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The Press Endorses Obama’s Afghan War Escalation

December 6, 2009

Today, the Grand Rapids Press published an editorial endorsing the President’s war escalation in Afghanistan. The editorial says, “the Surge, along with a withdraw timeline” will help the US complete “our mission” and “defeat our enemies.”

The Press editorial makes the same arguments as the Pentagon and the White House. The first argument is that clear benchmarks will force the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai to “assume responsibility for the country’s security.” First, this ignores the fact that the Karzai government is rife with years of corruption, a reality that the US has been fully aware of. Second, it ignores the fact that some of the most reactionary warlords in the country are part of Karzai’s cabinet.

The second major argument is that sending more US troops to Afghanistan will defeat Al Qaida and prevent the country from being a haven for terrorists in the future. Like the Obama administration, the Press editorial offers no evidence that Al Qaida forces are even in Afghanistan. Many former intelligence operatives, such as Paul Pillar, have acknowledged this to be true. Furthermore, the American public needs to be reminded that the planning for the September 11, 2001 attacks did not originate in Afghanistan, rather they took place in Germany, Spain and the US, as Pillar points out.

A third argument the editorial makes is that the US troop increase will help stabilize Afghanistan. The idea that an escalation in US soldiers will create stability is also not well supported. If anything, it seems that since the Obama administration sent 20,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan in March of 2009 the country has become less stable and control by the Taliban has increased. Anand Gopal, a journalist who has been reporting from Afghanistan for years, said in a recent interview that the Taliban now controls a majority of the country.

The fourth argument presented by the Press editorial was the July 2011 timeline for beginning US troop withdraw. The editorial does acknowledge there have been critics of this timeline, but responds to these criticisms by quoting other Obama officials as saying that this timeline is not set in stone. The editorial doesn’t explore the possibility that Obama might have provided such a timeline just to reassure his base of supporters that the US military operation in Afghanistan will be short lived.

The last argument the Press editorial makes is the assertion that the US troops will not be permanent occupiers. This assertion ignores the current eight year occupation, the increased expansion of permanent US military bases, the new 1,100 person prison the US just built and the more than 70,000 private US contractors being utilized in Afghanistan.

The last point about the number of private security forces in Afghanistan should have been an issue for the Press editorial staff, especially since Blackwater founder Erik Prince just acknowledged in a Vanity Fair interview that his private mercenaries have been very active in Afghanistan & Pakistan doing counterinsurgency work along with assisting the US military in determining targets for their Predator Drone attacks.

Lastly, it should be pointed out that this editorial is consistent with the type of coverage the Grand Rapids Press has given to Afghanistan, both with local stories and the kinds of articles they have decided to print from other news sources. All of this coverage, like this editorial, has been an affirmation of the administration’s claims about US policy in Afghanistan. The editorial also excludes, like the Press reporting, the growing public opposition to such an escalation.

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