Shakira Hussein and Obama’s Afghan speech

Isn’t she supposed to be a leftist? She comments on Obama’s speech escalating the war:

This requires more analysis than I can manage in a blog post, and possibly more than I could manage in a ten-volume book. I had a lot of questions in my head after listening to the speech, and one that underlay everything else: security in American, Europe, and Australia is certainly connected to violent conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere – but can you really safeguard security at home by sending more troops to Afghan battlefields?

Is this really a question for her? Is it even a relevant question? Should the US occupy Afghanistan unless people in Australia feel safe?

The only sign of something positive is that he says he’ll start withdrawing troops in 18 months. This is a concession to the insurgency and anti-war sentiment. Okay let’s read the whole speech.

First he says why they’re at war.

Just days after 9/11, Congress authorized the use of force against al-Qa’ida and those who harbored them – an authorization that continues to this day.

Under the banner of this domestic unity and international legitimacy – and only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden – we sent our troops into Afghanistan.

At least that’s accurate. Or almost – the Taliban asked for evidence before they’d turn over Bin Laden.  Look at him bragging about the elections:

In Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a presidential election, and – although it was marred by fraud – that election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan’s laws and Constitution.

What an achievement! You could say that about the elections under Saddam’s Iraq. The important bit:

it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.

You know, I don’t like Obama, but I prefer his speeches to Bush, because he’s more honest. Bush was stupid and a fanatic, whereas Obama’s smart, and smart enough to think he can be reasonably honest with the public.

The official bullshit for why we’re all in Afghanistan:

If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow.

Here is where he becomes more dishonest:

So no – I do not make this decision lightly. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al-Qa’ida. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak. This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat. In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our borders who were sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror. This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al-Qa’ida can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al-Qa’ida, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.

See this is nonsense, because the 9/11 hijackers weren’t Afghan. They were overwhelmingly Saudis. And note what I boldened: increase the stability and capacity of our partners means supporting Saudi Arabia (etc). Besides the blatant contradiction, it shows perfectly well that Obama does not represent change, as I’ve been writing since before his election and after.

Okay, so the offical justification

These facts compel us to act along with our friends and allies. Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.

To meet that goal, we will pursue the following objectives within Afghanistan. We must deny al-Qa’ida a safe-haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s Security Forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.

This obviously isn’t credible – but note how the point isn’t installing democracy anymore. Though it should also be noted – they’re going to negotiate with some Taliban. His message for Afghanistan:

We have no interest in occupying your country. We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens. And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect – to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron.

The traditional rhetoric of colonisers (see quotes in Khalidi’s book on empire). And his message to Pakistan:

In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistani people must know: America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

America’s so unpopular in Pakistan that aid can’t be distributed by Americans to the displaced because America’s so hated.

First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we are better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. Yet this argument depends upon a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognises the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.

This is stupid. The argument about terrorism is the same as the argument about communism – if you let them win there, there’s a threat to us elsewhere. 43 nations who send token forces, except maybe the UK. It doesn’t matter that the Taliban are unpopular, Karzai’s also unpopular, and the insurgency is effective enough.

He comments on Yemen and Somalia, where the US is engaged in covert war by backing certain sides (in Somalia, the warlords, in Yemen, they’re on the Saudi side):

So as a result, America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict. We will have to be nimble and precise in our use of military power. Where al-Qa’ida and its allies attempt to establish a foothold – whether in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere – they must be confronted by growing pressure and strong partnerships.

Next, Obama declares he is not a crook and the US is not an empire:

For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours.

3 Responses to “Shakira Hussein and Obama’s Afghan speech”
  1. gardenoc says:

    Michael, we had an unpleasant (by e-mail) personal exchange recently. Get over it – it’s acting as blikers. This was a short, immediate blog piece, and I made it perfectly clear that I had a lot more to say. I generally do focus on the impact on Afghanistan and especially Pakistan (Pakistan because I know it better, not because it’s more important). On this particular occasion, I questioned whether the entire raison d’tre for our presence in Afghanistan – ie, that it kept the home front safe – was justified. Do you not think that is relevant, for Australian readers? I have a long-standing engagement with “AfPak”, as the region is now tragically being called, and I don’t need to list my left-wing credentials for you – although I will say that to the extent that I have been feeling out of step with left-wing comrades, it’s because I came out of the Obama honeymoon before most of them, in large part because of “AfPak” – an area that many on the left forgot about in their happy post-Bush glow. Grow. Up.

  2. michaelbrull says:

    I’ll put aside the ad hominems: I asked specific questions, which you appear to have ignored, so I will repeat them. You discuss the speech as though it is all very complex, and raises uncertain issues. As I thought you were considered a leftist, I wondered what these uncertainties were, and whether your uncertain tone reflected doubts or was simply a rhetorical ploy.

    So, concretely, do you support the escalation of the war in Afghanistan? Do you suppor the occupation of Afghanistan, and the drone attacks in Pakistan? Do you support the continued occupation of Afghanistan?

    On the issue of relevance: Do you think the war on Afghanistan would be legitimate if there were some evidence it were making Australians more safe? (which was my point: besides the dubiousness of the proposition, I’m not sure it’s morally relevant whether or not we increase our safety by occupying another country)

  3. michaelbrull says:

    I’ll clarify the issue: would you grant Iran or Hezbollah the right to bomb/invade/occupy Israel so that Iranians could feel safer? Would you grant Cuba the right to attack America to increase the security of Cubans?

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