What is new about it? Obama may think his blueprint to crush al Qaeda is new and improved, but it is just as arrogant and doomed to backfire as anything George Bush had in mind.
Many people in the United States – and many in partner countries that have sacrificed so much – have a simple question: What is our purpose in Afghanistan? After so many years, they ask, why do our men and women still fight and die there? They deserve a straightforward answer.
So let me be clear: al Qaeda and its allies – the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks – are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the U.S. homeland from its safe-haven in Pakistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban – or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged – that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.
Why is that, Mr. President? Could it have anything to do with blowback?
For the Afghan people, a return to Taliban rule would condemn their country to brutal governance, international isolation, a paralyzed economy, and the denial of basic human rights to the Afghan people – especially women and girls. The return in force of al Qaeda terrorists who would accompany the core Taliban leadership would cast Afghanistan under the shadow of perpetual violence.
There Obama employs the same dirty trick Bush played, saying we must rescue the women and girls from the evil Taliban. Afghan women say they have been tossed out of the frying pan into the fire, courtesy of US allies, the Northern Alliance. Is Afghanistan not now under the shadow of perpetual violence?
As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people. We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future. We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States, our friends and allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists.
Like hell we are not in Afghanistan to dictate its future. USA and its allies have been busily dictating the future of the entire planet, and look what kind of mess has ensued. What about the suffering of those people at the hands of USA?
So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That is the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you.
A cause that could not be more just? How can Obama say that with a straight face? USA is unjustly occupying Afghanistan and violating the sovereignty of Pakistan. Who is al Qaeda, anyway, besides a loose coalition of Muslims who are willing to fight an empire in order to control their own destiny?
And to defeat an enemy that heeds no borders or laws of war, we must recognize the fundamental connection between the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan…
As if USA heeds borders or laws of war?
The United States has great respect for the Pakistani people. They have a rich history, and have struggled against long odds to sustain their democracy. The people of Pakistan want the same things that we want: an end to terror, access to basic services, the opportunity to live their dreams, and the security that can only come with the rule of law. The single greatest threat to that future comes from al Qaeda and their extremist allies, and that is why we must stand together.
The terrorists within Pakistan’s borders are not simply enemies of America or Afghanistan – they are a grave and urgent danger to the people of Pakistan. Al Qaeda and other violent extremists have killed several thousand Pakistanis since 9/11. They have killed many Pakistani soldiers and police. They assassinated Benazir Bhutto. They have blown up buildings, derailed foreign investment, and threatened the stability of the state. Make no mistake: al Qaeda and its extremist allies are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within.
It is important for the American people to understand that Pakistan needs our help in going after al Qaeda. This is no simple task. The tribal regions are vast, rugged, and often ungoverned. That is why we must focus our military assistance on the tools, training and support that Pakistan needs to root out the terrorists. And after years of mixed results, we will not provide a blank check. Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken – one way or another – when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets.
The single greatest threat to Pakistan is the war on terror, especially since Obama has insisted on going after targets within Pakistan, dashing the hopes of moderates there who had hoped he would be more sensible. Obama is taking one hell of a gamble, playing hardball with a nation with plenty of nuclear weapons and one of the largest armies in the world. Pakistanis are fed up with USA telling them who their enemies are. Sooner or later they will tell USA to take the aid they so desperately need and shove it.
To avoid the mistakes of the past, we must make clear that our relationship with Pakistan is grounded in support for Pakistan’s democratic institutions and the Pakistani people. And to demonstrate through deeds as well as words a commitment that is enduring, we must stand for lasting opportunity.
A campaign against extremism will not succeed with bullets or bombs alone. Al Qaeda offers the people of Pakistan nothing but destruction. We stand for something different.
Nice sentiments, but distant from reality. The democracy in Pakistan is in a shambles. President Zardari is as corrupt as they come. Obama is very selective about which Pakistanis he supports. Most Pakistanis are not extremists, but US policy is driving more of them in that direction with every drone attack, which will be more and more frequent as US frustration with Pakistani ambivalence grows.
There is an uncompromising core of the Taliban. They must be met with force, and they must be defeated. But there are also those who have taken up arms because of coercion, or simply for a price.
Or simply because they want to fight the occupiers, to control their own destiny. Obama is ignoring the reasons USA has such determined enemies.
As their ranks dwindle, an enemy that has nothing to offer the Afghan people but terror and repression must be further isolated.
Afghan people might well think USA has nothing to offer them but terror and repression. Obama hopes that investing in reconstructing their infrastructure will win them over, but meanwhile, the ranks of this enemy are swelling.
The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al Qaeda operates unchecked. We have a shared responsibility to act – not because we seek to project power for its own sake, but because our own peace and security depends upon it.
Slides back into chaos? What does Obama call what is going on there now? Peace and security is only jeopardized by projecting this kind of power. That projection of power is a large part of the motivation fueling the fury of those who have become implacable enemies. Osama bin Laden used to be an ally, remember?
Obama ends with this:
The sacrifices have been enormous. Nearly 700 Americans have lost their lives. Troops from over twenty other countries have also paid the ultimate price. All Americans honor the service and cherish the friendship of those who have fought, and worked, and bled by our side. And all Americans are awed by the service of our own men and women in uniform, who have borne a burden as great as any other generation’s. They and their families embody the example of selfless sacrifice.
The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 of our people were killed on September 11, 2001, for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives. Al Qaeda and its allies have since killed thousands of people in many countries. Most of the blood on their hands is the blood of Muslims, who al Qaeda has killed and maimed in far greater numbers than any other people. That is the future that al Qaeda is offering to the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan – a future without opportunity or hope; a future without justice or peace.
The road ahead will be long. There will be difficult days. But we will seek lasting partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan that serve the promise of a new day for their people. And we will use all elements of our national power to defeat al Qaeda, and to defend America, our allies, and all who seek a better future. Because the United States of America stands for peace and security, justice and opportunity. That is who we are, and that is what history calls on us to do once more.
Again, some nice sentiments, so distant from reality. How many civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine have paid that ultimate price for the hubris of this empire and its allies? Those who died supposedly defending those lofty goals Obama cites died for nothing. They were defending the interests of a corporate empire, which stands for anything but peace, security, justice, opportunity, or a better future. Look at the colossal mess this empire has wrought. That was no accident, nor was it an unavoidable part of the business cycle. It was the future offered to the vast majority of the people of the world, a future with scant opportunity, hope, justice, or peace. Is Obama offering a different future? I do not see it, however skillfully he may spin business as usual. I note with interest most of the commenters on truthout, where I found the transcript, are not buying the spin either.