The Peace Candidate Myth: Yeswecanistan

By William Blum
December 10, 2009

Trinidad and Tobago News Blog

Barack ObamaAll the crying from the left about how Obama “the peace candidate” has now become “a war president” … Whatever are they talking about? Here’s what I wrote in this report in August 2008, during the election campaign:

We find Obama threatening, several times, to attack Iran if they don’t do what the United States wants them to do nuclear-wise; threatening more than once to attack Pakistan if their anti-terrorist policies are not tough enough or if there would be a regime change in the nuclear-armed country not to his liking; calling for a large increase in US troops and tougher policies for Afghanistan; wholly and unequivocally embracing Israel as if it were the 51st state.

Why should anyone be surprised at Obama’s foreign policy in the White House? He has not even banned torture, contrary to what his supporters would fervently have us believe. If further evidence were needed, we have the November 28 report in the Washington Post: “Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban.” This is but the latest example of the continuance of torture under the new administration.

But the shortcomings of Barack Obama and the naiveté of his fans is not the important issue. The important issue is the continuation and escalation of the American war in Afghanistan, based on the myth that the individuals we label “Taliban” are indistinguishable from those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, whom we usually label “al Qaeda”. “I am convinced,” the president said in his speech at the United States Military Academy (West Point) on December 1, “that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.”

Obama used one form or another of the word “extremist” eleven times in his half-hour talk. Young, impressionable minds must be carefully taught; a future generation of military leaders who will command America’s never-ending wars must have no doubts that the bad guys are “extremists”, that “extremists” are by definition bad guys, that “extremists” are beyond the pale and do not act from human, rational motivation like we do, that we — quintessential non-extremists, peace-loving moderates — are the good guys, forced into one war after another against our will. Sending robotic death machines flying over Afghanistan and Pakistan to drop powerful bombs on the top of wedding parties, funerals, and homes is of course not extremist behavior for human beings.

And the bad guys attacked the US “from here”, Afghanistan. That’s why the United States is “there”, Afghanistan. But in fact the 9-11 attack was planned in Germany, Spain and the United States as much as in Afghanistan. It could have been planned in a single small room in Panama City, Taiwan, or Bucharest. What is needed to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? And the attack was carried out entirely in the United States. But Barack Obama has to maintain the fiction that Afghanistan was, and is, vital and indispensable to any attack on the United States, past or future. That gives him the right to occupy the country and kill the citizens as he sees fit. Robert Baer, former CIA officer with long involvement in that part of the world has noted: “The people that want their country liberated from the West have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. They simply want us gone because we’re foreigners, and they’re rallying behind the Taliban because the Taliban are experienced, effective fighters.”

The pretenses extend further. US leaders have fed the public a certain image of the insurgents (all labeled together under the name “Taliban”) and of the conflict to cover the true imperialistic motivation behind the war. The predominant image at the headlines/TV news level and beyond is that of the Taliban as an implacable and monolithic “enemy” which must be militarily defeated at all costs for America’s security, with a negotiated settlement or compromise not being an option. However, consider the following which have been reported at various times during the past two years about the actual behavior of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan vis-à-vis the Taliban, which can raise questions about Obama’s latest escalation:

The US military in Afghanistan has long been considering paying Taliban fighters who renounce violence against the government in Kabul, as the United States has done with Iraqi insurgents.

President Obama has floated the idea of negotiating with moderate elements of the Taliban.

US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, said last month that the United States would support any role Saudi Arabia chose to pursue in trying to engage Taliban officials.

Canadian troops are reaching out to the Taliban in various ways.

A top European Union official and a United Nations staff member were ordered by the Kabul government to leave the country after allegations that they had met Taliban insurgents without the administration’s knowledge. And two senior diplomats for the United Nations were expelled from the country, accused by the Afghan government of unauthorized dealings with insurgents. However, the Afghanistan government itself has had a series of secret talks with “moderate Taliban” since 2003 and President Hamid Karzai has called for peace talks with Taliban leader Mohammed Omar.

Organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the United Nations have become increasingly open about their contacts with the Taliban leadership and other insurgent groups.

Gestures of openness are common practice among some of Washington’s allies in Afghanistan, notably the Dutch, who make negotiating with the Taliban an explicit part of their military policy.

The German government is officially against negotiations, but some members of the governing coalition have suggested Berlin host talks with the Taliban.

MI-6, Britain’s external security service, has held secret talks with the Taliban up to half a dozen times. At the local level, the British cut a deal, appointing a former Taliban leader as a district chief in Helmand province in exchange for security guarantees.

Senior British officers involved with the Afghan mission have confirmed that direct contact with the Taliban has led to insurgents changing sides as well as rivals in the Taliban movement providing intelligence which has led to leaders being killed or captured.

British authorities hold that there are distinct differences between different “tiers” of the Taliban and that it is essential to try to separate the doctrinaire extremists from others who are fighting for money or because they resent the presence of foreign forces in their country.

British contacts with the Taliban have occurred despite British Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly ruling out such talks; on one occasion he told the House of Commons: “We will not enter into any negotiations with these people.”

For months there have been repeated reports of “good Taliban” forces being airlifted by Western helicopters from one part of Afghanistan to another to protect them from Afghan or Pakistani military forces. At an October 11 news conference in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai himself claimed that “some unidentified helicopters dropped armed men in the northern provinces at night.”

On November 2, (Qatar) reported: “The emboldened Taliban movement in Afghanistan turned down an American offer of power-sharing in exchange for accepting the presence of foreign troops, Afghan government sources confirmed. ‘US negotiators had offered the Taliban leadership through Mullah Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil (former Taliban foreign minister) that if they accept the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan, they would be given the governorship of six provinces in the south and northeast … America wants eight army and air force bases in different parts of Afghanistan in order to tackle the possible regrouping of [the] Al-Qaeda network,’ a senior Afghan Foreign Ministry official told”

There has been no confirmation of this from American officials, but the New York Times on October 28 listed six provinces that were being considered to receive priority protection from the US military, five which are amongst the eight mentioned in the IslamOnline report as being planned for US military bases, although no mention is made in the Times of the above-mentioned offer. The next day, Asia Times reported: “The United States has withdrawn its troops from its four key bases in Nuristan [or Nooristan], on the border with Pakistan, leaving the northeastern province as a safe haven for the Taliban-led insurgency to orchestrate its regional battles.” Nuristan, where earlier in the month eight US soldiers were killed and three Apache helicopters hit by hostile fire, is one of the six provinces offered to the Taliban as reported in the story.

The part about al-Qaeda is ambiguous and questionable, not only because the term has long been loosely used as a catch-all for any group or individual in opposition to US foreign policy in this part of the world, but also because the president’s own national security adviser, former Marine Gen. James Jones, stated in early October: “I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban. Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling. The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.”

Shortly after Jones’s remarks, we could read in the Wall Street Journal:

“Hunted by U.S. drones, beset by money problems and finding it tougher to lure young Arabs to the bleak mountains of Pakistan, al-Qaida is seeing its role shrink there and in Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports and Pakistan and U.S. officials. … For Arab youths who are al-Qaida’s primary recruits, ‘it’s not romantic to be cold and hungry and hiding,’ said a senior U.S. official in South Asia.”

From all of the above is it not reasonable to conclude that the United States is willing and able to live with the Taliban, as repulsive as their social philosophy is? Perhaps even a Taliban state which would go across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has been talked about in some quarters. What then is Washington fighting for? What moves the president of the United States to sacrifice so much American blood and treasure? In past years, US leaders have spoken of bringing democracy to Afghanistan, liberating Afghan women, or modernizing a backward country. President Obama made no mention of any of these previous supposed vital goals in his December 1 speech. He spoke only of the attacks of September 11, al Qaeda, the Taliban, terrorists, extremists, and such, symbols guaranteed to fire up an American audience. Yet, the president himself declared at one point: “Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border.” Ah yes, the terrorist danger … always, everywhere, forever, particularly when it seems the weakest.

