Sunday, October 17, 2010

We've All Neglected Our Wars (Me Too)

In all of the happy talk about Chilean miners, the important discussion about health care, national debt, and the economy, and the stupid banter about witches and Nancy Pelosi there is one issue that has been neglected, foreign policy (more pressingly the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan). There is little discussion on the news outside of the Chilean miners of events outside of the US now. Are we so numbed by the gloomy news here that, as John McCain says, we just want to "build the dang fence" to keep illegal aliens out?

Both parties basically agree on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the exceptions of a few real "mavericks" in each. Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, and Ron Paul and son Rand have voiced some brave objections from both sides of the aisle to these and other foreign US escapades but are often easily marginalized as "flaky." Another well known real maverick who once teamed up with faux maverick McCain is Sen. Russ Feingold who is now trailing in his bid for reelection. This near unanimity continues even though polls indicate that these wars are at least as unpopular as the health care bill but for different reasons.

iCasualties.org has kept a running total of the US dead in Iraq (4,425) (combat operations have supposedly ended there but 50,000 troops and tensions remain as there is no functioning government) and Afghanistan (1,342). The number of Iraqi and Afghan dead are harder to ascertain. The website Iraq Body Count has kept a running total of civilian deaths there since 2003 that are documented in the public and stand between 98,000 and 107,000. This estimate could skyrocket as the website WikiLeaks is preparing to release about 300,000 previously classified documents from the Iraq war (all for weapons of mass destruction and an al Qaeda/9-11 connection that didn't exist and oil that did). WikiLeaks has already released about 70,000 documents detailing civilian deaths in Afghanistan which are harder to count because of the rural nature of the country. At least there, there was a real al Qaeda/9-11 connection but the principal offenders have not been caught and the country is in shambles.

**UPDATE** 

Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon's secret history of the Vietnam War, discusses the upcoming Wikileaks disclosure of classified Iraq documents.



This is a short review of the two wars we are fighting. These are the longest the US has fought and need to end as soon as possible. What happens abroad does have an impact at home. These wars have cost us in the trillions of dollars (and will cost us for years to come as our past wars have, the final bills for World War I were just paid when the last vets passed away) and have generated far more debt that the stimulus ever could. Plus the suffering these wars have caused abroad could lead to retribution at home as nearly happened this year with the Times Square and the Christmas underwear bomber but were thwarted by alert bystanders.

For more authoritative analysis of US actions in the Middle East and South Asia than I can give, visit Juan Cole's blog at Informed Comment, Tom Engelhardt's at TomDispatch, and Robert Fisk's column's at the Independent Newspaper.

**Update**


A new poll of Afghan citizens show that 27% of them see attacks on NATO troops as justified which is up from 8% from last year. It sampled 1,700 citizens from all regions of the country. Doing a representative survey there presents many challenges that would not be found here having few phones, little electricity and a population with a low literacy rate but these numbers, while still not a majority, are still troubling.



Poll: More Afghans say insurgents are justified

In the southern provinces of the country, where the Taliban is the strongest, a survey indicates that the vast majority of the population have never heard of the 9/11 attacks and don't understand why NATO is fighting there.

Study: Few Afghans know about 9/11, reason for war