Why the November Elections Are a Setback for Peace

November 3rd, 2010 - by admin

Tom Hayden / The Peace Exchange Bulletin – 2010-11-03 22:19:31


(November 3, 2010) — The November election was a setback for the peace movement, not only because of the defeat of Sen. Russ Feingold but for deeper reasons.

Both parties collaborated in keeping Afghanistan out of the national election debate and media coverage — while during the period June-November alone, 274 American soldiers were killed and 2,934 were wounded on the battlefield.

[The official American toll under Obama in Afghanistan has reached 732 deaths and 6,480 wounded; the taxpayer costs under Obama are currently $12.5 billion per month, and Obama estimates $113 billion in direct costs/per year at current U.S. troop levels of 100,000.]

Democratic candidates this year chose not to use Afghanistan-Iraq as an issue perhaps because they have become Obama’s wars. According to the New York Times, the US even plans to orchestrate an invitation to remain in Iraq after the current 2011 deadline, but desperately wanted to keep the controversy out of the election debates. [NYT, Aug. 18]

With Republican control of the House, antiwar Democrats will have little room to hold hearings or maneuver against the wars. There were 162 House members, nearly all Democrats, who voted against funding the war or in favor of an exit strategy earlier this year, one-fourth of the House. In the Senate, Feingold authored similar legislation that obtained 18 votes, a number not likely increase either.

The notion among some that ultra-right fiscally conservative Republicans will vote with the peace Democrats is largely a fantasy. Republicans like Karl Rove did not want to advertise their support for Obama’s troop escalation this fall while they prepare to blast him for drawing down short of “victory” next July. For example, Sen. John McCain, who is planning a trip to Afghanistan, told Reuters that “this date for withdrawal that the president announced without any military advice or counsel has caused us enormous problems in our operations in Afghanistan, because our enemies are encouraged and our friends are confused over there.” [Reuters, Nov. 3]

McCain’s comment was a huge lie, an indicator of the campaign rhetoric to come. As McCain well knows, Obama has not given a “date for withdrawal”, only a date to “begin” a phase-out. Obama had months of military advice and counsel, as reported in Bob Woodward’s most recent book. In fact, according to Woodward and Jonathan Alter, Obama had Petraeus’ word that they would have no complaints about the July 2011 deadline. In August, however, Petraeus declared, “the president didn’t send me over here to seek a graceful exit.”

Obama’s pledge to begin a July withdrawal may draw little or no peace movement support unless he includes a timeline and substantial numbers, and shows progress in diplomacy and talks with the Taliban. The president’s situation is similar to his problems with health care when he appeared to over-promise and under-deliver, leaving his base dispirited once again. [It should be noted that Obama took the strongest exit strategy position among his internal advisers, according to Woodward, with Hillary Clinton immediately supporting whatever troop escalation Petraeus wanted.]

The next test for Obama will be whether his December review of Afghanistan policy results in only another ratification of Afghanistan status quo. Then comes another budget battle, with antiwar forces in Congress at a greater tactical disadvantage than last year. By then Obama’s actual Afghan drawdown numbers will be publicly known, with Republicans, the military and most of the media opposed or skeptical.

The 2012 national election predictably will be fought over Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and the Long War favored by the Republicans and the generals, with Obama positioned as favoring gradual troop drawdowns in order to invest in his domestic agenda.

The wars will continue in any event, with increasing risks of terrorist attacks on the US, bloody quagmires on the battlefields, and the US propping up unpopular regimes in Kabul, Baghdad, Islamabad and Yemen. The wars are unwinnable and unaffordable, but no one in power dares say it.

The peace bloc – activist groups, anti-war Congress members, writers and artists, here and across the NATO – can exercise a massive drag against the war-making machine through 2012 as long as the wars remain deeply unpopular. But in the absence of political statesmanship, Petraeus need not worry, because the final stage will be anything but graceful. _

This article originally appeared on tomhayden.com (http://tomhayden.com/).
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* US soldiers’ deaths under Bush [2001-2008] in Afghanistan:
630 (I)

* US soldiers’ deaths under Obama [2009-Oct. 2010] in Afghanistan:
730 (II)

* Total US soldiers’ deaths in Afghanistan:
1,360 (III)

* Total US soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan:
5,787I (V)

* Total US contractor deaths from 09.01.01 through 09.30.10:
2,400 (V)

* Total US soldiers wounded in Afghanistan:
9,095 (VI)

* Total US soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan:
41,076 (VII)

* Total US contractors wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan:
44,152 (VIII)

* Total US military suicides during 2001‐2009:
1,985I (X)

* Civilian casualties, Iraq:
Hundreds of Thousands (X)

* Civilian casualties, Afghanistan:
Tens of Thousands (XI)

* Direct costs/month in Iraq:
$12.5 billion (XII)

* Direct costs/month in Afghanistan
$16 billion (XIII)

* Total direct cost, Iraq:
$740.4 billion (XIV)

* Total direct cost, Afghanistan:
$361.3 billion (XV)

* Total projected direct and indirect costs, Iraq:
$3 trillion+ (XVI)

* Total projected direct and indirect costs, Afghanistan:
$1 trillion+ (XVII)

I A. iCasualties. 27 Oct. 2010 . B. DoD Personnel & Procurement Statistics. “Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn Casualty Summary by State as of October 25, 2010” Statistical Information Analysis Division. Defense Manpower Data Center: Data, Analysis, and Programs Division. 27. Oct. 2010 .
II Ibid.
III Ibid.
IV United States of America. Department of Defense. OIF/OND/OEF US Casualty Status. 27 Oct. 2010 .
V United States of America. Department of Labor. Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP). “Defense Base Act Summary By Employer.” 27 Oct. 2010. .
VI United States of America. Department of Defense. OIF/OND/OEF US Casualty Status.
VII Ibid.
VIII Schooner, Steven L., and Collin D. Swan. “Contractors and the Ultimate Sacrifice.” Service Contractor. September 2010: 16-8. 10 Oct. 2010 .
IX Christenson, Sig. “Military is Battling Alarming Suicide Rate.” The Houston Chronicle 10 Oct. 2010 .
X Hayden, Tom. “Civilian Casualties: Hundreds of Thousands in Iraq, Tens of Thousands in Afghanistan, But Who is Count?” The Peace Exchange Bulletin. 20, Oct. 2010. .
XI Ibid.
XII Stiglitz, Joseph, and Linda Bilmes. United States of America. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “The True Cost of War.” 1 Oct. 2010 .
XIII Ibid.
XIV “The Cost of War.” National Priorities Project. 27 Oct. 2010 .
XV Ibid.
XVI “The Three Trillion Dollar War.” Stiglitz, Joseph and Linda Bilmes. The Times, 23 Feb. 2008: Times Online. 10 Oct. 2010 .
XVII Obama estimates $113 billion in direct costs/per year at current US troop levels of 100,000. If those troop levels are halved by 2013, then the direct costs will remain over $50 billion/per year. An additional three years would therefore cost at least $200 billion more. Using the Stiglitz/Bilmes methodology for measuring indirect — accrual — costs, such as veterans’ health care and benefits, interest payments, etc — would add hundreds of billions in long‐term costs, making Afghanistan another $1 trillion dollar war.

*Data accurate as of November 2, 2010.

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