Doubletalk on Afghanistan: War is Peace; Escalation is Withdrawal

The Peace Movement Is Stepping it Up

If I ever get cancer, I want Barack Obama to tell me I’m dying. He could probably convince someone like me who does not believe in the supernatural that death is life.

He certainly did his best on Tuesday night to convince the American public that war means peace, and escalation means withdrawal.

President Obama is not President Bush. He is a much more effective and eloquent advocate for American militarism who makes his case in ways that will challenge people who oppose war. He does not seek to merely energize his base, as President Bush did, but more to nullify and confuse it, something he is not only doing on war but on health care, banking, climate change … seemingly every issue he touches.

In his new Afghanistan war plan he tried to give everyone something. He gave General McChrystal and the war hawks what they want – tens of thousands of more troops. He gave the majority of Americans who oppose the war what they want – a promise, however vague, to begin withdrawal in 18 months. He told Pakistan that the U.S. will be there for them and escalated the war in Pakistan without clearly saying so. He gave the corrupt President Karzai the protection he needs to stay in office. Everybody’s happy, right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, promising all things to all people seems likely to make no one happy. But, it may confuse people enough so that Obama gets the war funding he needs to escalate the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

From the perspective of a peace voter, I can say, I’m not happy. It makes no sense to send more troops to Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence estimates that there are 100 al Qaeda left in Afghanistan. Do we need 100,000 troops to defeat them? Obama is concerned about the momentum of the Taliban. Aren’t more air strikes, killings of civilians and a larger presence of U.S. forces going to be a recruiting tool for the Taliban? And, with more than 10% unemployment, nearly 20% underemployment, record foreclosures, rising bankruptcies and record debt – how does it make economic sense to borrow more money to pay the $1 million per troop cost of escalation? Wouldn’t it be better to come home, America?

As to the promise to begin withdrawing troops in 18 months, this was the only thing different from what President Bush would have done in Afghanistan. It is consistent with Obama’s style of trying to give all sides something and he coupled it with the escalation:

“And, as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

No doubt the unpopularity of the Afghanistan War and people persistently pushing Congress to end the war made Obama include the withdrawal plan. But, he did not provide any details and only discussed beginning the withdrawal not completing the withdrawal. And, he made it clear that things could change depending on the situation saying “we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground.” Does that mean if the escalation is failing that the troops will stay? Or, does that mean if the escalation is succeeding the troops will stay?

Obama has raised a challenge to the peace movement to continue to push to have the war end and troops return home. The peace movement is showing signs of stepping up after being confused by a media that labeled Obama the peace candidate. Cindy Sheehan is leading an effort in Washington, DC, Peace of the Action (see, that promises “an historic escalation of Peace Activism like we have not seen in the United States for a very long time.” Another new coalition, End US Wars is bringing together anti-war activists for an emergency rally against the escalation on December 12th. Plans are being made for mass anti-war rallies in Washington, DC on the anniversary of the Iraq invasion on Saturday, March 20th.

People who oppose the war need to remember that under the Constitution it is the Congress that declares war and funds war. So, Obama is not the last word. And, in Congress it is our job to make sure they hear our voices.

Peace advocates need to support efforts in Congress for an exit strategy from Afghanistan (Rep. Jim McGovern’s resolution favoring an exit strategy H.R. 2402 which is 100 co-sponsors deserves support) and efforts to stop funding of the escalation (Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill to prevent funding, HR 3699, has 23 co-sponsors). Rep. Obey, the Chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, is talking about a war tax to pay for the war, but the White House and Democratic leadership does not seem interested. The peace community needs to point out the U.S. cannot afford more war. Anti-war advocates are counting heads in Congress — join the effort.

We cannot let Obama’s vague 18 month withdrawal confuse us. War does not equal peace and escalation does not equal withdrawal. Americans no better than to believe that. The anti-war movement needs to unify and speak against the wars so that the majority of Americans who oppose them recognize they can make a difference.

Kevin Zeese co-directs Popular Resistance and is on the coordinating council for the Maryland Green Party. Read other articles by Kevin, or visit Kevin's website.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Martha said on December 3rd, 2009 at 9:41am #

    This article is weak and embarrassing. I believe Kat called Kevin out in 2008 repeatedly for this b.s. And he had 100 excuses then. He still has them. He didn’t show weak and meek to George W. Bush but he’s still too much of a chicken to go after Barack Obama the way he did Bush.
    Here’s Kat in May of this year on Zeese:

    Even now, Kevie Pooh can’t call Barry O like a grown up. Even now, Kevie Pooh hedges and hems and acts like Barry O is pressured by mean people and we have to pressure Barry O because we have to be there for him.

    And here’s Kat responding to one of Zeese’s many e-mails to her:

    So when I say you need to take off the training wheels (I actually prefer C.I.’s “kick off the training wheels”), I am referring to the reality about Barack. I am referring to the fact that your idea of a fair critique is to pile on John McCain, weakly note he and Barack are similar and that’s supposed to be criticism.

    They are similar. Yet the construct you use in your critiques implies a difference that is not there. It does not matter that for a few sentences you tell a little truth. You continue the lie that on Iraq (or Israel for that matter), Barack and McCain are vastly different.

