On Wednesday June 22, President Obama announced that 10,000 US combat troops will return from the war in Afghanistan by the end of 2011 and that all troops will be withdrawn by 2014. The news is profoundly welcomed by the military families. It’s also hailed by the significant majority of Americans who do not think the war is worth fighting and the growing number of Americans who feel that the killing of bin Laden achieved the original US goal of the war.
The US mayors have listened to their constituents and taken the message farther than President Obama’s modest cut in troops. At the June 20 plenary session of the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors, they voted to call on the federal government to stop funding wars and to bring the war dollars home. As the Mayor of Eugene Oregon, Kitty Piercy, explained the vote: “Mayors call on our country to begin the journey of turning war dollars into peace dollars…of focusing our national resources on building security and prosperity here at home…It is past due.” At the city and town level, mayors feel more viscerally than Washington the painful tradeoffs between $122 billion spent in Afghanistan in 2011 and laying off teachers and police, cutting social services, and negligible job creation (other than military-related jobs). While at the federal level, budget deficit debates ignore the elephant in the room – a nearly $1 trillion steroidal defense budget that sucks life out of the commonweal and swells the deficit.
The news of troop withdrawal and timeline for ending the war must also be welcomed in Afghanistan, where Afghanis have seen no improvements in day-to-day life throughout the 10 year US Army-run counterinsurgency war. The war was billed originally as hunting down Osama bin Laden and improving women’s rights and more recently as “nation-building” – a vague, arrogant goal. Ten years later, Afghanistan ranks next to last of the 182 countries on the UN Human Development Index and near the top of the Failed States Index. Malalai Joya, a feminist elected to the Afghan Parliament in 2003 and exiled from it for exposing criminal warlord parliamentarians, spoke recently in Northampton. She pleaded for support in getting US-NATO forces out of Afghanistan and for solidarity with the people of Afghanistan in their struggle for democracy and women’s rights.
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