We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the launch of President Obama’s escalated military campaign in Afghanistan, so we here at Brave New Foundation decided we’d mark the occasion with a new Rethink Afghanistan video that will convey the reasons why it’s time to end the war. We put out a call to our supporters to share their photo and the reasons why they think it’s time for the war to end on our “Because It’s Time” wall. Almost 1,000 people responded, and the community created a fantastic collage of images and personal statements to take a strong public stand for peace.
In the coming weeks, we’ll use the best comments left on the site to create a new video that sends a strong message to Washington, D.C. that it’s time to end the war.
Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of President Obama’s escalated military campaign in Afghanistan. One year later, violence is still getting worse and costs are skyrocketing. After more than nine years, it’s time to end this war.
On February 13, 2010, NATO troops launched Operation Moshtarak in the Marjah district of Helmand Province. It was the first major military action enabled by President Obama’s 30,000-troop escalation, and was supposed to be proof-of-concept for Generals McChrystal’s and Petraeus’ counterinsurgency doctrine. The military hype said Afghan forces would be in the lead as coalition forces invaded Taliban-controlled areas. They’d deliver “government in a box, ready to roll.” Over and over, military officials repeated their mantra that the new troops would enable them to “protect the population.”
What followed was a fiasco that still hasn’t ended.
The pattern of hype and embarrassment repeated itself across Afghanistan all throughout 2010, as U.S. military officials repeatedly asserted that an influx of troops would bring security and protect the population, only to see those areas remain violent hot-spots where civilians were rarely safe. NATO similarly invaded Kandahar in force later in the year, and that area remains hotly contested and violent. In fact, violence in Kandahar and Helmand account for more than half of insurgent-initiated attacks for all of Afghanistan. Worse, areas that were previously relatively secure suddenly saw a spike in the number of insurgent attacks at the Taliban continued their relentless expansion across the country.
So. President Obama has had a full year now to prove that his new strategy is worth the costs. What are the results?
Numerous polls show that opposition to the war is at an all-time high, with 63 percent opposing the war. When you do the math, that’s more than 196 million Americans who want our troops to come home.
While we were wasting $100 billion on this war per year, Americans fought to stay above water in a horrible economy. Unemployment has now topped 9 percent for 20 months straight. Groups like the Salvation Army are reporting an alarming shortfall in resources to help the hungry. And state budgets all across the country are considering huge draconian cuts to their public structures and social safety nets that millions of people rely upon. Not only do most Americans oppose the war, but they rightly worry that it’s making it harder for us to fix these problems here at home.
After a year of escalated fighting across the country–after more than nine years of this war!–it’s absolutely clear that military solutions won’t work in Afghanistan, and they’re certainly not worth the cost. More than 195 million Americans want this war to end, yet their faces don’t seem to be reflected among elected officials to timid to take the morally courageous action of forcing this war to a close. So we’re giving people a chance to put their face and their opposition to the war in full public view.
Today, we’re launching “Because It’s Time” on Rethink Afghanistan to help Americans who oppose this war to make their voices heard. On this page, you can post your photo and a reason why it’s time to bring troops home.
Starting next Wednesday, you’ll have the chance to vote on your favorite comments. Those who get the most votes will get to star in an upcoming Rethink Afghanistan video.
This Monday, January 17th, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s a day for us to celebrate one of the most important peacemaking heroes in our nation’s history, and an appropriate moment to reflect on the power of nonviolent social activism motivated by love and a sense of justice. For the millions of us who oppose the Afghanistan War (and yes, there are many, many millions of us in the U.S.), Dr. King points the way to the end of the Afghanistan War and beyond, to the onset of the Beloved Community.
Just don’t tell the Pentagon.
I was amazed and bewildered to find Pentagon officials and paid military propagandists scrabbling to claim Dr. King as a supporter for war-making. From the general counsel down to the writers at the American Forces Press Service, the military bureaucracy was humming with the asserting that if Dr. King were alive today, he’d “understand” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and would consider the activities that take place while fighting those wars akin to the actions of the Good Samaritan from the Christian gospel story. It was one of the most shameful attempts to cover these brutal, futile wars in humanitarian wallpaper I’ve seen in years.
Of course, Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and the American Forces Press Service are wrong. As our new Rethink Afghanistan video shows, virtually every reason given by King in his “Time to Break the Silence” speech for opposing the Vietnam War would damn the Afghanistan War as well.
Here are just a few examples:
King decried the awful willingness of his country to spend $500,000 per each killed enemy soldier in Vietnam while so many Americans struggled in poverty. Yet last year, a conservative figure for the amount we spent per killed enemy fighter in Afghanistan was roughly $20 million.
King spoke of the “monumental dissent” that arose around the Vietnam War. “Polls reveal that almost 15 million Americans explicitly oppose the war in Vietnam,” he said. But today, 63 percent of Americans oppose the Afghanistan War, and when you do the math, that’s 196 million people, give or take the margin of error.