How many of the West Point cadets, how many Americans, give thought to the fact that Afghanistan is surrounded by the immense oil reserves of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea regions? Or that Afghanistan is ideally situated for oil and gas pipelines to serve much of Europe and south Asia, lines that can deliberately bypass non-allies of the empire, Iran and Russia? If only the Taliban will not attack the lines. “One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so that energy can flow to the south …”, said Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in 2007.

Afghanistan would also serve as the home of American military bases, the better to watch and pressure next-door Iran and the rest of Eurasia. And NATO … struggling to find a raison d’être since the end of the Cold War. If the alliance is forced to pull out of Afghanistan without clear accomplishments after eight years will its future be even more in doubt?

So, for the present at least, the American War on Terror in Afghanistan continues and regularly and routinely creates new anti-American terrorists, as it has done in Iraq. This is not in dispute even at the Pentagon or the CIA. God Bless America.

William Blum is the author of:


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13 Responses to “The Peace Candidate Myth: Yeswecanistan”

  • Detractors of Obama, please note: As of Dec.24, 2009,the US Senate passed a Health Care Bill that seven previous presidents failed to get passed. Yes we can. Yes he can,and he did. The president delayed his family vacation, until the bill was passed with EVERY Republican voting against it. The US is about to join the family of nations, including Grenada, Uganda, Britain, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, who offer free health care to its people. I suspect the dual system that oprerates in TnT will evolve in the US also. I salute him for trying to give better quality of life to poor children in states where the administration of the state would rather ship its poor elsewhere. This is landmark legislation. He said he’d do it, and he got it done. His stimulus package allowed my immigrant friends from India to buy a house yesterday, and get the $8000, rebate the government offers. There are new cars everywhere. The economy is recovering thanks to Obama’s policies. Britain’s economy is still in the toilet.
    Yes we can. Yes we can. Yes we can change things for the better. May all the detractors get sick at reading at this.

  • It seems as if you are continually fighting with yourself as you have not responded in any sensible way to the critics of Obama’s foreign policies on this forum. Even Chavez has similar criticisms of Obama. I would not waste time venturing into his domestic policies at this time, which I think is equally flawed. My main concern here is his foreign policy, continuing Bush’s legacy of killing innocent people and trying to destabilize countries if they do not kowtow to US imperialism.

  • I did not realise that this post was still so hot, it would seem some would prefer to blow their horn, blindly praise others but not deal with issues based on its merit. what can I say, maybe we can’t

  • “As a nation we will do everything in our power to protect our country,” Obama said while vacationing in Hawaii. “We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland.”

    Read full story here

  • I am not fighting with myself. I support Mr. Obama unstintedly, and pray for those who oppose for the sake of opposition. Terror attacks, he strikes back, he is wrong. He does not strike back, he is weak. What to do with such idiotic comentators? Which of you have ever been president of anything, including a village council consisting of ten people?

  • Linda Edwards, of course you are fighting with your self. It is evident in the idiotic responses that you give.

    But today, I am more convinced that you do not perceive issues from the perspective of what is best for justice, or from the plight of victims in the world at large. I believe that you hold on to the social arguments of others and then brag about all the so-called community service that you do in an attempt to convey your perceived superiority to others and not because you empathize with the victims of the world.

    Your defensiveness could be based on some mixed race allegiance to Obama. I am sure that some folks who read this blog would eventually find it strange that you appear to defend Hugo Chavez although he makes similar evaluations about Obama as I. But it does not surprise me that you defend Chavez (who I support based on his ideas and policies so far). Hugo Chavez is mixed race and light skin, so you are defensive of him too. You do not respond to his criticisms of Obama. There simply is no principle to your comments.

