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‘The Comeback Kid’ and the Kids Who Won’t

Posted on Dec 28, 2010

By Amy Goodman

President Barack Obama signed a slew of bills into law during the lame-duck session of Congress and was dubbed the “Comeback Kid” amid a flurry of fawning press reports. In the hail of this surprise bipartisanship, though, the one issue over which Democrats and Republicans always agree, war, was completely ignored. The war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in U.S. history, and 2010 has seen the highest number of U.S. and NATO soldiers killed.

As of this writing, 497 of the reported 709 coalition fatalities in 2010 were U.S. soldiers. The website has carefully tracked the names of these dead. There is no comprehensive list of the Afghans killed. But one thing that’s clear: Those 497 U.S. soldiers, under the command of the “Comeback Kid,” won’t be coming back.

On Dec. 3, Commander in Chief Obama made a surprise visit to his troops in Afghanistan, greeting them and speaking at Bagram Air Base. Bagram is the air base built by the Soviet Union during that country’s failed invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Now run by U.S. forces, it is also the site of a notorious detention facility. On Dec. 10, 2002, almost eight years to the day before Obama spoke there, a young Afghan man named Dilawar was beaten to death at Bagram. The ordeal of his wrongful arrest, torture and murder was documented in the Oscar-winning documentary by Alex Gibney, “Taxi to the Dark Side.” Dilawar was not the only one tortured and killed there by the U.S. military.

Obama told the troops: “We said we were going to break the Taliban’s momentum, and that’s what you’re doing. You’re going on the offense, tired of playing defense, targeting their leaders, pushing them out of their strongholds. Today we can be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control, and more Afghans have a chance to build a more hopeful future.”

Facts on the ground contradict his rosy assessment from many different directions. Maps made by the United Nations, showing the risk-level assessments of Afghanistan, were leaked to The Wall Street Journal. The maps described the risk to U.N. operations in every district of Afghanistan, rating them as “very high risk,” “high risk,” “medium risk” and “low risk.” The Journal reported that, between March and October 2010, the U.N. found that southern Afghanistan remained at “very high risk,” while 16 districts were upgraded to “high risk.” Areas deemed “low risk” shrank considerably.


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And then there are the comments of NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Joseph Blotz: “There is no end to the fighting season…. We will see more violence in 2011.”

Long before WikiLeaks released the trove of U.S. diplomatic cables, two key documents were leaked to The New York Times. The “Eikenberry cables,” as they are known, were two memos from Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging a different approach to the Afghan War, with a focus on providing development aid instead of a troop surge. Eikenberry wrote of the risk that “we will become more deeply engaged here with no way to extricate ourselves, short of allowing the country to descend again into lawlessness and chaos.”

A looming problem for the Obama administration, larger than a fraying international coalition, is the increasing opposition to the war among the public here at home. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 60 percent believe the war has not been worth fighting, up from 41 percent in 2007. As Congress reconvenes, with knives sharpened to push for what will surely be controversial budget cuts, the close to $6 billion spent monthly on the war in Afghanistan will increasingly become the subject of debate.

As Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz repeatedly points out, the cost of war extends far beyond the immediate expenditures, with decades of decreased productivity among the many traumatized veterans, the care for the thousands of disabled veterans, and the families destroyed by the death or disability of loved ones. He says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately cost between $3 trillion and $5 trillion.

One of the main reasons Barack Obama is president today is that by openly opposing the U.S. war in Iraq, he won first the Democratic nomination and then the general election. If he took the same approach with the war in Afghanistan, by calling on U.S. troops to come back home, then he might truly become the “Comeback President” in 2012 as well.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

© 2010 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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By Chris Gibson / Philadelphia, January 5, 2011 at 12:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I read Obama’s Wars and my sense is he was leaning
towards Biden’s approach (only have strategic forces in
the region) but forced into a “surge” by politics.  Its
a sad situation but let’s pray for peace.

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By Roy Lay, December 31, 2010 at 10:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How many times did I have to listen to people telling me, “If you vote for a third party candidate you’ll waste your vote!”  I told them if I voted for someone who was going to do things I didn’t want, that was wasting my vote. Nader was right.  The democrats and republicans, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them.  Somehow, between them, there is always an excuse to do the thing the people don’t want.  I have come to the conclusion that the democratic party is just there to give people the illusion of a choice.  It’s time for people to start using what choice they still have left, and get rid of both parties.

