Peace advocates should unite in demanding that President Obama decide to announce a significant troop withdrawal from Afghanistan beginning this July. Together we can push toward a significant de-escalation of this war.
The background: last week President Obama told the Associated Press (AP) that his announcement of troop reductions would be “significant” and “not just a token gesture.” Until now, the Pentagon, mass media, and many in the peace movement believed that the troop withdrawals would be minimal, that the generals had won the debate, and the “Forever War” would continue.
That worst-case scenario might not be true, especially with 72% of all Americans and 86% of Democrats supporting a more rapid withdrawal, and with the President having lost 30% of his support base in recent polls.
Obama’s words reflect the language in a Democratic National Committee resolution unanimously passed last month on the initiative of Rep. Barbara Lee, which called for a significant troop withdrawal announcement and transferring the funds to job creation.
What is significant? It’s not a token thinning of 10,000 troops. It’s not enough to announce a withdrawal of 30,000, taking us back to the pre-surge levels. Obama has to make it clear that he’s not spending $100 billion a year and putting thousands of lives at risk for… forever. He needs to announce a diplomatic exit strategy, and the withdrawal of 50-75,000 troops during 2011-2012. He needs to keep his promises on Iraq. He needs to campaign for president on a platform ending two wars instead of sinking into more quagmires. He needs to transfer the savings into domestic priorities. A significant withdrawal will free up $60-80 bullion per year for our domestic needs.
What will happen next? Any day now, the president will make his announcement. He’s already hinted that the reductions will be significant. The Pentagon, the CIA, the private contractors, the Republicans, and the mainstream media may not agree with him. Even some high-level Democratic officials may not agree.
Obama will not announce a total withdrawal. But like breaking a fever, once the de-escalation begins, there will be a rapid reduction of public support, even perhaps a sense of relief, across America, making a re-escalation harder to mount. Many of us will have to fight on for the complete end of the occupation, but this could be a turning point in the struggle for public opinion.
That is why it is important to demand through every outlet available to every one of us, that Obama publicly declare a significant withdrawal of American troops, and an acceleration of peace diplomacy and power sharing in Afghanistan, beginning this July.
It’s a moment to take the offensive and reject the inevitable right-wing calls for the Forever War.
Peace Exchange Bulletin