an unwinnable, illegal war over-stretching the federal budget toward bankruptcy while ignoring vital homeland needs.
Also, opposition is increasing, including among congressional Democrats. The situation is unstable and much depends on uncontrollable factors and a growing conviction that after eight years, the war is lost and withdrawal, not escalation is advised.
Others fear imperial madness, perpetual wars, the illusion of Pax Americana, and the nation transitioning toward tyranny, already entrenched with a strong foothold, but who'll tell the public when the media won't, and everyone knows politicians lie, especially the president and others with power.
Nonetheless, Obama told West Point cadets he'll "bring this war to a successful conclusion," and added:
"America, we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering....If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow" - while telling foreign allies: "This is not just America's war."
Planned a year or more in advance, America willfully, maliciously, illegally, and preemptively attacked a non-belligerent nation (four weeks after 9/11 on October 7) in violation of international and US laws. Those responsible are war criminals. Those continuing it, including congressional members funding it, are as well. Those claiming America's security was threatened lied. It wasn't then. It's not now, and international and US laws are clear.
The UN Charter's Article 51 allows the "right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member....until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security."
In other words, justifiable self-defense is permissible. In addition, Charter Articles 2(3), 2(4), and 33 absolutely prohibit any unilateral threat or use of force not specifically allowed under Article 51 or authorized by the Security Council.
Three General Assembly resolutions concur, absolutely prohibiting "non-consensual military intervention:"
-- the 1965 Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty;
-- the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations; and
-- the 1974 Definition of Aggression, drawing largely on the UN Charter's Article II, paragraph 4 stating:
"All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."
Aggression was defined:
-- a "crime against peace;"
-- the "Invasion of a State by the armed forces of another State, with or without occupation of the territory; (and)
-- attacks on marine fleets."
The UN Charter's Article 39 provides for the Security Council to determine the existence of any act of aggression and "shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security."
The Rome Statute of the International Court of Justice calls the crime of aggression one of the "most serious crimes of concern to the international community," and provides for it to fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after state parties agree on a definition and define the conditions under which guilty parties may be prosecuted.
The Nuremberg Tribunal said:
"To initiate a war of aggression....is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime (against peace) differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
Under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause (Article VI, paragraph 20), the Constitution, federal statutes, and US treaties are "the supreme law of the land," including international laws (like Geneva) to which America is a signatory. The paragraph reads:
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding."
US law is also clear and unequivocal. Under the Constitution's Article I, Section 8, only Congress may:
-- "....provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States....
-- ....declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
-- "....provide and maintain a navy;
-- ....make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
-- ....provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; (and)
--....provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States...."
Nowhere does it authorize a preemptive, imperial, aggressive attack on a non-belligerent nation.
The Founders considered declaring and waging wars so important that no single person, including the president, should decide it alone.
Congress last obeyed the law on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor. Thereafter, every US war was illegal, according to the Constitution of the United States. By continuing such wars, President Obama stands guilty of war crimes and is fully accountable under US and international laws.
Further, under Article I, Section 7, only Congress may fund wars as:
"All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills."
Either body may originate appropriation bills, although the House claims sole responsibility for it. Either one may amend bills, including revenue and appropriation measures. Congress may resist defunding, but it's empowered to withhold future amounts without which wars and occupations aren't possible so the current ones would end.
Congressional appropriation power is key under Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 saying:
"No money shall be drawn from the treasury; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time."
It means Congress alone has constitutional power over the federal budget, including the funding of wars. Cut it off and wars and occupations end, with or without presidential concurrence.
After years of congressional inaction, the 1972 Church-Clifford amendment, attached to foreign aid legislation, tried to end Southeast Asian war funding, but it was defeated in the House. However, the June 1973 Church-Case amendment succeeded after earlier attempts failed, and ended America's involvement in Vietnam. In the same year, over Richard Nixon's veto, Congress passed the War Powers Act (still the law) requiring the president to consult with Congress before authorizing troop deployments for extended periods.
Without congressional collusion, wars can't be fought or continued. The 111th Congress and most previous ones have been complicit in America's aggressive wars and share equal guilt with the president and top Pentagon brass. Ending wars politically are daunting, but doing so financially is as simple as cutting off funding.
Afghanistan's Tragic History: Ravaged by Wars Without End
For centuries, Afghanistan has been war-torn and ravaged by invaders, yet endured by repeatedly repelling them - more recently against Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries and the Soviets in the 1980s. Today imperial America risks the same fate after eight failed years, yet those in power won't act because of Afghanistan's strategic importance and fear of strong repercussions from an opposition looking for reasons to criticize.
