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article imageOp-Ed: Bush's two wars, an Obama continuation

By Brian LaSorsa     Feb 22, 2012 in Politics
As the joke goes, Barack Obama is the only Nobel Peace Prize laureate to kill civilians in drone strikes. If he's a peaceful president, then George W. Bush is a peaceful president, too.
The deemed "war on terror" began as a reaction to the attacks on September 11th, 2011.
Little did we realize—though few of us did—that the US government’s quick response to these heinous crimes would lead our country into legal and ethical questions it had already faced many few times in its history.
Primarily initiated as a means to bring certain al-Qaeda terrorists to justice for their role in the attacks, the casus belli devolved into a general fight against mass crime. And, under the Obama administration, an internationally-used “Global War on Terror,” was officially exchanged and became an unrecognizable “Overseas Contingency Operation.”
Unless I’m living in some kind of community that is freakishly ignorant of these wars—as an undergraduate surrounded by drunken fools, it is a real possibility—there exists an eerie apathy that falls beautifully in line with Obama’s coveted “doctrine of silence.” I hope to remind all of these numerous wars we’re in, lest we forget they’re on our dollar, but, for now, we'll concentrate on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Iraq. Obama was still an Illinois State Senator and had no chance to vote on the authorization for use of military force against Iraq. Nonetheless he made his position clear in a 2002 speech: “I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars. […] [W]e ought not—we will not—travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.” The US invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was met with the country’s first suicide bombers in its entire history. It seemed clear that the president-to-be understood how interventionist foreign policies only enflame extremism in the Middle East, and hopes were high that, as he took the seat as commander-in-chief, we’d see our troops come home to their friends and to their families.
Two years later we saw no change from the neoconservatives’ blueprint. Misleading notifications on the morning of August 19th, 2010 shouted that Operation Iraqi Freedom had ended and that combat soldiers were finally leaving Baghdad. Many people assumed we were finally leaving Iraq. The truth was that the Obama administration was still keeping around 50,000 troops in the country, and, as usual, it didn’t even count government contractors. The Congressional Research Service estimated to have almost 10,000 troops less than that number anyway, so was difficult to imagine Obama keeping his newer promise through a 90% reduction by the end of 2011. But he managed to pull off appealing headlines in time for the up-coming election.
The Iraq War is Officially Over,” announced the newspapers two months ago. Obviously not the first time it ‘ended,’ individuals were correct to be skeptical. The removal of troops from Iraq had nothing to do with the current president fulfilling a promise to end the occupation; it was a result of a deal cut by the Bush administration. So, in a way, no progress had been made at all since that deal three years ago. In fact, just the opposite had been occurring. Glenn Greenwald explains that the Obama administration had long lobbied to keep several thousand troops in the country, but the Iraqi government rejected demands to provide American soldiers with legal immunity and therefore a continued US presence became a non-option. A non-official presence is another story.
Spencer Ackerman, senior reporter for Wired, stated in a recent interview that, in addition to 150-person training office for Iraqi soldiers who will be operating American-made weapon systems, the State Department “is going to leave behind the largest embassy that it has on the planet. All told, there are going to be 18,000 people who work for this embassy.” There will be 3,500 to 5,500 armed private security contractors, too; I assume they’ll be busy escorting useless diplomats around the country, but violence between Iraqis and Americans will be an inevitable consequence of an occupation gone awry to hell and back. And, more likely than not, the US military’s acquisition of biometric data on three million Iraqis will be utilized throughout the next inevitable consequence: Iran swooping into a new anti-American Iraq in order to affect political influence.
The Obama administration is beginning to increase US presence in the Persian Gulf, so we all know what’s coming. As for the other troops who were just brought back from Iraq, their new orders are to deploy to Afghanistan immediately.
Afghanistan. In a 2008 op-ed contribution to the New York Times, Obama wrote: “As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there. I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.” Suddenly this statement acts as an antithesis to his earlier realization that US presence in the Middle East creates terrorists. The use of military force against the people responsible for the 9/11 attacks—another authorization made before Obama’s time in the federal government—makes perfect sense. Setting aside the primary reasons for the attack, the terrorists killed almost 3,000 innocent people on that morning, and even promoters of non-interventionist foreign policies voted in favor of the measure; it’d be dangerously ignorant to expect Obama or any other politician to be a pacifist while in office.
The nonsensical military action in Afghanistan was the total increase of 36,000 support troops, which was approved by the Obama administration in 2009. It may be a good idea to send tens of thousands of troops to a country where its entire government has directly threatened the United States—supplemented by an official declaration of war—but, to take out an Islamist extremist group with unstable funding, all it takes is an elite special operations force. Ron Paul correctly testified in 2003 that bin Laden’s location was most likely either on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan or a little further into Pakistan; he was correct. The CIA stated the same thing six years later. With this intelligence, we could have saved over a trillion dollars in tax money and shortened our time in Afghanistan to a swift 40-minute raid like the one in early May 2011. Now the failed attempt at nation-building has led to strong feelings of bureaucratic bullying and Karzai’s threat to join the Taliban if it doesn’t cease. The Obama administration announced in June that plans were in the making for a troop withdrawal, yet Jason Ditz of reported only four months later:
A grim new milestone was reached in the US occupation of Afghanistan this week, as the death toll in less than three years under President Obama has now more than doubled the number of US soldiers slain during President Bush’s seven plus years in the nation. The figures put the US death toll at 575 during Bush’s era in Afghanistan, but with the repeated escalations of President Obama 1,153 troops have already died in just 33 months, with no end in sight.
His statistics were backed in a CRS report obtained by in mid-November, too. Why are military actions swiftly increasing each day? This seems to strongly contradict both Obama’s pledge and CIA Director Leon Panetta’s statements last year that only “50 to 100, maybe less” al-Qaeda members were left in Afghanistan. Yet these decisions will undoubtedly satisfy the executives at war firms, specifically at Academi (previously Xe Services, Blackwater), which received numerous lucrative government contracts in 2010.
To top it off, Marine General John Allen openly admitted that the United States and NATO forces won’t be leaving any time soon. The 2014 withdrawal deadline is as official as the next deadline they’ll give to us. “We will also see, probably, a U.S. military capability beyond ‘14,” Allen said.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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