The Obnoxious American Says Bring the Troops Home

Dear President Obama,

Back in 1990 when Saddam Hussein tried to expand his sphere of influence into Kuwait, I supported President George H. W. Bush’s decision to expel from Kuwait, and subsequently contain, Hussein’s forces within the no-fly zones. I supported President Bill Clinton in 1998 when he signed the Iraq Liberation Act, and then bombed Hussein back into submission after Saddam got a little testy (and no, it wasn’t ‘wag the dog’). After September 11th, 2001, I was in full support of President George W. Bush sending our troops into Afghanistan to take out Al Qaeda and remove the Taliban from power. I never believed Saddam Hussein was connected to the events on 9/11, and the WMD argument never really moved me. Yet, after witnessing a similar lawlessness in the Middle East reach across the oceans to send towers tumbling in New York, and after nearly 13 years of Hussein toying with U.N. inspections and the no-fly zone, as well as three American presidents, in 2003 I fully supported the war in Iraq. And to this day I still do.

So with that understanding of my perspective, realize that it isn’t easy for me to say this, but Mr. President, send the troops home now. Send the troops in Afghanistan home. Send the troops in Iraq home. Please, send them home now; don’t let another American soldier die if you can help it.

It’s not that I don’t think we could win. Our military, our soldiers, are the finest in the world. Their skill, experience and tactical ability are more than apt to complete the job. Moreover, when you entered office, success in these two wars was within our grasp. With all of the talk about the bad things you “inherited” when you were elected, you also inherited a war in Iraq that was ours to lose and a relatively straight forward, though perhaps more difficult endeavor in Afghanistan. This was low hanging fruit, a parting gift from George, and someone with your intellect and charisma could have completed the job. You would have been able to take the credit for bringing peace back to our country and theirs, and given the Democratic Party as a whole, some real national security bonafides to hang their hat on.

What’s funny is that one of the few positions you held during your campaign that I couldn’t argue with was your stance on the “good” war in Afghanistan. That and your statements about finally capturing Osama Bin Laden. Earlier this year when you came out with your Afghanistan strategy, it was one of the few moments in your presidency where I found myself in agreement with your policies. But like so much of your campaign happy talk, this wasn’t a position held by conviction but rather political calculation shifting with the winds. And instead of taking the reigns and ensuring success in at least Afghanistan if not also Iraq, you pontificated and deliberated for ten months, letting success slip.

I’ll be the first to say that Bush made many mistakes in his handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, among other things. But amidst all of the theories around why Bush went to war (oil, Haliburton, to avenge his father), and all of the questions around whether we had the right to pre-emptively invade another country, one thing no one could ever question was whether Bush believed in the mission, or whether he wanted to win. He wanted to win badly. Cheney wanted to win so much it scared people. Can the same be said for you?

I got my first taste of your convictions when right after getting elected, you pledged, without a plan and with no pressing need, to close the terrorist holding facility at Guantanamo Bay. With the economy in shambles and all of the other issues facing America at the time, this wasn’t necessary. It was pure politics on your part. The first of many moves not based on what’s best for the country, but always good for party. A continuation of your campaign whose main feature was repudiating Bush. But it quickly became evident why Bush put the terrorists there. Perhaps the ole Texas bumpkin had his reasons after all, and there were many; we didn’t want them on our soil, no one else wanted them either, and some of these dangerous enemies of our country would inevitably go free if not kept at Gitmo. To this day, despite your continued insistence to close Gitmo, your plan is about as dead as Greg Craig’s White House career.

Your administration’s next shining moment was when Homeland Security, under the new leadership of Janet Napolitano, released a report raising concerns about home grown right wing terrorists. Not only did this move trivialize the real threats that our country actually faces, but it divided our nation in a way that perhaps you didn’t understand. Despite what some commenters say, I’m a pretty moderate guy, yet I felt like you were talking about me. And changing the name of terrorist attacks to “man caused disasters” and the War on Terror to “Overseas Contingency Operations?” Well, that’s just stupid and unserious from an administration that campaigned on being smart and nuanced.

