Archive for the ‘afghanistan’ Category

Cartoon for April 4, 2009

April 4, 2009

Afghans like us. They really like “us.”

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THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: What Obama and Hitler Have in Common

March 31, 2009

Broke and on a Losing Streak, Obama Doubles Down

Contrary to myth, the Nazis weren’t crazy. But during the winter of 1944-45, with the Allied and Soviet armies closing in on Berlin, German leaders made an insane decision. Instead of doing whatever they could to hold out as long as possible, they sped up the Holocaust.

The Nazis’ policy of accelerated genocide deprived the war effort of increasingly precious resources. Soldiers and paramilitaries were pulled back from the battlefront in order to arrest and guard ever-increasing numbers of Jews and other “enemies of the state.” As battle after battle was lost, trains assigned to transport reinforcement troops were reassigned to ship the regime’s victims to the death camps.

Killing Jews was the Nazis’ top priority. It came ahead of everything else–even their own lives. Total madness.

But who are we to judge? Here we are 64 years later, doing the same thing. The U.S. is locked in a last-ditch struggle for survival, and the U.S. government is diverting vital resources to its own top priority: killing Muslims.

President Obama and the Democrats always asserted that Afghanistan was the “good war”–the one thing George W. Bush did right before he “took his eye off the ball” by invading Iraq. Not me. I realized that the invasion and subsequent occupation were doomed from the start. My Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment came while watching Afghan villagers sobbing outside a house being searched by U.S. troops. “The Russians never violated our homes,” an old man told me. As in many societies descended from nomads, Afghan culture dictates that a man’s home is truly his castle. “Even when they came to kill you, the Taliban knocked on the door and waited for you come out. They didn’t touch your wife or daughter. They never came inside. Never.”

I stared at the house’s front door, smashed and splintered after having been kicked in, and thought: They’ll never forgive us. Women were shrieking inside the house. The soldiers yelled at them: “Shut the f— up!” At least they did it in English, so they couldn’t understand. Hearts and minds.

I went to my rented room and filed a story with the headline: “How We Lost Afghanistan.” It was December 11, 2001.

Bush spent the following seven years sending more and more troops to Afghanistan: 8,000 at first, then 18,000, then 30,000. Afghan resistance fighters killed more and more of them. It became more dangerous to serve a tour of duty in America’s “forgotten war” than in Iraq. The more the size of the U.S. occupation force increased, street-level violence, warlordism and opium poppy cultivation spiraled out of control.

Chaos doesn’t come cheap. It costs $390,000 to sustain one American soldier overseas for one year.

Now Obama is “doubling down” on a “new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy,” reported The Washington Post. “Along with the 17,000 additional combat troops authorized last month, Obama said he will send at least 4,000 more this fall…” There were 38,000 when Obama took office. Soon there will be 55,000. By early next year, at least 70,000. Thousands of more will be moved from Iraq to Afghanistan. There have been few protests. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, we must be out of our collective minds.

I stand nearly alone in my long-running criticism of the Afghan war. But even if you disagree with my pessimistic assessment of the foreign policy repercussions of the “good war,” surely we can find common ground on the economic front.

The U.S. is broke. One cause is the $3 trillion we’ve already wasted on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. (With compound interest, that debt comes to over $10 trillion–or a dozen $700 billion Wall Street bailouts.) In a move that echoes Hitler’s misdirected obsessiveness, Obama is about to waste even more money we don’t have. According to the Pentagon’s notoriously rosy projections, Obama’s “Afghan surge” will increase the cost of that misbegotten quagmire (remember when right-wing pundits ridiculed those of us who used the Q-word to describe Afghanistan?) by 60 percent, up from the current $2 billion a month.

Millions are losing their jobs and their homes. Is this best the possible use of our federal taxdollars?

Obama says his war aims in Afghanistan are to fight insurgents, “train Afghan Security Forces,” improve the Afghan economy and reduce opium production. Of course, some of these goals are self-actualizing. If the U.S. withdrew, there wouldn’t be any insurgents. And Afghanistan wouldn’t need so many more security forces to keep order.

