Saturday, July 10, 2010

[SDCPJ] Fw: Losing in Afghanistan

----- Original Message -----
From: "Marjorie Cohn" <marjorielegal@gmail.com>
To: "Marjorie Cohn" <marjorielegal@gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, July 06, 2010 5:19 PM
Subject: Losing in Afghanistan


Dear friends,
Please click on the Huffington Post link to ensure this article gets
maximum exposure.
Thanks,
Marjorie

Losing in Afghanistan
By Marjorie Cohn
Huffington Post
July 6, 2010
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marjorie-cohn/losing-in-afghanistan_b_637140.html

Last week, the House of Representatives voted 215-210 for $33 billion
to fund Barack Obama's troop increase in Afghanistan. But there was
considerable opposition to giving the President a blank check. One
hundred sixty-two House members supported an amendment that would have
tied the funding to a withdrawal timetable. One hundred members voted
for another amendment that would have rejected the $33 billion for the
30,000 new troops already on their way to Afghanistan; that amendment
would have required that the money be spent to redeploy our troops out
of Afghanistan. Democrats voting for the second amendment included
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and nine Republicans. Both amendments
failed to pass.

The new appropriation is in addition to the $130 billion Congress has
already approved for Iraq and Afghanistan this year. And the 2010
Pentagon budget is $693 billion, more than all other discretionary
spending programs combined.

Our economic crisis is directly tied to the cost of the war. We are in
desperate need of money for education and health care. The $1 million
per year it costs to maintain a single soldier in Afghanistan could
pay for 20 green jobs.

Not only is the war bankrupting us, it has come at a tragic cost in
lives. June was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In
addition to the 1,149 American soldiers killed in Afghanistan, untold
numbers of Afghan civilians have died from the war - untold because
the Defense Department refuses to maintain statistics of anyone except
U.S. personnel. After all, Donald Rumsfeld quipped in 2005, "death has
a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."

There are other "depressing" aspects of this war as well. As Gen.
Stanley McChrystal reported just days before he got the axe, there is
a "resilient and growing insurgency" with high levels of violence and
corruption within the Karzai government. McChrystal's remarks were
considered "off message" by the White House, which was also irked by
the general's criticisms of Obama officials in a Rolling Stone
article. McChrystal believes that you can't kill your way out of
Afghanistan. "The Russians killed 1 million Afghans and that didn't
work."

He and his successor, Gen. David Petraeus, likely disagree on the need
to prevent civilian casualties (known as "Civ Cas"). McChrystal
instituted some of the most stringent rules of engagement the U.S.
military has had in a war zone: "Patrol only in areas that you are
reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with
lethal force." Commanders cannot fire on buildings or other places if
they have reason to believe civilians might be present unless their
own forces are in imminent danger of being overrun. And they must end
engagements and withdraw rather than risk harming noncombatants.
McChrystal knows that for every innocent person you kill, you create
new enemies; he calls it "insurgent math." According to the Los
Angeles Times, McChrystal "was credited with bringing about a
substantial drop in the proportion of civilian casualties suffered at
the hands of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and its
Afghan allies."

While testifying in Congress before he was confirmed to take
McChrystal's place, Petraeus told senators that some U.S. soldiers had
complained about the former's rules of engagement aimed at preventing
civilian casualties.

According to the Rolling Stone article, Obama capitulated to
McChrystal's insistence that more troops were needed in Afghanistan.
In his December 1 speech at West Point, the article says, "the
president laid out all the reasons why fighting the war in Afghanistan
is a bad idea: It's expensive; we're in an economic crisis; a
decade-long commitment would sap American power; Al Qaeda has shifted
its base of operations to Pakistan. Then," the article continued,
"without ever using the words 'victory' or 'win,' Obama announced that
he would send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, almost as
many as McChrystal had requested."

Both Obama and Petraeus no longer speak of "victory" over the Taliban;
they both hold open the possibility of settlement with the Taliban.
Indeed, Maj. Gen. Bill Mayville, chief of operations for McChrystal,
told Rolling Stone, "It's not going to look like a win, smell like a
win or taste like a win."

The majority of Americans now oppose the war in Afghanistan. Fareed
Zakaria had some harsh words for the war on his CNN show, saying that
"the whole enterprise in Afghanistan feels disproportionate, a very
expensive solution to what is turning out to be a small but real
problem." Noting that CIA director Leon Panetta admitted that the
number of Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan may be 50 to 100, Zakaria
asked, "why are we fighting a major war" there? "Last month alone
there were more than 100 NATO troops killed in Afghanistan," he said.
"That's more than one allied death for each living Al Qaeda member in
the country in just one month." Citing estimates that the war will
cost more than $100 billion in 2010 alone, Zakaria observed, "That's a
billion dollars for every member of Al Qaeda thought to be living in
Afghanistan in one year." He queried, "Why are we investing so much
time, energy, and effort when Al Qaeda is so weak?" And Zakaria
responded to the argument that we should continue fighting the Taliban
because they are allied with Al Qaeda by saying, "this would be like
fighting Italy in World War II after Hitler's regime had collapsed and
Berlin was in flames just because Italy had been allied with Germany."

There is also division in the Republican ranks over the war.
Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele made some gutsy
comments about the war in Afghanistan, saying it is not winnable and
calling it a "war of Obama's choosing." (Even though George W. Bush
first invaded Afghanistan, Obama made the escalation of U.S.
involvement a centerpiece of his campaign.) Steele said that if Obama
is "such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know,
that's the one thing you don't do, is engage in a land war in
Afghanistan? Everyone who has tried, over 1,000 years of history, has
failed." Interestingly, Republicans Lindsey Graham and John McCain
slammed Steele and jumped to Obama's defense. Rep. Ron Paul, however,
agreed with Steele, saying, "Michael Steele has it right, and
Republicans should stick by him."

Obama will likely persist with his failed war. He appears to be
stumbling along the same path that Lyndon Johnson followed. Johnson
lost his vision for a "Great Society" when he became convinced that
his legacy depended on winning the Vietnam War. It appears that Obama
has similarly lost his way.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is
immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy
secretary general of the International Association of Democratic
Lawyers. She is co-author (with Kathleen Gilberd) of Rules of
Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent. See
www.marjoriecohn.com.

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