Dr. King also spoke of the “demonic, destructive suction tube” yanking resources and lives out of the fight to get Americans on their feet. That tube is still demonic and destructive: we’ve spent more than $360 billion on this war so far and it will cost us roughly $3 billion per week in the coming year. Add to that the 10,000 people, including about 500 U.S. troops and countless civilians who died last year alone, and you can see exactly what he’s talking about. The hope of our getting out of this abysmal economic vice is burning on the roadsides of Afghanistan every day we refuse to start bringing troops home.
No, it’s safe to say that Dr. King would not regard any conflict that killed 10,000 people in a year as a humanitarian exercise. Nor would he “understand” how a nation in the grip of an economic meltdown like this one could again throw lives and resources away for almost a decade. It’s safe to say that he would move beyond the “prophesying of smooth patriotism” and stand up to end this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.
A mine clearing line charge detonates on Route 611 in Sangin district, Helmand province, Afghanistan as U.S. Marines clear road for travel. (photo: DVIDSHUB, Dec. 4, 2010)
written by Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe
On Thursday, December 16, 2010, the White House will use its December review to try to spin the disastrous Afghanistan War plan by citing “progress” in the military campaign, but the available facts paint a picture of a war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.
Let’s take a look at just the very broad strokes of the information. After more than nine years and a full year of a massive escalation policy:
And yet, we are told we can expect a report touting security gains and “progress,” and that there’s virtually zero chance of any significant policy change from this review. It sort of begs the question: just what level of catastrophe in Afghanistan would signal that we need a change in direction?
This week’s Newsweek cover leads with the title, “Rethinking Afghanistan” and features an essay from Richard Haass at the Council on Foreign Relations, warning that the war isn’t worth the cost and the current policy isn’t working. It’s gratifying to see the message that Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan campaign has pushed for a year on the front pages of such a mainstream publication. To Haas and the Newsweek team: we’re glad to have you with us.
Newsweek’s cover is just the latest sign that opposition to this brutal, costly war is now the norm, and American policy-makers had better take notice. Public opposition for to this war has exploded.
According to Newsweek’s latest poll, 53 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the Afghanistan War, and only 37 percent approve.
60 percent want to “stick to the plan to start withdrawal of forces in July of next year, even if the country is still as unstable as it is today.” Only 37 percent are “open to keeping the current number of forces in Afghanistan–or even adding more–if the country is still unstable in July of next year.”
A whopping 58 percent of those surveyed think the war is a lost cause, compared to 36 percent who think that winning is even a possibility.
And finally, Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection’s poll on July 8-11 found that a whopping 42 percent of people surveyed want to remove troops ASAP, up ten points since February.
But politics aside, our elected officials should end this war for the most basic of reasons: it’s a brutal policy that’s not working and that’s not worth the costs. It’s not worth the life of one more American troop or one more Afghan civilian. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once noted about an earlier counterinsurgency in someone else’s country: “The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.”
The Obama Administration just unveiled a huge Defense Department budget for next year shaped by the Afghanistan war. War spending is exempt from the president’s proposed spending freeze, despite President Obama’s statement at West Point that, “we can’t simply afford to ignore the price of these wars.”
The Obama administration plans to unveil a defense budget on Monday that pours billions into drones, helicopters and special forces, reflecting a focus on fighting Islamist extremists rather than conventional armies.
The Pentagon’s spending priorities as well as its strategic vision — which is also due to be unveiled this week — are a product of the counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan that have severely stretched the military.
The proposed 2011 defense budget comes to more than 700 billion dollars, a modest two percent increase, and unlike last year avoids sweeping cuts to major weapons programs, according to Pentagon officials and draft documents.
President Barack Obama’s new budget, to be released Monday, forecasts two consecutive years of near $160 billion in war funding, far more than he hoped when elected and only modestly less than the last years of the Bush Administration.
In 2011 alone, the revised numbers are triple what the president included in his spending plan a year ago. And the strain shows itself in new deficit projections, already hobbled by lagging revenues due to the weak economy.
We can’t afford to keep spending huge amounts of blood and treasure on a war that’s causing massive human suffering and that’s not making us any safer.
Afghan protesters were killed today when a tense protest erupted in response to rumors that foreign forces desecrated a copy of the Koran during a night raid in Afghanistan. Reports indicates that the protesters may have been goaded by local Taliban into throwing stones at foreign forces and their local allies. In response, pro-Kabul-government forces opened fire, killing eight.
The Afghanistan war is a breeding ground for corruption, and today McClatchy Newspapers reports that it’s not just the corrupt Afghan government that’s feeding at the trough. The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says about three-quarters of its active corruption investigations involved Westerners.
The U.S. agency overseeing the multibillion dollar Afghanistan reconstruction effort is investigating 38 criminal cases ranging from contract fraud to theft – most involving non-Afghans, officials said Tuesday…Just 10 of the criminal cases under the microscope involve Afghans only, while the rest involve U.S. and other foreigners, according to Raymond DiNunzio, the agency’s assistant inspector general for inspections.
