Mohammad of Vancouver has done two posts on this site in anger Obama for continuing the bombing of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Lately, I learned that two Massachusetts women, Leslie Shatz and Shirley Blanchard, had written the president with the same idea. Shatz, an enthusiastic supporter of Obama, and a retired fundraising administrator for non-profit organizations, said I could publish her letter.
"I think it would be great to have as many Americans as possible aware of the dangers of US involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan. With issues such as the economy and healthcare the focus of so much attention, the press may fail to follow up on danger #1: another expensive, unwinnable war."
Dear President Obama,
We are "ordinary" citizens who have been empowered by your campaign pledges and your inaugural address to re-engage in the political process and to express our views directly to you regarding your administration's policies.
We are writing to you because of our deep concern about your decision to increase US troop levels in Afghanistan and your recently authorized drone missile attacks on villages in Waziristan, Pakistan.
If your stated policy (www.whitehouse.gov) is "to increase nonmilitary aid to Pakistan and hold them accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan", why are you bombing Pakistani villages?
Your actions belie the intention you expressed in your stunning January 27th television interview on al-Arabiya. In that interview you clearly said that you would take a new approach to the region: "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy."
On Friday, January 30th, our own private concerns about policies and actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan were underscored by an interview we heard on Bill Moyer's Journal with NYU professor and historian Marilyn B. Young (co-editor with Yuki Tanaka of Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth Century History) and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey, about the effectiveness of targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants when the casualties include civilians.
Two excerpts from the interview underscore our concerns:
Mr. Sprey: "What happens on the ground is for every one of those impacts you get five or ten times as many recruits for the Taliban as you've eliminated. The people that we're trying to convince to become adherents to our cause have become rigidly hostile to our cause in part because of bombing and in part because of other killing of civilians from ground forces. We're dealing with a society that's based on honor... They have to resist being invaded, occupied, bombed and killed. It's a matter of honor, and they're willing to die in unbelievable numbers to do that."
Ms. Young: "The problem is [that] the focus remains a military solution to what all the other information I have says is a political problem. I don't care how you slice the military tactic. So long as your notion is that you can actually deal with this in a military way, you're just going to march deeper and deeper into what Pete Seeger called 'The Big Muddy"... The point is, if you can't figure out a political way to deal in Afghanistan then you can only compound the compound mess."
In our opinion, your administration is continuing the discredited policies of the previous administration and sending a mixed message to the Muslim world. Despite your best intentions, and we believe they are sincere and honorable, the military option will trump negotiation and diplomacy. It would be tragic to undermine our best hope for change in US foreign policy at the very outset of your administration.
We urge you to explain publicly to the American people why you must send additional troops to Afghanistan and why you authorized drone missile attacks in Pakistan. We fear the US is headed into a military quagmire, much like Vietnam and Iraq, with no hope of victory and no clear exit strategy.