Many US voters across the spectrum believe that Mr. Obama deserves a little time to establish himself as president. Give him a few months, they say. While this is a worthy and magnanimous gesture, it does not apply to the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both of these operations have not achieved their stated goals and the continued killing of local citizens by US and their client forces will not achieve those goals in the future. To pretend otherwise is pure folly and defies the basic facts of the past eight years. A good part of the reason the violence in Iraq has died down lies with the expectation that US forces will be leaving soon. There are other reasons, including the security clampdown across the country and the sheer fact of a population exhausted from conflict, but a substantial reason for the lull in violence is the hope that with the US leaving there will come a new Iraqi sovereignty and some kind of genuine peace. This hope can die very quickly if the resistance forces inside Iraq come to believe that the US intends to stay.
As for Afghanistan, the seven years of US war and occupation of that land has done nothing but further destroy that broken nation’s infrastructure, increase support for the Taliban, enhance the production of opium, and stifle the nascent movement for better treatment of women and children. That’s just the obvious failures of this ill-informed mission. There was never a good reason to invade that country in the first place. The motivation for the original attacks was revenge, plain and simple. There was little or no connection between the thousands of Afghan civilians killed since that first attack and the forces that killed thousands in New York and Virginia, but the people in Washington wanted blood so they went after Afghanistan. There is no reason to continue the killing. It is time to stop. Washington can trade partners and install a new regime that won’t criticize US air raids, but it can not change the fact that its battle in Afghanistan will drain the swagger from the US empire just as it has done to the Soviet and the British empires before it.
There are at least two antiwar protests coming up in spring 2009. If Barack Obama is not taking the path towards peace that he was elected to take by then, it is essential that those who voted for him with the understanding that US troops would be leaving Iraq (and not going to Afghanistan) attend at least one of these protests. That is what democracy really means.
Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: email@example.com