In speech, Obama shifts war rhetoric from Iraq to Afghanistan
- Length: 4:27 minutes (4.07 MB)
- Format: MP3 Mono 44kHz 128Kbps (CBR)
Last night, President Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office for just the second time. He declared an end to the combat mission in Iraq and at the same time outlined a plan for continued war in Afghanistan. Analysts say that in trying to walk this line, Obama may have difficulty appeasing any side with his speech. Tanya Snyder has more.
President Obama tried, in his speech, to rid his presidency of the burden of one inherited war – while at the same time he ratcheted up the rhetoric for another.
He used the same fear-inducing language Bush had used to scare people into supporting the war.
BARACK OBAMA: We must never lose sight of what's at stake. As we speak, Al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He also acknowledged that the withdrawal in Iraq isn’t about bringing the troops home and dismantling the war machine.
OBAMA: And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense.
Obama was also careful not to criticize the war in Iraq. Conservatives had wanted to see him admit that he had been wrong to oppose it, and they were disappointed that he didn’t. But Norman Solomon, author of the book “War Made Easy”, says Obama’s rhetoric of “taking the fight to the terrorists” shows that he’s right in line with President Bush.
NORMAN SOLOMON: The speech really wasn’t so much about Iraq except as a segueway to glorify a war based on lies, and then by contrast, at least inferentially, declaring the Afghanistan war as even more glorious, ostensibly.
Obama reiterated his intention to withdraw forces from Afghanistan next July, but said the pace of withdrawal would be determined by conditions on the ground. And, it’s not clear what conditions he’s looking for. If things continue to get worse in Afghanistan, the military could make the case that the job isn’t done yet. And if things get better, commanders can argue that they’re doing great and they need more time. Independent investigative journalist Gareth Porter says that was former commander Stanley McChrystal’s strategy.
GARETH PORTER: McChrystal was saying that we hope to show that there’s been enough progress that we should be given more time. That was the official argument. Now Petraeus is beginning to say well it may be that there’s not enough progress here or there’s no progress so that the situation will not merit any wd of US troops. In other words, what the mil is doing here is trying to change the game entirely, change the entire strategic argument for giving them more time beyond mid-2011.
Some say Obama has been caught up in the momentum of a war he didn’t start. But, he’s enormously expanded the effort in Afghanistan. Tom Engelhardt wrote the book "The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's." He says it’s wrong to think of the “surge” in Afghanistan as just being the additional thirty thousand troops.
TOM ENGLEHARDT: But it’s been on a much wider scale, he’s maybe at least doubled or more the secret predator drone airwar in Pakistani borderlands, he’s upped the general CIA presence in the Afghan war region, he’s tripled the civilian presence, state department, USAID and so forth in Afghanistan and Pakistan, there’s been an increase in private contractors, there’s been a huge surge in base-building.
You’d think this buildup would please the hawks in Washington, but John McCain came out right after Obama’s speech and said Obama’s “ambiguity in Afghanistan … could cause us to fail.” And anti-war Democrats – Obama’s natural constituency – might be pleased to see some troops coming home from Iraq. But they oppose the war in Afghanistan. Again, Tom Englehardt.
ENGLEHARDT: He was trying to give a little something to everybody, which is a very Obamaian but hopeless strategy. “Not open ended” is a bone to left, and “conditions-based” is a bone to the right, it means we don’t have to do anything if it looks too bad, or not very much.
This year is on track to cost more lives of NATO soldiers than last year. Twenty-two US troops were killed there over four days this week, and violence is expected to rise as the September 18th parliamentary elections near and Ramadan ends.
Tanya Snyder, FSRN