US Liberals Express Anger over Obama's Decision to Raise Troop Levels

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US Liberals Express Anger over Obama's Decision to Raise Troop Levels

Deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan causes most ardent supporters to become disillusioned

Ewen MacAskill in Washington

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen (R) is pictured alongside an anti-war protester holding up a sign prior to his testimony at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Afghanistan war on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 2, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES POLITICS MILITARY)

Barack Obama's escalation of the Afghanistan
war brought a vehement reaction today from Americans who only a year
ago had been among his most ardent supporters and are now disillusioned.

of the leaders of the anti-war movement, Paul Kawika Martin, disclosed
today that there had been a lot of angry comments aimed at Obama during
a conference call with progressives from around the US today to discuss
the Afghan move.

"I heard a woman say 'Obama can go to hell'. That was from someone who had campaigned for him."

political director of Peace Action, added: "I am hearing a visceral
reaction among the grassroots who are very disappointed. People are
feeling disillusioned. People did want to give Obama a chance but that
honeymoon period is clearly ending."

The reaction Martin found
today mirrors a wider liberal backlash against Obama that has been
growing for the last few months over the watering down of the health
bill, the failure to make a significant move on climate change and,
above all else, the deployment of more US troops to Afghanistan,
firstly 21,000 in March and now a further 30,000.

Such sentiments
can be heard at social gatherings round Washington where liberals meet
and can be seen in the daily debates on liberal blog sites such as the
Huffington Post, Daily Kos, Firedoglake and Talking Points Memo.

Kurtz of Talking Points Memo defended Obama's new Afghanistan policy
but acknowledged liberal disillusionment: "I know many progressives are
disenchanted with this decision."

The liberal grassroots group,, whose members campaigned hard for Obama last year, helped
raise funds for him and continued to defend him throughout the early
stages of his administration, today turned on him and unequivocally
denounced the Afghanistan escalation.

MoveOn, which has been credited by political analysts as having helped get many Democrats
elected to Congress in 2006, a turning point for the party, today
called on its members to call the White House to protest the
Afghanistan decision.

"President Obama has ordered about 30,000
more troops to Afghanistan - escalating the war. But escalation only
deepens our involvement in a quagmire. The president needs to hear that
we want to bring the troops home, not send more to Afghanistan," MoveOn
said on its website.

Opposition to the escalation reaches deep
inside the Democratic party, with liberal members of Congress opposed
to the war making their resistance felt even before Obama had completed
his speech. They pose a danger for Obama, threatening to block his
request for the $30bn extra he needs Congress to approve to fund the
30,000 new troops.

Reflecting liberal unease in Congress, New
York Democratic representative Louise Slaughter said: "I see no good
reason for us to send another 30,000 or more troops to Afghanistan when
we have so many pressing issues like our economy to deal with in this

Another Democrat, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin,
echoed the sentiment: "It's an expensive gamble to undertake armed
nation-building on behalf of a corrupt government of questionable
legitimacy. Sending more troops could further destabilise Afghanistan
and, more importantly, Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state where al-Qaida
is headquartered."

Anti-war Democrats are pushing for an early vote on funding before troops are sent into action.

White House is extremely conscious that part of the base that helped
get Obama elected last year is in danger of being eroded. The decision
to put in a date for the beginning of withdrawal of US troops was
primarily a political one, designed to try to placate not only a US
public sceptical about the war but the liberal, anti-war wing of the
coalition that Obama built. It did not appear to have worked, with some
liberal commentators noting that it was only the start of the process
and large numbers of US troops come remain in Afghanistan for years to

Public opinion polls show that support for the war has
gradually waned since the start of the year, with hostility higher
among Democratic supporters than Republicans.

The anti-war
protests that were a feature of the Bush presidency have been in little
evidence this year but that could change. A new coalition has been
formed in response to Obama's decision, the Emergency Anti-Escalation
Rally, and announced today it is to protest in front of the White House
on 12 December., which represents progressive
American veterans reports its members are ambivalent about the Obama
plan. Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets, said:

"We have been
supportive of every move the president has made since he was elected,
and have supported an increased focus on Afghanistan since our
inception, but given the serious questions that are unresolved, we
aren't ready to support what he's laid out."

The tone among
liberal bloggers was more outspoken. Typical of the comments today was
KathyinBlacksburgh, who is an editor on the Virginia-based Blue
Commonwealth site. She wrote: "So, not one single life is worth it ....
It has become clear you do not care what the majority of Americans
think. By the way, we, the majority, think it's wrong. We think it's
unsupportable. We think it's unaffordable. And we think it's a huge
mistake from a security perspective."

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