The Big Snub in Paris
Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin were ships passing in the night while in Paris for the G-7 meeting.
The American president reportedly refused to dine with Putin, who was being hosted by France’s president Francois Hollande as part of the D-Day commemoration.
So Hollande, who is on a diet after being called a “little fat man” by former president Nicholas Sarkozy, was forced to host two back-to-back dinners, the first for Obama and the second, delicately described in French as a “souper,” or smaller supper, for Vlad Putin, who is not anyway a big eater or drinker.
How remarkably childish and silly all this was. Obama and America’s European allies are cold-shouldering Putin for re-absorbing Crimea into Russia, to which it had belonged for 300 years, and for stirring the pot in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, US military forces are in action or based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Djibouti, the Philippines, Yemen, Somalia, Uganda, Central African Republic, Colombia, Kenya, Europe, South Korea, Japan – in fact, around the globe.
In Paris, the leading European NATO members met separately with President Putin while Washington continued its big snub. The EU’s economy is too involved with Russia to indulge in political theatrics.
Canada, run by a far-right evangelical government, played to its large ethnic Ukrainian population by huffing and puffing at Russia. Ukraine must be free, thundered Ottawa – while at the same time playing to Canada’s Jewish urban vote by scolding Palestinians they had no right to their own independent state.
What makes this schoolyard tiff in Paris even more churlish, D-Day, hailed by westerners as the decisive battle that defeated National Socialist Germany, would never have succeeded were it not for Stalin’s Soviet Red Army.
Some 75% of the once mighty German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe were destroyed by the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front: 607 German and Axis divisions, 48,000 German tanks, 77,000 German warplanes.
The shattered German forces met by the Americans, British and Canadians at Normandy were reduced to 40% of effective strength. They were immobilized by lack of fuel and had no air cover to protect them from 24-hour Allied carpet bombing and strafing. It was amazing the battered Germans could fight at all, or so hard. Had the Allied landing met the Germans of 1940, they would have been pushed into the Channel.
So big thanks are still owed to the Russians/Soviets who, however brutal and murderous, really won the war in Europe and went on to destroyed 450,000 Japanese troops. At least 12 million Soviet soldiers died so sparing the lives of Allies soldiers.
Intelligent grownups talk to their rivals and enemies. For example, if the US and Britain had agreed to talk peace terms with the German generals in 1944, or at least backed their coup again Hitler, the war might well have ended a year earlier.
Which brings me to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the US Army prisoner of war in Afghanistan freed by Taliban. As a former US Regular Army soldier, I say President Obama did the right thing by exchanging Bergdahl for five senior-level Taliban prisoners of war held in the US Guantanamo gulag in violation of international law and the Geneva Convention.
President Obama is now the target of furious denunciations by pro-war Republicans and Democrats, few of whose children ever served in the military. “We’ll never negotiate with terrorists” went their mindless mantra.
They ludicrously claim the five released Taliban commanders released into Qatar’s custody are somehow a threat to the mighty United States.
What was really happening was that President Obama was finally winding down the foolish , 12-year Afghan War begun by President George W. Bush who needed a target for America’s anger after the humiliating 9/11 attacks that caught the White House sleeping on guard duty.
Afghanistan joins Iraq as America’s second lost war: 22,000 US dead and wounded, emotionally damaged soldiers, hundreds of thousands of deaths in Afghanistan and $1 trillion down the drain. Both wars were waged on money borrowed from China and Japan, leaving the US with a mammoth foreign debt.
Contrary to all the pro-war propaganda we have heard, Taliban was founded as an anti-Communist religious movement dedicated to ending mass rape of Afghan women, lawlessness, and runaway drug production. I know this because I was there. Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11, nothing to do with “terrorism” It was funded by Pakistan’s intelligence agency and Interior Ministry.
Taliban offered to turn inconvenient guest Osama bin Laden to another Muslim nation for trial once the US presented a proper extradition request. Washington never did, preferring war. The men who attacked New York and Washington were mostly Saudis. The plot was hatched in Hamburg and Madrid. We still don’t know really how much bin Laden was involved.
We have developed the pernicious habit of branding anyone who tried to oppose our world domination as a “terrorist.” This has boxed us into a propaganda corner: by so demonizing our enemies we deny ourselves the ability to negotiate with them. The “we’ll never deal with terrorists” uproar among some of the lower IQ members of the US Congress and their media allies is a doleful example of such illogical behavior.
The truly guilty parties for the bloodbath and lost war in Afghanistan are former President George W. Bush, the Congress and media, all of whom rushed America into an unnecessary war in a part of the world unknown to US policy makers. Few predicted that the world’s greatest power would break its teeth on the mountains of Afghanistan.
In October, 2001, I wrote in the Los Angeles Times that the US would never win a war against the Afghan Pashtun warriors, and that the US should negotiate with Taliban. The wrong war against the wrong people, I warned, in a little country rightly known as the “Graveyard of Empires.”
© 2014 Eric Margolis