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Debate over Afghan war moves to Congress

Published Sep 18, 2009 8:25 PM

With Defense Secretary Robert Gates expected to ask for 45,000 more U.S. troops for Afghanistan, it looks like a U.S. escalation of that ugly war will be the next big issue to be fought out in Congress, with most opposition coming from Democrats. Will the administration rely on support from the most rightist forces in Congress to continue to promote the war against the Afghans, sending many thousands of U.S. youth and contract mercenaries to kill and die occupying that Central Asian land?

This issue has been sharpened by the obviously fraudulent election of incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karsai, the growing casualties among U.S. and other NATO occupation troops, and the ability of the Afghan resistance forces to strike the occupiers in any part of the country.

President Barack Obama up to now has defended the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, contrasting it with the war on Iraq. His administration has already doubled U.S. troop strength to 68,000 this year, with an additional 38,000 troops mostly from NATO allies whose populations oppose the war. Obama used the Sept. 11 commemoration of the 2001 attacks to again justify Afghanistan’s occupation as a means to end the threat from al-Qaida.

Recent polls by the Boston Globe and CBS News show, however, that more than half the U.S. population opposes sending more troops and that Democratic Party voters are decidedly against an escalation of the U.S. presence. In addition, many of the Democratic Party’s politicians in Congress are reluctant to openly embrace a wider war in Central Asia.

On Sept. 11 Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan—head of the Senate Armed Services Committee—called for no more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Dianne Feinstein of California, along with Republican Susan Collins of Maine, continued to question the need for new forces and its wisdom on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sept. 13.

That same day, at a conference of experts, former President Jimmy Carter’s adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski also warned that a U.S. escalation in Afghanistan could become a quagmire. The imperialist strategist Brzezinski had urged Carter in 1979 to throw U.S. arms and financial support to reactionary Afghans who fought the government brought to power by a progressive revolution. From 1979 to 1992 the CIA backed all the Afghan groups that fought against Soviet troops, who had intervened at the request of the pro-Socialist government in Kabul.

Republican Sens. John McCain from Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and “Independent” rightist Sen. Joe Lieberman from Connecticut published a pro-war piece in the Wall Street Journal online on Sept. 13. The three called for more U.S. troops and a long-term U.S. commitment to the Afghan occupation. In their argument, they favorably quoted Obama’s statement that the Afghan war is “a war of necessity.”

Serious differences—but over tactics

Levin argued that adding U.S. troops would not only result in a large increase in U.S. casualties, it would arouse more Afghan support for the anti-U.S. resistance. Levin instead suggests that U.S. and other NATO forces, and mercenary forces be used to train Afghan troops and officers to form an expanded Afghan army. The three senators speaking on CNN’s talk show expressed a similar position.

The three pro-war senators writing in the Wall Street Journal took a position that sounded much like George Bush did regarding Iraq. They said the U.S. must prevail and that if the public backed a strong intervention with whatever force was needed, the U.S. would prevail, “just as in Iraq.”

The argument represents serious tactical differences within the ruling-class establishment. On the principal question, however, they both make the pro-imperialist argument that the U.S. has a right to intervene 10,000 miles from its shore and that this intervention—if done effectively—would protect the people of the U.S. and bring democracy to the Afghans, improve conditions for women and develop the country. This is as far from the truth as the 935 Bush administration lies about al-Qaida and “arms of mass destruction” used to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq.

U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, starting in 1979, has overturned the one progressive government that defended women’s rights—the pro-socialist government brought in by the 1978 revolution. It has caused 30 years of civil wars, with the usual deaths, maiming and disruption of life. It has displaced millions of Afghans, forcing many across the border into Pakistan, where the war has followed.

In the U.S. it has helped only a handful of powerful arms corporations that get rich from war and has depleted the funds that could be used for social services. For these corporations, the war in Iraq was also lucrative. But despite the claims of McCain, Lieberman and Graham, the Iraq war has been a complete nightmare for the Iraqi people—killing more than 1 million, turning another 4 million into internal or foreign refugees and poisoning the relationship between sectarian groups as never before existed.

And the Iraq war is still going on, with 130,000 U.S. troops still occupying the country. If the casualties are down from the last year or two, it is only because these troops have left the cities and spend more time in their barracks.

Role of anti-war movement

The Afghan issue creates a dilemma for the Obama administration. If Obama promotes an escalation of the war, he will need the most reactionary and racist elements in the Republican Party to back this program, including many of the same forces that have attacked all his other programs and viciously attacked his leadership. If he hesitates to expand the war, the militarists—and all the other enemies of the administration—will blame him for “losing” Afghanistan.

For the large majority here that has opposed the U.S. intervention in Iraq, there should be no dilemma over Afghanistan. The so-called anti-terror aspect of the war is a cover story for U.S. military expansion into Central Asia. Even in the official story, no Afghans were involved in Sept. 11.

An expansion of the war will mean more horrors for the Afghans and a growing drain of U.S. lives and wealth that will—as with all U.S. wars—be taken out of the necessary social services at home and hurt the working class, the growing mass of unemployed and all oppressed peoples.

A series of anti-war actions are planned in October around the U.S. to demand the U.S. get out of Afghanistan. They should get the support of all progressive organizations and individuals, as should the growing number of U.S. troops who are refusing duty in that country.

E-mail: [email protected]