Thursday, February 19, 2009

Afghanistan and Terror - Old Patterns Emerge

Some important developments regarding war in Afghanistan and the broader war on terror.

First, Obama plans to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan. The top American commander in Afghanistan stressed, following the announcement of the troop increase, that this “is not a temporary force uplift.” These troops were part of a build-up that is there for the long term - as long as five years. As we have pointed out numerous times on this blog, this is a ratcheting up of "the good war" that antiwar activists must oppose on principle.

Regarding the war on terror, while Obama "thrilled civil liberties groups" with early moves to end some of the Bush administration's most egregious crimes against "suspected terrorists," more recently, and quietly, his position has changed. The NY Times notes that,

"In little-noticed confirmation testimony recently, Obama nominees endorsed continuing the C.I.A's program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone.

The administration has also embraced the Bush legal team’s arguments that a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees should be shut down based on the “state secrets” doctrine. It has also left the door open to resuming military commission trials.

And earlier this month, after a British court cited pressure by the United States in declining to release information about the alleged torture of a detainee in American custody, the Obama administration issued a statement thanking the British government “for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information.”

Perhaps most telling is the fact that outspoken defenders of Bush's policies on the war on terror are delighted by the continuities between Bush and Obama's prosecution of it. According to the Times, an editorial last Friday in the Wall Street Journal argued that " 'it seems that the Bush administration's antiterror architecture is gaining new legitimacy' as Mr. Obama's team embraces aspects of Mr. Bush's counterterrorism approach.

All this simply means that antiwar activists have our work cut out for us.

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