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The Afghanistan Speech Obama Should Give (but Won’t)
Posted on Nov 19, 2009
Certainly, we will do our best to lead the way with any aid or advice we can offer toward a future peaceful Afghanistan and a future peaceful Pakistan. In the meantime, I plan to ask Congress to take some of the savings from our two wars winding down and put them into a genuine jobs program for the American people.
The way to safety in our world is, I believe, to secure our borders against those who would harm us, and to put Americans back to work. With this in mind, next month I’ve called for a White House Jobs Summit, which I plan to chair. And there I will suggest that, as a start, and only as a start, we look at two programs that were not only popular across the political spectrum in the desperate years of the Great Depression, but were remembered fondly long after by those who took part in them—the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration. These basic programs put millions of Americans back to work on public projects that mattered to this nation and saved families, lives, and souls.
We cannot afford a failing war in Afghanistan and a 10.2% official unemployment rate at home. We cannot live with two Americas, one for Wall Street and one for everyone else. This is not the path to American safety.
As president, I retain the right to strike at al-Qaeda or other terrorists who mean us imminent harm, no matter where they may be, including Afghanistan. I would never deny that there are dangers in the approach I suggest today, but when have Americans ever been averse to danger, or to a challenge either? I cannot believe we will be now.
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I thank you for your time and attention. Goodnight and God bless America.
END 8:35 P.M. EDT
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. He also edited The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), an alternative history of the mad Bush years.
[Note on Sources and Further Reading: Because the above is meant to be a speech that President Obama might conceivably give, I included no links or sources. But let me suggest here readings for some of the key information “he” offers: The President’s March 2009 Afghan War announcement can be found here; for a good list of the members of his “national security team” who attended his policy review sessions, see Sunlen Miller’s, “A Look at the President’s Meetings on Afghanistan and Pakistan”; for estimates of the number of al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan, see Joshua Partlow, “In Afghanistan, Taliban surpasses al-Qaeda”; on the costs of sending more troops to Afghanistan, see Christopher Drew, “High Costs Weigh on Troop Debate for Afghan War”; for the $65 billion cost of the war without further escalation, see Nathan Hodge, “Sign of the Times: Afghanistan War Costs Higher Than Iraq”; two TomDispatch pieces worth reading in relation to the “president’s” seven points are Ann Jones, “Meet the Afghan Army,” and Pratap Chatterjee, “Paying Off the Warlords”; on corruption, see as well, Aram Roston, “How the U.S. Funds the Taliban”; on the Vietnam book the president and his advisors are reading, see Peter Spiegel and Jonathan Weisman “Behind Afghan War Debate, a Battle of Two Books Rages”;on Russian troop levels in the 1980s and ours today, see James Fergusson, “Obama is haunted by Gorbachev’s ghost”; on the upcoming White House Jobs Summit, see Robert Kuttner, “A Wake Up Call on Jobs”; on the Civilian Conservation Corps, see William Astore, “Hey, Government! How About Calling on Us?”.
Boston Globe columnist James Carroll’s thoughtful assessment of the president and the Afghan War, “Arlington, Obama, and the Afghan Decision,” is not to be missed, but the single must-read piece of the last weeks should be Jonathan Schell’s reconsideration of Vietnam in our moment, “The Fifty-Year War.” Must-visit websites on the Afghan War and the “debate” at home include: Juan Cole’s Informed Comment, Antiwar.com, the War in Context, Rethink Afghanistan, and the Af/Pak Channel’s invaluable Daily Brief. Once before, I wrote a speech, no less ignored than this one will be—an inaugural address—for the president (just in case you’re interested in my full career as a speech writer).]
Copyright 2009 Tom Engelhardt
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