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By drbhelthi, December 30, 2010 at 4:52 am Link to this comment

He did not betray „the people.“

He petrayed himself, and his personally-made promises
that seduced the lower four Socioeconomic Strata folk
to vote for him.  His behavior displays his evil

His behavior mimics that of other long-term
operatives of the NAZI element that steers the
C.I.A., its mercenaries such as Black-Water, Ex &
subsequent titles, the pimps that bribed Swedish folk
in the Assange affair, and the CIA´s own, pseudo-
artificial “Al Kaeda,” invented by junior Bush´s NAZI

Three cheers for genuine Americans in the C.I.A., the
F.B.I., the N.S.A., and similar agencies.  Hang in
there, you lovely people !  And, DO YOUR STUFF !!!

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By MeHere, December 29, 2010 at 9:38 pm Link to this comment

Add to those trillions the cost of the War on Terror.

How can we honestly say that Obama betrayed the people?  He didn’t. The Obama
you see today is the same Obama who climbed to power with the help of his
corrupt party and the undemocratic election campaign process. He’s the same
individual who promised to expand the Afghan war. The msm is just another part
of that equation that voters insist on supporting.  And it’s hard to find in the
alternative media any meaningful articles or references to political groups and
parties that are out there however small they may be. We admire swindlers and
love war games.

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By LetIdB, December 29, 2010 at 9:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There are a coupla’ national security skeletons that cause most eyes to glaze
over (and some teeth to be bared): Viet Nam and “9/11.”  Anyone who dares
question the montage of the latter is labeled a “conspiracy theorist” and,
thusly, marginalized despite how the clouds of that event bind us (if not blind
us) to THIRTEEN years (to 2014) of cleansing Afghanistan.  Resurrect “Viet
Nam”—that gash in our national consciousness—and one is effectively
silenced by the chorus of “that’s old history; move on.” 

For every pronouncement mentioning “Afghanistan” from every politician right
of Dennis Kucinich, one need only substitute the words “Viet Nam” to see that
our empire in Afghanistan has no new clothes and we are only trillions of
dollars, thousands of dead Americans and hundreds of thousands of
slaughtered Third World innocents away from the last helicopter taking off from
the top floor of some building in Kabul trailing shame and a sadly gullible
American public to our next disastrous cleansing.

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By berniem, December 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment

Sad but true the entire government of this nation is corrupt and to varying degrees guilty of and complicit in crimes against humanity and blatant violation of the US constitution. So what else is new? Worse yet, no matter who we vote for, as soon as elected, join right in and become as one with the crime family. This also applies at the state and municipal level in every corner of the nation. I’m sorry to have to admit that I’ve become a fatalist as to the future of this country and see the fabric of the society fraying and devolving into chaos and possible anarchy followed by the imposition of marshal law and a military takeover. Orwell and Huxley had it right. The US is mirroring the history of Rome but at an accelerated rate.

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By drbhelthi, December 29, 2010 at 4:05 pm Link to this comment

The indigenous of what is now the North & South
American continents have a wise saying that was shared
with me in the 1960s.  I have repeated it in blogs many
times, and for years have shared it with friends and
acquaintances.  Apparently, it is so clear and simple
that the high-minded do not seem to comprehend it.  It
is time for us to apply it to all areas of life in the
western world, especially to “politicians” in the U.S.

“What you do speaks so loud, I cannot hear what you

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By RayLan, December 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm Link to this comment

“the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately cost between $3 trillion and $5 trillion.”
The filtered perceptions of the governing parties won’t even discuss the staggering cost of war.
The Reps want to cut spending on the seniors, the weak and disabled. If we recuped this huge chunk of war spending it would easily pay for the existing social services. But as usual the Tweedle-parties don’t give a damn about the people, just their money.

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By garth, December 29, 2010 at 2:58 pm Link to this comment

Thank you, Amy, for your interview with Allan Nairn on DemnocracyNow (12/29). It takes an outsider’s view of America for us to recalibrate the value-ometer.

As Yogi said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”, and
“When you come to a cross in the road, take it.”, and when he managed his son, Dale, on the Yankees,
“If he plays he plays.  If he doesn’t he sits.”

Let’s all hail, Dale. Like Charlie of the MBA, he never returned.  But still living large.

Pack all your troubles in a blah-blah-blah sack and smile, smile, smile.

That’s the latest re-emergence of the Depression era smoke.  But we have no FDR. We’ve got Obama. 

Who dat?

