Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Lost Lessons of History

President Obama is coming to town tonight - or as close to my town as any president is ever likely to get. As far as anyone can tell, the last sitting president to visit Goshen, NY was Ulysses S Grant in the 1870's.

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?


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!

Tom Degan

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.


At 8:58 AM, Blogger Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Speaking as someone from "merrie old England", somewhere which had THREE Anglo-Afghan Wars (won one, lost one, drew one) prior to this current nonsense, I think seeing America in a position where she might "lose" in Afghanistan is perhaps too harsh a verb here. And both inappropriate and unfair to America.

Consider: to lose something presupposes that you once had possession of it to lose in the first place - and that is true of neither the war, nor the country itself.

You were sent in there on a fool's errand (courtesy of president Gump), with no stated aim other than to try and exact revenge on OBL: the whereabouts of whom you've still no idea, let alone found, arrested or killed him. In common parlance, it was never going to be a win/win play.

Add mission-creep, poorly articulated and apparently ever changing reasons to be there into the mix and you have what was always going to be a hopeless task (if not for the Neo-Con cabal in DC, then certainly for the guys on the ground).

Obama is now having to clean-up where Gump fucked-up (if you'll pardon my French).

Finally, ask yourself: why does America want to be in Afghanistan? Over and above some jingoistic voodoo about "bringing democracy" (something Afghanistan has managed to avoid acquiring for over 900 years), what purpose is the US serving there? Cui bono (who benefits)? Not the US.

Time to come home.

If there is a lesson to be learnt here, it's not to go 'electing' (at least in 2004, as 2000 was just a Supreme Court gift/outrage - delete as appropriate) functionally illiterate, politically autistic presidents with all the IQ of a coffee table; as there's no telling into what trouble they'll get you; nor how badly your national reputation aboard will suffer as a result.

It won't come as a shock to you to learn that the whole world breathed a collective sigh of relief when Obama came to power; and the comedy we've derived from watching/listening to the Republicans and 'Bible Spice' camp followers (the Palinites) whine and implode as a result of still not coming to terms with losing.

But then again, isn't that what losers do: whine?

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Wildernesschic said...

Great post .. its tragic the total waste of life in that country .. I think everyone was hoping .. waiting for him to finish this mess.
When he first came to office. He was a symbol a glimmer of hope. Peace on earth, freedom to all men .. kind of emotion.
As you say the opportunity has passed and we will continue both sides of the pond loosing our young men ... never mind the poor innocent Afgan families.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Frank said...

Well Tom, it seems that you are starting to come around a bit on foreign policy. Nation building never works, to try is pure folly. I like to think that the original reason we are there is still the best, find Al-Qaeda, (or however the hell it's being spelled today) kill as many as we can so they won't consider taking up arms against us in the future and then we can leave.

Wars are fought by soldiers and that is who the decision making should be left up to. Gen. McChrystal is Obama's guy, why wouldn't he listen to him? He thinks he can end this, so let him try. This war, along with Iraq and Vietnam could have been shorter and considered victories by both sides if the politicians would get the hell out of the way. As far as a surge goes, either all in or get the hell out. I have a nephew in Afghanistan, I want our admin. to do what needs to be done to get this over with so our troops can come home.

I can't believe you are losing confidence in Obama, or at least that you would type that, so soon into his reign. There will be no change you can believe in as it will continue to be politics as usual. Only this time it's Chicago politics, you know, vote early and often. So the "mob" will continue as it has since we can remember. They have all been guilty to varying degrees.

Happy Christmas to you as well.


At 12:20 AM, Blogger Rady Ananda said...

You're right on target on this one, Tom - and with your special blend of humor, to boot.

Yeah, I gotta think we're there for the heroin. Like I told my dad, you simply cannot have the accessibility to heroin in every major city in the world without government complicity. That sort of distribution takes infrastucture and transportation lines.

There's also the nightmare (I mean dream) to build a safe and secure oil pipeline from Iraq thru Iran thru Afghanistan... yeah, like the locals will not sabotage it.

btw, on your hanging on to hope (god bless you), I read a Naomi Klein piece after his first 100 days that addressed the complaint the Left had about dissing Obama. She said something like, the question isn't what good he can do in the next three years and nine months; it's, how much destruction can he do?

