The Lost Lessons of History
During the nineteenth century Goshen was a drinking man's town and Grant was not unknown for his libations. The old bastard probably felt right at home here - as I would have, too, I'm sure. He would stay at a place called the Occidental Hotel which used to occupy a prominent spot in the center of the village. In that bygone era it was the place to stay when you passed through town. Sadly, after decades of neglect, the old building was torched by its owner in an insurance scam in 1983. Today it is a weed-infested vacant lot.
George Washington came through town during the Revolutionary war (His famous Headquarters was close by in Newburgh). His time spent here was over a decade before he assumed office, however. Gerald Ford came here in the 1990's to inspect a meat-packing plant less than a half mile down Route 17M from where I now sit - but that was about twenty years after he left the White House.
Although he won't be stepping foot in this town, Barack Obama will be at West Point tonight, which is located right here in Orange County, just twenty-nine miles away. The worst kept secret in Washington this morning is the fact that he is going to announce a plan to increase the number of troops serving in Afghanistan by thirty to thirty-five thousand. Well, what the hey! It appears that this president (of all presidents!) has failed to learn some basic history lessons.
Take this to the bank:
We will lose the war in Afghanistan. Just as in Iraq, every serviceman and woman who has died there has died for no reason. Russia and merrie old England learned this lesson a long time ago. You would think....Never mind.
Suffice to say, on my best day I do not receive one tenth of the information that President Obama receives. I don't read any of the Presidential Daily Briefings that are placed on his desk every morning. Obviously he is in possession of a wealth of intelligence that you and I are just not privy to. Maybe we should be giving him the benefit of the doubt - and I have been doing just that, I promise you. But from my vantage point it appears to me that this president has failed to learn the lessons that have been passed onto us down the decades by the administrations of Franklin Delano Rossevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson - lessons involving bold action in times of economic crisis (more on that another day) and the utter folly of waging wars that cannot be won.
I want to believe in this president. He is the chief executive I worked harder to elect than any other in my lifetime. I realize that it is simply far too early in this administration to write a final assessment of his term of office. That being said, my confidence in the Obama White House is ebbing rapidly. Where in the hell is all of this change I could believe in? Is the Bush Mob still in charge? What gives?
NOTE TO THE RIGHT WING:
No, I am still exceedingly grateful that John McCain and Fascist Barbie did not win the election last year. Have another sip.
The irony underlying this entire mess is the fact that Obama had a tiny window of opportunity during his first week or so in office where he could have ended this thing with the stroke of a pen. Remember, this was not his war. The only reason we invaded Afghanistan to begin with (on the surface, at least) was to kill or capture Osama bin Ladin, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks - that was it. When every opportunity to do so had been badly blundered due to the incompetence of George W. Bush and company, they changed the nature of the mission for no other reason than to save their hideous faces. It had nothing to do with bin Ladin, they assured us. It was all about "nation building". Nation building!
And that is where we find ourselves at the miserable present. Before the sun sets this afternoon, another American kid (or more) will be sacrificed on the alter of stupidity for no other reason than to prop up a government which has been identified by the organization, Transparency International, as the second most corrupt in the world. Congratulations to Somalia for taking home the gold. Whoopee!
Whatever the future brings, American involvement in Afghanistan is going to end tragically. We should do now what we should have done forty years ago and get out while the getting is bad - as opposed to catastrophic. Barack Obama would be wise to heed the suggestion Senator George Aiken of Vermont gave to President Johnson so long ago - which LBJ failed to act on: Declare victory and get the hell out of there.
What we have here is a classic case of American ethno-centricism. Afghanistan is not a nation that is likely to embrace an idea as historically foreign to them as democracy any time soon (And when I say "any time soon" I am speaking in terms of the next one-thousand years - give or take a few centuries). How can a country be expected to enter the twenty-first century when that same country has yet to experience all of the modern wonders of the nineteenth? This is a really bad idea.
"And it's - ONE! TWO! THREE! - What are we fighting for?"
Country Joe and the Fish
Well, hey there! Come to think of it, that's a damned good question when you get right down to it: Just what the fuck are we fighting for? Let us examine the possibilities, shall we?
American interests? It can't be that! Given the fact that Afghanistan's only export seems to be opium, and taking into consideration our fabulously successful war on drugs....Nah! It couldn't be that!
Freedom and democracy? Tee! Hee! Hee! I'm sorry, I was just kidding! The Afghan people are now living under the rule of a "leader" who is only in power because he stole the recent election. Hamid Karzai is many things - you'll get no argument from me there! - Thomas Jefferson he ain't. Trust me on that. Let this be etched in stone: Any country that views its women as inferior beings not worthy of basic human rights is a country not worth one drop of anyone's blood. NEXT....
Aiding a developing nation? In order for a country to be classified "developing", a bit of "development" should at least be moderately apparent. Afghanistan is stuck in the fifth century and seems intent on remaining there.
What are we fighting for?
Let me rephrase that: What are the children of the poor and working classes fighting for? Between you and me, I've only known one person in combat in the last seven years. I don't know him anymore. He was killed when a roadside bomb was detonated in front of the vehicle in which he was a passenger. His name was Irving Medina. He was twenty-two.
What was Irving Medina fighting for?
Is it politics? Could it be that Obama has been told by his advisers that to pull out now would be political suicide, making his chance of winning in 2012 more difficult than it needs to be? If that's the case, he's as bad as all the rest of them. I suppose that this might be a good argument for limiting presidents to one term. Does he rationally believe that beating the GOP in three years is going to be that much of a challenge? Only a year ago, these geniuses actually believed that giving the VP nomination to an idiot like Sarah Palin was a really neat idea! Given the direction they are now hellbent on going, defeating them in three years is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel, are you kidding me?
It is now apparent that the invaluable lessons of history are truly lost. At the very least they have been lost on Barack Obama - that much is painfully obvious. He is about to commit a blunder so horrific, it may very well prove to be the undoing of his presidency. Somewhere in the eternal void, Lyndon Johnson must be sighing.
What exactly are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn!
Next stop's Afghanistan!
AFTERTHOUGHT 12/2/09, 10:10 AM:
Half way through the president's speech last night, I turned off the lights and went to bed. I had seen that movie before. I didn't care to see it again, thanks just the same.