I see that the Pentagon has reversed its old policy of refusing to allow photographs of those flag-draped coffins as our dead soldiers return from the battlefield. One wonders, however, how much interest there will be in taking and publishing such photos now that President Barack Obama is in office. One also wonders how long it will take the media to acknowledge the new quagmire we're sinking into if and when the numbers of casualties start increasing – as they are sure to do.
After all, Obama's war is going to be taking place on a much larger, more difficult canvas than that of his predecessor's, which was confined in large part to Iraq. All of Afghanistan will soon be teeming with newly-arrived US soldiers, sent there – direct from Iraq – to fulfill the President's pledge to start fighting the "right war" in the right way, a "smart" way. Oh, these guys (and gals) are the Best and the Brightest, aren't they?
The smarty-pants tone and style of this administration is already beginning to grate on my nerves, as they pander to their base on the symbolic issues – like the coffin question – in hopes no one will notice as they backtrack on more important matters. So far, it doesn't seem to be working out all that well.
Glenn Greenwald isn't cutting them any slack on the torture brouhaha – he's already pointed out that they'll still be torturing people, albeit not with their own hands in some instances, and that if Guantanamo is closed, Bagram – where similar activities are known to take place – is going to be open for "business."
Most of the Obama-zoids are happy, however, because, after all, Keith Olbermann assures them we've entered the new millennium, the Dear Leader is in the White House, and all's right with the world. But is it?
Not by a long shot. Has anyone noticed Obama's vaunted 16-month withdrawal-from-Iraq plan has already stretched into 19 months – and the "residual force" he kept talking about during the campaign, as if it were a mere afterthought, turns out to be 50,000 strong?
Originally, none of those "residuals" were supposed to be combat troops – yet now we are told "some would still be serving in combat as they conducted counterterrorism missions." You have to go all the way to the very end of this New York Times report before you discover that, according to Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell, "A limited number of those that remain will conduct combat operations against terrorists, assisting Iraqi security forces."
In short: we aren't leaving.
I don't care what the status of forces agreement says: that document has more loopholes than the bank bailout bill's provisions for paying back the American taxpayers. Those 50,000 "residual" occupiers will simply pull back into their permanent bases, which are even now being constructed throughout Iraq, to be called on when our sock-puppets find themselves unable to tamp down the growing spirit of rebellion.
What kind of a "withdrawal" is this? It is one so burdened with contingencies, conditional footnotes, and amendatory clauses, that it falls beneath its own weight and collapses into a fair approximation of the status quo.
Antiwar voters who cast their ballots for Obama have succeeded in rolling the stone all the way up a rather steep hill, only to see it fall down the other side – and we are right back where we started. The next hill is called Afghanistan, and beyond that is yet another: Pakistan.
Not even Bush tried to fight a two-front war: Obama, however, is leaping into Afghanistan with alarming speed. Sending those 17,000 troops was one of the first acts of his administration, announced well before any of the economic measures. The economy may be crumbling, but the empire cannot be allowed to go the same way – that's the lunatic mentality of our rulers, whose priorities reflect a Washington mindset still stuck in the glory days of American hegemony.
Under Obama, the military budget will rise by 4 percent, and this isn't counting the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan. As Cato Institute research fellow Benjamin H. Friedman puts it: "Many Americans believe that Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress will lower defense spending and restrain the militaristic foreign policy it underwrites. The coming years should destroy that myth."
Yes, but myths die hard. It will take a couple of shiploads of flag-draped coffins – and perhaps a couple of alarming incidents in Afghanistan and environs – to wake up Obama's liberal supporters to what they're presently enabling with their silent complicity. In the meantime, the creaking wheels of empire are turning as we gather our forces for another even more perilous mission that will take us straight into the fabled graveyard of would-be world-conquerors otherwise known as Afghanistan. Why? How? To what purpose? A thousand questions raise themselves up, like the first crocuses of spring – but the Obama administration isn't answering, because no one of any importance is asking. Just little old me – and, maybe you. And maybe Rachel Maddow, now and then: and that's pretty much it. Surely the alleged "antiwar movement" isn't interested – they're too busy hailing Obama's election.
The President's budget requests for Iraq and Afghanistan total $75 billion through the fall, and $130 billion for next year. That means we'll be spending nearly $11 billion per month for at least the next year and a half.
This bothers exactly no one in Washington, and especially not in the White House or the Democratic caucus chamber: after all, these people believe that government spending – any sort of spending – is what will fix our ailing economy right now. So why not increase the mis-named "defense" budget, anyway – don't you want an economic recovery, or are you, like Rush Limbaugh, hoping the President will fail?
Yes, you know we've entered a new era when I start citing Limbaugh favorably, and yet that's the sad part about all this: it is now left to Limbaugh and his talk radio confreres to point out the backsliding and howling hypocrisy in this administration's policies, both foreign and domestic, because the liberals – with a few exceptions – have been struck dumb by their "victory."
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I'll be speaking at Tennessee State University, in the Culp Center's Martha Street Culp Auditorium, on March 4 at 6 p.m., under the auspices of Students of American Liberty. My topic: "Obama's War: Liberal Interventionism in the Age of Obama." If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and check it out.