President Obama's War

Eric S. Margolis February 2, 2009
Special for the Huffington Post

LONDON - Two senior British officials have created a sensation by finally speaking some hard truths about the official Anglo-American party line on the so-called 'war on terror.'

Lord West, the Security Minister of Britain's Labour government (equivalent to the US Homeland Security Secretary), dropped a bombshell last week by declaring that his nation's military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan had fueled global radicalism against Britain and the US as well as domestic 'terrorism' in the United Kingdom.

According to the outspoken minister, the West's recent policies in the Muslim world were encouraging what we term 'terrorism.'

West described as 'bollocks' former Prime Minister Tony Blair's claims the so-called 'war on terror' had nothing to do with growing Islamic radicalism. This comes soon after Britain's foreign secretary, David Miliband, urged we stop using the term 'war on terror,' which he called deceptive and misleading.

In an extraordinary move, cabinet minutes of Tony Blair's decision to invade Iraq may shortly be made public, raising the possibility of serious criminal charges against some senior British officials. At a minimum, the sanctimonious Blair is likely to be exposed as a liar and hypocrite in his claims that the Iraq war was justified and necessary.

While glasnost sweeps London, in Washington, it's déjà vu. President Barack Obama vowed to continue President Bush's war policies in Afghanistan and intensify the eight-year old conflict by doubling the number of US troops and aircraft there in coming months.

In addition, Washington is rife with rumors that the Obama administration plans to dump the US-installed president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and replace him with one of four CIA-groomed candidates.

London is warning Washington both against a precipitous change of regime in Kabul that would be widely viewed as crass political manipulation and against a plan to arm tribes in neighboring Pakistan.

Obama's eagerness to expand the war demonstrates political inexperience and a faulty grasp of events in Afghanistan. A change of administration in Washington, and departure of the reviled Bush, offered an ideal opportunity for Washington to declare a pause in the Afghan War and reassess its policies. It also presented an ideal opportunity to offer negotiations to Taliban and its growing number of supporters.

The Afghan War will have to be ended by a political settlement that includes the Taliban-led nationalist alliance that represents over half of Afghanistan's population, the Pashtun people. There is simply no purely military solution to this grinding conflict - as even the Secretary General of NATO admits.

But instead of diplomacy, the new administration elected to stick its head ever deeper into the Afghan hornet's nest. The bill for an intensified war will likely reach $4 billion monthly by mid-year at a time when the United States is bankrupt and running on borrowed money from China and Japan.

The 20,000 to 30,000 more US troops slated to go to Afghanistan will also be standing on a smoking volcano: Pakistan. The Afghan War is relentlessly seeping into Pakistan, enflaming its people against the NATO powers and, as Lord West rightly says, generating new jihadist forces.

Polls show most Pakistanis strongly oppose the US-led war in Afghanistan and the grudging involvement of their armed forces in it. Intensifying US air attacks on Pakistan have aroused fierce anti-American sentiment across this nation of 165 million.

Why is President Obama, who came to power on an anti-war platform, committed to expanding a war where there are no vital US interests?

Oil is certainly one reason. The proposed route for pipelines taking oil and gas from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea coast runs right through Taliban-Pashtun territory.

Another reason: Americans still want revenge for 9/11. In the absence of a clear perpetrator, Taliban has been selected as the most convenient and identifiable target though it had nothing to do with the attacks and knew nothing about them. The 9/11 attacks were mounted from Germany and Spain, not Afghanistan, and planned by a group of Pakistanis. Washington has yet to offer a White Paper promised in 2001 'proving' the guilt of Osama bin Laden in the attacks.

There is also the less obvious question of NATO. Washington arm-twisted the reluctant NATO alliance badly for the US-led forces as their vulnerable supply lines come increasingly under Taliban attack. Here in Europe, the majority of public opinion opposes the Afghanistan War as a neo-colonial adventure for oil and imperial influence.

The US could survive a defeat in Afghanistan, as it did in Vietnam. But the NATO alliance might not.

The end of the Cold War and collapse of the USSR removed the raison d'être from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization which was created to resist Soviet invasion of Western Europe.

According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of America's leading strategists, NATO serves as the primary tool for America's strategic domination of Europe. Japan fulfills the same role for the US in Asia. The Soviet Union used the Warsaw Pact to dominate Eastern Europe.

The US also uses NATO to help deter the creation of a truly united - and rival - Europe with its own unified armed forces. The EU will not become a truly integrated national state until it has its own independent armed forces.

NATO's defeat in Afghanistan would raise questions about its continuing purpose and obedience to US strategic demands. Calls would inevitably come for empowerment of the European Defense Union, an independent European armed force that answers to the EU in Brussels, not to Washington.

This, I believe, is one of the primary reasons why vested interests in Washington - notably the Pentagon - have prevailed on the new president to expand the war in Afghanistan by claiming that America's influence in Europe depends on victory in Afghanistan.

The US and its allies cannot be seen to be defeated by a bunch of Afghan tribesmen. Coming after the epic defeat in Vietnam and the trillion dollar fiasco in Iraq, defeat in Afghanistan is simply unthinkable to the military-industrial-petroleum-financial complex.

The last empire that suffered defeat at the hands of the Afghans, the once mighty Soviet Union, quickly fell apart. Washington has clearly taken this dire lesson to heart.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2009