Friday, December 23, 2011

GOP Die-Hards Dragging Their Feet

Hawks Pushing for U.S. Troops in Iraq

Private ‘contractors’

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via

American hawks are blaming President Obama for a premature withdrawal from Iraq, as if a few thousand American troops could prevent the country's current sectarian convulsion. The peace movement needs to unite against the framing of this blame game in which Obama "is likely to draw new criticism for failing to negotiate an extension of the American troop presence in Iraq."

Kenneth Pollack, longtime supporter of the occupation says the present instability is "a clear and unmistakable challenge" to Obama's policy. The mainstream media has adopted the same narrative. The political theme of "losing" countries to foreign enemies is a powerful current in America's political culture.

The reality is that both Republicans and Democrats supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his inevitable replacement by a Shiite-led majority coalition with close links to Iran and an enduring hostility to Iraq's Sunni minority. The notion of a united, secular and nationalist Iraq was a delusion. The regime in Baghdad is authoritarian, sectarian, and harbors dungeons where thousands of Sunnis have been tortured. Al-Maliki also is a deeply disturbed and paranoid leader who is haunted by fears of conspiracies everywhere.

Al-Maliki recently met with Obama to plead for American support of the faltering Assad dictatorship in Syria, clear evidence that al-Maliki sides with Iran in the region's geo-politics. The besieged Syrian majority is Syrian, and they share a long border with the Sunni-populated provinces of Iraq, such as Anbar province.

Iraq is spiraling towards brutal repression or civil war, unless the Sunni minority there is fortified by the Sunni-based revolution in Syria. That would potentially deter al-Maliki and Iran's ambitions in Iraq, and ironically align the US with some of the very Sunnis who supported the 2003 insurgency against the American invasion then turned around to fight with the Americans against al Qaeda's Iraqi branch.

Concerned Americans can do little if anything about these developments except encouraging the Obama administration to pressure for rapid, decisive and democratic change in Syria.

Some in the blogosphere claim that Obama isn't really withdrawing from Iraq. They couldn't be more wrong, as the storm gathers in Baghdad and mainstream blame mounts in the US. Fortunately for Obama, a vast majority of Americans are tired of Iraq and fully support the pullout - over 80 percent of Democrats and Independents, and 58 percent of Republicans.

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Jobs and FDR’s ‘Economic Bill of Rights’


By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via

Unemployment in 1933: 24.9%
Unemployment in 1937: 14.3%
Unemployment in 1938: 19%
Unemployment in 1942: 5%

These statistics from the Historical Statistics of the United States clearly show that the New Deal dramatically lessened joblessness from Roosevelt’s election in 1932 until his second term; then began to climb when FDR retreated to a more conservative path; then finally ended because of war spending in World War 2.

Sensing the return of a structure crisis, Roosevelt proposed an “economic bill of rights” in his 1944 State of the Union address. Roosevelt died and his proposed domestic agenda was subordinated to seventy years of Cold War military spending.[see the fine history by Obama adviser Cass Sunstein, The Second Bill of Rights, FDR’s Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More Than Ever, 2004.]

Needless to say, spending on spies and electronic battlefields in the Long War on Terrorism will not resolve our unemployment crisis, and sending hundreds of thousands of Americans into ground wars is not an option.

Civilian economic development – investment in green jobs, infrastructure, education, health care, tax credits for job creation – is the only path to a full employment economy. #

Monday, December 19, 2011

One War Down, Now to End the Afghan War

Photo: Last U.S. Troop Convoy at Iraq Border

In Iraq, Peace at Last

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via Los Angeles Times

As the United States completes its withdrawal from Iraq, it is worth pausing to remember the determined peace activists who opposed the war from the start, including one who took up their cause and became president.

On Friday, some of them gathered in Chicago at the Federal Plaza, where in October 2002 Barack Obama">Obama, then a member of the Illinois Senate, stepped onto the stage to oppose the looming Iraq war. The plaza should be remembered as the place where the long march to peace began.

At the time, neoconservatives were riding high. Not only had the president, George W. Bush, embraced many of their ideas; powerful figures in the Democratic Party were echoing them as well. Obama">Obama was not among them.

“I don’t oppose all wars,” he said that day, noting that he would take up arms himself to prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11 attacks. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war.”

Obama">Obama expressed outrage at “the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.” The saber-rattling, he said, represented an “attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market which has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.”

It was a brave stance to take for an ambitious politician at a time when American support for war with Iraq was building. He went on to become the first president to campaign on a promise to end an ongoing American war, and the peace movement helped put him into office.

In the years leading up to the 2008 election, there were at least 10 national antiwar demonstrations that drew more than 100,000 participants each. The movement helped Rep. Barbara Lee to rise from a lone war opponent in Congress to the leader of a bloc of as many as 200 representatives calling for an end to the wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Those combined forces — the peace movement and lawmakers who opposed continuing the Iraq war — created a political climate that enabled Obama">Obama to end the Iraq war over the objections of many in the Pentagon and most of his Republican presidential rivals.

Obama">Obama’s position on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan shifted occasionally during the decade, illustrating the powerful conflict of forces in play. In 2008, he seemed ready to accept the advice of the establishment-oriented Iraq Study Group, which recommended leaving a residual force of 10,000 to 15,000 troops in Iraq. After being elected, though, he surprised everyone by announcing in early 2009 that all U.S. forces would be pulled out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

In recent months, the administration seemed to be considering leaving behind a few thousand troops to continue training Iraqi forces, but it abandoned the idea after failing to reach a deal with the Iraqi government on legal immunity for the American troops.

Some peace activists view the fact that thousands of advisors and contractors will remain in Iraq on the U.S. Embassy payroll as evidence of a secret plan to continue the war by other means. But the war is as over as a war can be, and the peace movement should celebrate. Removing troops from Iraq will save tens of billions of dollars a year, and it will also save lives.

Now the challenge will be to bring the war in Afghanistan and the drone strikes over the border in Pakistan to an end as quickly as possible. Obama">Obama may have convinced himself that these are not “dumb wars” carried out by mindless conservatives, but the Ph.D.s at the Pentagon and the State Department cannot prevent a deepening calamity.

This year, Rep. Lee orchestrated a Democratic National Committee resolution calling for a more rapid Afghan withdrawal, but so far the president has committed only to handing over responsibility for security to Afghan forces by 2014. The peace movement should push for a faster pace.

And if the president finds himself nostalgic for battle, I’d remind him of some largely forgotten — and prophetic — words from his 2002 speech: “You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East — the Saudis and the Egyptians — stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

“You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves of Middle East oil through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon or Mobil.”

Those are the kinds of battles even a peace movement could embrace.