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Hey, Joe Biden! Put Down the Pom-Poms
Vice President Biden dusted off a pair of Bush administration pom-poms and trotted out its best cheer for war last week: continued military effort and occupation in Afghanistan, he told the BBC, are in the U.S. and U.K.'s best interests as they're the only way to prevent another terrorist attack like Sept. 11. "It is worth the effort we are making," Biden said, as terror groups could "wreak havoc" on Europe and the US, and both countries must endure more "sacrifice."
It's shocking, really, from an administration that promised change, this couldn't sound like more of the same misleading rhetoric that tricked Americans into the bloody, unjust war in Iraq. For seven long years, Bush & Co. argued that "Islamist terrorists" of the Middle East would run free and Americans would be in constant danger of another Sept. 11 -- end of story. By inflating the threat of attack with faulty logic, the administration scared Americans into ignoring facts and supporting a massive push of troops into a largely innocent country. (Listen to an Afghan woman's critique of the occupation in the interview below by CODEPINK activist and journalist, Liz Kimmerly.)
Eventually the truth emerged: Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein and Iraqis were disinterested in and disconnected to Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and there existed no withdrawal or rebuilding plans for Iraq. Thousands and then millions of Americans began to see through this fear-mongering propaganda, although it was too late for over a million Iraqi civilians and 4,000 American (and counting) soldiers killed, the US economy, the women sent back to the middle ages and Iraq's destroyed infrastructure.
Biden's words really shouldn't shock us. For months, the Obama administration has taken its cues from the Bush regime and given us more of the same. In February, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration had already signaled its commitment to continuing the C.I.A.'s program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone. Guantanamo prison is still open, despite his campaign promise to close it. In February, Obama reneged on another promise to withdraw troops from Iraq immediately and instead announced an Aug. 2010 deadline, with residual troops left behind until December 2011. My partner, Medea Benjamin commented that "this timeline and leaving tens of thousands of residual troops sounds more like occupation-lite than an end to occupation." In March, he announced a troop surge in Afghanistan, an increase of 4,000 combat troops and spending 60 percent more than the current levels of $2 billion per month, and pushed through Congress an additional $94.2 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a supplemental that will further destabilize the Middle East and Central Asia, threaten worldwide security and push the total cost to the U.S. taxpayer over $700 billion.
But these policies will fail, just like those of the Bush administration. They fuel the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and lead to more civilian deaths -- in 2008, amid U.S. military operations, civilian casualties climbed 40 percent, further alienating Afghans who increasingly view the U.S. as an occupying force. They create instability in Pakistan and continue to bankrupt the U.S. economy at a time of sky-high unemployment.
Americans will soon see through these policies, and the rhetoric that surrounds them, despite more cheerleading from the administration. A USA Today/Gallup Poll in March found 42 percent of Americans felt the Afghanistan war was "a mistake," an increase of 30 percent earlier this year and 34 percent in August 2008. They're assurance that the United States cannot defeat an ideology, cannot fight the "war on terror" with troops and bombs will grow. Biden must invest his energy in calling for diplomacy, development, investment in infrastructure and accountability from the corrupt leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq that the US supports. That is, if he's serious about ending these twin wars and occupations and keeping Americans safe.