Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

The Left Still Opposes the Wars

June 16, 2009

ufpjOne of my least favorite memes lately is the idea that progressive opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has disappeared with Obama’s election.  These excerpts from the Ostrowski asylum are typical enough:

has the WNY peace center been protesting Obama’s escalation of the Afghanistan war and/or his widening of the conflict into Pakistan? You know, the conflicts which are claiming massive civilian casualties on a weekly basis? . . .

It’s a good progressive war now.  So as it’s for a larger purpose, you can blast away.

That’s bullshit, of course.  Apart from the standard marches and rallies against the two wars, groups like United for Peace and Justice are calling on their members to pressure Congress into voting against Obama’s supplemental request to fund the wars.  You know, just as they did when Bush was in office.

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Obama, Islam, and the Truth

June 4, 2009
He can't handle the truth . . .

He can't handle the truth . . .

In Egypt today, Obama gave what was billed as a “truth-telling speech.”  Like most aspects of his presidency, it was unusually good for an American president, and yet bad in some very typical American ways.  You can read the text of the speech here.

For instance, Obama said “more recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims and a Cold War in which Muslim majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations.”   It’s unusual — and refreshing — to have a president who acknowledges the fact that the past exists, who is able to speak the word “colonialism,” and who treats the Cold War as something less than a sacrosanct battle of good vs. evil.  Yet even though he recognizes the truth that anti-Western sentiment was created by the way that the West interacts with the world, he insists that “the first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all its forms.”  In other words, the cause of the violence is of less concern than the violence itself.  That’s a typically short-sighted American reaction.

Later, Obama quotes  the Quranic injunction against the killing of innocents — “The Holy Quran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as if has killed all mankind” — in decrying the violence of Al Qaida and other violent extremists.   This is an important truth, and Obama is able to deliver it with a personal authenticity that past presidents have lacked.  Yet, if he were telling the whole truth, he would be forced to admit that his own government fails to meet that standard just as Al Qaida has.  The wars in Afghanistan (which he seeks to widen) and in Iraq (which he will continue for another two years) have taken more innocent lives than a lunatic like Bin Laden could imagine.  Real truth telling would at least acknowledge that fact.

Whether it’s refusing to investigate the actions of the Bush administration in the run up to the Iraq War, or refusing to release photos of torture in US military prisons in Iraq, Obama has demonstrated that he has a weak stomach when it comes to the unvarnished truth of the American empire.  Today’s speech — while in some ways unusual — once again demonstrates that fact.