In a midterm election, you live or die by your base. The party that motivates its base to donate, volunteer and vote more effectively than the other will pick up seats in Congress. Unfortunately for Democratic incumbents, their base opposes the president’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan and wants troops brought home faster than planned. Democratic candidates for the House and Senate, then, must fight the president’s escalation if they want to mitigate their losses in 2010. If they don’t, the Democratic base should (and likely will) sit this one out.
Ferreting out the implications of the post-escalation-announcement polling is slightly more complex, but shows a consistent picture of Democratic opposition to escalation in Afghanistan. When asked about the president’s stated policy combining another escalation with a drawdown beginning in 2011, 58 percent of Democrats expressed their support. However, when the same poll bifurcated the two components of the policy, it became clear that Democrats supported the drawdown date, not the troop increase:
A plurality of Democrats (43 percent) believed President Obama was sending “too many” troops.
62 percent of Democrats either agreed with the timetable or wanted the troops to begin coming home sooner.
It may be that while Democrats disagree with the specifics of the timetable as announced, they approve of the idea of having any timetable included. And it may be that while Republicans strongly disagree with the having any timetable included, they approve of the general idea of an increase of troop levels.
Democratic support for the total policy should be heavily weighted, then, toward the drawdown aspect of the plan and not the troop increase. That’s a severe problem for overly optimistic congressional Democrats who want to believe that the president’s speech made political room for them to support escalation. When November 2010 arrives, the only components of the president’s policy in evidence will be escalationand its costs, which the Democratic base loathe. Think about what that will mean if Democrats remain far more concerned with the costs of the Afghanistan policy than with the risk of terrorism (79 percent to 46 percent, respectively).
Pushing policies opposed by your base in a midterm election year is another way of asking to get wrapped in a burlap sack and hit with sticks. James Morone, writing about the health reform fight, explains [h/t Ezra Klein]:
Many Democrats are moving to whittle back health reform in order to win over moderate, fence-sitting, frightened independents.
Go back and look at the midterm tsunami that swept the Democrats out of office the last time. The turnout for that wave was just 36 percent. Moderate, fence sitting independents don’t vote in midterm elections with a 36 percent turn out.
What really happened back in 1994? The Republican base — jubilant, mobilized and angry — turned out. The Democratic base — dispirited, disenchanted and demobilized — stayed home. As Democrats ponder which way to go in this latest round, they ought to read the political lessons more carefully: Short-term electoral success rests with the base, the people who got excited about “change we can believe in.” Long-term electoral success rests in designing and pushing through a program that then grows very popular.
Klein describes what happens when you jab your thumb in the eye of your base to try to scoop up independents and the spare opposition voter in a midterm cycle:
Dispirited Democrats will stay home. Energized Republicans will press their advantage. Add in that the wave of young voters who were energized by Obama’s campaign probably aren’t going to turn out for the midterm election anyway, and you’re looking at a pretty unfriendly landscape.
Among Republican respondents, 81 percent said they were definitely or probably going to vote, versus only 14 percent who were definitely or not likely to do so…Among Democrats? A woeful 56-40: Two out of every five Democrats are currently unlikely to vote.
“There is no doubt Washington has to worry about how the base is reacting and feeling…It’s incredibly important heading into next year, because the base knocks on doors, makes phone calls and gives money.”
Bottom line: Congressional Democrats and their kindred spirits beyond Washington, D.C. must get over their reluctance to buck President Obama on Afghanistan if they want to get out of this election cycle with their skin on. Midterm elections are base-centered elections. Winning base-centered elections requires actions that energize the base. If the Democrats in Congress want to stanch the bleeding on this part of the electoral contest, they have to run against the president’s escalation in Afghanistan and fight it every step of the way. And if “our” representatives in Congress won’t fight the Afghanistan escalation, we have to be willing to walk away from them. Cenk Uygur:
If that scares you and you start to worry about damaging a Democratic president, you’re never going to win at this game. You’re never going to get the policies you want. They don’t listen to reason, they listen to power…If you don’t have the stomach for being this tough on Obama and the Democrats, well then you don’t have the stomach for politics. And you will permanently be the Republican’s bitches.
Pushing an Afghanistan policy opposed by the base, supported by the opposition and that will send American boys and girls home in body bags is political malpractice, especially going into an election where more than 80 percent of your opponent’s base is ready to charge into the voting booth. Issues exist in this election cycle other than Afghanistan, and reasons to oppose escalation in Afghanistan exist other than the purely political, but if Democrats won’t even act against escalation to save their own skins, they’ll deserve every bit of the political pain they’ll feel in November.
In 2010, I will not donate, block-walk, or phone bank for any incumbent who fails to take forceful action to stop this escalation and bring our troops home. Fair warning, Democrats: I’m not alone.