Thursday, November 19, 2009

A letter to Barack Obama

From Ralph Nader

November 18, 2009

Dear President Obama,

You are nearing the day of decision as to whether you order the dispatch of more soldiers to Afghanistan.

Some of your advisors have urged up to 50,000 more soldiers, including several thousand called trainers of the Afghan army.

Other advisors have urged more caution, notably the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and former general, Karl W. Eikenberry, who opposes more soldiers so long as the Afghan government remains grossly dysfunctional.

Beside your own military and civilian advisors, you are receiving disparate counsel from an anemic Congress and your allies abroad.

But are you soliciting advise from stateside civic groups of experience and repute that represent many Americans? Or from genuine experts on that country such as Ashraf Ghani—a former American professor and later respected member of the Karzai government before his departure to other positions in that country?

George W. Bush, in the duplicitous run-up to the invasion of Iraq, insulated himself, closed his mind and refused to meet with civic associations in his own land. Like an autocrat bent on plunging a country into war and occupation, knowingly on false pretenses, he deliberately deprived himself of the information that might have restrained his disastrous, messianic militarism. Disastrous, not to him and Dick Cheney, but to our country, soldiers, and economy, and to the devastated Iraqi people and their ravaged nation.

In the months before the March 20, 2003, undeclared criminal war of aggression that violated our Constitution, statutes, and treaties, a dozen organizations each formally requested a meeting with him.

These organizations represented tens of millions of Americans. They came from the clergy, labor, environmentalists, businesses, students, peace groups, womens’ groups, city councils, consumer, veteran, teachers groups, and international security experts. Many also came with first hand experience in Iraq and the Middle East.

They wanted to meet with their president. He never even answered their letters. The letters are available at

Who would have thought last year that on assuming the presidency, that you would consider plunging deeper in to this quagmire without an exit strategy? The deeper you plunge, the greater your rejection of the history of occupations fueling insurgencies in that region. The more you insulate yourself from contrary judgments to those you have been receiving from your inner councils. Our country, its people and innocent Afghan people will pay the price.

A recent resignation by Matthew P. Hoh, a former marine combat captain in Iraq and highly regarded foreign service officer in Afghanistan, provides an independent analysis of the grievances afflicting the 42 million Pashtuns. In his words:

The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. The U.S. and NATO presence and operations in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified. In both RC East and South, I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.

The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency. In a like manner our backing of the Afghan government in its current form continues to distance the government from the people. The Afghan government’s failings, particularly when weighed against the sacrifice of American lives and collars, appear legion and metastatic.

Mr. Hoh proceeds to list these persistent failings and adds his articulate doubts about the strategic purposes of your Administration’s military presence in Afghanistan. He ask, “Why and to what end?” His letter of conscience and protest concludes by noting the limitless effects on our foreign and military policy, and on our country and its economy.

Your staff estimates each U.S. soldier is costing $1 million a year, in addition to the horrific toll on these soldiers and the Afghan people. You owe the American people an un-Bush-like explanation. Why are you not receiving these groups of American from varied backgrounds and experience at the White House on this pending Afghan decision?

They may wonder, by contrast, why you have so many White House meetings with major corporate CEOs from Wall Street, from the health insurance companies and the drug companies. Is not the White House the peoples’ House? Along with many other citizens in our country, I look forward to your response.


Ralph Nader


Jeremy said...

Unlike wars we used to fight, we currently have no goals, no territory to gain, no soldiers and equipment to destroy or push back in order to win the battle. How can we continue to fight a war where there is no goal or strategy involved? There is no strategic value to Afghanistan, no resources to take or capture. We need to decide what we are doing there, and then do it with serious violence, or get out and leave the tribes and taliban to destroy each other. I'm a former Marine Sergeant, and in my opinion, we need to get the hell out of Afghanistan and stop wasting the lives of our Marines and Soldiers for no good reason. I understand we were attacked by religious fanatics, but not by the nation of Afghanistan.

Tony said...

Thanks Jeremy for your note and your service.
I originally supported the invasion of Afghanistan because I thought it was about getting Usama bin Ladin, to bring him to justice (I didn't support the Iraq invasion). But, the minute our govt. lost focus on that, I became upset about it and said we should get out of there. I still believe our govt. should be focusing on getting bin Ladin and nothing else. Not on the supposed war on terror or Al Quaida or anything else. Get bin Ladin, bring him to the U.S., try him in court.
I don't even know if Al Quaida really even exists or if it is phony, like a bad Hollywood script.
And I would disagree with you about the religious issue. The people who attacked us on 911 didn't do it because of Allah or Mohammed or anything else. It was a surgical, political attack. They didn't bomb houses of worship - they bombed the financial center of the world - WTC - and the military center of the world - the Pentagon. That was not about religion - that was about scaring the shit out of the country, its people, its financial markets, and its military industrial complex.
It still amazes me, after all of these years, that our $1 trillion a year military/national security industrial complex couldn't keep us safe from idiots with box cutters who enjoy lap dances before meeting their 75 virgins.
And the hundreds of billions we have wasted on both actions are just delusional at best. How could the Democrats and Republicans ever have been conned into this mess? You know, it's funny, we have actually spent more on these two actions than we would on the terrible health care plan being proposed that everyone is complaining about. It's actually not funny, but whatever. A disgrace.

Jeremy said...

We are at war with a religious group. They may not be killing in churches, but they are killing in the name of their religion. Terrorism is just a tactic, altough a horrible one. We have had over 40 years of religious fanatics killing Americans and others all over the world, to the tune of hundreds of thousands dead, all in the name of jihad. Khobar Towers, the USS Cole, the Beirut Marine Barracks, the Embassies in Africa, the school in Beslan, just to name a few ( www.thereligion of ). The vast majority of terror attacks have been done in the name of Allah.
I agree that we should have never gone into Iraq, though at the time I will admit I was in favor of it. I agree we should focus on finding Bin Ladin, but if we do, we should kill him on the spot. The Geneva convention and rules of war do not apply to people who commit atrocities, who do not fight in the uniform of their nation, and they should be killed when found. We don't need to read Miranda rights to enemy unlawful combatants.
I would also point out that the trillions of dollars spent could have been used to pay off the national debt (though the debt would be much less if we hadn't gone into Iraq).