[Ed’s annotations in green.]
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 22, 2011
Remarks by the President on the Way Forward in Afghanistan
8:01 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Nearly 10 years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor. This mass murder was planned by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Afghanistan (bin Laden NEVER accepted responsibility for this terrorism, in contrast to his other acts of terrorism. In fact, the FBI NEVER listed the 9/11/01 terrorism as one of his many crimes because the FBI NEVER had enough hard evidence that he was connected to it), and signaled a new threat to our security (the people of Afghanistan NEVER posed a threat to U.S. security, and neither did the people of Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen) –- one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives (just as every U.S. President has targeted innocent men, women, and children worldwide since 1943, either directly, or by our proxy armies armed with U.S. weapons and officers trained at the School of the Americas).
In the days that followed, our nation was united as we struck at al Qaeda and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then, our focus shifted. A second (illegal war of aggression, based on lies) war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government (which we made sure was our puppet) there. By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year. But al Qaeda’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive. Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders (resolutely learning nothing from the histories of the failed campaigns of the British and the Soviets in Afghanistan) warned that we could face a resurgent al Qaeda and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan (again, this would have NOT posed a real threat to the world’s most powerful military power, the U.S.).
For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban’s momentum, and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country (but the Afghan Taliban ARE part of their own country!). I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to draw down our forces this July.
Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our (100,000) troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point (but still leaving close to 70,000 troops there). After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014 (13 years after we invaded and occupied), this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security (and what if the Taliban return to power there? Will we re-invade?).
We’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. One soldier summed it up well. “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget. You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.” (even if Osama bin Laden had nothing to do with the 9/11/01 terrorism)
The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain. Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda had been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that had been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam (in spite of the U.S. bombing mostly Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, and also threatening them in Iran and Syria?) -– thereby draining more widespread support. Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks. But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.
In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds. Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize (translation: pulverize and terrorize) more of the country. Afghan security forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we’ve already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people (who are now being terrorized by U.S.-trained Afghan police). In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.
Of course, huge challenges remain. This is the beginning — but not the end –- of our effort to wind down this war (while we are still waging five more wars and Syria and Iran may be next, to keep our Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex well-funded). We’ll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we’ve made (an empire of more than 800 military bases spanning the globe and intensifying on the borders of both Russia and China), while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the (U.S. puppet) Afghan government. And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.
We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war (caused principally by the U.S. and USSR) without a political settlement (which keeps a U.S. client government in place). So as we strengthen the (U.S. puppet) Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban. Our position on these talks is clear: They must be led by the Afghan government (which the U.S. put in power, just as the USSR had put previous Afghan governments in power), and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al Qaeda, abandon violence (only the exceptional U.S. has the right to use violence worldwide), and abide by the Afghan constitution. But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.
The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply: No safe haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies (even in all other countries on earth? Wow! Tall order!). We won’t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely (but we WILL maintain U.S. military bases there, such as Bagram, with its Guantanamo-like torture prisons). That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace. What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures –- one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists (even if they re-appear in Afghanistan, which flatly contradicts what Obama said three sentences earlier) and supporting a sovereign Afghan government (which the U.S. must approve – so much for “sovereignty”).
Of course, our efforts must also address (with our bombs, rockets, and troops) terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists (unless you count the violent extremists in the White House, Congress, and Pentagon), which is why we will continue to press (translation: intimidate) Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region. We’ll work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps its commitments (or else what – invade Pakistan, too?). For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us (regardless how many of their civilians we kill). They cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.
My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country. We’ve learned anew the profound cost of war (Not really. If we had, we wouldn’t be waging war on six countries and threatening at least two more, excluding China) — a cost that’s been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan -– men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended. Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the battlefield, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home. (Needless to say, we NEVER mention the more than one MILLION Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, Libyans, Somalis, and Yemenis whose deaths we have caused, the millions more we have maimed, and the more than four MILLION Iraqi refugees caused by our illegal war of aggression based on lies against the people of Iraq)
Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way. We’ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country (but we won’t mention the many huge, permanent U.S. bases still occupied by U.S. forces in Iraq, or the world’s largest embassy compound in Baghdad). And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end (which means an end which leaves U.S. forces in bases throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, and now, Africa, so we can check the influence of Russia and China).
As they do, we must learn their lessons (we have refused to since at least 1898). Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement (translation: interference) around the world. Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor (self-appointed) of global security, and embrace an isolation (abandoning violent military responses for peaceful ones involving diplomacy and commerce is NOT isolation) that ignores the very real threats that we face (even if most of them are blowback caused by decades of arrogant U.S. use of violence, subversion, invasion, bombings, and intimidation). Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.
