THINKING FOR OURSELVES
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, June 9, 2009
Obama’s whirlwind trip abroad, book-ended by a major foreign policy speech in Cairo and a tribute to those who stormed the beaches on D-Day, has been examined in minute detail. His nuanced speeches have been welcomed for their efforts to establish new ground for U.S. relationships internationally and their attempts to break through so many of the polarities that divide our world. For the first time African American soldiers were included as part of the D-Day celebration, bringing to national consciousness the role they played fighting for democracy abroad, even while it was denied them at home.
By almost every account, whatever the differences, this trip demonstrated a new intelligence and openness in U.S. policy. All the media coverage, from what the President wore to whom he talked with, dwelled on the details of each and every event. These details tended to obscure the overriding structure of the week itself. It is a structure that bears examining more closely.
The disturbing part of this trip was its military metaphors. This was a trip that began with a commitment to the continuation of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan and ended with the celebration of U.S. military power in WWII. Whatever his intentions, the unmistakable effect of this structure is to link the President’s efforts in the Middle East with the last “good war” fought by this country. In fact, President Obama frequently uses that phrase to distinguish between the war in Iraq (the bad one) and the war in Afghanistan (the good one).
With each passing day, it seems the President is being shaped by military minds who have no intention of getting out of either the “bad” or the “good” war any time soon. In fact, all the plans coming out of the Pentagon indicate that we’re in for a very long stay.
For example, the largest embassy in the world is being built in Baghdad. It is a massive fortress intended to hold thousands of troops who will be completely self-sufficient inside its walls. Similar structures are planned in Islamabad, Pakistan and Peshawar. And even as we argue over the closing of Guantanamo, the Army is contracting to expand the notorious prison in Bagram, Afghanistan.
While the President speaks of peace, the military is increasing its commitments. At least 21,000 more American troops are on their way to Afghanistan. They are joined by an increasing number of private mercenaries. In fact, there are now more mercenaries in Afghanistan than U.S. soldiers. In Iraq and Afghanistan together there are about 250,000 mercenaries, nearly twice the total U.S. fighting force. Under President Obama, the Pentagon actually increased these forces by 23% in Iraq and nearly 30% in Afghanistan.
At some point, President Obama is going to have to struggle with the fact that the Pentagon has a lot more experience lying than Presidents have telling the truth.
While the President was talking about finding ways to make the world a safer place for everyone, the Pentagon leaked a report on Guantanamo.
The report, later proven to be falsely presented by the New York Times, initially claimed that “1 in 7” of the men released from Guantanamo returned to terrorist ways. This story gave legitimacy to Cheney’s claim that under Obama we are less safe than under Bush and Cheney.
The report leaked by the Pentagon failed to distinguish between those radicalized and those not radicalized by their illegal imprisonment and included unsubstantiated reports to arrive at its numbers. When these factors were considered, the ratio drops to 1 in 20.
While the President talks of peace, Dick Cheney’s former company is raking in the profits of death, building its own army, following its own rules, taking us all down the path of perpetual war.