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2007 Archives

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March 4, 2007, 6:30 P.M.

I listened to a discussion on NPR earliest this week involving Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, and former CIA agent assigned to the agency’s bin Laden group. I found the interview particularly interesting in light of the lack of good news coverage of the war in Afghanistan, and in light of Dick Cheney’s recent comments regarding Pakistan.

Apparently, Cheney expressed an opinion that Pakistan could do more to help the U.S. in its “War on Terror.” Given the fact that Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has often against his best interests assisted in the capture of more al Qaeda and Taliban than any of our other “allies,” his army has been sent into the hills on several occasions to flush supposed terrorists out of the mountains (unsuccessfully), and he has allowed his country to be used for flyovers and limited military basing, all for a cause that does not help his standing at home. Cheney’s comments are counterproductive and a slap in the face to a Muslim country, whose current government might be literally sticking its neck out to support the U.S.

Scheuer describes the “mission” of converting Afghanistan into a secular democracy as ridiculous. I couldn’t agree more. Afghanistan is the place where we should have fought following 9/11, but not for the purpose of creating a democracy in our image and likeness, but rather for the pure, simple purpose of punishing the bad guys. We had some success in the cities early on, but failed to seal the borders, capture bin Laden, or eliminate the Taliban and al Qaeda as a legitimate threat. By not killing them, we have made them stronger.

As we have said here all along, this government’s focus was on Iraq all along. Here again it is pure fantasy to expect that Iraq can or will ever become a secular democracy. The diversion of troops and assets from Afghanistan before bin Laden was killed, or before the Taliban and the rest of al Qaeda was neutralized was a mix of arrogance and folly. To now stick Pervez Musharraf, our most effective ally, with cleaning up the mess that we left in Afghanistan is stupid. The failure in Afghanistan lies in our government’s inability to define and implement a realistic strategy for getting in and getting out of Afghanistan without imposing our ideas about governmental restructuring on a country of tribal alliances and religious fundamentalists. By overstaying our welcome (having nogt come close to eliminating the threat of al Qaeda and the Taliban to our security) we have begun to alienate our allies in Afghanistan and Cheney has now chosen to piss of Pakistan. Somehow this strategy is not confidence-inspiring.

By leaving al Qaeda intact as an organization (that is, by not completely eliminating them as a threat), we have encouraged and emboldened them. Where they were not a threat in Iraq, they now are. Furthermore, their success against the U.S. only serves to enhance their statute and to help their recruiting efforts. I expect to see bin Laden outside a cave in Tora Bora standing before a “Mission Accomplished” banner soon. On second thought, he’s probably too smart for that.

Let me be clear on this. It’s not the fact that U.S. troops must soon leave Iraq that gives our enemies a victory. Truly, we must leave. In fact, we should have left as soon as Saddam fell because that was the most we ever could have expected to accomplish militarily in Iraq. In Afghanistan we left too soon. We failed to focus on a definable, winnable mission there and as a result we have covered ourselves in honey and stirred up a bee’s nest. Unfortunately, staying longer only leaves the mess for the next administration to clean up. It’s time to declare victory and go home.

February 28, 2007, 9:55 A.M.

Tilting at Oil Rigs: Congratulations to our friends Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter, both of whom unseated incumbent Republican congressmen to win seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. As y ou know, we carried Paul’s banner here on our site througout the election.

We were also thrilled with local elections where Jim Carroll was elected by an overwhelming majority in his second run and several long time state representatives were unseated by Beth Arsenault, her mother, Judy Reever, and by former state representative Jane Wood. Kathy Sgambati defeated former state representative Jim Fitzgerald in his attempt at a state senate seat. All in all, a good showing on the local scene to match the good news nationally. We are looking forward to the 2008 elections to complete the sweep.

Despite these electoral victories, we have yet to gain traction on a few important issues. Moves to condemn the Bush plan for raising troop levels in Iraq amount to nothing more than spitting in the wind. On the local scene, we are still not moving toward a reasonable education funding plan. While it has only been a few months since people elected in November were sworn into their offices, I’m afraid that the clear message in support of action and change against inaction and failed policy will be diluted as time goes on.

My impatience certainly stems from intense frustration with the actions of our government and the loss of respect and international support for our government and its policies brought on by the arrogant, isolated and incompetent actions of our national government. The “support our troops” mantra which sustained American involvement in Viet Nam for more than a decade has worn thin, so thin in fact that active duty soldiers are beginning to take the extraordinary step of speaking out against the war while still serving. They recently filed an appeal for redress with Congress asking that the war be ended.

Regardless of what Bush and his few remaining supporters want to call it, Iraq is in the throes of a civil war. American involvement is so ineffective that Iran is emboldened enough to take an increasingly active and more direct role in the conflict. In the fact of this development a bloodied and beaten U.S. administration rattles its saber in the direction of Tehran. Sounds more like Don Quixote than the U.S. of old.

The terror of 9/11 has devolved into the anger and frustration of four years of failed policy. Bin Laden remains at large, the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan and 3,161 U.S. soldiers have died and another 23,417 have been wounded in Iraq with no end in sight. I have called Iraq a quagmire from the beginning. I have also compared it in a political, military and historic sense to Viet Nam. Somehow being right doesn’t feel so good, because in the face of the inevitable failure of U.S. post-invasion policy and involvement in Iraq, our government, the newly elected congress included, continues to argue and debate. The soldiers who filed the appeal for redress show the most courage of all of us. The appeal says simply “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.” This matter-of-fact, straightforward statement should become the policy of our nation. We need to stop tilting at oil rigs and bring them home without further discussion or debate. Save the debate for alternative energy and the environment, funding the restoration of our crumbling infrastructure, education funding and reform and a true, honest and globally responsible national defense policy. Right now, our talent and treasure is being squandered on a war we can’t win.

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