We must chart a more centered course. Like generations before, we must embrace America’s (self-appointed) singular role in the course of human events. But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute. When threatened, we must respond with (usually indiscriminate and extremely violent) force (we always do, as the rest of the world knows all too well by now) –- but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas. When innocents are being slaughtered (except in nations friendly to our strategic/corporate interests, such as Bahrain, and in lands occupied by U.S. allies such as in Gaza and the West Bank) and global security endangered (of course, our overuse of military violence can NEVER endanger global security, now can it?), we don’t have to choose between standing idly by (when did we ever do that, or even consider that false choice/straw man?) or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we’re doing in Libya (if you still believe NATO is anything more than a U.S. surrogate, I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn), where we do not have a single soldier on the ground (not counting the CIA already there, of course), but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people (even if we have to kill them by bombing their major city, Tripoli) and giving them the chance to determine their own destiny (as long as that “destiny” neatly lines up with U.S. corporate and geostrategic priorities for Africa and the Middle East).
In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power (but that sure helped a hell of a lot, from Wounded Knee to Libya, didn’t it?) -– it is the principles upon which our union was founded (greed, domination of weaker people, and blatant hypocrisy are hardly principles to extol, Barack). We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice (by extra-judicial executions and assassinations) while adhering to the rule of law (which Obama has resolutely refused to obey when it comes to prosecuting U.S. war criminals such as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Condi Rice, to name a few. But, then again, he would have to also prosecute himself), and respecting the rights of all our citizens (if you are in the preferred class, have enough money to “influence” our judges and politicians, and aren’t the wrong skin color, sexual orientation, or religion). We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire (the President doth protest too much, methinks), but for self-determination (as long as that “self-determination” goes in the U.S.’ direction. Otherwise, we send in the CIA, then the troops). That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world (except when we were reluctant to support those aspirations in Egypt, and now refuse to support them in Bahrain). We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals (translation: corporate and geostrategic interests), with the power of our example (translation: threats of murderous military violence), and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity (as long as the U.S. defines what that “freedom and dignity” comprise, such as the “freedom” to buy U.S. corporate products and weapons and the “dignity” to never oppose U.S. interests in their own countries).
Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens here at home (not with the unprecedentedly-high unemployment rates you and your corporate cronies have been maintaining while they get richer on fat bonuses!). Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war (our yearly “defense” budget is now close to ONE TRILLION DOLLARS!), at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource –- our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy (will your Wall Street Bankster funders/cronies ever allow you to implement a massive jobs program such as FDR used to begin to end the Great Depression? I doubt it.). And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach (from Shakespeare, again: “Words, words, words … signifying nothing”).
America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home (can we try democracy here, now, instead of the corporatocracy we have suffered under for decades?).
In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care and benefits and opportunity that you deserve (that remains to be seen, given the spotty record so far of giving our maimed solders and their traumatized families the help we owe them for following the arrogant, short-sighted orders of their “superiors”. Of course, we will never make restitution to the countries we have destroyed, as we refused to do with Viet Nam after killing more than three million of their people).
I met some of these patriotic Americans at Fort Campbell. A while back, I spoke to the 101st Airborne that has fought to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and to the team that took out Osama bin Laden. Standing in front of a model of bin Laden’s compound, the Navy SEAL who led that effort paid tribute to those who had been lost –- brothers and sisters in arms whose names are now written on bases where our troops stand guard overseas, and on headstones in quiet corners of our country where their memory will never be forgotten (if you want to truly honor their memory and sacrifice, you must make sure the U.S. NEVER AGAIN wages an unnecessary war on countries which have no possible way, let alone desires, of ever threatening U.S. security. But we swore that after Viet Nam, didn’t we?). This officer — like so many others I’ve met on bases, in Baghdad and Bagram, and at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital -– spoke with humility about how his unit worked together as one, depending on each other, and trusting one another, as a family might do in a time of peril.
That’s a lesson worth remembering -– that we are all a part of one (very unequal, dysfunctional) American family (which far too often resorts to murderous violence). Though we have known disagreement and division, we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents (the Preamble to our Constitution states that it was established “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”. How are waging multiple, unnecessary, budget-draining, endless wars inviting violent blowback, while refusing to create jobs programs for our growing millions of unemployed and underemployed and those on food stamps accomplishing these goals?), and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish (IF its corporate-militarist overlords allow it). Now, let us finish the work at hand. Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story (as long as “corporate personhood” exists and corporations are still dictating policy, that Dream is a complete delusion, as more and more Americans are waking up to realize). With confidence in our cause, with faith in our fellow citizens, and with hope in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America -– for this generation, and the next (if you truly cared about the next generation, including your own daughters, you would be fighting like hell to reverse catastrophic climate chaos instead of appeasing the corporate fossil fools).
May God bless our troops. And may God bless the United States of America. (What kind of God would bless a nation which continues to do such harm throughout the world and neglects the most vulnerable and powerless among us?)
END 8:16 P.M. EDT