    I am sure you carried on as if you opposed Bush’s warmongering, which killed an untold number of innocent people. Now that Obama is using the same lying excuses as Bush, and slaughtering untold numbers of innocents, you conveniently dismiss the history of US government’s aggression and resource-plundering around the world. There is the history of the US fighting against the development of democracy and other people’s ideas of governance just because they desire compliant leaders in those countries to sell out their interest to the US oligarchy. Honduras, Bolivia and Venezuela are just a few examples of these countries that are continually victimized by the US government because of their socialist, pro-indigenous people’s agenda. Why is Obama continuing the same hostile policies against those countries that are of no threat to the US?

    This history gives some context as to why many, including those in Latin America, are against the US.

    By your comments, all I can gather is that Obama is right to do just as Bush because he is mixed race, light skin/brown skin/”Black”, which appeals to you. This is not to say that I align with others who may be opposed to Obama because he is non-White. I have stated clearly why I am opposed to what is being done under his leadership.

    In my view, you are just living your elitist fantasies vicariously through Obama. So in your illusion of being aligned to elitist power, because of the presence of Obama, you feel no gumption to be honest or on point in these exchanges.

    You, my dear, are a fraud.

    News for consideration:

    Jet bomb ‘not part of larger plot’
    Investigators have found no evidence that the man arrested for allegedly trying to blow up a US airliner on Friday was part of a larger plot, a senior US official has said.

    Yemen, Yemen Everywhere
    Perhaps if the US public had a more comprehensive view of Yemen, it would not be so cavalier to name it the next front in our misguided, endless war on a tactic and an ideology.

  • I try very hard to understand Ms Edward’s comments but I am always forced to wade through the self praises of how much community work and blah blah blah, it reminds me of all the hog wash that comes from the PNM about what programs they have in place that continues to keep their core supporters in a state of dependency. Please address the points, mash them up if you will, but do so with points of your own rather than the tripe that poisons most of your comments.

    It is absolutely necessary move away from supporting someone because they represent in some form a sense of pride because he is “the first black President”. Do something fuh allyuh damn self, don’t get high on someone else’s accomplishment.
    On the issue Neru raised about Obama continuing where Bush left off (my words) this has to be taken in the context of a policy a (US Policy) and Obama cannot just, once elected, jump in and change this, what he preached would take some time to implement, unlike at home where a corrupt PNM govn’t can just wake up one morning and do as they wish because they have a blind bunch of supporters that vote them into office.

  • The plight of victims of the world at large takes second place when a terorist tries to blow up a plane over american soil, when terrorists attack business people in Mumbai, when they set off bombs on Frederick Street , Port-of-Spain, and when men the world over continue to murder their wives, and daughters, and rape small children. The world at large is a violent place, and I choose my battles. Now I have been president of a few organizations, and have founded at least one that changed some laws in Trinidad and Tobago wih respect to how managers in companies could behave.So, as an elder, I have earned the right to support the causes I do, and ignore the world at large. Those totally at odds with my view, can ignore reading me. I am an arrogant daughter of my family’s gene pool, who makes no apologies for who I am or where I stand. So, stop commenting, and I would leave this alone.

    • What cause are you suporting, and what are your reasons for supporting, other than what seems to be a blind loyalty like many in T&T, who blindly support the PNM because it is an “african party”. You dont just tell people to stop reading your post, you instead show them that they are wrong with strong argumnets, not the feable BS that you always come up with like President of this , President of that, Community this and community that, presently there are countless community activists in T&T who come out only at election time to get people to blindly vote for a corrupt regime, and nothing is done to improve their communities, I am not suggest that you are one of them, but from your posts, I am left to guess.

  • Americans will have to deal with an angry few who will exact some form of revenge as a result of the US’s assault on other people. The US government would like us all to believe that the people who have lost loved ones and had their villages destroyed are simply collateral damage in their noble invasions and bombings. But any sensible person would know that if you are bombing people, then there will be folks who would want revenge. If you occupy people’s countries and they resist, how are they evildoers who deserve to be killed out?

