Is Afghanistan the “real” war?

August 6, 2008

IN HIS hawkish July 15 foreign policy speech posted on his Web site, Barack Obama made the case for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq--the "distraction"--and deploying more combat troops to Afghanistan--the "central front" in the "war on terror." This position is quickly becoming the consensus in Washington, and it represents an important development.

The debacle in Iraq has made the American people suspicious of the U.S. government's military intentions beyond Iraq. For example, a July 13 poll by ABC News and the Washington Post found that 45 percent of Americans think the war on Afghanistan was not worth it.

Foreign Affairs magazine's Spring 2008 "Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index" reports that only 12 percent of those polled said they favored the use of force or even the threat of force to deter Iran's nuclear program. It also reported that 69 percent of those polled think the U.S. government should emphasize diplomatic efforts in dealing with terrorism instead of military force.

Obama and the U.S. ruling class are trying to salvage the credibility of American military interventions and the war on terror by refocusing on the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. If the Iraqi resistance turns the heat back up in Iraq, then this strategy may fall apart. But for the time being, Afghanistan is becoming the rallying cry for restoring the image of the American empire.

This will present a political challenge for liberals and moderates who oppose the Iraq war but who have supported some sort of American intervention in Afghanistan. They do not see that September 11 and al-Qaeda are to Afghanistan what "weapons of mass destruction" and Saddam Hussein are to Iraq--the pretexts for expanding the reach of the American empire in strategically vital regions.

Given these developments, the central organizing demand for the antiwar movement must be "Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan." In order to be politically viable in this period and relevant to the current U.S. war plans, the antiwar movement must be clear that we want the troops out of Iraq, but we do not want to send them to Afghanistan!

It would be a strange thing indeed if an antiwar demonstration called for pulling the troops out of Iraq, but did not address a simultaneous escalation in Afghanistan.
Sid Patel, San Francisco

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