There is reality-based criticism of Obama's policies, such as what Greenwald, Krugman, and Palast, for instance, offer. And then there is inflammatory crap like this:
I will be blunt, for certain conclusions are now inescapable, even this early in the miraculous, transcendent Age of Obama. Insofar as those who regularly follow political matters are concerned, and especially with regard to those people who write about politics and foreign policy -- which is to say, insofar as commentators and reporters in the mainstream media and on blogs are concerned -- to continue to believe that Barack Obama represents any kind of "improvement" over the abomination of George W. Bush is not an innocent error. To persist in delusions of this kind requires that one intentionally and deliberately blind oneself to evidence that assaults us every day.
But wait -- Arthur Silber continues:
We can now see unequivocally and in full, bloody daylight the nature of the "change" that Obama has brought to the operations of Empire. Obama will alter nothing in those operations, except to expand them and make them still more murderous. But because Obama has been heralded as the exponent of "hope" and "change," and because the majority of Americans exhibit an endless capacity for crediting the most meaningless of slogans, many people will continue to struggle to convince themselves that somehow things might have been worse had he not been elected.
But now, there are very few people to oppose him. Thus, the Empire will continue on its bloody, murderous course, knowing full well that most of the opposition it might have encountered has voluntarily, and very often enthusiastically, joined the ranks of collaborators.
When you make excuses for evil of this kind, and when you attempt to "justify" or "explain" it, you make yourself evil. You are a knowing accomplice to slaughter and brutality. Those who decline to pass the necessary judgments about Obama will expend great effort to avoid this conclusion. But some of us see the truth, and we will be sure to remind such people of their own evil and complicity.
First of all, let me state what this is not -- this is not an attack on Mr. Silber's right to free speech. His blog post, on his own site, is Constitutionally protected stupidity. But free speech works both ways -- and freedom of speech is not the freedom not to be challenged on one's inflammatory BS. First of all, in his headline title, "Obama is a Murderer and War Criminal," Silber makes very specific allegations -- the first of which must be proven in a court of law, and the other allegation under international law based on Nuremburg and other international codes. And there is a big difference between "Murder," as in taking a gun and killing someone, and war, in which civilian casualties are a part. If Mr. Silber wants to claim that Obama broke international law, then let him cite the relevant statues of any legitimate international code so that we can determine this for ourselves. Merely flinging poo is not going to convince people that Obama is somehow a "war criminal." He made the allegation; he needs to provide the proof.
Secondly of all, if we are going to talk about "war crimes," then that term works both ways. The fact of the matter is that Osama Bin Laden planned, implemented, and executed a war of aggression against the United States of America; specifically, his attacks against the World Trade Center on 9/11 as well as the attacks on three US embassies in Africa. In addition, the Taliban sheltered Osama Bin Laden and thus aided and abetted in Bin Laden's war of aggression against the United States. Yet, I do not see Mr. Silber calling for Bin Laden or his Taliban enablers to be brought to justice. And for the record, it doesn't do any good to claim that the Taliban would have turned him over in the weeks after 9/11 if we had just provided more evidence -- they knew that he had already committed an act of war against the United States with his bombings of three different embassies in 1998. They enabled this war; they have to bear the consequences.
But when he accuses those of us who point out these inconvenient facts of "evil," then, he goes even further. He turns this into a purity contest and demonstrates the same sort of "with us or against us" mentality that was part and parcel of the Bush administration. We are a big tent party. Our people range from disgruntled ex-Republicans such as Arlen Specter and Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Buckley to people on the far left such as Jesse Jackson Jr., Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, and Daily Kos' incomparable OPOL. These sorts of purity contests are part of the reason we lost in 2000, as Ralph Nader took away Gore votes in several key states. And sadly, for some, this sort of purity contest mentality lives on even though it has been tried and shown not to work.
Iraq and Afghanistan are two totally different situations. In Iraq, George Bush planned, implemented, and executed a war of aggression that resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Iraqi people when Saddam posed no clear and present danger and was not responsible for the attacks of 9/11. In fact, Saddam shot terrorists -- he had no use for them whatsoever. On the other hand, in Afghanistan, Bin Laden was the clear aggressor.
There is another key difference -- the certainty of a nuclear-armed Taliban in the event of the collapse of the Pakistani government. In that regard, our policy there has already produced results -- the Pakistani army has launched an offensive that has neutralized the recent gains of the Taliban as they are finally starting to see the urgency of the matter. The Taliban would be even more hostile to India than the current Pakistani government, meaning that there is the very real possibility of an armed nuclear confrontation between these two countries resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of people. That is the whole purpose of current US strategy -- to prevent that possibility from ever happening. They could subsequently sell that nuclear technology to Bin Laden or other terrorist entities, raising the chances of nuclear terrorism around the world. And the usual rules about Mutually Assured Destruction would not apply, since we would have no way of retaliating in the latter event. If Mr. Silber is so concerned about the deaths of civilians, then why is he not concerned about the possible deaths of millions of civilians under this scenario?
None of these differences means that we can stay in Afghanistan any more than we could stay in Iraq forever. But Mr. Silber does not take any of these scenarios into account and offers no alternative whatsoever to the President's plan. He is the one who is claiming that Obama is a war criminal. Therefore, he has to provide the alternative plan and why it would be a better plan than the White House plan. To refuse to do so makes him no better than the Republicans who constantly obstruct the Obama administration without offering any coherent plan as to why their plans would be better. In order to develop a reality-based plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan, we must answer the following questions:
- How do we prevent a nuclear-armed Taliban from taking power, given the fact that we can't stay in Afghanistan forever?
- How do we capture Bin Laden and bring him to justice, given the fact that we can't stay in Afghanistan forever?
- How long should we stay in Afghanistan, and what would an exit plan consist of?
It is not in our interest to referee tribal wars in Afghanistan or the conflict between the Taliban and Pakistan -- that is for their people to resolve. Yet, we have a clear interest in bringing Bin Laden to justice for the war crimes that he committed against the US. And it should be in everyone's interest to prevent a nuclear-armed Taliban from blackmailing India or Israel or the rest of the world.