Dear Mr. President:
I am of course aware of the various pressures exerted by lobbyists, including contractors, weapons manufacturers, foreign and domestic political partisans, on your Administration, toward the end of keeping the wars going on and if possible expanding them. However, it is significant that Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that “senior officers must work to prevent the militarization of American foreign policy…” (‘New York Times,’ January 13, 2009). The ‘New York Times’ went on to say “The military is engaged in deep soul-searching over the proper role of the armed forces in foreign policy.” (I realize this has broad implications.) “The debate has been inspired by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq….” It could be noted that the list of ‘Names of the Dead’ at the end of the article were the names of three service members – all killed in Afghanistan. Is this to be our next Viet Nam? I mention the much mentioned Eisenhower warning about the military/industrial (and I understand he wanted to include ‘congressional’) complex. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was not fired; General MacArthur was!
Mr. President, why is there planning for the funneling of our military personnel from Iraq into Afghanistan? Originally it was said that we were in Afghanistan to look for Osama bin Laden. Well we know what happened then — we let him go. The Taliban? The Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States indicated on “Meet the Press,” November 30, 2008, that the Taliban must be dealt with — that it should be brought into talks, not for power sharing but for the purpose of working on solutions. Former First Lady Laura Bush on the same program said, regarding Afghanistan and its needs: “There are so many widows.” Afghanistan is not ‘the good war’ but unfortunately many are picking up ‘the good war’ chant.
Former Finnish President Martii Ahtisaari, who has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, managed and oversaw, after Namibia’s long and bitter war with South Africa, the massive UN supervised operation which led to elections and the independence of that country. UN staff, international police and military personnel, contracted personnel locally recruited translators/interpreters, clerical, administrative staff, and others, as required, were employed. The mission worked in collaboration with community leaders over the whole of that geographically large country to prepare for the elections. The situations and operational requirements in Namibia clearly were not as in Afghanistan but there are some common factors. One personnel matter that worked to the benefit of the operation in Namibia was that there were relatively few U.S. nationals assigned to the operation; therefore, there was not a large U.S. ‘footprint.’
Mr. President, consultation with President Ahtisaari could be useful. Please do not be led into continued military action in Afghanistan and another deadly debacle.
Mr. President, when during your campaign you spoke of our troops leaving Iraq and then you spoke of their deployment to Afghanistan, my heart and the heart of many sank! As you know, there are persons knowledgeable about Afghanistan — situation, history, societies, cultures, geography (e.g. Rory Stewart, Herbert Bix) — who have stressed, among other matters, need for economy, institution, infrastructure rebuilding, rather than U.S. military action.
Certainly there is awareness of the question how best can the skills of our service members now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and returning home en masse be applied, but continuing the waging of war to avoid developing a solution would not be moral or practical.
Mr. President, last evening, January 30th, on “Bill Moyers Journal,” Dr. Marilyn Young, Professor of History, New York University, cogently stated how terribly ill-advised is U.S. military action in Afghanistan — the mistaken application of military action there rather than the needed application of political action. I respectfully urge that you read the transcript of that segment of the program. My own great fear is that such military action, though you may be pressed by military proponents to take such action, will severely damage your Administration, in which so many have so much hope.
– Barbara Walker
Granny Peace Brigade