What's Past is Prologue
The War Will Go On
By C. G.
-- - In the late summer of 2008, as the American political
parties convene to produce a new president, it seems clear that
Americans will continue to kill and die -- and suffer and
inflict terrible injuries -- in the U.S. war in the Middle East,
regardless of who is elected president, well into the next
administration and beyond.
The war is not limited to Iraq.
The Bush administration's invasion of Iraq, in March of 2003,
was preceded by their invasion of Afghanistan, in October of
2001. In the spring and summer of 2008, more Americans have been
killed each month in Afghanistan than in the on-going war in
Furthermore, there are
undoubtedly members of the current administration -- centered in
the office of the vice president -- who wish to attack Iran, and
the military and the CIA are already conducting "special
operations" there. But the foreign policy establishment in
Washington -- which cuts across party lines -- believes, in the
words of Democratic party deep thinker Richard Holbrooke, that "AfPak"
[Afghanistan and Pakistan] is "even more important to our
national security than Iraq."
What he means is that that is
where the most serious resistance to the U.S. attempt to
dominate the region militarily is coming from. And therefore the
Pentagon will send 12,000 to 15,000 additional troops to
Afghanistan, as soon as the end of this year, with planning
underway for a further force buildup in 2009.
Democracy Now! reported this
week that "senior Pentagon officials are debating whether the US
military should expand the Afghan war by carrying out military
attacks against Islamic militants operating in Pakistan’s
northwestern tribal areas. The move would be in defiance of
Pakistan’s civilian government, which recently refused to accept
a U.S. military training mission for the Pakistani army ... The
prominent military analyst Anthony Cordesman said the US should
treat Pakistani territory as a combat zone if Pakistan does not
act. Cordesman’s comment came in a new report in which he
declared the US is now losing the war against the Taliban.
Cordesman writes, "Pakistan may officially be an ally, but much
of its conduct has effectively made it a major threat to U.S.
Both potential presidents
approve. McCain and Obama try to outdo one another on how
war-like they will be in AfPak: after Obama said he would send
two more brigades to Afghanistan, McCain said he would send
three; in his major speech in Berlin, Obama's only specific
exhortation to the Germans was, "The Afghan people need our
troops and your troops ... We have too much at stake to turn
What in fact do we have at
stake? Recently an Afghan government newspaper loosed the
proverbial cat when it asserted that the U.S. wants to keep
Afghanistan unstable in order to justify the presence of the
American military, given Afghanistan's geographical location
bordering Iran and central Asia's rich oil- and gas-producing
That's not far wrong. It has
been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy since the Second World
War that the U.S. must control the energy resources of the
Middle East. Not because we need them here at home -- the U.S.
obtains the bulk of the oil used domestically from the Western
hemisphere -- but because control of energy gives the U.S. a
strangle-hold on our corporations' major economic competitors,
the European Union and northeast Asia (Japan, China and South
Whether we call them al-Qaida,
Taliban, insurgents, terrorists or militants, the people whom
we're trying to kill in the Middle East are those who want us
out of their countries and off of their resources. In order to
convince Americans to kill and die and suffer in this cause, the
Bush administration has vastly misrepresented the situation,
from trumpeting the non-existent "weapons of mass destruction"
to, apparently, forging incriminating letters.
But even though a majority of
Americans are now against the war in Iraq, many still think that
the Bush administration was justified in invading Afghanistan,
because it "harbored" Osama bin Laden. They forget that the
government of Afghanistan tried to discuss the surrender of
Osama bin Laden for trial, but the U.S. government refused to
negotiate. It preferred a war that supported general U.S. policy
in the region.
On the basis of the principles
on which the U.S. and its allied governments hanged German
leaders after the Second World War, the Bush administration has
committed what the Nuremberg Tribunal called "the supreme
international crime [i.e., worse than terrorism] differing only
from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the
accumulated evil of the whole" -- and they've done it twice,
both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
More than a generation ago, the
U.S. war against South Vietnam came to an end -- after horrible
suffering and millions dead -- because of the conjunction of
three factors: (1) the resistance of the Vietnamese people
against foreign occupation; (2) the effective revolt of the
American military in Vietnam, largely a conscript army; and (3)
the opposition of the American people, seventy per cent of whom
came to believe by the late 1960s that the U.S. war was
"fundamentally wrong and immoral," not a mistake.
As a character in Shakespeare's
Tempest says, "...what's past is prologue, what to come / In
yours and my discharge."
C. G. Estabrook is a
retired visiting professor at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign and the host of "News from Neptune, the TV
Edition," on Urbana Public Television and on the website
he can be contacted at
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