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      What Obama Said About the War

      President Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, NC.

      After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home... [and] in 2014 our longest war, in Afghanistan, will be over."

      ~ President Barack Obama

      Those words succinctly summarize what Rep. Barbara Lee, the Peace and Justice Resource Center, and most peace groups have demanded since 2009. Obama’s definitive statement that Afghanistan will be “over” makes it a commitment he will have to keep.

      Let us be clear then on what “over” means. A rational interpretation means that American ground operations will be over; American drone attacks will be over, too. There may or may not be a residual force training the Afghans. Somewhere “over the horizon” or offshore, there presumably will be a US strike force. There will have to be messy diplomatic arrangements to salvage a face-saving, power-sharing agreement to replace the Karzai regime and avoid a return to sectarian civil war. And the US and Western powers will make future aid dependent on the protecting the meager rights achieved by Afghan women.

      The tax savings from these two wars, in direct dollars alone, are roughly $100 billion per year, to be used to pay down the deficit and create more jobs at home.  

      Obama’s speech, no doubt, will force Romney to clarify his murky Afghanistan policy by the first presidential debate on Oct. 3. For an examination of the Romney-Ryan ticket as the return of the neo-cons, please see Ryan a Pawn in Neo-Con Return.

      The continuing need to address drone warfare, avoid a war with Iran, and revise the shredded War Powers Act will have to be important priorities of the peace movement and its few Congressional allies. The conservative foreign policy of the US towards Latin America will demand much greater movement attention. So will the deadly Drug War.  

      As to our civil liberties and constitutional crises, Rachel Maddow correctly said after Obama’s speech that only through the end of the Global War on Terrorism would it be possible to restore civil liberties to a better state. She is right. It is important, therefore, that the Long War doctrine, not simply the Afghan War, be repudiated as the basis of policy. The 9/11 climate of American fear was exploited by politicians to pass the Patriot Act and other repressive measures. 

      McCarthyism, which reached a fever pitch during the Korean War, is an instructive parallel. McCarthyism never truly abated until the peace movement ended the Vietnam War and drove Nixon to his Watergate moment of overreaction. Similarly, the peace movement will have to end the current wars and undermine the public climate of “war on terrorism” fear that allows rendition, suspension of habeus corpus, secret prisons, torture, etc. This will require a longer struggle than 2014, but it can be done. 

      It would be helpful if civil liberties, human rights and anti-torture organizations would oppose the underlying war policies that give rise to repression. The ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, for example, are against torture and repression but take no position on the wars that give rise to torture and repression. Bless them for their anti-torture advocacy, but they fail to see that these wars are one big institutionalized human rights violation. Their claim, as recounted in interviews, is that the human rights crises might even be worse if “terrorist” organizations took over any of these countries. So they try to lessen repression in war zones without opposing the wars that require the repression. Now is the time to begin reassessing those priorities.

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