It’s easy to understand why Americans are not thinking so much about the war in Iraq. And the war in Afghanistan. And our increasing bombing raids in Pakistan. The US (and global) economy has fallen off a cliff, and many of us are worried about our jobs, our rent, our health insurance, and supporting our families. Large numbers of Americans are facing these fears right now, having already lost their jobs and homes, and are scrambling with anxiety and determination to get back on their feet. So the fear is understandable.
In addition, the eyes of the public and the media are on the new president and his plans to save the country, both from a near-decade of Bush-era catastrophe and the damage of capitalism unbound. Everyone wants to know what Barack Obama is capable of, if he can pull us out of this nosedive, and at the very least, bring us back to the pre-Bush status quo.
But the Iraq war continues, with its sixth anniversary coming up in March. We’ve been in Afghanistan for more than 8 years. And now that the Obama administration is stepping up bombing in the parts of Pakistan that are likely hiding Al Qaeda and Taliban members, we are edging closer to a third war. Even worse, none of these wars are going well.
Much has been made of the “surge” strategy in Iraq, and it is popularly believed that this tactic is responsible for the decrease in violence in the country. This is not true. Most experts and journalists on the ground in Iraq report that the decrease in violence was due to two things: the end of the civil war in Iraq (because one side, the Shia, had effectively defeated their opponents), and the fact that the US began paying money to Sunni insurgents to not attack Americans. The country is still exceptionally violent, and remains largely ruined by the years of war and occupation. To go over the numbers again, over 4000 Americans soldiers have died, and over 30,000 wounded. Before the US invasion, it was estimated that around 27 million people lived in Iraq. Now it is estimated that over 1 million Iraqis have died in the chaos, that over 2 million Iraqis have fled the country, and that nearly 3 million Iraqi refugees remain inside the country, with nowhere to live and nowhere to run to.
Obama now talks about moving US troops from Iraq into Afghanistan to try to “win” the war there. But no one knows what “winning” means. The country has been a war between tribal villages, drug traffickers, religious fundamentalists, and violent warlords for almost three decades. What would an Afghan peace look like? And how are more American soldiers and rifles going to bring these sides together?
And finally, Pakistan is not a stable place as it is. Since the so-called “war on terror” began, the US has been pushing the Pakistani government to fight against its own anti-American population on our behalf. Obviously, the people of Pakistan are very hostile to the idea of their government killing their brothers and sisters in the name of some foreign power. Every bit of support for the US or Pakistani blood spilt by the Pakistani government increases the likelihood that the people there will rise up and remove it by force.
Clearly, this madness has to stop.
President Obama ran on a platform of ending the war in Iraq, and he is allegedly taking steps to have all of the troops removed in 16 months. This is a good start, but why the long wait? And why continue a long, confused war in Afghanistan? And why are we risking turning the nuclear-armed country of Pakistan into an enemy?
We, the people who oppose war, must again make our voices heard. We urge you to start speaking out again. Call the White House, contact your Congressmen, write letters to your local news media, talk to your friends, get out in the streets. Tell them how you feel.