That you’d even suggest investigating CIA operatives who helped keep us safe for 8 years after we were attacked is incomprehensible. But it was the way you came out and said there wouldn’t be an investigation only for your Attorney General to turn around and say the opposite which is what really challenged my trust. I mean really? Let’s put the bald faced dishonesty by proxy of your AG aside for a minute. Any thought about the future impacts of this? Do you even want to chance demoralizing your own intelligence agency in the midst of two wars, merely to settle a political score? You’ve also opened a door; in 8, or possibly 4 years it may be your administration that’s the subject of a political kangaroo court. Why?

Your treatment of the very General you hired to win in Afghanistan is an outrage, and let’s face it, You’ve dithered. You’ve dithered hard. If our wars could be won with dithering the troops would be home for their ticker tape parade and I’d be planning my next vacation in Babylon. But wars are won with heart, conviction, and good strategy. You have none of these, and although you’ve not made a decision on what to do in Afghanistan, you’re lack of a decision has already let our enemy know the truth – that you are not committed to win. And if you aren’t winning a war, you’re losing it. Our enemies by contrast aren’t looking for “off ramps.” They know that you can’t vote present on fighting war.

From the terrorist attacks at Fort Hood, to the amount of attention given to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, it seems like identity and gender politics, and political correctness seem to be as important, if not more important than the actual function of the military, which is to keep this nation safe. And this latest idiotic gesture of the 9/11 hijackers, previously in a hole in Cuba, “finally [facing] justice” by trying them in New York City? Irrespective of the increased danger and inconvenience that average New Yorkers who already had to live the nightmare of 9/11 will have to bear? Irrespective of the fact that the supreme court found military tribunals more than appropriate? Irrespective of the fact that these terrorists were not captured in the U.S., not citizens, not captured by police, their evidence not processed by a crime scene unit and not following a typical civilian chain of custody, and with no Miranda rights? Irrespective of the fact that some were water-boarded? Irrespective of the fact that now, as with all Americans who face our civil criminal justice system, these animals are now considered innocent until such time they are proven guilty? For real?

The decision to hold these trials in New York is so flawed, so poorly thought out that it’s incomprehensible. This is the worst decision you’ve made, and ten months in, I’d expect some improvement in your decision making capabilities. The attacks on 9/11 weren’t directed toward an individual or group, but rather to the entire nation. One of the targets was a major center of business, the other the headquarters of our military, the Pentagon. Had flight 93 made it to the terrorists destination, our White House would have been the third target – that’s two out of three targets representing our government. These attacks were not mere crimes but an acts of war carried out on our country by a foreign enemy.

This isn’t about rule of law either, because the tribunals, which have been employed throughout American history, were found by the Supreme Court to be lawful and appropriate. Meanwhile our justice system has its shortcomings – criminals get off on technicalities and innocent people go to jail for technicalities every day. Our civil justice system, which isn’t on trial, simply isn’t designed for dealing with war crimes. There’s the issue of classified information, which if provided to the defense as part of discovery could be leaked to terrorists. That is if it isn’t dismissed outright because of how it was obtained. The only way to get around these issues is to twist the already twisted legal system, setting precedents that erode all of our rights. And does this now mean that soldiers fighting in Afghanistan need to also worry about reading the enemy their Miranda rights and collecting all evidence with tweezers and ziplocks while RPGs are fired at them? Yes, the first WTC bombers were tried by the FBI and look how well that worked out for the nation. At the end of the day, the reasons to do this are few and political; the reasons not to do this are many and relate to the safety of the nation and the people of New York. And it was precisely this type of thinking that preceded our getting attacked on 9/11 in the first place.

You’re not serious about winning the wars in either Afghanistan or Iraq, you don’t really understand that we face a dangerous enemy, and you’ve quite literally even denied that there is a war on terror at all. You lack the will, conviction, experience, and even leadership required to responsibly end the wars we are involved in. The very worst thing you could do right now is send more troops into harms way only to continue your politicizing and dithering while more troops die in a conflict that we lost when Americans went to the ballot box last November. Send the troops home now Mr. President.


The Obnoxious American