Remember, his third day in office he sent drones into Pakistan, killing dozens of poor villagers and maybe one or two Taliban.

Nah... the man's a corporate shill.

btw, loved the history lesson about Goshen. ;-)

At 10:15 AM, Blogger P M Prescott said...

Coming by way of Privte Buffoon. Great post. Did you read Michael More's open letter to Obama, it says much of what you did. You're not the only one saying "Stop the Madness."

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Darlene said...

In addition to what you said, I want to add that we cannot afford this war. The object, as stated by the president, is to dismantle Al Quaeda. It's a fool's errand. Al Quaeda is in Somalia, and many other countries. Are we going to go there too? Killing one man, Osama bin Laden, would never stop the fanatics.

If the object of being in Afghanistan is to provide safety for the U. S. (As claimed by the President) some of the money would be far better spent securing the cargo that comes into our ports daily. They will never stop trying to kill as manay Americans as possible whether we are in Afghanistan or not.

George Santayana's familiar quote, "Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it." was never more appropriate than now.

At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Frodo, marching to Peoria, said...

It was said last night, after you turned off the lights and went to bed, that the President resembled either a very angry Harry Belafonte, or Mariano Rivera. Other than that, the only other thing you missed was when he said he was "speaking to the Afghan people" (never mind the fact of a time differential, but since better than 90% of them can't read or write in one of their own tongues, the translation may have been fruitless).
Frodo has noted your invention of the label "Gidget von Braun," and absent a patent, intends to use it in writings to come. You are free to use "The Flying None" in similar fashion.

At 12:57 PM, Blogger Ellis D., Esq. said...

The establishment LOVES war....apparently some folks make a huge amount of profit from it. All at the taxpayers/citizens expense. And for what purpose ?? The ONLY way to stop terrorism is to stop the policies that cause the hatred toward us. That means we need to stop being imperialist, capitalist pigs and act ETHICALLY in our domestic and world affairs !! The establishment is not capable of doing this.....vote Woodstock Nation Party, we are not capable of acting in any manner other than ethically.....we believe in peace and love...not war and hate !! Imagine !!!!

At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Tom, this may have nothing to do with your last post, but i want to ask you a question.
How come you never wrote anything about Jim Traficant, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania whose been released from jail last september after 8 years in prison, after being framed by the corrupt congress, democrats and republicans alike, because he was outspoken.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...


DEAL! "Flying None". I love it!


Regarding Jim Tranficant, that might be something worth looking into.


Tom Degan

At 2:16 AM, Blogger Wisewebwoman said...

Well the answer is always GOD, Tom!
Oil or
There are 2 components in Afghanistan - the drug trade is in the billions and the oil pipeline needs running through it.
Gold will be in the pockets of the Masters of the Universe who own everything.
Afghanistan can't be democratized. It is a nation of tribes and inscrutable to the rest of the world.
No country has ever succeeded in subduing it.

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Lydia said...

God, how depressing. I still love this President, although right now I would seem pitiful trying to explain the reason(s) why I hang onto hope.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger TartanMarine said...

Tom wrote on my blog at www.tartanmarine.blogspot.com:

"Any country that would view its women as inferior beings not entitled to basic human rights is not worth one drop of ANYBODY'S blood."

So let's get out so they can get on with subjugating women.

In 1940, he might have written about Germany: “Any country that would view its Jews as inferior beings not entitled to basic human rights is not worth one drop of ANYBODY'S blood.” Or the same about Japan enslaving its neighbors and making their women sex slaves for it’s army.

Here is what he is condemning the women of Afghanistan to, with your cheering for American defeat:

When the Taliban Come back


Once the side he is cheering for wins, this is what will happen to the women he pretends to care about, but who aren’t worth one drop of blood (certainly not his):

Under the veil: faces disfigured by acid


As to the fellow who said Nation Building never works, probably why Germany and Japan are such failed states today, huh?

Robert A. Hall
Des Plaines, IL
USMC 1964-68
USMCR 1977-83
Massachusetts Senate, 1973-83

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous GRR said...

I am so sorry Tom. But the writing was on the wall long before last November 4. And some of us saw it all too clearly.

You should have known better than to have had any illusions about whose interests this president serves.