    They are not. I am voting for Ralph Nader in November. I am voting for him because he is different from both of them and he will end the illegal war.

    Kevin’s not a fierce advocate for peace. He’s a weak defender of peace and he still won’t ‘kick off the training wheels’ when it comes to critiquing Barack Obama.

  2. Nasir Khan said on December 3rd, 2009 at 11:22am #

    Obama stands for imperial war, power and deception

    By Khan, Nasir

    What President Obama decided was no surprise. The Bushite high officials and generals in his administration had made it all possible. Bush and  Cheney may have already sent their congratulations to their worthy successor, who knows?

    With the limited resources we have at our disposal, an existential reality, we who believe in human values and respect for human life should stand up, and say loudly and clearly: No to imperialist war in Afghanistan, No to fascism, No to warmongers.

    Can we do that? Yes, we can. The people can.

    We can defeat the warmongers and their criminal plans. I believe, the vast majority of ordinary Americans will be with us when they become aware of what crimes are being perpetrated in their name for the wars of aggression under the cover of false pretexts and misleading propaganda. A big task though, but we should do what we can because we love peace and hold humanity in respect. The war criminals have to use the rhetoric of ‘good wars’ though, to deceive their people to gain support for their criminal wars and human bloodshed.

    If we can inform the people by our continuous struggle about the reality of war, the motives of war and the profiteers of war, then and only then the ordinary man and woman will stop supporting genocidal wars.

    The military-industrial complex in the United States has economic interests to carry on such criminal wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

    What Obama is doing now is part of the same game.

    For the warmongers, weapon manufacturers, war contractors and the rest of the war profiteers war is a very lucrative business. The loss of human life, either of the invading soldiers or their victims has no significance. It is part of the game.

  3. Miles Reed said on December 3rd, 2009 at 12:53pm #

    Assessment of the situation: spot on.
    Recommended actions: ineffective.

    After having just voted in an official who pledged to curtail US wars abroad yet who is in fact doing the opposite, what exactly makes you think appealing to the same political system (“Peace advocates need to support efforts in Congress…”) will have anything but the same effects. Working through an irredeemably corrupt and ostensibly evil system will never get us peace. Likewise, protests, admirable and fun as they are, don’t much bother the insulated politicians in their castles.

    You can’t oppose warmongering fascists with nonviolence and democracy. If you want peace abroad, you must first have war at home. Don’t agree? Let’s see what happens…

  4. rosemarie jackowski said on December 3rd, 2009 at 1:30pm #

    It has already been announced that the war will go on indefinitely – maybe forever.
    As far as the number of troops – that is irrelevant. They are playing with the numbers. Troops are becoming obsolete. There are more and more troops based in the US who are firing the drones from military bases in the US and killing civilians in Afgan/Pak. New predator bases are being set up in Upper New York state. Drones will continue to kill children and other civilians.
    Also, don’t forget the large number of ‘contractors’. The US has devised many ways to kill without troops. Just give them a lot of weapons and money and have them come under the State Dept instead of the Dept of Offense.
    Now, don’t you wish you had voted for Nader!

  5. Annie Ladysmith said on December 4th, 2009 at 12:48am #

    Yeah! and going to ‘stay’ in a FEMA camp is really a free holiday at a Four Seasons Resort, and taking away your constitutional rights is really making you free because now you don’t have to worry about anyone taking them away from you, the government is keeping them safe just like they are keeping all the American peoples gold safe at Fort Knox which is like a guarded FORTRESS and if you get too close they’ll shoot you. And starving is really the Obama diet, it is a celebrity diet, Oprah is on it, very special, and you’re all so fat, and living in your car is like a holiday home on wheels and being unemployed is really having a great job because you can work at home with a flex schedule looking for a job, it’s a great job, IT IS A SNOW JOB! WAKE UP AND FIGHT THE TYRANNY COMING DOWN ON US!

  6. Deadbeat said on December 4th, 2009 at 3:21am #

    Now, don’t you wish you had voted for Nader!

    It’s a shame that the anti-war movement didn’t rally behind Nader in 2004 but the Anybody But Bush, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky phony, crowd won out.

    The Greens Party got sabotaged from within by the Medea Benjamin, David Cobb conspiracy. The Left became a joke and by 2008 was left a huge vacuum for Obama to fill.

    Look to your “Left” if you want to see where the real problems and failures lie.

  7. Kevin Zeese said on December 4th, 2009 at 7:10am #


    I’d love you to go to VotersForPeace.US and look at Peace Perspectives from 2008. You will find lots of articles critical of Obama’s campaign rhetoric regarding withdrawal from Iraq, expanding the military, attacking Pakistan and escalating in Afghanistan as well as siding with Israel. It is all there — everything I wrote during the campaign and that Voters for Peace re-published during the campaign. And there is a lot of criticism for Obama throughout the election year. I don’t Kat, tried to talk to her but found it impossible. She can write whatever inaccurate stuff she likes, but if you go back and check you will see I was very critical of Obama.

    And, I did not vote for him in the election. I stayed with Nader.