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David Swanson

David Swanson is a longtime peace and justice activist and author of 'War Is a Lie'

May 2nd, 2012 1:40 PM

"We Did Not Choose This War" and Other Hypocrisies

By Leah Bolger and David Swanson

"We did not choose this war.  This war came to us on 9/11.  We don't go looking for a fight.  But when we see our homeland violated, when we see our fellow citizens killed, then we understand what we have to do." 

These are the words that President Obama used on Tuesday to describe the Afghanistan war, but they would have been more appropriately said by any Afghan citizen.

Coming out of the mouth of the President of the United States, these words are nothing more than nationalistic propaganda — designed to justify an aggressive war of choice launched against a sovereign nation.  Somebody chose this war, and it certainly wasn't the Afghan people — 92% of whom have never even heard of the events of 9/11.

The Afghan people have responded just as almost any would to an attack.  They have seen their "homeland violated" and their "fellow citizens killed," and they are reacting in self-defense.  Because they are fighting back, we label them "insurgents" and call them the enemy. Then we label violence caused by the enemy "terrorism," and somehow use this rhetoric to justify killing innocent people … collateral damage we call it.  This is a vicious cycle that cannot resolve itself, except by the removal of the occupying army.

What do you think the Afghan people call the violence that we impose on them?  How can we as Americans be so callous, so blinded by our own misplaced righteousness, that we can't see that we are guilty of the very thing that we claim to be fighting?  Perhaps to some extent we do see it.  A majority of people in the United States tell pollsters they want the war ended.  We forget we're a majority because nobody ever mentions us on television.

It is hard to believe that Obama has any understanding of the consequences of war when he makes no mention of its effect on the Afghan people.  Not one word was spent acknowledging the ramifications of our war of choice from the other side.  If you didn't know better, you would think that Americans are the only ones who have sacrificed or suffered in the Afghanistan war. 

Does Obama not realize how petty and uncaring he sounds when he consoles U.S. troops because they missed a birthday or a soccer game, while his war has killed thousands of Afghan and Pakistani children?  He says that as President, "nothing is more wrenching than signing a letter to a family of the fallen, or looking in the eyes of a child who will grow up without a mother or father."  But of course, he means a fallen American soldier, and the eyes of an American child. 

Everything that Obama said about Afghanistan was framed in U.S. terms:

"I recognize that many Americans are tired of war." 

Seriously?!  Hell yes, we're tired of it.  What about the Afghans?  Think they might be getting a little weary?  It's not about us being "tired."  It's about the immorality and illegality of waging war. 

"We must finish the job we started in Afghanistan, and end this war responsibly."

Was this "job" started or waged responsibly?  Who decides what "responsible" means? 

"More than 500,000 of our sons and daughters have sacrificed to protect our country."  

…our sons and daughters, our country. 

"Some of your buddies are going to get injured, and some of your buddies may get killed."

He means American buddies.

"I will not keep Americans in harm's way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security." 

Once again, he portrays Americans as the victims in our war of choice.

"Today we recall the fallen, and those who suffer wounds seen and unseen."

…Fallen Americans, with American wounds 

This war has killed tens of thousands of Afghans — the vast majority of whom were not fighting back — were not "insurgents."  Countless children, women, and the elderly have been killed, but President Obama does not even acknowledge their deaths.  He should try looking into the eyes of an Afghan mother whose child was shot while collecting firewood, or perhaps try writing a letter to a child whose home was bombed and parents killed. 

If this war has been for the benefit of the Afghans, why would such a letter be inappropriate?  Obama's silence on the deaths of the enemy reveals the falseness behind all claims for humanitarian war.  War is anti-humanitarian.

The hypocrisy in President Obama's words is stunning.  He says that the U.S. will work with Afghanistan to build "democratic institutions," yet he ignores the voices of the Afghan people as well as the American people who want us out.  He says that his new plan will involve direct discussions with the Taliban, but that they must renounce violence.  "A path to peace is now set before them (Taliban).  Those who refuse to walk it will face strong Afghan Security Forces, backed by the U.S. with our allies."  In other words, if you don't renounce violence, we will kill you.

The Strategic Partnership Agreement lays out the plans for turning over Afghan security to the Afghans.  By the end of 2014 the Afghans will be "fully responsible" for the security of their country -- except for whatever function is served by an open-ended U.S. military presence in their county.  Is our nation really so arrogant as to think that by going to war with Afghanistan we have made them more secure? And now the U.S. and NATO are going to decide at the Chicago summit the details for how Afghanistan will provide for its own security? 

The whole world will be watching what happens in Chicago at the NATO Summit.  Let us be the voice of the Afghan people—let us be the masses that speak out against war and militarism—let us come together in Chicago to represent humanity.


Leah Bolger spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2000 at the rank of Commander.  She is currently a full-time peace activist and serves as the National President of Veterans For Peace.

David Swanson books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.organd http://warisacrime.organd works for the online activist organization He hosts Talk Nation Radio

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