As for the Afghan economy and narcotics, Obama doesn’t stand a chance. “We’re pretty good about getting rid of old governments, but not really good at building new ones. I don’t think any other country has that skill, either,” said Gordon Adams, professor of foreign policy at American University and former Clintonista. “We can burn millions of dollars and lose thousands of American lives pretending we know how–but we don’t know how.”

And anyway: so what? As the real unemployment rate in the U.S. surpasses 20 percent and we sail off the cliff of fiscal oblivion, how can Obama justify spending hundreds of billions dollars more? To reduce unemployment in Afghan cities (while increasing it in the countryside, which depends on opium farming)? Even if Obama meets his metrics in Afghanistan, what’s in it for us?

In this Depression there’s still one gig with high job security: write a column for The New York Times that repeatedly gets everything wrong. Columnist David Brooks, one of the Dying Grey Lady’s resident neocons, agrees with Obama that seven years of bombing wedding parties isn’t enough. “This energetic and ambitious [Afghan troop surge] amid economic crisis and war weariness–says something profound about America’s DNA,” says he.

Maybe it does. Seventeen percent of Americans have German roots, more than any other ancestry group.

COPYRIGHT 2009 TED RALL

Cartoon for March 6, 2009

March 6, 2009

As Obama revs up his Afghan surge, let us all take a moment to salute the true heroes who have been fighting the war since 2001.

Cartoon for February 23, 2009

February 23, 2009

Afghan wedding parties risk getting blasted to hell by trigger-happy NATO bombers. Surely there’s another way.

Cartoon for February 7, 2009

February 7, 2009

Iraq may be winding down. But Afghanistan is just rebeginning!

Thank God we can afford more military misadventures.

Cartoon for January 29, 2009

January 29, 2009

Obama likes to read up on the Civil War. Compared to Bush, it’s nice to see someone who likes to read. Based on his cluelessness about Afghanistan, however, he needs to expand his reading list.

September 30, 2008

THIS WEEK’S SYNDICATED COLUMN: MAD MONEY

A Broke America Can’t Afford Wars, Tax Cuts

Credit has dried up. The stock market is disintegrating. Unless someone pours money into capital markets, everyone agrees, we could wind up like people in Baghdad, fondly remembering the day five years ago when they pushed the handle and their toilets still flushed. Only one “someone” has enough cash to fix the problem: the U.S. government.

The Bush Administration and Congressional Democrats want taxpayers to pay $700 billion to bail out failing banks. Progressives would prefer to bail out homeowners facing the imminent foreclosure of their homes, as well as those in danger of being foreclosed upon during 2009, at a cost of $1.3 trillion.

Never mind which approach is better. Where will the government find the money?

There are two elephants in the room: war and Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. We can’t afford either. Yet, to abuse the animal metaphor, everyone acts like they’re sacred cows.

When you think about it, it’s sheer madness. The city marshal is at the door, brandishing a shotgun, ready to evict you and your family for nonpayment of rent. But while your kids are screaming in terror, you’re at the computer, wasting thousands on online gambling. You could pay off your landlord instead. You could make the marshal go away. All you have to do is stop. But you keep on keeping on. Click, click. More money squandered.

What the hell is wrong with you? What the hell is wrong with us?

In 2007 the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the final cost of our biggest national compulsion, the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, could total $2.4 trillion, or $8,000 per man, woman and child in the country. That’s twice as much as the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars combined. It’s also two-thirds the cost of World War II. Yet no one–not the Republicans, not the Democrats, not the media, not even the left–insists that we get out.

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, I’ve studied World War II. World War II was a worthwhile war, one that freed millions from tyranny and set the stage for the U.S. to dominate he global economy and become the wealthiest nation in history. Iraq and Afghanistan? They’re no World War II. As wars go, they’re not as worthwhile as the invasion of Grenada.

“The CBO estimates assume that 75,000 troops will remain in both countries through 2017, including roughly 50,000 in Iraq,” reported USA Today. If anything, that’s a low-ball estimate. More than a half century after the fighting ceased, we still have 37,000 troops in one tiny country, South Korea. And both McCain and Obama promise to send more troops to Afghanistan. That means more taxpayer money.

Nearly two out of three Americans think invading Iraq–where the lion’s share of war funding is being spent–was a mistake. The Afghan resistance is kicking our butts. Both wars have been a complete, total waste of money, effort and lives. As surely as the sun will rise in the east, we will lose both. At a total cost of at least $2.4 trillion. Ridiculous.