Ok. So where do we go from here with this rudderless ship of hope?

At 7:01 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...


If they were executing women by the millions - that would be a totally different scenario. They're not. When you have a moment or two, try to put things in their proper perspective. It would suit you.

Tom Degan

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Beth said...

Gidget von Braun. That is lovely, Tom!

I'm not thrilled with the decision, either, but at least he took his time in deliberation. As you wrote, I don't know what all the briefings said, or any of the subtle nuances of information. I just hope we can get out sooner rather than later.

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Ellis D., Esq. said...

Hitler executing Jews ?? Yeah, we were right on top of that one.....flew right in like Superman and stopped it right away !! Ask Prescott Bush !! Nation building ?? If we are SO GOOD at that then why is our own nation so lacking in taking care of basic human needs like food, shelter, health care and FREEDOM ??? I hope TartanMarine is proud of himself for helping make Amerika into the sham country it has become. I'm sure he is enjoying the benefits afforded to him for being a good little soldier for the establishment !! He lent his hand to raise a flag atop a SHIP OF FOOLS !!!

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous GRR said...

One, two, three, four
What are we fighting for?
Don't ask me I don't give a damn.
Next stop, Afghanistan.
Five, six, seven, eight
Open up the pearly gates.
Ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopie! We're all going to die.

Country Joe and The Fish-- with liberties.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

"Be the first one on your block
To have your [child] come home in a box
And it's - ONE! TWO! THREE! -

What are we fighting for?"

At 2:03 PM, Anonymous GRR said...

Go Tom. Remember? Somehow we have to get this ball ROLLING.

Listen people I don't know how you're gonna stop a war if ya can't sing any better than that!

There's about 300,000 of you fuckers out there. I want you to start singing!


At 2:25 PM, Blogger Ellis D., Esq. said...

Out of those 300,000 fuckers out there, 290,000 of them are now establishment hacks. The few of us who stayed true to our values are outnumbered by the gutless jerks who forgot what peace and love are all about. I don't know what kind of pot Obummer smoked in Hawaii, but it couldn't have been very potent judging from the little effect it had on his mindset and thought process !!

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Nice to see we're still in the territory of cursive debate...

At 3:18 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...


I was just about to post a link to that song but you beat me to the punch, pal. Thanks!

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 8:35 PM, Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

Lydia: I still love this President, although right now I would seem pitiful trying to explain the reason(s) why I hang onto hope.

Here's a list of Obama's accomlishments thus far:


And here's a link to another marine's (deceased) perspective on the "military-industrial" complex. He was a highly decorated Major General and an avid anti-intervenionist.


Obama said during the campaign that he would increase the troop size in Afghanistan.

Do I like it? Hell no.

At 1:37 AM, Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

PM: I pointed out this TPM article on mine and several other blogs. They call down Moore for rewriting history.


At 9:15 AM, Blogger Cosmic Navel Lint said...

In line with the sage observations and commentary made in Tom's original piece here, I'll add this piece which I wrote in October (so before any fresh announcement on troop numbers being sent in country) on the prospects of where we are with the Afghan War, and what happens when we leave:

Taliban: 'cut us a deal and we'll ditch al Quaeda'

At 9:39 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Great piece, Bren! Highly recommended. Thank you for posting it.

At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on, and the collateral damage is only just beginning.

At 12:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, what a great post and some fantastic comments to supplement it. Special thanks to Leslie for the TPM link. Conservative readers on my blog are always asking me for Obama's accomplishments and I'm usually tongue tied. I've bookmarked the TPM link for future use.

Like Cosmic Navel Lint, I also wrote a post (interestingly enough back in October) where I make the simple assessment that terrorism is a law enforcement issue. Al Qaeda is the Mafia with a religious/political bent.

I haven't given up on Obama yet. Let's hope the madness starts to wind down in 2011 as promised.

At 3:28 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Thank you for the kind words, Rutherford. I was checking out your site. Bravo!

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Monique said...

"Obama said during the campaign that he would increase the troop size in Afghanistan."

He also said something about having a plan to get out and to put a timeline in place. He made true on his promise to increase troops but where's the plan to pull out? Improve the Afghan army and police force by May 2011? Then pull out? Please. Isn't that what they tried to do in Iraq for years? Does the prez really think he can accomplish this in 18 months? I'm with all of you doubters. It just doesn't seem possible.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Cosmic Navel Lint said...