To continue with this zanity, (God bless you ThomasG.) Who is Warren Peece of the DemocracyNow!, as in the Warren Peece report?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Allan Nairn, who I hope is right, deserves to be a regular on DemocracyNow!.

He brought up weaknesses in the forward leaning plan; I thought of the same internal weakness to Democracy in this country’s hubris.  Specifically, the Congresssional hearings.  They are outrageous.  Fat guys deciding how others in the world shall live ot die.  It’s an absolute SIN.

How did all this happen?  I and a lot of others are beginning to arrive at answers to that question.

And as disheveled as they might be, hold on to your rocking horse and your rocking chair,  For the misfits, the obviously well-to-do, it’s going to come to get you.

And in the end, you’ll find, the Earth is a finite place.

End Carbon Capture and Nuclear energy.  Give Green a chance.  It’s the cheapest way out thus far.


For all you numb-nuts,pseudo-writers and supposed political thinkers who use the ideas and phrases in these blogs for your benefit, go find a job.

It’s all evident.

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By Jim Yell, December 29, 2010 at 10:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is clear that the Military-Industrial Complex has complete control over the American Nation. At a time when we should be rebuilding our nation a huge part of our wealth is spent in mindless wars to justify the outrageous profit margins of the Military-Industrial Comples. We buy and pay for weapons that do not work, are not needed, or by their existence create escalation of violence. Mean while our bridges become unsafe, our public transportation is meaningles, Auto traffic has eaten away the landscape, social issues are either addressed with wishful thinking or ignored all together.

This mess was primarily rooted in the Republican Party that has made lying its hallmark, and yet sadly the Demcratic Pary has embraced the same policies and accepted huge bribes in the form of campaign finances. What can we say about the American People? They have turned away from the lies of Obama to the lies of the Republican Party. The saying is “a sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.” Go ahead vote Republlican or Democratic—you won’t like the result.

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By ROBERT N. JOHNSON, December 29, 2010 at 8:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


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By skimohawk, December 29, 2010 at 7:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

amy, I don’t know who Mr. Stiglitz is, but his estimates are grossly underestimated.

To wit:
Cash paid out to widow/family of PFC killed in action in Afghanistan: $1 million dollars PLUS ( approx. ) $50K per annum PLUS all medical-dental care needs ( for all widows and dependents ) PLUS post exchange privileges ( for widows and dependents ).
Do the math.
Now add the long-term costs of medical care and re-training for injured/maimed/dismembered service personnel.
Don’t forget to factor in the psychological/psychiatric care for those who come back crazy.
Then add the interest on the current and forecasted future debt.

$3-$5 trillion ain’t even the tip of the iceberg, kid.

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By samosamo, December 29, 2010 at 2:56 am Link to this comment


I sure as hell don’t like to start talking about the
2012 election, but it sure behooves all of us to
start getting ready for another one of the
ugliest elections replete with all manner of
voting fraud by that well developed ‘department
of voter fraud’.

It sure seems to be an election where paper
trails will be very important as with these
goddamn electronic machines and ballot
counters that are easily ‘hacked’ to turn a
person’s vote for someone into a vote for the
other side. And I would say that a lot of watch
dog groups need to be allowed to be in
attendance at the polls to watch for

Most important in the presidential part is to
NOT let the msm dictate the field of candidates.
That has been a massive bit of fraud when a
person or persons whom applies for office is
booted off the debates and press conferences
by the msm it is nothing less than treason.

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By gerard, December 29, 2010 at 2:30 am Link to this comment

I hope I’m wrong, but my frank opinion is that nobody “comes back” from being in bed with the military/industrial complex.  They may have a very swank cell in Washington or on Fifth Avenue, and a privately Leering Jet all their own, but they are imprisoned nonetheless. The people, however, contrary to Chris Hedges, are not entirely sold out yet.  They can still do something to prevent a total lock-down if they can just catch the top of the wave of the future, and ride it in—hopefully without violence and rage, which inevitably interfere with balanced, intelligent action. (Mixed metaphors be damned!)

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By G.Anderson, December 29, 2010 at 1:21 am Link to this comment

Despite it all many Americans won’t eat that baloney sandwich.  The one Mr. Big stuff is
trying so very hard to sell. How many times must we cover this same ground again and
again.  People are desperate, their world is crumbling and Mr Big Stuff, has sold them
out.  Bi Partisanship is just another word for double cross. That’s what Mr Big stuff’s
administration is all about the great double cross. Wake up Amy, Mr. Big stuff is just a
con man.

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