$2.4 trillion is nearly twice the $1.3 trillion it would take to save every home in danger of foreclosure. That would keep many banks afloat, and act as the biggest economic stimulus in history. Can anyone sane tell us why we shouldn’t bring our troops back home? Can anyone justify wasting $2.4 trillion at a time when the U.S. economy is staring into the abyss of total collapse?

The other national obsession is the tax cuts Bush pushed through in 2001 and 2003. “The surplus is not the government’s money,” Bush said at the time, apparently unaware that the economy was already in a recession. “The surplus is the people’s money.” Remember surpluses? Such a Clintonian word. Anyway, Democrats in Congress–still in full-on wuss mode following 9/11–went along with Bush’s tax cuts. But, bless their wimpy little heads, they did manage to extract a concession: In 2011, tax rates would revert to what they’d been in 2001.

Believe a Republican once, shame on you. Believe a Republican twice, what were you thinking? Now so-called conservatives are complaining that “the largest tax increase in history” will occur in 2011 if Bush’s tax cuts are allowed to expire.

Making the Bush tax cuts permanent would codify the most regressive tax change in history. “After-tax income would increase by more than six percent for households in the top one percent of the nation’s income distribution, two percent for households in the middle 60 percent, and only 0.3 percent for households in the bottom 20 percent,” found a Brookings Institution study.

Making the rich richer will cost the Treasury an arm, a leg, and the better part of a torso.

“Combined with a minimal but necessary fix to the government’s Alternative Minimum Tax, making the tax cuts permanent would reduce federal revenues by almost $1.8 trillion over 10 years–and that’s in addition to the $1.7 trillion of revenue losses already locked into law.”

$1.8 trillion. Again, allow me to remind you: $1.3 trillion is the amount we need to stave off imminent financial catastrophe.

That sound you hear is the door breaking down. The marshal is coming down the hall. Get off the computer. Fix the problem. Get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Let the tax cuts expire.

COPYRIGHT 2008 TED RALL

August 7, 2008

Ted Rall Cover Story on Afghanistan

For seven years, I’ve been telling you that the war against Afghanistan is every bit as illegal and immoral–and probably less winnable–than the war against Iraq. Now, slowly, people are starting to notice.

Given that I’ve been almost alone as an American opposing the Afghan war, the CityBeat chain of Southern California alternative newsweeklies asked me to take a look at the situation as it stands now. The result is a lengthy cover story in this week’s CityBeat newspapers.

You can find it in Los Angeles CityBeat as well as San Diego CityBeat.

June 19, 2007

We’re so sorry… that you don’t understand why we had to kill your kids!
Posted by Mikhaela Reid

A few weeks ago, I did a cartoon about the U.S. trying to spin civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

Once again, the U.S. is upset about civilian casualties in Afghanistan. And once again, they’re not upset that the U.S. military killed seven children in a “targeted” airstrike, but that those unreasonable Afghan civilians just don’t understand it’s not REALLY the U.S.’s fault–there was nothing they could do! From the NY Times this morning (“7 Children Killed in Airstrike in Afghanistan”):

Seven children were killed during an airstrike by the United States-led coalition against a religious compound thought to be a Qaeda sanctuary in remote eastern Afghanistan, the coalition said Monday.

The death of the children on Sunday may well add to the crescendoing anger many Afghans feel about civilian casualties from American and NATO military operations. More than 130 civilians have been killed in airstrikes and shootings in the past six months, according to Afghan authorities.

The article goes on to say that the toll may rise to about 180 once the death toll from another airstrike are confirmed. But as for these murdered children, the U.S. had stock apologies and little sympathy:

The air raid against the religious compound was a targeted strike rather than a pitched battle. “We are truly sorry for the innocent lives lost in this attack,” said Maj. Chris Belcher of the United States Army about Sunday’s raid against several structures, including a school and mosque, in Paktika Province, near the border with Pakistan.

And

The American ambassador, William B. Wood, said the coalition went to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties. “Unfortunately, when the Taliban are using civilians in this tactical way, instances of civilian casualties, just like instances of casualties from friendly fire, cannot be completely avoided,” he said.

Consider those hearts and minds WON.