    The US trained and armed the military in Honduras and supported a widely unpopular military coup there. Is it right that the US-backed military in Honduras be allowed to kill protesters of the coup? Is the US government right to support the coup because the elected president aligned himself with Chavez and Venezuela in order to help bring relief to the poor? Do you expect the family and friends of loved ones who got killed in Honduras, and all who felt betrayed by the US, to feel love and compassion for the US? Are they now evil for resisting the coup that is supported by this Obama administration?

    The few who may venture to bring some of the suffering they feel to the doorsteps of US cannot be casually dismissed as the evil people of this world. People who feel that these foreigners are the evildoers while accepting that the US and its alliance are the good guys while they bomb and kill innocent folks overseas, are more than delusional – they are hypocrites. I am not saying anything that people like you, Linda Edwards, do not know. You would have gathered all of this while Bush was in office.

    So while this Obama administration is continuing in a similar vein to the Bush administration, robbing people of their right to self-determination and to life, I cannot in good conscience be on the side of the bully, no matter how much I may sympathize with Americans who may be victims of revenge.

    Linda Edwards, telling us about all that you have done does not make your views here any more valid. You expect to peddle any amount of crap and expect that whatever you say would go unchallenged. You want praises for the works you claim to have done and make that the basis for people to accept whatever you say without question. That would not happen. We are not here to help you develop a fan club.

    Your real fight is to feel and be seen as superior to others — the illusion of which the Obama presidency serves — and from there, you talk down to others. That is how White supremacy works; that is how some light skin, mixed race folks operate in relation to colorism.

    So while you readily admit to being arrogant, you should also come to grips with the fact that you are coming over hypocritical and dishonest. As such, you are not a good role model for others.

  • Some people will defend President Obama no matter what. Cry me a river. He is in the position to legislate change but instead chooses to affirm the status quo. He gave himself a B+. The audacity to rate himself is not very humble considering the war on terror has grown along with the unemployment rate. He bailed out wall street and left main street hanging. He is one big idea and missed the memo on keeping it real. Then again, what could anyone expect from a “brotha” from Hawaii raised by people who have no clue (through no fault of their own)as to what it’s like to be a member of the African diaspora in state that boasted a less than 5% African American population. He pretended his whole life, but now is not the time for him to pretend with the lives of others. He can’t pretend that we all just want to get along. He can’t pretend that trickle down economics works. He can’t pretend to pass watered down legislation off as if it is full of substance when it’s not. He can’t pretend that he can police a mentality, faith, culture, or spiritual group. There is so much that he shouldn’t be trying to pretend about that he does. People don’t want just words and watered down legislation. Well, at least the people who are independent thinkers don’t.

  • You are all correct of course, any vagrant, any drunk with a computer, any piper’s opinion is a valid one. I will leave Mr. Obama to turn the country of his birth and life around,while I continue to support him; and I hope all the haters living in TnT could do the same for that place.Hate by itself cannot be a reason for existence. I do hope that haters come to realize that they shorten their own lives with the bile they spew. That goes for Dick Cheney, America’s bigest criminal politician, and many of his cohorts masquerading at Trinidadians.Those in Canada could try cleaning up Youge Street, and removing the term “Nig” from the conversations of Trini emigres, in reference to their bretheren.Last time I walked it, Yonge Street resembled Charlotte Street a lot.Nothing anyone says or does, no experience, can influence the minds of bigots, their bigotry is blindness of a malignant sort. Go Well,as the Igbos say when leaving you.I leave.

    • Why are you labeling people as haters, but are’nt you doing the same thing by your comments about Cheney, and you may me right, but I would not label that as hating, and this is the point many have tried to convey to you, we simply challenge your posts, thats all, please do us a favour and show that we are wrong about you rather than provide more amo for your so called “haters”

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