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Foreign Correspondent

by international syndicated columnist &
broadcaster Eric Margolis
14 December 2009


I guess President Barack Obama has never read Benjamin Franklin’s maxim, “there never was a good war, or a bad peace.”

Obama’s speech in Oslo proclaiming Afghanistan a “good” war and trying to justify US global military operations echoes to America’s detriment around Europe and, more important, the Muslim world.

The president’s address dismayed many who foolishly hoped the “anti-war” president might curb or even end his wars because of a highly politicized and leftish Swedish award. Not so. America’s military-industrial-financial juggernaut continues to roll on.

But what could Obama do? Unwilling to turn down the award he did not solicit, the president had to turn up in Oslo and accept a peace prize as he was widening and deepening the Afghanistan war. In retrospect, he probably should have turned the prize down, saying, as he did at Oslo, that he has not yet done enough to merit such an award.

Instead, President Obama delivered an oration that at times sounded as if it had been lifted from George Orwell’s prescient novel, “1984.”

War is peace, explained the president. Conflict, he asserted, had to be relentlessly waged by the west (“Oceana” to Orwell, the union of the United States and Britain) in the Muslim world (Orwell called it “Eurasia”) until the dire threat of al-Qaida is eliminated. Of course, the threat never ends and low-grade war becomes permanent, justifying dictatorship and endless arms contracts for industry.

Al-Qaida barely exists as an organization, though its philosophy of driving the US from the Muslim world continues to motivate a scattering of tiny, anti-American groups in Asia and Africa who are a minor, if occasionally spectacular, nuisance rather than a major threat.

So here was a major untruth from the president who had vowed to tell Americans the true after eight years of lies and prevarications from the previous administration.

The “New York Times,” an ardent liberal backer of wars in the Muslim world, arrogantly editorialized on 14 December that Europe was delinquent in supporting the Afghan War. The “Times” hectored Europe’s leaders to “educate” their citizens in the need for war in Afghanistan. But the problem is that Europeans are too well educated. A majority see Afghanistan as a traditional colonial war being waged for energy resources and imperial strategy in which their continent has no business at all.

The political big chill that came from Oslo left many Americans and Europeans wondering just who was really in charge of US foreign policy. Readers of George Orwell might suspect that real power in Washington is wielded by the same kind of hidden oligarchy he described in “1984” that conjured fear of foreigners and drove permanent war policy.

Could the former civil rights worker from Chicago’s roughest section really be speaking with the same voice as Wall Street’s money barons, pro-war neocons, and the military-industrial complex about which the foresighted President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation? What happened to the man only lately denounced by Republicans as a “socialist” and “appeaser?”

Are Americans victims of a presidential bait and switch? Obama is maintaining or advancing so many of Bush’s hard right domestic and foreign policies that one indeed wonders of we are seeing Bush’s third term.

If President Obama ended the futile, eight-year war in Afghanistan against Pashtun tribesmen, he would of course face Republican charges of defeatism, appeasement and “losing Afghanistan.” Republicans are already battering him with spurious claims of “their” victory in Iraq thanks to the “surge” advocated by Senator John McCain. American soldiers and Afghan civilians will pay the price for this lack of political courage in Washington – to say nothing of US relations with the Muslim world which sees Afghanistan as a martyr nation ravaged by western forces.

Adding to this miasma of untruth, the US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, just proclaimed that the US had “won” the war in Iraq, and was now about to work the same military magic in Afghanistan. The notion of a US victory in Iraq has become common currency in Washington and the media, justifying another “surge’ in Afghanistan.

To quote the great Roman historian Tactius, “they make a desert, and call it peace.” Such is the supposed US victory in Iraq that now looms over Afghanistan. Let’s look at this Carthaginian Peace:

  • Iraq effectively sundered into three de facto independent parts: a Shia region; Sunni region; and Kurdistan. The US vowed never to do this – but did, turning it into a weak, obedient Petrolistan.

  • The world’s biggest refugee problem. Four million Iraq refugees created during the US occupation. Two million in neighboring Arab nations; two million internal refugees, victims of ethnic cleansing. Massive flight of intellectuals and trained personnel. Over 2,300 Iraqi doctors murdered.

  • After rightly bombing Serbia to stop its attempted genocide against Balkan Muslims, the US closed its eyes to massive atrocities and ethnic cleansing of Sunni civilians committed by Shia death squads, run by the US-installed Shia regime.

  • Iraq is now in worse shape then it was before the US invasion, terrorized by criminal gangs, death squads and local warlords. What was in 2000 the Arab world’s most advanced nation in terms of education, technology, public health and industry, today lies in ruins. Its rich oil field are about to be exploited by foreign firms, many from the US and Britain.

No one knows how many Iraqis have been killed or maimed. Estimates run from 100,000 to one million. What is a known, to use Rummy’s delightful phrase, is that the Iraq War has cost the US $1 trillion to date. Important numbers of US troops and tens of thousands of US-paid mercenaries look likely to remain in Iraq for many years on “training” and oilfield protection missions.

Such is Gen. Chrystal and Sen. John McCain’s “victory.” This is what awaits Afghanistan in President Obama’s version of a “good” war.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2009.

Published at since 1995
with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

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The Toronto Sun
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Toronto Ontario Canada
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