If you read what's actually been said, the plan is begin a phased withdrawal of US troops in July 2011, but contingent upon circumstances on the ground permitting - not just a full exit of all forces come what may.

At 9:18 PM, Blogger Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Apropos the last few posts (and certainly those by Tom and Rutherford), thought this piece by TPM Barnett on World Politics Review might be of interest, as it absolutely nails it!

The New Rules: Overleveraging American Foreign and Domestic Policy

At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Will Shirley said...

I explained to my big sister the other day that our war plan was: "To kill as many people as we can until the survivors like us." Because if they are afraid of us they will quietly find a way to kill us. But we cannot kill enough people to have the survivors like us because by bombing women and children we are producing new enemies. Since this is so freaking obvious we should consider the idea that They want the war to last forever. Now consider the definition that was written for the Italian Encyclopedia by none other than Benito Mussolini. Fascism is a joining of big business, big government and religion. More than that, the big creep continues to explain that the best thing to do to improve civilization is to have perpetual war. Social Darwinism, the best will survive. Most drunken millionaires are of the opinion that they would survive in such a world. But they'd do it by buying off the corrupt fascists rather than by being the best. That's why the Republicrat Party is crumbling. They got the perpetual war and the union of religion and government as well as the establishment of corporations as the ruling class of citizens, but the last election MIGHT have been straight and they lost it. Maybe the Bush crowd was the only one good enough to fix an election, but why were they so fucked up during his reign? I think it's more chaos than planning.

Until Americans face their past and try our war criminals no matter what their previous titles might have been the world will have no respect for us. If we cannot enforce basic human rights and the rule of law we have nothing to offer the world save our dollars. And when the Saudi dictator decides to sell oil using Euros the dollar will lose all of it's value. We can wipe our butts with it.

Tom, I believe the tipping point in climate change has passed. The oceans will rise around 8', making New York, Washington DC and other coastal cities uninhabitable. This will send waves of dismay and loss of faith in our government through the country. Think New Orleans times 100. The cost of relocating our national Capital and dozens of cities with millions of people will bankrupt our nation. We will become a third world nation. I believe we will split into a half dozen regions, a loose federation of various kinds of governments. The "War on Terror" will become moot.

At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a way of saying things that puts this situation in a perspective where we are heading for further disaster. Look, I was Nam and saw for myself first hand that what we were doing was ludicrous and by jove we are still at. Just think I had swear and defend the constitution of the the United States. I had no idea what I was going get myself into when I was asked to go there on behalf of the federal government.
Now, that was long time ago and youy didn't go back far enough in time where even Alexander the Great coudl not whip the ass of the Afghans.
Merry Old England and the USA have always been bedfellows and we tend act in concert together on the stage of world events we get involved in.
The Taliban and the rest of the hoodlums that we seek to expunge from that forbidding territory will constantly elude us just like the so called godless enemy in the jungles of Indochina who we pursued relentlessly with boots on the ground and air strikes that would make WWI and II look like childs play.
So, I say here we go again, again and again. I wonder who is financing all this war making how its going to be paid for before the shit hits fan which has already happened or the signs of the times are that we are headed for a train wreck that will damage irreparably.
I am ashamed of what I was called to do in my early 20's and to this day
when someone at the post office thanks me for my service, I cringe to think that I and many of generation suffered immensely from the stupidity of fighting which ever bogeyman comes up that the government vilifies to be an enemy.
George W was awol, Dick had other plans, Bill dodged the draft and John was a whipping boy who as an American hero pulle the emotional strings of the ignorant patriots who think that we are going be top dog in the world and remain because of somekind of bogus divine dispensation.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Great post, Peter. And thank you for the link! Keep 'em coming, pal.

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 10:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a disgusting staged picture by the Oreo. Using the brave men and women of the military to try and look presidential. the man has no shame and his ego has no bounds.

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Lost Diploma said...

Very Nice Posting...

At 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of us who saw the signs early on that this Administration was going to be Bush Lite were derided as "uber liberals" from one of the readers on this site a few short months ago.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home