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Afghanistan Commitment December 2, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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So Obama has committed 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan but with a timeline for pulling out and a (somewhat) clearer vision of what we are trying to accomplish.

Apparently, he has listened to the generals who seem to have arrived at a consensus about what to do and are fully on board. I sure hope they know their business. But the goals seem limited and modest—the possibility of an endless quagmire seems remote.

It is a reasonable approach, but I remain skeptical for reasons that are best articulated by Middle East expert Juan Cole:

President Barack Obama’s commitment to “finish the job” in Afghanistan by sending 55,000 US troops to that country (counting the 21,000 he dispatched last winter shortly after being inaugurated) depends heavily on a hope of building up an Afghan government and army over to which the US can eventually turn control. But one of the questions we seldom hear any detail about concerns the country’s governmental capacity. Does the government function? Can it deliver services?

As might be expected, governmental capacity is low, but here are some specifics. Months after the controversial presidential election that many Afghans consider stolen, there is no cabinet, and parliament is threatening to go on recess before confirming a new one because the president is unconstitutionally late in presenting the names. There are grave suspicions that some past and present cabinet members have engaged in the embezzlement of substantial sums of money. There is little parliamentary oversight. Almost no one bothers to attend the parliamentary sessions. The cabinet ministries are unable to spend the money allocated to them on things like education and rural development, and actually spent less in absolute terms last year than they did in the previous two years. Only half of the development projects for which money was allotted were even begun last year, and none was completed. […]

By law, Karzai was supposed to have presented his cabinet to parliament within two weeks of being sworn in (which was two weeks ago). Since he has been insisting he was the winner since early September, he should have had time to put together a cabinet. But he presumably had to make some substitutions once he admitted that three of his current cabinet members were under investigation for corruption. (12 other former cabinet members, having fled the country, were also being looked at for criminal prosecution.
That is the government that the US has been propping up for the last 8 years. 15 cabinet members that Interpol is looking into?

I just don’t know that we have a reliable partner that can function once we leave; and if they can’t it means more wasted blood and treasure.

As to the politics of this decision, Obama is doing exactly what he said he would do during the campaign. Here is the Op-ed piece Obama wrote in the summer of 2008:

Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been. As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq.

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.

So no one should be surprised. And those who are disappointed ought not invest in fantasies. Withdrawal was never on the table and muddling through as the Bush Administration did has obviously failed.

X-posted at Reviving the Left

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com


She’s Back November 19, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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Since Sarah Palin is back in the news, it’s worth revisiting some golden oldies from last year.

Juan Cole shows how closely the beliefs of Sarah Palin resemble those of fundamentalist Islam.

On censorship, the teaching of creationism in schools, reproductive rights, attributing government policy to God’s will and climate change, Palin agrees with Hamas and Saudi Arabia rather than supporting tolerance and democratic precepts. What is the difference between Palin and a Muslim fundamentalist? Lipstick. 

McCain pledged to work for peace based on “the transformative ideals on which we were founded.” Tolerance and democracy require freedom of speech and the press, but while mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin inquired of the local librarian how to go about banning books that some of her constituents thought contained inappropriate language. She tried to fire the librarian for defying her. Book banning is common to fundamentalisms around the world, and the mind-set Palin displayed did not differ from that of the Hamas minister of education in the Palestinian government who banned a book of Palestinian folk tales for its sexually explicit language.

Read the whole article.

And here is a wonderful review of Sarah Palin’s “book”:

Now we are faced with the daunting task of wrapping our minds around the Palin memoir Going Rogue, appearing atop a bestseller list near you. Millions of copies will be sold of a book written by someone who can’t write, intended for an audience that doesn’t read, about the thoughts of a person who doesn’t think. God is dead.

She is fun and she is scary.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

The Adults Are In Charge (for now) September 13, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Ethics, politics.
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As many of you know, some of my work is devoted to characterizing the cavernous  moral fissure that has opened up between our dominant political ideologies.

That fissure was clearly evident last week in the aftermath of the sordid spectacle that occurred on the floor of the chamber during Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress.

As usual, historian and blogger Juan Cole gets the characterization exactly right.

On September 9, 2009, a man named Joe Wilson, a congressman from South Carolina, yelled “You lie!” at the president as he was defending his universal health coverage proposals from nutty rightwing smears.

Joe Wilson, whom the Health Industry lobby has given $244,196 in campaign contributions, was of course himself lying when he implied that President Obama’s plan will cover illegal immigrants. It will not.

President Obama graciously accepted Wilson’s subsequent apology, even though no modern president has been yelled at that way by a minor rural politician.

On July 6, 2003 another Joe Wilson called a president a liar, in an opinion essay for the New York Times. This Joe Wilson had bravely stared down Saddam Hussein in fall, 1990 as acting ambassador in Baghdad and been commended for his courage by George H. W. Bush.

George W. Bush had falsely alleged in his State of the Union Speech that Iraq had recently bought yellowcake uranium from the West African country of Niger. The allegation was based on a clumsily forged document that had been discounted by the CIA and was proven false within 24 hours when finally shared with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Wilson’s complaint that the assertion had been false and that he had shown it false before the war was deeply embarrassing to the Bush administration. It responded by smearing Wilson and then attempting to out his wife, Valerie Plame, as an undercover CIA operative working against Iran’s nuclear program. Plame’s career was destroyed and all her known agents and contacts around the world were burned; some of them may have quietly been killed (we have no way of knowing). Ultimately, the truth of the anti-Wilson, anti-Plame campaign came out and Richard Bruce Cheney’s chief of staff, was found guilty of an attempted cover-up. Cheney had ordered the outing of Plame; it happened via another route, but Cheney was conniving at it. Cheney is a traitor and should be rotting in jail.

Note that the first Joe Wilson was dead wrong, but that the Obama administration responded in a gentlemanly way to his charge.
The Bush-Cheney administration, in contrast, attempted to besmirch the reputation and the life of a dedicated lifetime civil servant because he spoke the truth to the president.

The story of the two Joe Wilsons and how they were treated is the story of two visions of America. The Bush-Cheney vision is a nightmarish landscape of blighted lives and cruel indifference to basic human decency. The Obama vision is just the Golden Rule, with which the people who vote for the evil Joe Wilson typically profess acquaintance.

Ancient history? Water under the bridge? Let’s move on; look forward, not backward? Well, no. As Cole says:

The evil Joe Wilson (R-SC) is the remnant of Cheneyism in this new America, painfully being born from the rubble made by the old.

Sometimes the paradoxical adage “the more things change, the more they remain the same” seems about right.

 book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com