As a result, Afghans keep suffering the way John Pilger poignantly described under conditions there in his 2006 book, "Freedom Next Time, saying:"
"Throughout all the humanitarian crises in living memory, no country has been abused and suffered more, and none helped less than Afghanistan." He described Kabul like many parts of the country today, plagued by "contours of rubble rather than streets, where people live in collapsed buildings, like earthquake victims waiting for rescue (with) no light....heat," or relief from perpetual wars and human misery, the result of imperial invasions and internal conflicts.
Over time, the toll has been horrific:
-- unemployment is around 50%;
-- impoverishment is among the highest in the world affecting nearly two-thirds of the country;
-- in October 2008, spokesman for the UN mission in Kabul, Adrian Edwards, told the BBC that:
"The human conditions in Afghanistan are very serious. Continuous insecurity, drought and booming food prices on the world level are the main cause for the emergence of this situation but the condition in the future months is not tangible. There is no doubt that people are in dire need of food."
-- conditions today are no better and perhaps worse;
-- those with jobs don't earn enough to meet minimal needs;
-- life expectancy at 44 years is one of the lowest in the world;
-- the infant mortality rate is the world's highest with 20% of children dying before age five;
-- an Afghan woman dies in childbirth every 30 minutes;
-- 75% of the population has no access to safe drinking water;
-- homelessness is epidemic forcing many to live under deplorable conditions;
-- only one doctor is available per 6,000 people and one nurse per 2,500 people;
-- unexploded ordnance kills or wounds hundreds each month, a situation worsening as conflict persists;
-- children are kidnapped and sold into slavery or murdered for their organs;
-- less than 6% of Afghans have access to electricity, available only sporadically;
-- women's literacy is about 19%, and many have to beg on streets or turn to prostitution to survive.
In addition, no part of the country is safe. Internal conflict rages. Life for most Afghans is intolerable, and accounting for around 60% of its economy, Afghanistan is the world's largest opium producer.
On September 2, 2009, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported that opium cultivation dropped to 123,000 hectares, down from the 2007 193,000 hectare peak. However, production fell only 10% to 6,900 tons from 2008 because farmers get more yield per bulb. At the same time, world demand is stable at around 5,000 tons, much less than Afghanistan supplies. In contrast, prior to America's invasion, the Taliban eradicated 94% of opium production, reducing it to 185 tons according to UN figures.
Under eight years of occupation, it again flourishes, mostly benefitting organized crime, the CIA, and powerful Western business and financial interests, in America most of all.
Also, in its latest 2009 report, Transparency International ranks Afghanistan the world's second most corrupt country after Somalia under its US-backed Transitional Federal Government and African Union paramilitary peacekeepers. Occupied Iraq ranks fifth, further testimony to imperialism's exploitive failure and its harm to targeted countries.
Meanwhile, since Afghan commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, took charge of US and NATO forces last June, he's favored more troops for a wider war he can't win using similar tactics he was infamous for as head of the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) - established in 1980 and comprised of the Army's Delta Force and Navy seals, de facto death squads writer Seymour Hersh once described as an "executive assassination wing" operating out of Dick Cheney's office.
While escalating the Afghan war, he's also destabilizing Pakistan to balkanize both countries, weakening them by design to control the Caspian Sea's oil and gas riches and their energy routes to secured ports for export. The strategy includes encircling Russia, China, and Iran, obstructing their solidarity and cohesion, toppling the Iranian government, perhaps attacking its nuclear sites, eliminating Israel's main regional rival, defusing a feared geopolitical alliance, and securing the ultimate goal of unchallenged Eurasian dominance in a part of the world rich in oil, gas and other vital minerals.
It's a huge task for any commander, let alone a man James Petras calls a "notorious psychopath" who's perhaps the right man to pin failure on if things go sour or if popular discontent reaches critical mass, forcing withdrawal like from Vietnam. Blame it on the general, not the commander-in-chief who appointed him who may not get off easily, nor should he given an ill-chosen strategy cooler heads want to avoid, but not vocal hawks who demand he press on no matter the long odds or overstretched the budget, threatening bankruptcy because of its unaffordability combined with bailing out Wall Street and other obligations.
The die is cast. Escalation is now fact by a man promising change, delivering betrayal, and seeing his approval rating fall from a 68% late January high to 47% according to the December 1 Rasmussen Report, a number steadily falling because growing numbers of supporters are losing faith. Heading into 2010, the combination of economic hardship, eroding civil liberties, and wasted billions on futile wars promises to raise public discontent and disapproval of a president and Congress they no longer trust. What's disturbing is why they did in the first place.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.